Summary: Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.
With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.
Genre: fantasy, retelling Rating: ★★★
The Stardust Thief was my BOTM pick, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this because it sounded so promising. It’s loosely based on stories from One Thousand and One Nights, and all the storytelling and history of jinns were so beautifully crafted. There was so much potential here and so many great pieces to the story, but unfortunately I found myself disappointed in the end.
May is always one of my busiest months (birthdays, holidays, the first time in the year when the weather gets nice and suddenly we’re not longer cooped up indoors), so when I signed up for the Asian Readathon for Asian Heritage Month, I was worried I was getting in over my head. I was especially nervous because I’d been in quite a reading slump so far this year, but I surprised myself by not only reading six books for this readathon, but also both of my Book of the Month selections and one (of three, sadly) books from my online book club!
All of the books I selected for this readathon were already on my tbr list, so it felt good to knock that number down a bit. I also made it a goal this year to read more books by POC, so this felt like a perfect reason to do that. If I want to read these books anyway, why not do it during a time to celebrate and bring awareness to these authors and stories (of course, we shouldn’t be reading these books exclusively for one month of the year). What I’m learning is that I really enjoy stories about different cultures, especially those that include mythology and folklore from said cultures. Who knew that young adult fantasy still had my heart?
The Asian Readathon had five simple rules, as follows: – Read a book written by an Asian author. – Read a book featuring an Asian character who is a woman AND/OR older. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a universe you would want to experience OR a universe that is totally different from yours. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a cover worthy of googly eyes. – Read a book by an Asian author that has a high rating OR was highly recommended.
I found that all of these books covered multiple rules. For example, The Ones We’re Meant to Find was written by an Asian author, had a universe that is totally different from mine, had a cover worthy of googly eyes, AND was highly recommended by a handful of my friends. In that regard, it was easy to reach this goals of the readathon, and I loved the loose interpretations here. It took a lot of the stress away from the readathon, and I had a lot of fun with it!
Summary: Life is looking up for Holly Darling. She’s running a successful skincare company; her son, Jack, is happy and healthy; and the tragedy of her past is well behind her . . . until she gets a call that her daughter, Eden, who has been in a coma for nearly a decade, has gone missing from the estate where she’s been long tucked away. And, worst of all, Holly knows who must be responsible: Peter Pan, who is not only very real, but more dangerous than anyone could imagine.
Holly has no one to turn to–her mother is the only other person in the world who knows that Peter is more than a story, but she refuses to accept that he is not the hero she’s always imagined. Desperate, Holly enlists the help of Christopher Cooke, a notorious ex-soldier, in the hopes of rescuing Eden before it’s too late.
Genre: fantasy, retelling Rating: ★★
Peter Pan is one of those stories that I’ve always held a little too close to my heart. There’s something about the idea of never growing up; of a magical world full of fairies, mermaids, and pirates. There’s a complete romanticization of the story, with lines like, “You know that place between sleep and awake? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
I’m also, unsurprisingly, a fan of twisted versions of fairytales, so when I read the synopsis I thought I would love this story. Instead, I found myself angry, confused, and, at times, downright disgusted with some of the concepts in this story. This book tries so hard to be edgy and dark, but it winds up pushing the limits and loses any credibility here. I’m on the fence about whether books should incorporate trigger warnings, but considering the heavy subjects in this book, I felt like there should have been some kind of warning for readers.
Trigger warnings that are included: rape, sexual assault, drug abuse, murder, thoughts of suicide, physical and mental abuse, death/murder of children.
Summary: Mina’s people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering. Many believe that Shim Cheong, the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon, may be the true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead. Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
Genre: fantasy, young adult, retellings Rating: ★★★★
If I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I am an absolute sucker for young adult fantasy retellings. As a reader, I gradually moved away from YA and fantasy when it felt too bogged down and moved on to more mature stories, but why the heck did I do that?? These books all have gorgeous covers that reel me in, and then I’m completely drawn into them with their beautiful prose, heartbreaking stories, and fantastic world-building. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is no exception to this rule.
Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories, and honestly one of my favorite ideas. There’s something so purely magical about deserting real life by falling down a rabbit hole and discovering a fantasy world with playing card guards, a pool of tears, or a game of croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs as equipment.
I’ve read a fair amount of Alice retellings: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a prequel to how the Red Queen became who she is; Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, a story loosely based on its namesake about a girl who has to fight zombies; Alice by Christina Henry, a dark, twisted version about a girl who escaped Wonderland; to name a few. The difference between those and the Splintered series is that they all deviate so much from the original story that they lose a bit of the magic and spark that comes from the original.
Splintered is certainly darker than Alice in Wonderland, but what I loved about the franchise is that it works so heavily to incorporate the original themes, characters, and ideas into this story. When you’re so familiar with the story and world of Wonderland, the Splintered series feels a bit like coming home. Alyssa realizes that Lewis Carroll fluffed up the story for a little girl when he wrote it, whereas the real world of Wonderland is more sinister and scary.