Spoiler Free Review: With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: With The Fire On High

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Pub. Date: May 7th 2019

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 400

Format: Audiobook/Scribd

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Emoni Santiago goes up against all odds as a High School Senior & single mother to baby Emma aka “Baby Girl.” School has never been a place where Emoni felt successful, struggling with memorization but giving it her all. The kitchen however, is where Emoni’s hands and talent make all the magic happen. With the help of one very caring teacher, a course in Culinary Arts is introduced as an elective & Emoni is hand picked for enrollment. The chance to not only cook under a top Chef but also travel to Spain for a week as part of the course seems like a dream come true. Emoni tries not to get her hopes up seeing as the funds for the trip are not attainable with her part-time job. She has the help of her loving Abuela who does the best she can with her disability check but it’s a tight budget as it is with a baby to take care of as well.

Content Warning: Death of a loved one & abandonment 

I truly LOVED seeing the support the teachers provided Emoni, knowing her background & never once making her feel less than. Instead of allowing her to block her own blessings, they moved to inspire her to find ways to raise the funds. They encouraged her to nurture her talent but also made sure to call her out when she dismissed the rules of the kitchen. Emoni is a headstrong Afro-Latina with a gift to make those who taste her food, think of their most fondest memories. Her recipes are very much old school in the sense that it’s not a teaspoon of this or a cup of that. There aren’t timers she’s setting to know when the food will be done, it’s when the aroma hits. Reading the passages where she’s struggling to understand why Chef wants her to know the importance of following rules in a kitchen be it your own or not made me think of a meme I had posted on my Facebook…

It’s actually not uncommon at all, I personally cannot go to any of my older relatives asking for a recipe because I’ll get “a pinch of this” or “when you smell this” HAHA! & it makes for some of the BEST food you’ll ever have! This book truly brought back a ton of memories of my childhood watching my own father cook. It was inspiring & packed a strong message of eliminating your own limitations and truly making your own dreams come true.

Emoni is a very inspirational young Afro-Latina who takes pride in two things: Baby Emma (her daughter) & her cooking Skills. She loves her baby girl to pieces & it’s tough seeing her having to get used to co-parenting as a teen mom. She often comes across a bit rough around the edges & a little defensive but that’s because she’s been dodging judgment since the age of 14 when she first became a mom. Emoni isn’t looking for anyone to handle her responsibilities, even with a supportive Abuela she tries not to lean on her too much. I loved seeing her evolve in her Culinary course & put her stubbornness aside for her highest good. Great character development.

Angelica aka “Jelly” is Emoni’s best friend since childhood, these two are inseparable. Jelly is also Lesbian and has a on page girlfriend who she’s head over heels in love with. Where Emoni loves to cook, Jelly loves to draw and these two together have dreams of a better future. Loved seeing how Jelly always had baby Emma in mind & was someone Emoni could trust.

Abuela- MY FAVE CHARACTER!!! Emoni’s grandmother is so lively, supportive, and loving. This is a old school Grandma, the type I had back in Puerto-rico growing up. Loves Emoni to pieces & makes sure Emoni is the one raising baby Emma. She understands the importance of Emoni being a independent mother & will always be there to provide support if need be.

Malachi- The new guy in school & also our love interest. What I loved about this guy is that he never pressures Emoni into anything. He respects her role as a mother & looks for ways to be supportive. Here’s a guy who comes in with all his swag, at once appearing to have that player look but instead takes Emoni by surprise.

