TBR Books I Have No Idea When I Will Read

We all have them: books that are so low on our TBR piles, we almost forget they are there.

Weeks ago, I looked through my bookshelves, taking note of all the books I own that I have not read yet. There are some that I want to read before the year is over; others that I want to read but I can wait a little while longer; and lastly are some books I still want to read, but they are low priority. It is simply a matter of when I will read them.

As shameful as it is to say, I have a list of eleven such books on my TBR that I honestly have no idea when I will read them…and I am seriously asking myself if I will read them.

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

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Room is an adult fiction novel told through the eyes of a five-year-old boy named Jack. Jack spent his whole life in “Room,” believing it to be the world only he and his mother belonged to. Except “Room” is Ma’s prison and now she’s determined to free herself and her son from “Room” forever.

Like several of the books on this list, I bought Room on impulse at Target. The movie had just come out and I wanted to read the book before watching it. Then, it kept getting pushed back by new books, too. Plus, I have heard mixed things about the writing in this novel, because Emma Donoghue wrote this story how a five-year-old child would think and speak.

 

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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I don’t know why I have not read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling yet. It’s the book she published a few years after completing her Harry Potter series: an adult contemporary novel about a small English town filled with secrets that are exposed after the sudden death of a prominent town council member.

This might be something I enjoy. I’ve read quite a few books about American small towns and their small-mindedness and secrets. English small towns can’t be any different, can they? Except people have labeled The Casual Vacancy as “boring,” which is likely why it is taking me so long to read it. But now I have read, as well as loved, J.K. Rowling’s other series under her pen name Robert Galbraith, the Cormoran Strike mystery series. So, I chalked up the mixed reviews of The Casual Vacancy as people comparing it too much to Harry Potter.

That doesn’t mean I know for certain when I am actually going to read this book.

 

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

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Not only have I not read any book by Nicholas Sparks, not just The Notebook—likely one of the most successful romance novels—I have not seen the movie either.

GASP!

I know the basic premise of it: rich girl falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks and her mother intervenes in the relationship. A friend of mine loves Nicholas Sparks and I feel like The Notebook is one of those books I want to read just to say I did so I have a valid opinion on it. Problem is, novels heavy with the romance are not ones I tend to gravitate towards.

I might not watch the movie, but I’m still up in the air regarding the book. (Ryan Gosling just doesn’t do it for me, sorry.)

 

Vanilla by Megan Hart

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Vanilla by Megan Hart is a book I bought because I refuse to read the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy by E.L. James yet I’m still interested in the erotica genre. Funny, huh?

Vanilla follows Elise, a strong woman who dominates men in the bedroom—until she meets Niall. Niall is too sweet for Elise’s tastes, but she falls for him anyway. Only the real problem these two have is who is going to be the one on top?

Like I said before, I tend to stray from novels heavy with romance and the main focus of the story being the relationship. However, what draws me to Vanilla is the dynamic of the relationship: the woman dominating the man, something you don’t see portrayed often in media.

The synopsis promises two strong protagonists both set in their ways as they try to compromise their relationship inside the bedroom as well as out of it. I think I want to save this one for next Valentine’s Day.

 

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

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When I bought this book, I was so excited to have found it at Target and I wanted to read it almost immediately. That was probably a year ago.

The Cellar is about a teenaged girl named Summer who is kidnapped by a deranged man named Clover and trapped inside a basement with three other girls. The novel is supposed to be all about their captivity, told in both Summer and Clover’s perspectives. What is even cooler about this book was that it was first written on Wattpad, then it got so popular that a real publisher picked it up.

I tell myself I am saving The Cellar for when I need a really good mystery novel instead of a fantasy. But its placement on my TBR changes frequently depending on which books have my attention at the moment.

 

The Appearance of Annie van Sinderan by Katherine Howe

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The Appearance of Annie van Sinderan is a young adult paranormal stand-alone novel about Wes, an aspiring teenaged filmmaker in New York City, who meets a strange but beautiful girl named Annie while filming a séance. Like other young adult novels, he’s drawn to her and she has dark secrets.

It’s been so long I can’t remember what it was exactly that drew me to The Appearance of Annie van Sinderan. It was enough that I bought it at a little bookstore while visiting Salem, Massachusetts without thinking too hard about it.

 

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver

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The Skin Collector is an adult mystery novel, the eleventh in a series about Lincoln Rhyme, a New York City detective, and his crew. A serial killer is killing his victims by tattooing them with poison. I bought this book from the racks at CVS. Yes—I have no self-control.

