Top 10 Reads of 2017

Today I’m sharing my top 10 reads of 2017! I read a lot of great books last year, so this list was extremely hard to narrow down. I couldn’t pick my absolute favourite book of 2017; it came down to two: Windwitch by Susan Dennard and Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. These books were so incredible! They completely captivate the reader, from the plot and the world-building to the characters and the writing.

Of course, I had eight other favourite books, which are listed in the order I read them in. Definitely add these to your TBR. I’d also love to know your favourite reads of 2017!


29939390Windwitch by Susan Dennard (sequel to Truthwitch)

Tor Teen | January 10, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.


18710209Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

HarperTeen | May 26, 2015

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.


29282402Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Sky Pony Press | March 1, 2016

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.


25802922Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Razorbill | June 21, 2016

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–and for Tara–will ever be the same again.


30269126Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Razorbill | February 7, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rheehas spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.


30256109American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Balzer + Bray | February 14, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?


25164304Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Balzer + Bray | November 22, 2016

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.


31706524How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringyimana and Abigail Pesta

Katherine Tegen Books | May 16, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.


33282947See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

Dial Books | February 28, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


30312547Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young | March 14, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Advertisements

November + December Wrap-Up Post

IMG_5798Happy New Year! I have not posted in such a long time, I am so sorry! I was in a bit of a blogging slump which turned into a reading slump, but I’m hoping to make up for it in January. I only read four books in the last couple months, so I’m a bit disappointed. I wanted to at least reach my goal of 75 books. On the plus side, none of the books I did read were bad.

My favourite one was Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. I’d heard good things about this book, but I was not prepared for how incredible it is! TPT switches between the POV’s of three dancers, who all attend a very competitive Manhattan ballet school and who all want the number one spot. Angst and drama, romance and revenge, this book has it all. The ending was also incredible and totally unexpected. Pretty Little Liars meets Dance Moms. TW: Eating disorder, addiction, harassment.

November Books Read:

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

December Books Read:

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Money-Smart Kids by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

ICYMI:

Book Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Top 5 November Releases

2018 Reading Goals:

My reading goals for 2018 are really simple: focus on books I own, backlist titles and 2018 debuts & sequels. I hate having regrets about my reading choices, so I’m only picking up titles that completely catch my interest. The only challenge I’ll be doing (at this point) is reading some of the books on the 2018 Canada Reads Longlist. I’d love to hear about your 2018 reading goals!

Mini Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109American Street

Ibi Zoboi

5/5 stars

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Review:

Today I’m posting a mini review of American Street by Ibi Zoboi. This isn’t as detailed as my usual reviews, but I still wanted to share the book here.

This was so good and I’m having trouble putting that into words. Zoboi is a gifted storyteller. The characters of AMERICAN STREET captivate you from the very first page. I would say the character development is the strongest aspect of this book and the story is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. I also loved how Fabiola would compare her experiences as a Haitian immigrant in America with Vodou culture. I’m paraphrasing here but Fabiola described her situation as, “American by birth, Haiti by blood”. I didn’t expect the magical realism and it was a really beautiful surprise. A superb debut YA novel! I’m avidly awaiting Zoboi’s next work.

My review has a second paragraph but I didn’t include it here because it’s a huge spoiler. You can find it on Goodreads, where the spoiler part is hidden. Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

25802922.jpgMirror in the Sky

Aditi Khorana

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: June 21, 2016

Publisher: Razorbill

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–and for Tara–will ever be the same again.

Review:

This won’t be a very detailed review, more a recommendation and why this book is so important.

So I’m really sad this has such a low average rating on Goodreads but at the same time I’m not surprised. I think I may have misinterpreted the synopsis or something because when this book became more contemporary than sci-fi (what I was really interested in), I had to set it down/read it in-between other books. The sci-fi aspect is still a very big part of this book but it’s not the focus. If you want to read this because of the sci-fi element and not the contemporary you won’t like it. I’m still going to recommend MIRROR IN THE SKY to everyone because this book is so, so important! Don’t just write it off as “high school angst” – MIRROR IN THE SKY is so invaluable to teen and young adult readers. This is OwnVoices for an Indian MC; the main character is biracial but I’m not sure if that is also OwnVoices.