I inhaled this book in one day via Audiobook & that’s simply because I cannot resist anything narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, especially when it’s her own book. I listened while I worked from home & then transitioned into my kitchen to prep a meal where I laughed out loud & got all emotional in other moments. Emoni & Abuela in the kitchen really stirred up some of my own memories & made this book very special for me. I loved seeing Emoni actually go through her culinary arts course and evolve as a young chef & person in general. Emoni is someone who has had to deal with a lot at a very young age. With many obstacles stacked against her she perseveres & a village truly comes through in encouraging her to keep striving to attain all of her goals. In between chapters we get some of Emoni’s “Remixed” recipes & they all sound so tasty! This book will stir your senses & flip some stereotypes on their head while also delivering a positive message on overcoming obstacles. Elizabeth Acevedo has definitely become a auto-buy author for me 🙂


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Spoiler Free Review: Sorcery Of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Title: Sorcery Of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Pub. Date: June 4th 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 456

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When I first heard mention of this book my bookworm heart couldn’t contain the excitement. Who among us wouldn’t love a story set in a library where books come to life? magical grimoires bound by chains for the safety of the people and the wardens entrusted to keep watch over them was simply a story I couldn’t resist. We get introduced to Elisabeth who has been living in one of the Great Libraries in Austermeer since the very young age of 8. Abandoned by her parents, Elisabeth finds comfort being among magical grimoires. Eagerly & passionately training to one day be a Warden is her main focus. Steadfast in the beliefs passed down to her, Elisabeth views sorcery and its wielders as a great evil. Her life as she knew is turned upside down when one of the MOST dangerous Grimoires is released into the world & she tries to intervene in order to protect the people. Elisabeth finds herself implicated in a crime she didn’t commit and trying to prove her innocence sets the tone for the book. Everything Elisabeth once believed to be true & the right way of doing things comes into question. She begins to see that it’s not as simple as good or bad/right or wrong, that there are gray areas. In a world conditioned to view Sorcerers, Demons, and Grimoires as dark & unredeemable, Elisabeth has to decide whether to stick to her values or challenge the foundation of it all.

Elisabeth I cannot stress how much I LOVE this MC! she isn’t your typical female heroine in many ways. Described as taller than your average and wielding unusual strength, Elisabeth is sword ready. She isn’t beyond falling in love but she wouldn’t prioritze a romantic partner over saving someone in need. It isn’t easy at first when she finds herself needing to team up with the Sorcerer Nathaniel and his demon but it allowed for some character growth. I loved her clumsy ways & the contrast of it all when taking her physical strength into consideration. Most of all I loved that she tries to see the good in humans/inhumans despite what she’s be brought up to believe.

Nathaniel MOST sarcastic love interest award goes to *drum roll* Nathaniel Thorn! he is fully aware of his GQ status amongst the ladies & will mention his MOST eligible bachelor status to Elisabeth in jest. Loved how he didn’t take himself too seriously. The slow burn romance Nathaniel is in denial of taking place is my new fave! seeing him try & fail in giving Elisabeth the cold shoulder had me shaking my head and smiling all to myself. This character also happens to have a very tragic family history & you can’t help but want to see him get his happiness.

Silas The Demon who is bound to the Thorn family, specifically Nathaniel. Silas is hands down my fave character in this book, he has lived many lifetimes & worked with many kings. Fashionable, blunt, and never allows Elisabeth to forget that at the end of day he is a demon and it would be a terrible misstep for her to forget that. Silas feeds Nathaniel the magic he needs to be a sorcerer in exchange for 20 years of his life. He serves Nathaniel hand & foot but more than that he is all that Nathaniel has in his life, he considers Silas his only family.

*Honorable mention: Katrien aka Elisabeth’s BFF doesn’t get a ton of page time but just enough to get to know her personality & quickly wish you had a ride or die like her. Katrien is fearless & a quick thinker, she is who Elisabeth turns to for assistance in clearing her name. 

Sorcery of Thorns has some amazing characters that will have you shipping and rooting for their success, it’s very easy to get invested in their relationships. We get some queer rep with a main character who states they’re interested in more than just girls and a supporting character who is on the ace spectrum.

Content Warning: panic attacks, loss of a loved one, torture, violence

“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque-but so was the world outside.”

