Book Review | We Hunt the Flame

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: We Hunt the Flame

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Page: 469

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

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 sultan. 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 Zafira and Nasir 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 sultan 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.

That first line of the blurb pretty much says it all about the two main characters that we follow in We Hunt the Flame.

Zafira is the Hunter, or Huntress, but almost everyone thinks she is a man. She is the only one who can brave the Arz, a cursed forest that devours the land and the people that venture inside it. Because Zafira is the only known person to survive the Arz, she is the one that hunts and provides meat for her village.

Nasir is a hashashin (assassin) but also, the crown prince who cannot seem to fight the will of his father, the sultan. The sultan is cruel and possessed by some dark magic that has Nasir wishing for the life he had before his father turned evil.

There is a quest for Zafira to find a book called the Jawarat. She hopes when she finds it, it will restore the lost magic to the people of Arawiya. Nasir’s part in this quest is somewhat different than hers. In this quest we also meet other players and learn what is really at stake if they fail to retrieve the book.

Is the story predictable? Sure it is and I have definitely read many fantasies about a girl on a quest and an evil prince out to stop her, and needing magic to be restored to the land and people. But this book is so beautifully written. I was seriously involved in googling words I didn’t know (I love learning something new), and looking at the map in the book, studying the layout of the land because I was absolutely intrigued about this world! I love learning about the supernatural beings in Arabic culture that was featured in this book.

It’s not a book that starts right off with action. Act 1 is definitely building the world and introducing us to Zafira, her friends, her family, her life and some of the history of Arawiya. Some might find it too slow, but I’ve learned with books like these, I just have to put it down and pick it up later with no pressure and go with the flow. But I did read this in a day and a half, so that’s pretty good!

We also meet Nasir, oh Nasir…his life is so different from Zafira, but his upbringing is just so sad. The quest brings them together and breaks them and mends them in ways they didn’t expect.

There is a slow burn romance, it is definitely an enemies to lovers situation, but I don’t think it took over the story. I thought for a moment there would be a love triangle but there wasn’t, though it was interesting how Zafira dealt with the loss of her best-friend, who was a potential suitor. The other characters in the story from Yasmine, Zafira’s bold best-friend to Altair who is that annoying yet very charming guy with a secret brought so much to the story. I enjoyed the interaction between all of them whether it was funny or tense, it made me care for these characters. There is love there, especially with Zafira and her family and friends. ❤️

The story navigates many emotions like grief, guilt, love and fear. But I really resonated with the message of teamwork in this book. Everyone had a role, everyone plays a part, even if Zafira and Nasir are usually lone hunters, they had to learn and lean on one another. The book starts off on the assumption that Zafira is the chosen one, but she’s not, she wouldn’t have had success in this quest without the others.

I don’t usually talk about titles to books but this one, We Hunt the Flame, is so meaningful. In the book the phrase means to be always looking for hope, hope being the flame. But I realized after reading it, the characters were all hunting for something. Nasir wondering if anyone will ever love him 😔, Zafira hunting for forgiveness and bravery to be the woman she is, the Silver Witch righting a wrong, and so forth. We all hunt the flame…whatever the flame is to us.

Over, We Hunt the Flame is a lush Arabic inspired fantasy novel that is beautifully told and that gave me characters I cared about and leaves me looking forward to the next book.

ARC Review | The World On Either Side

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The World On Either Side

Author: Diane Terrana

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 288

Publication: September 10, 2019

Categories: Grief, Self-Harm, Young Adult, World Issues, Contemporary

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

After the death of her boyfriend, sixteen-year old Valentine stops going to school, quits seeing her friends, and, finally, won’t leave her bed. Desperate for her daughter to recover, Valentine’s mother takes her on a trek in Thailand. In the mountains north of Chiang Mai, Valentine finds a world she didn’t know existed, where houses are on stilts and elephants still roam wild. She learns about the Burmese civil war and the relentless violence against the Karen and Rohingya peoples.

Then she meets Lin, a mysterious young elephant keeper tormented by his hidden past, and an orphaned elephant calf, pursued by violent poachers. Together, the three flee deep into the jungle, looking for refuge and redemption. 

Thank you to Orca Book Publishers and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this eArc.

