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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

ARC Review: “City of Brass” by S.A Chakraborty

32718027Rating:
4 stars

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass–a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

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First of all, a huge thank you to the publisher (HarperCollins) and Edelweiss for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

City of Brass is a solid introduction to a vibrant new Fantasy series. The setting is rich and descriptive, the characters are well thought out and the plot is [mostly] unpredictable. S.A Chakraborty creates a complex Djinn society and as someone who is very interested in [more like obsessed with] djinns, I soaked it all in.

City of Brass is a book about oppression, how one group thinks they’re better or more deserving because of how pure their blood is. It’s also a book about Islamic traditions and mythology and is unafraid of showing off Islam and I loved the book for it.

I will say however, all the different terms took a lot of getting used to for me. I figured out there’s a glossary at the end after I finished the book… don’t be like me kids, check the glossary if you’re confused by all the terms.

It also took me some time to figure out everything that was going on in the world, the politics and the different classes/types of djinns. Because Chakraborty goes into a lot of the history of what happened in this world, it was too much for me to remember sometimes. And though the action started off pretty quickly, I wasn’t invested in the first few chapters. It took me until getting 50 percent into the book to have the “I really want to know what happens next” feeling.

The book eventually won me over with my two favorite things in the world: magic and sword fights. I mean, what Fantasy lover doesn’t love it when the characters are stabbing each other?

Snippets about the characters:

I liked all the characters well enough to be invested in their stories. Nahri is witty, headstrong and a survivor. She is similar to many other YA protagonists I love [Lila Bard from ADSOM in particular]. She has insecurities about not belonging in either of her worlds, neither the human world nor the djinn. Her insecurities were portrayed well and gave her character depth.

Dara is a Daeva warrior who Nahri accidentally summoned one day. He introduces Nahri to the djinn world and they go on a journey to get to Daevabad, the safest place for Djinns. We don’t learn too much about him honestly and I was the least attached to him when it came to the characters.

Prince Ali [cue the Aladdin song 😀 ] grew on me after just a few chapters. Ali is very religious and has strong moral and political opinions, many of which oppose his father, the king. He tries to do what’s right for his people, especially the shafit (half human half djinn who usually live in poverty). 

Muntadhir (Ali’s brother and future king) grew on me as well. Ali and Muntadhir have a deep and complex relationship that I loved. I love sibling storylines and theirs is a good one, with all the love and rivalry two brothers are bound to have.

My favorite character though, because I almost always tend to like side characters more [especially if they’re sweet and kind Hufflepuffs] was Jamshid Pramukh. He is the Daeva head of the guard and Muntadhir’s best friend. I hope to see more of him in the future books.

Is this on your TBR list? What do you like best about Fantasy books?

 

Review: “Saints and Misfits” by S.K Ali

31123249Rating: 

4 stars

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

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Saints and Misfits is a great start to the road for more YA contemporaries with Muslim main characters. The plot is of a typical YA contemporary about finding your voice and overcoming a past trauma. There are many things the book does well and I applaud the author for trying to educate people on what Islam is actually like.

The main character Janna is a fifteen year old, Muslim hijabi teen in the United States. She is kind-hearted and faithful. She tries to balance her religion with a typical high school experience and it was interesting to see what she does to not have to compromise one for the other (sometimes unsuccessfully). The book does a good job in highlighting that people aren’t perfect; Janna makes many mistakes in this novel but she is only fifteen and is still trying to figure herself out.

My heart went out to Janna for what she has experienced with Farooq. Farooq is one of her best friend’s cousin, he attempted to rape her and then continued to stalk her in the book. He is highly respected in their community and Janna is too intimidated by his reputation to report him.

Although I liked Janna just fine, I wasn’t in love with her. She seemed immature at times and her crush on Jeremy often deterred her from seeing the big picture. It makes sense because she’s so young but it did throw me off of loving her character.

Janna’s parents are divorced – she lives with her single mother in an apartment. Her father lives in another state and is married with two sons. The social stigma that comes with divorce in a Muslim society is briefly touched upon but isn’t given much detail.

The side characters all played a role in trying to represent all types of Muslims but sometimes it felt like that was all they were there for. The ending did little to resolve their stories and left a lot of questions unanswered. I wish we got to spend more time with the side characters and had more glimpses of their personalities. But I understand that’s not always easy to do with a first person narrative.

Overall this book was enjoyable and the representation was on point.

Have you read this? Do you have it on your tbr list?

Review: “Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor” by Rick Riordan

27904311Rating:
4 stars

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

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Oh Rick Riordan, how much I love thee. I liked Hammer of Thor much more than Sword of Summer and let me just start by giving a huge round of applause to Riordan for this fantastic and diverse cast of characters.

