Book Review: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

Book: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

Published May 2019 by Scholastic Press|320 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Kasie West, I Love You So Mochi is a delightfully sweet and irrepressibly funny novel from accomplished author Sarah Kuhn.

“As sweet and satisfying as actual mochi… a tender love story wrapped up in food, fashion, and family. I gobbled it up.” — Maurene Goo, author of The Way You Make Me Feel

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.

She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

In I Love You So Mochi, author Sarah Kuhn has penned a delightfully sweet and irrepressibly funny novel that will make you squee at the cute, cringe at the awkward, and show that sometimes you have to lose yourself in something you love to find your Ultimate self.

I loved I Love You So Mochi! It’s cute and sweet and heart-warming, and I’m kicking myself for not reading it earlier!

It’s such a great read, and I didn’t know I needed to read it until I started reading it. I loved seeing Kimi connect with her grandparents, and I loved seeing her relationship change with both of them. It made me miss my grandparents, and my grandma in particular. It’s this time of year my grandma died, and I can’t believe it’s been almost two years. I did have to put the book down and take a little bit of a break because reading this book made me miss her a lot more than I usually do.

Going to Japan and getting to know her grandparents (and her mom) was such a good thing for her. It was a place where she found a lot of inspiration, and I loved seeing her learn so much about her mom and her grandparents. She really saw her mom in a different way, and you could see that in the emails Kimi wrote to her. You could also see it in the relationship she had with her mom at the beginning and the end of the book, and it changed SO much. I loved seeing that change, and I finished the book feeling like things were in a better place between them.

I also loved seeing Kimi go for a fashion design program instead of the art program. She really grew into being able to speak up and go for what she’s interested in, instead of doing something that she’s interested in, but not as a career or a passion. I don’t know what the future holds for her career-wise, but her clothes sound amazing, and I would love to see this as a movie just for the clothes. Plus, seeing her explore Japan would also be really cool.

The romance was really cute, and I liked Akira. For me, I was more interested in Kimi exploring Japan and her family history than I was in their romance, but I still liked it. They’re cute together, and I felt like he was a great tour guide. It seemed to help Kimi a lot, and everything between them felt natural. It didn’t feel forced or insta-lovey or anything, and that was refreshing.

I was not prepared for the waterworks that happened, which is a weird thing to happen when you’re reading at work. Usually, I can tell when I’m going to start crying, in which case I would put the book down and read at home. But I wanted to keep reading to see how things would work out with Kimi and her mom, and if her mom would ever work things out with her parents. It seems like things are well on their way to getting at least a little bit better, but there was some crying along the way.

My Rating: 5 stars. I loved Kimi and her time in Japan. She learned a lot about herself and her family, and I was glad that she was able to go to Japan. I’m glad I got to go on this journey with her, and I Love You So Mochi is a really special book!

Book Review: A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Book Review: A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Published September 2019 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

I liked A Match Made In Mehendi! It was really cute and really fun to read.

I think what I liked most was how Simi updated her family’s matchmaking business. They were pretty traditional, and not interested in using apps to match people. But after seeing how successful the app was at her school, they ended up modernizing how they did things. I’m curious to see how it works years from now, but hopefully, they’ll be able to match more people with it.

I wish I could remember names, but Simi definitely made an enemy out of the popular girl at school. I’m not surprised by how she acted at all, but I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t have any strong matches. She made Simi’s life hell because she didn’t get what she wanted. It seemed like there was a reason behind it, but that didn’t make it okay.

She seemed pretty interested in art, especially mehendi, but it seemed like the matchmaking app took over her life for a while. It definitely changes things for a while, and she learns that people aren’t what they seem. But for someone who’s really into art…I just wanted to see more of her art. Her project for art class seemed really cool, and I felt like it dropped off as she got more wrapped up in matchmaking and boys.

