The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah Review

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London ShahThe Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah (Light The Abyss #1)

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: October 29, 2019

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository: The Light At The Bottom Of The World

Summary: At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Light At The Bottom Of The World is YA Sci-Fi debut that will leave you with a sense of wonder and is a delightful immersive adventure! Set in a future underwater, Leyla is a quest to reunite with her father! Layered politics, unique world building, and mystery are just some of the many things to expect from Shah’s wonderful debut!

I’d been looking forward to this book for over a year because the concept sounded fascinating, so of course that meant I had to add it to the TBR! Underwater society, the turn of the century, sub races, and government conspiracies? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

16-year old Leyla McQueen is a dedicated sub racer and she’s on a mission! Set in Great Britain in the year 2099 nearing the end of the century, people for the most part have adjusted to life underwater. However, up above on the surface the water levels continue to rise, there’s devastating storms, and back underwater there’s a sickness that’s spreading.

Leyla’s father is accused of spreading the illness known as Seasickness, but she knows he’s innocent! So, when Leyla’s chosen to compete in the London Marathon, she hopes her wish can accomplish one thing: Bringing her father home!

When her wish doesn’t go exactly as planned, she decides to seek out answers herself, but luckily she’s not alone! With her friends Theo & Tabby, her grandfather, and a mysterious new companion, Leyla is on a race against time traveling the dangerous waters in her submersible to find her father!

Shah’s writing is atmospheric and thought-provoking. Not only does she beautifully lay out this futuristic setting of an underwater society, but she weaves in the unique technology, habitat/environmental layers, and complex politics that come with it.

Told through a first-person POV you really get inside Leyla’s head and learn more about her past and what I really appreciated, was how much you learn about the world through her eyes! The world itself is layered subtly where your getting this clear picture of the underwater world and the politics, setting, and character development building with each chapter!

Leyla is a wonderful main character and I loved following her journey! She’s dedicated to racing, worries about her father, and is experiencing the world outside London for the first time. She’s hopeful, unwavering, and just has a wonderful spirit!

“Hope is all I have right now; it’s as unending as the oceans―and I must hold on to it…” (23).

In terms of representation this novel centers around our main protagonist and her family who’re Pashtun/Afghan Muslim! (Also, this book is #OwnVoices for British Muslim rep!)

Throughout the novel, Leyla grows in ways that test her knowledge of the world she thought she knew. Following her perspective, you get a layered look at the politics, setting, and government established in underwater Great Britain.

The story moves at such a great pace where at the end of each chapter, your left with so many questions and trying to piece the mystery together!

Leyla’s joined by her dog Jojo, an internal sub navigator who’s presented as Oscar Wilde, and Ari, a family friend who’s been tasked with looking after Leyla by her grandfather! What stands out as the story progresses are the really distinct changes to their dynamic as it shifts & grows in subtle ways. I loved how Shah explored their enemies to friends (maybe lovers?) dynamic and had so many surprises for them along the way!

I don’t want to get into it too much, because you really have to read it for yourself, but Leyla & Ari’s dynamic was developed in a really great way! They start out not really liking each other, but throughout their adventure together, what the dynamic is rooted in is trust! Trust within themselves and with each other! Its a wonderful message that layered itself into the story and adds so much to their friendship/dynamic!

The plot twists in this book were just SO good and made me really think about the world itself and what our characters have been tricked into believing!

A good adventure isn’t without a few bumps along the road for our duo! There’s the mysterious government security known as Blackwatch, a mysterious captain named Sebastian, and monsters (Arthropoids) that lurk within the waters!

I really loved how Shah beautifully explored and delved into the element of nostalgia, whether its for characters that Leyla notices are obsessed with the Old World, groups known as the Old World Heritage Society, even people’s fascination with collecting Old World objects. In this speculative fiction future, it created this sense longing and promise for what’s ahead! That was a beautiful message I picked up on while reading and really appreciated it.

There’s also a message woven in about family! Leyla herself never admits it too often, but she is lonely. She misses the time when she could spend the holidays at home with her parents and with her mission to find her father, she hopes she can regain that loss along the way. Friendship itself is also anchors itself as an important familial unit for Leyla and it’ll be great to see how those important themes are explored in the sequel!

