Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt the Flame [Sands of Arawiya #1]
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Review:

We Hunt the Flame wasn’t at all what I expected. It was a mystical adventure through a dessert island abandoned by the beings who created it, with deep, rich world building that brought to life a world slightly grey – deprived of the magic that once saturated the air and ran through people’s veins. Honestly, I came for the gender swap, but stayed for the ancient Arabian inspired landscape and the friendships forged throughout this book.

Zafira is such a strong female character. Introduced as the Hunter, she’s the only person who can navigate through the Arz – forest that shifts and grows over time, and has magic in it that can confuse even the best navigators. To her village, the Hunter is their saviour. At the time where the Arz is growing and the land is cold, Zafira provides for her village pelts and meat. Her character grows so much throughout this story, and she learns to be comfortable and badass as herself, not just as a woman masquerading as a man.

There is one point in the book where she loses someone important to her, and the death affects her for all of 3.5 seconds and haunts her every 50 pages or so, and that person is all but forgotten by the end. The story takes place over about two weeks to a month. I lost a close friend around the same age and it’s been three years and I still think about them every couple days. I get that she was busy saving the world and stuff, but like where’s the gut-wrenching heartbreak, and the tears, and grief. This is the one thing about this book that just didn’t like. Just because a girl is strong doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel. I hate when protagonists are badasses and therefore aren’t allowed to breakdown and hurt. That’s not a realistic expectation to put on people, no matter their age. Pain is pain, and people (everyone) should be allowed to wallow in it, process it, and then move on. That’s the healthy way at least… /rant over/.

Nasir is compassionate and that is seen as his biggest weakness. I love that the author created this character for the same reasons I hate that she decided that Zafira just had to get over it – compassion, empathy, and love are all a part of being human. Nasir’s biggest battle is his wish to throw his feelings out the window and be the strong, emotionless person his father expects him to be. I liked seeing that struggle because of how relevant it is in today’s culture. The idea that men need to fulfill a certain level of authority without showing weakness. That was Nasir. And his compassion didn’t make him any less badass, which is such an important message.

I’m not even going to touch on the secondary characters here or else this whole review will be pages long. I loved the characters as a whole – their friendship and camaraderie make this book enjoyable. Faizal brings her characters to life and makes you feel for them, makes your heart break for them. This story was phenomenal – the magic, the world building, the wonderful prose – and I’m super excited to read the sequel!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.89/5

eARC received via Indigo Books & Music via NetGalley.

Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

Title: Slayer
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Publication Date: Jan 8, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

Review:

Let’s be real, our first thought at the end of the day wasn’t, “Wait, what about the Watchers?!” When the final credits rolled for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we were wondering whether she’d be back in Angel, how we’d get over Spike’s sacrifice, and where all these slayer-powered girls will go from here.

Slayer takes place two months after the apocalyptic fight in Sunnydale and the question no one was asking is answered – are the Watchers okay?

When we meet MC Nina, it doesn’t seem like it. The Hellmouth is gone, but so is all the magic – what held together a lot of the old traditions for the Watchers. Now they have books that are more paperweight than educational, and Nina, a failed watcher turned makeshift nurse who can’t speed heal to everyone’s dismay. However, when Nina comes into her Slayer powers after a Hellhound attack, Nina finds herself questioning her identity as a healer and Watcher.

I really liked Nina as an MC, and I think her character development was done really well. She makes a few mistakes, she gets herself in trouble, but I think the whole Slayer thing is something that she grows into. That being said, Nina hasn’t had the best childhood – she witnessed the Watchers’ fall, the magic die; lived through her father’s passing, the neglect of her mother; and found herself an outcast when she wasn’t allowed to take the Watchers test. Nina dwells a lot on these things throughout the book – time and time again coming back to them. She dreams about it, she complains about it in the narrative, she’s jealous of her sister because of it, and it becomes this whole thing that you just start skimming over every time she thinks about it. I’m not faulting her for dwelling on it, and I’m not mad that this is what made her who she is, but it was just too much too many times – it started bogging down the story and taking away from the areas of the story I wanted more of.

The world building is well done – Nina paints us a clear picture of the Watchers’ current living situation, as well as the cities she ends up visiting. Even her dreams are vividly described and I really liked that I got to dive deep into the world with the narration.

The action – when there was action – was good, like so good. It made me exceptionally happy and it was what kept me pushing through the book. Nina’s not a natural fighter – so seeing her train, and jump into action was a lot of fun. The last 100 pages got me so fired up. I was so mad when the book just ended and I realized I had to wait for the next one.

