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!

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee Review {Graphic Novel}

Sea Sirens by Amy ChuSea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee (Artist/Illustrator) (A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure #1)

Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Sea Sirens

Summary: Trot, a Vietnamese American surfer girl, and Cap’n Bill, her cranky one-eyed cat, catch too big a wave and wipe out, sucked down into a magical underwater kingdom where an ancient deep-sea battle rages. The beautiful Sea Siren mermaids are under attack from the Serpent King and his slithery minions–and Trot and her feline become dangerously entangled in this war of tails and fins.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Sea Sirens is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel with a unique art-style, a delightful story, and wonderful cast of characters! Trot finds herself in an underwater kingdom with her cat Cap’n Bill, where an ancient deep-sea battle rages on between Sirens & Serpents! Powerful themes of family and friendship, alongside adventure, are present all throughout Chu and Lee’s spectacular graphic novel! This one is a must-read!

Sea Sirens follows Trot, whose a dedicated surfer girl living in Huntington Beach, Cali. & her one-eyed cat Cap’n Bill who she rescued as a stray on the beach! They both get taken to an underwater kingdom of Sirens & Serpents when powerful wave pushes them underwater!

READ THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL–ITS FANTASTIC!! 💖 I was looking forward to this one for months because the beautiful cover immediately had me add it to my TBR and the story inside is just as beautiful!

Trot is a surfer girl at heart and the story starts with her spending the day at the beach surfing and her grandfather enjoying fishing! But, her grandfather goes missing (due to his dementia) and she’s heartbroken! Luckily he’s found, but her workaholic mother tells her she can’t go out to the beach without her, to ensure her grandfather’s safety!

However, Trot doesn’t let that stop her from surfing, so she finds a way to sneak out. She and Cap’n Bill catch a bad wave and get thrust to the bottom of the ocean where Sirens and Serpents are in battle! Luckily, Cap’n Bill is ready to chase the serpents away! The Siren princess, Clia invites them to stay in her kingdom– now Trot & Cap’n Bill are celebrated for their bravery (but mainly Cap’n Bill 😂)!

The story continues with Trot & Cap’n Bill exploring the kingdom, being celebrated with a feast, and learning more about the battle between Sirens & Serpents, alongside the history of the Queendom of the Sirens (I loved the scene introduced early on when princess Clia shows her a mural of their history commissioned by her great-grandmother)!

Clia, princess of the Sirens introduces Trot to her world, as does Queen Aquareine, and the 2 develop a friendship over the course of the story.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the inventions/magical objects of the Siren’s world that continuously immerse Trot into this underwater kingdom! There’s one object in particular that added so much to the story and that was a special pearl necklace that allows Cap’n Bill to talk! I loved getting to hear what he had to say and it added so much to the story!!

I don’t want to spoil things, but there’s a few plot twists that send Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Clia on a rescue mission!

Of course with the Sirens being familiar/fascinated with human world (but not exactly interacting with it so close to the surface). I really enjoyed learning more about this split between their world and ours through their fascination with the ships that sink in their territory! I also loved learning about the Sirens love of charting the ocean territories–I hope that’s explored more in upcoming releases!

The politics and world-building of the underwater kingdom were so beautifully explored and had so much depth, yet still left a bit of mystery that I can’t wait to learn more about it in future books!

Sea Sirens draws inspiration not only from Vietnamese folklore and fairytales, but mainly L. Frank Baum’s children’s fantasy novel published in 1911 titled, The Sea Fairies!

Now onto the representation! This graphic novel mainly features Vietnamese representation! Trot herself is Vietnamese-American and her grandfather is Vietnamese! It was great to see the rep. explored through the use of language and elements of Vietnamese folklore/fairytales! The representation and culture is woven throughout the pages of this beautiful story!

The art itself is so unique! There’s the use of watercolor and vibrant line-work present throughout the whole graphic novel! I really paid attention to the artwork throughout each panel and was in awe at the stunning art that not only immersed me, but left me captivated! The design of the characters, settings, and color palette brought everything to life!

Sea Sirens ends on a wonderful note hinting at more to come and I can’t wait!!

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee is a beautiful and immersive graphic novel that’s filled with adventure when Trot gets sucked into an underwater kingdom! From the story to artwork, themes, and so much more–this is a wonderful graphic novel that you don’t want to miss!

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!