I used to be Valentine. I had that hard knot of pain in my heart that is described so well in this book after dealing with grief for a few years. That’s why I love The World On Either Side so much. I didn’t have that pain in my heart as a teenager though, I had it at twenty-nine and it just goes to show how this book could speak to young adults and adults as well.

I went into this book knowing it would deal with grief but I was afraid it would gloss over the issues happening in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) – issues I don’t really know well enough of myself. But this story took Valentine’s grief, and the issues going on in these countries and gave me a book that spoke to my heart. It also gave me an understanding of the disturbing things going in these countries.

Valentine is going through so much after her boyfriend Amir dies. She is depressed and in a tunnel of grief. Her parents are afraid to lose her but she can’t seem to come out of the dark cave she’s in. So her mom decides that they leave Canada and take a trip to Thailand together. And not just to the city of Bangkok, they are signed up to trek through the hills of Northern Thailand to visit the hill tribes. It’s her mom’s desperate attempt to make her leave the room she hasn’t left since Amir has died.

They meet up with a small group of other tourists as they journey through the hills of Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. They ride elephants, sleep in sleeping bags and barely get to bathe. We get a small glimpse of the political strife happening between the indigenous tribes and government of Myanmar. We also get some lessons on Buddhism.

The book also touched on the subject of elephants and poachers. I think that’s when my heart started to really break, the moment the elephants arrive. It explored the bond between mother and child, not only in the human world, but the animal world as well – in particular with elephants who feel strongly about their young and vice versa. Elephants who grieve. Then there is Lin, who’s backstory is unimaginable and scary for anyone who lives a safe life outside of these countries. I hurt for Lin and what he has been through. He is one of the guides for the group and he has a past that comes back to haunt him and Valentine.

By the end of this book, Valentine sees how much forgiveness plays a big part in healing her broken spirit and how some things in life are not so black and white, especially when it comes to Lin and his life choices. My heart was so sore for Valentine, her mom, for the elephants, Lin, the Karen tribe, the Rohingya and everyone caught up in personal grief and turmoil and the violence that the government has brought upon the people.

I love how courage is what gets our characters through this trek. Valentine goes through some difficult situations on this trip but she has to dig down deep to be braver than she’s ever had to be. We see that she does have fight in her still. Lin’s story also shows us what kind of courage it took for him to survive the life he’s led, and the kind of future that will be best for his situation. We even see how all of this affects Valentine’s mom and how she is fighting for her daughter and the toll it takes.

This book is wonderfully written with the lush descriptions of the trek in the mountains of Thailand through a tourists’ point of view and someone like Lin who belongs there and nowhere at the same time. I felt like I was there with the characters. It made me want to learn more about the Karen and Rohingya tribes and hope one day the conflict will stop. This story explored mental health, love, loss and world issues. And though at times there are dark scenes in this book, the story touched my heart so deeply, the heart that was once a painful ball of hurt and at times still is.

I absolutely loved this book and finished it in one day. I definitely will need a copy of it on my shelf when it releases in September and I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Get it here: Amazon

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Book Review: Testimony From Your Perfect Girl

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Kaui Hart Hemmings

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 272

Categories: Coming Of Age, Young Adult, Sexual Themes, Family Issues

Annie Tripp has everything she needs–Italian sweaters, vintage chandelier earrings, and elite ice skating lessons–but all that changes when her father is accused of scamming hundreds of people out of their investments. Even though Annie knows her dad wasn’t at fault, she and her brother are still exiled to their estranged aunt and uncle’s house in a run-down part of Breckenridge–at least until the trial blows over.

Life with her new family isn’t quite up to Annie’s usual standard of living, yet Annie soon gets used to pretending to be someone else. She makes friends, gets a crush (or two), and realizes that she has more in common with her aunt and uncle than she ever wanted to know. As the family’s lies begin to crumble and truths demand consequences, Annie must decide which secrets need to see the light of day . . . and which are worth keeping. 

My TBR list is getting away from me ladies and gents! I didn’t even know I had borrowed this from my online library at Overdrive. When I saw it was about to expire in two days, I read it right away and finished it in a few hours.

