The Wrath and the Dawn

Hi everyone! Recently I realized that there is one thing that I forgot about summer–how easy it can make it to read more of a book in one day than you usually would in a whole week. And, you know, do barely anything else.

See, I planned to do things when I was reading this book, I swear. Maybe bake a batch of cookies, go for a run, do some more of that summer homework that’s sitting on my desk. Nice, productive things! But then after breakfast I thought, “I’ll just read a little more of The Wrath and the Dawn, maybe a couple chapters. Then I’ll do stuff.” And. Well. Honestly, I’m a little surprised I stopped long enough to make lunch.

This book (written by the wonderful Renée Ahdieh) is absolutely amazing, not to mention one of the best books I’ve read all year. It’s addictive, it draws you in and it makes you exclaim aloud as you’re reading because it is that good. I was totally bowled over, in so many ways. But now I’m just getting ahead of myself.

The Wrath and the Dawn tells the story of Shahrzad al-Khayzuran, the newest bride of Khalid al-Rashid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan. A boy-king known across the kingdom as a murderous madman who takes a new bride every night only to have her hanged by a silk cord at dawn. But Shahrzad does not intend to meet that same fate–she intends to exact revenge on her new husband, in retribution for the loss of her best friend, Shiva. And she refuses to fail.

Shahrzad keeps herself alive night by night, enchanting the boy-king with tails of sailors and thieves and men with blue beards, not to mention her own razor-sharp wit. But as her time in the palace lengthens, Shahrzad becomes aware of two things: That the story of Khalid and his crimes is much more complicated than she ever imagined, and that she may or may not be falling in love with her captor. Which presents a serious problem.

One of the things I absolutely adored about The Wrath and the Dawn was Shahrzad herself. Shahrzad is the star of this book, running through almost every chapter with her fierce intelligence and determination not to lose the game she and Khalid are playing. She’s brave and daring, but still human and flawed, and always ready with some biting remark, whether it be for Khalid, the Captain of the Guard, or anyone else. (Seriously, I could not get enough of her wit.) I wish I had half the guts she does, but more than that, I wish the book had gone on for at least several more chapters just so I could read more about her. Shahrzad is amazing.

And oh, Khalid. Khalid is quite possibly the most cryptic, complicated character in the whole book, but he’s also one of my favorites. He’s cold, and often distant, constantly hiding his emotions behind a blank mask, and with a quick temper to boot. But I loved watching him grow closer to Shahrzad, as well as getting to learn more about him as the story went on. He’s tortured, and more than a little terrifying, but he’s also one of the things that makes this book so incredibly hard to put down.

But Shahrzad and Khalid are by no means the only characters I fell in love with while reading. I couldn’t get enough of those around them, especially Jalal and Despina (the Captain of the Guard and Shahrzad’s handmaiden). Jalal is playful and flirtatious (not to mention endlessly clever and cocky), but also caring and so, so much fun to read about. And Despina, I absolutely loved Despina. She may be Shahrzad’s handmaiden, but she’s also not inclined to put up with anything she doesn’t want to, and is most likely the only person in the history of Khorasan to refer to the queen as the “Brat Calipha.” Despina and Shahrzad have one of the best book friendships I have ever read about, and I could watch them banter and interact forever. My love for their friendship reaches astronomical levels.

While I adored the characters in this book, the plot also reeled me in and kept me there until the very last page, hence my almost forgetting to eat lunch. Shahrzad’s world is full of danger and suspicion, as well as the very real possibility that every dawn could bring her death. But it is also full of mystery, and I couldn’t wait to find out what was really going on. It’s suspenseful and secretive, and I was on the edge of my seat almost the whole time, dying to know what would happen next but also dreading the moment when it would be over.

But one of the things that most stands out for me regarding this book is the romance. I absolutely fell in love with the chemistry between Shahrzad and Khalid, and I shipped it so much by the end of the book that I’m pretty sure there was a tiny Nora in my head flailing because THIS SHIP. It’s dark and complicated and messy but I loved being able to watch these two characters falling in love, learning to respect each other and their ideas. They’re both such strong characters on their own, and seeing them together made my reader heart do a little tap dance of shippery. It’s one of the main reasons this book left me feeling like I had the biggest book hangover ever after I was done.

But I also loved reading about the world of the book, as well as the characters, from the palace of Khorasan to the streets of Shahrzad’s city. Ahdieh gives us a world that is rich and sumptuous, painting it with a wealth of beautiful details without ever dumping too much information at once. The descriptions are wonderful, from the clothes to the food, and I felt like I could really see the palace and the world around it. It makes me remember why I love fantasies, and I want to find a way to teleport to Khorasan as soon as possible, if only to see it in person.

