Book Review: Aru Shah And The Song Of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Book: Aru Shah And The Song Of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Published April 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents|381 pages

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

Series: Pandava Quartet #2

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Re-Telling

Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good.

But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone.

Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.

I really liked Aru Shah And The Song Of Death!  I really liked the first one, and I was pretty excited about this one.  It didn’t disappoint!

Aru’s story continues in this book, and she’s definitely in for more adventures with Mini.  We also see another Pandava sister in this book, and it makes me wonder if we’ll see the other ones.  There’s two more books planned in this series, so it’s possible we’ll see the other sisters.

Back to this book, though.  Mini and Aru team up with Brynne, who was a pretty cool character.  She’s rough around the edges, but I really liked that about her.  Aru and Mini could use someone with her strength and sense of direction, and I like how all three girls balance each other out.  They all have their strengths, and I think they work pretty well together.  I can’t wait to see what other adventures they have.

On their quest to prove their innocence, they go deeper into this world.  While we were introduced to the world in the first book, we are definitely past learning how this world works, and we’re thrown right into things.  I liked that we were able to explore Aru’s world a little more, and I’m hoping it stays that way for the rest of the series.

I liked the humor and pop culture references and they felt pretty natural.  I’m always nervous when I see pop culture references because I always worry the book is going to feel dated in a few years but I don’t feel like that’s the case with this book.

I also really liked that we don’t always know the whole story, and that heroes aren’t always who they’re cracked up to be.  I did like it because it’s really easy to elevate heroes, but there’s also the message that even heroes make mistakes.

We don’t see Mini or Boo for a good chunk of the book which was a little disappointing, because I really like Mini and Boo.  But Aru did have to learn to work with Brynne and while I love the relationship Aru has with Mini, I also think it’s good for her to learn how to work with other people too.  Aru is more confident with her abilities, and I’m sure she’ll get more confident as the series goes on.

4 stars.  I really liked this one, and it’s a great addition to the series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Book Review: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2019 by Scholastic Press|384 pages

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

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #2

Genre: Middle Grade Re-Telling/Fantasy

When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been four months since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a reality show is taking over, and her friends are in danger.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again battle witches, solve riddles, and avoid her evil Serpent King father – all while figuring out who are her true friends, and what it really means to be a demon.

Games Of Stars is a really cool book!  I really liked the first one, and knew I had to pick up this one.

It didn’t feel like a middle book at all, and I loved seeing Kiran save her friends and deal with her Serpent King father and a reality t.v. show.  There’s a lot of fun adventures in this book, and I’m glad that continued from the first book.  She really wants to do the right thing, and she’s really determined.  Kiran is a great character, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for her in the next book.

I really liked the world and what we see in this book really adds to the world we were introduced to in the first book.  We see more creatures and myths, and I loved the author’s note at the end where DasGupta talks about her inspiration for the book.

Things are not black and white, and we definitely see Kiran learn that in this book.  While she trusts a few rakkosh, she’s not trusting of all them, but we see that change over the course of the book.  I don’t blame Kiran at all for how she reacts to some of the things in the book, but we see a lot of growth and change in her.  She really does give everyone a chance by the end of the book, and that was nice to see, because sometimes, it seems like books don’t always do that.

It’s action-packed and a fast read, and it went by so fast.  But I didn’t mind at all, because I had such a great time reading it.

4 stars.  I really liked the world and the characters, and it really added to the series.  It’s fun and full of adventure.

Book Review: A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Manadanna

Book: A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Manadanna

Published September 2018 by Sky Pony|320 pages

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

Series: The Celestial Trilogy #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Re-Telling

Named one of the best 25 space opera books by BookRiot!

The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to.

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back. 

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali. 

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart. 

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.

I really liked this one!  I’m not familiar with the Mahabharata at all, so I’m not at all familiar with the stories that inspired this book.  But I want to know more about them because I am curious about the stories that inspired this book.

I really liked the setting, and you can’t go wrong with a book set in space.  It was an interesting setting for the story, and I kept picturing planets, but it seemed like everything was set on space ships.  Maybe I’m wrong on that one, but that was my impression.  It was a little bit fuzzy for me, since nothing was really described or explained.  I wish there had been a little more world-building, but it’s also possible I missed those details.  It wouldn’t be the first time that happened, and it probably won’t be the last.

I also had a hard time keeping track of who was who and how they were all related, especially at the beginning.  I managed to keep up by the end of the book, but at first, it wasn’t clear to me what was going on.  We were definitely thrown into this world, which is fine but it took a while to get my bearings straight.

