Wednesday, July 28, 2021



Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by The Ones We’re Meant to Find. I originally thought this book was a YA contemporary based on the cover, but when I finally took the time to pick it up and read the dust jacket, the blurbs on the back mentioned that this was a “futuristic world” and featured “floating cities” among other things, and I was immediately interested. I love dystopian science fiction stories, futuristic technology, floating islands, and climate-centered narratives, so I knew I needed to read this immediately. 

What if human nature is the last disease we have yet to eradicate?

We follow two sisters, Cee and Kasey. Cee’s story is told in first-person POV. She’s stuck on a deserted island with the only company being an android that she built. She lost her ability to see in color, and she has no memories with the exception of the knowledge that she has a sister out there somewhere, who she is searching for. Kasey’s story is told in third-person, and I really enjoyed that the sisters were written from different perspectives. She’s a scientist and lives in one of the floating eco-cities. She is still reeling from the recent disappearance of her sister as she also tries to find a way to protect the people on the planet from Earth’s increasing number of natural disasters. 

In the various eco-cities around the world, people use “holo mode” as a way to live more sustainably and eco-consciously, which I thought was pretty cool. Nonessential activities are done virtually from a stasis pod, which makes it feel like this book had the full-dive technology found in futuristic video games, even though video games weren’t at all present in this story. I always love to see how authors imagine futuristic versions of Earth, especially a world ravaged by unrelenting earthquakes and climate disasters that cause people to completely change the way they live and interact with nature. 

I love Joan He’s writing style in this book. I haven’t read her debut novel, so The Ones We’re Meant to Find is my first experience with her. I love that she is eloquent and intelligent, not talking down to her readers. This novel is one where she throws you into the story with lots of new terminology and big words and let’s you figure it out on your own, and I really enjoyed that because it read as more sophisticated, closer to an adult novel. 

A lot of the twists I guessed ahead of time, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment watching them come to pass as I read the novel. I thought this book was clever and uniquely interesting, and I definitely recommend it. If you like books featuring a strong sisterly bond, floating cities and deserted islands, a robot companion, full-dive technology, a unique dystopian setting, and exciting twists, then you should absolutely check out The Ones We’re Meant to Find. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Review: HALL OF SMOKE by H. M. Long


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Are you tired of reading about female protagonists who tell you they’re strong assassins but don’t actually do anything to prove it? Then you should check out Hall of Smoke! Hessa doesn’t have to spend the whole book pretending to be badass when she shows us from the very first chapter that she is: she will murder, maim, and disembowel those who get in her way. She’s an Eangi, a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, and she has the ability to kill her enemies with a scream. This book is fierce and brutal, but in the best way. 

Hessa was banished for disobeying her goddess, and while she is alone in the mountains seeking forgiveness, raiders come and slaughter her entire village, killing nearly everyone she knows and loves.

Hessa then goes on a quest to track down and kill a certain traveler that her goddess had commanded her to kill, and the book is mostly a story of Hessa’s journey to find this traveler. There is also commentary on who to trust, including if you should trust your own gods, and what happens when gods die.

I did expect to see more “scream magic,” or Eangi Fire as it’s really called, but it wasn’t present in the book as much as I expected. We see it heavy in the first few chapters, and I think that set an unrealistic expectation for the book where I expected the whole novel to be like that, but it wasn’t. Hessa mentions her Fire a lot but doesn’t actually use it that much, and I think part of that is intentional as the god the Fire is tied to is missing for much of the novel. 

One thing I noticed is that there were some flashback scenes, specifically at the beginning, and I had a hard time telling when this was occurring until after the fact. I would be reading and then I’d be like, “when did she get here?” and then later on I’d realize it was a flashback. Those scenes could have been signaled better, in my opinion, to be less confusing to the reader.

