‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal/A Review

‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal
Length: 472 pages
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA Fantasy
Book #1 of the Sands of Arwiya Duology
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Source: Hardcover and Audiobook

When I first heard about ‘We Hunt the Flame’ being released, I was excited to get it! I’m all for diverse authors putting out content, and this story has a diverse range of characters along with a plotline based in an Asian inspired world. I pre-ordered my copy, and received the book on the day of release. I really wanted to read this book for the Asian Readathon, but my work schedule caused me to have a very slow pace in completing any stories! So I read this story during the day, alongside the audiobook version in the evening. I think I may read in this style moving forward!

‘We Hunt the Flame’ tells the story of Zafira Iskander, a woman who masquerades as the Hunter in the world of Arwiya. In this world, women are not highly regarded as respectable figures, so Zafira feels forced to hide her identity in order to bring peace to her kingdom in Demenhur as a male Hunter. Only four people within her family knows Zafira’s true identity, and encourage Zafira to embrace the notion of a strong female provider, yet she carries her fears throughout her daily life due to uncertainty.

Arwiya is left in a state of peril for decades due to an absence of magic. Once a powerful land governed by the Six Sisters, they suddenly disappeared after a harrowing fight in the island of Sharr. Their absence have left the Arwiyan kingdoms in disarray, causing Demenhur to be in a permanent state of winter. Zafira takes the skills learned from her father and ventures into the dangerous Arz forest as the Hunter, hunting to feed the people of Demenhur. One day she is called by the caliph to venture into the Arz and locate the powerful Jarawat in order to restore peace in Arwiya. Along the way she meets Nasir, the crown prince of the cruel Sultan of Arwiya. Nasir is known as the Prince of Death, and he is assigned to accompany the Hunter in locating the Jarawat for his own gain. Although he is asked to take out the Hunter, being an assassin is the last thing he wants to be in his life.

I found the chemistry between Nasir and Zafira so captivating. Both people are caught up in their own webs of deception, yet feel unable to relinquish their crafted identities due to obligation to their people. Each person is also set out for revenge, as both individuals lost someone they dearly cared for. Nasir and Zafira are also joined by a eclectic cast of characters who encompass the different regions of Arwiya’s vast world. Out of all the side characters, I really appreciated Altair. He and Nasir have an awkward (yet humorous) alliance, and his optimistic viewpoints are a breath of fresh air to an otherwise harrowing situation. Altair’s lighthearted tone and intriguing backstory carries the story with great interest to the end.

The world building was also done very beautifully, as I found the governing rules of Arwiya similar in some ways, as women are not held in a high regard in certain regions in our world also. Patriarchy is very common parallel in both Arwiya and our current way of life, with some regions keeping a matriarchal rule. Obviously, in real life we aren’t ruled and governed by magic. I’m sure most of us would love that to happen, though!

I also loved the metaphors Faizal uses throughout this book. She uses the rule of ‘Show but don’t tell’ in her writing expertly. Lines such as ‘That was life, wasn’t it? A collection of moments, a menagerie of people. Everyone stranded everywhere, always’ sung to my soul amazingly. The lines she used when it came to both Nasir and Zafira expressing love was also equally emotional and heartbreaking. Since both people have loved and lost before venturing into their mission into Sharr, their approach in expressing devotion is done very precariously. Lines such as ‘For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun’ melted my heart.  

‘We Hunt the Flame’ by Hafsah Faizal is beautifully written, and her literary voice was clear in character description and world building. I very much look forward to reading the sequel when it’s released next year.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

June Reading Wrap-Up

This wrap-up is very underwhelming, since I only completed two books this month. I very much wanted to read sooo much more (I was looking forward to reading Lisa See this month!), but June has been a stressful mess of job transitions and wedding planning. The drama of these two factors have not lessened by any means, so I’m thrilled that I completed reading anything! My poetry page was also pretty dismal this month. I can count the number of poems written this month on one hand. Stress really does a number on creativity!

