Review

Mini Review: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Hi everyone! I just wanted to mention before the review that I read this book as part of Catch up on Classics! I have been meaning to read a Sherlock Holmes book for a while and I thought this was the perfect chance.

a study in scarlet

Title: A Study in Scarlet

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Publishing date:  1887

Genre: Adult, Mystery

Pages: 143

From the moment Dr John Watson takes lodgings in Baker Street with the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, he becomes intimately acquainted with the bloody violence and frightening ingenuity of the criminal mind.

In A Study in Scarlet , Holmes and Watson’s first mystery, the pair are summoned to a south London house where they find a dead man whose contorted face is a twisted mask of horror. The body is unmarked by violence but on the wall a mysterious word has been written in blood. The police are baffled by the crime and its circumstances. But when Sherlock Holmes applies his brilliantly logical mind to the problem he uncovers a tragic tale of love and deadly revenge . . .

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This was my first time reading any of the Sherlock Holmes books and sadly I was disappointed. My main issue with this was that the writing style is so dry and boring, which made this book hard to enjoy.

The beginning of the book was interesting because Watson and Sherlock are introduced and it’s exciting to see the first glimpse of this iconic characters, but that excitement fades away quickly because everything feels slow and boring thanks to the writing style. I was hoping once the story got to the crime solving part things would get better, and while it was a bit more captivating, I felt like I couldn’t even try to solve the mystery behind the murder, because there’s almost no clues, there’s no interrogations, and honestly, there’s barely any information about the crime that was committed.

And then, when it seems like it’s finally time to see Sherlock in action, this book jumps 20 years to the past and starts to talk about Mormons, American pioneers and even the Gold Rush. I’ll admit that this was a bit interesting – even if the writing was still very dry- because I’m not American, so I don’t know a lot of the history that it’s glimpsed in this part of the book.

The ending was ok and things were explained, but what I found weird is that if you have 20 years to plan a crime, you wouldn’t leave so many thing to chance. That didn’t make sense to me and it made me wonder why Sherlock Holmes found the crime so interesting. Anyway, I will give another Sherlok Holmes book a chance, since I think maybe a book with a different case will be more enjoyable for me.

Rating: 3 stars

Have you read any of the Sherlock Holmes books? Which one do you think I should pick up next?

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Review

Book Review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream

Title: In An Absent Dream

Author: Seanan McGuire

Published by: Tor.com

Publishing date: January 8th 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 187

This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

For anyone . . .

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In An Absent Dream has become my favorite book in the Wayward Children series. I found the Goblin Market to be a more fascinating and intricate world than the worlds in other books in the series and I found the whole concept of Fair Value, which is the base of the Market, to be really thought provoking and critical of some of the behaviours and systems we have as a society.

Seanan McGuire takes the writing in this book one step further, it feels even more like a fairytale than the other books and the way in which she tells this cautionary tale is intriguing, because there’s a sort of omnipresent narrator that shows the reader this little glimpses of what’s gonna happen later in the book and that kept me interested and made me want to keep reading until I could found out exactly how thing were gonna play out.

The relationships in this story are very complex and they were of my favorite things about this book.  I loved the friendship between Lundy and Moon and the relationship between Lundy and the Archivist, even if the way those relationships ended kind of dissapointed me. The relationship between Lundy and her father was so interesting and intriguing to me that I wish I got more of it. And lastly, I freaking adored the little bit we saw of the relationship between Lundy and her sister, it was precious.

This book focuses on the moments between adventures, the book mentions that Lundy went questing and defended the Market, but those are not the stories the book is telling. instead, it’s about understanding how the market works and the consequences of not paying fair value. At the beginning, I was a bit disappointed that we were not getting to see Lundy’s adventures, but then I understood that wasn’t neccesary because that wasn’t what the story was about. And also, the events and consequences of those adventures were mentioned enough to answer some of my questions about them while letting the world keep an aura of mystery that was very compelling. I think that’s something Seanan McGuire does very well in all the books in the series, she gives enough information about the world to make it interesting, but there’s things that remain unknown and that way the worlds keep being intriguing.

