Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Volume 2 by YupechikaSatoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #2)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: June 25, 2019

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2

Summary: Satoko, who is Japanese, has a new roommate in America: a Saudi Arabian woman named Nada, who practices Islam and wears a hijab. While under the same roof, Satoko and Nada learn how to live together with very different customs and still have all the fun young women crave! Through mutual respect—and the hilarious adventures of their daily life—Satoko and Nada prove that friendship knows no borders.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 continues the adventures of two women who pursue their studies abroad, in America! This manga not only focuses on friendship all while having such great humor, but it also deeply explores Japanese and Saudi Arabian culture! Satoko And Nada is a must read manga series for fans of contemporary!

I recently posted about Satoko And Nada on my twitter because honestly, this series needs SO much more love and it makes me sad its gone under so many book bloggers radars! (*I also see people constantly tweeting about wanting more New Adult/college-set novels that don’t focus on romance–well, Satoko And Nada is here!!)

It’s no surprise that I’d be picking up the second book in this series, because I adored the first volume when I read last year!

Satoko and Nada are both students studying abroad in America (Satoko from Japan and Nada from Saudi Arabia). When Nada is looking for an apartment roommate, Satoko hears about the listing and the moment she moves in, they instantly become the best of friends!

While volume 1 introduces us to these wonderful characters and their adjustment to life in America, Satoko And Nada Volume 2 shows how strong their friendship continues to be, in addition to illustrating how much they care about respecting each others culture!

Satoko And Nada follows a 4-panel style of manga. Each page (or couple) is set in its own scene and delves more into the different happenings of their daily lives.

Starting on the very first page of volume 2 in all honesty felt like reuniting with an old friend and that’s what makes this series so beautiful! Its through the writing, art, alongside Satoko & Nada as characters, where you feel so connected to them as you continue to read! From the very first page, it feels like you’re right there with them in all their adventures –and that’s really something special! 💖

It was great to see returning characters in this volume as well, like Kevin and Miracle! We also get introduced to a new character, Rahman, Nada’s older brother!

Seeing how Satoko and Nada continue to be incredibly supportive and encouraging to each other, was definitely one of the many highlights of this volume. Their friendship was already incredibly heartwarming to read, but seeing it go through even more development was fantastic!

For example on page 14, Satoko has already gotten a job at the university cafe (shown in previous pages) and Nada convinces their mutual friend Miracle to buy something for her during Satoko’s shift, but without her actually being there because she doesn’t want to stress her out and still wants to support her.

Then on page 15 we learn Nada had spent a while working on a project, which Satoko knew all about, so she snuck into class to see her present it!

Not only does Satoko get a job, both Satoko and Nada get invited to a party, they go out to tons of places to eat and shop, and there’s more preparation for Nada’s husband-to-be!!

Overall its a joy to see even more discussion between Satoko and Nada not just about the things they go out to do, but about their personal lives and opening up more to each other!

Their friendship has grown to the point where you can see its in the little moments, they’ve really influenced each other! On the page Powerful Presence, Satoko’s professor tells her how confident she’s gotten in her public speaking and by the end, Satoko comments that it may have been because of Nada!

One moment in this volume that left me with a bittersweet feeling was Someday! In this scene, its late at night and while Nada is sleeping, Satoko thinks about how their lives will be when they leave America. Its a really quiet kind of scene, but left such an impact because Satoko knows they won’t be there forever, which got her thinking that their their close friendship might one day be separated by distance!

I had so many favorite panels from this volume: Yogurt Time (the purest 4 panel page ever 💞), Sneaky, Transaction and Hot Chocolate. These pages in particular reminded me how beautiful their friendship continues to be!

As with the previous volume, it has its funny and heartfelt moments that make Satoko And Nada such a fantastic manga series, that’s really at its core, about a supportive friendship!!

This second volume delved more into the specifics of Saudi, Muslim, and Japanese culture that were more personal to Satoko and Nada (it was incredibly heartwarming). The moment they learn something new about each other’s culture, they not only incorporate it to make each other feel more at home, but also it shows us how they are always listening to one another & always have each other’s back!

One tidbit of info I found to be super interesting that was mentioned early on by Satoko in the manga, noted that in Japan (compared to America) they have food models instead of just descriptions, commonly used in other restaurants!

There’s no other word to describe their friendship other than wholesome, and that’s what really makes this story so incredibly special! As someone who takes friendships so seriously (also as a uni. student), it really resonated with me that Satoko And Nada captured the importance of that–this series truly has a special place in my heart!

Satoko And Nada’s art style is incredibly unique and is definitely something that makes this series stand out from other contemporary manga I’ve personally seen! Also, if you pay attention to each page, you’ll notice the quick pace never takes away from the great dialogue that builds on Satoko & Nada as characters! Each page is incredibly immersive and you just can’t put the book down!

Yupechika’s wonderful contemporary manga series is a must-read, not only for readers of manga, but those looking for new-adult/slice of life contemporary stories that focus on a powerful female friendship!

I’m looking forward for what’s next in this series and the last page of this volume definitely hinted at more to come for Nada’s story!

The only element that made me lower my rating was because we already know these characters and their friendship is a major part of the volume, the main over-arching plot points felt more dispersed across each page!

I do know that Satoko And Nada ends after just 4 volumes. Though I’m sad this series will end, my hopes for the next volumes are even more development to their already fantastic friendship alongside their others friends too! Exploration of each other’s culture is core part of this series and I’m looking forward to reading more about their lives in America, and how they continue experiencing each others cultures + have fun together!

Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 delves more into the beautiful friendship between these two women who’ve adjusted to their life in America! There’s wonderful humor, exploration of friendship, and culture in this brilliant manga series! Satoko And Nada will capture your heart, this series is so wholesome and a must-read!!

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Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno Review

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoDon’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Pages: 331

Available Through The Book Depository: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

Summary: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magical, character-driven, but above all beautiful YA Contemporary debut that takes you on quite a journey! Rosa Santos explores the dynamics of her family, its complexity, love, and choices as she finalizes her university plans before school ends!

Moreno’s debut has left me a mess of emotions & I’m not entirely sure how I’ll recover 😭✨

Don’t Date Rosa Santos was just one of those books I knew I had to read in 2019! Coming from a Latinx background, I was incredibly excited to be anticipating a YA Contemporary debut that felt like it would be a story of magic, family, love, grief, but full of new beginnings and journeys– I got that and more! 🧡🌸✨

Through a lush and all-around lovely 1st person POV, we follow Rosa in her town of Port Coral, Florida where she lives with her Mimi (grandmother) and takes part in the town-wide Spring Fest ,which is a sort of a yearly homecoming and supports local businesses, but now she’s joining to help the town save their harbor for this year’s festival!

Not only that, but she also decides to help plan a wedding too, between locals Clara & Jonas that’ll take place during the festival!

For 3 generations of Santos women, they’ve been no stranger to their curse and trouble with the seas. Mimi lost her husband and Rosa lost her father! So when Rosa begins falling for her planning partner in the Spring Fest, Alex Aquino, she’s constantly worried of what will go wrong, but takes a chance anyways!

Moreno seamlessly weaves this internal journey Rosa undergoes to better understand the curse that’s haunted the women in her family, her culture, and herself as she finds the courage to do things she never thought she would–meet a boy, fall in love, go out to sea, and confront her fears head-on to find her happiness and purpose as the days wind down for her to pick the university she’ll attend in the fall!

Through the writing, you not only get this full scope of the fictional coastal/small town of Port Coral, but also its vibrant community, and the many businesses and quirks that make it a beautiful and unique place to live! There’s an intimacy and familiarity that grows on you as you read more about the town!

Moreno crafted a story that was wholly familiar to me and found myself noting passages, phrases, or other moments that I could relate to so much: the chisme 😂✨, the power of caldo, the reference of honey & ginger to cure a cough (for me & my family we use onion!), and YES even the food such as platano chips, ceviche, tres leches cake, & so much more! Also, coming from a Latin-American background, I love discovering expressions from other Latinx cultures & now I’ll never forget tiki-tiki!!

The Santos are all too familiar with the locals around town theorizing they are bad luck and because of that, Rosa didn’t really expect any other outcome, because it had happened to two Santos women already. This journey allows her to try and find her own luck in this internal place of grief and secrets.

I found Moreno explored this idea that when we hold onto grief or events that have caused us pain, it can seem like it’ll be never-ending, which can be difficult to overcome. However, there’s an underlying theme that I found not only Rosa, but also Mimi & her mother learned was that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things and know that bonds between family is something strong that’ll help us get through!

The plot is so memorable and I can’t put into words how immersed I was in each page from Rosa with her best friend Ana-Maria, pondering over her college decision to not disappoint Mimi (because she wants to go on an abroad trip to Cuba), the festival/wedding planning, her development with Alex & so much more! The story kept me compelled with each and every page and I loved following Rosa’s journey of growth!

The inclusivity & diversity in this novel is beautiful from the representation of Cuban culture, prominent characters throughout the story who identify as gay, Rosa who is bi, also Afro-Latinx and Black characters!

Additionally, Moreno explores a lot about diaspora in the Latinx community, which I hadn’t ever really seen with such depth in a YA Contemporary before!

“Enough. I was still trying to work that one out…Always caught in between…Never quite right or enough for either…” (107).

Throughout the novel, Rosa wants to find more connection to her Cuban roots, though she has found some of it in Port Coral, she’s eager to know more! The secrecy from her Mimi only creates fear for her, worried she’ll upset Mimi when she asks or mentions her study abroad trip to Cuba!

Family is such a huge part of this novel and Moreno explores it with so much depth and complexity, through each of the Santos women! Mimi & Rosa’s mother, Liliana, have a relationship that’s filled with so much history and heartache. With that, it was both beautiful and heartbreaking for Rosa to uncover more to their stories, although they were hesitant to share! Mimi doesn’t put up with any nonsense when it comes to Liliana and they both are at odds throughout the story, but I love how the events of Port Coral bring them closer than ever and allow them to slowly move past their grief little by little.

Similarly, there’s so much depth to the relationship Rosa has with Mimi and her mother! Rosa remembers a time when her mother said they’d always find a home together and that, for a time, was Port Coral. As her mother moves around from town to town to keep up with her painting, Rosa doesn’t have much faith her mother will stay for long. However, Mimi has laid the roots for Rosa to feel like she truly can be a part of Port Coral, she takes care of her, offers her advice, and wants her to be her very best!

I loved uncovering and exploring the stories of the 3 Santos women! I’m honored to have followed such wonderful characters!

Through Rosa’s POV I just loved the energy and spirit she brought to the story that made Don’t Date Rosa Santos such a heartwarming, uplifting, and wonderful book as a whole!