So many important topics/themes are covered: the pressure placed on teens to get good grades, join a fair amount of clubs/do extracurricular activities, work or support your family, make a decision/career choice that will impact your entire future at a very young age (16/17); peer pressure, bullying, racism, micro-aggressions, tokenism, misogyny. Finding yourself and just fitting in. Khorana creates a very authentic voice in her main character, Tara as well as her friends and family – it never felt like the author was introducing too much to the reader. There were so many things I could relate to, having experienced them when I was a teen and even as a young adult.

Khorana’s writing is incredibly beautiful! As the novel progresses and Tara experiences new things, some good and some bad, the narrator [Tara] talks about these events with such wisdom. They’re the kind of lines you find yourself quoting over and over again because they’re so beautiful and memorable. For fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Important things to consider before reading/recommending (spoilers below):

One of the secondary characters is outed as gay by a friend to her other friends. The scene wasn’t exactly positive (happened during a big fight) so it could be harmful to LGBTQIA readers.

Another secondary character may have had an eating disorder – I use the word “may” because this character denied it but most of her friends agreed?said? she had one.

I haven’t been able to find any reviews that discuss these two things or the rep of either characters.

Book Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

29939390Windwitch (sequel to Truthwitch)

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Review:

WINDWITCH by Susan Dennard was incredible from start to finish. Filled with action, heartache and some of the greatest moments of character development I’ve ever read, this book is sure to become a favourite of 2017. The world-building is so rich, it practically leaps off the page. Enemies become allies and allies become enemies in this stunning sequel to TRUTHWITCH.

I want to take a moment to talk about the writing. It was so beautiful that I’d take the time to analyze every paragraph, every sentence, and every word. I feel like, in a way, Dennard’s writing can be compared to the gorgeous, imagery-like writing of Laini Taylor. I’ve never really considered this before, but the world-building and character development is so complex, so rich, it’s reached that level. This is the best Dennard book to date.

Like in TRUTHWITCH, this novel is told in 3rd person, multiple POV’s. We have characters already familiar to us: Merik, Safi, Iseult, and Aeduan. However, Dennard adds a 5th voice: Vivia Nihar, Merik’s older sister. Having this many voices in one book can go really wrong, but Dennard is flawless. In fact, WINDWITCH is one of the best examples of a book told in multiple POV’s. The transitions were so smooth, that when character A’s POV ended, even though I wanted to know more about character A, I was satisfied enough to continue on with character B. There have been times when I’m reading a book with only two different POV’s and the voices weren’t different enough. I understood that these two characters had different personalities, traits and ambitions, but the voices sounded too similar; as if I were reading a book with 1.5 POV’s rather than 2. I’m really astounded at how flawlessly Dennard pulls this off.

Moreover, Dennard usually followed a specific pattern that helped make these transitions smooth. The first couple chapters had only 1 POV per chapter but eventually a POV would change mid-chapter. These POV “pairings”, as I’m calling it, were usually Merik and Vivia, Iseult and Aeduan, or Merik and Safi. Merik and Vivia, and Iseult and Aeduan were usually in the same location or general vicinity, so it made sense to have pairings like these. Like I said, this is one of the best books with multiple POV’s and if you’re writing a book like this or planning to, I’d recommend you study Dennard’s style. I think it’d be really helpful for writers to see why this style worked for Dennard and whether or not it could work for you.

The character development is so amazing, along with the sort of relationships we see between different characters. This book is Merik’s arc and the focus is mostly on him. He has so much rage and grief and regrets, that it’s funnelled into a new identity: the Fury. There’s also a focus on Vivia, and Merik & Vivia’s relationship as siblings/rivals. This relationship was the most prominent and I loved every moment of it!

Iseult/Aeduan fans will be very happy with this book. These two create a temporary alliance and start traveling together in the Contested Lands. Their chapters ended up being my favourite, mainly because Aeduan is my all-time favourite character! There was the makings of a slow burn romance and I mean slowww, but this book starts them off as could-be-friends and allies, which is something I’m really happy about.

