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Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron (Maya and the Rising Dark #1)

Twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

Rena Barron’s MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is an excitable and enjoyable read, featuring West African Mythology and a cast of wonderful characters.

The novel follows the titular character Maya, and her best friends Frankie and Eli as they venture in to the Dark to face the villainous Lord of Shadows and to save her Papa. The friendship between Maya, Frankie and Eli was the best part of the novel for me. I loved each of their characters individually, and the dynamic between them. I loved that each of them had their own striking personality. They had some delightfully hilarious scenes, and I really enjoyed the unconditional support that they had for each other.

Another highlight of the novel for me – bouncing off of the last one – was the feeling of community in the novel. I loved how the neighbourhood felt like a family. I do wish that we got to see more of the people in the neighbourhood and the relationships between them (I would’ve liked more than just them arguing). I hope this is something we see more in the sequel.

I enjoyed the aspects of West African Mythology, learning about Orisha’s and the other creatures. Again, I do hope we get more of them in the sequel.

I enjoyed the quest aspect of this novel, as Maya and her friends were faced with Darkbringers who are determined to stop Maya from rescuing her Papa and securing the Veil between their two worlds. While the quests were interesting, something was missing for me. The novel just jumped from quest-to-quest, and then it ended, and I was like hm. Wish there was a bit more too it than jumping from action-to-action. While Maya – and her friends – did go on a character ARC of learning more about themselves, and the world around them, ultimately I felt like the overall ARC was lackluster. I don’t want to say too much because I do not want to spoil, but I feel like there could have been more development to Maya’s realisation of her powers & more exploration of the past etc. I feel like Barron may be saving a lot of the information/reveals for further novels in the series.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes.

3/5 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for giving me access to this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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January 2020 Reading Wrap-Up!

Hi, everyone! Hope you are all doing well and had a fabulous reading month. It’s been a bit slow for me this month, which was too be expected as I returned to university for my final semester. I’m soooo looking forward to going on a reading binge (which I usually do in January) when university is over.

Anyways, this month I read a total of 4 books. Overall, it was quite a decent reading month, with an average rating of 3.6 stars.

  1. The first book I read was the first in the Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series (the first book is titled the same) by Brandon Sanderson.


The novel follows Alcatraz Smedry, who was found by his Grandpa Smedry shortly after his thirteenth birthday. Alcatraz begins to discover his family history, and his ‘talent’, which is to break things. I will avoid saying anything else, because this book is just so adventurous, and so fun, that I think you should just discover it all for yourself.

I loved the narrative style! Again, hard to say much without giving it all away – but Alcatraz’s awareness of him writing a novel (sorry, an autobiography) was brilliant. The fourth wall breaks, the occasional break in the linear narrative – it made for a really fun, and somewhat interactive (sometimes you had to rotate the book to read) reading experience.

I gave this 4 stars.

2. The second book I read this month was The Scrivener’s Bones: Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.


This one was just as fun as the first! We began to delve more in to the mythology behind the Smedry Talent’s, featured a (sort-of) heist. Again, it had such a fun narrative style, and was incredibly witty. I also awarded this 4 stars.

3. The third book I read this month was The Knights of Crystallia: Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.


I was feeling a bit wary going in to book three, as I had loved the first & second, and I was feeling worried that the things I loved would begin to get tiring OR the book just wouldn’t have that same ‘magic’. However, I worried for nothing. With each and every book, we dive deeper in to the ‘conspiracy’ of the Librarians, the Smedry talents. In this, we got to see more of Bastille’s life, as we found out who she is, and what forces she has working against her. Getting to see more of this world was wonderful.

Again, I awarded this 4 stars.

4. My fourth read this month was my book group – A Book Nirvana on Goodreads – monthly read along. We had decided to read, based on Emer’s recommendation, This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada.

this mortal coil

I have had this book on my shelf since early on in it’s release, but never got around to reading it. I think I picked it up once before, read a couple pages, and then put it back down because I was not in the mood for it. However, I was excited to read this for our January selection, and oh wow. IT WAS AMAZING! I can’t talk about this book without giving spoilers – but let me tell you, the blurb to this novel does not capture how fabulous, how complex, this book is.

5. My fifth read for this month was a novel I read for my contemporary fiction class at uni, The Circle by Dave Eggers.

the circle

I was intrigued by this novel, as is looks at the impact of rising technology and the power of corporations, with human rights implications, etc. Also, when the film came out a few years ago with Emma Watson, I wanted to watch it, but ultimately never got around to it.

This book was decent. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I felt like it had so much unnecessary exposition, without any real reason. For example, the plot would finally be moving somewhere and then it would feel the need to rehash an earlier idea, which had already been thoroughly explained in the beginning of the book. And it was like yes, I get it.

The ending was dismal. Everything came to a head in maybe the last 20 pages? And even then, it didn’t feel like a proper conclusion.

My other complaint is that you can tell this was written by a man. The way Mae was written, weirdly sexualised, and her opinion on sex and men…just no. It was weird. And this book had so many handjobs in it?? Like, why??

Ultimately, I gave this book a 2 star rating, but am considering lowering it to 1. And, I’m unsure on the general consensus, but I much preferred the film adaption to this.


That was my January 2020 in books! Not a bad month at all. I’m excited to continue on with Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Series, and Suvada’s This Mortal Coil trilogy. Hopefully I’ll get to some of them over the course of February.