Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, rape/sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, slavery.


27774758Official Blurb: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.

~ Sabaa Tahir

I am late to this party, I know. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES has been on my TBR for so long that the book I own still has the above cover. It was bringing me actual shame to pass by it on my shelf, but I was also daunted because my days have been busy lately and it seemed so… large. But I finally decided to tackle it and WOW.

In some previous blog posts, I talked about a few of my automatic five star rules. I said if a book makes me cry it gets an automatic five-star review. I also said if a book makes me want to create it gets an automatic five-star review. Now, I introduce you to rule number three: the book that makes me stay up past my bedtime to binge read. Because despite the fact that An Ember in the Ashes initially daunted me with its size, I read it in one sitting, staying up well past my bedtime to finish it.

Dynamic. That’s the word that kept running through my mind as I raced through this book. It’s dynamic. This book moves. I could barely wait to get to the end of each page, desperate to turn another, to follow these characters, to know more about them. When we talk about a character-driven story, we should certainly talk about An Ember in the Ashes. The two main characters of this book push it forward in a fast-paced whirl of a song. And I loved every single second of it.

What seemed daunting at first didn’t turn out to be in the least. It was a quick read, if only because I became lost in it. It took me to a place where time no longer mattered. A brilliant story crafted by a brilliant writer. My only regret is that it took me so long to jump on this train!

Tell me about a hyped book that lived up to its hype!

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, discussion of systematic rape, child neglect, child murder, physical violence, domestic violence, homophobia.


41c28whhx5L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
Laini Taylor’s first book in this duology, Strange the Dreamer, was a slow starter for me. I had to pick it up and put it back down three times before I tried it on audio. I had heard AMAZING things, and I wanted to give it the chance it deserved. It took me probably between 6-10 hours of listening before I started to REALLY care. But by the end, I was so hooked I could barely click on the download button for MUSE OF NIGHTMARES fast enough.

The slow start made me waiver between 4 and 5 stars for Strange the Dreamer but by the end of it and the beginning of Muse of Nightmares, I was fully committed. I wanted to know everything there was to know about this world Laini had created. I wanted to know more about the gods, about the magic, about the landscape. I wanted to know the backstory of every single morally gray character she created. I wanted so much more Minya. And Laini Taylor did not disappoint.

I loved this book so freaking much, that on the first day I downloaded it on audiobook, I stayed at the gym for TWO HOURS just so I could listen. Then, limping up my apartment steps, I kept it on. I found odd jobs around the house to do so I could continue listening. I finished the 15-hour audiobook faster than any I’ve listened to before: in just two days.

Laini’s characters are complex, deep, interesting. I was rooting for them, ALL of them. Because an interesting thing about these books is that there are no living villains in this world, just people who make bad decisions. That concept is simple and in its simplicity is brilliant and beautiful. I was swept away into her dreamscape, and into Lazlo’s.

Yet by the end, I found myself sated. I don’t want or need a spinoff. A Muse of Nightmares told me everything I wanted to know. This book (the duology really) is buttoned up. It’s as though Laini knew every question I might have and answered it right there on page. As an author, I found that more than impressive. In one word, I found it magical.

This series is magical, and comes highly recommended from me.

Buy Links for STRANGE THE DREAMER:

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Buy Links for A MUSE OF NIGHTMARES:

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What was the last book you read that left you feeling truly satisfied?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Graceling

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, child molestation, incest.


3236307Official Blurb: Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Awards: Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, winner of the SIBA Book Award/YA, Indies Choice Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2008, 2008 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Booklist’s 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2009 Amelia Bloomer List, BCCB 2009 Blue Ribbon List

My Take: 5/5 Stars

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? ~ Kristin Cashore

GRACELING, Kristin Cashore’s 2008 debut novel has been on my to be read list for about three years. Maybe more. Allowing it to linger there for so long turned out to be a mistake. I berated myself almost the entire read for taking so long to actually read this book. I couldn’t put it down.

This book did young adult fantasy right. The main character was strong and well-rounded, someone you could connect with and root for right away. The story was well-crafted and high-paced, a real page turner. The romance (because if you know me, I like my fantasy with a heavy dose of romance) was the best I’ve read since Kaz and Inez (yes, technically this came first but I didn’t get there first). But I think the thing that blew me away the most was how revolutionary this book was for its time.

Graceling debuted in 2008. To some people that might not seem that long ago, but in terms of publishing and where publishing has come in the past decade, it’s AGES ago. Honestly, the feminism in the book smacks of 2019, not 2008. I mean here we have a character who is in her late teens who says, with certainty, that she does not want to get married or have children, and she is never convinced out of it. I swear, the entire book I kept waiting for that moment when she would cede this decision, or hedge. I waited for the collapse I was certain was coming.

When it didn’t? I seriously almost whooped with joy. We made it through an entire book from a decade ago without the main (female) character ever renouncing her desire to not get married and not have children. For teens today, that may not seem revolutionary, but in 2008? It sort of was. Even more so that the love interest was 100% okay with that decision and never once questioned it. I mean… wow.

My only regret is that I loved it so much I finished it in a day. Wait, I take that back, I have two regrets: not reading it sooner, then reading it too fast. Still, if you haven’t read it and are worried you’ll be disappointed because it’s “old,” don’t worry. You’ll love it.

Buy Links:

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<a href="http://Graceling – Kristin Cashore“>iTunes

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Question: What’s the last book you had on your TBR for ages then read it and was like, “Why did this take me so long to get to?” Because honestly, I want it on MY TBR 🙂

❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Poet X

Trigger/Content Warnings: Body shaming, homophobia, sexism, religious zeal.