The book also drew me in with the absolutely gorgeous writing. Ahdieh writes with such talent and wit that I wanted the pages to go on forever, if only so I could see more. She paints Shahrzad and Khalid’s world in a way that makes it so incredibly hard to put the book down, and the dialogue both made me laugh and catch my breath. The writing is awesome, and I can’t wait (cantwaitcantwaitcantwait) to see more of it.

When I say that I loved The Wrath and the Dawn, I mean I loved The Wrath and the Dawn. It’s dark and sumptuous and imaginative, and it’s one of those books that I wanted to go on forever because it was just so good. It utterly absorbed me, and it made me feel so much, from breaking my heart to wanting to jump around with excitement because this book guys, this book! From the plot to the characters to the writing itself, I fell completely in love with it, and I’m going to be counting down the days until I can get my hands on the sequel. It’s really, really good.

Hope you’re all enjoying your summers!

–Nora

Bookish Quote of the Day: “For nothing, not the sun, not the rain, not even the brightest star in the darkest sky, could compare to the wonder of you.” —The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

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The Distance Between Us

Hello again! Today’s book is The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, which is an adorable and clever contemporary romance that I gobbled up in less than a day. With good reason.

At the center of this book’s story is Caymen Meyers, a seventeen-year-old fountain of sarcasm who spends most of her time either in school or helping out in her mother’s porcelain doll shop. Caymen can’t say doll-selling is a passion of hers, but when times are tough and she and her mother are behind on their bills, she’s trying to help out as much as she can.

Enter Xander Spence, who, as Caymen observes, is rich and reeks of it. Caymen’s believed practically all her life that the rich can’t be trusted, and she doesn’t see why Xander should be any different. But just when it looks like Caymen’s changing her mind, it turns out she has even more to deal with then she thought.

I love Caymen to pieces. When I say she’s a fountain of sarcasm, I mean it. Her first-person narration is so much fun to read, and her dry, hilarious sense of humor never gets old. But she’s also smart and kind and flawed, and all in all an awesome character to read about, as is Xander.

Xander and Caymen complement each other so well, bantering and poking fun at each other constantly. They’re adorable and perfect, and Xander’s also a great character all on his own. He’s funny, human, and yes, occasionally clueless, but always entertaining on the page. It was so enjoyable to watch as he and Caymen played off one another and found common ground, despite their very different situations. I cared so much that I physically/audibly reacted at several points while reading. These two got me in the feelings.

All of the characters are just as well-realized and wonderfully written. Caymen’s best friend Skye is delightful and sweet. Like Caymen, I was somewhat suspicious of Skye’s boyfriend Henry, but he grew on me as the book moved on. The characters are one place where this book really shines, just like that oh-so-bright-and-summery cover.

The plot and setting are both great, as well. I was completely taken into Caymen and Xander’s worlds of dolls and benefit parties, and the plot took me by surprise several times.

Overall, The Distance Between Us is a sweet and smart contemporary that was so, so much fun to read. I look forward to reading more of Kasie West’s books, but oh, do I fear for my productivity.

Hope you all are having a great day, and happy Sunday!

P.S. I do have one burning question: Did anyone else look at that cover and go “Where the heck is her other leg?” Or was that just me? IT LOOKS LIKE SHE HAS ONE LEG OKAY.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “I know he’s asking for my name, but I don’t want to give it. The first thing I learned about the rich is that they find the common folk a distraction but would never, ever want anything real. And that’s fine with me. The rich are another species that I observe only from a safe distance. I don’t interact with them.” —The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Two Boys Kissing

Hello again! If this book looks familiar, that’s because I’ve already gushed about it here. But that wasn’t enough. It deserves more.

(Unfortunately, this post has actually been languishing in my Drafts for months. Which is horrible, considering how much I absolutely love the book. I am ashamed.)

Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan, revolves around several characters. Harry and Craig are trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss–32 hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds. (WHOA.) Peter and Neil are dating, whiling away companionable hours in bookstores and on the sofa, watching movies. For Cooper, such hours don’t seem to be in reach. In fact, they’re practically in a parallel universe. Instead, Cooper spends his time online and on apps, flirting with strangers and hoping he feels something, for once. Avery and Ryan meet at a gay prom, and that’s the start of something (they hope). Tariq is friends with Harry and Craig, and he’s trying to help them, whilst trying to survive himself.

All of these characters are trying to navigate love, the times, and life itself. They’re trying to be themselves and to have others be okay with that. They’re trying to live, and this book is a snapshot of what that’s like for them right now. Harry and Craig kissing, Cooper being glued to his phone. . .their individual lives and how they interact are the focus of the story. And, honestly? The result is fantastic.