The setting itself is layered with beautiful imagery and alongside Shah’s great writing, your given a sense of wanderlust that makes the world dazzle and make you wish you could go on your own underwater adventure too!

Now onto my critique: Its really just boils down to the writing! Though I really love (and will absolutely defend) the beauty of first person POVs, I felt at least for this first novel (for me personally) there were something about its presentation that made it difficult to fully connect with the plot at some points (mainly during Leyla’s journey as she traveled the oceans, looking for her father). As I read, I noticed there was a big focus to the emotion and emotional layers of the story through Leyla’s perspective.

With the way it was presented, the perspective made certain plot points feel glossed over. Because we’re in Leyla’s head, we really get an in-depth look at her as a character, which is great, BUT I did find at points there was a bit too much internal description of her thoughts/emotions. From my perspective, it took away from some of the exposition and execution of plot points. However, I really loved Shah’s writing style, its so beautiful and I definitely found myself writing down a lot of wonderful quotes!

After that ending I can’t wait to see what happens next in the sequel! I’m really looking forward to seeing whats next for Leyla’s journey!

The Light At The Bottom Of The World is a thought-provoking YA Sci-Fi that features a sub racer on a mission to save her father! With beautiful writing, a great cast of characters, plot twists, mystery, and a wonderfully immersive setting, you don’t want to miss London Shah’s debut!

Hey everyone, just wanted to share that yesterday I posted my author interview with Isabel Ibañez whose releasing her 2020 debut, Woven In Moonlight, in just a couple months! It would mean the world if you gave it a read, we talk about her inspiration, main character, and tons of different elements of her book she’s looking forward to sharing with readers! There’s also an awesome pre-order campaign I share in the post too! Hope you can check it out! 🌙✨💞

Flying Witch Vol. 2 by Chihiro Ishizuka {Manga Review}

Flying Witch Vol. 2 by Chihiro IshizukaFlying Witch Vol. 2 by Chihiro Ishizuka & Melissa Tanaka (Translator) (Flying Witch Series)

Publisher: Vertical Comics

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Pages: 160

Available Through The Book Depository: Flying Witch Volume 2

Summary: Makoto goes to a local cherry blossom festival and happens to encounter someone who has a bone to pick with her sister, Akane. When Akane happens to drop by, she teaches Makoto some new tricks for flying and some easy spellcraft. Their kid cousin Chinatsu is so charmed by the witches’ talents that she makes an unexpected request…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Flying Witch is a slice of life/urban fantasy manga series! We follow Makoto who moves to Aomori to live with her cousins and aunt, as she continues her training to become a witch!

Its been 2 years since I read the first volume where we get introduced to Makoto, her family, and the delightful quiet magic of Flying Witch! I really missed this world and it was great to get back to this series again! Overall, this is a really sweet, quiet and engaging manga series that’s just a lot of fun!

If I could summarize this series it essentially follows Makoto (a witch in training) as she hangs out with her cousins Kei & Chinatsu, and new friend Nao all while their adventures are filled with the mundane and magical happenings of their daily lives!

Volume 2 is a lot more episodic than the first one. Where in Flying Witch Vol. 1, we were introduced to the magic system and little moments of being a witch through Makoto’s eyes.

There’s the tiniest of details woven into the dialogue that help build on the unique witchy/magical world that comes to life in this rural part of Aomori, Japan. From what it takes to fly, witches dreams, and peculiar spells.

Throughout this volume, Makoto cooks with her cousin Kei, we learn more about a friend of Akane’s (Makoto’s sister) who has a problem that needs solving, there’s walks through the forest, and Akane helps Makoto + her younger cousin Chinatsu learn more about spells, tricks, and witchcraft!

What I appreciate about this series is that there’s a nice focus on the bonds between the characters and details about the city that make it a quiet, unique place to live!

Though this series is a whole lot of fun, I did want to talk about some elements that dropped my rating to 4 stars:

One of my expectations was that the plot would be connected to an overarching conflict, but it very much sticks to the slice of life atmosphere, which includes the backdrop of an upcoming festival!

What I appreciated about Volume 1, was that although it had that distinct slice of life feel to it, we still learned a lot about the world and characters interwoven with unique plot points. However, Flying Witch Volume 2, definitely feels slow and less focused on that direct conflict.