I read one Children’s Literature book, and one Adult novel. Both books are fictional works. The genres were Middle Grade and Historical Fiction.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 417 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Source: Kindle (via NetGalley)
Standalone novel

Published on June 11, 2019

I received Time After Time through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I loved reading this story centered within a slice of New York City life in the midst of tension and tragedy. Throughout the story, Joe and Nora navigate their relationship while enduring the effects of World War II. Since I enjoy reading anything involving New York City, I dove right in. Even though this novel was set in the 1930s, it brought back memories of me travelling through Manhattan and The Bronx while living there.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
On a clear December morning in 1937, at the famous gold clock in Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds, a hardworking railroad man from Queens, meets a vibrant young woman who seems mysteriously out of place. Nora Lansing is a Manhattan socialite whose flapper clothing, pearl earrings, and talk of the Roaring Twenties don’t seem to match the bleak mood of Depression-era New York. Captivated by Nora from her first electric touch, Joe despairs when he tries to walk her home and she disappears. Finding her again—and again—will become the focus of his love and his life.

Nora, an aspiring artist and fiercely independent, is shocked to find she’s somehow been trapped, her presence in the terminal governed by rules she cannot fathom. It isn’t until she meets Joe that she begins to understand the effect that time is having on her, and the possible connections to the workings of Grand Central and the solar phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, when the sun rises or sets between the city’s skyscrapers, aligned perfectly with the streets below.

As thousands of visitors pass under the famous celestial blue ceiling each day, Joe and Nora create a life unlike any they could have imagined. With infinite love in a finite space, they take full advantage of the “Terminal City” within a city, dining at the Oyster Bar, visiting the Whispering Gallery, and making a home at the Biltmore Hotel. But when the construction of another landmark threatens their future, Nora and Joe are forced to test the limits of freedom and love.

Delving into Grand Central Terminal’s rich past, Lisa Grunwald crafts a masterful historical novel about a love affair that defies age, class, place, and even time.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Genre: Children’s Literature (Middle Grade)
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Length: 236 pages
Source: Acquired from HC Library (Flemington, NJ)
Standalone novel
Published on August 30, 2016

I fell in love with Wish the moment I viewed the cover. Who doesn’t love a deep bond between a child and her furry friend? In the novel, Charlie is struggling to come to terms with being removed from her dysfunctional family, living with her loving aunt and uncle in Colby, North Carolina. As Charlie reluctantly endures daily life within a quiet community, she slowly realizes that ‘Home’ can be discovered in the most unlikeliest of areas. This book also tackles the uncomfortable topic of neglect in a tasteful manner for younger audiences.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets
Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

Professional Reader

My Thoughts on ‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor

‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor
Length: 227 pgs.
Genre: Children (Middle Grade)
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Standalone or Series: Standalone

I discovered ‘Wish’ while searching for another story at a local department store. When I walk into this location, the first stop I always head to is the large table of books that’s on display. It’s usually a mix of new releases and titles that have been out for a while. I didn’t come across what I was searching for, but my eyes fell on a cover with a young girl with an adorable dog. Being a dog lover, I immediately fell in love with the book cover! I made a note of the title, and reserved a copy at the library.
‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor is about a young girl named Charlie, reluctantly placed to live with her aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus in Colby, North Carolina. Charlie feels very bitter and resentful about being removed from her home in Raleigh, despite the fact that her father is incarcerated and her mother was deemed unfit to care for both her and her sister Jackie. The peaceful, countryside surroundings is a world away from Raleigh’s city life, yet Bertha and Gus go to great lengths to make Charlie’s life as comfortable as possible. She also reluctantly befriends a classmate named Howard, a studious child who gets ridiculed due to his manner of walking, yet never lets that interfere with his life.
The story describes Charlie’s journey in socializing with new friends and community members while experiencing the internal struggle of missing her family. She goes to great lengths to make wishes whenever she comes upon a treasured color, a certain animal, or the first star in a twilight sky. Charlie hides her pain with anger, yet Howard expertly finds a bridge to communicate her fears so clearly by describing a ‘clothesline of troubles’ that everyone tends to in life. O’Connor refers to this phrase frequently in this story as Charlie learns how to trust Bertha and Gus, Howard and his family.
Charlie also discovers a stray dog near her home that she names Wishbone. Like Charlie, Wishbone also endures a journey to trust Charlie and her loved ones. Over time, Wishbone and Charlie experience the joys of good company, while uplifting one another. The story of Wishbone is a small piece of Charlie’s journey in her growth, yet the family and friends in her Colby community teach her that a loving home is not a distant dream.
‘Wish’ by Barbara O’ Connor is a Middle Grade children’s book (appropriate for children ages 8-12), so if you’re seeking a story for children about community, strength through struggles, and loving animals, then this book is for you. It was a very endearing read!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Two Engaging Reads, and Baby Goats! / June Reading Blog #1