I know the app is a huge part of the book and boosting her social status. And it was cute to see how people were matched up- even the people you wouldn’t think would go together. The family history of matchmaking was really cool, though, and I get her hesitation to be involved in the family business. It’s not something you see in books, and I like how unique it is.  It makes the book stand out even more.

3 stars. I liked A Match Made In Mehendi. It’s cute and light-hearted and perfect if you like books like When Dimple Met Rishi.

Book Review: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad Of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

Book: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad Of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

Published September 2019 by Tu Books|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise

All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty

Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling–the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore–a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine. 

I was really excited about this one because it’s a re-telling of Mulan, but unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much as I wanted to.  It ended up being an okay read for me.

There were some things I really liked about The Magnolia Sword.  I really liked that she was a twin, and that her family was at odds with the prince’s family.  I liked that each generation had to duel- it wasn’t what I expected, but I thought it worked really well.  Especially with how they came together during the book.

I also liked how detailed this book was.  You could tell that Thomas did her research while reading this book.  It really shone throughout the book, and while I know nothing about this time period or the original telling of Mulan, it felt like it was pretty true to the time period.  Please take that with a grain of salt, though, because I’m only familiar with the Disney movie.  And even then, it’s been ages and ages since I’ve watched it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the book thrilling or romantic, the way it was described.  I was bored, which made me sad, because I didn’t want to be bored.  The Magnolia Sword is more about the characters, which is fine, but I don’t think it was what I wanted.  I wanted more action and battles, and considering the fact that there seemed to be a lot going on at the time, I wanted to be more interested in the book.  Instead, I was really close to not finishing it, and I’m not sure how I did.

Mulan…was not memorable.  I wish I could tell you more about her, but she didn’t stand out to me.  Considering the book was more character driven, and she’s the main character, that was a little disappointing.  And the prince is even less memorable, considering I can’t even remember his name.  And the fact that he and Mulan end up dueling, and they spend a good amount of time together…it’s definitely not a good sign.  You’d think I’d be able to remember but the name didn’t stick.

2 stars.  The Magnolia Sword was just okay, and while there were some things I liked, overall, I was pretty bored.

Book Review: The Candle And The Flame by Mafiza Azad

Book: The Candle And The Flame by Mafiza Azad

Published May 2019 by Scholastic Press|391 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

Azad’s debut YA fantasy is set in a city along the Silk Road that is a refuge for those of all faiths, where a young woman is threatened by the war between two clans of powerful djinn.

Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.

I liked The Candle And The Flame!  I definitely wanted more from it but I did enjoy it.

I really liked the world and the magic.  I liked learning about all of the djinn clans, and I actually really wanted to know more about them.  We get a lot about the Ifrit and the Shayateen, but other groups are mentioned, and I found I wanted to know more about them.  It’s too bad this book is a stand-alone, because I think there’s a lot in this world that can be explored.

Another thing I really liked about the world was naming, and how it gave the Ifrit a human form.  That was really interesting to see and it really made wish that we got more about the djinn clans and their world.

The characters are also great, and the characters felt fully formed- like living, breathing people.  I really liked Fatima, and it was great to follow her story and see how much she changed over the course of the book.  She had a lot to deal with, and surviving what she did really changed her.  Some of them, she had no idea about, and she was definitely pulled into a world she was not expecting.  She really stands out, more than any of the other characters.

She’s my favorite character, though I did like Zulkifar too.  He was intriguing, and it seemed like he wanted to keep his distance, yet he still seemed to care for her and wanted to help her.  I wasn’t sure of his intentions, especially at the beginning.  It never went away, but it did lessen over the course of the book.

The book moved pretty slow, and if you’re expecting action, just know this book doesn’t have it.  I was expecting more action, but if you like books that are more focused on characters, this is the book for you.  I did struggle with it, especially later on, because I just kept expecting action.

