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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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

 

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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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?

Mini reviews: Warcross, Wonder Woman and Gentleman’s Guide

I’ve read all three of these books a while ago and didn’t want to write individual full reviews so mini reviews it is! All of these had been on my TBR list for a while and fortunately I loved all three of them!two lines

29385546“Warcross” by Marie Lu

4.5 stars

“Every locked door has a key. Every problem has a solution.”

Oh wow, this was a good book. Marie Lu never disappoints! Warcross is the first virtual reality book I’ve read and I have to say, I am a fan. It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist Emika is a hacker and as someone who’s studying computer science, hacking has always been something I’m interested in.

If you’ve read Marie Lu’s Legends trilogy and remember Alaska in Champion, Warcross is an even grander version of that. I wanted her to do a spin-off of that book series just to get to know the Alaskan society more and Marie Lu has answered my calls.

Emika, after a little hack gone wrong, finds herself as a wildcard in this year’s Warcross games. The technology in this book is so well weaved into the story, I was impressed (and also very concerned about where our world is headed).

  • Emika and Hideo were the cutest together
  • There were two huge plot twists, I saw one coming but the second surprised me
  • Seriously, the technology, SO GOOD
  • Emika has rainbow colored hair and it’s mentioned one too many times

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29283884“The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee

4 stars

“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”

I loved this book but I was very conflicted while I was rating it. After I finished The Gentleman’s Guide, I just sat there and thought, what the heck did I just read? I went into the book expecting a historical contemporary and it was that but there were elements of other genres thrown in that I wasn’t expecting (like fantasy).

Monty was a complicated character, at times I loved him and at times I wanted to punch his guts. He is bisexual in a society where not being straight was absolutely unacceptable. He is in love with his best friend. He’s also irresponsible, takes his inheritance for granted and gets drunk for a living. He takes his white male privilege for granted, and at time his comments made me want to slap him. But Monty goes through a lot of character development in the book and he learns to get better at listening. He changes for the better and we get to see these changes unfold.

  • Felicity (Monty’s little sister) was my favorite! I loved that girl so much!
  • Percy was also great and I loved him too
  • Monty and Percy ARE SO ADORABLE TOGETHER IT HURTS
  • Felt like there was too much happening sometimes

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29749085“Wonder Woman Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

5 stars

“You can’t live in fear. You make things happen or they happen to you.”

I had high expectations going into this book after absolutely loving Wonder Woman’s movie and my expectations were met and then some. This was SO GOOD. Yes it has some clichés but it’s a superhero story retelling so it’s bound to have them. That’s not to say Bardugo didn’t put her own little twists and turns into the coming of age story of the infamous Diana Prince.

I’ve said this before but only Leigh Bardugo can introduce five new characters in a book and make me care about every one of them. Even though the book is about Diana growing into her Amazonian self, it’s also about friendship and dedication and doing what’s right. Also I LOVED the diverse casting, that’s not something I see often in superhero retellings (every main character but Diana was a POC).

The story picks up once Diana gets to New York with Alya. Diana starts to question a lot of the racism and prejudice that happens in society. I also love her cluelessness when it comes to technology and confusion to slang and modern film references.

Female superheroes are just empowering. In this book specifically, Diana is Wonder Woman but you have two other strong female characters. Alya is intelligent and brave and fierce. Her best friend Nim is hilarious and loyal and as fierce as Alya.

  • Also, FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! GIMME MORE! Alya and Nim’s relationship is the sweetest!
  • Nim is a fat bisexual South-Asian character and I absolutely loved her!
  • Tyler is also a sweetheart
  • So usually I see plot twists coming but I did not see this one coming

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Have you read any of the books mentioned? Are you planning to?

Review: “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

35504431Rating:
4.5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

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Trigger Warnings: OCD (obsessive thought spirals specifically)

Turtles All the Way Down is a hard book to read. It feels very personal in a way only an #ownvoices book can feel. The antagonist in this book is Aza’s own thoughts and Aza goes through a constant struggle of trying not to let her OCD get the better of her but is sometimes forced to comply with her thoughts anyway.

The book does not glorify mental illness. Aza isn’t a great detective because of her mental health issue but the opposite to where her mental wellness often gets in the way of her goals. She is selfish without meaning to be, she is always stuck in her own head so she often overlooks other people’s problems. This isn’t intentional on her part, it’s just something she isn’t aware of for a long time. But she tries to do well and to be well and I was rooting for her the entire book.

One of my favorite things to find in a YA book is female friendships and Aza and her best friend Daisy have a great one. They have their ups and downs but when it comes to it, they try to understand each other and are there for each other when it counts.

