Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review of Akata Warrior by The Inky Saga

I did not set myself the most ambitious reading goals this year, and it has been a struggle to just read one book per month. However, I was really happy to get to read Akata Warrior, the sequel to Akata Witch, which I read and adored last year. The magical adventures of Sunny and her coven are so much fun and full of heart.

I also love the African representation in the book. These books comment on identity in Nigeria, which is as varied as complex as it is in America. I think is so important that children read a book set in different countries, especially countries that we don’t often see portrayed for a young adult audience. Africa is such a huge continent and in many places, it is surprisingly not that different from certain parts of the United States.

In this post I will talk about the plot and potential spoilers from this sequel. Like with my last review of a sequel, I’m not sure how many people will read this post. So I’m just going to assume it will be people who have already read it and want to talk about it! If you’ve not read Akata Witch, I highly recommend it. You can check out the review I wrote last year.

SEE: AKATA WITCH BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

 • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor 

Released: October 16, 2018 by Speak
Pages: Paperback, 512 pages
Theme(s): Identity, inner strength, power of knowledge, friendship, balance
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy / African-American Fiction
Age Group: 10+
Goodreads | Amazon*

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A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysterious town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Akata Warrior picks up some time after Sunny and her oha coven have defeated Black Hat and are well into studying independently with guidance from their individual mentors. The book actually started with a really great recap in the form of a letter from the snarky Obi Library Collective of Leopard Knocks’ Department of Responsibility! I had been worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the story, but I ended up recalling most of the first book. I was actually only fuzzy on the ending, probably because I was so unsatisfied by the plot’s main conflict.

In this book Sunny is being haunted by the evil spirit Ekwenzu who wants to bring on the destruction of the natural world. She manages to separate Sunny from her spirit face Azue, which to everyone’s surprise does not kill her. Instead Sunny is forced to navigate the magical world without her spirit guide and find inner strength and confidence in herself.

In this second book, we see Sunny grow closer to her brothers. Each sibling is so different, they all have live such different lives despite all having lived under the same roof. It’s really nice to see them start to opening up and trusting each other with their vulnerabilities and trouble they get into. It is through her brothers that we see a real-life problem plaguing Nigerian higher education: confraternities.

I had never heard of this problem and was glad that Okorafor included this little side plot that was so relevant to the story because of the leopard world’s value of education and the story’s Nigerian setting. It is horrifying to see how people are press-ganged into these secret societies full of corruption that ultimately seem to have nothing to do with the honest pursuit of knowledge.

One more minor thing that I found highly unsettling was the development of a relationship between Sunny’s friend Chichi and her older brother Chuckwu. It’s super creepy to think of a 18-year-old guy who is obsessed with body building off at college being attracted to a literally underdeveloped child! Chichi is supposed to be this tiny little girl. The first book makes it seem like Chichi is older than she looks, but I don’t think that makes it okay!

I think drama of a love triangle was the main the point of throwing Chuckwu into Chichi and Sasha’s relationship. Maybe it can be chalked up to cultural differences, but I do feel it was highly inappropriate even if their relationship was more innocent.

Aside from the horrors of reality, this book was a lot of fun! My favorite parts of these books is always following Sunny as she discovers more about the leopard world and all of what’s possible. The flying wood cutter, Grashcoatah, was a particular delight. He was like a playful Loki in giant grasscutter disguise!

Like the first book, I feel the second suffers from a similar weakness in the plot. I was really in shock again about how many things happened that Sunny did not see fit to explain to the Leopard adults, particularly her mentor Sugar Cream! In the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events books, the children are always trying to tell adults first and it’s only when they realize they are not being taken seriously do they realize they must act on their own. I’m not sure why it doesn’t even occur to Sunny and her friends to confide in more older people with more experience!

I also really didn’t like how disconnected the climax felt from the rest of the book. I actually did like the slow unraveling of the discovery that the house Sunny had been learning about in her grandmother’s letter was Ekwenzu’s home in the spirit land, but it was not a very smooth transition from the mystery the coven was chasing by visiting the mythical city of Osisi. To be honest, though, maybe I’m just used to stories where the protagonists know what they need to do. Sunny and the gang are plagued by problems not at all personal to them but derived from ancestral conflict.

If I had to rate this book by stars, I’d give it a 4 stars. It’s a very fun read and does what a great fantasy book should: ignite our imagination but also reflect problems we face in the real world. My biggest critique is just the same as it was for the first book; a lacking plot. Ultimately, however, that is easy to overlook since the rest of the book is so fun and I truly care about the characters.