One thing I thought was strange was how narrators seemed to change.  It seemed like it randomly switched from Fatima to Zulkifar to the prince and it seemed really sudden and out of place.  I wish it had been a little more obvious, because it made it hard to follow what was going on.  I did have some trouble keeping track of who was who, and I did have to refer to the list of characters included at the beginning of the book.  It made me glad it was there, especially when I couldn’t remember who was who…even at the end of the book.

Going back to something I really liked…I really liked the descriptions.  I could picture everything really well, and Azad did a great job at describing the setting.  The prologue was especially great, and it made me so interested in what was going to happen.  It did a great job at drawing you in, and it made me wish I liked the book more than I did.

3 stars.  I liked The Candle And The Flame but I wish I liked it more.  I can see why so many people love it, and I wish I were one of them.

Book Review: My Fate According To The Butterfly by Gail D Villanueva

Book: My Fate According To The Butterfly by Gail D Villanueva

Published July 2019 by Scholastic Press|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her — on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears — of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom — and figure out the cause of their rift.

So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult — and dangerous — than she ever anticipated.

Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is doomed after all!

I liked My Fate According To The Butterfly!  It’s a cute and heart-warming middle grade book that’s worth checking out.

I really liked Sab, and her connection to butterflies.  It’s an interesting story, and I never thought of butterflies as being a sign of death before this book.  For me, the black butterfly wasn’t literal, in terms of how it relates to the story.  She learns a lot about her dad and family and how things aren’t what she thought they were.

Maybe that’s what the butterfly represents- learning something about your family and how things aren’t what they seem.  It also seemed to give her something to focus on and it seems to set things in motion for her and her family.

I do get why her mom didn’t say anything about what was really going on with her dad.  I didn’t get why her sister didn’t talk to their dad, but I do understand why she wouldn’t say anything to Sab.  It makes total sense they’d want to protect her from that, and it must have been hard to hear what had really happened.  But hopefully Nadine will be able to make amends with their dad, and hopefully things will eventually be okay.

Sab definitely has an adventure going all over Manila with her best friend Pepper, and I wish we got to see more of it.  I liked what we saw, but I did find myself wishing we saw more.  It seems like Sab is pretty sheltered, and we see that she has to be pretty careful when she leaves her quiet neighborhood.  It’s a world she isn’t used to, that’s for sure.

Something I did find confusing was her relationship with her sister.  It’s a minor thing, I guess, but for most of the book, I kept forgetting Nadine was her sister and not her aunt or an older cousin.  She’s actually called Ate Nadine throughout the book, and for some reason, it made me think of aunt or someone who taking of care of her.  Her sister does, because her parents aren’t together and her mom travels a lot but I found that it threw me off a little bit.

3 stars.  I did like this book, and I liked seeing Sab’s learn more about her family, but I didn’t love it.  It’s still worth reading, though!

ARC Book Review: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite And Maritza Moulite

Book: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Expected Publication Is September 3, 2019 by Inkyard Press|Expected Number Of Pages: 384

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle. 

I wish I liked Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, but it was a hard book for me to get through, and I ended up not liking it.

It’s told in a mixed media format, so you see news articles, emails, texts, transcripts, and diary entries from both Alaine and her family.  That didn’t work at all in an e-book format.  It just didn’t look great, but keep in mind I was reading an advance copy, so I’m pretty sure it’ll look better once it’s actually published.

I did have a hard time getting through the book, and part of it is that the mixed media form of story-telling didn’t work in an e-book form.  A few parts of the text were out of order, and it’s hard to have a good flow when you start a new section or chapter in the middle of a sentence.  Again, I’m sure that will be fixed by the the time the book actually comes out, but it did affect my reading experience.

Part of why I struggled with the book was the random tangents.  We’d be reading things from Alaine’s point of view, and then suddenly, we’d be getting imagined emails between her mom and someone at GNN, where her mom used to work, or diary entries on a centuries old family curse.  Even though everything did tie together in the end, it didn’t make sense for most of the book.  I did finish the book wondering what it was supposed to be about.  There’s a lot going on, and while I did like the individual pieces, I don’t know that I liked all of them together.  I felt like it muddled the overall story to the point that I wasn’t sure what the story was supposed to be about.