The romance is not a big part of the plot and is more of a side story which is different from a typical John Green book and I liked it. Davis is the son of a billionaire who goes missing and there’s a reward for finding him. Aza and Davis used to go to camp together so Aza’s friend Daisy thinks that could help them solve the case. Davis is a sweetheart, he is witty and smart and like all other John Green love interests, deeply philosophical.

Turtles mentions a lot of artwork and artists and incorporates that into the story. I’m not someone who knows a lot about art but I did end up looking up some of the art that are mentioned. Aza describes her thought process by comparing it to a particular art piece of a spiral and how it goes on and on without stopping.

Technology use is also portrayed really well and that’s so rare! The characters used Google Maps to get to places, they texted each other constantly, their phones didn’t suddenly run out of battery. It was relatable and normal.

Mini spoiler for the ending ahead, skip if you hate spoilers!

Ultimately, the mental health portrayal felt real and debilitating but not hopeless and untreatable. Aza gets help from her therapist. She continues to struggle with it her entire life. She has her ups and downs, she gets better and she gets worse. There is no sudden treatment, she doesn’t sporadically “get well” but she learns to deal with it.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite John Green book?

 

Review: “You Bring the Distant Near” by Mitali Perkins

33155334Rating:
5 stars

This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart.

Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture – for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

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You Bring the Distant Near quote

Hello everyone! I’m coming out of hiding to rave about this spectacular book that everyone should go read as soon as physically possible.

I LOVED this book so much! A book has never resonated so well with me; it’s been months since I read it and I still can’t stop thinking about You Bring the Distant Near. There’s FINALLY a book about Bengali girls, not one, not two but FIVE kickass Bengali girls/women who are awesome in their own imperfect ways. 

You Bring the Distant Near follows five characters spanning three different generations, their struggles, their joys, their dreams and their failures. But most importantly, it’s about their relationships with each other and their identities as immigrants in America.

The highlight of the book for me was definitely all the characters. The characters all have their individual character arcs where they grow at their own pace but they’re also all skillfully woven together in the overall story arc. Perkins is an expert at developing and writing characters in a way that leave no doubts of their authenticity. All five of them go on their own individual journeys trying to find their niche in society as first and second generation immigrants. I also just really love following characters’ stories from childhood to adulthood to make sure I know how they turned out so this book was perfect for me.

The cultural representation is something else I adored. Seeing common mundane aspects of Bengali culture reflected in a book made me very happy because it’s so rare to find in the media. Things like the parents listening to Rabindranath Tagore songs while cleaning the house made the book feel special in a way no other book has.

The book also doesn’t sugarcoat the negative parts of South Asian culture but instead takes the challenge head on by having the characters deal with it. Racism, misogyny, colorism and feminism play big important roles in shaping the characters. There’s also an emphasis of the characters trying to balance the two cultures, deciding what parts of Bengali culture to hold on to and what to leave, figuring out what exactly makes them American. That’s a story most immigrants (myself included) know well so it hits close to home.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who likes a well written and well developed diverse contemporary. And also a huge shout out and thank you to Shenwei @ Reading (AS)(I)an (AM)erica for sending me a copy of this back in July.

Have you read this book? What book characters do you resonate with the most?

Review: “They Both Die At the End” by Adam Silvera

33385229Rating:
4.5 stars

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

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They Both Die at the End quote

A huge thank you to the publisher (HarperTeen) and Edelweiss for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

They Both Die at the End is an Adam Silvera book so of course it broke my heart and I loved every minute of it. The concept of knowing when you’ll die has always seemed interesting to me so I was looking forward to seeing how these characters would deal with knowing they’ll die that day. It’s tragic and hopeful at the same time.

Mateo as a character is very relatable and I could find myself in him. He’s a dreamer who’s been wanting to do a lot in life but always felt paranoid or scared to take that next step. He’s cautious and reluctant to try new things because of the jarring question, what if something goes wrong? But he’s also an all around good person. He cares deeply about others and will always be around for moral support.

Rufus is more bold and adventurous but has a good heart and is loyal till the end. He just lost his family in a car accident a few months ago and has been living in a foster home. He has the most wonderful and supportive group of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for him.

Watching Rufus and Mateo’s relationship growing into something deep and significant is heart warming. They’re both very different and under another circumstance, they wouldn’t have met. I usually hate the “met and fell in love all in one day” trope but it makes sense in this scenario since neither of them have any time left. They are both supportive of one another and become each other’s strength as the day goes by.

Similar to The Sun is Also a Star, TBDatE has small chapters with snippets from all the side and minor characters so we get glimpses of what’s going on in everyone’s heads, not just our two mains. I love stories where we get a full picture and in this world, we get to see how something like DeathCast affects all parties, the ones who are dying and the loved ones they’re leaving behind.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera book?