All in all, Slayer is a good starting point for this series – it has the necessary character development, a clear and immersive world, and a lot of demony action that fires you right up and throws you back into the world of Hellmouths and Slayers. I won’t lie and say that I wish there had been a little more action and a little less moping, but it was definitely something that contributed to the character development. I’m so ready for the next book, because that end got me shook. Nina is going to be a bomb Slayer is all I’m saying.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Pacing: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.78/5

eARC obtained via Simon and Schuster Canada and Simon Pulse via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Tour + Guest Post: Year of the Knife

Welcome to The Year of the Knife Book Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!

Title: The Year of the Knife
Author: G.D. Penman
PublisherMeerkat Press
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Genre: Adult Thriller and Urban Fantasy
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Agent -Sully- Sullivan is one of the top cops in the Imperial Bureau of Investigation. A veteran witch of the British Empire who isn’t afraid to use her magical skills to crack a case. But Sully might need more than a good education and raw power to stop the string of grisly murders that have been springing up across the American Colonies. Every one of them marked by the same chilling calling card, a warning in the form of a legion of voices screaming out through the killers’ mouths: -It IS tHe YEAr oF the KNife.-

Sully’s investigation will drag her away from the comforts of home in New Amsterdam, the beautiful but useless hyacinth macaw that used to be her boss, and the loving arms of her undead girlfriend, in a thrilling race against time, demonic forces and a shadowy conspiracy that will do anything to keep its hold on power and ensure that Sully takes their secrets to her grave, as soon as possible.

G.D. Penman’s imaginative The Year of the Knife is a fun, fast-paced urban fantasy mystery with an engaging set of characters, most notably Agent Sully of the Imperial Bureau of Investigation.

Guest Post by G.D. Penman – A Few of our Favourite Things

I am not saying that every single one of these characters is an unrepentant liar, but they live in a slightly oppressive Empire and they aren’t always free to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Which is why instead of each character telling you their favourite thing, we are going to have to pry open their brains a little bit and steal the real answers.

Sully would tell you her favourite thing is: A nice Sloe Gin, a pub with wooden panels on the walls, something deep fried and nobody trying to kill her for five whole minutes.
But her favourite thing is actually: Marie.

Marie would tell you her favourite thing is: The unparalleled majesty and wonder of musical theatre.
But her favourite thing is actually: Sully.

Raavi would tell you his favourite thing is: Whatever magical monstrosity is on the table in front of him awaiting vivisection at any given moment.
But his favourite thing is actually: Bowling night.

Colcross would tell you his favourite thing is: Peace, quiet and order across the colony.
But his favourite thing is actually: Nobody calling him all day so that he can smoke his pipe without being disturbed.

Pratt would tell you his favourite thing is: Fine dining, fine wine, tasteful music and good company.
But his favourite thing is actually: The exact moment that he can see the spark of sedition planted in the mind of one of the students that he is lecturing.

Chloe would tell you her favourite thing is: The beautiful diamond engagement ring that her fiancé gave her.
But her favourite thing is actually: The seven seconds a week that she gets to stare at Sully as she walks across to the director’s office.

The Director would tell you his favourite thing is: Grapes
But his favourite thing is actually: Not being magically transformed into a Hyacinth Macaw.

Ceejay would tell you his favourite thing is: Rock and Roll.
But his favourite thing is actually: Mongolian Barbecue

Axis would tell you that their favourite thing is: Bluegrass
But their favourite thing is actually: Axis

Eugene would tell you its favourite thing is: TO WATCH THE PAINFUL DEATH OF ALL MANKIND, TO TEEACH THEM NEW WAYS TO PERCEIVE THE PAIN THAT THE WORLD WILL BE WRACKED WITH
But its favourite thing is actually: Pornography.

About the Author:

G D Penman writes Speculative Fiction. He lives in Scotland with his partner and children, some of whom are human. He is a firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better by dragons. His beard has won an award. If you have ever read a story with Kaiju and queer people, it was probably one of his. In those few precious moments that he isn’t parenting or writing he likes to watch cartoons, play video and tabletop games, read more books than are entirely feasible and continue his quest to eat the flesh of every living species.

Author Links:
Website | GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway:

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Open internationally. Ends Nov 23, 2017.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Fantasy Romance
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
GoodReads

Synopsis:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Review:

UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT… I didn’t like it. At this point, I’ve read up until ACOWAR and I still didn’t like it…

Let’s start with the writing. Chapter 1 – we get it, it’s winter. Not only does Maas have the description of the crunching snow, how hungry Feyre is, and how cold she is, it is stated that it is winter, explicitly, three to four times. This was my first impression of the book and I wasn’t impressed to be honest.