FYI—I have never read anything by Jeffery Deaver, either.

 

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

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The Merciless is a young adult horror novel about a group of deranged popular girls bent on performing an exorcism on the school’s outcast. That’s all I know about it and all I really needed to know when I bought it. The plot reminded me of Bliss by Lauren Myracle, one of my all-time favorite books. Since high school, I had tried to find something like it. Then, I discovered Dawn Kurtagich last year. Her novels blew me out of the water. After that, The Merciless made its quick descent down the TBR pile.

 

Kindred by Octavia Butler

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I received this book from the professors of the Women & Gender Studies department at the luncheon they held for the seniors graduating from the WGS minor. Kindred is a science fiction novel about a young African-American woman who travels back in time to slave-era Maryland in time to save a young white man—the same slaveholder who fathers her great-grandmother. As you can imagine, this puts the protagonist in quite a predictament.

Just as I write this, I think I might move Kindred higher up on my TBR pile….

 

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

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I had wanted to read Wicked for years when I bought it. I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz. It is a retelling of the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West, and how she came to be the villain we all love to hate in the original story. I still want to read it, of course, but my interest has sadly dwindled in the past year.

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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I have a love-hate relationship with Hemingway that runs deep. I liked The Sun Also Rises and I disliked A Farewell to Arms. For Whom the Bell Tolls is hailed as his best work. But like his previous books, it’s about a wayward American falling in love with a beautiful woman that will likely break his heart into a million pieces and likely will end with everyone miserable. What else would one expect from a Hemingway novel?

 

If anyone has read these books and loved them, feel free to convince me to read them!

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The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag 2017

I recently made a list of all the books I hope to read before the year is over. The pressure is on; this year, I have not read nearly as much as I have in previous years by this time. Therefore, to keep my TBR as manageable as possible, I promised myself to put off book buying. I think it will be easier for me this time around, primarily since all my other anticipated releases for this year don’t come out until the fall, just in time for Christmas. Plus, there aren’t any books I am dying to have my hands on right now.

I have seen The Mid-Year Freak Out Tag done on BookTube and I love it. It’s one of those tags you can do over and over, and not have the same answers every time.

Now, onto the tag!

 

Best book you’ve read so far in 2017?

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills—I will not shut up about this book. It is a young adult contemporary novel told in dual perspective of two teenaged girls surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. One is in 2016, where a girl lives in the shadow of her older brother who died in the Twin Towers, and the other is a Muslim girl in 2001 that gets trapped inside the Towers that day with a boy she just met.

This book lived up to my expectations. I still think about it months after reading it. It had beautiful writing; so many hard-hitting quotes about ignorance, hate, friendship, family etc. At this point in time, I can say without a doubt All We Have Left will be in my top ten favorite books of 2017.

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Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017?

I did finally read A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas this year, but the best sequel I have read in 2017 is A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. I won’t get into too many details because of spoilers, but I loved this book way more than I did ACOMAF. Sabaa’s way of storytelling is phenomenal and her world building is spot-on. I love every single one of her characters; Elias and Laia are easily two of my favorite new protagonists. It was a solid second book, no trace of the “second book slump.”

Now, Sabaa, where is the third book???

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New release you haven’t read yet?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which was released January of 2017. This was one of my anticipated releases for the year, and then I heard mixed reviews on it from well-known BookTubers whose opinions I trust. People either loved it or were disappointed by it. It’s about two sisters getting trapped inside a magical carnival and one must save the other. I’m still looking forward to reading Caraval and forming my own opinion on it.

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Most anticipated release for the rest of 2017?

It’s a tie between Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco and Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas. Obviously, Tower of Dawn is the surprise full-length novel in the Throne of Glass series told through the eyes of Chaol Westfall, my favorite character in that series everyone else seems to hate. Hunting Prince Dracula is the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper, a young adult historical fiction novel about a budding female forensic scientist in Victorian London—and my second-favorite book of last year. So, I already have high expectations for Hunting Prince Dracula.

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Biggest surprise?

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist was a book I was recommended on Goodreads. The plot intrigued me so much that I picked it up from the library. I expected something cute and fluffy. I got the cute but I also got more depth than I anticipated.

Love and First Sight follows Will, a boy born blind, who decides to leave his school for the blind to attend public school. When he falls in love with a girl named Cecily, he takes the plunge to undergo an experimental surgery that promises him his sight. Then, he sees Cecily and discovers she is not the beauty his friends told him she was.