I have never read anything from Kaui Hart Hemmings but I was a fan of the movie The Descendants mostly because I am from Hawaii, born and raised. I loved seeing Hawaii on the big screen and the story was so touching as it dealt with family issues and grief. I was going through some hard core grief at the time too.

So I borrowed this book not knowing much about it except the author’s name. I absolutely love how smooth the writing is in this book, it seems effortless and kind of just digs into somewhere nice in my head.

Annie Tripp, is a trip. She is spoiled, somewhat socially awkward and lives a very comfortable life that her wealthy parents provides for her and her older brother. She seems in control, a trait instilled by her mother. She is the perfect girl, the perfect daughter.

But a scandal rocks their lives when her father is on trial for scamming people out of their money in a real estate venture. Annie and her brother leave their wealthy town to hideout at their aunt and uncle’s house in Breckenridge, Colorado. Their perfect lives are ruined.

Annie and her brother Jay have a typical sibling relationship egging each other on. But they are close in the unique way siblings are close. Moving to their aunt’s house isn’t an experience I would say brings them closer but they learn to lean on each other in the only way they know how.

Annie learns a lot of things about herself: how fake she is, how she tries to fit in by trying to be someone she’s not, how rude and entitled she can be – and how a lot of her life is based on lies. And learning the truth about her dad, was a reality check – but if her dad loses his court case, they lose their lifestyle. Is it so wrong to want him to win?

I like how blunt she is though about her thoughts and feelings as she learns about her parents. I like that she experienced sexual situations that were awkward and not perfect. She’s a teenager making mistakes, wanting to escape her real life, thinking she knows what she is doing – I’ve definitely been there before! 😅 We watch Annie go from spoiled, blasé, rich girl to someone who has to strip away who she thinks she is and find out what kind of substance she’s really made of.

Seeing how the family navigates and deals with the “family secret” that gets exposed later in the book me made question what I would do in Annie’s place. I mean, it was a pretty heavy secret – I’m pretty impressed Annie didn’t go off the deep end. She dipped her toes in it for sure, but I liked how she faced things.

“The moment is caught. The people are revealed. They weren’t thinking of an audience. They were just being themselves.”

Testimony From Your Perfect Girl by. Kaui Hart Hemmings

Nothing is black and white in this story, just like in reality and that made me feel comfortable reading this. I like books that remind me that even if life gets hard, it will be okay. And that the answers we are searching for aren’t always so simple, and it’s okay to feel conflicted about a lot of things in life. This book reminded me that no one has a perfect family or life 🙋🏻‍♀️, no matter how much money they have and seem perfect on the outside – especially in this day and age of social media.

I really enjoyed this book and it was a quick read. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Get it here: Amazon

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Book Review: Spin

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Colleen Nelson

Format: E-book

Pages: 296

Publication: September 3, 2019

Categories: Family, Young Adult, Music

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Book Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Delilah “Dizzy” Doucette lives with her dad and brother above their vintage record store, The Vinyl Trap. She’s learning how to spin records from her brother’s best friend, and she’s getting pretty good. But behind her bohemian life, Dizzy and her family have a secret: her mom is the megafamous singer Georgia Waters. When this secret is revealed to the world, Dizzy’s life spins out of control. She must decide what is most important to her — the family she has or the family she wants.

MY REVIEW

Thank you to Dundurn and NetGalley for this giving me an opportunity to read this e-arc.

Spinning records is Dizzy’s escape from everyday life and she’s good at it. Dizzy, her brother and father are keeping a secret: megastar singer Georgia Waters was once a part of their lives. She is Dizzy and Lou’s mother. But Georgia left them to pursue her singing career and now she’s back in town for a concert.

Spin is told through three perspectives: Dizzy, Lou and Ray. It flowed nicely and I loved how I got to see how Georgia Waters affects the three of them. The characters all have a strong voice. Ray met Georgia through music. He was a saxophone player and she, a singer. They toured together before she got famous, fell in love and had two children, Lou and Dizzy. His song is of the past, regret, heartbreak, and even joy (through the love of his children).

Lou runs his dad’s record shop, The Vinyl Trap and he does it well. But he wants more. His dad has the shop, and Dizzy is good at spinning. Lou wants his own life away from music and one that doesn’t involve Georgia Waters. His song is about the future and wanting a steady life he builds for himself.

