Daughter Of The Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller Review

Daughter Of The Siren QueenDaughter Of The Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller (DOTPK #2)

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Pages: 352

Summary: Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Daughter Of The Siren Queen is a character-driven, action-packed  tale that concludes Alosa’s adventures in the Pirate King duology! When Alosa learns more about her past, she’s on a race to escape the pirate king at every turn with her crew at her side! Action, adventure, romance all blend together in Levenseller’s finale to her swashbuckling pirate adventure!

Alosa learns a lot about her past in this book & I loved how character-driven + focused this novel was on her. We definitely know her reputation as the ruthless daughter of the pirate king, but when secrets are revealed, it really builds onto the Alosa we thought we knew at the end of Daughter Of The Pirate King!

With Alosa having taken over the Nightfarer and gathered up the remaining loyal crew, she takes charge to find answers for herself! She quickly learns of the secrets her father has been hiding and feeling betrayed, goes after the treasure on her own!

Now Alosa + her crew are headed to the Isla de Canta to retrieve Kalligan’s treasure and try to get him off their tails.

The banter is as great as always! Levenseller really made the dynamic between Alosa, her crew, + Riden so entertaining!

We get introduced to Alosa’s all-female crew in Daughter Of The Pirate King, but in this book they really get to shine. I loved Rosly’s fierce and courageous spirit, Sorinda’s stealth + relatable quiet personality, and so much more from Mandsy, Kearen, Enwen, Wallov, Niridia, Deros, Lotya & Deshel!

Riden himself gets a lot more character development too! Now as a part of Alosa’s crew, she struggles to understand his loyalty to his brother Draxen after how he treated them. Over the course of the novel, this really allows us to see the growth not in Riden’s character, but also in his relationship with Alosa as she learns more about her siren abilities.

I loved how much this novel really allowed Alosa’s character to shine! We obviously get a sense of who she is from book 1, but when secrets are revealed, we see how determined she is to prove herself & attempt to find the answers she’s looking for!

With her siren abilities coming into question, I loved how her powers were explored so much more and that it really built into the mythology of the sirens set up in Daughter Of The Pirate King!

There is also a bit romance! Similarly to DOTPK, I love how Levenseller weaved it into the plot in such a great way. The banter between Alosa + Riden continued to be so well done!

While I’m still leaning towards 4 stars or 4 14, I will admit that sadly I did enjoy Daughter Of The Pirate King just a bit more~ While I loved the beginning + ending from its plot, pacing to development, Daughter Of The Siren Queen’s middle is where I felt it dragged a bit for me personally. I wanted a bit more plot from a few in-between chapters as Alosa & her crew tried to escape Kalligan.

Aside from that, I really loved how Levenseller wrapped-up the duology. Knowing this would be the conclusion,  I was pretty sad that there wouldn’t be anymore pirate adventures from Alosa to look forward to. But once I actually reached the end, I was surprised at how I felt!

While I’m not surprised Levenseller left this book on such satisfying + happy note, that the last page didn’t feel like the end to Alosa, Riden, and the crew & I loved that!

With how much I loved this duology, I cannot wait to read Tricia Levenseller’s next book: Warrior Of The Wild & see what other grand adventures she sets up next!

Daughter Of The Siren Queen is a sea-faring adventure + conclusion to The Pirate King duology! From expansion to the siren lore and world, comedic banter, and adventures on the high seas, Levenseller brilliantly concludes Alosa’s adventures!


February 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton1.Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel Of The Sands #3)

Owned | Started January 31 + Finished on February 2 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Hero At The Fall Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Rebel Of The Sands Trilogy concludes with such a character-driven and immersive finale! Amani and the remaining rebels band together to take down the sultan. There’s so much character-development and the depth to the world of Rebel, the magic system, and politics continue to develop till the very end! My issues however continue to be the time-jumps/quick pacing through locations and how they tend to rush through character development/interactions & setting description/atmosphere. However, above all Hero At The Fall really wraps up Amani’s adventure & the trilogy as a whole, to a very satisfying conclusion!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones2.Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong #2)