From the start, you know this book is not gonna have a happy ending, but I didn’t see coming the especific way it ended. I wouldn’t say it was surprising, but I was a bit confused and disappointed in how easily some of the other characters let it happen. I feel like Lundy would have done a lot more to avoid something like that happeneing to the other characters, so I felt a little betrayed in her behalf. But then, I remember that Moon had told Lundy that she would never understanding Fair Value completely, because she wasn’t originally from the Market and I think neither Lundy, as a character, or me, as a reader, completely understood what Fair Value means until the last page of the book. 

Rating: 4,3 stars 

Have you read this book? Are you planning on reading it? Are any fantasy books that you think are similar to this series and that you would recommend?

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

Published by:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publishing date:  March 20th 2018

Genre: YA, Magical-contemporary

Pages: 462

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

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Trigger Warnings: suicide, depression, suicidal thoughts

Representation: Taiwanese-American main character, Puerto Rican/Filipino love interest,  lots of  Taiwanese characters and a character with depression.

The Astonishing Color of After is a beautifully written bookthe writing style is lyrical and poetic. I’ll admit that I usually have trouble connecting to characters and situations when books have that writing style, but that was not the case with this book, I wasn’t even 10% into it and it had already made me tear up. Later in the book, I did feel the writing distracted me a little from the story, but it was still beautiful.

This is a story about grief and mental illness, especifically depression, and it addresses both of these things in such an amazing and heartbreaking way. This talks about the stigma surrounding depression and how it makes it hard to discuss it with family and friends; it also deals with the feelings and thought process of the loved ones of someone with depression; it portraits how hard depression is and how there’s no easy fix, and it also explores in depth what grief can do to someone. Honestly, this book deals with so many important subjects and it does it so well.

The story is told from Leigh’s point of view, which is interesting, because she is an unreliable narrator and it’s impossible to know which of the things she is seeing and hearing are real. Another reason why Leigh is a compelling narrator is the fact that she is an artist and because of that, she has a particular way of seeing the world, which is really well described and it works well with Emily X.R Pan’s writing.

The development of the relationship between Leigh and her father is one of the most intricate and interesting parts of the story. I wish we had seen more of him in the present and not only in the past, because I feel like at the end so many things between the two of them were resolved in the blink of an eye, with one short conversation between them.

I loved Leigh and Axel together, the evolution of their relationship is told through flashbacks and  I completely fell in love with their dynamic and how sweet Axel is. Also, I really liked the fact that this book didn’t shy away from addressing Leigh’s thoughts and desires about her sexuality. It’s a very sex positive book.

The story did lose me a bit at some point when Leigh was in Taiwan, I hoped that the relationship between her and her grandparents was explored more. There are a few meaningful and sweet moments, but overall, her time in Taiwan felt like it was her going to places and wandering around without getting much out of it. And there was a point where the book started to drag a little. Nonetheless, I did enjoyed the fact that this is set in Taiwan and we get amazing descriptions of food, places, traditions and beliefs. I also want to add that, the way Leigh’s feelings of being out of place with her mother’s family were explored was really interesting, and the way this book portraited- both in flashbacks when Leigh was in the United States and in the present when she was Taiwan- the perception and reactions of other people over her being half-asian and half-white was fascinating.

Lastly, the part of the story that is told through magical memories was great. Those memories are basically where all the big reveals take place and it is a cool and unique way for Leigh to discover the truth about her family and it avoids making the book boring.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read this book? Are you planning on reading it? What other contemporaries with magical elements would you recommend?