I could relate to her a lot, from her anxieties of trying new things, her determination when it comes to things she’s passionate about, and her bullet journaling!! 😂💞

Now onto Alex and Rosa–what else can I say but they were the best?!?! Their dynamic and development was heartwarming to read and I loved how they both learned to take chances with each other in different ways! Alex was just the best–he appears to be intimidating in the beginning but we learn he’s just a quiet sailor/baker!

When we uncover more about Mimi’s past in Cuba and unlock more of the story as to why, it reminded me of my grandparents as well (because something similar happened) that just made this book feel even more vivid and close to home–I was not expecting it!!

All of the characters and vibrant town of Port Coral captured my heart, as did this story as a whole and I’m sad I reached the end!! There’s so much life and depth to these characters and this beautiful world that Moreno crafted–I loved it so much!

My only very minor gripe was the pacing in a couple parts, but aside from that, this book was absolute perfection!! It’ll stick with me for a long time and has easily made it onto my list of favorite YA Contemporary books!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magnificent YA Contemporary that you don’t want to miss! From the beautiful writing, following Rosa’s journey, and the themes explored from family to love and loss. The plot will captivate you as will the characters! This is a magical novel about finding your place in the world know when it seems odds are stacked against you. But no matter what, the underlying message is…you’ll always find a way!

Love In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko Nogiri {Manga Review}

Love In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko NogiriLove In Focus Vol. 1 by Yoko Nogiri (Love In Focus #1)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Pages: 160

Available Through The Book Depository: Love In Focus Vol. 1

Summary: Mako’s always had a passion for photography. When she loses someone dear to her, she clings to her art as a relic of the close relationship she once had…Luckily, her childhood best friend Kei encourages her to come to his high school and join their prestigious photo club. With nothing to lose, Mako grabs her camera and moves into the dorm where Kei and his classmates live. Soon, a fresh take on life, along with a mysterious new muse, begin to come into focus!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Love In Focus is a great start to a new manga series that really centers on its main characters and introduces the perfect amount of romance! Mako Mochizuki’s passion is in photography, so her best/childhood friend Kei recommends she join their photography club! Now she’s in a new school, boarding house, and starts her new life in Hokkaido, Japan!

Mako and her grandfather were incredibly close! After he passed away, she continued photography, knowing it was because of him she had found her passion.

“I want you to go out there to see all that I can’t…” 

I know this is just the first volume, but I’m absolutely certain this is a manga series that I’ll definitely be continuing. It was absolutely wonderful and I think I’ve found a new favorite series!! (´▽`ʃƪ) ♥♥

Love In Focus just has all the great elements for a contemporary romance/slice of life manga! The main characters are all very well developed and you really get to know the important parts of their backstory, the story flows very well, the romance/friendship develops in a great way, you also get an incredibly introspective view on Mako as a character!

The main characters we focus on in this volume aside from Mako are Kei Akahoshi, her childhood friend who invites her to the boarding house and Mitsu Amemura, who she meets within the first couple pages after taking his picture on accident!

Mitsu surprisingly also lives in the boarding house and Mako not only learns more about him, but finds an interest in him as she discovers he makes for an intriguing photo subject!

As Mako finds more of an interest in him, we see their dynamic develop and we learn why he isn’t a big fan of photography.

Though to some it may seem like a romance/love triangle is obvious, I think it was done in such a great way where you really get to know both Kei & Mitsu and really root for both of them, when it comes to their friendship with Mako!

This is something I only started noticing a lot more recently, but I found the paneling was wonderfully presented. On each page, every panel contributed something to the story whether it was uncovering more about the characters and setting/world, where it felt no space was wasted.

To expand on that, I also found the art style to be very beautiful, especially in terms of the scenery when it became the focal point on the page (I do hope in future volumes more of the nature/city life of Hokkaido is featured). There was one page in particular (I think 124) where the scenery was incredibly beautiful.

Nogiri’s art also wonderfully showcases characters (especially Mako, Kei, & Mitsu’s) subtle expressions. I find its in the character’s expressions for Love In Focus, where their personalities shine and further develop in this volume to make them really well-defined characters!

If your looking for a contemporary manga that really concentrates on the main character and weaves in great development of love and friendship, you’d really enjoy Love In Focus!

Without spoiling, the ending (left me screaming tbh*) but also had me wanting to pick up the next volume right away!

Aside from love and friendship, this first volume also explores grief (lightly, but you can sense its presence throughout the story), alongside the impact art has on us and how it inspires us!

Love In Focus Volume 1 has many highlights and those would have to be the characters (not just the main ones), their introductions, the way the art expresses emotions, and just the overall story really introduces something special!

I really loved this manga and I can’t wait to continue with the series, I loved Mako, Kei, and Mitsu–I’m looking forward to seeing where their story is headed in Love In Focus Vol. 2!

Love In Focus Vol. 1 is a character-driven manga that follows Mako, an avid photographer and her new life in Hokkaido, Japan! This first volume introduces a wonderful cast of characters, exploration of grief, friendship, and a bit of romance! Love In Focus is a series you definitely want to pick up if your looking for a new contemporary, slice of life story to fall in love with!

Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson Review

Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret RogersonSorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon Teen)

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Pages: 456

Available Through The Book Depository: Sorcery Of Thorns

Summary: All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Sorcery Of Thorns is the latest novel from Margaret Rogerson, its a book that’s enchanting, immersive, and weaves together a tale that pays homage to the power of books!