ARC| Started February 5 + Finished on February 7|Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Shadowsong  Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Shadowsong is an enchanting and captivating finale to the Wintersong duology. I loved every moment of this book! Very much a darker continuation, this novel takes place 6 months after the events of Wintersong, focusing on Liesl as character with her internal development + growth as she comes to terms with having left the Underground + the Goblin King behind. The elegantly constructed POV continues to brings such depth and life to the many aspects from world to characters, music etc. of this phenomenal duology. The dynamic between Liesl & Josef is heavily explored in this novel & plays such a huge role in this novel. Shadowsong is a captivating, elegant, heart-wrenching, and brilliant finale to the Wintersong duology! (This novel is #OwnVoices for bipolar disorder)

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton3.The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

Owned | Started January 23 + Finished on February 9|Rating:★★★★☆ |The Belles Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Belles seamlessly weaves in political intrigue, themes and discussions of beauty, all through a descriptive and dazzling writing! Camellia Beauregard wants to secure her spot as the Favorite, but not everything is as it seems. Soon, the idea of beauty and power begin to shift as Camellia learns in her quest to prove herself as the Favorite! The descriptive, dazzling, and magical world of Orléans immediately transports you and the mythology/history of the world itself is explored in such an intriguing way! Though the pacing does slow throughout the middle, the intrigue, magic & mystery of the plot keeps you immersed! (#OwnVoices for black rep.)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman4.Starfish by by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Library |Started February 12 + Finished On February 16 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | Starfish Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Kiko wants nothing more than to get into her dream art school. Living with a family, who never seem to understand her, she learns what family means to her and figures out who she wants to be along the way. Kiko has anxiety and because of that, its difficult for her to speak her mind. However, throughout the novel she knows she has support from friends, both new & old, that help her find her place in the world.The writing flows so beautifully, though the heaviness of the story is there. The writing really allows you to see the characters in such a unique way and are given such depth. Starfish is a character-driven and beautifully written YA Contemporary that builds to an inspiring message of hope! (#OwnVoices for Japanese-American rep. + Social Anxiety)

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black5.The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #1)

Library | Started February 18 + Finished on February  22 | Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾ | The Cruel Prince Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Jude and her 2 sisters were forced to go to the land of the Fae when they were young, however 10 years later all Jude wants is to fit in. Both Jude & her twin sister Taryn are bullied by the fae royalty and this just fuels Jude’s anger to prove herself to them. The descriptions of the setting and various themes of politics, intrigue, and mystery all weave together really well. There were characters I was unsure how I felt about in the beginning, but ended up truly surprising me as I read. While there were elements I really enjoyed, sadly there was a mix of reasons why I rated the book low: I did find the pacing to slow a bit and felt the direction of the plot got a bit lost at times. Personally, I also didn’t really connect with or enjoy the twin sister relationship between Jude & Taryn. I also found that big moments nearing the middle and end really had much build up, so it felt difficult to really invest myself. I also found that the morally grey/anti-heroine aspects of Jude’s character that many had mentioned, felt more sporadic than I had hoped.However, the ending did leave me interested in seeing what happens next.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo6.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

ARC | Started February 24 + Finished on February 25 | Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | The Poet X Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The Poet X is such a powerful and unforgettable YA Contemporary. Told through poems, Xiomara goes on a journey of questioning and exploring many different aspects of her world from love to religion, and finding her voice through poetry. There were a number of topics explored and discussed such a relationships, body image/self-love, and tackling sexism. Character-driven and impactful, the poems are filled with so much heart, emotion, and depth. The power of Acevedo’s words shines with each page. I also really loved the dynamic between Xiomara & her twin brother Xavier and seeing their relationship change and grow as the book progressed. The Poet X is a must read, so definitely keep an eye out on this book in March! (#OwnVoices for Dominican rep. + there is also gay & Trinidadian rep.)

Additional Posts From This Month:

February 2018 YA Books I’m Looking Forward To!

Literary Listens: Audio Drama Podcasts That Need Book Adaptations

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton Review

The Belles by Dhonielle ClaytonThe Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion (Freeform Books)

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Pages: 448

Summary:Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. 