Some readers might be a bit disappointed because, in a way, that strong friendship between Safi and Iseult, the one that drew readers to TRUTHWITCH isn’t as prominent. Safi and Iseult are definitely fighting to reach each other in WINDWITCH but it ends up more about how these two fight for survival without the other. These two characters are so strong together, but how do they fare without the other to lean on? Some very tough and heartbreaking decisions are made in this book. The reader ends up seeing a different side of the relationship we first encountered in TRUTHWITCH and I really liked that. WINDWITCH takes the characters we loved from the first book and has them forging new, exciting and sometimes difficult paths.

I was slightly confused at the beginning because a character death (that happened in TRUTHWITCH) is mentioned and I honestly couldn’t remember it happening. This was more on me than the book. I did read book #1 about 1.5 years ago.

The last couple of chapters, the POV’s would change three or four times in one chapter and my heart was actually racing. All I could think about was getting to the end, it was so good! I’m very excited for book #3 BLOODWITCH – which happens to be Aeduan’s arc 🙂 – and now plan to re-read TRUTHWITCH. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Also, because of something that happened near the end of the book I feel like I know what book #4 will be called. Okay, I’m not totally sure on the exact title but I kind of felt a foreshadowing of events to come in book #4. Dennard mentioned in a chat I think, one of the Witchlands novels was supposed to be called THREADWITCH (Iseult’s arc) but B&N wouldn’t accept that title so she had to change her plans. This ended up worrying me because I started thinking “Oh no! Everyone gets a book named after them except Iseult?!”. However, I am not worried anymore 🙂

#12DaysOfDiversity Retelling Readathon 2016

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-13-58-05

I’m participating in 12 Days of Diversity, a holiday readathon of Diverse Retellings! Hosted by Julia Ember, author of Unicorn Tracks and the upcoming titles: Tiger’s Watch and The Seafarer’s Kiss, the readathon runs from December 19th to 30th, 2016. I’m not sure if sign ups are still open but you can read all about it in Julia’s original post here. There are also prizes 🙂

Reindeer level – Read one of the books from each category plus one other book from any category. Six books in twelve days. Then review the book on Goodreads, your blog and another retail website. Everyone who completes this level is entered into a draw for a $35 Amazon gift card or equivalent from a bookstore of your choice.

Badass Santa level – this is given to the participant who earns the most amount of Readathon Points. Points are calculated as 10 points per book read and reviewed, with a further 5 points for taking a photo of the book and showcasing it on Instagram. This person will win an actual mini trophy engraved with their name, their title as Badass Santa, their blog name and #12DaysofDiversity, along with a $75 Amazon gift card or equivalent from a bookstore of your choice.

There will also be prizes for Most Beautiful Instagram Post and Most Hilarious Review. Winners will get a diverse retelling of their choice.

I don’t expect to win the Badass Santa level, but I am aiming for the Reindeer level and the Most Beautiful Instagram post. I’m not that funny, so I don’t think I’d win Most Hilarious Review 😉

Here are the books on my TBR. I don’t believe I’ll read more than six, but I’ve included all the books I’m interested in reading – if not now, at some point in the future.

Please check out the full list here. There’s so many great titles, some I’ve read, that I couldn’t possibly fit them all here. You’ll also notice some titles fit in multiple categories.

Diverse Retellings Published in 2016:

And I Darken by Kiersten White — Retelling of Historical Dracula, Gender-Flipped, LGBTQIA

Beast by Brie Spangler — Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, LGBTQIA

Marian by Ella Lyons — Retelling of Robin Hood, LGBTQIA

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

Protagonists of Colour:

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale — Retelling of Maid Maleen (Grimm), POC Protagonist

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine — Retelling of Phantom of the Opera, POC Protagonist

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers — Retelling of Romeo and Juliet, POC Protagonist

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriot — Retelling of Cinderella, POC Protagonist

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis — Retelling of 12 Swans, POC Protagonist

Ramayana by Daljit Nagra — Retelling of Ramayana, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler — Retelling of Little Mermaid, POC Protagonist

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin — Retelling of The Wizard of Oz, POC Protagonist/Non-Western Influences

LGBTQIA Protagonists:

And I Darken by Kiersten White — Retelling of Historical Dracula, Gender-Flipped, LGBTQIA

Ash by Malinda Lo — Retelling of Cinderella, LGBTQIA

Beast by Brie Spangler — Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, LGBTQIA

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesa Lia Block — Retelling of The Odyssey, LGBTQIA