Elisabeth Scrivener was orphaned, but taken in to the Great Library of Summershall where she grew up surrounded by books and wants nothing more than to become a warden, moving up the ranks from an apprentice librarian!

She continues her studies and knows she is nowhere near ready, so it’s of course a surprise when the Director calls her to assist in moving a grimoire into their facility. This not only ensures its well sealed, but examined and the text within it preserved for the future.

A grimoire comes to life one night that leads Elisabeth on an adventure across the kingdom where she gets tangled up in forbidden sorcery and complicated magic that threatens her world! She stops at nothing to uncover secrets and solve the mystery of grimoires that have become dangerous monsters, aka Maleficts.

With the Director’s death, we see that it acts as catalyst for Elisabeth to take action! I really loved how you could see the Director was a mother figure to her (wanting to show her potential) and it was through the little actions that Elisabeth did in which we saw that her mentor would have been proud, in using her knowledge to help others! Though we see the Director really did have a lot of faith in Elisabeth by leaving her Demonslayer and reminding her that her there is so much to the world of the Great Libraries that leave her many options.

Throughout Sorcery Of Thorns, Rogerson weaves mystery, intrigue, adventure, and as a standalone, I appreciated how all these different elements we’re layered into the story.

According to a feature interview from Kirkus, its mentioned that the journey Elisabeth embarks on mirrors Rogerson’s own upbringing learning more about the religion she grew up with.

“As a teenager, I was discovering a lot of things about the world that were very contrary to what I had always been told as absolute truth…”

As Elisabeth steps away from her world of libraries, she learns more about the world around her and is shocked by the sexism and other societal norms she’s never encountered before.

As a YA Fantasy standalone I loved how Rogerson layered not only the themes of this story, but also the clever foreshadowing, character development, exploration of the world, and plotting!

The way she structured Sorcery Of Thorns was done in such a brilliant way where I was always surprised at the littlest of details! She’d find ways to bring them back 50 or so pages later that had me amazed at how descriptions of characters, backstory, etc. played such a huge part as we uncovered more about the direction of the story.

As an aspiring YA Fantasy writer, I found she explored a lot of different elements in very interesting ways from the growth of Elisabeth and her finding her way, to the layers of world-building that slowly unfold, even the direction of the plot. I felt that the way she weaved all these elements together left me inspired as a writer and I’m looking forward to rereading this book again in the future–maybe annotating it to uncover more that I may not have noticed before!

Told through a 3rd person POV, Rogerson not only allows us to follow Elisabeth on her journey, but also allows us to understand the new friends and people she meets along the way! From sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, his demon servant/best friend Silas, the Director, Elisabeth’s best friend Katrien, even Ashcroft!

Honestly though, if I had to pick my favorite characters, I’d say that I loved Elisabeth, Nathaniel, Silas, & the Director all equally!

There’s not only insight into the main characters, but also the world of Asustermeer and its 5 libraries, the Otherworld of demons where Silas comes from, and even the world of grimoires.

Rogerson’s descriptive writing builds a gritty, dark, and expansive world, unlike any I’ve ever read before! There’s dark magic, but also threads of hope, adventure, moments of humor–overall there’s a lot of different tones and atmospheres to this story that get uncovered and cements itself into this magical tale! Even the tiniest of details from the green sparkles of Nathaniel’s magic to the metallic smell of sorcery made the setting feel lived in and very grounded in reality because we had so many different layers to explore.

Sorcery Of Thorns is the kind of book that even though the writing at times is heavily descriptive, you still want to keep reading! I felt the writing style really brought a lot to this book! The world always felt real and really came to life.

What surprised me as well was seeing how Elisabeth’s world of libraries and magical books completely contrasted what the world was like in Austermeer. Where librarians see sorcerers as nothing but trouble and pure evil, outside they are celebrated and seen as average people. She learns more about not only sorcerers, but demons as she changes her perspective on Nathaniel & Silas when they team up to protect the world.

“― what had it called her?

A true child of the library…”

In terms of the foreshadowing, I found that I was more surprised than anything. As mentioned above Rogerson, weaved in the smallest details into the plot where I was not expecting and I loved that although I realized it less than 1/2 way through, they still managed to be unexpected. They were used really effectively and for so many descriptions to be used to further the plot in such an interesting way, it was something I really enjoyed!

Specifically, I personally loved how we knew who the villain was early on! Not only did it offer more action and intrigue into the story, but what makes it fun is that your constantly left theorizing of what he’ll be plotting next. That was great because we kept learning more, figured out how his plan would impact the world and how his schemes are constantly influencing the world in a lot of ways (going after each library and the consequences of going after all the top Class 8-10 grimoires).

Its not explored until Elisabeth learns more about both Nathaniel & Ashcroft’s pasts, but I really appreciated the importance of family, legacy, and remembering the family that has come before you. It wasn’t until I finished Sorcery where this really symbolized Elisabeth too, growing up orphaned in the library, seeing the Director as a role model/parental figure to look up to, keeping her legacy/teachings alive by saving the world from Grimoiers. I also loved how this journey showed Elisabeth that although she hasn’t found exactly where she wants to be yet, that’s okay because there’ll always new paths open to her!

This is also really random, but the further I read, I loved when I learned why this book is called Sorcery Of Thorns! 😭💖💫🌿

Now I wanted to get into more discussion on why I personally rated this novel 4 stars!