Dizzy is good at spinning records and wants to be a famous DJ someday. She loves the limelight, loves the stage, just like her mother did. When Georgia Waters comes to their city – she knows it’s her chance to finally meet her mom. Her father and brother tell her she will be disappointed. But Dizzy is young and impulsive. Her song is vibrant and a cry to the mom who left her. She blends their melodies together, regardless of what the consequences may be. Dizzy doesn’t want to be a secret anymore.

I really appreciated how Ray and Lou let Dizzy make her decisions, even when they give her advice, they don’t force her to do anything. When consequences from Dizzy’s actions threaten their way of life, this family grows, learn, love and support one another throughout the story.

This is a wonderfully written story of a family trying to find their way out of the shadow of Georgia Water’s mega stardom. It explores the emotions going through the people who she hurt and left behind. The author spins the melody of the past, present, pain, love and forgiveness into this heartfelt story.

Book Review: Breakout

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Author: A.M. Rose

Format: E-book

Pages: 400

Publication Date: June 3, 2019

Categories: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, A.I., Technology, Dystopia

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Book Blurb:

Six days. 

That’s the amount of time until Lezah’s execution. 

She’ll die never knowing what got her locked up in this godforsaken prison in the first place. Her only chance of survival is to escape. Except the monitoring bracelet that digs into her wrist, the roaming AI, and the implant in her neck make freedom close to impossible. 

Her best chance is to team up with the four other inmates who are determined to break out, even if one of them is beyond (gorgeous) annoying—oh, and in for murder. But he has a secret of his own. One that could break Lezah if she finds out, but could also set him free. 

Figuring out how to work with him and the rest of this mismatched group of criminals is the only way Lezah will survive to see the outside world again. 

But nothing in this prison is as it seems. And no one.

MY REVIEW

Thank you to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for this opportunity to read this free e-arc for an honest review.

First off, I was attracted to this cover. It looks menacing with that huge spider and the book blurb sounded mysterious so I was curious enough to request this book.

Lezah is in prison but she can’t remember why she’s in there. In this prison there are A.I. robots: WALTERs (WALKing compuTERs) that resemble humans and AIRS which are security guard robots. And everyone has a SOUL – it’s a device that is a phone, computer, appearance alternator, and money. Hmmm…how does all that work?! 😮 Seriously an appearance alternator would benefit me daily. 😂 Well I can’t say everyone has one, Lezah and the other kids in prison do not have a SOUL, it’s taken away from them. All prisoners have a bracelet attached to their wrist that zaps them and basically it’s a horrible place to be. With Lezah’s execution coming up, she needs to breakout.

The story is told in first person through Lezah. There is a lot of action and it is non-stop. This whole book is full of tension and it is fast-paced. It’s some parts creepy, but plenty parts exciting. It kept me guessing and left me with a few questions.

The world building is different and fascinating. It is set in a futuristic dystopian United States where climate change damaged coastlines and left them with fewer resources than before. A.I. is everywhere and the technology aspects were very detailed. So much detail that some of the explanations went over my head.

Lezah’s meets different companions on her way out of this prison and they add to the story in different ways. For one, it’s hard to know who to trust and everyone she encounters has a story tied to Lezah. There is a tiny bit of a romance, but nothing that takes over the story. Everything starts to piece together in the end but there are still loose ends to tie up by the time the story is over.

This was an interesting, fast-paced, young adult sci-fi novel with lots of twists and turns. I think sci-fi lovers would enjoy this better than I did but overall it was a fascinating story.

Book Review: Rule (Rule, #1)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Ellen Goodlett

Format: Hard cover

Pages: 376

Categories: Magic (**involving self-harm), Political Intrigue, Romance, Cliffhanger Ending

Book Blurb:

Three girls with three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in this sensational and striking fantasy debut.

MY REVIEW

Three sisters vying for a throne? Sounds familiar. When I saw this book at the library, the cover caught my eye because it’s beautiful but I was wary. I’ve read so many books with crowns on the cover the past few months 😂 – honestly, I’m getting crown fatigue. But usually with fantasy books there is a map as well – where is the map for this book? 😔 I’ve been spoiled with maps in the fantasy books I’ve been reading. I love maps. But anyway, I borrowed this book and I’m glad I did.

