We Were All Someone Else Yesterday – review + quotes

Author: Omar Holmon
Publication date: May 12, 2020
Genre: poetry
My rating: 4/5 stars

In his quick, lively debut collection, poet Omar Holmon delivers a rollercoaster of emotions chronicling everything from the death of a parent to racism to love to the pride in being a nerd. This is a book that will make you laugh, but will also make you think, often in the same poem. It may not be hugely advertised, but this is a solid addition to Button Poetry’s catalog, as well as an excellent testament to the experiences of a Black nerd trying to navigate family and this complicated world we live in.

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Audiobook review blitz – MG edition! (feat. The One and Only Ivan, Other Words for Home, & Ghost Squad)

As I mentioned before, I’ve been digging into a lot of middle-grade books this month, including quite a few on audiobook. You know the drill: mini-reviews are all coming up next. This time, we have a contemporary told from the point of view of a gorilla who lives in a mall (currently one of my favorite books of the year), a touching novel-in-verse about a girl who immigrates to the US from Syria, and a cute-and-spooky book that is loosely part Coco and part Ghostbusters.

Up first: the book that OH MY GOD I WAS NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR.

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Aru Shah and the End of Time – review

Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Pandava Quartet, #1
Publication date: March 27, 2018
Genre: middle grade, fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars

This was a cute and enjoyable read, for sure, with a delightful voice, a feisty and salty protagonist who was a little too relatable, and so much mythological fun. Obviously the #OwnVoices take on Indian mythology was a strong point in its favor. Seriously, props to Rick Riordan for helping support authors from other cultures in getting their mythologies into stories to be published and loved as much as his own Percy Jackson was. He could have written those books himself, but instead he decided to step away and let #OwnVoices authors take the spotlight. But I digress–let’s start with the publisher’s blurb!

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Audiobook review blitz – Invisible Women, This Is How You Lose the Time War, & When Dimple Met Rishi

Being off from work for the holidays has set me behind a little on my audiobook listening, but I’ve finally gotten through another round of three, and you know what that means: more mini-reviews! This time, we have a nonfiction, feminist, data-driven book; a queer sci-fi romance; and an #OwnVoices YA contemporary/rom-com about two Indian-American teens at a summer coding program. Let’s get started!

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Our Wayward Fate – review

Author: Gloria Chao
Publication date:
Genre: young adult, contemporary
My rating: 2/5 stars

Such a pretty cover. Such a disappointing book 😭😭😭

What do you get when you cross an OwnVoices story with odd mythological tie-ins, a cheesy romance, and parental conspiracies? Hint: it’s this book, and it isn’t very good. At first glance, Our Wayward Fate looked perfect for me (Chinese-American story, discussions of racism, quirky protagonist who likes puns, etc), but like a poorly-planned recipe, the ingredients became stale very quickly and did not blend well, resulting in a forgettable trifle of a read.

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Top Ten Tuesday 11/19 – All I know is these times are changing

You know the drill: TTT is a weekly themed post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is “Changes In My Reading Life (Maybe you like different genres or topics, maybe you read faster than you used to, maybe you only like standalones now).” At first I thought this would be difficult, but once I started writing, I realized there have actually been a lot of changes for me, both recently and from childhood to now. I tried to link in a few more of my past reviews and posts for this, so…take a look at them, maybe? 😊

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Audiobook review blitz – Daisy Jones and the Six, Between the World and Me, & Soul of the Sword

It’s that time again–I’ve read three more audiobooks, so you get three more super-quick reviews of what’s been in my ears lately! On today’s list: a popular release from earlier this year, a nonfiction essay, and a YA fantasy sequel.

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Audiobook review blitz – Patron Saints of Nothing, Furiously Happy, & Tarnished Are the Stars

Time for another set of mini-reviews for my most recent audiobook listens! I’ve decided I really like this format for audiobook reviews–it is way easier to write and doesn’t require me to flip back through the story as much. Hopefully you like it, too! Today, we have a nice mix of titles, I think, so let’s get started.

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Audiobook review blitz – Shadow of the Fox, The Alchemist, & Nevernight

I have a confession to make: I’m REALLY bad at reviewing most audiobooks. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy them, or that I don’t have opinions on them, or even that I don’t think as deeply about them. I love them, and lately I’ve been listening to a lot of them since my commute includes a minimum of 45ish minutes walking every day (20-25 each way from the train to the office).

But reviewing them is so hard! I can’t flag quotes that I like. I have no reference on how to spell most characters’ names or foreign words or fantastical components of the world. It’s hard to go back and double-check details I want to clarify before I write a full review.

What’s a girl to do??