Fate, free will and prophecies are pretty important in this book.  There’s definitely the sense that certain events were put in motion because certain characters did everything they could to avoid it.  Esmae is definitely the lost princess no one knows about who comes out of the woodwork to claim her throne and her crown.

I really liked Esmae, and there were a lot of beliefs she had to reconcile and loyalties she had to deal with.  I wish we had more with her and Titania, and I feel like there’s a lot of potential there.  I know Titania is a warship but I’m definitely intrigued by their relationship.  Something about that made me think of the Binti trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor.

I can’t speak to how well it does as a re-telling but based off a quick read of the Mahabrahata wikipedia page, it seems like it sticks to the overall story…but in space.  Again, I could be way off, because I skimmed the Wikipedia page, but it seems like it sticks to the overall story.  I don’t know if we’ll continue to see that, but we’ll find out in the books to come.  I’m sure someone much more familiar with these stories could talk about this aspect a lot better than I ever will.

I really enjoyed this one.  There’s a lot of political intrigue, and I’m curious to see where things go, especially with how things ended.

4 stars.  I was wavering between 3 and 4 stars, but I really liked the setting, the story and Esmae.

Book Review: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi And The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Published March 2018 by Rick Riordan Presents|355 pages

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

Series: Pandava Quartet #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Mythology Re-Telling

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

I really liked Aru Shah And The End Of Time!  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini stop the Sleeper and save time.

I liked Aru and Mini, and they seem like such an unlikely duo.  I thought they worked well together, and I’m curious to see if we’ll meet the other 3 Pandava sisters in the rest of the series, or if we’ll just see Aru and Mini.

One thing I thought was interesting was how surprised people were that the legendary Pandava brothers were, in fact, sisters.  It made for a unique twist, and people seemed to underestimate these two girls.  It makes me wish that I knew more about Hindu mythology because it would have been fun (and pretty cool) to know the real stories that Chokshi drew from.

Also, I love that Rick Riordan acknowledges that this was not a story he could have written, and that he believes Chokshi can.  I think it’s cool he’s giving other writers a voice and the chance to re-tell the mythology that they’re familiar with.

Back to the story, though.  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini work together to save the world.  They’re scared and not always ready for what’s in store, but they get it down, and it’s a pretty interesting adventure for the two of them.  I also loved their pigeon sidekick, who was pretty funny.

I loved how smart Mini and how she’s obsessed with anything and everything that can make you sick.  Aru, even though she just wanted to fit in with the popular kids and ends up starting this whole adventure because of it, is funny and curious and determined to make things right.  They support each other, even when they fight, and they really do have a great friendship.  It’s nice to see in a middle grade book, though I feel like we see more of it in middle grade than YA (at least, in my experience).

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love but I still really liked it.  I’d recommend it everyone, but especially Rick Riordan fans.

Book: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2018 by Scholastic|351 pages

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

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Re-Telling

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMON SLAYER
(Only 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 and a drooling 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 how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come 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 battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

I really liked The Serpent’s Secret!  It’s another mythology-inspired re-telling and this one is inspired by Indian mythology.

Kiran, on her 12th birthday, goes on a very unexpected adventure.  Spells are broken, and she learns that the stories her parents have told her about being a princess are not just stories.  They’re real, and she’s from a place that is not the world she knows.  I definitely felt like we were on this journey with Kiran as she learns what is real and what is not.

There are a lot of stories I was not familiar with before reading this book, and I love seeing stories I’m not familiar with because it makes me want to learn more.  I really felt like these were stories that DasGupta loved growing up, and I felt these were stories she knew really well and wanted to share with everyone else.

It was silly at times but also really fun, and I felt like we knew who Kiran was.  She didn’t feel older or younger than she really was, and though the book was longer than what I expected for a middle grade, I really liked Kiran as a character.  It felt like the book was the perfect length for the story DasGupta was telling, and it didn’t feel too long or too short.

It’s also funny, and there were quite a few times when I laughed or smiled.  Mostly when TunTuni was involved, but sometimes serious things need some not-so-serious-moments.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it and I loved how fun and funny the book was.  I can’t wait to read the next book!

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Three

So, I’ve been doing a series of posts talking about some of the books I read that I never got around to talking about.  We are starting to get to some books that I’ve read a little more recently than some of the other books, so I have more to say about them…but also not quite enough to do a full review.  If that makes sense.

  • Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields.  I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.  It’s a cool concept, an assassin who can kill people by kissing them, but it didn’t work for me.  And that’s a little disappointing, because I really wanted it to work well.    I loved how Marinda looked out for her brother, and how much she cared for him.  It was really nice to see, but that was the only thing that I really, absolutely loved.  The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but things are magically explained at the end.  The thing that made the LEAST amount of sense was how another girl had to seduce the boys that Marinda kissed.  What’s the point of death by kissing if you’re not the one seducing them enough to get close to them?  And how do these boys even go from the one to Marinda without questioning it?  I do not understand this at all.  What, Marinda can’t seduce them or something?  Or this other girl can’t kill them?  This makes zero sense to me.  My rating is 2 stars for things that didn’t make a lot of sense and the lack of world building.
  • The Secret History Of Us by Jessi Kirby.  I used to LOVE her books, but the more Jessi Kirby books I read, the more I dislike them.  I don’t know if it’s because my interests have changed or I’m harder to please because I read a lot of YA contemporaries, but I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.  The pace was pretty slow, and I wanted more of Olivia dealing with her amnesia.  She does try to piece things together, but I wanted more frustration or something from Olivia.  I also wanted more with Walker, but instead, he barely made an appearance.  I wanted more of a reveal, and I felt like something bigger was going to happen.  But nothing bigger happened, even though the book made it seem like something mysterious was going on.  The Secret History Of Us gets 2 stars.  It was okay, but I wanted more than what we got.
  • American War by Omar El Akkad.  I really liked this book at the beginning, and it was really interesting.  But then it lost steam, and I lost interest by the end of the book.  Like The Handmaid’s Tale, the future we see in American War is one I can picture easily.  You do get a good look at what a modern war would look like, and it’s interesting that climate change is what triggers the issues between north and south.  I would have it expected it to be over something else, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights or something involving religion.  I know it’s terrible to make an assumption like that, but I do like that climate change is what triggers because it is different than what you might expect.   I felt like a lot of things weren’t really explained or addressed, and it felt like something was missing regarding the use of fossil fuels.  I don’t know if maybe Sarat’s perspective really limits what we know, since she was 6 when war broke out, but a little more broad of a picture would have been nice.  American War gets 3 stars.

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen CoverBook: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Published April 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin|352 pages

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

Series: The Star-Touched Queen #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I liked The Star-Touched Queen!  As much as I wanted to love it, I didn’t, but I did love that it’s inspired by Indian mythology.  I feel like, with all of the mythology re-tellings that seem to be cropping up lately, that there’s less of a focus on Greek mythology, and more focus on other mythologies.  Like the Indian mythology we see in this book.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of Indian mythology, so I can’t say how much it matches up with Indian mythology. I did find this Q & A on goodreads helpful, since the author explains what myths she drew from/was inspired by. And it makes it easier to actually look up the myths on my own.

I did get a Hades/Persephone vibe from the book, which is odd, considering the book seems to draw on Indian mythology.  That came through very strongly for me- much more than the Indian mythology the book is inspired by, but maybe that’s my own lack of familiarity with Indian mythology.  And possibly because it seems like every culture has their own take on that story.

What I thought was most interesting about The Star-Touched Queen was how much I was reminded of things that were not India.  I mentioned the Hades/Persephone myth, and I felt like this book was an interesting mix of India and the Middle East.  Which isn’t that surprising, and some things did seem like they were Indian…but I also felt like there was something distinctly Middle Eastern about the book too.

Something about the mysterious castle and the locked doorways reminded me a lot of Cruel Beauty.  If you like Cruel Beauty, this might be a book worth checking out.  Cruel Beauty and A Star-Touched Queen are very different stories, though, and there was something very vivid about this story.  I could picture things really well, and Chokshi paints a very vivid picture of this world.

I think part of why I didn’t like the book as much as I thought I would is because there were times were I had no clue what was going on.  That’s partially my fault, because there were times where I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have.  And there were times where I think my lack of familiarity with the mythology worked against me, because I felt like I was missing something important.  And when you add in the fact that I felt like things were sort of explained but not really, and the fact that it sort of meanders and is slow paced and takes a while to get to the point where things happen (which seemed to be several times).

Honestly, though, Maya didn’t stand out that much to me…and sadly, the same goes for the other characters.  I am having a hard time remembering the characters…man, I really should have paid more attention when I was reading it, because I have the feeling I would have liked it a lot more if I had.  Maybe I’ll do that…after reading up on Indian mythology, which also might help.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I did like the world Chokshi created, and she paints a very vivid picture of this world. And even though I liked it, I didn’t love it, even though I wanted to!  It’s definitely worth checking out, though.