Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: April 2019 (Part 1)


Today I am back to share anther batch of mini book reviews!

Two of these books were on my most anticipated new releases for the first half of 2019, but did they live up to my expectations?

*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James, The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson, & Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


» Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James



5-Star Rating System

I knew when I opened Black Leopard, Red Wolf  and saw all the character names listed on FOUR pages, that this book was going to be complex, and I was right.  If you are not a fan of books with a large cast of characters, this is not going to be the book for you.  There is a good reason why James included a character list at the beginning of the book.  It was overwhelming at first to try and remember who was who.

There were definitely some pacing issues for me while I was reading this one.   Black Leopard, Red Wolf started off very slow for me.  Not only was it slower, but I found it very disorienting.  One of my biggest struggles with this book was that I felt like I was just thrown into this world without proper backstory or context.  It took at least 100 pages for me to wrap my head around the world.  After this point, I felt like I had a better grasp on the world & writing style, however it took 200 pages for me to really be invested in the story.  From around page 200 to 500, I was really invested in the story and was even enjoying it.  Once I reached the 500 page mark, things started slowing down again.  Right around the 500 page mark, the story felt like it was coming to a stopping point, but there were still 200 pages left.  Personally, I felt like the last 200 pages should have been the start of the next book.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf took me about a week and a half to read, which isn’t typical for me. While this book was a bit longer than my typical reads, coming in at 620 pages, I feel like the reason it took me so long to read had more to do with the writing style & the way James told this story.  Marlon James’s writing is very dense & complex.  Once I finally finished it, I had a horrible book hangover, which almost made me slip into a reading slump.

I also had a few issues with how the main character, Tracker, viewed women throughout the book.  He basically had very misogynistic views, which rubbed me the wrong way.  It is addressed in the book, but the excuse is basically that he has “Mommy issues.”

While I do think aspects of this book are brilliant, I think I am leaning towards it being more of an “acquired taste” kind of read. This book is definitely not going to be for everyone.  Black Leopard, Red Wolf is definitely included graphic content, some of which was difficult to read.

***Content/trigger warnings: rape, graphic violence, pedophilia referenced, mutilation***

» The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson



5-Star Rating System

*4.5 Stars*

A standalone fantasy novel?!  Thank you Wilson!  While I’m starting to enjoy series more than I used to, I always appreciate a good standalone fantasy novel.  The Bird King is a fusion of historical fiction & fantasy, which is my favorite type of mash-up since HF & fantasy are my two favorite genres.  This particular mash-up hit the right notes for me.

Set in 1491, the historical fiction side of The Bird King is centered around the last Muslim controlled emirate located in Iberia.  This book touches upon the conquering of this territory by Spain, and the Spanish inquisitionThe fantasy elements in The Bird King revolve around Hassan, the royal mapmaker with the ability to alter reality through his maps by creating doors, rooms, passageways, etc.  Hassan’s abilities in The Bird King gave me similar feelings to books like The Girl from Everywhere and Exit West.  We follow Fatima & Hassan and their escape from the inquisition to the mystical island of the Bird King, Qaf.  Along the way Fatima & Hassan come into contact with different jinn, or Islamic mythical creatures that have both human and animal forms.

My heart really ached for Fatima & her internal struggle: is she really able to love those around her if she is not free?   Wilson really gives us an inside look at the life of a concubine to a sultan – how they are both elevated in status as a concubine, but also treated as property.

I adored the friendship between Fatima and Hassan in this story.   Their friendship was not always smooth sailing, but they had each other’s best interests at heart.  It felt very authentic because real friendships are messy sometimes.

Fantasy & historical fiction can tend to be very dense, but Wilson’s writing was very easy to read & enjoy.  While the plot was a slow burn for the most part, there was plenty of adventure to keep me satisfied.  This truly is a unique story that kept me interested from start to finish.

If you are not a fan of open ended books, this might not be the book for you.

» Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

I was in the mood to step outside of my normal reading comfort zones, so I decided to pick up a mystery.  I had been seeing very positive hype for Truly Devious, so I decided to give the audiobook a go since it was available on Hoopla.

I think what really had me excited about this one was the setting.  I am a huge fan of school settings, especially boarding schools located in remote Vermont.  Ellingham Academy delivers as the perfect backdrop to this story.