The book is all about first love and physical beauty versus inner beauty. I loved Will as a protagonist—he’s so down-to-earth and mature for someone his age. The writing and humor of this novel reminded me a lot of the style in The Big Bang Theory. I would dare say Josh Sundquist could give John Green a run for his money.

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Biggest disappointment?

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck, which is a recent read. I picked this one for this question because my expectations going into it were high. After reading Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, I wanted to read more books about untold stories from World War II. It was not terrible, but it was not what I hoped for. For my full thoughts, go check out my spoiler-free review.

Link: https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/review-of-the-women-in-the-castle-by-jessica-shattuck-spoiler-free/

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Favorite new author?

A favorite new author I have discovered this year so far is Martha Hall Kelly, who wrote Lilac Girls. Lilac Girls was her first book, which is based off an untold story from World War II about Nazi experiments on young women in the concentration camps. I loved her writing style and her characters. And I look forward to reading more books by her in the future.

Others include Wendy Mills (All We Have Left), Josh Sundquist (Love and First Sight), Lyndsay Faye (Jane Steele), Robin Roe (A List of Cages), and Jessica Khoury (The Forbidden Wish).

 

Newest fictional crush?

Nicholas Carter from the Passenger duology by Alexandra Bracken. Yes—even after I read A Court of Mist and Fury with oh-so-swoony Rhysand, it was an 18th century “legal” pirate that stole my heart.

Nicholas is the definition of a gentleman: kind, moral, and chivalrous. He is not the brooding bad boy type so many young adult novels these days favor for their love interests. He respects Etta Spencer while being equally protective of her. He goes out of his way to help people, even those no one else likes.

Why is no one as obsessed with Nicholas Carter as they are with Rhysand?

 

Newest favorite character?

Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. This year, I have finished The Mortal Instruments series by reading City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire as well as read Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. They all made me love Simon. In previous books, I did not find him interesting at all—especially in the first two. To me, he was the stereotypical best guy friend of the leading female protagonist and did not have too much depth.

Then, I read City of Lost Souls and loved him. Simon told off an archangel. I mean, who does that? Of all the squad in The Mortal Instruments series, he definitely has the most character growth. I relate to him more than I do the others, too. And his relationship with Isabelle Lightwood pulled at my heartstrings like few book OTPs have managed to do.

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Book that made you cry?

Easily A List of Cages by Robin Roe, a young adult contemporary novel about two foster brothers being reunited in high school after five years apart and the older boy, Adam, realizes Julien, the younger one, is keeping a terrible secret. The situation Julien is in is awful and I cried a few times reading this book because I wanted to protect him and I couldn’t.

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Book that made you happy?

The first book I thought of that made me happy was P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. It was a cute, fun, and lighthearted contemporary novel about a teenaged girl exchanging letters with a mysterious pen pal in her chemistry class—a You’ve Got Mail story in high school. I don’t normally read books like this, but at the time I read it, it was just the kind of book I needed. P.S. I Like You also made me more open to picking up fluffier young adult contemporary novels in the future.

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Favorite book-to-movie adaptation you saw this year?

The only one I have seen this year, that I can remember, is the Netflix adaption of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I was beyond excited when this TV show was announced. It met my expectations, and then some.

I loved the character Clay and I felt for Hannah. The show did a good job portraying high school life, especially in the age of social media and how it makes it harder for some kids than others. My favorite aspects were the inclusion of the parents, as they were absent in the book, as well as how fleshed-out the other people on the tapes were. Some of those kids, surprisingly, turned out to be more sympathetic than I wanted them to be.

Though I understand the controversy surrounding the portrayal of Thirteen Reasons Why, some of which I agree with, I still enjoyed this book-to-TV adaption. You can bet I’m already pumped for Season 2.

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Favorite review you’ve written so far this year?

My favorite post so far this year is half book review, half book recommendations. I recommended four books I had read between February to April that I felt were deeply underrated. They were Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist; All We Have Left by Wendy Mills; Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye; and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

I had meant to write individual reviews for each of these books but never got around to it. Writing about these books was just as fun as reading them had been. I hope people read my Book Recommendations: Hidden Gems blog and found the books interesting enough to pick them up themselves.

Best part is, I got to help out the authors. Martha Hall Kelly has popped up on my Twitter and Instagram, and now I follow her on the former. Lilac Girls was beautiful and she deserves the recognition. (All these books do, actually.)

Link to that blog post: https://jillianthebookishbutterflyblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/book-recommendations-hidden-gems/

 

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year?