It’s no surprise that I was really looking forward to this book because I adored Rogerson’s debut  An Enchantment Of Ravens and had already seen so many glowing + 5-star reviews!

Although 4 stars is definitely not a bad rating in any way, there were just a few things I wanted to explore that lowered the rating for me personally.

So, as an aspiring writer its no surprise that I really want to work on the craft of writing. With that, I couldn’t help but notice that from my reading experience, I picked up on quite a few writing cues and familiar turns of phrase that took me a bit out of the story.

Also with the very direct descriptions I found the pacing was very uneven at times. There were moments the story moved constantly, but then it was stopped abruptly, it happened a while throughout the story and it was just hard for me to love the book fully because of it.

Also, while I completely understand what Rogerson was doing showing these two different sides to the world of Austermeer (librarians & the regular world), I wasn’t exactly a fan of the sexism and old-era ways of thinking. For example, there’s a scene in which Elisabeth is trying to explain the villain’s plot of using the grimoire’s & how he plans to attack each library. But, she gets seen as “mad” and is almost left to be put into a hospital.

Early on, I personally saw this world as its own universe, so I really didn’t understand why these old ways of thinking had to be present (hope that makes sense??). I see how the author used it to show the strength of the female characters when they’re in the libraries and how it differs from the realities of their world, but I found it was just kind of frustrating to read at times.

Throughout the book I was left thinking: There’s powerful/brave female characters here, but outside a Great Library position their not seen as equal to men & so quickly judged?

And lastly, while the writing is definitely a strength of Sorcery, I also found it was its weakness at points. Because the writing is so descriptive and so “perfect”,  it made the story and its flow somewhat dense. With that, certain setting descriptions made it difficult at points to picture certain elements of the world, setting, and characters (though this was definitely in more specific moments).

Overall though, this was another fun fantasy standalone from Margaret Rogerson and I’m looking forward to seeing what she publishes next!

Sorcery Of Thorns is a novel that’s packed with so many complex layers and they all find their way into the story from beginning to end that will leave the reader satisfied! There’s magic, sorcery, a great cast of characters, beautiful writing, and so much more that cement Rogerson as a master in YA Fantasy standalones! 

Nocturna by Maya Motayne Review

Nocturna by Maya MotayneNocturna by Maya Motayne (A Forgery Of Magic #1)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Pages: 480

Available Through The Book Depository: Nocturna

Summary: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Nocturna is a Dominican-inspired YA Fantasy you don’t want to miss! Motayne’s debut follows a grieving prince and a clever thief who have to save their world when a dark magic is unleashed! Character development, a wonderfully developed story, and an immersive world are just some of the many highlights of this delightful fantasy debut!

Nocturna is a novel forged in magic, complex topics and themes, alongside the deep introspection we uncover about the main characters Finn and Alfie!

You know when you read a book and although you know more is coming, you can’t help but feel sad that this introduction to a series is over? That’s how I felt the second I turned the last page of Nocturna! Without spoiling anything my thoughts summed up to:

How am I supposed to wait for book 2?!? I need more page-time with my prince/thief duo–I can’t believe I reached the end!!😭💖

Motayne’s debut is one I had been looking forward to for months because coming from a Latinx background, I was just so incredibly happy to see more Latinx YA (especially fantasy) being released! And more specifically, I was so excited to see more Latinx representation (in this novel its Dominican specifically) get the spotlight!

Just reading the Spanish phrases/words I grew up hearing, recognizing the food, etc. just made me SO SO happy!! 💞 Also just to get this out there, there’s a heist & thievery!! + another bonus ✨: Nocturna has chapter titles & they need to be appreciated 😆💖 because they’re great + who doesn’t love chapter titles!?!

Told through a 3rd person POV, we follow quite a few characters throughout this novel but two that I want to focus on are Prince Alfher (or Alfie) and Finn Voy (though I absolutely loved Alfie’s cousin Luka)!

Alfie returns to his kingdom of Castallan grieving over his lost brother Dez and is unsure he has what it takes to assume his role as king. But, he still hasn’t given up hope on finding his brother, who he still believes is alive! Finn, is a face-changing thief who gets forced to do a seemingly impossible mission of stealing a vanishing cloak from the royal palace!

The 2 collide and Alfie connects with an ancient dark magic that gets unleashed unto the world while trying to save Luka–now the two must team up to stop it!

To get into more detail, since Dez’s death after an attempted royal coup, Alfie has felt nothing but grief for his brother who he believed to be the rightful heir. Not only does he carry that loss with him, but also this feeling of not being the ruler that his kingdom needs! He still holds this anger inside of him for the world having moved on from Dez and he’s still holding onto hope! ( I loved the story of Dez’s carved figurines).

Finn lost her parents at a very young age and has learned to survive on her own as a thief, but also carries the hurt that was caused by her manipulative (adoptive) father figure, Igancio. He essentially felt that she was destined to be just like him, so he manipulated her into always remaining at his side–until one day she finally left!

I can’t put into words just how much I loved Alfie & Finn! The depth to their character arcs and development was another highlight of this book. Looking back, I found that at its core, Nocturna is really about two people from opposite sides who are overcoming grief and obstacles to become better people and in turn be their best selves!

They don’t want to be selfish about their choices to bring about their happiness, but they learn to not let their grief cloud their judgement as they learn to work together and I LOVED that message! Exploring their grief so deeply throughout the story allows them to talk about it and grow!

