Book Reviews · reading · writing

Why Do I Write?

Why do I write?

It’s a question that I ask myself over and over again, particularly when I begin brainstorming, plotting, or drafting a new idea. It’s a simple yet loaded question, and the multitude of answers never cease to amaze me.

I began writing at the age of five. I had finished reading all of the Angelina Ballerina books at my local library and was upset that there weren’t anymore. So I decided to write my own. At first, I simply copied down the books on lined paper, practicing my cursive. Gradually, I began to make my own plots featuring Angelina and her best friend Alice. I was writing fanfiction at five years old, and I didn’t even know it. The Angelina Ballerina books not only made me fall in love with writing, but they also made me fall in love with dance.

I’ve continued  to write ever since then. In first grade I wrote an original eleven page story, inspired by my friend who had a cousin visiting her at school for a few days. I designed a cover and everything. My mom printed the book, making multiple copies, and together we bound the books with curly ribbon and sold them to family and friends for $5 dollars each.

I was so proud of myself, proud at the very fact that I’d created something that had never been created before, and it’s that spark that continues to drive me. Today, I write for slightly more serious reasons. As a black Muslim girl, there are very few stories written by people like me or about people like me. I take it upon myself to help fill that void. I know when I was reading Angelina Ballerina, Alice, the brown mouse, was the sidekick. But brown and black girls (and all PoC!) don’t deserve to be sidekicks. They’re complex, diverse, and beautiful and I try to portray all of those qualities in my work.

I write to release stress, express myself, and be creative. Writing taps into another part of my mind, that I don’t always engage during school. However, being a writer does help make school more interesting, as I’m always looking for bits of dialogue or slivers of ideas.

I write to inspire, and I read to be inspired. I always write for myself first, but one day I hope that my words and my novels inspire even just one person. I want people to see themselves reflected in all of their glory, because I know I didn’t always see that growing up. I write because I believe that’s one of the gifts that I’ve been blessed with, and I should use that blessing to impact people in whatever way I can. And ultimately I write to make myself happy, because writing truly is a big source of joy in my life.

I hope you all enjoyed this post, and I’d love to know why you all write (or read!) in the comment section below!

Happy writing, happy reading, and happy blogging.

Book Reviews

Top of my TBR List #1

I thought a cool feature to do on this blog would be a series called ‘Top of my TBR List’. The series would list three books that I’m excited to read and explain why I’m excited to read them. The series will give a sense of who I am as a reader, as well as provide some variety between the book reviews and writing updates.

 

 

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So the first book high on my TBR list is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass.  You might be saying to yourself, “Breeny, where have you been? The third books was just released!” And to be honest, I’m asking myself the same thing. I’m not sure why I’ve held out on reading this series for so long, but now that the third book has just been released it doesn’t make any sense for me to NOT read them all. Plus, A Court of Thorns and Roses will add variety to my usual YA contemporary summer reading list. If you’ve read any of the three books from the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, make sure to comment your thoughts below!

 

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The second book that’s high on my list and already has 8 holds at the library (*cries*) is When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Its release date is at the end of May, and I’m beyond excited. First off, the main characters, Dimple and Rishi, are PoC and the book falls under #ownvoices. In addition, the novel is set in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is another bonus. Lastly, I’m expecting some of the stereotypes surrounding arranged marriages to be broken down. The main plot of the book is that Dimple and Rishi are arranged to be married, and I’m interested in seeing how Sandhya Menon constructs that narrative while (hopefully) breaking down stereotypes. Along with the light summery tone, I think When Dimple Met Rishi is a strong contender to be one of my favorite 2017 summer reads.

 

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The final book on the top of my TBR list that I’m going to share with you all today is Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. There’s been a mild amount of buzz surrounding this novel, which was released two weeks ago. It’s about singing and I can’t sing but am always singing, so of course I had to add Noteworthy to the top of my TBR list. An additional factor is that the novel is set at a performing arts boarding school, a combination of two of my favorite types of settings. Noteworthy also addresses and breaks down gender norms, AND the main character is Asian-American and is questioning whether or not she’s bisexual. A double whammy of diversity. I’m excited to get my hands on a copy of Noteworthy because I think it’s going to majorly exceed my already high expectations.

