Review: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of the Aladdin story from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

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I received a copy of this title from the publisher via a Good Reads Giveaway. It does not impact my review.

Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies, but I am unfamiliar with the actual story it’s based on and I believe The Forbidden Wish is supposed to be a re-telling of that and not the cartoon I loved as a kid (and still love as an adult, let’s be honest). Even so, reading it still made me want to watch the movie (sadly, it’s not on Netflix, though).

The story is told through the point of view of the Jinni (genie), Zahara. I’m not entirely sure if it’s supposed to be in second person or if Zahara just occasionally talks to her last master and friend, Roshana. Either way, the writing was beautiful. I’m usually not real interested in a ton of description and there were times where I felt like it was a little too much here, but I could still appreciate how lovely and lyrical the writing was at times.

I liked both Zahara and Aladdin. Their friendship developed quickly and I thought they worked well together. I would’ve liked to have seen them get into a little more shenanigans than they did, though, because that’s when I felt like the book was the most entertaining. Though I did ship them together, I found the development of the romance a little underwhelming. Other than physical attraction (and there wasn’t a lot of rhetoric spent on that, thank goodness), I didn’t really see why either one of them started to fall for the other. It was just kind of sudden for me. That said, once it was determined that they had feelings for each other, there were some sweet moments between them that I enjoyed.

In the movie, Aladdin wishes to become a prince to marry the princess because he loves her. In this story, he still wants to marry the princess, but his motives are to avenge the death of his parents. There is a sub-plot of oppression and rebellion and also of a war between mortals and the Jinn. I have to say I was not as interested in that. While I was interested in seeing if Zahara could be granted freedom, all the rest of the jinni politics didn’t really capture my attention and I found myself skimming portions with them (even some of the final chapters which were pretty important).

Overall, I did enjoy The Forbidden Wish. The writing was beautiful (and so is the cover) and I liked the two main characters. Though it’s advertised as a re-telling, I think it stands pretty well on it’s own.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars

Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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I received a copy of this title from the publisher via a Good Reads giveaway. It does not impact my review.

This book has been on my radar for such a long time, but for some reason I just never really felt like picking it up. A part of me just thought, “eh, it’s just another dystopian.” BUT I WAS WRONG! It’s so good (bloodydamn good, you might say). This story, while it can in a way be considered a more intense Hunger Games, is so much more than your average dystopian. While some themes are obviously familiar, Brown’s writing breathes fresh life into a story of the oppressed and the start of their revolution.

Darrow lives in a primitive, strictly regulated society on Mars. Though there is little to no luxury or freedom, he is more or less content with his life. He’s the best at what he does and he loves his wife and his family. He believes what he’s been told, that he’s helping prepare Mars for the weaker race of humans to be able to inhabit it. His wife, Eo, though, is not content with their lot. She believes they are slaves and that they should have more, be more. It is through her sacrifice for the dream of freedom that Darrow is able to find out just how right his wife was. Mars is already inhabited and he and his people are slaves, considered the lowest of the low in the hierarchy. Darrow joins the revolution to honor and avenge his wife and begins the process to become a Gold member of Society and join the Institute, where the leaders of the Gold are made.

Red Rising moves at a pretty steady pace, but it took me well over a hundred pages to really get into the story. There was a lot of information given early on about how the society works and I was a bit confused at times. However, once Darrow gets to the Institute the story really begins to pick up. This is where comparisons to the Hunger Games come in, but it is much more brutal and intense and it also provides a lot more opportunity for strategy and intrigue. The betrayals and the deaths are more shocking because in this game, they shouldn’t be necessary to win.

Brown’s writing is really quite brilliant. He doesn’t rely on big, shocking twists, which I have come to expect from these type of stories, but there are so many subtle shifts and surprises throughout the story. There isn’t a lot of what I would consider banter, but the sarcasm is clever and biting. He also made many seemingly unlikable characters, people I could root for and care about.

I’m afraid this little review does not do justice to how great this book is and how much I enjoyed reading it. Though it took a bit to get into the story, once I did I was heavily invested and couldn’t put it down. The characters are empathetic, the plot was forever evolving and surprising, and the writing was beautiful. I highly recommend Red Rising and am very excited to start the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Free Books are my Favorite

Since I don’t feel like doing Top Ten Tuesday – I didn’t pre-write and schedule it like I normally do and by this point in the day, I don’t think I have any characters to add to the conversation – I thought I would just share what was waiting for me yesterday after I got home from a long, awful day.

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Thanks to Fiktshun for the giveaway!