Review: The Speaker by Traci Chee

The Speaker (Sea of Ink and Gold #2)Title: The Speaker
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold #2
Author: Traci Chee
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy
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Having barely escaped the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are back on the run, slipping into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.

With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny. As Sefia begins to unravel the threads that connect Archer’s fate to her parents’ betrayal of the Guard so long ago, she and Archer must figure out a way to subvert the Guard’s plans before they are ensnared in a war that will pit kingdom against kingdom, leaving their future and the safety of the entire world hanging in the balance.

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It’s not really a secret that I loved The Reader by Traci Chee. I mean, I scream about it on Twitter every chance I get, and it’s even in my Twitter bio. I was ecstatic when I was approved to read and review The Speaker, but I didn’t think it’d be able to be better than the first book, but boy, was I wrong.

The Speaker is even more intense, un-put-down-able, and fun. I loved that we followed an ensamble cast in the main storyline instead of just the two main characters, since those are one of my favorite bookish tropes. Traci Chee did an incredible job giving every single character their own unique voice. I often tend to confuse characters, and when there’s a lot of them they tend to blur together a little, but I had no problem with that at all while reading this. I also fell in love with every single character, and I honestly kind of miss them now that I’ve finished the book.

The Speaker was also just as beautifully crafted as The Reader, with a lot of layers, and a lot of twists that you don’t see coming, which keep you on the edge of your seat. Just like in the first book, there are three different storylines that you’re following, and they connect to the main storyline in a beautiful, and somewhat surprising, way. Trying to guess how the secondary storylines fit together with the main storyline has become one of my favorite things. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle while reading.

This series is intense, exceptionally well-written and it will probably forever be a favorite of mine. I’m counting down the days until I get to read the third book, The Storyteller, and I will probably cry a little when it’s all over. This series is just that good.

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Five Books That Deserve More Love

Picture this: you read a book and you completely fall in love with it. Everything about it is amazing, and you can’t stop talking about it. But over time, you start mentioning it less and less, and then you start feeling guilty because this book is amazing and it deserves all the love, but it’s not getting it. So, you decide to write a blog post about the book(s) in the hope that more people will pick them up.

That blog post is this blog post (I hope that makes sense), and these are the books I want to give some more love to.

Iron CastIron Cast by Destiny Soria

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

I loved everything about Iron Cast when I read it. The characters, the magic system, the writing, and especially the setting. This book was super immersive and it felt like you were there, in a nightclub in Boston in 1919. I don’t ever really reread books, but I really want to experience this again, so I might pick it up soon.

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The Forbidden Wish (The Forbidden Wish, #1)The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world… 

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

I remember getting this book in a Fairyloot crate (it was their first box, and also the first (and probably last) bookish box I’ll ever buy) and being very hesitant about it. I’d never heard of it before, and the reviews were just okay, so I put it off for quite some time. But when I finally picked it up, I completely fell in love with it.

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Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

I picked up an ARC of this book a few months back and I was completely blown away by it. This was one of my favorite reads of the year, and one of my favorite retellings ever. This story was so magnificently done. It’s a retelling of Snow White, and it does have a lot of nods to the original text, but it stands as it’s own story. It’s original, and surprising, which is hard to do with a retelling. I wrote a review for it, which you can find here.

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The Reader by Traci CheeThe Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1)

Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that The Sea of Ink and Gold series by Traci Chee (The Reader + The Speaker) is one of my favorite series, but I hardly ever seem to talk about it on my blog so I decided to include it in this post.

I could write you a 50-page essay on what I love about this series, but let’s talk about my most favorite thing, and I’m not sure how to grasp that in a few words so I’ll just explain it: in each book you follow a few different story-lines. While reading these you have no idea how they’re going to fit together, but when you get to the end and figure it out, it’s mind blowing. Traci Chee does such amazing things in her books, and also adds so many easter eggs and foreshadowings (is that even a word? Oh well, let’s just go with it) and it’s just phenomenal. This is that type of book you can read over and over again, and you’ll still find new things. And I don’t get how she does it.

What are some of the books you love but don’t talk about as much?

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Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & GelatoTitle: Love & Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Genres: Young Adult Contemporary
Goodreads

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

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Love & Gelato is the perfect read for a lazy, summery day. The writing is very easy to get lost in, the plot is wonderful, and the book is set in Italy. And who doesn’t want to be fictionally transported to Italy?

I honestly didn’t really care for the romance, which was definitely a shame because that was one of the main reasons why I picked this book up. I just didn’t find myself swooning over these characters, and I honestly didn’t feel any interest in their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the characters themselves, but whenever the book started focusing on them I kind of wanted to skip ahead and read the stuff I actually cared about instead.

