Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

Title: The Stardust Thief 
Series: The Sandsea Trilogy #1
Author: Chelsea Abdullah
Source/Format: NetGalley (Orbit); eARC
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Orbit; May 17, 2022

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Neither here nor there, but long ago... 

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality. 

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.
I’m always up for a good retelling/rework of classics. And when I heard about The Stardust Thief being inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, it easily became one of my most anticipated releases of 2022.

In a lot of ways, The Stardust Thief was a story about history as much as it was about stories. They held power, but they could become embellished and also twisted by the loss of a good portion of the context within their meaning. Given that the inspiration was One Thousand and One Nights, I was already expecting stories within the story to take a prominent role. I was really pleased with how well that was done.

The way Chelsea Abdullah laid out the society the characters inhabited was one of my favorite portions of the book. A lot of what happened challenged the status quo repeatedly, which blurred the lines between right and wrong, truth and lie, justified or outright villainy. And a lot of the time, the end didn’t justify the means, owing to the moral ambiguity of some of the characters. There were a lot of secrets, though there were ample instances where the dark undercurrents in the story were plainly visible. It was complicated.

Once the story moved on from where it initially began, there was a lot of travel. The harshness of the climate was always in the back of my mind as I was reading the first hundred pages or so. During the opening chapters, the story was firmly grounded in a flourishing city, but moving beyond it revealed a harsher landscape riddled with danger. The sand, the heat, the cold, and the weather were vividly told.

Some of the travel parts could be a little slow though, and there were points where I got a little frustrated with the story. However, once I hit the second half of the book, everything just snapped into focus; the characters and the world were being explored far more; and the central conflict (and the point of the quest for the lamp) got clearer. That was also around the point when I really appreciated the work that went into developing the connection between the characters as well as their personalities. When the going got tough, they only had each other to rely on. (Also, Loulie and Qadir were my favorites).

All in all, The Stardust Thief was a promising beginning to a new trilogy. And after THAT ending, I can’t wait for the sequel.
About the author....
Chelsea Abdullah is an American-Kuwaiti writer born and raised in Kuwait, where she grew up listening to stories about mysterious desert creatures and wily (only sometimes likable) heroes. Consumed by wanderlust, she has put down roots in various states. After earning her MA in English at Duquesne University, she moved to New York, where she currently lives. When not immersed in her own fictional worlds, she spends her free time playing video games, doodling characters, and hoarding books she doesn’t have the shelf space for. Her debut novel, The Stardust Thief, the first book in a trilogy, is releasing with Orbit in summer 2022.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Orbit) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Music Monday (199): Anitta, Oceans of Slumber


  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I'm steadily adding more and more of Anitta's music to my playlist. Another favorite is Me Gusta featuring Cardi B and Myke Towers.

Adri: I'm listening to Oceans of Slumber's new song Hearts Of Stone.

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, May 13, 2022

I Listened to Serpentina by Banks

Serpentina is Banks’s highly anticipated fourth studio album. It was certainly one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

The overall feel is a lot different from The Altar (2016) and III (2019). Even so, it’s very much a “Banks” album in all the best ways, with a lot of synth effects, auto-tune, and some experimentation—it’s a blend of genres—but the beats are catchy. They have a certain moody and atmospheric edge that works well with Banks’s vocals, which I’ve come to expect and appreciate. And when it delivers, it delivers.

The lyrics are just excellent. I expected nothing less, but even then I underestimated it. There were way too many lines that I wanted to quote. Some of my favorites come from the songs Skinnydipped, Meteorite, Holding Back, and Birds by the Sea. But, all of the tracks are a solid offering, and it’s hard to choose any one song that stands out as a top favorite when they’re all so good.

Overall, Serpentina has quickly become a favorite. And so far, I’m having a great time listening to it on repeat.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Music Monday (198): Anitta, Alice Francis, and Stromae


  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: A couple of weeks ago, I caught Anitta's performance on the Coachella livestream. So I checked out her most recent album. One of my favorite songs is Gata featuring Chencho Corleone.

Adri: I have been waiting for something new from Alice Francis in what felt like forever. And yet, I managed to miss the release of their new song, As Long as You Smile, which I am currently enjoyingAnd now I have another album to look out for.

Andrea: Hi all! This week I'm listening to Bonne Journée by Stromae. This is another artists that I discovered by watching the Coachella livestream. Have an amazing week!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, May 6, 2022

Monsters in the Mist by Juliana Brandt

Title: Monsters in the Mist
Series: n/a
Author: Juliana Brandt
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy; Horror
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Young Readers; May 3, 2022 

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
When Glennon McCue moves into a lighthouse on a mysterious island, he must figure out why those who visit are never heard from again…before he and his family fall victim to the island’s curse. 
After Glennon McCue’s father takes an overseas position, Glennon finds himself relocated from Minneapolis to his uncle’s lighthouse on Isle Philippeaux, smack dab in the middle of Lake Superior. Surrounded by nothing but black, ominous waters, there are many stories about the island, but the worst one is that sailors wash ashore…and are never heard from again. Just before his family is supposed to move home, a storm rocks the isle and a ship crashes outside the lighthouse. The survivors seem off, especially one sailor who acts more like a monster than a person. Suddenly, Glennon finds himself in the middle of a real-life scary story, and unless he can figure out the mystery of the island…he and his family will be lost forever, too.

Monsters in the Mist is probably one of the best middle grade horror books I’ve read this year. It wasn’t only thrills and chills, but it struck a balance between telling a spooky story and a poignant one; where the monsters weren’t only the mystery of what resided in the mist, but could be found in the memory of and about the living as well.

Monsters in the Mist unfolds in the perspective of Glennon. I sympathized with him and understood and appreciated the way the author portrayed how he dealt with the stress of the scarier points of his situation. It was to the point where his doubt in himself made him question what he saw. The story deals with heavy topics, and much of it illustrated the way that grief and fear affect people differently. You don’t need to look any further than Glennon, his sister Leeunah (Lee), and his mother to see what I mean.

The setting didn’t make it any easier for the characters, as Isle Philippeaux didn’t give up its secrets easily. It was a mysterious place with an eerie atmosphere that only intensified as the story headed for its conclusion. I was especially interested in the way lighthouses were used in the story (as indicative by the book’s cover), and it ended up being one of my favorite aspects.

These things were accompanied by some frightening and dangerous instances. And it forced the characters to literally acknowledge all that had happened to them—as well as the predicament they unwittingly found themselves in—before they could move forward.

Monsters in the Mist had a message: feeling somewhat topical in a story that was otherwise a haunting read. All in all, it was great.

About the author....
Juliana Brandt is an author and kindergarten teacher with a passion for storytelling that guides her in both of her jobs. She lives in her childhood home of Minnesota, and her writing is heavily influenced by travels around the country and decade living in the South. When not working, she is usually exploring the great outdoors. Her novels, THE WOLF OF CAPE FEN, and A WILDER MAGIC were both published by SourcebooksKids. Up next is MONSTERS IN THE MIST which will publish in May, 2022. Her writing is represented by Natalie Lakosil of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Sourcebooks Young Readers) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you! 
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