Seven Tears at High Tide by CB Lee — Retelling of Selkie Folklore, LGBTQIA

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller — Retelling of The Iliad, LGBTQIA

Non Western Stories & Myths:

Ramayana by Daljit Nagra — Retelling of Ramayana, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson — Retelling of Indian Folktale, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin — Retelling of The Wizard of Oz, POC Protagonist/Non-Western Influences

Published by a Small Publisher:

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Marian by Ella Lyons — Retelling of Robin Hood, LGBTQIA

Seven Tears at High Tide by CB Lee — Retelling of Selkie Folklore, LGBTQIA

If you’re not able to participate, you should still check out the list. There’s a lot of great books to discover! Let me know if you’re participating and what books you’re hoping to read.

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016

The semifinal round for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 has started and I just wanted to take this moment to write about and highlight some favourites. Obviously you can only vote for one, but I hope you find some new reads. I’m only sharing the categories and books I’m interested in, but make sure you check out all 20 categories and vote here. Voting ends in three days (November 13).

Best Historical Fiction:

I haven’t read any of these but have heard good things so they’re all on my TBR shelf.

Best Fantasy:

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is one of my favourite novels so I couldn’t not vote for its sequel A Gathering of Shadows. City of Blades and Cursed Child are also on my TBR shelf.

Best Poetry:

princess

 

 

 

I haven’t read The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace but have heard so many good things about it. I’m a huge fan of the author’s book blog.

 

Best Debut Goodreads Author:

I loved Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton and have heard really good things about The Girl from Everywhere, The Reader and The Star Touched Queen! I personally voted for The Girl from Everywhere so I hope you vote for that one too, but the rest are great choices.

Best Young Adult Fiction:

There’s a lot more good books in this category but I couldn’t fit them all, so I’m highlighting the ones I really, really want to read. I voted for The Female of the Species, in case you were wondering hint hint 😉

Best Young Adult Fantasy:

So this category has a lot of good books and a lot of NYT Bestselling, big name authors. I’m really proud of Julie Eshbaugh, her debut Ivory and Bone made it among authors like Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo and Victoria Aveyard. I was talking to Jodi Meadows on twitter, the author of My Lady Jane and The Orphan Queen (really good duology!) and she was really surprised to see My Lady Jane had made it into the semifinals. Even though ACOMAF was technically my favourite book, I decided to vote for My Lady Jane because I knew a lot of people would be voting for SJM.

I’d love to hear what books you voted for or if any of your favourite books made it to this round.

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439Truthwitch

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Tor Teen

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Review:

I love reading an author’s second series because of books like TRUTHWITCH. Dennard’s writing is gorgeous, and her characters fresh and original. The world of TRUTHWITCH is huge and it’s because of Dennard’s experience as a writer that the reader is never overwhelmed by it all. This is the book that will be talked about for years to come, a book that deserves every bit of hype.

TRUTHWITCH is the tale of two threadsisters and Dennard is able to perfectly balance their stories, so that it never feels like one is more significant than the other. This is a multi-POV book; told in the POV’s of Safi (our Truthwitch), Iseult (Threadwitch), Merrik (Windwitch), and Aeduan (Bloodwitch). In a lot of cases, this is a big undertaking because there needs to be enough space given to each character. Dennard is absolutely perfect when it comes to this. The switch between POV’s is smooth and I felt like I got enough time with each and every character.

I loved all four of our main characters. Safi was funny and ambitious, someone who acts before she thinks. Iseult was my favourite, mainly because I felt our personalities were very similar. She was introverted and calm, and I felt like she was very selfless, in the sense that she’d give up everything if it meant her friends and family were happy. Merrik is someone who would do anything for his country and is desperately fighting for its survival. He also has a lot of rage, which fits so well with his witchery. Then there’s Aeduan, the infamous Bloodwitch. Like Iseult, he was another favourite and I can’t wait to find out more about him. He’s very mysterious and a bit of an anti-hero, but that kind of makes me love him more haha. The characters go through some serious character development and I especially loved the actions of Safi at the end – it showed her growth.