They both felt so real and I could understand each of the obstacles they were facing throughout the book, but I loved that their journey to growth really developed with one another! Finn’s wit was so much fun to read as was Alfie’s cleverness and how his shyness really bounced off of Finn’s confidence! I loved their banter and friendship so much, their dynamic was great!! 💞💞

Overall though I loved that with each character they all felt so real!

Now onto the magic system–which was one of my many favorite world-building elements to explore in Nocturna!

Within this world that Motayne created, we explore this personal magic that one can carry called a propio! Within the novel it explains that magic itself moves in a cycle of sorts with people–which creates a balance. People can house magic within them and the magic itself “[offers] its wonders to man…” (8).

The magic can be elemental, like in Alfie’s case to control water or a supernatural type of magic, like Finn’s to change her appearance! There’s this overarching theme, however, throughout Nocturna that time and time again (especially when our main characters encounter dark magic) there’s a balance!

I loved that–especially as its explored through the main characters Alfie & Finn! For me personally, I found that the forbidden magic they encounter was a kind of metaphor for the power they wish they had to overcome their traumas.

There’s so much depth to the magic system, from influence of language (Spanish), but also how the unknown/dark magic can impact each person differently–in this case we see that when Alfie attempts to carry dark magic alongside him throughout his journey with Finn!

Next, there’s such a present discussion on on colonialism, slavery, and its effects! I don’t often see this explored in YA Fantasy (from recent memory the only books I’ve seen that explored this were Children Of Blood And Bone & The Gilded Wolves–though that’s more of a historical fantasy). Overall though, I applaud these female authors of color exploring topics like this in YA because again, its something that I don’t always see talked about! As an aspiring YA Fantasy author of color as well, its so inspiring to read these books that explore real-life topics and themes with such depth and complexity!

Castallan in the past, was taken over by Englassen colonizers and with that, their culture was taken away (especially their magic)! Over time they reclaimed what they lost and Nocturna explores this in such a layered way!

Now onto something I wanted to discuss because as a reader who is from a marginalized background, its disheartening to see books by authors of color so quickly compared to previous books.

I’ve seen Nocturna compared a lot to ADSOM (I’ve read them both) and for me personally I didn’t read this book at all with that comparison in mind–the only similarity I saw, but even then it was completely different–was how Finn & Kell can traverse to different locations. Overall I can completely understand the points being made, but for me Nocturna was a wholly unique fantasy in its own right. Also Nocturna tackles discussion of poverty, slavery, and colonialism (which ADSOM doesn’t).

Of course I know that not every book is for everyone and every reader has differing opinions! ^_^ Overall, I just hope with my little discussion here, people are willing to look past some parallels because at the end of the day these stories, characters and inspirations–are different.

Now onto why its a 4.5: There were a few moments of slow pacing. + As the story progressed I wasn’t really liking the villain all that much anymore–I saw what Motayne was trying to do and when looking at it from a character arc perspective I see what it did to Finn’s character in allowing her to grow, but the villain himself was just kind of bland at points.

I would have loved more of an exploration between Finn & Alfie in their world and the magic their forced to carry with them instead of a lot of focus on this villain, but in the end it did work with the story and I loved the ending!! I may have shed a few tears 😭💖

But overall, I can’t wait to see where Alfie & Finn’s journey is headed in the sequel! I’m excited to learn more about the world of Castallan, the magic system, my favorite characters Alfie, Finn, Luka–and see what they’ll be tackling next!

Nocturna is a YA Fantasy debut you should definitely add to your to-read list! If your looking for a fantasy that’s character-driven, has an immersive setting that explores a variety of themes, is filled with adventure, a complex magic system, and a delightful main cast, don’t miss out on Motayne’s debut! Nocturna is a YA Fantasy adventure you’ve got to pick up!

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal Review

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah FaizalWe Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal (Sands of Arawiya #1)

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Pages: 480

Available Through The Book Depository: We Hunt The Flame

Summary: 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.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: We Hunt The Flame is a YA Fantasy debut that has been highly anticipated and one you don’t want to miss! From the expansive world of Arawiya, intriguing plot, and wonderfully developed cast of characters, Faizal’s debut takes the reader on an epic fantasy adventure!

Told through dual POV, We Hunt The Flame follows Zafira, known as the Hunter, and Nasir, prince of Arawiya who goes by the title of the Prince Of Death (essentially the kingdom’s assassin!).

Zafira hunts for her people disguised as a boy in Demenhur, which is a kingdom cursed with eternal snow. She hunts within the Arz, a forest of encapsulating darkness– while many have become lost within it, she always finds her way back!

Nasir is the ever-loyal assassin for his father (the sultan) and goes across the kingdom getting rid of those who undermine his father’s rule. He believes he will forever be cursed with a life of darkness and because of that, keeps himself isolated from the world.

Their stories become intertwined when their confronted with a mission that takes them to a mysterious island with magic no one has seen for close to a century!

I loved the entire first part of this story–introducing us to the world of Arawiya through both of our main characters in their natural elements: Zafira having hunted a deer in the Arz and Nasir, assassinating a man suspected of treason against the kingdom.

These lines from Zafira & Nasir’s opening chapters will forever be remembered in my mind anytime I think of We Hunt The Flame:

People lived because she killed…People died because he lived…

What I loved about those lines is how much they tell us about them as characters before their stories even begin! Zafira is the kind of person who always puts others before herself. Although she has her own desires & wishes, she never chooses to act on them–only on what she feels will make everyone else around her safe or happy!

