Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Reading Quest: August 13 - September 10

Apparently, there are several million reading challenges that I'm not aware of. My reaction upon learning about #The Reading Quest:

The quest spans from Sunday, August 13 to Sunday, September 10. Sign-up closes on August 13, so go sign up right now if you haven't already!

Pick a character (Bard, Rogue, Mage, or Knight) and then start filling in the bingo board on that character's path. As you read, you'll earn points and level up, just like in a video game. I will be trying to fill the whole, board, but I'll start on the Bard's path.

Find the sign-up post and full information at Read at Midnight. All the artwork for The Reading Quest was created by CW of Read, Think, Ponder. Not only does she do book reviews, but she creates wonderful bookish art. Go check it out!

Here is my preliminary TBR. I'm waiting for a reading buddy so I can finalize.

I created my character card with an easy-to-follow tutorial by Glaiza at paperwanderer.
I went through my TBR again to add a few more diverse authors. Here's the revised TBR:

MOVIE/TV ADAPTATION: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (+10EXP, +37HP)
FAIRY TALE RETELLING: Belle by Cameron Dokey (Read but not counting for points) Ash by Malinda Lo (+20EXP, +26HP)
STRIKING TOPOGRAHY: Tranny by Laura Jane Grace (+20EXP, +30HP)
TRANSLATED FROM ANOTHER LANGUAGE: The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel (+20EXP, +26HP)
BANNED BOOK: Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (+20EXP, +35HP)

BANNED BOOK: Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (+20EXP, +35HP)
PARTIALLY OBSCURED FACE: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (+20EXP, +45HP)
Less than 500 GOODREADS RATINGS: Estrella's Quinceañera by Malín Alegría (+20EXP, +26HP)
SMALL PRESS: From Somalia, With Love by Na'ima B. Robert (+20 EXP, +16HP)
ONE WORD TITLE: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (+20EXP, +12HP)

ONE WORD TITLE: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (+20EXP, +12HP)
CONTAINS MAGIC: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino (+20EXP, +25HP)
BASED ON MYTHOLOGY: Quiver by Stephanie Spinner (Read but not counting for points) The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (+20EXP, +31HP)
SET IN A DIFFERENT WORLD: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (+10EXP, +59HP)
FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES: Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (+10EXP, +19HP)

FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES: Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (+10EXP, +19HP)
VERB IN THE TITLE: Before I Die by Jenny Downham (+10EXP, +33HP) To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (+20 EXP, +37HP)
WEAPON ON THE COVER: An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg (+10EXP, +26HP) The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (+20EXP, +42HP)
RED COVER: Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang (+20EXP, +28HP)
MOVIE/TV ADAPTATION: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (+10EXP, +37HP)

Side Quests:
POTIONS (2+ authors): A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd (+10EXP, +21HP)
MULTIPLAYER (buddy read): The Midnight Star by Marie Lu (+20EXP, +32HP)
GRIND (500+ pages): Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (+10EXP, +62HP)
TIME WARP (past/future setting): When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (+20EXP, +20HP)
OPEN WORLD (free pick): 
RESPAWN (previously DNF): Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (+20EXP, +26HP)
EXPANSION (companion book): The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (+10EXP, +11HP)
MINI-GAME: (novella): Hiroshima by Laurence Yep (+20EXP, +5HP)
ANIMAL COMPANION (animal in title): A Sending of Dragons by Jane Yolen (+10EXP, 29HP) 


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
Judging from the cover art, I thought this was going to be a fluffy romance. While there is some romance, Moyes takes on some heavy topics here. 

Louisa has worked at the same safe job and been with the same safe boyfriend for years. At 26, she still lives at home with her parents. They struggle financially and Louisa helps out as much as she can. After being let go when her boss decides to close his cafe, she gets a few awful jobs through the local job center. When none of these work out, she is hired as a companion for Will, who lost all interest in living after an accident made him a quadriplegic.

At first, I didn't like Lou all that much. She exhibits almost no curiosity about the larger world and has no aspirations beyond a steady paycheck. When Will challenges her (and she challenges him right back) she starts to become a more interesting character. They are both damaged, although some scars are more visible than others.