I personally felt it would have been great to see this series establish more concrete plot points to root us into the world before continuing with the everyday/slice of life stuff.

When it comes to art its definitely got a unique style, but for me personally the paneling felt a bit rushed in this volume!

Aside from my issues with this volume, Flying Witch is incredibly easy to get immersed in from the setting to the magical world, characters, story etc. So if your looking for a new manga series and aren’t exactly sure where to start, this is one I definitely recommend!

Overall though, I’m really looking forward to seeing what new adventures the characters get mixed up in next!

Flying Witch is a quiet, slice of life story that follows Makoto, a witch in training! The characters and everyday life make this a fun series for anyone to get into and enjoy! This volume definitely builds on quieter character moments that come to life in the quiet city of Aomori!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin Review {Graphic Novel}

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 by Carly UsdinThe Avant Guards Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin (writer), Noah Hayes (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), & Ed Dukeshrire (Letterer)

Publisher: BOOM Box! (Boom Studios)

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository: The Avant-Guards Vol. 1

Summary: When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Avant-Guards is a fantastic series from Boom Studios! This female-led series is about friendship and discovering who you are! The colorful art, alongside the great cast of characters, and much more, deliver a page-turning story you won’t be able to put down! With a fresh start at a new college, Charlie learns more about herself and finds where she belongs when her new friends convince her to join their basketball team!

This first volume of The Avant-Guards completely captured my heart and I can’t wait to see where the series is headed next! 💞

I’d already been familiar with Usdin’s graphic novels, already having read Heavy Vinyl (which is getting a sequel next year & recommend checking it out! 🎉 — it basically follows a group of girls in the 90’s who work in a record store and follows the newest employee, Chris as she discovers her co-workers are actually part of an all-female vigilante group!).

Going into The Avant-Guards, I knew I’d love it! But, I didn’t just love it, I adored it so much! I can definitely say―that THE AVANT-GUARDS IS MY NEW FAVORITE GRAPHIC NOVEL SERIES, I love it with all my heart!! 😭 

Charlene (Charlie) Bravo is a recent transfer to the Georgia O’Keeffe College For Art & Subtle Dramatics (amazing title for a school tbh) and she’s still figuring out where she fits in, that is until she meets the all-girls basketball team!!

Olivia is the energetic and optimistic one that really wants Charlie to join and sees her potential, then there’s the other wonderful teammates who I loved too: Jay, Nicole, Tiffany & Ashley, who are all incredibly welcoming to her!

This first volume chronicles the team getting together and introducing us to the wonderful team of The Avant-Guards! From beginning to end I felt I knew the team so well and I’m excited to learn even more about them. The Avant-Guards is the kind of story where the characters just pull you into the story and throughout it, they feel like your best friends too! 💞💞

Stories like that connect with me on such a deep and personal level because friendship is incredibly important to me and to see it highlighted and be such a focus of this series, just warms my heart!

Alongside that, this story is just filled to the brim with supportive and positive energy and you can’t help but smile while reading. As Charlie attempts to find where she belongs on this new campus, she seems to be pretty nonchalant about her environment. That is until she meets The Avant-Guards at their table during the campus’s activities fair!

With the team only needing one more player to make it official, Liv makes it her mission to convince Charlie to at least think it over. But after they all immediately click with Charlie, Liv comes up with a plan for all of them to get her to join!

As the story progresses, you learn so much about each of the girls (Liv is the captain of the team & got them all together, Nicole is the “resident cynic,” Ashley who “sings like Beyonce, [parties] like Rhianna & balls like Lebron,” Tiffany, whose interested in crystals & the like, & Jay, they are pretty quiet but an incredibly loyal friend).

The Charlie & Liv dynamic was so beautifully written! Having been a former basketball player, Charlie isn’t too interested in returning anytime soon, but its through Liv and the other girl’s she realizes its not just about the game, but also the connections she’s made with them!

We learn that they both had girlfriends in the past and its so obvious Liv has a crush on her, so seeing their friendship and romance develop was just so beautiful and I just loved seeing them together! 😭💞 There’s 3 moments throughout this volume that stuck out to me: Liv telling Charlie she wouldn’t give up on getting her to join, Liv explaining that the other girls genuinely want her to join b/c they’d love to be her friend, & their talk on the bus about Charlie’s anxiety!