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby Review

York The Shadow Cipher by Laura RubyYork: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (York #1)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Pages: 476

Available Through The Book Depository: York: The Shadow Cipher

Summary: It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

*Received book 1 of this series as part of an upcoming Blog Tour* 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Shadow Cipher is an immersive and clever middle-grade novel that melds fantasy, steampunk, & history set in an alternate modern-day New York! When they’re soon to be evicted from their apartment, the famous Moringstarr tower, Tess Biedermann, Theo Biederman & Jamie Cruz try solve the famous Old York Cipher to save their home before its too late! Ruby’s novel is a captivating tale filled with mystery, adventure, and clever puzzles!

York: The Shadow Cipher is a book that had been on my TBR for years–I’d actually started it a couple years back, but sadly hadn’t gotten around to finishing it. But, now that I’m going to be reviewing the sequel for an upcoming blog tour, I’m so glad I was given another chance to return to it!

If you didn’t know, Laura Ruby also wrote a wonderful YA magical realism book back in I think 2015 (?) called Bone Gap (which was one of my favorite books back in 2015–I highly recommend it!!). As I read York: The Shadow Cipher, I realized something about Ruby’s books:

Her tales deliver such unique reading experiences for me personally, that I can only get from the first read-through! The atmosphere, characters, and immersive quality of her stories/writing is what draws me in with each page and allows me to connect with the plot and her unique cast of characters!

Twins Tess & Theo get tangled up in a centuries-old cipher so with the help of their classmate/neighbor Jamie, they attempt to solve the riddles and save their home! The clues lead them back to uncovering the answers to the impossible cipher hidden within their apartment–The Morningstarr Tower and the city of New York.

What really kept me surprised was the ciphers/puzzles throughout the book. There’s riddles that lead the crew to different places across New York, but are also focused on history. I never really knew where the journey was headed next, but that kept me reading because I just loved being surprised at where the next piece in this puzzle was coming from.

The Shadow Cipher is told through various POVs (3 mainly), but they all had distinct voices and the writing flowed well all throughout the book! The writing-style was descriptive, unique, but also incredibly fun to read.

Although there’s an overarching story here, I loved that there were many underlying themes that journeyed across the novel as well. From family, friendship, & having a place of belonging to name a few, were just some of the wonderful themes explored in this book!

I loved that each of these were tackled through different characters from Theo, Jamie, to Tess.

I found tat the adventurous atmosphere of the story really allowed me to picture everything from the setting to the inventions, and plot itself so vividly and overall, it really came to life on the page–it was incredibly cinematic!

The characters are all so well developed and though there are some who we never really meet or pass in & out of the story, I found that they all felt incredibly real and I could picture them throughout the book.

Its hard to say which character was my favorite, because I enjoyed them all in different ways, but I have to say Jamie Cruz was one of my favorites! I loved how his adoration of comics and superheroes really added another layer of depth to his story and how he viewed the world! His POVs were definitely my favorites! He was almost always looking towards the positives and was just a really uplifting character to read from–he also had a hobby of sketching/drawing which he used to draw out certain locations or parts of the cipher along the way, which was fun to read about.

The Shadow Cipher is also an incredibly character-driven story! Tess, Theo & Jamie all have their own personal journeys and its great they each had their own time away from the main story at points, just so us as readers could get to know them more as characters! overall just really felt developed as characters and I found they really grew little by little over the course of the book.

The alternate New York was fun to explore also because of the unique inventions! I loved how Ruby really built these unique inventions from the Mornigstarrs into the cipher/puzzles in ways I wasn’t really expecting, but found fun all the same. There’s just so much creativity to this world that although its based on a real place, there was just that spark that made New York feel like a completely different world.

The plot was just really unexpected and overall I enjoyed being invested in the Cipher just as much as Theo, Tess & Jamie! There were some plot twists and secrets that I didn’t see coming, but overall the story left me curious as to where the plot is headed in the sequel.

I did rate it 4 stars because although this book was such a fun read, I did feel the pacing was a bit slow at points and the pacing seemed to vary throughout the story as well. The ending itself also just also left me feeling like I needed a little something more. Overall though, I loved the main cast, the humor, and thought-provoking ciphers and I can’t wait to see what happens as the series continues!

York: The Shadow Cipher is the first book in what sets up to be a great middle-grade series with clues, puzzles, and mysteries to solve that weave together in a unique way! The great cast of characters, clever puzzles, and fascinating world are all explored through such an immersive and dynamic atmosphere! The ending will leave you interested in seeing whats next for Tess, Theo, & Jamie in the sequel!