When Lou finds out that Will plans to seek out an assisted suicide, she sets out to show him that his life is not over and that he can still have a future. Along the way, she faces a few of her own demons and finds herself more invested in Will's happiness than she ever could have imagined.

Have plenty of Kleenex handy.


Belle by Cameron Dokey

An interesting retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which Belle is a gifted wood carver. 

During a storm, Belle's father gets lost in the woods and stumbles into the Beast's home. All is fine until he picks up a branch from the mysterious Heartwood Tree. When the Beast gets angry that the tree would choose to bestow a gift (but not to him), Belle's father tells the Beast about her gift with seeing things in wood. The Beast insists that either Belle or her father remain with him until they can find out what the branch holds inside. 

Belle and the Beast don't even meet until about the last third of the book, so the development of their relationship is brushed over pretty quickly. I still enjoyed this version, especially the legend of the Heartwood Tree.

(After I read this one, I found another pick by a marginalized author, so this one is not included in my stats.)


Ash by Malinda Lo

A gorgeous retelling of Cinderella. Lush, evocative descriptions bring Ash's story to life in vivid detail. 

Magic has faded from the world, but thanks to the stories her mother told her, Ash still believes. The stories within the main story are wonderful and, for me, illustrate the ways in which we create meaning in our own lives, especially from the stories we read (or have read to us) as children. 

After her mother's death, Ash, overcome with grief, first meets Sidhean. When her father remarries and soon dies, Ash is forced to work as a servant for her unkind stepmother and stepsisters. She dreams more and more often about escaping to Sidhean and the fairies, but as her friendship with Kaisa, the King's Huntress, begins to blossom into love, she wonders if another life is possible. 

As is common in fairytales, the characters and their relationships aren't all that dynamic. I wanted to see more of both Sidhean and Kaisa, as well as how each of their relationships with Ash evolve and help her make her choice. I like that Prince Charming is kind of a side note to the story. Nice touch. And I absolutely loved both the writing and the worldbuilding. 

[SIDE QUEST] POTIONS ( A book concocted by 2+ authors) I also buddy read this with @raisinetta so she could use it for the [SIDE QUEST] MULTIPLAYER.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

This is the sort of book that is so sad and beautiful that it rips your heart right out. After you dry your ugly-cry tears, you hand it to everyone you love and say, "Read this! It's SOOOOOO good." Those words aren't enough, but they are all you'll have left. 

From the first line to the last, I was entranced. 

"The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do." 

Conor is struggling to deal with his mom's illness. Since she was diagnosed with cancer, he's been having the same nightmare every night. 

And then a different monster comes to call. This monster tells stories, but they are not stories with neat, happy endings. They are messy and complicated and sometimes unfair. And he wants A story from Conor, a true story. 

And that is the worst nightmare Conor can imagine.


Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace 
I picked up this book after seeing an interview with Laura Jane Grace and wanting to hear more of her story. 

Most of the book deals with the band she started as Tom Gabel and the ups and downs of the punk rock scene. Punk fans will certainly find this stuff way more interesting than I did. 

Her coming out as transgender and her transition to living publicly as a woman was compelling to read, raw and real.


The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel, Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden 
"'s not by changing the social order that one's problems are resolved. It's by changing ourselves."

A mix of magical realism, sci-fi, and Buddhist philosophy. 

Azucena has been given a mission to restore balance to the universe and to be reunited with her twin soul, Rodrigo. Her efforts force her, and the people whose lives are intertwined with hers, to understand the lessons that their souls need to learn. 

"An evolving spirit must pass through every imaginable horror before reaching enlightenment, for there is no way of arriving at light except through darkness. A soul is tempered only by suffering and pain. There is no way for human beings to avoid this predicament, nor is it useful to give them lessons in advance. The human soul is basically very stupid and cannot comprehend an experience until it lives it out in the flesh. Likewise, no knowledge ever reaches the brain without first passing through the organs of the senses."

There was a lot to love here, and I think I might like it better on a reread. The plot is convoluted and, at times, the jumps between both perspectives and past/present lives were jarring and confusing. I loved the puzzle of all the ways these souls were put together, again and again, until they learned the lessons they needed to learn.