All of the girls have their own quirks and personalities that shine throughout this entire first volume and I’m really looking forward to more of their interactions and dynamic as both friends/teammates in future issues! Every one of these girls resonated with me so much because their confidence and loyalty to each other was just incredibly inspiring to me!

The writing and pacing of the story allow for their characters to get the perfect amount of development, page-time, and still leave some mystery about them for future issues/volumes!

I also appreciated this intersection between sports and art! An underlying message (at least that I found) was the empowerment one can find through art! I mean anywhere you go I believe your surrounded by art in some way and I’m not really sure how to describe it, but I feel The Avant-Guards gets that? 😄

Throughout Volume 1, I found the art and paneling was done so wonderfully! The colors are bright and bring even more to the already brilliant story! As does the art! Its expressive, detailed, and feels incredibly cinematic & animated! The paneling is also something I was paying close attention to and it never felt like space was wasted. Alongside that, I felt the art and dialogue together complemented each other and came together to tell a fantastic story!

From the character expressions, pacing, action scenes, and even backgrounds, they all come to life through the vibrant colors and great art-style!

Overall, I felt The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 story was complete and well explored!

Honestly, if you were to ask me to pick a favorite character of the Avant-Guards, I honestly couldn’t do it, I adore each of the them with all my heart!! ❤ ❤

Considering this is a sports comic series, I did want to quickly talk about another series I’ve read which is Fence! Looking back, I can see why I enjoyed it when I first read it (its one the first sports comics I read & had a unique cast of characters like Avant-Guards). But if I’m being honest, I feel like my love for Fence has faded and The Avant-Guards has found that special place in my heart! Not saying they should be compared (because they are completely different stories) but if your stuck between both series and not sure which one to pick up, I’d say read The Avant-Guards!

Based on this first volume alone, I found the art, characters, pacing, and much more to be better developed and explored!

The Avant-Guards is diverse, colorful, the characters are all full of life, and the wonderful themes of the story weave their way through each page! I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful graphic novel!

Featuring characters of color, queer women, and just overall being incredibly inclusive, I just love the care and attention to diversity that the team behind this series has represented!  From the characters of different backgrounds (mainly featuring Brown/Black women), characters identifying as Queer and Jay (who uses They/Them), this is just such a beautifully inclusive series and I hope more people will pick it up!

The Avant-Guards Vol. 1 is must-read graphic novel series from Boom Studios! This series is all about friendship, self-discovery, and is beautifully inclusive + diverse! Charlie learns more about friendship and overcomes obstacles from her past when she joins the all-women’s basketball team! From the lovely artwork and colors to inspiring themes throughout this first volume, The Avant-Guards is a new series you don’t want to miss!

Slice Of Life Fantasy & Book Recommendations {Book Blogger Discussion}

There’s something special about stories that explore and follow characters through their everyday lives. There’s a name for stories like this and that’s “Slice Of Life.”

While this category can apply to such a vast number of different genres, I’d personally learned about this category in my early teens as I continued watching anime and reading manga.

Goodreads describes Slice Of Life as a “…naturalistic representation of real life which has been cut out of a larger story…”

With that, I found my love for these particular kinds of stories one could best describe as Slice Of Life Fantasy!

For me, Slice Of Life Fantasy means that while a story is set in a fantasy world–has a magic system, magical creatures, or is a world that’s unlike our own–at its’ core the plot can fall into a contemporary sphere because it focuses on the characters’ typical/daily lives. It also has core elements and themes that are relatable outside of its fantasy setting! There’s still action, but from my perspective it’s used more for driving certain plot points than being an active part of the story itself!

Whether its going to school, making new friends, or being with family– there’s something special about these types of stories that I just adore!

Today I’ll share with you some books I can categorize as Slice Of Life Fantasy and I hope I can offer some wonderful new recommendations for your TBR! 💞📚

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Howl’s Moving Castle #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: I’ve personally only seen the Ghibli movie, but from what I remember of it, the animation & scenery, presentation of Sophie’s life working in her family’s hat shop, and the friends she makes while staying in Howl’s castle present this Slice Of Life Fantasy atmosphere!

