Diverse Characters Monday #5 – Laia of Serra

Diverse Characters Mondays tpbg

Diverse Characters Mondays is my self hosted weekly meme/feature celebrating my favorite diverse characters. Or at least it was supposed to be a weekly feature except I only post them once in a blue moon nowadays.

If you’re not familiar with “diverse” characters (which I’m sure most of you are), they are a character who is not a white allocishet able person (note that this is in no way a definite definition of a diverse character and feel free to comment or email me if you think I need to add/change anything). 

If anyone wants to participate, please do! If you do decide to do this, leave the link to your post down below and I’d love to check it out! Your post can be as long or as short as you like.

I just reread An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night in preparation of the third book coming out later in June. Because I’ve already written book reviews for both books, I thought I should dedicate a post to the wonderful Laia of Serra. If you haven’t read this series yet, please go do yourself the favor.


Laia of Serra

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Found on Pinterest but I could not find the source

There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose.

Laia is a Scholar, a group of people who have been conquered by the Martials. Her life is turned upside down when during a Martial raid, her brother is captured by the soldiers and her grandparents are killed. To get her brother out of jail, Laia makes a deal with Scholar rebels to spy on the Commandant, the head of the best Martial training school and the most dangerous woman in the Empire. Laia is to be sent as her slave and gather whatever information she can about the Commandant and her school, Blackcliff Academy.

Laia goes through incredible development in An Ember in the Ashes. She starts off being frightened and feeling helpless in a dire situation. She doesn’t think she is smart or capable enough to do what she sets out to do. We see her gradually get bolder and more confident.

As long as there is life, there is hope.

There is an emphasis in YA that a “strong” female protagonist has to be a good fighter or have a super-power that makes them more powerful than everyone else. And while I love my fighter girls (Helene and Inej and Nina and Lada among others), Laia is a nice change from that idea. Laia is a strong female character because of her resilience and determination, because of her ability to survive horrors and come out of them stronger than before.

Laia remains hopeful and optimistic. She learns to believe in herself and those around her. Her emotional strength is what keeps her going when the world is against her. She learns from her mistakes and lets those mistakes be a reminder for the next time she faces a similar situation.

I’m SO EXCITED for the next book! I need to find out what’s next in store for Laia and the gang.

Have you read the Ember books? Who is your favorite character?

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Review: “The School For Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani

16248113Rating:
4 stars

The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and NobleArrow2018-04-09 (1)

In the world of The School for Good and Evil, two kids – one Good and one Evil – are kidnapped every year from a village to go study in the School for Good and the School for Evil respectively. The brightest students who graduate from the School for Good go on to become the princes and princesses of fairy tales. The brightest from the School for Evil go on to become the villains, the nemesis of said princes and princesses.

Sophie, tired of her mundane life, tries to be Good so she can be kidnapped and live out the rest of her life in a fairy tale. She does charity work, feeds the poor, gives advice, tries to always look like a beautiful princess. She even made friends with the village outcast Agatha, a Gothic, grumpy girl who lives in a graveyard and doesn’t like talking to other people. Sophie is sure that this year, it would be her and Agatha who would be kidnapped. Sophie for the Good school and Agatha for the Evil one.

When Sophie is dropped into the School for Evil and Agatha in the School for Good, she is sure it’s a mistake and spends the next few months trying to correct the mistake so they can attend their respective schools. Meanwhile, Agatha hates the School for Evil and her ultimate goal is to go back home with her best friend, Sophie.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Both Sophie and Agatha go through two incredible journeys of self discovery. They both find out more about themselves than they knew before – and not all of what they learned were things they liked.

This book tells a compelling tale of good vs. evil and what makes someone truly good. Is it their actions or their intention behind that action? Sophie, who is always trying actively do good, doesn’t understand that the intention behind an action counts just as much as the action itself. I did’t like Sophie but that was the point of her character. She is selfish, vain and manipulative and wants her happy ending without caring for others. Agatha on the other hand only cares about her and Sophie’s safety, she just wants to go back home with her best friend.