If you read this post in its entirety, let me know if you’re read these books yet! I’m truly curious, as I never used to review sequels in the past. I didn’t see a point. If the first book grabs you, you’re going to want to read the sequel naturally. But I guess people can be curious about where the story goes without wanting to sit through a story and characters they feel so-so about. I, for one, am extremely interested in continuing to follow Sunny’s story and see where this series goes!

Thank you for reading!
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The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2) by Maureen Johnson

Easily my most anticipated book of January, hell, of 2019 as a whole, was The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson, the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2018, Truly Devious. In case you weren’t around way back then, here’s a link to the review I wrote of the book that started this fantastic series. It’s one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written on the blog for a book I still consider highly underrated.

Stevie is such an amazing female character for young girls to be able to see in YA literature. I love that she is filled with such purpose and passion for something so unique and practical. I also think it’s great to see someone who has to deal with anxiety and parents with such different fundamental values. It’s so timely.

Before I go into detail, I just want to say I loved The Vanishing Stair as much as I did the first book! It sufficiently answered just enough questions about the mystery to keep me satisfied and still managed to end in a way that left me aching for the third installment to come out already!

I’ve decided not will not spoil the end of the book, but I will detail the questions I still have regarding the ending. So if you are halfway interested in checking out this series, go away now! I’ve warned you!

• The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson  

The Vanishing Stair picks up maybe a month after where the first book left off the morning after Stevie’s housemate Ellie escaped Ellingham Academy and Stevie learned David is the son of the infamous politician Edward King her parents idolize. As it turned out, Germaine Batt’s report about how Stevie discovered the link between Ellie and Hayes Major’s death became a hit online. After Stevie’s parents read it, they quickly whisked her away from dreamy boarding school and plopped her back into public school.

Honestly, I could empathize with her sadness and frustration. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle this distress as gracefully as I assume she did. But to her dubious fortune, Stevie is able to return to the academy after Senator King shows up at her parents house and convinces them to allow her to return to school. She discovers that David has been going off the rails since she left and his father has decided Stevie can fix him.

Although she is unhappy with how she was able to return to Ellingham, she is not able to resist the opportunity to return to the scenes of the crime that drew her to the school in the first place.

Much more of the past is quickly revealed in The Vanishing Stair through flashbacks involving the two new characters introduced at the end of Truly Devious. For much of the book I wondered when and if Stevie would become privy to the information we as readers are granted ahead of time! Before Stevie, we are able to find out more about Albert Ellingham’s life and the long-forgotten secret passageways that allowed the founder to keep his secrets. But our girl Stevie eventually pieces together the mystery herself in a scene where I imagined her standing like Sherlock below.

sherlock

In this novel, Stevie is introduced to Fenton, a historian on the crime who needs a research assistant. This older woman is an authority on the case who intends to solve the mystery of Alice’s whereabout in order to win a monetary reward set by Ellingham before he died. Her presence in the book adds new stakes and competition for Stevie as she discovers she’s in a race against the clock to solve the mystery.

There are light moments between Stevie and the gang as they celebrate Halloween. There’s some steamy moments as Stevie and David reconnect. Of course their relationship is complicated by Stevie’s secret deal with his father, which feels rote and thrown in just because our lovebirds can’t have too much fun. There are also some absolutely devastating moments akin which for me harkened to the sadness of that scene in season one of Stranger Things where they think they’ve found Will’s body to the cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”.

By the end of this book, we discover the true culprit behind the crimes at Ellingham Academy and why it was so hard to identify them! Honestly, the truth blew me away. I feel like I might’ve been able to guess them if it had not been for all the smoke and mirrors, which is why this YA mystery is so fantastic! It’s such a smart series on par with the Six of Crows duology, which is a YA (or perhaps New Adult) masterpiece.

I decided to rate this book 4.5 stars. It’s beautifully crafted and paced, and my main complaint right now is how frustrating David has been for no apparent reason at all! I hope that he is able to redeem himself by the end of the next book or I want a storyline where Stevie learns to avoid broken, troubled boys like him. I’m so over love interests with self-destructive tendencies.

END OF THE BOOK QUESTIONS

  1. Was Ellie working with someone?
  2. What the heck is David doing?
  3. Who at the academy doesn’t want the mystery solved?
  4. What happened to Alice?

I hope you liked this review! I’m really not sure who is going to click on the review for a sequel of a highly underrated book, so if you read all the way through you’re something special in my eyes! <3 ^_^

This is probably my last blog post before the weekend. I’ve been planning blog content for the days I’ll be out of town (Saturday–Tuesday) finally visiting my poor grandma who had a stroke in January. I’ll try to be active on WordPress as much as possible, responding to comments and blog hopping whenever I can. You can also always get in touch on Twitter if you’d like. :)

Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on The Man in the High Castle

I finished The Man in the High Castle in January. I discovered the show in November or December of 2017 and binged the first two seasons over the course of a single weekend, if I remember correctly. The show was just so beautiful, with the scenery of the reimagined U.S. under Japanese and German control. I loved the fashion. It was all just so beautiful, even while the world created depicted what would have been the world could have been like if ruled by fascism.