I did like the family relationships, and that was something I did like about the book.  You don’t really see that in YA, and it was really refreshing to read.  It was nice to see how they developed and changed over time but I wish we saw more of it.

Alaine had a really strong voice, and I wish we saw more of it.  It did take a backseat to some of the other things we see in the book, and I’m a little sad about that because I felt like it took away from her story.

My Rating: 1 star.  I really wish I liked this book more, but it just didn’t work for me.  I think it would work great in physical form, but as a digital ARC, it was hard to get through.  There were parts of the book I liked, but it wasn’t enough for me to really get into the book.

Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

Book: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling

Published May 2019 by Razorbill|336 Pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: These Witches Don’t Burn #1

Genre: YA Paranormal

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling’s delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven–and any chance she has with the new girl–is destroyed.

I really liked These Witches Don’t Burn!  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.

I really love this take on Salem and the witches that live there.  It’s definitely different, and I liked how current day Salem was tied to the Salem that we know from the Salem witch trials.  It really did tie together really well, and Sterling did a great job with connecting everything.

In a lot of ways, it’s a pretty typical story.  There are witch hunters, witches can’t tell mortals, and there’s a council overseeing everything.  I didn’t mind it, though, and it was pretty interesting to see the mystery unravel.  People are definitely not who I thought they were, and it was hard to know who to trust.  I was a little bit surprised by the revelations and now I kind of want to go back and re-read the book to see if I can pick up on anything.

The story did feel pretty realistic, and the weird things that are happening could be done by anyone.  I was surprised by some of the things in the book, but I felt like things were revealed pretty naturally.

I liked Hannah, though I didn’t love her.  I felt for her, though, and she had a lot going on, from the beginning of the book to the very end.  Especially at the end of the book.  I wasn’t a fan of Veronica and her love interest Savannah, and it seemed like Savannah had a lot of issues she needed to work out.

I get where Savannah’s coming from, and that she’s not ready to come out, but I also thought she was pretty horrible to Hannah for a good chunk of the book.  Veronica was pretty careless at times as well, and she was pretty terrible to Hannah at times.

Hannah was sweet, though, and you can tell she’s really earnest.  She wants to help and do good, and it shows.  It makes her really endearing, and I’m curious to see how the events of this book will change her.  If it does, but I don’t see her staying the same person she was in this book.

4 stars.  I really liked These Witches Don’t Burn.  It was fun and intriguing, and I am looking forward to reading the next book.

Book Review: The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Book: The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Published May 2019 by Alfred A Knopf Books For Young Readers|224 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died.

Her dad is drowning in grief. He’s also the only one who has been able to see and hear her since the accident. But now she’s got a mystery to solve, a mystery that will hopefully remind her detective father that he is still alive, that there is a life after Beth that is still worth living.

Who is Isobel Catching, and why is she able to see Beth, too? What is her connection to the crime Beth’s father has been sent to investigate–a gruesome fire at a home for troubled youth that left an unidentifiable body behind? What happened to the people who haven’t been seen since the fire?

As Beth and her father unravel the mystery, they find a shocking and heartbreaking story lurking beneath the surface of a small town, and a friendship that lasts beyond one life and into another…

I’m not sure how I feel about The Things She’s Seen.  It’s interesting but I was as interested in it as I thought I would be.

The Things She’s Seen are narrated by Catching and Beth, and their stories are pretty distinct.  Catching’s story is told through poetry, while Beth’s is not.  Catching’s story felt more like she was telling a story, and it felt very rooted in folklore or oral storytelling, while Beth’s story is more rooted in the present day solving a mystery.  It made the narrators very distinct, and it was easy to tell who was narrating.  They alternate sections, and even without looking at who was supposed to be narrating, I knew who had taken over the story.