The dynamic between the two girls was also very well done, they both have different priorities so they hold on to their relationship in different ways. For Agatha, Sophie and safety are the priorities. To Sophie, a happy ending is her priority. And because of their individual concerns, they both have different things they want to get out of their friendship, love and companionship vs loyalty and support.

The School for Good and Evil was a solid introduction to the series. I’m excited to see what’s next in store for Sophie and Agatha.

Have you read this one? Is it on your TBR list?

Books My Soul Needs

Soul Needs

So my life right now is basically me waiting endlessly for sequels to come out. WHY DO THEY TAKE SOOO LONG (Rational part of my brain: because books have to be drafted, edited, revised, edited, revised and edited again and revised again). YEAH BUT WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LOOOONG

My friend over at Empire of Starlight did a “Books My Soul Needs” post which inspired me to do my own. So here is a list of my most anticipating books that will come out later this year.

Darkest Legacy

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Release Date: July 31st, 2018

I am SO SO EXCITED for another book in The Darkest Minds world. TDM is one of my absolute favorite trilogies so when I heard Bracken was publishing a stand alone in Zu’s POV, I was overjoyed. I’ve been wanting her to revisit this world for so long and it’s finally coming true! And I’m sure we’ll get to see Ruby and the rest of the gang show up and it’ll be nice to see how they’re doing five years after In the Afterlight.

(Also, the TDM movie is releasing later this year and I haven’t been this excited for a book to movie adaptation since Harry Potter. If this movie isn’t good, I’m going to cry for days in despair).

QoAaD

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Release Date: December 4th, 2018

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT UNTIL FREAKING DECEMBER!! HOOOOOWWWW!! This series is killing me! It’s so good! Cassandra Clare outdid herself with the The Dark Artifices, it’s definitely her best series to date. The characters are amazing, the plot gets better and better, and she keeps developing the Shadowhunter world in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

 

Bright We Burn (1)

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Release Date: July 10, 2018

The third book to the Conqueror’s Saga trilogy. And I Darken is my favorite YA historical fiction: these books are adventurous, action packed and full of complicated characters. And after the ending of Now I Rise, the stakes are higher than ever and I NEED to know what will happen.

Reaper

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Release Date: June 12, 2018

The third book to the Ember in the Ashes quartet. I’m so excited for this book! I love the Ember world and there is still so much left to explore. The characters are all complex and well developed, there are some surprising plot twists, and the action scenes are awesome.

Honorary Mentions

Do you guys agree with any of mine? What are some books you’ve been dying to read?

Mini reviews: “This Savage Song” and “Our Dark Duet” by Victoria Schwab

Is it too late to change my 2018 goals to one post a month because it seems like that’s the direction I’m heading in now. Anyway, on to the rant, I mean *ahem* review.

Victoria freaking Schwab destroyed me AGAIN. I am never trusting this woman again. Never! NEVER AGAIN!

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*deep breath* You know I really need to take up a safer hobby, a less mentally exhausting one. BECAUSE THIS SERIES YOU GUYS OH MY GOSH

Okay, okay, deep breaths again. Whew.

All right, so I am reviewing both books in the Monsters of Verity duology at once because I read them together. Our Dark Duet review is going to have spoilers from This Savage Song so don’t read that one if you haven’t read the first one.

two lines

23299512Rating:
5 stars

“You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and NoblesArrow

Victoria Schwab creates a world where every sin (murder) committed creates a monster. The more tragic the deaths, the more powerful the monsters. August is one of those said monsters, one of the most powerful ones, but all he wants is to be human. Kate’s dad is a ruthless businessman who keeps people safe by making deals with monsters. Kate wants to be just like her father, she wants to be feared and respected, (but she’s actually kind of a cinnamon bun?).

I LOVED this book, much more than I thought I would. This was a gripping and terrifying world. The imagery, the world development, the details were all spot on. Yes it’s a book about monsters but it’s believable.