Each of these characters is unique and well-drawn. They’re special, each standing out in his own way. They all are deep and real, and their stories are compelling and captivating, showing pain and love and hate. There’s brutality and feelings and music and books and GAH. I cared about them so much. (Not to mention the fact that I completely agree with Peter and Neil’s idea of fun. Browsing the Young Adult sections of bookstores? Yes, please.)

But the narration of this story adds so much, too. The way it’s done–in the voices of a former gay generation, who fought prejudice and injustice and many of whom lost their lives to AIDS–contributes a whole new dimension to the various plots, as well as insights, so many insights. (I was tearing up as I typed this. No, really.) It’s painful and honest, and the writing is so amazingly beautiful in and of itself that I wanted to cry because it was so great. The way the experiences of the characters are described is perfect. Levithan’s writing is gorgeous and I don’t even know how to fully describe it. I can’t do it justice.

IT’S THAT GOOD.

The characters’ lives and their stories are revealed masterfully, complete with revelations and feelings and yes yes yes yes it was amazing. It’s funny, serious, and so important. Really. I don’t even know how to fully articulate my feelings for this book, because they are the kind of feelings you don’t know how to write about. This is the kind of book that you just want to share. You want to shout its name from the rooftops, and you want to buy a million and one copies just so you can push it into every pair of hands you see.

David Levithan, I will literally kneel down and worship the ground on which you stand. Everything was just amazing. Get the book. You should get the book. GET THE BOOK.

NOW, PLEASE.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt abut how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.” —Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

P.S. If you need more convincing, there are more amazing (spoiler-free) quotes to be found here. BUT FORGET MORE CONVINCING. JUST GET THE BOOK ALREADY.

P.P.S. On a completely unrelated note, I now have a Tumblr. Yes, ’tis true! I won’t be posting full blog posts there, but I’ll be reblogging book-related things, fandom stuff, etc. Please note: Since I’m reblogging stuff that I didn’t write, there may be the occasional curse word. Have a great weekend, everybody!

Legend

Hi everyone! Today’s post is about Legend, the debut novel written by Marie Lu. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

June Iparis and famed-criminal Day have very different lives. While June comes from a posh apartment in one of the country’s richer sectors, training to join the military, Day hides out, tripping up the government wherever he can. They both live in the Republic of America, which is currently fighting a fierce war with the Colonies, their neighbor. June, a “prodigy,” is incredibly loyal to her country, “glorious” Elector Primo and all. Day, on the other hand, is a fugitive, watching his face be broadcast across the JumboTrons of Los Angeles.

Yes, very different lives indeed.

June has always been interested in Day’s story. But she’s not only interested when her older brother turns up dead in an alleyway one night with a knife in his chest–she’s vengeful. And she’s not going to let Day get away with it.

This book was a pretty solid read. The characters were well-done, and it is very possible to get sucked in if you aren’t too careful. (And while I wanted to throw something at June sometimes, that didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the story at all.) The plot was pretty good, also, and definitely creative.

One thing I did notice was that the romance in the book seemed to develop rather quickly at times, to the point where it was a bit unrealistic. I also wasn’t as interested during the latter half of the story, I found, but out of the whole, there were numerous parts that I really loved.

Overall, Legend is creative and enjoyable, and if you’re a fan of dystopians (and maybe even if you’re not) you might want to give it a try. Have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “You try to walk in the light.” –Legend, by Marie Lu

P.S. If you enjoy Legend, there’s a sequel!

P.S.S. WHOA LOOK IT’S A NEW HEADER! WHOA LOOK IT’S A NEW BACKGROUND! 🙂

Stolen

Hi everybody! So, today’s post focuses on the book Stolen, written by Lucy Christopher. Which I had been planning on reading for forever, and I finally did it! Yay me!

16-year-old Gemma needs a break. She’s stuck in an airport in Bangkok, she needs some space from her parents, and she needs a cup of coffee. So, seeking to remedy two of these problems, she heads for the nearest coffee-shop while her parents wait for her to return. Here’s the thing:

She doesn’t.

Instead, she’s swept away to the Australian desert with Ty, a strange man who insists he was “saving her.” A man with see-through blue eyes and a way with the land. Terrified and confused, Gemma must learn how to survive in this strange new world, where it is only her and Ty, and there is no one around to rescue her. But, gradually, the baffling question arises: Does she really want to be?

This actually might be the only book I have ever read that is written in the second person, and it definitely works. Gemma addresses Ty as she tells us her story, and it’s really a unique and interesting book to read. The characters are well-written and captivating, not to mention the plot, which is really original. The writing is great. Gemma’s voice is unique and definitely enjoyable to read, and the point of view offers an interesting perspective. (My god, the ending. The ending. . .and the climax might have had me freaking out a little bit. Or more.)