Also, I couldn’t tell some of the gods apart. Many of them make on-page appearances and talk with Hessa and other characters, but I struggled at times to distinguish one from another and remember which gods belonged to which culture and what they were gods of. I don’t tend to like books about fantasy gods—I don’t know why, but I always struggle with the concept of what defines a god and why the gods are so fallible, and I feel like that mindset was present here too. There are multiple generations of gods, gods killing gods, gods overpowering other gods, and it all really made me wonder what exactly is a god and how did they get that way. That’s a discussion for another day though.

I also don’t tend to like books based on mythology, but I did like here that the mythos was fake, like it was all invented for this novel. We have inspiration from the Vikings, but the names of the gods are all new and different, so you don’t have to know anything about Norse mythology before starting the book. I really appreciated that because I am super ignorant when it comes to any type of mythology. 

Hall of Smoke had a really strong start, but my enjoyment slowly petered off throughout the novel. I have found through much trial and disappointment that books centered around gods or mythology unfortunately just aren’t my thing. Hessa is a great protagonist, the world-building is nice, the plot is interesting, but the gods and myths part just wasn’t holding my attention, due to no fault of the author or book—that’s just me. Because I was rather emotionally detached from the story, I didn’t feel the full weight of the consequences at the end of the book. I wanted to love this book so much more than I actually did. 

Hall of Smoke was still decent though. I don’t think I’ve read any other books about a lone-wolf warrior priestess, so that aspect really had me interested. This book features gods both good and bad, tribal clans, ancient rune magic, and a fierce female protagonist on a journey of revenge and redemption. This is also a clean book with no bad language or explicit scenes, and the battle scenes weren’t overly gory, which I appreciated. I love that this is a standalone fantasy (because there aren’t enough standalone fantasies out there), but I am also planning to read the standalone companion novel Temple of No God that comes out next year. H. M. Long has a gift for writing and I’m excited to see what stories she comes up with in the future. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021



Rating: 5/5 stars

After loving Nicola Yoon’s first two books, I was excited to hear about her newest release, Instructions for Dancing.

This book is about Evie, who comes across a book called Instructions for Dancing and then becomes able to see visions of a couple’s entire relationship from beginning to end whenever she watches them kiss. She notices a pattern: all relationships eventually come to an end. Although this fact discourages her, she decides to see what she can learn from her newfound ability. 

“The problem with broken hearts isn’t that they kill you; it’s that they don’t.”

I don’t tend to like magical realism in books, but I liked it here; I thought it was done well. The introduction and execution of Evie’s visions felt natural to me.

I ended up really enjoying this book. Young adult contemporary romance is really not my thing anymore, likely because I’m not in high school anymore and I’m not dealing with boy drama since I’m now happily married, so I’m always worried when I read it that I won’t be able to connect with it like I used to. But this book was alright. Evie is about to go to college and the story is more about her experiences dancing and her friendships than anything else. 

I grew up dancing, so I loved that aspect of the story. I did ballet, tap dance, hip hop, Irish dance, and most notably, nearly every kind of ballroom dance. Instructions for Dancing is about various forms of ballroom dancing as Evie goes to classes to learn how to dance and train for a competition. I loved that the instructors gave little snippets of the history of certain dances, like how waltzing was once called “so fatal a contagion” in girls because dancing caused them to scandalously show their ankles. Ha! I learned lots of info I didn’t previously know, and it was really delightful.

This book was wholesome and fun and timely. Even though I don’t tend to reach for YA contemporary anymore, Nicola Yoon is an author whose books I will continue to read because they are enjoyable to me and not filled with petty drama. And this one wasn’t really a romance for most of it anyway; even though it’s wholly about love, at its core it isn’t a love story. 

Instructions for Dancing is my favorite Nicola Yoon book so far. The audiobook narrator was amazing as well, and she really brought each character to life with a distinct voice. This book is human and heartfelt and heart-wrenching, and definitely worth the read, especially if you love dancing. 

“If you get very, very lucky in this life, then you get to love another so hard and so completely that when you lose them, it rips you apart. The pain is the proof of a life well-lived and loved.”