I love how Kate’s and August’s relationship developed. Keep in mind, this is not a romance, but rather a deep friendship. Unusual circumstances bring August and Kate together and they realize there is more to the other side than they thought. They’re reluctant partners in a quest to save their world but become so much for each other.

The book, like most of Schwab’s, question humanity and what it means to be human. What it means to be a good human. And whether or not some sins are more forgivable than others.

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32075662Rating:
5 stars

“I know it hurts,” she said. “So make it worth the pain.”

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and NoblesArrow

And there goes Victoria Schwab stealing my heart and soul once again. WHYYYY do I open myself up to such pain. Our Dark Duet was an epic conclusion to the duology, it was everything I expected and more.

The first third of the book, we see August and Kate going upon their lives. August has accepted his fate as the Sunai leader and captain of Henry’s FTF force. Kate has become a bad-ass monster hunter in another province but must return to Verity when her new target goes for her old hometown. The two MC’s have started to fulfill different roles and they’ve come a really long way since the beginning of the first book.

August no longer wants to be human. It seems like he was becoming his biggest fear. Kate was starting to figure out her niche in life, carving her own path instead of aspiring to be her father’s daughter.

The villains were all  wonderful, some of them complex and some just monstrous because it’s what they are. Sloan just wants to rule all of Verity and want to defeat Henry at all costs. Alice wants to kill August and Kate for revenge. And the newest monster who both sides fear just feeds off of chaos and conflict.

The book is dark and compelling and keeps you at the edge of your seat at all times. Also deeply emotional and moving because you’re rooting for these characters from the beginning to the end.

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Spoiler Alert! DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BOTH BOOKS

OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING! I wasn’t expecting it and it shook me up so hard I’m still thinking about it after a month. I was expecting Kate to be injured but live because I needed her and August to be together forever 😥 .

But the ending was poetic. Kate dies by killing the monstrous version of her, overcoming her inner conflict against herself. And August reaps her soul so she could always be a part of him, alive or not. Reading that scene broke my heart but it was also realistic in that situation. There was very little chance both main characters would’ve gotten out of there alive and though most YA MC’s always beat the odds, it’s refreshing to read another take. (Am I only saying this to reassure myself so I wouldn’t burst out crying? Who knows?).

And Ilsa’s death scene also killed me. I loved her! But I was expecting that so it didn’t take me by surprise.

All the side characters, new and old, were great. I loved August’s team because it was so clear they cared a lot about him. And Soro was a great addition to the family, I didn’t know how I felt about them until the end scene. But I can see that Soro is now trying to  understand that sometimes people do desperate things for a good cause and that not all “sinners” need to die.

One thing I wanted more of is August’s scenes with his adoptive mother because they don’t interact much in the two books.

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Have you read this duology? If not, GET TO IT

 

Goals for 2018

Goals for 2018 (1)

Well, I’m posting my goals for 2018 one week into February so I’m already off to a great start 🙂 .

  • Post at least twice a month. I struggled with posting regularly towards the end of last year, even went on a mini hiatus. I have accepted that I most likely won’t have time to regularly blog anymore but I think I can do twice a month.
  • Visit other blogs once a week, especially people who I consider my blogger friends.
  • Do not request any books from NetGalley or Edelweiss unless I know I’m going to read it. I requested too many books last year and I still have a few I haven’t read yet. This starts making me feel guilty about not reading so when I do pick it up, it’s often not due to excitement but obligation.
  • Read at least 40 books. My goal last year was 40 too and I read exactly 40 so I’ll just keep that goal.
  • Read more books out of my comfort zone. I love YA but I feel like I miss out on a lot of good NA and Adult books. The majority of books I read will be Young Adult but I want to venture into other genres this year.
  • Listen to more audio books. More and more people are telling me about the magic of audio books. There have been a lot of times last year where I wanted to read but didn’t actually feel like reading and audio books seem like a great alternative.
  • Write at least 1500 words a week. At the beginning of the year, my goal was to write 500 words a day and it was an epic fail. So I settled on 1500 a week (which I already know is pushing it but we shall see).
  • Finish the first draft of my WIP. I am currently working on a high Fantasy loosely based on Islamic mythology (mostly Djinns). I want to have the first draft done by this year.
  • Go to YALLFest again. I went to YALLFest last year with three of my friends and it was an awesome trip. I’d love to go again this year!
  • Go to at least two author events. I’m lucky enough to be living in Atlanta where there are a lot of author events. I need to start going to more of these because I love meeting authors.

