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Mini-reviews: A Girl Like That + Blood and Sand

pub 2/27/18 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Young Adult - Contemporary
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Here’s something you need to know about me: I typically shy away from books that do the whole character dies in the beginning and looks on from the afterlife type of narrative. It freaks me out and I blame it on the movie Ghost. But something told me to pick this book and keep reading. And I’m so glad I did. It’s a really powerful story, but admittedly hard to read. When sixteen-year-old Zarin, a rebellious teenage girl, and Porus, a traditional young man who’s only ever had eyes for her, are found dead in a car crash together, it raises a lot of questions. From their families, their classmates and the religious police (I did not know this existed!). We learn their story through multiple perspectives, including Zarin and Porus’, from when they were alive and we find out exactly how they got here. And it’s those perspectives that drove most of my emotions. I alternated between sadness for Zarin and outright anger and indignation. The book tackles religion, race, class, bullying, sexual assault and more. I also just learned a lot. I can’t think of a story being told like this before and it opened my eyes to a culture so different from the one I grew up in. Yet for all I couldn’t relate to, it was easy to connect to Zarin’s feelings of loneliness and self-doubt. It’s that combination of being eye-opening and universal that makes this book so unique.

Do I recommend? Definitely! It has a really important story to tell and it’s extremely  well-written.

pub 1/16/18 by Tor Teen
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received from pub for review
A retelling of Spartacus as a young teenage woman? Sign me up! I was a huge fan of the show (during Andy Whitfield’s time) so I was super curious to see how this would play out. For the most part, I thought the book did deliver in terms of world-building, the story and how it did the gender-flip. The Roman Republic is an empire built on conquering other nations through brute force and forcing the few survivors into slavery. One such survivor is Attia, a princess and heir to Thrace, a great warrior kingdom. Also, she’s a badass swordsmaiden (here for this!). But now she’s a slave hiding her true identity and given to Xanthus, a gladiator and the Champion of Rome, as a gift from their master. But much to her surprise, Xanthus is a good man who never takes advantage of the situation and they form an unexpected understanding (and more). They both want their freedom and revenge and together, they may get exactly what they want. The author did a great job of driving home the harsh reality of Attia and Xanthus’ situations, as we alternated between their points-of-views. While I liked both characters and certainly rooted for them, I don’t know if I ever fully connected to either. Similarly, I enjoyed the eventual romance between them but it happened a bit too quickly for my tastes. But all that said, I do want to know what happens next! By the end, I did feel like all the pieces were in place for what I hope will be an even better second book.

Do I recommend? If you like alternate historical fantasy, I’d recommend checking this out. 

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