I am here today to share another batch of mini book reviews of the books I’ve read recently…
*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan, Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan, The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
» Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
Wicked Saints was on my list of most anticipated books of the first half of 2019. Once I saw that stunning cover and read the book description, I was sold!
The overall concept of this story was everything I am typically drawn to in my dark fantasy books: unique magic system, conflict, and Gothic tones. I thought the magic systems in Wicked Saints were very compelling. We have “clerics” that can speak to & receive their power through the gods. We also have “blood mages” that receive their power from shedding their own blood. At its core, Wicked Saints is really about two groups of people with clashing ideals where each feel their beliefs are “right.” The competing ideologies between Kalyazin and Tranavia were reminiscent of all the different conflicts & holy wars throughout history over religion & religious beliefs. Does a individual or group of people with different beliefs from you make them “evil” or “wrong” just because they differ from your own?
Wicked Saints had all the makings for a 5 star read! And yet…
I think where Wicked Saints went wrong for me was with the lack of development in the main character & plot. I might be in the minority here, but I was disappointed in the main character, Nadya. For one, we are thrown into Nadya’s life in the midst of a crisis without any kind of backstory, so it was hard for me to feel sympathetic for her during the opening scenes or connect to her during the rest of the book. In my opinion, had we gotten a little bit more about Nadya’s early life and her life at the monastery, this would have fixed this issue. Secondly, Nadya was flat and overshadowed by every other character, even the secondary characters. To be honest, the only character in Wicked Saints that I even remotely connected to or cared for was Serefin. I also wasn’t buying the angsty romance… I felt zero chemistry, thus it felt forced.
The pacing of Wicked Saints was off. Wicked Saints started off with a bang but unfortunately slowly started to fizzle in the middle. Things did pick up towards the end, but not much happens in the majority of the book to drive the story forward. By the time we finally get to the climax, I was not surprised at the twist in the slightest.
Overall, Wicked Saints had lots of potential to be one of the biggest YA books of 2019, but came up a bit short. I still think it is still a worth-while read. Will I continue on with the series? Possibly. I would definitely read another book by this author because the possibility for greatness is there. I am not going to write Emily Duncan off just yet.
***Trigger/content warning: cutting/self harm***
» Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan
Since this is the final book in a series, I will keep this mini-review short and sweet.
I thought Rich People Problems was a wonderful conclusion to the Crazy Rich Asians series. I really enjoyed how everything panned out in the end, and felt satisfied when I finished. I was appreciated that Kwan was not predictable, and kept me on my toes throughout this series.
We got to see a few different characters come to the forefront in this story. I really enjoyed getting to know Nicholas and his Grandmother, Su Yi, better in this book. I was sad that yet again, Rachel is not a main character in this book.
I said this after the first book, and it is still true: this series is a guilty pleasure type of series. It is full of drama, extravagance, overindulgence… everything I would typically shy away from in a book, however I couldn’t help but get sucked in to the dramatics & politics of the lavishly rich.
If I had to rank the books in this series in order, I’d say Crazy Rich Asians (#1) was the strongest, followed by Rich People Problems (#3), with China Rich Girlfriend (#2) as the weakest.
» The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
After reading Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family, I wanted to read this book as it was the inspiration behind Mackenzie’s podcast & book. Whereas The Read-Aloud Family was more about the logistics of reading together with your children & personal anecdotes about reading, The Read-Aloud Family is more about the the reasoning and the research/evidence behind why you should be reading aloud with your children. Both books are definitely highly recommended.
The Read-Aloud Handbook should be read by all parents, educators, and librarians. If you don’t think it is necessary to read-aloud to children of all ages, you will once you’ve read this book. Jim lays out how parents (as well as educators) can foster a love for reading in children & the science behind why it is so important. Jim Trelease did a tremendous amount of research for this book, and continues to do so with each new edition that is published. I always appreciate the time and effort it takes to write a well researched book.
An interesting point that Jim brings up in this book is that he feels that it is absolutely okay to “force” your kids to read books. His perspective is that as parents, it is our job to push children to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, but need to do for their well-being. For example, would you allow your kids to skip brushing their teeth if they didn’t want to? No? Than why would you allow them to skip reading with all the evidence that supports how beneficial it is for them?
If you didn’t think that there needs to be a reform in the way we educate kids in the U.S before, you definitely will after reading this book. All the research points to the fact that our test-prep driven curriculum is not the most effective way to teach kids. Unfortunately, with all the focus on test-prep, teachers do not have the time to dedicate to reading-aloud or SSR (sustained silent reading) during the school day.
One criticism of this book is that I feel that Jim does get political at one point in the book when he references foreign aid to Iraq & Afghanistan that would be better spent on campaigning for education reform. There were also a few parts in the book where Jim stretches a bit with his arguments based off the research…
All-in-all, this was an inspiring book that has only enhanced my passion for promoting childhood literacy.
» Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
What a lovely little YA contemporary that addresses themes like mental healthy, identity, family relationships, and friendship.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is about Darius, a Persian-American teenager who travels to Iran for the first time to visit relatives he’s never met before. Based off the book description, I knew going into this that it was most likely going to be a character driven story, and that is exactly what I got. Darius the Great is Not Okay is very much Darius’s journey to self discovery of who he is, and where he fits in.
Darius was a very endearing character that I could not help but love. He is awkward, insecure, and a bit neurotic, but he is also kind, thoughtful, and loyal. The teen years are always tough, but throw in depression and identity struggles, and the teen years are downright unbearable.
Darius the Great is Not Okay includes a wonderful friendship between Darius and Sohrab, a family friend of Darius’s grandparents in Iran. I adored Darius’s friendship with Sohrab and appreciated a healthy portrayal of male/male friendship. Their friendship was open, honest, and they were not afraid to show emotion to each other. Sohrab really helps Darius on his journey to connect to his Iranian roots & heritage.
There are many other relationships, mostly familial, within Darius the Great is Not Okay that I thought were very well done – Darius’s relationship with his parents, little sister, and grandparents. I love how Khorram explored all the complexities and dynamics between Darius and these family members.
This writing was quiet and understated, which suited the tone of the story. Khorram’s writing was very easy to read, making for a quick read despite the fact it is a slower paced plot.
Darius the Great is Not Okay is a emotion-packed & heartwarming read. It is the perfect type of YA contemporary to pick up this summer!
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