All in all, Stolen is a book I would definitely recommend, and I highly suggest you go take a look. Everyone have a great day! (And I’m sorry this is a little bit shorter than usual!)

Literary Quote of the Day: “You saw me before I saw you.” –Stolen, by Lucy Christopher

P.S. Have a look at the amazing book trailer, which will probably convince you to read this more than I ever will! 🙂

P.P.S. Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

Hi everyone! I have decided to stop being a lazy do-nothing for the day and post something. Yay for productivity!

The book of the day is Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, written by Elizabeth Kiem. Teenage Marina, the main character, has it pretty good. Her mother is the famous and talented Svetlana Dukovskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet’s most prized dancer. Marina herself is a student at the Bolshoi. Her family’s life in Moscow is comfortable and secure. But let’s be honest here–it’s sure not going to be secure for long.

Marina’s mother is not only a very special dancer, she’s also very special in another way–she has visions of the past. And when one of those visions involves an awful government cover-up, well, things get kind of complicated. Especially when Marina’s mother shows she has no intentions of keeping quiet about it.

After Svetlana suddenly vanishes, Marina and her father find a way to escape to Brooklyn, New York. It’s safer, but it’s definitely not easy. As they both try to adjust to their new lives, while attempting to find a way of saving Svetlana, the two find themselves becoming more and more entangled in the shady business they just wanted to get away from. Preferably alive.

Some of the things I really liked about this book were the little touches. The music Marina listened to, the neighborhood she frequented in New York…those were the bits of the story I really, really enjoyed. Sometimes I cared more about those than the plot itself. The setting, the atmosphere–these special little bits really added something lovely to the story.

The plot was good, if a bit confusing at times, because I didn’t quite understand what Marina was talking about. The characters were well-written and unique, so that was an obvious plus.

The writing was really nice. Marina, who is narrating the story, has a good voice, and I especially like the way she describes things. When she is talking about her dance shoes, she describes them as feeling “hard like rock music, pliant like drum skin.”

But in hindsight, the book was definitely fast-paced. So fast-paced, really, that sometimes I just didn’t really care very much about what was going on. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but I found that I wasn’t really very invested in what was happening. It was like whoosh, oh, that bit’s over now. Which is unfortunate, because I did like the book, and I did like the characters, and I feel that more could have been done with them, that more could have been added to the book overall. If the world Marina lived in had been expanded upon, I think I would have enjoyed reading about it to a greater extent. Or maybe that’s just me being greedy.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy it. The book was good. Not a huge page-turner, admittedly. But good!

Literary Quote of the Day: “I would like to appear at the party precisely as I see myself in the unlit theater of my windowpane. Silent, graceful, but ultimately not there.” –Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, by Elizabeth Kiem

P.S. I don’t know if I really made this clear in the review itself, but this is definitely a young adult or teen read. There’s violence, serious stuff…just so you know. Everyone have a great weekend!

Venom

Okay, me continuously apologizing for insanely late posts is probably getting old by now, so I’m just going to jump right in for once. . .

Today’s post is on the book Venom, written by debut Young Adult author Fiona Paul. Cassandra Caravello lives near Renaissance-era Venice, on San Domenico Island, with her elderly Aunt Agnese and a number of servants. And boy, is she restless.

The rest of Cass’s life seems to consist mostly of an engagement and marriage to Luca da Peraga, a young man studying in France whom she hasn’t seen in years. The future looks bland and frightening indeed, and Cass honestly isn’t really looking forward to it. At the moment, she doesn’t really feel like she HAS much of a life, period. Until, that is, she discovers the body of a strangled girl in the graveyard near her home. Then things change. Just a bit.

Suddenly, Cass is on the trail of a crazed murderer, along with Falco, a young artist who Cass feels more and more attracted to, despite the fact that he’s obviously keeping secrets of his own. And when you catch a boy sneaking around graves late at night, can you really trust him?

One thing’s for sure: This story is bursting with detail. It throws you into the world of Venice, complete with masquerade balls, politicians, gossiping nobles, and murky canal waters. It’s original, and the plot is often gripping. The characters are pretty unique, and while I was sometimes annoyed by them (including Cass), overall they were entertaining and well-written. Cass’s character may not be as original as some of the others, but for me it doesn’t really hurt the story as a whole. Even if the writing itself is occasionally less than great, most of it was definitely good and enjoyable.

All in all, Venom is a pretty good read, and I would definitely recommend it to Young Adult and mystery lovers. So, what about that sequel? 🙂 Everyone have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “. . .evil flows silently among us like venom. We are at its mercy.” –The priest in Venom, by Fiona Paul