Summary: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars2. The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: If you were to ask me the earliest book I read which delivered this idea of Slice Of Life Fantasy it would be The Girl Of Ink & Stars! Isabella, a cartographer’s daughter, lives on the island of Joya (which has magic running through it). Isa goes on a search for her missing friend Lupe alongside her friend Pablo as she learns more about her home. There’s themes of adventure, friendship, and the importance of stories through myths. The myths themselves have been passed down to Isa through her father!

Summary: Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O' Neill3.The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill (Tea Dragon #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: This delightful and beautifully illustrated graphic novel follows Greta, daughter of a blacksmith, who learns more about Tea Dragons and caring for them through tea merchant/shop owner Hesekiel, when she becomes his apprentice! The Tea Dragon Society is set in a magical, diverse world that also emphasizes craft and preservation of the arts! Greta embarks on an enchanting adventure as she learns more about the magical Tea Dragons and makes new friends!

Summary: From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever Aftercomes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own. 

* If your looking for a recently released middle-grade graphic novel that may fall into the realm of Slice Of Life Fantasy too, I recommend Sea Sirens by Amy Chu:

Trot & her cat get taken to an underwater magical kingdom where there’s an ancient deep-sea battle rages on! There’s also Vietnamese-American rep. and exploration of Vietnamese Mythology!!

Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama Vol. 14. Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #1)

Why Its Slice Of Life Fantasy: In this world, magic has been kept hidden but the main character Coco has been fascinated by it her entire life and wants more than anything–to become a witch! Witch Hat Atelier connects to this wonder and hope that magic lives within each of us. The relatable themes of this story are present not only through the plot, but the optimistic and joyful main character Coco. While there’s a whimsy to it, there’s a depth and complexity to the magic system alongside the captivating world that makes it feel grounded in reality. Coco finds her seemingly “un-magical” life turned upside down as she learns more about the magic she has within herself!

Summary: In a world where everyone takes wonders like magic spells and dragons for granted, Coco is a girl with a simple dream: She wants to be a witch. But everybody knows magicians are born, not made, and Coco was not born with the gift for magic. She’s resigned to her un-magical life, until a traveling magician passes through her village, and Coco learns what what everybody “knows” might not be the truth.

* If your looking for another fantastic and more contemporary example of Slice Of Life Fantasy with witches I also recommend: Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka! Volume 1 of Flying Witch follows Makoto who goes to Aomori, Japan to live with her cousins as she continues her training to become a witch!

And those are my recommendations for Slice Of Life Fantasy books! I had a lot of fun creating this discussion and I hope you’ll check out these wonderful books!

Have you read any of the books I’ve recommended? 😍📚✨

Any books you know of that could be described as “Slice Of Life Fantasy”? 🍃✨📚

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees Review

The Waking Forest by Alyssa WeesThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Pages: 297

Available Through The Book Depository: The Waking Forest

Summary: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Waking Forest is a YA debut that melds contemporary with fantasy and magic in an interesting way! Rhea begins questioning  what’s real and what’s not when dreams begin merging into her everyday life! With her pet fox by her side she begins uncovering and losing herself in a peculiar magic only she can see! The Waking Forest is an eerie, whimsical debut that introduces fairy tales, a descriptive writing-style, and a story that’s more than it seems!

The Waking Forest is a book I’d really been looking forward to–a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch–there’s also a magical forest and the main character has a pet fox?!?! This book had a lot of different elements that would work great together! (+ The cover is so beautiful and atmospheric–it really went with the story).

I did find the story to be a bit underwhelming and it got a bit lost along the way. But, I do see myself reading more of Wees books in the future because I loved the unique concept!

There were a lot of different elements that made this book really stand out and kept me invested–from the unpredictability of the plot, atmospheric writing, unique incorporation of fairy tales, and main themes that stay present throughout the book!

Told through dual POV’s we follow our main character Rhea who continuously has dreams about the attic in her house, but can never quite reach it. However early on in the book, she does and fears for what it could mean. Then within the attic she learns of a mysterious boy (who she calls Darkness) whose giving her some sort of test/game to play! If she wins, she can unlock all the answers he’s hiding. If not, her family will pay the price!

As she’s running out of time, she gets even more lost in this game as she tries to find the answers she’s looking for! I found this plot point to be the most interesting because it gets developed throughout the story and it was just a unique plot point I’d never really read before!