Author’s Note: I have recently switched my “trigger” warnings to be trigger/content warnings. I say this with particular care now because a lot of these books (I feel) deal with their tough content beautifully. This one is no different. That said, as one with C-PTSD, I understand that sometimes when we’ve been exposed to trauma, it doesn’t matter how well the thing that traumatized us is dealt with; sometimes, we just don’t want to read about it. It can be triggering even if it’s handled in the most appropriate way imaginable. I note this because I do not want anyone to believe my inclusion of some of these issues is a statement on the author’s handling of such issue. It is not. It’s simply there for those who may wish to avoid certain subjects. 


5121FXJUF1L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:  Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“She tells me words give people permission to be their fullest self.” ~ Elizabeth Acevedo

I won’t lie, I am not a poetry person. I have read more poetry than I care to think about. It just wasn’t really my thing. Except for the Pre-Raphaelite Poets. I like them a lot. They talk about love and everyone dies. Anyone who has read my writing knows that’s sort of my brand. But other than that, I’m not someone who is going to pick up a book of poetry. Except I did, in this instance. And I’m really glad I did.

The reason I picked up this book was because it won the National Book Award and also because everyone is raving about it. Additionally, I haven’t read near enough books by Latinx authors and if you follow this blog, you’ll know I’m trying to make an active effort to read more diversely. Anyway, it’s a good thing I did pick up this sharp, smart, emotional not-as-little-as-I-was-expecting book of poetry because it was mind blowing, and it’s now going to give me a reason to introduce you to another one of my automatic 5-star rules.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how if a book makes me cry, it gets an automatic 5-star review from me. I have a few of these rules, and THE POET X, a stunning book of poetry by Elizabeth Acevedo, brings me to another: If the book makes me want to create, it gets an automatic 5-star review.

This book made me want to write. Just the titles of the poems if read by themselves could tell an emotional story. It was clear to me that the author, as well as her main character, were head over heels in love with the written word. The book felt like a winding, twisting experiment in verse. It was a kind of playful, unabashed exploration in writing I haven’t felt since before I went to college, since before a “serious” pursuit of craft. When I put that book down, I sat in silence for a long while. Then I took a shower, and while I showered, all I could think about was how desperate I was to write. How much I wanted to redefine myself, to reconnect with the love I’d once felt. Until then, I hadn’t even realized I’d lost some of my passion. But I had. And this book made me want to get it back, to pursue it with the same reckless abandon I had before. It made me want to fall back in love with the written word, and there is literally nothing more powerful than that.

In a reading slump? Try this book. Writing slump? Give it a read. Haven’t painted or drawn or written a new song in a bit? Pick it up. It is a quick read and well, well worth the effort.

Buy Links:

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<a href="http://The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo“>iTunes

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What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you have a favorite poet? Or era of poets? Hit me up in the comments or on IG @writingwaimee

❤ Always,

Aimee

Book Review: On the Come Up

Trigger/Content Warnings: Gang violence, gun violence, poverty, drug abuse/addiction.

Author’s Note: So I finished listening to this book awhile ago and wrote a post to be scheduled, that apparently disappeared. Or I didn’t save. I’m unsure which but when I went to refer a friend by linking to the post and found it wasn’t there, I realized it was something I must rectify immediately. Sorry for the delay!


35068618Official Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

All these folks I’ve never met became gods over my life. Now I gotta take the power back. ~Angie Thomas

ON THE COME UP, Angie Thomas’s second novel, coming on the heels of her heartbreaking and powerful debut, THE HATE U GIVE, did not disappoint. In fact, if I’m honest, ON THE COME UP was better than THUG in a lot of ways, which is saying a lot.

The book, which I listened to, and which is narrated by the oh-so-talented Bahni Turpin, features an honest main character who is so true it’s almost painful. She’s funny, she’s sassy, she’s smart as can be, and she has a deep, deep heart hidden beneath a steel exterior. She’s a character the reader cannot help but fall in love with almost from page one.

Though The Hate U Give and On the Come Up aren’t related in the sense that they’re a series, they are intrinsically linked. On the Come Up takes place after the closing scene of THUG and does have references to the incidents peppered throughout the book, though you would not need to read The Hate U Give to understand On the Come Up. Yet the most brilliant way in which they are linked, for me, is the order in which they were published. It felt like THUG had to exist first, before On the Come Up could be brought into this world. It felt like Starr made a path for Bri in the world of publishing, and while that hurts to even type, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it throughout the work. As a white person, both books made me question myself and my biases and further examine things I thought I knew but didn’t. But I don’t know if the questions I asked in On the Come Up would have been the same had I not read THUG first. The order in which these books were written is not necessarily something an author should have to think about or concern herself over when writing the books of her heart, but the fact that Thomas did should also not be glossed over. It further highlights her brilliance in capturing a moment and a life and peeling away layers of humanity.

The thing I loved most about On the Come Up, however, is Bri’s voice. Bri is a rapper and she travels throughout the world of the story in a melodic way. Even her insults have a certain song to them. The language of this book tripped and flowed in a way that was deeply pleasing to listen to (and I’m sure read). It was also what made me enjoy this second novel of Thomas’s even more than her first. Good language will almost always win me over, and this language was stellar.

THUG was always going to be a hard act to follow. Everyone knew that. But Thomas, much like Bri, was sure to tell the world and its expectations of failure that she would not be silenced, and thank God for that.

Buy Links:

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For those who have read both, which did you prefer?

❤ Always, Aimee