Beautifully written, Sorcery of Thorns will transport you into every bookworms dream setting. Filled with magical libraries and Grimoires that come to life with a variety of personalities, it’s very easy to get sucked into this world. I did struggle a bit at first with the pacing of the story and I’m a lover of descriptive lush writing which left me trying to pinpoint the reason why it was taking me so long to finish. I don’t think I ever came up with the answer but still feel my time spent in this story was well spent. One of the things I loved most however, is how we were kept in the loop of current affairs taking place in this world via news snippets. This made me think of the Quibbler in the Harry Potter world & how much it really breathes life into the story. Set in the 1800’s with demons, sorcerers, and a Otherworld, Sorcery of Thorns is perfect for fans of Cassie Clare’s The Infernal Devices. This is a stand-alone & although I would’ve loved to get more books featuring these characters, I am very pleased with how it all ended.


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Spoiler Free Review: Middlegame by Seanan Mcguire

Title: Middlegame

Author: Seanan McGuire

Pub. Date: May 7th 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher: Tor.com

Pages: 528

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🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review 🖤

I think I’ve finally met my match. This book is like no other I’ve ever come across in so many ways but trying to summarize it is just not going to work. Clever, dark, multi-layered…this story will sink it’s claws into you & keep you until all hours of the night. One of my my all time favorite classics is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein & all throughout my time with this book I kept getting those mad scientist vibes. Alchemy is at the center of this story, we get introduced to Asphodel Baker who is a very advanced alchemist ahead of her time. Being a woman, Asphodel encounters challenges by her own peers & decides to take matters into her own hands in order to leave behind her legacy. She begins her work to try & bring into physical manifestation, the Doctrine of Ethos. The Doctrine holds the secrets of the Universe ultimately granting it’s keeper a lot of power.

Asphodel creates Reed in her lab; he is some parts human, creature, alchemy & magic. Reed is meant to outlive Asphodel and carry on her legacy which he does & then some. Reed splits up the Doctrine into two of his creations, twins Rodger and Dodger. One is gifted with all things mathematical knowledge & the other comes with a mastery of language. We watch these twins grow and mature via alternating points of view as they live separate lives. When the twins establish a connection via what can be seen as some sort of telepathy, it becomes clear that staying away from each other is impossible. They have no idea how powerful they are individually & how dangerous they can be when they come together.

This book is 500+ pages but its non-stop action & character development. It won’t be for everyone, it will demand your complete attention but it will also introduce you to some of the MOST unforgettable characters you’ll ever meet on the page. McGuire gives us alchemy mixed with magic, mad scientists, telepathy,  math & words that form their own language for these twins and at its core a story about family & friendships.

Content Warning: Murder, suicide, torture, abandonment, mass murder,  violence 

Reed is Asphodel Baker’s greatest creation so much so he’s outdone his creator. Reed is a master manipulator, great at sitting back and observing before he strikes. Reed is only interested in one thing: world domination. He will stop at nothing to create the perfect set of twins that can embody the Doctrine & ultimately extract it from them for power.

Leigh is Reeds creation & honestly she inspired fear in me the MOST! even more so than Reed himself. In some ways I did feel Reed also feared Leighs detachment from humanity. Leigh loves taking apart (twins) the creations she keeps in her lab in the most grotesque of ways.

“Her bones were stolen from the graves and deathbeds of thirteen brilliant women- and if those deathbeds were made by a long-dead alchemist, rather than by natural selection, she has no sympathy for them”

Erin is Leigh’s creation & true to the understanding that the predecessor is more superior…Erin does manage to keep Leigh watching over her back. This character plays an interesting role because she’s used as a pawn with the twins and their development. Erin’s life is directly affected by the decisions made by the twins on any given timeline. Erin could quite possibly be the single most cold blooded TERRIFYING fictional character I’ve ever come across!

Rodger & Dodger- these twins hold within them a genius level of knowledge over language and mathematics. They have a sort of telepathic way of communicating with each other. An understanding that whatever happens to one, the other will feel as well. I loved seeing the twins develop from adolescence into their adult years. Their bond is strong and we get that depth through the years as they come into awareness of their power. They may just be artificially created however, I felt this sibling bond deep in my core.