There is not a whole lot to spoil in the book. This is the kind of book that left me with more questions than answers, so I didn’t see any point to omitting anything. If you have been keeping up with the show, there is not anything I discuss that would spoil anything in the show.

I actually hoped I would find a hint of how the show would end by reading this book, but I was sorely mistaken. The show takes and adapts a lot from this book, but it is not a beat-for-beat adaptation. It’s actually a really wonderful adaptation that, I think, would be a really satisfying companion to the book for old fans. It takes philosophical ideas from the book further and develops a more compelling storyline.

• ⟡ • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick  • ⟡ •

I was left a little disappointed by the book overall, but that is mainly because the main draws of the show, in my opinion, are absent from the book.

Julianna Crane, the star of the show, is a mere shadow of herself in the book. The mystery that drives the show, the mystery of the films and where they come from are not in the book at all! There is no growing resistance in the book for which we can root, as there is in the show. Instead of a twisting plot, the book is heavy in philosophical quandaries and big ideas.

Instead of the films, the emergence of a banned book threatens the Nazi powers that be. We see from the perspectives of several different characters how this book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, has affected the status quo. What has made this book so controversial? Well, it describes an alternative history in which the Allies and not the Axis powers won WWII. It shows what the world could be like, which would be a preferable reality to Americans and others under Nazi dominion.

The book goes into much greater detail than the show about what happened in other parts of the world, like South America and Africa. It also goes into greater detail of the warring Nazi factions. Cut out of the show was the space colonization project of the Nazi, which is slightly comical. It’s one of the many details that reminds you that this book was written before the first human walked on the moon in 1969.

What stuck out most to me is that the alternative history presented in the fictional book was not ours, but one in which the U.S. and Great Britain become the major world powers.

The alternatives presented in this book, one by the controversial book and one by the extremely unpleasant Joe Cinnadella, made me wonder which the author Philip K. Dick might have actually have been predicting would be the way our world could actually end up. While the U.S. did become a major world power post-WWII, the relative peace and freedom which Americans enjoy today was not a reality in the 1950s or 60s. It took a lot of work to get where we are today, and there’s still a lot to be done.

Did Dick think the U.S. was heading towards its own demise when he wrote the book? I ask this question because I also wonder in what ways the U.S. might still be hurdling towards this destruction today. We have a lot of social safe-guards at the moment, protecting our most vulnerable people and keeping us all safe as result. But the Republican party at large seems intent on taking these things away. Are we becoming a plutocracy? Will that mean the end of our world as we know it?

…Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive…

I think this idea of alternative universes must have been on many people’s minds during the Cold War, not least because I’ve encountered children’s literature that ponders the same the questions. I’m not really sure what to make of it, as I didn’t have time to look into it. If I had to guess, I assume it has something to do with the fear in the back of many people’s minds that the world could end at any moment. Maybe thinking that there were other worlds out there provided some peace of mind?

We do not have the ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.

I actually finished this book as the third season of The Good Place was wrapping up, so it was oddly gratifying to see the familiar theme emerge that highlights how difficult it is to tell right from wrong in modern society. The choices you make and the kind of life you choose to live all depend on where you live, the power and economic structures in place, and the laws of the land. It is easy to look at different people and cultures and say that they have it all wrong. But it’s important to remember how many constraints we all live under.

He told us about our own world, she thought as she unlocked the door to her motel room. This, what’s around us now. In the room, she again switched on the radio. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.

I am sure many things went over my head in this book. I admit I am not sure I was able to follow Julianna’s logic when it came to understanding why Abendsen wrote the book or what its purpose was. I’m not sure if I was supposed to or really needed to. The book was successful for me in that it was thought-provoking. It’s one I could see myself reading periodically throughout my life and picking up new meaning each time.

☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙

If you’re wondering if this is a worth-while read, I recommend picking it up if you are intrigued by any of the thoughts I shared above. It’s the kind of book you want to read and have a conversation about, so a book club or group reading might be the best situations in which to experience this book and its ideas.

It took me a little while to finish this post, so I have since read The Vanishing Stair, the sequel to one of my favorite reads last year, Truly Devious! You can expect a review of that one very soon.

Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Not going to lie, I’m finding it incredible that I am already right on track with my new year’s resolution to read one fiction and one non-fiction book per month. It was difficult for me to read in Fall 2018. I feel like there was so much I wanted to read, but at the same time I was shifting my reading priorities. I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge a few months early last year, so I didn’t know what was motivating to me to read or what to prioritize.