*Received a finished copy through a giveaway*

*Trigger Warnings: attempted sexual assault*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Belles is a dazzling, thought-provoking & unique tale that explores the concept of beauty! As a Belle in Orléans, Camellia Beauregard wants nothing more than to secure her spot as the Favorite, but things aren’t all that they seem as this immersive YA Fantasy explores a number of themes and topics from family to beauty, even political intrigue!

The concept of the Belles was so fascinating! They are young women born with the ability to control beauty, which means they use their power to alter not only people’s appearances, but can even heighten or lessen emotions/temperaments (which was fascinating!). There was mythology explored, but also mystery surrounding the Belles and it was presented in such an intriguing way.

From the very beginning, the descriptive and dazzling writing you are immediately transported to the world of Orléans. The detailed way the setting, food, atmosphere, and especially clothing were crafted was just described in such a way that sparkled!

What I loved so much about The Belles was Clayton’s writing-style. Through Camellia’s first-person POV, you not only get such a character-driven perspective, but also one that balances a number of differing themes and topics.

The topic of beauty is really a foundation for this novel. Not only does it play a huge part in the world as the Belles are given the ability to manipulate it, but it also explores it in depth from a number of angles. For instance, what one is willing to do to achieve beauty, the high standards one sets for it on themselves, and so much more!

Camellia, though she has her other Belle sisters by her side, wants nothing more than to be the Favorite (the one Belle chosen by the queen) and is driven to achieve her goal. Her determination to not only reach them, but also prove to herself all that she’s worked for can pay off, was so inspiring. I loved how driven she was to pursue her goals.

Though things don’t go the way she plans at first, she soon finds herself as the new Favorite and knows her dreams have finally come true.

However, the power of the Belles is complex and soon Cameilla sees a side to her world (mainly through the youngest princess Sophia) that the quest for beauty can sometimes come at a cost.

My favorite themes and topics explored was definitely the sisterhood between the Belles and the political intrigue. Clayton shows us through flashbacks of Caemilla’s past & especially through the Belles dynamics in the beginning, just how close they are. Regardless of competition, they all want the best for each other and while it is explored less throughout the middle of the novel, its a clear and present aspect of not only the history of the Belles in Orléans, but also through Cameilla’s POV.

The main characters were all really wonderfully developed and while I felt some characters could have had a bit more page time (like more of the sisters) Clayton really gave such depth to the main cast and while you can see the complexities to their character, their also given the perfect elements of mystery.

Now as to why I took off a star: While I loved the writing and felt the world was presented through such unique descriptions, I couldn’t help but feel the pacing was really slow for me personally, especially throughout the middle of the story. And while it does pick up nearing the end, it took me much longer to read this novel than I had planned.

Regardless, the ending really leaves you wanting more when more secrets are discovered and I cannot wait to read where the story is headed in the sequel!

The Belles is a magical and unique tale that immerses you from the very beginning! The various themes and discussions of beauty become such prevalent aspects of this novel and are explored with such depth. The world, characters, and plot all weave together wonderfully through the descriptive and dazzling writing!

January 2018 Wrap-Up

Can’t believe the first month of 2018 is already over! Today I’ll be sharing my first Monthly Wrap-Up of 2018~ 

# Of Books Read: 9

Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage1.Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage

Owned | Read/Finished on January 1 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Anchors & Vacancies Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Now pretty much a yearly tradition for me, I try to start off the new year by reading a poetry book, for 2018 I decided to read Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage!

This book contains 45 poems centering around the journey of a love lost and how that loss can impact a person when its difficult to let go.