The story is written from three different perspectives: Zofi, Ren, and Akeylah who are all bastard daughters of King Andros, king of Kolonya. Zofi is a traveler, she comes from a nomadic culture. Ren was raised at court as a lady’s maid and Akeylah comes from the Eastern reaches. All different sisters, one sister will rule.

Except every one of them has a fascinating secret they are hiding and there is someone out there who knows them all. They have to find out who is blackmailing them before it ruins each of their chances for the throne.

I enjoyed the mystery in this story a lot. I thought I had it figured it out but I was wrong. 😲 Also, there is enough action in this book to keep it moving as well, which I appreciated. I thought the author balanced the time between each characters’ perspective really well. The writing flows nicely and there is queer romance, straight romance, there are heartaches and distrust. Each girl has an interesting back story. The sisters were different enough that their voices stood out and so far my favorite is Zofi. I don’t know yet that I’d pick her to rule a kingdom, per se, but character wise, she’s my favorite. She’s a bit wild, tough and physical. Ren is the expert at court intrigue and Akeylah is the bookworm, always researching.

The magic system in this book is performed with self-harm so definite trigger warning there. That’s the only way their magic works which is through blood being shed. They call it the Blood Arts. But there is a counterpart to the magic, called the Vulgar Arts which is forbidden. It’s interesting for the most part what they can do with blood magic but every time they do it, I’m like OUCH. I would not be able to live in Kolonya or I wouldn’t be able to be a soldier in Kolonya since that’s who uses the blood arts most often.

The ending is a cliffhanger – like a serious cliffhanger where I was like, WHAT?! 😱 Now that I’m done with the book, I’m glad I only picked it up now because I only have to wait a few weeks for the sequel to be published. Yay for me! Overall I enjoyed this book. It’s a fun read if you like court intrigue, blackmail and a mystery. I’m looking forward to the sequel to see who will be chosen to rule.

Book Review: In Bloom (The Brightside Book 1)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Katie Delahanty

Format: E-book

Pages: 428

Categories: Romance, Celebrity, New Adult

Book Blurb:

My name is Olivia Bloom and I. Am. Free.I left for LA with everything I owned piled into my old Volkswagen and dreams of becoming a costume designer. Little did I know I’d wind up designing for a lingerie company—yeah, not sure how I landed this gig—and taken under the wing of two young Hollywood insiders. The fashion shows and parties were great, but life really got exciting when the seriously hottest lead singer of my favorite band started to fall for me. How does someone like me, an ordinary girl from Pittsburgh, wind up in the arms of the world’s sexiest rock star—surrounded by celebrities, fashion, and music—and not be eaten alive? Berkeley is everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, but the paparazzi, the tabloids, the rumors, it’s all getting a bit too crazy. My life has become every girl’s dream come true, if only I don’t blink and lose it all… 

MY REVIEW

This was a fun romance story and a very quick read. I’m a sucker for the celebrity romance trope and this had everything I was looking for: romance and humor.

Olivia Bloom is a young woman from Pittsburgh who tries to make a living in L.A. and finds it challenging. Luck would have it she runs into the lead singer of her favorite band, Berkeley and the Brightside. It’s a fluke first meeting but then her new friends who are Hollywood insiders, turn her into project “It girl”. They teach her the rules of surviving life in L.A and see if they can turn a nobody into a somebody. This leads her to another chance meeting with Berkeley and soon things take off, in her career and love life.

I adored Olivia’s friends, especially Parker, who reminded me of some of my own friends. He kept making me laugh throughout the book. The author captured the feeding frenzy of the celebrity lifestyle really well from dealing with tabloids and faking it until you make it in Hollywood.

The romance is sweet and tender as Olivia and Berkeley get to know each other and try to make it work in the crazy world of fame. With rumors flying everywhere, Olivia has to figure out if Berkeley’s attentions are real or fake, like everyone else in Hollywood. I enjoyed Olivia’s adventures in Hollywood. I wanted a light-hearted story with a happily ever after and I was not disappointed.