[SIDE QUEST] MINI-GAME (Graphic novel, novella, or poetry collection): 

Hiroshima by Laurence Yep
Short even for a novella at 50 pages, this story is based on the true events of Hiroshima. 

The United States drops a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and we see the unbelievable destruction through the eyes of a young girl named Sachi. 

Written in simple, spare language, this is a story for elementary school children that shows the human cost of nuclear war without too many gory details.


Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane
An eye-opening memoir about life under apartheid in South Africa. I can't even imagine living in those conditions, let alone finding a way to rise above them. 

Mathabane describes the unbelievable squalor and unrelenting poverty he faced as a child. I especially admired his mother. Even with her own limitations--her lack of education and a patriarchal system that left her little respite from abuse and endless childbearing--she fought to give her children a better life.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
After seeing her friend die in a drive-by shooting when she was only ten years old, Starr's parents decide to transfer her and her brothers to a predominantly white school in the suburbs. Though her family still lives in the neighborhood, Starr has lost touch with most of her old friends. She gets talked into going to a party where she sees Khalil, once her best friend. He ends up driving her home after a fight breaks out at the party and they get stopped by police on the way home, even though they are doing nothing wrong. 

Starr's terror as Khalil is hauled out of the car is palpable. Though he's unarmed, the officer shoots him in the back. Not only does Starr have to watch another friend bleed to death by the side of the road, but she also has to keep her hands up with the gun trained on her. This scene was especially eye-opening for me. As a white woman, I might be annoyed or inconvenienced by being pulled over, but it would never have occurred to me to fear that I wouldn't survive the encounter. That right there is what white privilege looks like. 

As we've seen happen over and over in real life, rumors start being reported about Khalil--he was a drug-dealing thug who just maybe got what he deserved. In the court of public opinion, he is on trial for his own murder. 

Starr wants justice for her friend, but what she says about Khalil could put her entire family in danger. 

The characters in this book are fantastic and their relationships are well-developed. Even though this is a serious topic, there are many light moments, especially between Starr and her parents. She also has a close relationship with her uncle, a police officer, which was a nice touch. 


Estrella's Quinceañera by Malín Alegría
A fairly light, bubbly read about a girl from the barrio struggling with who she wants to be in the world and being pulled in two very different directions. As she tries to be a good girl and please everyone around her, she makes herself miserable. 

Should she go along with her mother's plan for a tacky, over-the-top quinceañera or be the posh party girl that her new friends at the private school she attends on scholarship want her to be? 

Maybe it's predictable, but there are positive messages about the importance of family, community, and being true to yourself. And the Spanish words are integrated nicely, just the right amount of spice.


From Somalia, with Love by Na'ima B. Robert
An interesting peek into the daily life of a Somali Muslim teenager. 

Safia has been raised in England, and lives with her mother and two older brothers. Out of the blue, she finds out that her father, who has been in Somalia, is finally coming to rejoin the family. 

With the arrival of her father, the family dynamics are suddenly upside down. While Safia wants to support her mother's happiness, she feels left out and unsure of her place, especially after her favorite brother clashes with her father and runs away from home. 

Safia's choices lead her to a dangerous situation. This is the part of the story that lost me, as there was some overt victim blaming. The resolution that followed was vaguely satisfying, but just didn't resonate with me. Of course, I'm an atheist, so I bring a lot of skepticism to stories where faith wins out.


Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
"Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words, 
And never stops at all"

          --Emily Dickinson 

Frannie longs to believe that everything is going to be all right, but life hasn't always worked out that way. Her mom is pregnant again and not feeling well. Since she has had miscarriages in the past, the whole family is worried. 

Frannie and Sean (her older brother) are very close and she looks up to him, even as she feels like she has to protect him. He's handsome, funny, and a great cook. And he happens to be deaf. I loved him as a character and also for the fact that his deafness is just one thing about him, not what drives the story. Having him in her life does make Frannie more sensitive about how others are treated when they're different, which is important when a new kid joins her class. 

Everyone at her school is black, but the new kid is white. Because of his long hair and pale skin, the kids  call him Jesus Boy. Frannie's holy roller best friend believes he might really be Jesus. Though Woodson doesn't dig too deep here, Frannie and Samantha have an interesting conversation about doing what is right. I loved that Frannie acts in a more Christian way, even though she's not a believer. Say it louder for the people in the back--it's possible to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing, and not only because an invisible man in the sky is watching. 