This quote really stuck with me throughout the entire book:

“There’s a certain kind of ache in the chambers of my heart…”

While I really understood the complex emotions + journey Savage portrayed in the collection, on a personal level (aside from a few) many didn’t really connect with me (hence the 4 stars). However, I loved her writing-style and plan to read more of her poetry in the future.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes2. The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Library | Started December 23 + Finished on January 4 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |The Arsonist Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Told through 3 unique POV’s, The Arsonist brilliantly weaves coming-of-age, historical fiction, & Mystery/Thriller all in one! This novel follows Molly Mavity + Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef who’s paths cross when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of Ava Dreyman, who was a resistance fighter during the time of the Berlin Wall. The friendship between Pepper + Molly was so beautifully written and you really see how lonely they feel, but the bond of their friendship reminds them that they aren’t alone & I loved that! There’s so much complexity + mystery that really makes this book surprising. I suppose my only issue was that compared to Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly (Which I loved), the writing for The Arsonist felt rather flat and certain aspects from side-character development to setting description, etc. fell a bit short. Aside from that, The Arsonist is a compelling story that weaves in so many differing genres/themes that I highly recommend it if your looking for a unique read!

Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire3.Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #3)

ARC | Started January 7 + Finished on January 8 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ |Beneath The Sugar Sky Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Beneath The Sugar Sky was easily my favorite book of the Wayward Children series so far! The descriptive and whimsical writing really showed McGuire’s growth as an author with this series. When Rini finds herself Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children characters, both new & returning, join Rini on her quest to the peculiar world of Confection, to bring back an old friend. Kade & Christopher are easily my favorite characters of the entire series & not only did this book remind me of that, but their banter + friendship easily made this book one of my favorites! Filled with adventure, a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, magic & mystery, Beneath The Sugar Sky is a fantastic continuation to the Wayward Children Series!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen4.A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

ARC | Started January 5 + Finished on January 13 | Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½ |A Taxonomy Of Love ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The unique format & expansive timeline, made A Taxonomy Of Love a pretty unique YA Contemporary. We follow Spencer from 13-19 as he navigates life + his friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong. Allen really developed the main character Spencer, while bringing so much progression & growth to his character that you can really see by the end of the novel. Throughout the story, Spencer + Hope begin to drift apart when Hope suffers an important loss in her family. Your left wondering if they’ll ever reconnect, while also seeing where their own paths are leading them. I felt however, with the constant jumps in the timeline, characters + story points had uneven development, going from extremely fast + rushed pacing to uneventful & slow moments. That made it difficult to really connect with any of the other characters, aside from a few main ones (hence the 3.5). However, Allen did a fantastic job at weaving in so many themes + developing the atmosphere of her contemporary story over such an expansive timeline!

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira Ahmed5.Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

ARC | Started January 15 + Finished on January 19 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Love, Hate & Other Filters ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters tackles such a relevant + timely issue while also balancing heart-warming moments and chilling/honest ones too! I loved Maya so much, from her passion to follow her dreams of becoming a film director to the strength and courage she builds over the course of the novel. There was one important moment I found that pretty much put the entirety of the novel into focus and that was the importance of Maya’s camera. I found it represented not only a shield for Maya, but also thinking broadly how people tend to view each other lenses (or filters!). Throughout the novel we follow Maya Aziz and her journey to not only understand who she wants to become, but seeing her inspirational journey to follow her dreams and tackle whatever life throws her way!

Fence Issue 1 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad6.Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: 16-year old Nicholas Cox has the heart, but not exactly skill, for fencing. He’s worked from the basics and is eager to win the local tournament (Connecticut Regionals). The win from this competition could earn him a spot into a top school and allow him to receive a scholarship & continue with fencing if he is serious about pursuing it. His competition is none other than  Seiji Katayama, fencing prodigy. This first issue introduces so much from Nicholas’s past to his passion for fencing & the mysterious fencing prodigy. There is so much great development, action and dialogue that will keep you hooked! Its a brilliant start to a new comic series! (Honestly, there’s tons more I discuss in my full reviews that I can’t fully explain in this wrap-up, but I HIGHLY recommend checking out Fence 💙✨🤺)

Fence Issue 2 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad7.Fence #2 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #2 is very much build-up to Nicholas & Seiji’s dynamic when they begin at King’s Row and introduction to new characters on the fencing team. We definitely see the stakes set for not only the team, but Nicholas too (considering we learn there are a limited # of spots for the main team + upcoming championships). Both Issue #1 & #2 introduce characters of color + trans rep. & it does hint at gay rep.! The tension really builds in this issue and similar to Issue #1, will keep you hooked!

