Review: We Hunt the Flame

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Series: Sands of Arawiya
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.


We Hunt the Flame was incredibly entertaining, and in that way completely lived up to my expectations. But it was also super trope-y, which I personally found a little disappointing.

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Middle Grade Review: Front Desk

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Series: Front Desk
Genre: Middle Grade
Maturity Level: 3 (Content warnings: Violence against women, racism, unjust policing policies)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?


I picked up this book because on my very first day as a librarian an extremely passionate, well-spoken young lady told me this was her favorite book and asked if I’d read it. She told me she liked to read it over and over again. And, on the one hand, I see why because WOW. But on the other hand, what kind of ten year old enjoys reading something so difficult? I mean, most of the other kids still think Goosebumps is the height of literary achievement.

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Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Genres: Science Fiction, Novella
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.


At this point, This is How You Lose the Time War has won every major science fiction award there is to win. Every reviewer, bookseller, blogger, and book personality has talked about why this book is so good. I’m not sure there’s anything I can contribute to this conversation, other than to say I cosign ALL OF THAT.

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5 “Bad” Books I Actually Really Like

I’m going to start by saying I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “bad” book. While definitely some books are better than others, and for sure the writing in some books is just terrible, I don’t know that a book can be “bad”.

Okay, I take it back, there are some books that are DEFINITELY bad in every way.

But I don’t think you have to only like things that are “good.” I mean, for one thing, good/bad is so subjective! But for another thing, your enjoyment of a thing isn’t necessarily tied to its quality. I have definitely experienced movies/TV that are so bad I can’t enjoy it, but most of the time I can like something even when I can tell it’s not awesome if it’s achieving whatever it set out to do. This book was supposed to make me laugh, and it did. Yay!

Okay, glad I got that out of the way.

This list are books that the book community on the whole has determined are terrible, and that I to some extent agree are not awesome, but I still love them anyway.

1. Twilight

I resisted Twilight for a LONG time. By the time the movie came out literally everyone I knew had read it except for me, and then I saw the movie which was terrible, and so I refused to read it. Until I did. And yes, it was just as bad as everyone says. The dialogue is particularly awful. But … I have still read the whole series. More than once.

I don’t know what it is that makes me keep reading. It’s not the romance. Maybe it’s the melodrama? It’s definitely at least part the Pacific Northwest setting. Whatever it is, so many people enjoy this book that I’m done criticizing it or apologizing for liking it.


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Why I don’t knock people for what they love to read

So you love Twilight. Yeah, you know it isn’t the best book, yeah, you know the relationships are low-key abusive, and yeah, in hindsight the whole thing is pretty melodramatic. But why are you apologizing for it? Why is it your “guilty read”? Why … do people criticize you or make fun of you or call you not a “real reader”?

I feel the same way about pretty much every book, btw. Fifty Shade of Grey? You do you. Harry Potter still? Hey, if it’s your favorite it’s your favorite. Everything by Sarah J. Maas? We don’t see eye to eye on much, but at least we both love to read!

Okay, but Katie, they can’t read Harry Potter because its author is transphobic and trash.

Just, hear me out. I was ten when Harry Potter became like, super popular. I devoured it in a weekend, and I loved it so much I started reading it to my little brother, who was eight. Now, my brother could read just fine, but he never did. He didn’t like books, didn’t like reading. But after I read the first three Harry Potter books to him and stopped because the fourth book was too dang LONG to read aloud, he picked it up himself. He was nine, and he read that book ALL THE WAY to the end. Then, suddenly, he started picking up other things. He became a reader. These days he’s reading freaking Colson Whitehead. Without Harry Potter, no The Nickel Boys. I don’t think he’s still a big HP fan, but so many people with similar stories ARE. Who am I to tell them that the book that made them a reader is too problematic for them to continue to love?

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Middle Grade Review: The Rhino in Right Field

The Rhino in Right Field by Stacy DeKeyser

Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Nick wants to change his life. For twelve years, he’s done what his hard-working, immigrant parents want him to do. Now he’s looking for his own American dream and he thinks he’s found it. The local baseball team is having a batboy contest, and Nick wants to win.

But the contest is on a Saturday—the day Nick has to work in his father’s shop. There’s one other tiny—well, not so tiny—problem. A 2,000-pound rhinoceros named Tank. Nick and his friends play ball in the city zoo—and Tank lives just beyond the right field fence. Nick’s experience getting the ball out of Tank’s pen has left him frozen with fear whenever a fly ball comes his way. How’s a lousy fielder going to win the contest?

Nick practices every day with his best friend, Ace, and a new girl who has an impressive throwing arm! But that’s not enough—to get to the contest, Nick has to lie to his parents and blackmail his uncle. All while dodging the school bully, who’s determined to win even by playing dirty. Nick will need to keep his eye on the ball in this fast, funny story about a game that can throw you some curveballs—just like life!


What a fun book! I think kids are really going to enjoy it, though struggling readers and English Language Learners may be confused by the antique slang.

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Review: Black Sun

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Series: Between Earth and Sky
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5-
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


WOW WOW WOW!!!! I was expecting something special from Black Sun because Roanhorse is such a fantastic writer, but all of my expectations were completely blown out of the water. This book is exciting, smart, unique, and so. dang. GOOD.

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Middle Grade Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.


THIS BOOK!!! WOW!!! I mean, what can I even say?, it won every award there is pretty much, and deserved it. It’s just so fabulous.

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Review: Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery
Maturity Level: 3+
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Rating: ⋆⋆

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 


I was so excited for my first Maureen Johnson book, and this sounded so interesting, and I really *wanted* to love it, but I was just so indifferent to Truly Devious.

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How to know when your TBR is too long

Looking at your tbr gives you anxiety.
Books are supposed to make us feel happy and relaxed! If your tbr makes you anxious, it’s probably because there are too many books on it, my friends.

You look at some of the books and think “I’ve never even seen that book before!”
I think we all have books on our tbr that we can’t remember the plot of or why we added them. But if you’re looking at a book and you don’t even RECOGNIZE it, the problem is either a cover change or you have so many books you can’t even remember them all.

There’s not enough room on your shelves for all your unread books.
When books are falling on the floor, when you can bathe in the pile of books on the floor, your tbr is probably too long.

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