Magnus Chase: a sassy pan sexual healer with a heart of gold. I complained about him in the last book because of how similar he sounded to Percy but his voice was unique in this one. He sounded more grown up and mature, and when he brought in humor to the situation, he still understood the gravity of things.

Samirah al-Abbas: an axe wielding, hijab wearing Muslim Valkyrie. I love love LOVE her and Riordan for making her such a strong, liberal person. She’s also very happily betrothed to Amir who’s an absolute cinnamon role.

Alex Fierro: a transgender/genderfluid shapeshifter whose weapon is a metal wire. How cool is that? This was the first book I read with a gender fluid person where the book didn’t revolve around the character’s gender identity.

Hearthstone: a deaf dwarf who comes from an abusive family. He’s also a master at rune magic. This was also the first book I read with deaf representation.

Blitzen: a POC elf with a great fashion sense who wants to open his own fashion line someday. He’s also a great craftsman.

The plot itself is nothing special. Thor’s hammer is stolen and the main cast must go on a mission to retrieve it. All the while, Loki is threatening the demigods and trying to achieve his own agenda. It’s a typical Riordan book, fairly predictable but enjoyable nonetheless. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming which was a surprise.

“Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? An atheist and a Muslim walk into a pagan afterlife.”

This is also a book about acceptance and unity. Sometimes you may not understand people and where they are coming from, but you have to respect them, no matter their religion or sex or sexuality.

And of course the best part of the book: Annabeth cameos!

What’s your favorite Riordan series?

Review: “The Upside of Unrequited” by Becky Albertalli

30653853~o~Rating~o~
4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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Ahh, this was so adorable! The Upside of Unrequited was even more adorable than Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Molly is kind, creative, and utterly relatable. The book has a diverse, multi-dimensional cast and of course Albertalli’s quirky writing style.

Molly is a fat girl and she is extremely aware of it. Her confidence in her own body increases as the story develops and her journey to self love was my favorite part of the novel.

To me, the best thing about a Becky Albertalli book is the dialogue. The characters speak like normal teenagers, they’re not whiny brats and they’re also not wise beyond their years sprouting out medieval quotes. Her characters always seem like genuine teenagers you can picture in a high school setting.

I’m always craving stories where family plays an important role in the MC’s life and Molly has a fantastic family. She has two moms, a twin sister Cassie who I also loved, and the cutest little baby brother. A good part of the book revolves around her moms’ wedding; they can finally get married because it’s now legal.

Molly and Cassie’s relationship was another great aspect of the book. Where Molly is quiet and cautious, Cassie is outspoken and a little reckless. Cassie meets her dream girl and is in a serious relationship for once and Molly is worried it’ll change her relationship with her twin. Their sibling relationship felt completely authentic, with arguments and fights but also fierce loyalty.

If you’ve read Simon vs. then you’re in for a treat because CAMEOS!

And Reid is an absolute darling (I just had to mention it).

Have you read this? What did you think?

 

Mini Review: “The Bane Chronicles” by Cassandra Clare

16303287~o~Rating~o~
4 stars

Warning: The following contains spoilers for both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.

Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.

This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.

Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

~o~My Review~o~

finally picked up the Magnus Bane chronicles. It had to do a lot with the Shadowhunters show and I wanted to know Magnus’ entire back story. (Side note: season 2 of Shadowhunters is SUCH a great improvement than season 1. So if you gave up on the show after that horrendous first season, I strongly encourage you to try season 2. From the fourth episode and on, there’s a new writing team and they’re a lot better than the previous one).

Anyway, I really liked the compilation of short stories about Magnus. I feel like I understand him more as a character now. All my favorite characters make an appearance. I was most excited to see Will and Tessa and I was practically jumping with joy when they showed up.

There are eleven short stories in total and most of them were great. My favorites were #4 – The Midnight Heir about Tessa and Will’s son. And #6 – Saving Raphael Santiago about, obviously, how Magnus saves Raphael (this one was just so sweet! And I love Raphael now). And also #10 The Course of True Love (and First Dates) in which Magnus and Alec go on their first date and THIS WAS SO CUTE!

There were two stories I didn’t care much about (What Really Happened in Peru and The Rise of the Hotel Dumort). But Magnus’ sass and snark almost make up for it.

The stories themselves are all about fifty pages or so long and they go by really fast. I read this in under five hours which is unusual for me because I’m a slow reader. There’s action, romance, humor and heartbreak.

I recommend this to anyone who has read all the other Cassandra Clare books. These stories are wonderful additions to the Shadowhunters world.