I usually mention this in my reviews, but world building is my absolute favourite and Dennard did not disappoint. If you’ve seen a map of this world, you might have noticed that it looks like an alternate version of Europe. I loved that! Dennard is so strong when it comes to giving the reader a good visual of her world. There are so many different cultures, but again we are never overwhelmed. We’d glimpse the world through the characters actions, through music and poetry, myths and legends. It was also great seeing both the good and bad of the world. For example, we experienced the discrimination of the Nomatsi through Iseult, which is her ethnicity.

I actually think if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, you’ll like this. The world is based upon elemental magic and the scale of the world (very big!) is about the same. I also sensed a bit of Zuko in Aeduan, which was great.

Dennard is truly a Wordwitch when it comes to writing. With magic and suspense at every corner, TRUTHWITCH is a must-read. The writing is visually stunning and the world equally so. Dennard has created a beautiful start to a fantastic, new series.

Disclaimer 1: I won an advanced readers copy from the author, this has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

Disclaimer 2: I wrote this review about a year after reading it, but I based it on notes written immediately after finishing it, so everything in my review is accurate.

 

Back to School & New Books

If you’re like me, it’s that time of the year again and you’re going back to school. I’m starting a new semester of university and in honour of that I decided to create a bookish back to school post. So whether you’re going back to school or it’s the same, old routine, here’s some books releasing in the next couple of months that I’m super excited for. You can read them during your daily commute, between breaks, and before/after school. Be sure to add these to your Goodreads/50 Book Pledge shelves! If you decide to preorder any, keep a watch on the author’s Twitter/Goodreads/Website – a few of these books have or will have preorder campaigns.

sept

23203252

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Random House

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

This one sounds absolutely phenomenal! Magic and monsters and Victorian London, what’s not to love? I think if you liked The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare or The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, you’ll like this.

25064648

The Reader by Traci Chee

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Publisher: Putnam/Penguin

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

I’ve heard so many good things about this book! I’m a huge fan of Inkheart, so it being compared to that has me really excited.

oct

28220826When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Publisher: Thomas Dunne (St. Martin’s Press)

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I absolutely loved McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers, so I’ll pretty much buy any future work of hers. You should definitely pick up this and The Weight of Feathers, which was a gorgeous, stunning piece of magical realism.

27414389A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Release Date: October 25, 2016

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

I am so, so excited for this, it’s one of my most anticipated books of the year!

nov

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer27414369

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

Eeee! I’m so thrilled for this one. It kind of has a The 100 feel to it, which is a fantastic show by the way, incase you’re looking for something new to watch. It’s based on a book series, but I’ve never read it so I can’t comment on that. Anyways, Moyer’s world sounds dangerous and unique and action-packed.

25164304Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Release Date: November 22, 2016

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

I’ll be honest, when I first read the summary I thought it would go something like this: MC is a princess betrothed/has an arranged marriage with a prince from a neighbouring land, but then falls in love with a mysterious guy, maybe the best friend of the prince or a secret rebel. Then the summary goes: falls in love/starts having feelings for the sister of her betrothed. I paused, re-read the summary and my excitement basically went through the roof. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the previous trope, I’ve just seen it a bit too much in fantasy lately.

dec

28375641Spindle by E.K. Johnston

Sequel to A Thousand Nights, read my review here

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

The world is made safe by a woman…but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled–and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

I loved the first book, A Thousand Nights and was thrilled to learn the author wrote a sequel/spin off companion book. This takes place 1500 years after ATN, but it’s still recommended you read the first. Johnston’s writing is really superb.

24846331Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Publisher: Harcourt Childrens Books

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

I love fantasy, so this is exactly the sort of thing I’ll read. I’m also getting a Robin Hood feel from it, which has boosted my interest. Also, wouldn’t that cover make the perfect colouring page?! ❤

Book Review: Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein

18046383Circle of Jinn – sequel to Becoming Jinn

Lori Goldstein

3/5 stars

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Being Jinn is Azra’s new reality. As she grants wishes under the watchful eye of the Afrit council, she remains torn between her two worlds—human and Jinn. Soon, secrets spill. Zars are broken. Humans become pawns. And rumors of an uprising become real as the Afrit’s reach extends beyond the underground world of Janna.