The first weekend of June brought some unexpected stress, some cuteness, and some welcomed reading!

The stressful part was due to wedding planning. I’m getting married in August, and communicating with family members (especially ones in the wedding party) can be a challenge. I picked up one of the items I needed for the big day though, so that alleviated some aggravation!

I relieved some of the stress by attending the Buffalo Watch in Readington, NJ. There was a hayride to view the bison and calves, and some baby goats. I got to hold one of these goats yesterday. He was 3-4 weeks old!

My reading for the first week of June consists of two stories that aren’t on my TBR list (of course)! One is an eARC, and the other is an adorable library read.

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Random House Publishing Group


The first book is called ‘Time After Time’ by Lisa Grunwald. It’s set in New York City in the 1930, in Grand Central Terminal. It follows the lives of Joe and Nora. A love story of sorts, following their paths once a year. It’s quite interesting how the author lays out the inner society Grand Central Terminal contains. I received this eARC through NetGalley. This book will come out on June 11, so I’ll make sure to have my review ready. I really love what I’ve read so far!

Wish by Barbara O’ Connor
Genre: Children’s Lit (Middle Grade)
Farrar Straus Giroux

‘Wish’ is pictured on right. I intend on reading ‘Crenshaw’ later in the month!
My Little Snoopy is always with me!

I’m also reading an endearing story called ‘Wish’ by Barbara O’Connor. ‘Wish’ is a Children’s story (Middle Grade), following the life of Charlie. She is 11 years old, sent to live with her Aunt Bertha and uncle Gus in Colby, North Carolina. Charlie’s home life is unstable (her father currently in jail, while her mother is unfit to raise her two daughters on her own). Charlie feels very displeased and resentful about being displaced from her home, yet her aunt and uncle, and other kindred spirits, teach Charlie toward the virtue of patience. From what I’ve read so far, it’s a very uphill struggle!

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back in a couple days with my progress. Happy reading!

Professional Reader

June 2019 TBR list

For the month of June, I’m going to continue reading Asian themed novels. I received two new books as I was taking on the Asian , and just never got to them in time! My reading pace is just THAT slow, lol!

These are the books I’m planning on reading during June. I may add on as the month progresses:

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Length: 480 pgs
Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA

Synopsis:
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

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 sultan. 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 Zafira and Nasir 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 sultan 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.

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler
Penguin Press
480 pgs
Genre: Non-Fiction/History

Synopsis:
Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s neighborhoods, and visit the legendary archaeological digs of Upper Egypt. After his years of covering China for The New Yorker, friends warned him Egypt would be a much quieter place. But not long before he arrived, the Egyptian Arab Spring had begun, and now the country was in chaos.

In the midst of the revolution, Hessler often traveled to digs at Amarna and Abydos, where locals live beside the tombs of kings and courtiers, a landscape that they call simply al-Madfuna “the Buried.” He and his wife set out to master Arabic, striking up a friendship with their instructor, a cynical political sophisticate. They also befriended Peter’s translator, a gay man struggling to find happiness in Egypt’s homophobic culture. A different kind of friendship was formed with the neighborhood garbage collector, an illiterate but highly perceptive man named Sayyid, whose access to the trash of Cairo would be its own kind of archaeological excavation. Hessler also met a family of Chinese small-business owners in the lingerie trade; their view of the country proved a bracing counterpoint to the West’s conventional wisdom.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Scribner Books
384 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:
In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.

The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a bad match—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.

As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.