Fence Issue 3 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad8.Fence #3 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #3 is easily my favorite issue in the series so far! There is much more character development/background + is a very plot-driven continuation! This issue very much follows Nicholas & not only his daily campus life on King’s Row, but his determination to prove himself before his first match against a classmate. The characters from Issue #2 are getting better developed as is the gay rep. The perfect pacing, development for plotting, characters, and slight twists + turns make Issue #3, such a brilliant addition to the Fence series!

Love Sugar Magic-A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano9.Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano (W/ Cover art by Mirelle Ortega)

Library | Started January 25 + Finished January 27 | Rating:★★★★★  | Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Easily one of the best middle-grade novels I have ever read! Themes of family and friendship, alongside a delightful writing that delivers a sweet and magical tale, Love Sugar Magic was a truly unforgettable read! The story follows Leo Logroño and she comes from a family of bakers, they run the Amor y Azúcar Panadería. She’s always felt left out of the family business + feels her mother + sisters are hiding something, so a day before the Día de los Muertos festival, she sneaks her way into the bakery to see what really goes on (she soon discovers she comes from a family of brujas, who use their powers within the bakery + their treats). Now that her oldest sister Isabel knows, Leo begins to use the powers within her & experiments with the special family recipe book. However as Leo begins to lie about using her abilities to the rest of her family, she soon gets into trouble & must make very important decisions. The magic system is one of my favorite aspects about this novel, it really builds and you see how unique it is for each member of Leo’s family. The plot is perfectly developed, the writing is beautiful, the characters are spectacular, & so much more!! Such a fantastic novel, I highly recommend it!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Latinx YA Book Releases To Add To Your TBR {2018}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

You may have noticed, I never posted one for December. Well, that was mainly because of vacation, but also because as the months passed nearing the end of 2017 when making my monthly wrap-ups, I noticed that I began to lose my enjoyment for making/posting them because I felt like I had to (being a pretty common post in the book-community). While I do enjoy them I felt it was time to change up the review format a bit to add more to make a bit more personal (adding the format of the book + when I started/finished). And I think doing that really brought back my enjoyment for them~

So similar to this one, I may be trying out this new format for the upcoming monthly wrap-ups, but again I’m really liking how this one turned out! 😄✨📚📚💻~ But, feel free to let me know what you think of the new format in the comments!

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed ARC Review

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira AhmedLove, Hate & Other & Filters by Samira Ahmed

Publisher: Amulet Books Soho Teen

Release Date: January 9, 2017

Pages: 288

Summary:American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

*Received an ARC of Love, Hate, & Other Filters through a giveaway*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters is a heartfelt debut that discusses topics both relevant + timely today. While tackling such a number of important issues, Ahmed balances chilling, heart-warming +honest tones perfectly. Readers will fall in love with Maya and her empowering tale to follow her dreams and tackle the obstacles that life throws her way!

To start I loved Maya so much! She was just such an inspiring + delightful main character! Maya Aziz is an aspiring filmmaker and against her parents expectations, hopes to get into NYU & study film.

Not only does this novel surround Maya and her dedication to pursue her dreams, with some romance along the way, but it also discusses and tackles Islamophobia and how an event far from her, impacts her in her small Illinois town.

Aside from the wonderful protagonist Maya, we are also introduced to Maya’s parents (Dr./Dr. Aziz) who, with their hearts in the right place, are set on Maya finding a suitable partner and attending a university they approve of.

However, Maya builds the courage and strength to tell her parents just how passionate she is for the dream they see as a “hobby.” Her determination + strength the follow a dream she follows with such heart was so inspiring + I was rooting for her every step of the way! (+ Loved the film references sprinkled throughout the story!) 

There’s also her dedicated best friend Violet and Maya’s aunt Hina who (w/ out Maya’s parents knowledge) knows about her dream to get to NYU & is supportive of Maya 100%.