The award for most beautiful book I’ve bought this year is a tie between Blood Rose Rebellion by Roslyn Eves and Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. Both are beautiful, with flowers at the center and lovely color schemes I find aesthetically pleasing. They always draw my eyes whenever I am looking casually at my bookshelves.

 

What books do you want to read by the end of the year?

To put it into words: a lot. So many that I seriously doubt I could read them all by the end of the year. But, to answer your question, here are the primary books I want to read before 2017 is over.

Lady Midnight & Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansson

Matched by Ally Condie

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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I don’t know what is happening to me this year, but I have only read 33 books so far. My friends would laugh hysterically if they heard me say that. Compared to previous years, though, I’m not doing so well reading-wise. The best explanation I can offer is that responsibilities at work make me feel mentally drained and YouTube easily distracts me. Hopefully, writing this blog will hold me accountable to complete my TBR pile for the rest of 2017.

 

Review of The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (Spoiler Free)

I happened upon The Women in the Castle while browsing the Books a Million website. I had just finished Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly at the time, and it reminded me of that book, which had left me with a small book hangover.

The Women in the Castle is an adult historical fiction novel set in Germany post-World War II. Loosely based on true events, it follows Marianne von Lingenfels, the widow of a resister that was part of an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler July 20th, 1944, who keeps the promise she made to her husband’s co-conspirators to protect their wives and children if the assassination fails.

The plot to kill Hitler fails and, true to her promise, Marianne locates other resister’s families. She brings them all to her husband’s family’s castle in the German countryside, hoping they can all come together in this time of need as Germany attempts to rebuild itself after the war. But all the women have secrets, and those secrets haunt them even years after the war is over.

I did not buy The Women in the Castle right away. Then, I was in Target, I saw it, and I had just gotten paid. I looked at the cover, which was very pretty in person, and, remembering the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. And I knew I was going to read it first thing this summer. However, my expectations were too high. The Women in the Castle is a good book; only I went in expecting too much from it.

I loved the writing style of this book. Jessica Shattuck has a beautiful way of writing that reminded me of Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea. It made me feel like I was living inside that castle with the widows and children. The writing created an accurate picture of what life was like for German citizens before World War II, during, and after. The emotions the characters felt, I felt also.

As for the plot, it fell flat for me. The Women in the Castle is divided into four parts. Part One was the most interesting, in my opinion. If I had to rate it, I would give it four stars. It is all about Marianne finding Benita and Ania, two other resistance widows, and their children, and bringing them to the castle. There are also flashbacks to the experiences Benita, her son Martin, and Ania with her two sons had before Marianne found them.

Then, somewhere around Part Two, it dragged. The story took forever to get to the point. As a whole, the novel is 353 pages, yet it carried on if it was over 500. If you ask me, it could have done without the last 50 pages, or had an entirely different ending all together.

The Women in the Castle focuses primarily on the individual storylines of the three widows: Marianne, Benita, and Ania. All come from different backgrounds and all have their own qualities as well as flaws.

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Marianne. She is the classic strong-willed, intelligent aristocrat that comes off as cold but she has a good heart. Her primary motivation is keeping her promise to Connie, one of the resisters and her best friend, to protect his wife Benita and son Martin. Which is why, when she does something later in the novel that is out of line regarding Benita, I don’t get mad at her for it. I understand why she did it. She might have overstepped her boundaries, but she did it for a good reason: she genuinely thought she was protecting Benita and she was keeping her promise to Connie. Marianne is the rock that keeps everyone together. Unfortunately, her storyline is not built upon as much as I would have liked.

As for Benita, I liked her but, of the three women, I found her to be the most frustrating. She was a sweet woman, filled with love for everybody, especially her son. But she was so naïve at times I wanted to shake her. She refused to acknowledge the past and its impact on the present. What she and the others experienced could not be forgotten. They had to learn to live with the consequences but she would not. Benita lived half her life in a perfect little fantasy world.

But once I took a moment to think about it, I realized it was likely all a coping mechanism for her to deal with all that she went through after her husband Connie was arrested and executed and she was separated from her son Martin. And given how Benita’s story ended, she is the widow I ended up having the most sympathy for.

Of the three women, Ania’s storyline was the most interesting…even though I saw the twist coming almost from the moment she was introduced. Like Marianne, she was a strong woman, but much more composed. Anything happened, she rolled with it. But she was often too cold, even to her own sons. To her credit, though, Ania acknowledged she was not always a good mother and did her best to do right by Anslem and Wolfgang.