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Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What if it's us

Title: What If It’s Us

Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Published by:HarperTeen

Publishing date: October 9th 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 437

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

 Goodreads  | Amazon

I took me some time to get into this book and I think it was mainly because of the characters. First we have Arthur, who annoyed me a little at the beginning. He has zero chill, he talks SO MUCH, he’s jealous and immature. But eventually I started to like him more because he’s also smart, kind and earnest. Then we have Ben, he grew on my as a character and by the end I really liked him. He’s an introvert and a writer and a bit of an asshole at times and I could relate.

For the first half of the book, I felt like Ben and Arthur had no chemistry and honestly, I didn’t know why they kept trying to make things work. But then they had some cute moments and I started to like them together more. I will say that they went from no chemestry, awkward moments, jealousy and miscomunicationcute to a couple that seemed to work pretty well together in the blink of an eye, from one chapter to the next. The pacing of the development of the relationship could have been better.

As I was saying the characters and romance in the first part of the book didn’t seem to be working, but then when Ben and Arthur finally find their footing in their relationship, even if it’s abrupt, the book becomes so much more enjoyable. They just became this adorable couple that wanted to spend all their time together being cute and this became the fluffy book that I imagined when I saw the cover.

I need to mention that the parents in this book are amazing, both Ben’s and Arthur’s, they are understanding, caring and involved in their son’s lives. I also really liked Ben’s best friend, Dylan, he was funny and quirky and nice, and I liked the glimpses we got from his relationship with Samantha.

This book handles some sensitive topics very well, it addresses light-skinned latinx and how while they have certain priviliges for it, there’s pain that comes from having your heritage doubted and erased as well. Also, this is a very sex positive, which I feel is something we need more of in YA.

Finally, I’ll just say that I liked the ending, which I know a lot of people may not, but it was one of the most realistic parts of the book. I would give the first part of this books 3 stars and the second part 4 stars, so that’s why the rating is what it is.

 Rating: 3,6 stars 

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Review

Book Review: The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

the Tiger's Daughter

Book: The Tiger’s Daugther

Author: K. Arsenault Rivera

Publisher: Tor Books

Release date: October 3rd 2017

Pages: 526

Genre: Adult Fantasy

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil

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I wasn’t entirely convince of reading this book until I heard the romance in this was between two girls. We definitely don’t get enough f/f romances in fantasy and that made me inmediately excited to read this. The Tiger’s Daughter is a slow, character driven book and I’m glad to say the epic romance lived up to my expectations. With that said, there is still some action in the book, since there are dangerous journeys and fights with demons and wild animals.

The story is told through a letter written by Shefali, one of the main characters, and adressed to Shizuka, the other main character, which was a bit weird because I kept wondering why was she doing that if Shizuka was also there when those things happened. This is addressed in the book, but I wasn’t too convince with the explanation. What made the book’s structure a bit more interesting was the fact that while Shefali tells her version of the past, what it’s happening in the present is told from Shizuka’s perspective and that way little glimpses of her own version of the past are present in the book. This way of telling the story didn’t help with the pacing, but once you get used to it, it’s not that difficult to read and to get into. 

This is a star-crossed, friends to lovers, slow-burn romance and it was perfect. Defenitely my favorite part of the story. Shefali and Shizuka were amazing characters. The book explores Shefali’s character more in depth because she is the one telling the story, so the book shows what she is thinking and feeling while things happen, and also her character development is more evident. Even when the book shows a very limited view of Shisuka, because it’s mainly how Shefali sees her, there’s enough to her character that I was left intrigued to read the next book, which is told mainly in her perspective.

It’s worth mentioning that the author is not scared of having bad things happen to her characters. So there’s a lot of injuries, near death experiences and emotional trauma. Something else that the author does very well is creating side characters that are captivating and easy to root for.Lastly, this has a very good ending,  it absolutely left me intrigued and wanting to read the next book.