Then there’s Kareem who is the college guy that Maya’s parents approve of. He was such a great character! While we see Maya’s relationship grow with him, we also see how they are willing to see eye-to-eye on the development on their relationship + the above all, wonderful friendship dynamic they have with each other! I loved their scenes together, they had such great chemistry & although their relationship doesn’t work out, Kareem makes it clear he will always be a supportive friend to Maya no matter what!

And then there’s Phil, the guy at her high school that Maya has had a crush on for years. They too also begin to develop a relationship (although a bit fast-paced).
Both Kareem & Phil were supportive of Maya every step of the way and above all were just such kind and wonderfully-developed male leads! Ahmed just delivers the romance of her story in such a unique way that just surprised me and I loved how it was developed.

While Love, Hate, And Other Filters builds as a relatable YA Contemporary with some friendship, romance, family dynamics, common stresses & anxieties of college/university, and themes of independence, around 50% of the way through the novel does a complete 180 when Maya is soon confronted with Islamaphobia in her small town.

When news of a terrorist attack reaches Maya’s home and the person suspected shares her last name Aziz, Maya stays strong as a guy at her high school shows hatred towards her and her parents clinic is damaged in a cruel act of hatred. My heart broke for the terrible things her + her family were faced with.

When her parents fears cause them to re-consider her acceptance to NYU, Maya must continue to gather the strength and confidence to stand by her dream.

Throughout the novel we are shown that the camera is very much like Maya’s shield and we see how it distances her from situations. And as the novel progresses we see in general how one views a person/situation is all through a lens (or filter!) That, I felt became such an important aspect to the story and was really integrated all throughout!

I think my only minor critiques that kept it from being a full 5, were that I felt this book was marketed with such a focus on tackling Islamaphobia, that I wanted there to be more expansion on how Maya & her family tackled it + overall just more discussion on the impact such fears can have because I feel such discussions of timely issues are so important in YA!

Additionally (though I fully understand I read this as an ARC, so the FC has most likely gone through more edits) I felt there were moments in the story that went a bit too fast, so plot and character-wise where there could have been just a little bit more development. 

Aside from that, I honestly loved this book with all my heart & feel it was such a memorable read!

I cannot wait to read Ahmed’s future books & highly recommend checking out Love, Hate & Other Filters if you haven’t already!

Character-driven, cinematic, timely, and full of such heart, Ahmed’s debut is captivating! Love, Hate, & Other Filters follows inspiring Maya Aziz as she tackles with understanding who she wants to be and the heart-breaking + heavy issues she encounters in her small town!

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes Review

The Arsonist by Stephanie OakesThe Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial Books (PenguinTeen)

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Pages: 493

Summary:It starts with a fire. A diary. A murder.

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer…or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Arsonist is a thriller, mystery, historical-fiction, and coming of age all in one! With such depth to the main characters, threads of mystery that weave together so perfectly, and surprises at every turn, Oakes novel will have you immersed in this brilliantly crafted story! 

Having been such a huge fan of Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly, I knew I wouldn’t miss out on her upcoming books! Though while this one has a lesser rating compared to her 1st book, I still really loved it and had such a fun time reading it!

We follow 3 differing POV’s that all end up weaving together in such a way, you don’t expect! I know as I saw all the pieces coming together, I found the twists and turns of the story to be so well done and left me surprised!

Told through essays (Pepper), letters (Molly), and diary entries (Ava), the story unfolds in such a unique and interesting way!

Starting with Molly Mavity, she’s somewhat of an outcast at school and knows she’ll never really fit in. Her father is a convicted arsonist and currently in jail and as for her mother, is dead. But Molly believes she’s still out there somewhere and is waiting for her return.

Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef is just trying to graduate high school, so he’s given an assignment by his counselor to write essays about each of his classes.

And Ava Dreyman, a girl living in East Germany who, along with her family resist the Stasi rule and hope to one day be free of the Berlin Wall.

Molly and Pepper soon team up when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of what happened to Ava Dreyman.

They find themselves reading her diary titled The Arsonist, visiting people from Ava’s past, traveling to Berlin, and forging a complex friendship along the way.

What I loved about Pepper & Molly so much, was the complex but underlying strong friendship that forges between them as they try to solve the mystery. While Pepper later admits he could possibly imagine a nice relationship between them, he also states their friendship was so much more important and I loved that!