In my opinion, Ania was used as a tool to show how the majority of German citizens were brainwashed by Hitler’s Nazi propaganda. Not all Germans were like Marianne, Connie, and the other resisters, who saw Hitler for who he was right from the beginning and blindly followed him because he brought Germany out of the gutter. There were times she did question what was going on around her, but she pushed it out of her mind, telling herself it was the right thing to do. Only when it blows up in her face does she finally face the reality of what was done. By then, of course, it is too late for anyone.

What I appreciated most about how Jessica Shattuck wrote her characters is that there is more gray than black or white. Aside from Ania, there is another reformed Nazi character that the women meet, who did what he did to take care of his family and to survive in a world where different beliefs got you killed. He was not evil, as media often tends to portray Nazis, and was forever haunted by what he did in the war.

In any time of turmoil, there are just as many people who know what is happening is wrong and want to do something about it, as there are people who blindly follow along and pretend everything is fine. And then there are the people who get swept away, realizing what little power they have to change anything.

The thing that made this book for me were the kids, specifically Martin, Anslem, and Wolfgang. Marianne had children, but they weren’t as fleshed out. Martin is a sweet boy, wise beyond his years. While the affects of what he experienced as a child do show somewhat as an adult, he loves his mother and their makeshift family in the castle.

As for Anslem and Wolfgang, these kids get crap thrown at them and they don’t complain about it; they just roll with it. Their mother puts them through so much, yet they are not bitter towards her. In fact, all three of these boys sometimes had it together more than their respective mothers did.

Overall, I give The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck 3.75 stars. The characters were interesting, the writing was beautiful, and it made me think about certain things, but the pacing did not match the novel’s length and the plot fell flat. But if you are interested in World War II stories about women, similar to something like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, then I recommend you check out this one.

Review of The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury (Spoiler Free)

The Forbidden Wish is a retelling of Aladdin—but instead of Robin Williams’s fun-loving, wise-cracking Genie, we have Zahra, a mysterious, quiet, and wise female jinn that is over 4,000 years old. When Aladdin frees Zahra from her lamp, hidden for 500 years in the ruins of a lost kingdom, she grants him a wish: disguise him as a prince to marry Crespida, the princess of Parthenia, and get revenge on the princess’s uncle.

Then, the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free from her lamp and she jumps at it. There is one problem: Aladdin has fallen in love with Zahra, and she with him.

Sounds cliché, right? But there is so much more to the story of The Forbidden Wish than that.

The writing was lovely and told in second person, though not in an obvious way. Zahra is indirectly talking to someone not Aladdin, but I won’t say whom. When I say “not obvious,” is that I sometimes forgot the narration was second-person until Zahra said the name of the person she was telling the story to. At first, it seemed a little odd, but I got used to it after a while. I also thought it eventually made sense with the tone of the story, particularly when we learn of the relationship between Zahra and the person she is speaking to.

If you go into The Forbidden Wish expecting it to be like the Disney movie, you will be disappointed. The book has a more serious tone than that movie. Plus, there is no Agrabah and way more jinn. But the world of Parthenia is true to Arabic culture, with a breathtaking setting, and the world of the jinn is fascinating yet terrifying. There is also another prince, the son of the vizier Aladdin seeks revenge from, who is the kind of person you strongly dislike yet sometimes pity.

On the flip side, you still have a sassy, lovable Aladdin and a strong-willed, feisty princess determined to prove her worth as a queen, named Crespida. While I initially found Aladdin and Zahra’s relationship to have a touch of insta-love, I grew to enjoy the romance. Their banter was cute, and Zahra behaves how any real 4,000-year-old being acts when getting involved with a mortal teenager. My only qualm with the romance is that the book should have been at least 50 pages longer, making more room for the relationship to develop.

As for Zahra herself, she is a complex character I grew to love. Though she looks seventeen, she is wise and she understands how people work. She had compassion and love for humans other jinn lacked. And while she was trapped inside of a lamp, she maintained her own identity, never letting the cruelty of her former masters get the better of her.

My favorite part of The Forbidden Wish—which is saying something, because I loved this book as a whole—is Crespida and her band of lady assassins. These girls put Sarah J. Maas’s “kick-ass” ladies to shame. Crespida balances being both a queen and a warrior: graceful and fierce, compassionate yet knows when to put her foot down. Her maidens are loyal and strong in their own ways. They know how to fight. Crespida and her Watchmaidens are what made this book for me.

Overall, I give The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury 5 stars. I loved pretty much everything about this book and, though the beginning chapters were a little slow, once it picked up I could not stop reading. I’m glad this book was a stand-alone, surprisingly. We don’t see enough of that in young adult these days and it is nice to see a book be its own story for once.