This is one of those rare reads you come across every once in a while that I feel might come off as too smart or too complex when trying to understand the he science of it all. Personally, I enjoyed the characters the MOST & glad for it since this is a very character driven book. It’s not at all a easy read, oftentimes painful seeing these twins who can’t help but be driven towards one another but cause so much destruction in their union. I felt this on another level because Dodger was left with abandonment issues that played a major role in her growth & development. We see suicide attempts & anxiety rule over her life meanwhile Rodger tries to understand it all to be there for her. He is the #1 most important person in her life while also being the one to bring her the most pain. I may not have been a fan of the plot as a whole but I have a deep level of respect for these three dimensional characters. This book is hella dark & not for the feint of heart but ultimately it will keep its hold on you when given the chance. I’m SUPER curious now to read all of McGuire’s other books and would recommend Middlegame to anyone who loves sibling stories, sci-fi, twisted villains, and alchemy.


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Spoiler Free Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Pub. Date: April 2nd. 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Wednesday books

Pages: 385

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This may just speak to the dark corners of my soul but once I started reading this book on a flight to New Orleans, there was no other place I’d rather be. Between the pages of this dark gothic fantasy a war is being waged between Kalyazin & Tranavia. Kalyazin, a land of people who still believe in the Gods that ruled them. Gods who have partially retreated their presence but have chosen Clerics to use as messengers and vessels for their power. The war however has pretty much wiped out almost all Clerics & only one really powerful remains hidden in a Monastery to be protected at all costs. The one who is believed to be the end to this war against Tranavia. This is a land of people who have turned their backs on the Gods in favor of free will. Referred to as heretics, Tranavia set out to never to be controlled or be at the mercy of Gods whims. They chose instead to tap into blood magic and cast powerful spells. They’ve eradicated any and all signs of the Gods & made it so that the Gods cannot access Tranavia. We get introduced to 3 pivotal characters who all have a role to play in this war. Their lives somehow interconnected…

“You could be exactly what these countries need to stop their fighting. Or you could rip them apart at the seams.”

Content Warning: War themes, Violence/gore, parental abuse, Self-harm (cutting as part of the magic system), torture, alcohol abuse 

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Nadya Lapteva Our MC is a powerful Cleric chosen by the Gods. She stands out among the few that are left due to her ability to communicate and draw power from all of the Gods. This alone made this character a total bad a** to me! I LOVED how she learned the personalities of all of the Gods she called upon. Which ones to approach with more caution than others. Nadya is dutiful & devout, she takes her role in this war very seriously. My only gripe with Nadya was that she’s got a whole lot of power and wisdom bestowed upon her & yet her judgment is severely clouded in matters of the heart. I don’t just mean with regards to the love interest but also when it comes to the Gods she serves without question. I hope to see some maturity from this character in the follow-up, especially after the way things left off.

Malachiasz Czechowicz a VERY powerful Blood Mage who from the very beginning is hard to read. It’s hard to go into this character without spoiler so I’ll leave it as vague as he was upon first meeting him 😉

Serefin Meleski The crown Prince sent to the front lines as a blood general. Serefin is one of my favorite characters in this story. It couldn’t have been easy being born a more powerful Blood Mage than your father & in turn have him hate you for it. Serafin knows he has a target on his back placed there by his own father. Serefin wants to end the war but he isn’t without his faults.

Although the story is centered around the three MC’s we do get some awesome side characters from both the Kalyazin & Tranavia sides. There are no clear cut good/bad characters. Everyone is fighting for what they believe to be right in order to end this war. I really enjoyed the relationships between all of the side characters as well as seeing the diverse representation. We get POC characters as well as a sexually diverse cast on the page. One of our side characters who plays sort of a right hand role to the Crown prince is disabled. My only hope is to see more of these characters brought to the forefront in the follow-up.