[SIDE QUEST] GRIND (500+ pages):

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
Sequel to Impulse

Though there are brief appearances by the main characters from Impulse (Connor, Vanessa, and Tony), this story deals with four new(ish) characters. 

Cara is Connor's twin sister. She's dealing with Connor's suicide attempt and the pressure of being the perfect daughter that her parents expect. Her boyfriend, Sean, wants a future with her that she's not sure she wants. 

Sean is a talented athlete using steroids to make sure he performs at a level that will get him noticed by college scouts. He's dealing with the deaths of his parents, but he's also a shitbag and I wanted a much worse ending for him than he got. 

Kendra, Connor's ex-girlfriend, is an aspiring model with anorexia who feels abandoned by her dad. I was disappointed in this character, as she didn't seem to change much. 

I loved Andre, whose successful parents expect him to follow in their footsteps. He is afraid to tell them that he has been taking dance lessons in secret and that he can't imagine a future for himself without dance. 

I'll skip the spoilers, but don't pick this one up if you're looking for happy endings!


Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
A retelling of Snow White from the Queen's  perspective. 

The Queen begins as a sympathetic character. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by a father who hated her, blaming her for his beloved wife's death. Despite growing up with physical and mental abuse, she grows to be a lovely young woman with a tender heart. The King is smitten by her beauty and they wed shortly after her father's death. 

They are genuinely in love and she is determined to give Snow White all the love she missed during her own childhood. At first, they are a happy family, but the King keeps running off to war and eventually dies. In her grief, the Queen shuts herself away with only the mirror containing her father's captive soul for company. She refuses to love again. There is a combination of psychological and magical factors in her descent into evil. The psychology was more interesting and better explained than the magic. The pacing in the middle could have been handled better, but I loved the twist at the end that left some thought-provoking possibilities. The cover art is absolutely breathtaking and the book itself is of high quality--luxurious paper and a solid binding. I found myself wishing at a few points that the story inside had been crafted with as much love and care as the outside. 

Overall, I enjoyed it, but I'm a sucker for fairytale retellings and reimaginings. Especially at the beginning and end of the book, I was wrapped up in a familiar story that's been twisted just enough to make it interesting. 


Quiver by Stephanie Spinner

When her father abandoned her to die in the woods as an infant, Artemis sent a bear to nurse her. Raised by the hunters who found her, Atalanta runs like the wind and can hit any target with her bow and arrow. 

When she turns sixteen, her father, a cruel king, summons her back to his palace and demands that she wed and produce an heir. Afraid to betray the vow of chastity she made to Artemis, she tells her father that she will only marry the man who can beat her in a race. The losers will be put to death. 

Many suitors try and fail, but when handsome Hippomenes comes to race, Atalanta is no longer sure she wants to win. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling. Atalanta was a strong character and the verbal sparring between Artemis and Apollo made me laugh. Also, that thing with the lions was new to me. I've read several versions of this story and never encountered that twist before.

(After reading this, I decided to read something by a marginalized author for the points, so I am not including this in my stats.)


The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

Fresh and funny af. 

Genie Lo is a sixteen year old overachiever who is hyper focused on getting into a prestigious college and securing a future in which she can leave a life that seems way too small. She's smart, she's funny, and she's angry. She's a perfect match for the new transfer student, Quentin, and the army of demons that shows up in his wake. 

Readers familiar with Chinese mythology will recognize the Monkey King right away, but don't worry if this is new to you. Genie's hilarious explanation will bring you right up to speed. 

I don't think I can adequately put into words how much I loved Genie and the way she was able to channel her anger into getting shit done and saying what was on her mind. While this is just normal for male characters, we don't see it enough in female characters. 

The relationship between Genie and Quentin was nicely developed and their verbal and physical sparring was tons of fun. Though they get the most page time, there are several other interesting characters, especially the ones who come down from Heaven to help/interfere. 

I've been reading a lot of heavy stuff lately and this book was like a breath of fresh air. The narrative is snarky, highly entertaining, and never boring.