Maybe that says something about how good the other aspects of the book are though, because there were a lot of things to like about the book. My favorite part was definitely the family-relationships, and the kind of ‘what-happened-to-my-mom-while-she-was-in-Italy’ – mystery, which we got to find out more about through her mom’s journal entries. This aspect of the book was what kept me hooked and made me unable to put the book down, which is why I ended up finishing it in one day. I do have to say that I saw the ‘mystery reveal’ coming from miles away, but for me, it didn’t make it less fun to read.

The ending of this book was so, so wonderful. It was bitter-sweet yet heart-warming, and it left me in tears. It was definitely the perfect ending, in my opinion.

Sadly, the book definitely wasn’t unique, and therefore a bit forgettable. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think. Not every book has to completely wow me and change my life for me to enjoy it, and sometimes very forgettable books are the perfect summer read for me, but still. Also, the book does have a few ableist comments, so please be careful with that.

All in all, I really liked Love & Gelato. If you’re looking for a fun contemporary with an amazing plot and dream-like setting, look no further. I did wish that I liked the romance a bit more, though, and I could definitely do without the ableist comments.

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Yet Another Book Unhaul

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Hi everyone! As you can probably see, I once again felt the urge to purge my shelves. I do this every few months, because if I sell the books I’m not that enthusiastic about I can buy new one’s, that I’m a lot more excited for! This book unhaul was inspired by Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, a book that I’m incredibly excited for because it looks ace (yes, that’s a pun, you got me), but I just don’t have the money for it.

Anyway, you’re probably just here to see what books I’m getting rid of, so let’s dive straight into it!

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All of the books in this little pile are books that I have read, but books that were kind of meh. Story Thieves by James Riley was a very fun, entertaining read, but it wasn’t more than that. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and The Young Elites by Marie Lu were books that a lot of people seem to adore, and books that I wanted to love too, but I just didn’t. I’m actually quite sad about not liking The Young Elites, since I liked Warcross a lot.

I’m also unhauling Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I quite liked the book when I first read it 2 years ago, but over time I’ve begun to realize how problematic it actually is, so I’m not sad to say goodbye to that one.

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I’m also unhauling the entire Snow Like Ashes series. Again, I loved the first book when I first read it about 2 years ago, but then the second book came around and I really didn’t like it. I’m still tempted to pick up the third book, but I’d probably have to reread the first 2 books to figure out what’s going on, and I just don’t have time for that. Plus I’ve been telling myself I’m going to pick it up ever since it came out and it still hasn’t happened, so I’ve kind of given up hope.

DSC09040This is a stack of contemporaries that I either read and don’t care enough about to keep (Love & Gelato, Let It Snow, Fangirl) or haven’t read and don’t care enough about to pick them up (Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, How Hard Can Love Be?, 36 Questions That Changed my Mind About You, The Unexpected Everything). (Also, why are all these titles so long?).

I actually quite liked Love & Gelato, but I just don’t see myself ever picking it up again as a physical book. I’d probably go for the audiobook instead. And I’m kind of sad about getting rid of How Hard Can Love Be? because I really liked the first book in this series, Am I Normal Yet?, but I heard that this one is very white feminist, and I’m not here for that.

DSC09034I actually haven’t read either Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst or Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis yet, and I am still planning on picking them up. I’m actually quite excited about it. I’m just getting rid of these two copies because I had doubles.

So, those are all of the books I’m getting rid of! Now tell me, if you had to get rid of 3 books on your shelves, which one’s would you pick?

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Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

MoxieTitle: Moxie
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

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I had heard a lot of good things about Moxie before I picked it up, and the synopsis sounded amazing, so I was expecting to love this book a lot. Sadly, the book fell a bit flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it, but it just wasn’t as good as I expected it to be…

The thing I probably liked the most about the book was the friendship between the female characters. I always love a good female friendship, and I loved seeing how they supported each other, educated each other, and above all, grew together.

I also adored the relationship between Viv and her family. Viv’s pretty close with her mom, and even though stuff might not always go the way she planned, they stick together. I also loved seeing how close Viv is to her grandparents. You don’t often see grandparents in YA, so this was a very nice change that definitely made me smile.

The romance in the book was incredibly cute, even though I would’ve personally liked to see this book focus solely on the female friendships, but that’s just me. It was very refreshing to see a guy in a book who identifies as a feminist, and I loved seeing how he supported Viv. I also really liked how they showed that him trying to be helpful wasn’t always the greatest thing, because even while trying to help, he did some shitty things. Through this, the book carried the message that people might do shitty things, but they’re always able to educate themselves and grow, if they want to. And I quite liked that.