Truly Devious follows two Ellingham Academy mysteries, an unsolved murder & kidnapping that occurred in the 1930s and a suspicious death in the present day timeline.   The dual timelines worked really well here.  I think the ways in which the two stories & mysteries intertwined was very well constructed.

Stevie was an interesting main character.   In a sea of brilliant, artistic, and accomplished student, Stevie was accepted due to her interest in solving crime.  Stevie was a outside the box type of YA female lead.  I also appreciated the anxiety representation.  I think this perspective is very important, especially in YA.

With that cliffhanger ending, I am itching to dive into the second book in the series, The Vanishing Stair.

» Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

*4.5 Stars*

Fluffy contemporary books are not typically books I gravitate to, but I had heard good things about this series, so I was willing to give it a chance.  This is one of those instances that you can’t judge a book by its genre, because I ended up really enjoying this one!

Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel, an ABC (American-born Chinese) New Yorker that has been invited to Singapore for the summer with her boyfriend, Nick.  The book also follows a few of Nick’s relatives: Eleanor – Nick’s mother, and two of Nick’s cousins – Astrid & Eddie.

Crazy Rich Asians was well written, funny, and very entertaining.  Kwan gives the reader an all access view into the lives of the “crazy rich,” and all the extravagance and drama that comes from extreme wealth.  This book had all the makings of a book I’d typically find cliche: overindulgence, lavishness, over-the-top spending, BUT the way Kwan approaches the story is making light of the absurdities of these characters.  This is the type of book I like to call a “guilty pleasure” type of book, you just can’t help but get sucked into all the drama.

I don’t tend to like the inclusion of footnotes in books, but Kwan made it work here.  I feel like the footnotes can often be distracting and mess with the flow of the story, however I feel like the footnotes included in this book actually enhanced the story.

Crazy Rich Asians should come with a disclaimer to not read while hungry.  Food plays an important role in the book.  I highly enjoyed reading about all the different Singaporean delicacies.  I’d highly recommend this book to all those that consider themselves to be a “foodie.”

I have seen the film adaptation, and do think it was well done.  For the most part, the film follows the book, but does have some small differences.  I do think the book gives a lot more background into the secondary characters: Nick, Astrid, Eddie, Michael, etc.  I feel like we have a better understanding of these characters in the book, and why they made certain decisions.



Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂


12 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: April 2019 (Part 1)”

  1. James’ work does tend to be complex and I think I had a book hangover too when I read his Night Women. I had to break to let that story simmer before I could move on.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea, A Brief History is the most popular because it won’t the Man Booker Prize, but Book of Night Women is just as great. It’s one of my favorite books.


  2. Amanda— I finished Truly Devious and was FURIOUS. First of all, when my book club selected this book, we thought it was a duology. Nope! Book three was just announced. And considering this book only took us ~6 weeks into a two year school program, well, I imagine this will be a long series. Sigh. I just needed more resolution than I got. Plus, I saw the “twist” about David coming a million miles away. That said, I still enjoyed it.

    I’ll definitely be picking up The Bird King. I love Wilson’s Ms Marvel, so how can I say no? I’m glad to hear the readability of her writing continues when moving out of the graphic novel genre. That’s great to hear!

    I read Crazy Rich Asians a few years ago… 4? I think? At the time, I really enjoyed it, but I felt like there were about 80 too many pages. With a stronger editorial hand, I would have devoured that book. I haven’t seen the film yet — you would recommend it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought Truly Devious was a duology too… Oh no! What have we gotten into?!

      The Bird King was my first of Wilson’s work. I’ve seen her Ms Marvel graphic novels, but never really thought much about reading them… Maybe I should reconsider!

      I agree with CRA being a touch too long. I just finished the second book and felt similar. I didn’t love it as much as the first, BUT I still really liked it. The movie adaptation is cute, I think it is worth watching 🙂


  3. Good to know about the Marlon James. I do want to read it because I’ve loved two of this other books. This one sounds like it might be the most challenging for me because I don’t normally read fantasy and I have a hard time keeping track of so many characters. But I’m definitely going to try it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooo which ones did you read & enjoy? I’d really like to read one of his other books to see if BLRW may just not have been my cup of tea….
      If you don’t read fantasy and have a hard time with a big character cast, BLRW is definitely going to be challenging, but you never know, it may surprise you 🙂 Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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