[SIDE QUEST] ANIMAL COMPANION (References an animal in the title):

A Sending of Dragons by Jane Yolen

Pit Dragon Chronicles, book 3.

Jakkin and Akki are presumed dead, but thanks to the sacrifice of Heart's Blood, a mother dragon, they can now survive the cold of the wilderness and communicate with dragons by sending mental images. When a helicopter flies over the cave where they are living with Heart's Blood's five hatchlings, they push further on into the wild, desperately seeking safety. 

They discover a cave entrance that leads deep into the bowels of the earth. Once below ground, they lose touch with their dragon companions and stumble across a giant pile of dragon bones. What monster is capable of killing so many dragons? Unfortunately, it's not long before they find out.

[SIDE QUEST] TIME WARP (Set in the past or the future):

When My Name Was Keoko by Barbara Sue Park

The Kim family is proud of its Korean heritage and each member of the family finds small (and sometimes not-so-small) ways to rebel against the Japanese occupiers during the years before WWII. The Japanese attempt to entirely wipe out Korean culture, outlawing all Korean symbols, even going so far as to force all citizens to adopt Japanese names. 

When the Japanese enter the war, things get worse. Food shortages and forced labor become the norm. 

Sun-hee (Keoko) and her older brother, Tae-yul (Nobuo) have their own ideas about how best to resist the loss of their heritage and protect their family. 

Looking at war through the eyes of children seems to highlight the futility and nonsensical nature of trying to solve the world's problems this way. Park's novel takes on a small part of Korea's history that will make many readers curious to learn more.


Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

The exciting sequel picks up several months after the end of Seraphina. Both books are beautifully written and intensely focused on character development and worldbuilding, though Shadow Scale is markedly more plot-driven. 

With Goredd on the verge of civil war, the queen sends Seraphina on a mission to find other ityasaari (half human/half dragon beings), the only hope for defeating the rebel dragons who have broken the treaty. Having spent most of her life in hiding, she can't wait to assemble others like her who can help her save the world and heal her lonely heart. 

The only real threat is Jannoula, a fellow ityasaari with the power to control the minds of others. She also wants to unite the ityasaari, but for a much more sinister purpose. At times, her omnipotence bordered on the unbelievable, but what I loved about her as a character was the moral ambiguity of her motivations. She is actually quite similar to Seraphina, but has been so damaged by trauma and cruelty that she might be beyond help. 

After all the buildup in the first book, the resolution to the romance with Kiggs was disappointing. Though the resolution to this part of the story makes a certain kind of sense, I didn't find it especially satisfying. 

Overall, this was an excellent companion to Seraphina. The world and its characters are rich and vibrant and the music threaded throughout the narrative was an especially nice touch.


Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez

First in a series. 

As the only one in her family without psychic powers, Daisy feels left out, especially with her mother working all the time. When cheerleaders around town start passing out, Daisy suspects that some kind of supernatural creature might be behind these mysterious illnesses. 

And when the head cheerleader suddenly starts dressing all in black, Daisy thinks she might have found the culprit. 

This book missed the mark for me, but I'm sure there are plenty of readers who better fit the target audience who will love it.


Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Eliza has never really given much thought to her sexual identity. Then, on a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she meets Annie, a talented singer from the poor side of town. The zing of attraction hits her right away, although she doesn't acknowledge it for what it is. 

The girls' friendship gradually morphs into love. Garden beautifully captures the sweetness of first love and this is where this story shines and feels timeless. 

The troubles the girls face (especially Eliza, due to the fact that she attends a private religious school) feels a bit dated, as the book was written in 1982. That said, the discrimination that several characters face after being outed by Bible-thumping bigots could still happen today (2017). 

Overall, I enjoyed this and would highly recommend it , especially for LGBTQ teens who want to see themselves in a love story.


Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang

"This is the most frightening lesson of the Cultural Revolution: Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country. This is as true now as it was then."

It was horrifying to read about how quickly people turned on each other during the Cultural Revolution in China. This first-person account by Ji-li Jiang, who was twelve years old at the start of this nightmare, captures the constant terror of knowing that everyone is watching and suspecting your every move, and that friends and neighbors would turn on you in a hot second. 