I have a possible solution: a blitz of mini-reviews. Minimal details required, but still conveying my opinions on important points. Will it work? Let’s find out with a test run. Here are a few of my recent audiobooks:

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We Hunt the Flame – review

What can I say about We Hunt the Flame? I didn’t hate this book, but I do feel like it majorly let me down. I was so excited for an OwnVoices novel from a background that is rarely represented in mainstream fiction, with tropes I love, like a girl disguised as a boy, or a tortured soul who wants to do better. Unfortunately, Hafsah Faizal’s combination of them was not as riveting as it could have been—honestly, it wasn’t awful, but it was pretty forgettable.

Plot summary for those who haven’t heard about it yet: Zafira lives in a poor town in the caliphate of Demenhue. To get food for her people, she regularly goes hunting in the Arz, an evil forest that nobody else can manage to go into and come out alive. And because misogyny runs rampant in her caliphate, she does this disguised as a boy, known to others only as the Hunter.

Nasir, the son of the sultan, lives a life filled with darkness, acting against his will as his father’s personal assassin, taking out political enemies across the kingdom.

When a mysterious woman known only as the Silver Witch recruits Zafira to go on a quest to the haunted island Sharr, to retrieve a book said to contain the secrets to restoring magic to the kingdom, Nasir is tasked with following her and then killing her once she retrieves the book successfully. Of course, this is easier said than done; Zafira and Nasir have an undeniable connection, and as they travel across Sharr, secrets begin to emerge that challenge the entire purpose of their quest.

Now, there were several things I did genuinely enjoy about this book. Zafira was, in a lot of ways, the type of heroine I like to root for. She struggles to make her way in a man’s world, never questioning her capability, but always questioning whether she can afford to be honest about her identity. She’s tough and majorly emotionally closed-off as a result of childhood trauma, but she genuinely tries to do well by those who have her loyalty. And Nasir…oh boy, do I love Nasir. He’s the sort of emotionally damaged bad boy that I love to read about. Seeing him grapple with emotions, including his feelings for Zafira and his qualms about carrying out his father’s will, was the sort of content I live for. Just look at this moment where he talks about Zafira:

“He remembered…the way she met his eyes as no one but Altair did, dismantling him as no one did. Fearlessly. Effortlessly. As if, perhaps, beneath every death and monstrous act he had committed, he was only flesh and bone—a human, nothing more. He hadn’t been seen as a human in years.”

How can you not love that??

And honestly, my favorite part of the book was Altair. The sultan’s general, and Nasir’s companion on the quest, a sarcastic little shit who is gorgeous and knows it, who can’t shoot straight but can fight like nobody’s business, and who would never admit he cares about someone but nevertheless stands by Nasir. He’s glib and charming and provides some of the only actual humor in the story, and I sincerely hope there’s more of him in the sequel (assuming I actually read the sequel, that is).

Unfortunately…there’s also a lot I didn’t like, most of which has to do with the fact that this book was just BORING. There was no sense of urgency to anything in the plot, so it didn’t feel very exciting, but also wasn’t the sort of lush description that I could actually lose myself in. The action meandered randomly, and they spent SO MUCH TIME just walking around, ostensibly searching for the book, but somehow not getting any closer to it, even though Zafira is supposed to know exactly how to find it. At the end, when some important revelations were made, it felt like everyone figured everything out all at once, in a way that was way too cheesy to feel legit. The monsters that the team had to fight were interesting the first time but became redundant each subsequent time they showed up. Zafira’s anxieties made her a convincing character, sure, but they were brought up frequently in highly redundant terms that made them way less important-feeling. The romance between Zafira and Nasir was a slow burn that just suddenly resulted in them making out at a very important moment when they don’t have time to do so. The setting could have been so richly developed, but it felt like a paper backdrop to the story, without any real depth. So many promising elements that just fell flat in the execution.

And don’t even get me started on the side characters. Beyond Zafira, Nasir, and Altair, all the characters in the book felt incredibly flat and poorly developed. Really, they only existed to fulfill a specific function: this one to be the bad guy, this one to make a sacrifice (which didn’t even feel sad because I wasn’t attached to said character at all), and so on. They felt less like real people and more like awkward props to ensure that the main characters didn’t just exist in a vacuum. I wanted to care about them, but seriously, I just couldn’t.

In short, We Hunt the Flame is a mediocre book that I probably wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading, but also probably wouldn’t recommend. When a book of this length, which would normally take me a few days (maybe 5ish), instead takes upwards of a week, that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s not the most riveting material. Give it a shot if you want, especially if you’re into books from diverse backgrounds, or if you like characters who are pretty dang dark, but…I’m going to give it a pass. Jury is still out on whether I’ll read the sequel whenever it comes out.

Final rating: 3 stars, but definitely on the low side of that rating.