Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

23308087★★★

I made the mistake of picking this up on a weekday night, and I definitely stayed up just a little too late finishing it. With a gripping storyline, strong characterization, and a unique setting, Ahdieh’s new series does not disappoint.

Set in feudal Japan, FitM follows the story of Mariko, the daughter of a daimyō lord and bride-to-be of the Prince. Along her way to the capital, her litter is attacked by what she suspects to be the Black Clan, a group of bandits who is rumored to support the old emperor’s claim to the throne. After evading capture, Mariko decides to infiltrate the Clan to reveal their motives in attacking her. Disguised as a boy, she befriends the Clan’s leader, Ranmaru, and their strange second in command, Ōkami. But Mariko’s ruse is faltering, as the lines between her enemies and her friends aren’t as clear-cut as she thought them to be. Meanwhile, her twin brother Kenshin, the famed Dragon of Kai, will stop at nothing to bring his sister back home. And strange stirrings hover around the emperor’s consort, who may have a hand in more events than we know.Read More »

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

30312855★★★★

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I’m not a big fan of time travel (I find the rules confusing and the setting too fluid), so I picked this up with little expectation apart from a light and entertaining read. And it was just that, but I also really liked it.

Most of the book takes place in the early 1900s, Manhattan. Esta, our heroine, transports herself here with a mission: steal the Magician’s book, which can break the barrier entrapping the supernatural on the island. Problem is, the book is in possession of the Order, a powerful organization intent on keeping people like Esta subdued. So Esta joins Dolph’s crew, in the hopes of impressing him enough to add her to their upcoming heist for the book, and steal it for herself. But as she delves deeper into the city’s heart, Esta finds herself starting to care for its inhabitants, and the line between truth and lie keeps on blurring.Read More »

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

4667024★★★

Poignant and touching, The Help unveils the stark reality of working as a black maid to a white mistress in the 1960s, and the ambivalent feelings between them.

This is a very character-driven novel, and we are introduced to the three protagonists early on. There’re the two maids: Missy, mouthy, ill-tempered, but soft at heart, and Aibileen, solid and steady as an anchor. There’s also Skeeter, the white socialite who bites off more than she can initially chew when she decides to write a book on the lives of black maids. From then on, the women are bound to each other, and they experience many of the same hopes and fears that are tied into the creation of the book. Watching their relationship evolve from distrust to respect and finally to fondness is what made this book shine for me.Read More »

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

17643 ★★★★

This book was beautiful. A harrowing tale of love and loss, a tale of freedom under the dictatorship of El Jefe in the Dominican Republic. It was eye-opening and enthralling, and this is a piece of literature I am all too happy to read.

Alvarez shines a light on a part of history commonly overlooked. While the rest of the world was focused on the aftereffects of WW2 (the cold war), the Dominican Republic didn’t get much attention. It was just another Latin American country under the rule of a dictator. This book follows the people’s rebellion against El Jefe, and its profound effects on Anita, the daughter of a prominent face of the rebellion. The cause, though a good one, uproots Anita’s family and takes away her father and uncle. Anita goes through the struggle of being a kid during one of the biggest political upheavals the country has ever known.Read More »

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

31178738

★★★

This was a perfect summer read: A small town, English murder mystery tying in with themes of finding your roots and connecting with the people around you.

My favorite thing about this book was the atmosphere. Beaufort-Stuart Estate, the setting of the book, feels much like a place frozen in time. From the crumbling Aberfearn Castle to the rivers, forest, and meadow, I can imagine that if I took a drive down that single lane road cutting through the countryside, everything would still be the same.Read More »

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

61ug2juimvl-_sx337_bo1204203200_ ★★★

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate reads like a childhood memory. Set in 1899 in a small town of Texas, we follow the life of 11-year-old Calpurnia as she nurtures a love of science with her grandfather as well as the realities of being a girl during that time period.

Calpurnia is a very adventurous and curious kid. Every morning, she sits outside her house and observes all the animals and wildlife around her, writing questions about their habits in her notebook. Her grandfather is very well-learned, and after a while they become good friends. They venture out to the river, collecting specimens and making observations. While her grandfather enlightens her on the laws and discoveries, Calpurnia’s world starts to expand. She dreams of becoming a scientist and studying at the university.Read More »