Aside from that main storyline, it also follows her everyday life with her parents, sisters (Rose, Renata, & Raisa), and their unique dynamic as Rhea’s dreams begin to worry them.

The 2nd POV follows the Witch In The Woods who lives in her sanctuary hidden deep in the forest with her army of foxes and grants wishes for a price! Throughout her POV its told in a fairytale/storyteller-type fashion as a boy (who for some time was disguised as a fox) tries to learn more about the Witch by intriguing her with a fairytale of a princess, magic, castles, and a forest!

As we delve more into her POV, we learn how lonely she is and that with each continuation of the boy’s story, she begins feeling less alone.

What I really enjoyed about this book that was underlying, but explored throughout was Wees use of fairy tale elements! But, they were incorporated in a very original way! From princesses, magical forests, witches, storytelling–it all felt familiar but also different and I enjoyed how Wees really created her own tale within a tale!

Before the reveal of how these 2 POV’s were connected, I felt that the Witch’s story line (granting wishes, getting told a story & finding herself no longer alone) seemed to mirror Rhea’s growth as well!  Rhea finds herself lost and unsure of the world, but then its through magic that she’s able to find her way again. Wees’s symbolism through both POV’s was an element that I really enjoyed as I began making my own connections as the story progressed.

The Waking Story is also very much a character-driven journey as Rhea learns more about herself as she unlocks the mysteries about these dark dreams and the magic that’s seeping into her everyday life! The way that dreams were developed near the end of the story honestly surprised me in a way I did not see coming!

There’s also the element of family and sisterhood, as Rhea lives with her 3 sisters (Rose, Renata, Raisa). Their dynamic is different and complicated, but no matter what they really do care for each other, even in the most difficult moments! Having sisters myself I liked seeing this sister dynamic explored throughout the book!

Rhea’s story is told through 1st person and found it to be a very introspective POV! While The Waking Forest could have been more developed in other areas, I found what did make this book an immersive read was reading from Rhea’s perspective. The focus on her & her dreams, and the magic that gets explored made this book incredibly character-driven where Rhea really stands out as a protagonist!

Now onto why I rated this 3.5 stars: I just felt the story/writing was just lacking in execution…The writing is very direct, vivid, and descriptive, but described things in a very odd way. It was going for a sort-of purple prose which I could see, but it just didn’t work for me personally.

I also found that as we delve more into the story, Part 2 which reveals more secrets about these 2 POVs and how they work together, was just executed in a way that felt like a bit of a let down.

There’s fantasy elements explored through the story that the Witch hears and as those get developed more in Part 2, I found myself not really connecting with them honestly. I also felt that as the secrets to the Witch’s story are uncovered, they were never really given more detail and merge with Rhea’s POV in a way that while unexpected, wasn’t developed a whole lot.

Overall, I just felt The Waking Forest‘s whimsical, oddly descriptive writing, and execution of plot just didn’t work for me personally.

However, if your looking for a really immersive YA Fairy-Tale/Contemporary fantasy that really puts a focus on its main character– The Waking Forest is definitely an interesting book to check out!

The Waking Forest is character-driven, atmospheric YA Debut that melds contemporary with fantasy in a very unique way! Through the exploration of the power of dreams, nightmares, and magic, Wees immersive debut offers a unique look at magic, if one looks closely!

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala {Reading Playlist}

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati TeerdhalaHey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 Today I’m sharing a playlist to celebrate the release of Swati Teerdhala’s debut: The Tiger At Midnight!

The Tiger At Midnight is an epic YA Fantasy that follows a rebel assassin/spy and soldier whose paths cross! This leads to a cat-and-mouse chase, where along the way they both learn more about their world and themselves!

If your looking forward to The Tiger At Midnight, lets discuss in the comments below!

Today’s playlist features songs from Kingdom Hearts 3 & Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days!

• Mount Olympus Field Theme • Mount Olympus Battle Theme • Go For It! • Olympus Coliseum •

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d know by now that with every playlist, I’ve always got to find a way to include Kingdom Hearts!! 😂💖

Share your thoughts on the playlist in the comments below! 🎧✨💞

If your currently reading or planning to read The Tiger At Midnight–I’d love to hear your thoughts on this playlist! 🐯✨🎧⚔

+ Today at Books Of Wonder in NYC, Swati will be celebrating the release of The Tiger At Midnight w/ upcoming debut author Kat Cho (Wicked Fox) at Books Of Wonder!