Hopefully some of these wonderful books are on your TBR list, and if not you should definitely add them!

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy blogging!

Book Reviews

Writing Update #1

On this blog, in addition to blogging about the books I read, I’ll also be blogging about the books I write. Welcome to the first post of the ‘Writing Update’ Series!

Currently, I have 14 books on hold at the library, so it’ll probably be about two weeks before I send another book review your way. In the meantime, you all will get maybe two writing updates, or other bookish posts, while I wait to pick up my library haul.

As of the month of May, finals are fast approaching. Unfortunately, my writing has been on the backburner as I navigate my way through the last storm of tests, projects, and get ready to fight the gatekeeper of summer, finals. However, through the midst of it all, I have been doing a mish-mash of brainstorming and plotting. I have a new novel idea that I’m planning on drafting this July during Camp Nanowrimo. As of now, it’s effectively titled ‘Summer Novel’, which surprisingly does encapsulate it well. It’s all about a summer road-trip, family, and being true to yourself even if you’re still trying to figure out who that is. It’s an #ownvoices book, as the main character, Zinnia, is black (as am I =)) and biracial. I’m beyond excited to start writing her story and to start drafting again.

I have a playlist on Spotify that’s a little more than 50 songs long. If you’re interested in listening to it, drop a comment below and I’ll respond with the link (and a thank you for commenting). Music, and making playlists, are a huge source of inspiration for me, and I highly encourage any writer who’s stuck in a rut to listen to a few tunes.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming summer (four more weeks guys, I can make it) and what I want my goals to be. I’ll definitely make a blogpost detailing those goals, but I can definitively say that my #1 goal is to finish the first draft of ‘Summer Novel’. Also, a little sidenote, I know some writers worry about not writing everyday. I can tell you all that I haven’t written any part of a novel in the past month of so, and that doesn’t make me feel like any less of a writer. I’ve dabbled in poetry, I’ve brainstormed, I’ve made a playlist, and I’ve plotted. Though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been constantly keeping my creative mind open and nourished. You don’t have to write every day to be a writer. Some days simply thinking about your novel is more than enough.

How has writing been going for everyone? Update me in the comments below, and have a wonderful Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews

Book Review: KING’S CAGE by Victoria Aveyard

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I had been meaning to pick up Victoria Aveyard’s latest installment in the Red Queen Series, King’s Cage for quite some time now. After falling in love with the Red Queen and not enjoying Glass Sword as much, I was excited to see how I would feel about the third book.

Before I go into further detail about my thoughts on King’s Cage, here’s a look at the summary on Goodreads:

“When the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.”

 

There are three main aspects of the King’s Cage that I enjoyed, the first being Mare’s character development. In King’s Cage she realizes that her actions in Glass Sword affected those around her, and she’s more aware of herself and her actions overall. I didn’t think she was very relatable in book 2, but in book 3 she’s a character that you WANT to support. Despite going through so much trauma, she continues to grow. And despite witnessing, and being a part of, a vast amount of destruction and death she continues to love and hope. She isn’t weakened by her fear but strengthened by it.

The second aspect is Maven. We truly get to see him as a villain in King’s Cage, and learn more about who he is and why he does what he does. The backstory that we learn about Maven makes the twisted and complicated (non-romantic) relationship between Maven and Mare work. Some readers raved about the relationship but while I did find it compelling, I didn’t find it fascinating. I couldn’t get behind it, maybe because I so strongly ship Cal and Mare. Maven wasn’t a strong presence in Glass Sword, but Victoria Aveyard makes up for it in King’s Cage.

The last aspect of King’s Cage that I found very interesting was the worldbuilding and the history of the Reds. We learn more about the history of their oppression, and how different kings address the Reds. It added another layer to Maven’s actions and increased the complexity. The politics mixed with the character development, along with the dash of romance, brought the whole book together, and I flew through it in two days.