* I will add that I found the world very interesting even if a lot of the hystory and mythology was just hinted at and never fully explored. Nonetheless, this is an Asian-inspired fantasy world and, after reading this, I have seen some reviewers mention that the representation wasn’t well done, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Rating: 4 stars 

Have you read this book? Did you like it? Do you have Asian inspired fantasy books to recommend? 

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Mini Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Americna panda

Book: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release date: February 6th 2018

Pages: 311

Genre: YA Contemporary

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels? 

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American Panda is an amazing story about Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl that has to straddle two cultures. Mei is an interesting and relatable main character and I think this book does a very good job of showing her struggle trying to live up to her parents expectations, but also wanting to follow her own dreams and desires.

The focus of this book is definitely Mei’s relationship with her family.  Mei’s parents are so strict that in order to not dissapoint them or make them angry, Mei stops thinking for herself. So, it was amazing to witness her character devolpment as she finds the strenght to make her own decisions in the course of the book. It was also wonderful to see how that change in Mei impacted her mother and how it affected their mother/daughter relationship. I understand that this is not everyones experience, but I still think that this book manages to address in a very insightful way what it means to be a first generation immigrant for some young people.

Another great things about this, it’s the way in which the siblings relationship is handled and how reconnecting with her borther helps Mei realize that she needs to decide what is valuable and important to her, in terms of relationships and dreams.

This book also has a very cute romance that doesn’t take over the story, but it still a nice addition to it. The love interest, a Japanese-American guy,  is really understanding and caring.  Also, there’s a lovely female friendship, that it’s not exactly a central part of the story, but that adds an amazing elemento to it.

Overall, I found American Panda to be insightful and captivating, and I would recommend it if you like contemporaries focused on family dynamics and relationships.

Rating: 4 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

Book: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Release date: 2018

Pages: 525

Genre: YA Fantasy

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

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Children of Blood and Bone is a captivating read. The world and magic system are so well crafted. The descriptions and hystory of this world, as well as the myths surrounding the magic, the Orishas and the Divîners make this story fascinating and unique. This is definitely an action packed book, the characters go in a long and dangerous journey where so many things happen and thanks to that we get to see so much of this world and understand it so much better.

The characters  are so richly constructed and developed and they quickly became my favorite thing about the book. I love the fact that we get a book with a all black cast of characters set in a West African inspired world.

  • Amari is now one of my new favorite characters, she starts like this naive princess but her character development was incredible. She is defenitely the most compelling character in the story to me, she is the voice of reason and that makes her relatable.
  • Zélie is a really complex main character, her anger and her sadness and the way those feelings motivated her actions and decisions make her feel so real.
  • It took me a little time to like Inan, but there’s so many layers to him that made him a really interesting and intriguing character that by the end I couldn’t help but to appreciate him as a character.
  • The one character that could have used a bit more development, even if I still liked him, was Tzain. We don’t get to know much about who he is beyond the fact  that he is his sister’s protector.

I loved the fact that the story focuses on the sibling relationships: Amari & Inan and Zélie & Tzain. Each one of them loves their ssibling, but there’s things that took place in the past that complicate those relationships and add an intricate element to the story. This book is angsty, dramatic and emotional and it basically gave me all the feelings. Zélie and Inan relationship while a bit insta-love-y grows to be deep, complex, and full of longing, betrayal, sadness, anger and love.

An aspect of this book that I found very fascinating was the way in which the characters, especially Zélie and Inan, constantly doubted what was best for their people: should magic come back or not, who should have power, who should have magic, how to make sure magic was misused and how to bring peace to Orisha instead of war. It is refreshing to see characters in a fantasy book that aren’t always sure of what to do and that don’t think they are right all the time. And as a reader, it was interesting to find myself understanding some of the fears of both Zélie and Inan, even if they were in different sides.    

Overall, I think Children of Blood and Bone was definitely worth the hype and if you are a fan of YA Fantasy, I totally recommend you give this one a chance.

Rating: 5 stars

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it? What African inspired fantasy book would you recommend? 

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