The Promised Neverland Vol. 1 by Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu {Manga Review}

The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka DemizuThe Promised Neverland Vol. 1 by Kaiu Shirai (story) & Posuka Demizu (artist) (Promised Neverland #1) 

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: The Promised Neverland Vol. 1

Summary: Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Promised Neverland Volume 1 is a promising start to an intriguing manga series! Following a unique cast of characters set in the Grace Field House Orphanage, things are not quite as they seem for Emma, Norman & Ray! With intrigue, mystery, & with both a great cast of characters & equally unique story, this first volume will have you turning the page, wondering what’ll happen next!

So after finishing The Promised Neverland, I was feeling so accomplished because this is the first book I’ve finished in a little over a week (which felt like so much longer, if I’m being honest 😭💔💔). I’m also happy that this delightful manga is getting me out of my reading slump!

I’ve also really been wanting to start this series because I’d heard so many positive and great things about it! After turning the last page of this first volume, I really can’t wait to see where the story is headed!

The Promised Neverland Volume 1 introduces the reader to the Grace Field House Orphanage where the main character Emma lives! She’s the oldest (11 years old) alongside Norman, Ray & a few others who are also her age! She lives a pretty normal and happy life with the other younger kids and “Mom”, their loving caretaker.

But, things take a surprising turn when a mystery begins unraveling after Conny, a girl at the orphanage who’s getting ready to see her new family, leaves her toy behind and Emma alongside Norman, try to get it to her. Though, leaving the orphanage at night is forbidden.

I don’t want to spoil too much about this volume because the way the story unravels, its best to go in without knowing too much! Though for me personally, that’s why I’m leaning more towards a 4-star rating! From my own personal expectations I was expecting a more quiet contemporary story (with light fantasy elements), but those were just my personal expectations & Promised Neverland really takes a different turn!

I will say that my favorite parts about this manga, aside from the phenomenal characters, intriguing story, & world-building, is the themes that are interwoven throughout this volume.

If you’ve read this series, I highly recommend checking out Jeannette Ng’s wonderful thread which delves into important themes & core elements of what makes Promised Neverland filled with “defiant hope.” Her thread also inspired a lot of the themes I found while reading it and want to further explain!

Intrigue and intellect are explored heavily throughout this first volume & mainly through the older orphans like Emma, Ray, & Norman. There’s moments where they find themselves tested and facing situations where you really see the depth of their character & to the point where its clear these characters are really thinking about what’s best for everyone instead of just themselves.

Their trying to formulate plans all while gathering intel, with the perfect amount of intrigue that keeps you guessing! I never knew where the story was headed and was worried for them when their plan became a little more complicated.

No matter what conflict Emma is faced with, even if it changes how she sees the world, there’s this thread of hope & positivity that is present throughout this first volume and its inspiring!

I loved the friendship between Emma and Norman! They complement each other really well and we see that through their conflicting personalities, where Emma is energetic and confident, Norman is strategic, quiet, & resourceful.

Alongside that, I just love seeing the dynamic between Emma, Ray & Norman when they all begin working together.

Each member of the trio is unique in their own way and you see that they each have their own abilities which seems to foreshadow a bit of what strength they’ll lend to the group as their plan continues to develop. Emma is not only energetic but incredibly athletic, Norman is brilliant & strategic, and Ray is quiet, very knowledgeable and observant.

Overall I found myself connecting to each character and found each one, no matter when they were introduced, to have quite a bit of depth and feel very well developed.

The setting itself was not what I was expecting: it mixes dystopia, a bit of sci-fi, but in a whimsical sort of way that I really enjoyed & was hoping for.

As for the art-style it was wonderfully detailed. The backgrounds, character designs, and pacing/development all flowed so well!

The Promised Neverland Vol. 1 is the start to a manga series both intriguing and mysterious! There’s a mix of sci-fi, dystopia, and mystery! The page-turning plot, dynamic cast of characters, and great artwork all come together in such a unique way! This manga series balances dark and hopeful, while also having intrigue, mystery, and so much more!