 

What are some of your goals of the year? Have you accomplished most of your 2017 goals?

 

Review: “Love, Hate & Other Filters” by Samira Ahmed

31207017Rating:
4 stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & NoblesArrow

Maya quote

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Islamophobia

A huge thank you to Soho Teen and Edelweiss for a free copy of this awesome book!

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to review this book because I’m sure I won’t be able to remember everything I want to talk about.

The book follows Maya, a Muslim-American teen who wants to one day make films. She is very unapologetic about her love for her hobbies and her opinions on certain issues like sexism and prejudice. The main conflict of the bombing doesn’t happen for a good chunk of the book which I liked because we get to see what Maya’s every day life looks like and how much it changed afterwards.

The family dynamic is very realistic. Maya’s parents are first generation immigrants so there is a cultural barrier between her parents and herself. Her relationship with her mother is strained, neither one understands each other’s perspectives (or likes it). Her mom wants Maya to be the perfect Indian daughter: quiet, obedient, married young to another Muslim-Indian. Her mom doesn’t understand Maya’s goals and dreams, Maya doesn’t understand why her mom can’t leave her ideals back in India and just support Maya. I liked reading their scenes together because you understand Maya’s frustrations with her mother, and most of us have been in similar situations (if not as drastic as Maya’s) so we’re able tot sympathize with her.

Maya has a great relationship with her aunt (her mom’s sister) who she sees as the opposite of her mother. Her aunt is unmarried, lives alone and is on her way to become a famous graphic designer. Her aunt is breaking the Indian cultural norm and inspires Maya to do the same.

I have to say I was a little disappointed by the lack of care Maya gives her religion. Yes her parents are Muslim and she experiences Islamophobia but there isn’t much in the book that show us shes’s Muslim. I do understand that not everyone is religious and people have their own ways of participating in their faith. But I wanted there to be something more than just her parents tying her to Islam, especially since I went into the book expecting a Muslim main character.

Personal preferences aside, the book itself is great. Maya is a good main character, she’s passionate and driven, and does what she wants to do. And I loved both love interests, Kareem and Phil were both sweethearts. I liked the plot and how it dealt with issues of racism and Islamophobia. A book like this was long overdue and I’m glad Samira Ahmed decided to write this story.

Have you guys read this? Do you want to?

Favorites of 2017 – Wrap-Up

Oh wow, how is 2017 already over? I feel like I say this after every year. It’ll be nice to go back to a nice, even year though.

2017 reading challenge

I read more books than I expected myself to last year because of how difficult this last semester was for me. Most of the ones I’ve read were really good, I’ve liked or loved almost all of them. So my favorites list basically consists of most of the books I’ve read in 2017.

**Note that some of these books haven’t necessarily been published in 2017, I’ve just read them in 2017.

Favorite Contemporaries

 

 

Favorite Science Fiction

 

Favorite Fantasies

 

Favorite Historical Fiction

 

Superheroes

 

Surprisingly, I’ve read more contemporaries this year than any other genre, this has never happened before. It has a lot to do with so many diverse contemporaries coming out now and I hope that continues.

I also haven’t been blogging much lately, especially the last couple of months so thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has stuck around. I love you guys! I hope this new year brings you lots of joy, love and books.

What are some books that became your favorites in 2017?