Straddling the line becomes impossible. Aware of her unique abilities, Azra must not just face but embrace her destiny. But when the role she must play and those she must protect expand to include a circle of Jinn greater than her own, Azra will be forced to risk everything. A risk that means there’s everything to lose, and at the same time, everything to gain—for herself and her entire Jinn race.

In this dramatic sequel to Becoming Jinn, Azra’s story comes to a heartfelt and thrilling conclusion.

Review: 

I’m very conflicted over the rating of this book. Halfway through this was a 3.5-4 star rating for me and then when I reached the last 100 pages of the book, it became a 3. More on why in my review below.

CIRCLE OF JINN is the sequel to BECOMING JINN and while I enjoyed it overall and am glad I finished the series, I’m a bit disappointed. Becoming Jinn had such a solid plot and the character development was fantastic, particularly when it came to Azra, our protagonist. Even though this was Goldstein’s first novel, I could tell from the writing she was not an amateur [writer]. There were a few things I disliked about the first book: it focused more on the human world and Azra’s ties with humans (like Henry and Nate), which wasn’t my personal reading preference – I wanted more fantasy, less contemporary; more Jinn less human. I was hoping the second book would give me that, as things were finally getting exciting by the end.

Sadly this wasn’t the case. Like I mentioned, things were pretty slow until halfway through the book. The one thing I did like is that Azra being so focused on her ties with the human world mirrored the real problems teens go through today. For example, Azra is sort of together not really together with Nate, but she kissed Henry. She feels really guilty about that and wonders if she should tell Nate, even though they aren’t official. These are things teen-me could relate to. There were also more “serious” issues; in the first book we learn Henry’s sister and childhood friend of Azra, Jenny died as a kid. That accident and the resulting trauma has lived with her ever since. Even if this book didn’t meet what I wanted 100% (more fantastical elements), I still felt I needed to finish the book. I feel teens will enjoy and even find solace in Azra. The character development between Azra and self & Azra and other characters was great. The reader is able to connect with Azra.

I also liked the introduction of new characters like Zak and Matin. I can’t say who exactly they are (spoilers), but I feel most readers will like them.

World-building – one of the things this book is sorely lacking. It’s one of my favourite parts of a book, so that was a huge negative for me. There were so many things I wanted to know about Janna, the home “city” of the Jinn as well as the Jinn and Afrit. For example, I thought female jinn were sent to live in the human world hundreds of years ago, but apparently this happened right before Azra was born?! As well, why do Jinn grant wishes to humans? I know the Afrit force Jinn to do it to control them, but what about before the Afrit were in power? At one point a Jinn will not have enough magic to connect to a human’s soul and see what they truly desire, and therefore no longer be able to grant wishes. What’s the point of that then? Some might do it out of the goodness of their hearts, but not all are fond of humans.

I mentioned above that my rating changed when I got to the last 100 pages of the book. So many plot twists were revealed that it was just too much and those 100 pages felt like a mess. It was made even worse because in one way or another, these plot twists were all connected. The author was able to tie up all the loose ends, but it was a very bumpy ride for the reader. Circle of Jinn was also lacking action, so the ending felt anticlimactic. I wasn’t exactly expecting sword fights but a little more action would have been nice.

Now that I’ve mentioned the lack of action, there was also a lack of action from Azra’s Zar sisters. The Zar is supposed to be this eternal sisterhood going back generations. I loved this and thought it was a really great creation on the author’s part. The point of this sisterhood is to help with wish-granting etc. Together they have so much more power, so granting a wish or performing a spell is made much easier than if just the one Jinn was doing it. I felt like the author really took a step back with them. If the Zar had all helped fight the antagonist together, it would have canceled out the “Special Snowflake effect” [Azra]. The author tries to cancel the SS effect by introducing/revealing characters with powers similar to Azra, but it didn’t really work out in the end.

I actually have so many issues with the epilogue. Half the things that were mentioned could have happened in the actual book, and might have been the action this book was sorely lacking. So, I thought this book was a trilogy and I’m wondering if it was meant to be one but for one reason or another was made into a duology? It felt like the author had to fit things meant for two books into one.

Final thoughts: if you loved Becoming Jinn, you’ll probably like this. If you usually read contemporary and are looking for something that isn’t hardcore fantasy and without a lot of action, you’ll probably like this series. If you were disappointed or frustrated with Becoming Jinn, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy this.