Then there’s the story – comparing it to Beauty and the Beast is like comparing my foot to my dog’s foot. Yeah, sure they both have the same functionalities, and maybe some of the bone structure is the same (idk anatomy, so I can’t tell you how accurate that is), but at the end of the day if you swap ’em neither of us will be content. It’s the same thing here. Sure – there’s the father disappearing and the girl taken away by these supposedly dangerous creatures who are kind of cursed (honestly, there are worse things that can happen…), but that’s where the comparison ends really.

Now that we’re on the fae… Tamlin… oh Tamlin. There’s grass more interesting than Tamlin. He’s just there. Being silent and grumpy, and I can’t find anything to love about him. He’s an alright fellow if you like boring guys, but there’s not much there for ya. Lucien was more interesting to me than Tamlin. Her maidservant… Alice? I think her name was…. is also more interesting than Tamlin…

Side bar comment – HER SISTERS ARE SO ANNOYING LIKE HOLY. NOPE. (They get better, but ugh.)

That being said then, how on earth does Feyre come to love him? It’s so forced that I just could not deal with their romance and what triggers the latter section of the book.

On that note, I’ll tell you now that you’ll need to get through about two thirds of the novel to get anywhere with this book. Even Rhysand didn’t save this for me, but he’s a lot more entertaining than Tamlin. In the end, his character’s presence in the next two books is the only thing that kept me reading this series, but even then I can’t say I loved the other two book either…

I’d say this series is just over-hyped. There’s no other way to describe it. Like you have to love it ’cause everyone else does, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t even just me. My roommate and my sister tried reading this book and they were both left wondering how it was as popular as it is… We’ll see what else she has in store, but I can’t say I’m quite sold on the Maas hype.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Pacing; 1/5
Overall: 2/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.28/5

Book Tour + Review: The Waterfall Traveler

Welcome to the The Waterfall Traveler Book Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

Title: The Waterfall Traveler
Author: S.J. Lem
Publication Date: April 19th 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
GoodReads

Synopsis:

All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it’s impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive who saves her life—she’ll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressive city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she’ll not only have to confront Samuel’s unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind.

In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unforeseen love, Ri risks it all to save those she cares for. But if she prevails, she’ll find the one thing she yearns for most—a cure for Samuel.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Review:

The Waterfall Traveler surprised me. I thought it’d be a little lighter, but this book was intense. There were a lot of dark scenes and a lot of death, and it was definitely an adventure/thrilling sort of read.

The book starts off running. We meet Ri and Samuel in the first few pages, and after the first couple chapters there’s an attack and then we’re off. It was fast-paced and intense, but not so much so that you didn’t have a chance to catch your breath.

I really like the intricacies of the book – a lot of the characters were connected to each other in unexpected ways and I was always surprised as to how. The development of the characters is pretty good too – each character has a chance at telling their story and what happened to them, and we as readers get to understand why they are how they are. I liked Ri’s independent and fighting spirit, even when it got them in trouble, and Bryce’s loyalty, and Carter’s sassiness, Katie’s sweet heart. That being said, I kind of really wanted to kick them all. Despite all their differences, every character was pretty self-sacrificing and overprotective. It was both admirable and irritating.

One thing that bothered me was that at the beginning there were a lot of “we’ll tell you later” sort of things. I get that they didn’t want to do an information dump, but there are less obvious ways to do that. I guess, in part, it was due to Ri’s bullheadedness, but it made the beginning kind of frustrating.

The end, however, was stellar. I was so surprised, I sped through the pages in excitement. There was a lot to digest, but it was worth it. I was really surprised, and kind of heart broken.

My next question would be whether this book has a sequel or not, as the end seems to hint at something of the sort!

Overall, an enjoyable read, but you really have to be willing to push through the first few chapters of the book!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 3.5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.45/5

ebook obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

About the Author:

S.J. Lem is a digital art director gone writer in hopes of expanding her creative aspirations. Whether it’s introducing dimensional characters, crafting imaginative worlds, or transporting readers into high-stakes adventures, she strives to deliver an immersive experience.

She lives in Chicago with her husband and son. When not writing, she enjoys pottery, gardening, and volunteering. Connecting with readers and fellow writers is one of her greatest joys.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Giveaway:

Open internationally! Enter to win:

  • A print copy of The Waterfall Traveler
  • $50 Amazon GC

Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: October 25, 2010
GoodReads

Synopsis:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

I wrote this review for a media class, and I figured I’d post it since a) I already wrote it, and b) the movie just released recently. Let me know if you want more reviews like this in the future. Here it is:

I turned the last page of Before I Fall expecting one more line, a funny quip, or even an epilogue. All I got were the Acknowledgements, and I sat there for a moment stunned. How could it just end like that?

