ARC Book Review – The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

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Title: The Blazing Star
Author:  Imani Josey
Publisher:  Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release Date: 6 December, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Book Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

The Blazing Star contains so many incredibly awesome components: time travel to Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, a diverse cast of PoC characters, strong female protagonists, and a gorgeous, breath-taking book cover. I know, I know, a book cover in no way represents the quality of writing inside of a book, but LOOK AT IT. I bow down at the feet of the artist who designed it, because I love the cover THAT much.

Much of the story revolves around the twinning, or lack of twinning, going on between Portia and Alex, as they try to find out why they were pulled back in time into ancient Egypt, and how they can get home. It’s a fun, original mash-up of fantasy, Egyptian mythology, and magic. Imani Josey truly did an amazing job of making me, the reader, feel as if I was back in Ancient Egypt with the girls. What makes the time travel plot work so well is the characters that Portia, Alex, and Selene meet. My favorites were definitely the Priestesses of the Temple of Isis: High Priestess Weret, Sikara, and Tasherit. The Prince of Egypt was exasperating.

The first half really held my attention, and did a moderately successful job of setting up the world and mythology that we learn about as the novel progresses. However, sadly, the story begins to lose its way in the second half, and in my opinion, starts to fall apart a teeny tiny bit. It became harder and harder to keep track of the timeline, and all the characters that come in and out of the story. The plot advances, but there are definitely some holes and gaps, and character’s actions that don’t make a lot of sense, which started driving me batty about 2/3 of the way through the book.

The ending is unresolved and definitely leaves room for a sequel, but also had me feeling as this was a case of lost potential. I really, really wanted to love The Blazing Star, but ultimately, it fell a bit short.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

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Diversity Spotlight -10 November 2016

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I am still taking a mini-hiatus through Sunday, but I decided to pop back to participate in Diversity Spotlight Thursday, for the first time. I am going to start participating in this meme more often, but it seems particularly important this week.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly feature hosted by Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks. Each week, you discuss three books featuring diverse characters or authors, that fall into each of following three categories:

  • A diverse book you have read and enjoyed
  • A diverse book that has already been released but you have not read
  • A diverse book that has not yet been released

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have read almost all of Adichie’s novels. This was my first, and remains my favorite. Published 10 years ago, Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007, as well as the PEN Open Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction.

1960’s Nigeria is one of turmoil. This epic story follows the plight of Odenigbo, Olanna, and Ugwu, as they are caught in the middle of the Biafran War. Following discrimination and massacres against Igbo in northern Nigeria, the south-eastern provinces of Nigeria seceded to form their own nation of Biafra. What follows, both in history and in this novel, is a brutal civil war in which hundreds of thousands lose their homes, are forced to flee numerous times, and ultimately face starvation and disease.

This is not a feel good novel. It is a novel about the realities of a post-colonial nation burdened by distinctions of class, race, and ethnicity. It is a novel about the horrors of war. It is a novel about death and destruction. That Chimamanda portrays such devastating topics with such depth, clarity, and compassion, is a sign of a masterpiece. And ultimately, in many ways, it is a story about love and survival.

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George by Alex Gino

Book Blurb:

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.  

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

As a cis female, I have no idea what it feels like to be a transgender youth. What I do know is that every trans person I have met has faced incredible hardship and discrimination during both childhood and adulthood. This book, written from George’s perspective, gives readers a glimpse into understanding the frustrations, discrimination, and fear that a trans kid faces.

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The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

Book Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

I received this book via Netgalley, and I am really looking forward to reading it! I am very selective in what books I request on NetGalley, and there are a few things that attracted me to this one. First, they time travel to ancient Egypt – and I love the idea of a fantasy novel set in ancient Egypt! Additionally, the majority of characters, including the heroine, are PoC, which is sadly still rare in the fantasy genre.

The Blazing Star will be published on December 6, 2016.