The use of propaganda by China's leader and the distrust of education resonates in a pretty scary way with the current political climate in the United States. This book left me pondering a famous quote by George Santayana. "Those who cannot remember he past are condemned to repeat it."  Let's remember, then, and not repeat it.
[SIDE QUEST] MULTIPLAYER (Buddy read a book with @cherish010818):

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Young Elites, book three. 

The final installment in the trilogy starts with Adelina ruling her conquered lands through fear and cruelty. The more she uses her powers, the more she is pulled into darkness and the more her illusions strike back at her. 

"I will need to root out these insurgents before they can become a real threat. I will need to make a harsher example of their deaths. I will need to be more ruthless.

This is my life now."

When she gets a message from the Daggers about Violetta's failing health, she rushes to her sister, even though that means going straight into hostile territory. Raffaele proposes an alliance in the hopes of staving off a new threat, one that could bring an end to the entire living world. Adelina doesn't want to admit that Raffaele is right about the way their powers are affecting the Elites, and she still might betray them if she gets the chance, but she reluctantly agrees to the alliance. 

The tentative trust that develops between certain characters along the way is well done and utterly believable. 

Adelina is such a perfect antihero. She causes incredible harm as her ambition and fear make her cling ever tighter to her power and position. However,  we also know how much she's suffered and it's impossible not to root for her to find the love and friendship that always seems just beyond her grasp. (Mainly because she refuses to see what's right in front of her.)

I always love it when I get to the part of the book where the significance of the title is revealed and the way Lu does that here is marvelous.

A thrilling and satisfying end to a dark and twisted trilogy.


To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

The three Song sisters, Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty, are very close. Since the death of their mother, Margot has run the household like clockwork. When she leaves for college in Scotland, Lara Jean suddenly has to take on responsibilities that she doesn't feel ready for. 

On top of that, letters she wrote to boys she had crushes on somehow get mailed and then she is facing attention that she never anticipated. 

Overall, this was a light, enjoyable read. While the romance wasn't particularly compelling, the relationships in Lara Jean's family were more interesting. I've read so many depressing, dysfunctional stories lately, that it was kind of nice to spend time with a close-knit family. They take care of each other and enjoy spending time together. 

I would recommend this to younger teens who like Sarah Dessen.


The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

The Arabian Nights is one of my favorite stories from childhood, so I was nervous about reading this retelling. I had high expectations and didn't want to be disappointed. Although I had a few minor issues, the lush language made it a delicious read. 

Khalid is a brutal young king who marries a different girl every night and has her killed at dawn. After her best friend is murdered at the palace, Shahrzad volunteers to be Khalid's next wife. She plans to avenge Shiva by killing the monster king before he kills her. 

When the king comes to her bedchamber, she tells a story. He is fascinated and agrees to let her live another day so he can hear the ending. (This is one of my complaints--only a couple of the stories are actually told, so a lot of the story within a story aspect that I love about the original is left out.)

Sooner than is believable, considering that he murdered her best friend, Shahrzad starts to feel all the feelings. Khalid doesn't seem especially monstrous to her, even though she knows what he's done. She suspects there is more to the story than she knows and sets out to find out just what that might be. 

There are several hints about magic that I hope will play a bigger role in the next book. 

And then...that cliffhanger of an ending. I'd be pissed if I didn't already have the sequel on my nightstand.


The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

Sequel to The Wrath & the Dawn

Separated from her husband and back with her family, Shahrzad is desperate to find a way to break he curse and return to Khalid. Oh, and she has to do it before war breaks out and she loses more people she loves--from both sides. 

I loved this sequel and I can't imagine anything that would make it more satisfying. The magic hinted at in the first book plays a larger role and the romance between Shahrzad and Khalil is more mature. They're not spending half the book wondering if they can trust each other. Instead, they're completely on the same team and working together as equals to break the curse and stop he war. 

The characters and their relationships really get fleshed out, and yet there are still tons of adventures and revelations. So perfect. I can't wait to reread and savor both of these books (and more by this author).
Total Books Read: 27 (2 not counted in EXP/HP stats) 
Total Pages Read: 7424

I had such a great time playing along on The Reading Quest. Not only did I make some major inroads on my existing TBR stacks, I also discovered several fantastic authors as other people tweeted their progress. Can't wait for the next one!

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