Originally published in 2010, the novel Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is gaining worldwide attention due to the upcoming release of its movie adaption by the same name. The movie stars Vampire Academy actress Zoey Deutch as Samantha Kingston. According to the synopsis, Sam is popular, has the perfect boyfriend, and dies on Friday, February 12, only to wake up the next morning and relive the day of her death six more times.

I decided to take a chance on the book before watching the movie. As they say, the book is always better.

Without spoiling anything, I have to say that Samantha’s character undergoes a huge transformation throughout the story. Although we only see seven days of her life, her character develops exponentially. Sam plays by the rules of her friend group without really questioning why they do the things they do. As the book progresses, we see Sam become herself, living her life authentically and being more accountable for her actions.

Each relived day is spent differently – the first two are slightly similar, then she spends a couple full of angst, and then another day is spent solely with her family. Each day is a testament to how multifaceted our lives are, and how easily we neglect different aspects of them.

Something I often didn’t think about during high school was that my friends were basically my family. I saw them eight to nine hours a day, spoke to them when I was home, and hung out with them during the weekend. My family was on the backburner. This is true in Sam’s story as well. Her friends have become such a large part of her life that her family is neglected as a result.

That being said, there is more to it than that. With friends, there is the potential for judgment and shame for saying or doing the wrong things. There is also a certain amount of scrutiny that you are under when you are popular. Sam reflects on this as she watches her friends bully people, her boyfriend belittle her, and people’s reactions to her being nice. It is fascinating how much is missed when focusing on oneself.

Before I Fall encourages readers to examine their everyday choices. A couple changes here and there lead Sam to learn things about her friends, family, teachers, and classmates that she would never have known otherwise. Her relationships were superficial, and she drifted through life with ease. When push came to shove, however, she began to see people for who they were and began to challenge the status quo.

Before I Fall is a very easy book to lose yourself in – the plot is well developed, the characters are thoroughly fleshed out, and the story feels real, relevant, and heartbreaking. In the end, I gave Before I Fall four and a half stars of five.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.92/5

Book Tour + Review: A Mortal Song

AMortalSongRevealBanner

Welcome to the reveal for Megan Crewe’s new project – A Mortal Song, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

SONG-finalcover

Title: A Mortal Song
Author: Megan Crewe
Publication date: September 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Sora’s life was full of magic—until she discovered it was all a lie.
Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess. As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

Buy Link:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Indigo

Review:

Okay, just to get it out of the way – there are characters named Haru and Jun – I actually grow to like Haru, and Jun is just a name mentioned in passing. That’s right, this is a book about Japan where the characters are Japanese (and Japanese spirits) AND they aren’t named Jun. Rare, right?

This story is about Japanese “spirits” called kami, who are trying to save their kind from an evil spirit. In order to do so, Sora and Takeo need to find the true heir to the kami throne to help defeat the evil spirit. On top of this, Sora needs to come to terms with the shocking news that she is in fact human, and what that means in terms of her relationship with Takeo, and her new band of human friends.

I found this to be a fantastic book about adventure, friendship, love, and self-discovery.

Although Sora has to learn how to cope with being a mere human, she doesn’t get too angsty about it – instead she is strong, resourceful, and open to seeing the world from a different point of view, a human point of view. An honestly, even without the powers, she is absolutely kickass throughout the novel.

To be honest, Takeo as a character was meh to me. He was like wallpaper, and I honestly didn’t see what Sora could be attracted to, save for their childhood history. His character could have also been like this because he was kami. Honestly, I loved Haru and Keiji so much more. As humans, they had more personality and more diversity in responses than Takeo, and they stole the show from him. I loved the characters, overall – they all really complimented each other well, both in skill and wit, and that really helped keep the story moving.

This book got a lot of things right – there was no instant love, but a beginning to something; there wasn’t a special snowflake, but an “oh-crap-I’m-not-actually-special-what-do-I-do-now!?” story line; and there was a lot of culture and time put into world building for the book. Granted, I found that the end was very abrupt and cheesy, the story itself is well worth the read.

The overall concept of the book was fascinating to me, as I’ve never heard of kami before. The concept was new to me, but I loved how it was executed and how it was brought back to the human level of understanding. There was a lot of introspection throughout this book, mainly done by Sora, and I found it to be pretty insightful.

Overall, definitely would recommend!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

eARC obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Link:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Indigo

About the Author:

Megan

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she can’t look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there.

Join her newsletter for book news, recommended reads, and exclusive giveaways: http://eepurl.com/btE8mH

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Giveaway:

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
  • Japan Media & Treats Prize Pack

ENTER HERE!~