The ending of the novel was one that I saw coming from a hundred miles away, but that didn’t lessen the pain. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but if you’re Team Cal you’re bound to be at least a bit disappointed by how everything works out. However, the ending does sow the seeds, and provides the setup, for an enthralling final fourth book. (I can’t believe there’s only one book left *cries*)

My favorite part of the entire book is the line, “Caz, Brecker, with us!” and the fact that they’re two guards named Rash and Tahir. The nod to the Six of Crows duology made me tremendously happy. (And if you happen to be looking for a new fantasy read, the Six of Crows duology is high on my list.)

In conclusion, I give this book a 4/5 star rating. The overall complexity, as well as the Six of Crows shoutout, made King’s Cage an enjoyable read. If you weren’t the biggest fan of Glass Sword, I urge you to give King’s Cage a try because I think it’ll thoroughly surpass your expectations.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Is the latest installment of the Red Queen Series on your TBR list?

Comment below if you’ve read this book or are looking forward to doing so!

Book Reviews

Book Review: THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

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As soon as I heard the buzz surrounding Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, I was enthralled. A book inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement and told through the perspective of a black female teen who attends a majority white prep school? Sign me up! I had initially put the book on hold at the library, but after weeks of waiting I decided to purchase it and I’m so glad I did.

Before I go into detail about how much I enjoyed this novel, here’s a look at the summary on Goodreads:

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

So the first aspect of the book that caught my eye, besides the fact that it was about police brutality, was the title. The title is based off of Tupac’s song and album titled Thug Life. Growing up my Dad blasted Tupac in the car, so I felt an instant connection to the book.

Starr, the main character, is one of the most refreshing protagonist that I’ve read about in a while. As a black female teen, with a tight-knit family, attending a private, majority white preparatory school, I connected with her immediately. I loved seeing how our worlds reflected one another and seeing how some of the challenges that Starr struggled with, I struggle with as well. I loved Starr and her father’s relationship. It’s rare to see a positive portrayal of a healthy relationship between a black father and daughter in YA novels, and I drunk it in. With all the different conflicts in the novel– Starr witnessing the death of her best friend, Khalil, her half-brother and close friend living with an abusive father, Starr juggling her identity while going to a private school where she is one of two black students in her grade, secretly dating a boy from her school, and dealing with the trauma of witnessing Khalil’s death– there’s never a slow moment. All of those conflicts, in addition to the conflict of Starr deciding whether or not to speak up or hope that no one outside of her family ever learns that she’s the sole witness to Khalil’s murder, add to the tension.

It would seem that all of these conflicts would be overbearing. and for Starr at times they are. But for the reader, the conflicts blend into one another creating a page-turning book that’s impossible to put down. I sped through this book in one sitting because there was never a dull moment, and I couldn’t make myself put it down.

Some of that is due to the voice. Starr’s voice is crisp, hilarious and relatable. From the code-switching to the way Starr thinks and approaches life,  is raw. Starr’s unfiltered voice is what drew me into the story from the first line.

I loved the portrayal of blackness in The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas did a terrific job of showing that blackness is not monolithic. That black teens, especially black boys, are more than just thugs. She drew together a story about the harsh realities that blacks face every day and presented the story in such a positive and dynamic way.

As a black teen, I’m constantly looking for a reflection of myself in the media, movies, art, and books. I’m always on the hunt for #ownvoices books. It’s important that I, and others, read books across a wide and diverse range. To say that The Hate U Give is amazing and unforgettable would be an understatement. I’m so proud that it debuted at the #1 spot on New York Tbestsellereller list because it’s eye-opening and powerful.

All I have to say is read it. Start conversations about it, tweet about it, blog about, give it as a present. And whenever you hear someone belittling the Black Lives Matter movement, give them this book. I believe that The Hate U Give has the power to change the perspective of all readers, and open hearts, eyes, and minds.

★★★★★ 5/5 stars! 10/10 would recommend!

Is this powerful YA book at the top of your TBR list? I know the answer is yes 😉

Comment below if you’ve read this book or are looking forward to doing so!