One of my biggest complaints about the book is the lack of intersectionality. There was an attempt at making the book a little bit intersectional by mentioning race once, but other than that, there was nothing besides the discussion of power inequality between cis men and cis women. The book was definitely catered towards white allo cishet able-bodied people.

So overall, I did enjoy the book, and some scenes made me feel super powerful and like anything was possible, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough. It needed more. A lot more. Especially in the intersectionality department.

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #1)Title: The Serpent’s Secret
Series: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1
Author: Sayantani DasGupta
Genres: Middle Grade Fantasy
Goodreads

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

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The Serpent’s Secret is one of my most anticipated releases of 2017 because everything about it sounds so incredibly exciting. From the ‘Indian princess’, to the ‘solve riddles’, to the ‘other dimension’ and ‘demonslayer’, it just sounds like everything I want in a book. Especially the sentence “Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds” made me so, so hyped. I have a feeling it’s going to be super adventurous, funny, and I strongly suspect I’m going to love Kiranmala.

Also, the cover is just beyond gorgeous?? I can’t wait to finally have it in my hands and be able to stare at it 24/7. It’s honestly one of my favorite middle grade covers, ever. I know that’s a pretty big statement, but it’s true. I hope I’ll be able to say that it’s my overall favorite middle grade book ever soon. And yes, my expectations might be a little too high (woops), but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. February 27 can’t come soon enough!

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Mental Health Book Bingo Wrap-Up + Mini Reviews

Hi everyone! As some of you might know, Wendy, Inge, Sar, Ayah, and I hosted the Mental Health Book Bingo. The plan was to focus on reading mental health related books during January, using the prompts on the bingo sheet. (You can find all of the details in this blogpost.) I was super excited about this, but for me, it didn’t exactly go as planned.

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As you can see, I read five mental health related books this month, which is not a good number for me. Sadly, January just wasn’t the best month for me. The beginning of the month was really rough, and I was in a very bad place with my mental health, and reading books about mental health when I’m feeling that way is just not a good idea. On top of that, the first MH book that I did read was awful and made me feel even worse, which made me scared to pick up any other book.

Luckily I managed to start feeling better and I got to pick up a few more MH books during the last 2 weeks of January. I’m a bit bummed about the low number of books I read, but my lovely fellow hosts reminded me that self-care is a lot more important than completing a challenge. And that’s so true.

Here are all the books I read for the Mental Health Book Bingo, plus a very short review for each book.

Love, Life and the List by Kasie West – I picked this book up on a whim because I heard that there was an agoraphobic side character. I really wanted to see that side of myself represented in a book, but I felt like reading about an agoraphobic main character would be too much for me. Sadly, the way the side character was treated was horrible, and the book made me feel awful. The only times the agoraphobia came up was when the main character talked about how it affected her, and how awful it was for her, which is plain bad. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. (Agoraphobic main character, or in my case, side character)

Afterlife by Melissa Jennings – After my previous read, I was incredibly scared of picking up another MH book. But because the author send this one to me for review, I felt a bit obligated to pick this one up, and I’m really glad I did. I loved it. While a lot of MH-related works always make me feel anxious, this one did the complete opposite: it calmed me. And it gave me the courage to pick up even more MH books. I’m definitely planning on picking up more of Melissa Jennings’ work in the future, because I have a feeling that they might become one of my favorite poets. (Poetry about MI)

Life Within Parole Volume 1 by RoAnna Sylver – It’s definitely not a secret that I love every single thing RoAnna writes, and this is not an exception. Of course there were some stories I liked more than others (my favorites were Happy Regards, Library Ghost and Group Therapy), but there wasn’t a single story I really disliked. RoAnna’s books always feel like a warm hug, and I can’t wait to pick up even more of them. (SFF with MC with MI)

Always Be You by RoAnna Sylver – Of course I had to pick up another RoAnna Sylver short story. I listened to this on audiobook, and it was narrated by the author which honestly made the reading experience even better. RoAnna has such a nice voice! This story was so so lovely, and I love both of the characters that were in this story so much! (LGBT+ MC with MI)

Chainbreaker by Tara Sim – I’m honestly still speechless when it comes to this book. It was just so, so good and it’s one of the best sequels I’ve ever read? Maybe one of the best books in general? I’m still not over that ending, and I cannot wait to read the third book, I need it NOW. (PTSD rep) 

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