I guess I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I am a mood reader.

This year I want to really enjoy reading, so I’ve decided to take a break from Goodreads. I used to love tracking my reading progress and using the mobile app as a bookmark. But I ultimately have begun to feel like sharing my reading progress is giving me undue stress to read more quickly. I also feel the review system is a little broken. My feed is always cluttered by the same people and updates.

I do not I feel like I’m benefiting from a community either. I don’t engage in any conversations on Goodreads. In fact my only joy from the app has been when complete strangers find my old reviews and interact with them! That’s the only thing I’ll miss, beyond the ability to organize books by shelves.

All that said, I plan to continue these “Thoughts on…” posts throughout the year to talk about what I’ve been reading. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was my first full read of the year, but in this post I also want to talk about what I’ve been reading since my last blog post (see: Thoughts on AART + Heist Society).

CURRENTLY READING

I started two books in December that I did not finish, but I still consider myself to be “currently reading.” They are Disrupt You by Jay Samit and Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas. My reasons for putting both these books down are different. Disrupt You was not turning out the way I hoped it would. It’s turned out to be very anecdotal and argumentative in ways I do not want or need.

I put down Kingdom of Ash because I realized I wanted to take a step back to 1) start the blog post for the review because I was afraid I might forget the beginning, and 2) refresh myself on character names and relationship dynamics so I could fully appreciate the story without feeling like I’m missing why certain things are significant.

At the beginning of January I felt like picking up The Democratic Surround by Fred Turner. I’m about two chapters in and really like it, but I’ve had to set it aside while getting back into the swing of things at work. I wanted to read something fictional, so I picked up The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

Over the holidays I finally got around to watching the third season of the Amazon Prime original show. While I wasn’t as captivated by it as much as I was the first two seasons, I am still eager to find how the story will wrap up. Since it took two years for the third season to arrive, I’m not holding my breath for the fourth and have decided it’s a great time to read the book the show was based on! About thirty pages in, I’m already surprised by some of the character differences. I don’t know what to expect now!

• ⟡ • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  • ⟡ •

I finally decided to pick up this novella after starting to read The Democratic Surround, just because the time period in which the novella is set is the same more or less as the time period discussed in the academic text. I felt these texts would compliment each other, and I do think fiction is a great way to become immersed in places and times long past.

I really love Truman Capote’s writing style. It’s so clear and concise, yet still so evocative in its simple descriptions of place and people. There’s also a fair amount of humor subtly weaved into the story from dialogue to situations. It’s not at all surprising so much of the dialogue from the movie starring Audrey Hepburn was directly lifted from the book.

On the topic of the movie, after having now read the book, I think the movie is an excellent adaptation. It keeps Holly Golightly’s spirit alive. While the movie does paint her a little bit nicer and give her a more hopeful ending, I think the more important aspects of her character and strife are preserved. She is often manipulative and just plain mean, but there’s something I really respect about her self-awareness and how she lives her life by her own moral code.

I feel like this novella is absolutely a must-read for anyone who loves the movie beyond its superficial façade. You get to see how truly clever and bold Holly is. Additionally, the novella really helps to illuminate certain parts of the story and lines from the movie that have long stuck with me, including how she can still be so fond of the man who she married as a child (although, I’m still horrified) and how she justifies her scandalous lifestyle.

…good things only happen to you if you’re good. Good? Honest is more what I mean. Not law-type honest…but unto-thyself-type honest. Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart…

One thing I found myself thinking about after finishing the novella is how much Holly Golightly reminds me of Jay Gatsby. They are both models of self-improvement and ambition. Both characters are extremely charming despite humble (and mysterious) backstories. They both work hard to advance in life, but ultimately fail to live their lives to their fullest because they are haunted by great loves they are unable to leave in the past.

I’m not sure what I can take away with me from this book. I’m no Holly Golightly, nor do I wish to be. For me Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a love letter to people who refuse to accept the lot they are given in life and are shameless enough to strive for more. They’re dreamers who actually do something to pursue their dreams, which is more than can be said for a lot of people (myself included). I think that is why I was first so moved by the movie and now by the novella.

☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙

I was feeling really optimistic with my reading at the beginning of the month but it has since dissipated a bit. I don’t really mind, though! I’m glad I’m reading at all. I hope to finish The Man in the High Castle this weekend as I have three days off. I would also like to reread Truly Devious immediately after as the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, is coming out soon! Ideally I would like to read both that and King of Scars. I’ve pre-ordered both and can’t wait to finally hold them in my hands.

Thank you for reading!
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