Nasir has been raised to kill and is continually put in situations where he wants to show his loyalty to his father. But, he does it even knowing his father will never be proud–with that, he uses that as a shield to isolate himself from the kingdom he will be destined to rule. Luckily, he does have general Altair by his side (though Nasir begs to differ XD).

This is a debut that surprised me in so many ways and had so many elements I loved–not only the main characters, but also the expansive world, magic system, character dynamics, and intriguing plot!

Nasir and Zafira’s mission has been spurred by a mysterious entity who calls herself, The Silver Witch. Their mission promises the return of magic to their world, even if it means braving this mysterious island where the magic is wild and unexpected.

Another element to the world that I loved was that although their world has been free of magic for quite sometime, you can still sense its presence in the kingdom itself and that’s because of Faizal’s writing– it creates such vivid settings, imagery, and delivers a sense of wonder! There wasn’t a single moment where I was ever pulled out of the story! The lush prose delivers a balance to its characters, world, atmosphere, and dialogue in such a great way!

Their both tasked with finding the Jawarat, the mythical book that bring magic back to their land. But, in addition to that–Nasir is given another task to kill anyone who can get in the way (Altair included) and the Hunter!

As the story progresses where Nasir & Zafira finally meet– truths come to light and their forced to stick together if their going to find the book!

There’s also a very present/relevant theme of identity throughout the book that is explored so well between them! Both Nasir & Zafira face truths about their identity and when they are presented with new info that changes what they first believed about themselves! I felt it really showed how much depth there was to them to see the many differing sides to them not just throughout their journey, but also through them as characters–we see their strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerable moments which really surprised me!

There’s also themes of grief and loss explored throughout as well!

As for other characters, I loved the ensemble dynamics explored! Firstly with Zafira in her home village, with her sister Lana, friends Yasmine & Deen! Next it was Nasir & Altair–their dynamic/banter was the best and easily a highlight of the book!

I also find the exploration of past/current love isn’t always explored in YA Fantasy between main characters–but We Hunt The Flame really highlighted that & it was so well developed (Zafira w/ Deen & Nasir w/ Kulsum). I loved how they also symbolized the thread to their previous lives before coming to the island of Sharr.

As Zafira, Nasir, & Altair find themselves working together we also get introduced to a couple of new characters on the island:  Kifah, & Benyamin!! I loved learning more about them and found them to be such wonderfully developed characters + additions (who do get introduced mid-way through WHTF).

Overall the main crew/characters were just too precious & have to be protected at all costs!! I loved them a lot!! (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)❤

Additionally, the way Faizal used dual POV was fantastic–it offered so much to so many different elements of the story from the atmosphere, expansive world, characters, etc. The character-dynamics were also so good, not once did I feel certain characters were forgettable or lacked depth!

When talking about the world, the contrast to the setting of the frozen lands & deserts (Demenhur vs. Sarasin) were so vivid and I could picture both of them perfectly! Even the element of the forest of darkness, The Arz, was something special that really brought the setting to life & made it sparkle.

Now onto what made me rate this a 4–though rating aside, I really loved this book and the ending left on a note where I was in shock, but SO ready to read the sequel! (I can’t believe I have to wait a whole year!!). Those last few chapters–just WOW!!

Honestly, I do think that the pre-release hype had my expectations really high for We Hunt The Flame and overall my personal expectations too. I was so ready for the Assassins Creed elements to shine more throughout the book (though they were really present within Part 1) and it definitely switched gears as the story progressed– I was disappointed, but that’s only because I wanted more–I loved reading the chapters where Nasir traveled throughout the kingdom as an assassin & seeing Zafira brave enough to trek through the Arz as she outran guards!!

I did feel that because the writing is very character-focused, the plot (mainly surrounding the Sharr storyline) felt like it wandered a bit and I was hoping for more of the over-arching plot to be explored for a larger part of those chapters instead of being left to the last chunk of chapters.

Also, for me personally, I felt Nasir & Zafira’s defining characteristics (being the Assassin/Hunter) got a bit lost as the story progressed (mainly with Nasir) and I was hoping for their personas to be more of a focused part of their character that was present throughout the whole book (Hopefully that makes sense?).

But overall, like I said above there were so many wonderful and fantastic elements to We Hunt The Flame that really left this book as a memorable and favorite read of mine for sure! I can’t wait to see whats next in the sequel!!

We Hunt The Flame is a YA Fantasy debut inspired by ancient Arabia that takes the reader on an immersive, magical adventure! Faizal’s debut is an atmospheric fantasy tale that delivers such a vivid world, fantastic cast of characters, important themes woven throughout, and plenty of action! We Hunt The Flame is debut that will leave you wanting the sequel right away when you turn that final page!

I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review 😍💞📚 I recommend checking out:

We Hunt The Flame Review from Lila over at HardcoverHaven121

As an Own-Voices reviewer for Arab rep., she talks about the diverse geography of the Middle East and how accurate the setting of Arawiya was for her when listening to We Hunt The Flame on audio! She also loved how the novel showcased so many different aspects of Arab culture, such as language!

She also loved the rich prose that Faizal crafted within her novel (which I loved too!!). Though it wasn’t a perfect rating for her, I loved how she expanded on the different points in her review and her thoughts on it from the audiobook perspective!

Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen {ARC Review}

Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. NguyenFake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: May 28, 2019

Pages: 304

Available Through The Book Depository: Fake It Till You Break It

Summary: Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve have had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time—and then they’ll be free.

The only problem is, maybe Jake and Mia don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…

*Requested an ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Fake It Till You Break It is a YA Contemporary Romance that you need to add to your TBR! Mia and Jake can’t stand one another, they’ve even been told they’d be the perfect couple! So, to get their parents off their backs they pretend to be in a relationship, but soon find themselves falling for each other!

Fake It Till You Break It is one of those books where I just read the summary and said “Yes! I need this book in my life!!” 

I adored this book, fell in love with the main characters, Mia & Jake, and recommend this book if your looking for a good YA Contemporary Romance with dual POV, really good romance, and exploration of a variety of themes from friendship, grief, to family!

Mia Le & Jake Adler are childhood friends–mainly because their mothers are the best of friends. For years, they’ve endured dentist visits, brunches, weekends together, but the thing is, they can’t stand to be with each other! Their moms are convinced they’ll be the perfect couple & the fact that Mia’s mom disagrees with every new guy Mia is interested in, doesn’t help either.

So to end this once and for all, Mia & Jake pretend to be a couple and get their parents off their backs for good–but the more time they spend with each other, the more they realize they may be falling in love! ❤

As I mentioned above, Nguyen’s latest YA Contemporary is told through dual POV! It honestly made the book even more fun because I was able to better understand the dynamics of this relationship from the both points of view! It really allows you to understand both Mia & Jake fully as characters (their personalities, personal journeys, etc.) while also connecting all these different pieces to where you can see that although they really don’t like each other now, they really used to be close. We see how although they leave it unsaid, but its clear they don’t want to continue being on opposite sides!

Through Nguyen’s writing, you get so much humor, exploration of family/relationship dynamics and this energy that’s delivered into both of the main characters! I just adored both Mia, Jake, and their dynamic a whole lot! They just felt so realistic, I could really picture them so clearly in my mind as I was reading!

Also–the banter between Jake & Mia was so good!! They really don’t like each other, but through each POV its clear to see that they really keep a close eye on each other and care for one another even if they have trouble admitting it. ❤ They also have a lot of history, its impossible for them to avoid it during their fake relationship because they’ve just grown up with each other for so long.

There’s also a focus on self as Mia & Jake learn more about themselves and one another as they delve further into this relationship in ways they weren’t really expecting– they learn more about how present they’ve been in each others lives and what it can mean for them now and after they end this fake relationship (considering they gave themselves a 2-week window to trick their moms and break-up to be out of each others lives for good).

Following Mia & Jake’s journey throughout this book was also just fun because of their vibrant personalities and delightful banter!

Though this relationship also encounters other obstacles they face along the way–Mia has a crush on her theater classmate Ben and struggles to come to terms with her complex feelings between her crush and mortal enemy Jake! Jake also struggles with these feelings for Mia and we learn more about the estranged brother who abandoned him and his adoptive mother years ago.

I loved how this novel explored this fake-relationship dynamic and the complexities that come with it! For example, throughout the book while its obvious Mia & Jake have chemistry, we see that because Mia has also been interested in her theater classmate Ben for sometime, Jake helps set up a double-date so Mia can go out with him! Because they aren’t really a couple, both Mia & Jake confront this question if they can still keep the charade up & what is their relationship exactly??

Fake It Till You Break It also explores the complexity of family, the dynamic between Jake, Mia & their mothers, even the distance of Jake’s estranged brother Finn.

I loved that there was such a focus on mother relationships in this book!! Its something that isn’t always explored in YA Contemporary and it was just so great to see these important familial relationships explored with such depth. I personally found Jake, his adopted mother (who was his Aunt Lily), and their relationship to be another one of the strongest explored throughout the book. Jake knows that his uncle left a while back and with Finn gone, the novel explores how Lily just wanted them to be happy and nearing the end worried she wasn’t being the best mother she could–I loved this mother/son dynamic explored throughout the book. There’s also messages and themes Nguyen subtly weaved into it–while really exploring it near the end!

I also loved the female friendships that both Mia & Jake have–they were very present throughout the book and it was great their friends were such central parts of their school life & throughout the story.

There’s also Vietnamese rep (Mia & her mother)! I don’t know if its ever explicitly stated, but that’s what I gathered from other reviews & context!

Nguyen also has this underlying theme of grief that is shown through Jake’s POV as he mentions the passing of his parents in an accident and his brother Finn who distanced himself years later. This theme was also explored subtly but it felt realistically portrayed because he still had those emotions close to him.

My only critiques that have me rating this 4-stars is the plot point revolving the mother’s and them finding out about the relationship (I wont spoil it, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting-it did feel a bit rushed too), and Jake’s reaction towards certain plot points that get revealed later on felt kid of like a bit of a step backwards for his character to me personally!

But overall, Fake It Till You Break It was a lovely YA Contemporary that surprised me and kept me so invested in the delightful main characters! So on an enjoyment scale it was definitely a 4.5! 💞

Fake It Till You Break It is a fantastic YA Contemporary Romance and you need it on your TBR! There’s fake-dating, dynamics of family, female friendships and relationships explored throughout this book! There’s also a focus on self as both Mia & Jake find themselves falling for each other and growing throughout the book! Fake It Till You Break It is YA Contemporary that needs so much more hype–its so good & I can’t recommend it enough!