Its clear throughout the novel, that they both feel pretty lonely and really want someone to connect to, feeling like they don’t really belong. Seeing just how alike they are through their POV and seeing them slowly forge their friendship was so beautiful!

Through Ava’s POV we see just how independent and brave she is, when she’s forced to leave her home in East Germany to avoid the Stasi from capturing her. She grows and undergoes so much pain and betrayal when she must leave her family and her home behind. While I loved each of the POV’s equally, her’s was just filled with so much pain and heartache that you just feel so connected to her story and want to see her be reunited with those she loves and be free.

We also get so much depth to her as we see how these traumatic events from her being forced to flee her home, to seeing her members of her family put in danger & even killed, to the betrayal she endures and how it just causes her to become a shadow of who she once was.

I wish I could put into words the complexity of the story, but truly can’t. There’s just so many brilliant points that bring these characters together in ways you just don’t see coming!

What I found made me difficult to truly rate this book a 5, was the writing-style. While I loved that it truly gave you such depth into each of the characters minds and their personalities, I couldn’t help but feel that other aspects fell a bit short. From the setting descriptions to some side characters, they weren’t given as much depth as I would have hoped, which did make it a bit difficult to truly immerse myself in this book. Additionally, the story does get slow paced throughout and due to its length did drag a little bit at some points.

Aside from that, what the writing-style brings that really makes the book stand out and truly shine, is the uniqueness of each POV and how its just brilliantly executed.

There were definitely a few side characters that I felt truly were given such depth and you felt you really knew them by the end of this novel. To start with, Pepper’s father, as we learn what brought him to the U.S. and the heartache he also endures with the loss of his wife, Lido, a friend Ava makes who allows her to find hope again when she finds herself mistakenly put into a mental institution, and Heinrich Werner, a Stasi officer who is in charge of eliminating those who rebel against current republic or attempt to flee.

Overall I highly recommend this book if your looking for a unique mystery that really delivers complex and interesting characters, while keeping you putting pieces together till the very end!

The Arsonist is a uniquely woven tale that brings in mystery, coming-of-age, historical fiction, as you follow 3 distinct POV’s that bring to life such unique and memorable main characters! With such deep underlying messages about family, fighting for what you believe, and the depths of love and loss, Oakes The Arsonist, is not one to miss!

Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage Review

Anchors & Vacancies by Kat SavageAnchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Release Date: June 30, 2016

Pages: 50

Summary: Anchors & Vacancies is a 45 piece series originally titled “Left Atrium Anchors & Right Ventricle Vacancies” written in late 2014 and early 2015. It’s all the things we all hold onto, all the things we let anchor onto us, and all the things that leave us vacant.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Anchors & Vacancies is a poetry collection which tackles the depth of heartbreak! The writing delivers such raw emotion as we follow a journey of heartbreak, loss + longing, and acceptance!

Ever year now, since about 2016 I’ve made it a tradition to have my first read of the year be a poetry book! They’re not only short and quick reads, but in general just always feel like the perfect reads to start off a new year!

Anchors & Vacancies had a fascinating summary and shortly after, made its way to my TBR about early last year. I bought myself a copy around March, but sadly never got around to it. Keeping that in mind, I knew this would be one of my first reads of 2018!

Savage portrays such deep emotion and the impact of loss through her words and it shows with each poem.

“There’s a certain kind of ache in the chambers of my heart…”

Told through 45 poems, we follow a journey through the trials of a love lost and how it impacts when one finds it difficult to let go.

While I could really understand and follow the complex web of emotion through each of the poems, aside from a few, many sadly just didn’t really connect or click with me on a personal level which made it difficult for me to find myself really immersed in some of the poems.

However regardless of that, I will definitely continue to read more of her work, because I really did enjoy her writing-style & found it to flow so well. She delivered such a complex stream of emotion with each poem!

Anchors & Vacancies is a raw and impactful collection of poetry that illustrates a love that has been lost and the journey one takes to heal!

Highly recommend this if your looking for a new poetry book to read! 📚✨❤