I will say that Catching’s part of the story slowed things down for me.  I wanted to get back to the mystery Beth was trying to solve with her dad from beyond the grave, and Catching’s story felt like it veered away from that.  Even though we know what happens in the end, and that it’s clearly spelled out in Beth’s sections, I just wasn’t into this story.  It’s not for me, but I can see why so many people love it.  I really wish I was one of them.

This book is definitely for people who like very creepy mysteries, and I most certainly am not the type of reader that will love this book.  I like creepy stories, I like mysteries, but this one just didn’t work for me.  The setting is really creepy, but the characters and writing didn’t grab me the way I thought it would.

2 stars.  The Things She’s Seen just wasn’t for me.  I liked that the two narrators were very distinct and there is a creepy feel to the book but overall, it was just okay.

Book Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Book: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Published June 2019 by HarperTeen|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

I didn’t like This Time Is Different as much I thought I would, but I still liked it.

CJ was interesting, and I love that she’s into flower arranging.  I feel like that’s not something a lot of people are into, and that definitely stood out.  She really was happy helping out at the family flower shop, and it was really important to both CJ and Hannah.  I didn’t love her, but I can’t really figure out why.  She was really hard on people, and not willing to give them second chances.  Which is understandable but she let it get in the way of other things.

Fighting for the flower shop, and changing the name of the school was really important to her, and it was interesting to see her fight for that.  There are issues along the way, including working with someone she doesn’t like.  Which I completely understand, after hearing what had happened.  But it was middle school, and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt..maybe she has changed.

I felt like I learned a little bit more about Japanese internment and the effects it had.  It’s not something I really remember from history class in school, but it had this huge affect on CJ’s town, even decades later.  It very much affected her family, and it became really important to her to fight for her community.

The characters in This Time Will Be Different are very human and very flawed.  I liked that because they felt so very real.  They have a lot of really difficult conversations, and there aren’t easy answers but I think a lot of the characters learn a lot about themselves along the way.

I know for me, I really wanted the flower shop to be saved, and was disappointed it wasn’t, but things don’t always work out how we want them to.  Hopefully, CJ will find something she loves as much as she loved the flower shop and she’ll find something she’s really passionate.  Maybe she’ll stick with the flower arranging but maybe not.  She has a lot of options, I think.

3 stars.  I liked This Time Will Be Different but I didn’t love it.

Book Review: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Book: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Published May 2019 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux|472 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Sands Of Arawiya #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

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.

I really liked We Hunt The Flame!  It was a great read, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Arawiya is a very vivid place, and it felt so real.  Like it was a living, breathing place, and it really had a life of its own.  Arawiya was the perfect backdrop for the story, and it really felt like it was a character as well.  I could picture everything that was happening so perfectly, and Faizal did such an amazing job at describing everything.

Zafira and Nasir were both interesting, though I liked Zafira a little bit more than Nasir.  I’m not sure why, but I felt like we got to know Zafira a lot more than Nasir.  I was definitely a lot more interested in her story, and I really felt for her.  She had a lot going on, and she really wanted to do right by her people.  Still, both Nasir and Zafira have their own really unique stories and I could definitely tell that Faizal put a lot of thought into their backgrounds and how it informed them as people.

The names and places did get a little confusing at times, and I did have some trouble keeping up with who was who.  I don’t know if it’s because it took me quite a while to read it, or if I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was reading it, but sometimes I had a little trouble with names and places.

The world is pretty distinct, and while some elements of the story is pretty familiar- you read enough YA fantasy, and eventually, everything starts to blend together- the world stands out.  I don’t think there are many worlds like this one, and I don’t know if it’s because of how it’s described or just the world in general, but it’s pretty distinct, at least for me.

The story does move pretty slow, but there’s enough going on that I stayed pretty interested in what was going on.  And with how the book ended, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 stars.  I really liked We Hunt The Flame, and I thought the world was very vivid and unique.  I did have some trouble keeping some of the characters and places straight but We Hunt The Flame is a great read!