Wicked Saints is just the book I was looking for to get me back in the mood for YA Fantasy. It checked off so many of the things I believe make for a good story. I felt immediately invested in the characters and their relationships with one another. I questioned Nadya’s choices in general but can see this was necessary as a foundation to who she will become. Many have compared Malachiasz to the Darkling from the Grishaverse whom I wasn’t really sold on. Malachiasz however…is 50 shades of messed up! it doesn’t get more darker than this guy right here. Complex characters, interesting blend of religion in a fantastical setting, complete with a magic system I was genuinely intrigued by…This was a 5 star read by the time I’d read the last page & a pre-order for the follow-up is definitely in the future.


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: DAISY JONES & THE SIX BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

Title:Daisy Jones & The Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pub. Date: March 5th. 2019

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 368

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I found myself like many others who really enjoyed this story, finding it hard to believe that this band wasn’t real. I satisfied my need for it to materialize by listening instead to the Spotify Playlist created by Taylor Jenkins Reid as inspiration while writing this treasure of a book. Set against the backdrop of the 60’s/70’s when sex, drugs, and Rock n’ Roll was a huge part of American culture, we  get introduced to this fictional band. Told in interview format, we get the story of how this band came together and eventually how they came apart. How Daisy met the six bandmates & the music they went on to create while also getting bits & pieces of actual historical events taking place around this time period. I was immediately swept away by each of these characters lives, their wins & losses. We get what I believe to be one of the BEST EPIC love triangles in Fiction that left me all in my feels days after I’d read the last page. We also get not 1 but 3 feminist AF characters that will leave you feeling empowered every time they walk off the page. TJR explored some hard hitting themes like drug addiction, substance abuse & abortion relevant to this time period without actually glamorizing any of it. These bandmates are a family I got to intimately know, making this a story I was truly invested in from start to finish.

Content Warning: substance abuse, abortion, addiction, cheating

Whenever I think back to my experience with this book, the characters are what come to mind first. Wonderfully fleshed out, complex, raw, and unapologetic these characters feel authentic. Of course I have my favorites but they all brought their unique voice to the story. Daisy Jones is a character who from a very early age was left to her own devices by her parents & as a result prematurely discovered the L.A. night life. Known for her free spirited personality & strikingly beautiful blue eyes, Daisy quickly became sort of an icon. Daisy is a beautifully broken character you can’t help but love. There was no taming anyone could impose on Daisy who has a take it or leave it attitude. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Daisy Jones! as destructive as she could be at times, she still had a limit which made me appreciate her all the more. Billy Dunne who is the lead singer & star of the show (before Daisy came along) is a character I had a love/hate relationship with. Billy is used to getting his way & being the main attraction. This at times can get frustrating & we see power struggles at play between bandmates. What I loved about Billy however, was his love for Camila who is sort of the unofficial bandmate. Billy struggles with his demons (alcohol & women) & is far from perfect but he so desperately wants to be THAT guy for Camila, the one he thinks she deserves.

“Love is forgiveness and patience and faith and every once in a while, it’s a gut punch. That’s why it’s a dangerous thing, when you go loving the wrong person. When you love somebody who doesn’t deserve it. You have to be with someone that deserves your faith and you have to be deserving of someone else’s. It’s sacred” 

Camila Martinez better known as the glue that keeps this band together is hands down my FAVORITE character in this book. A LATINX feminist who loves unconditionally & never gives up on those she loves.  Camila is legit the definition of strength, she believes whole heartedly in the love she shares with Billy but she isn’t blind to the reality of their situation. Some of my favorite scenes featured Camila and every time I placed myself in her shoes my heart ached.

Karen is the one deeply understated character who had a ton of depth. Married to her musical career, she doesn’t see herself settling down to start a family anytime soon. Perhaps the most feminist character in this book, Karen is way ahead of her times making her role all the more important.

I truly loved everything about this cast of characters so much so that I can’t get them out of my head. I fell deeply in love with this story & each of its characters, returning for a re-read is inevitable!

My very first Taylor Jenkins Reid novel & I can honestly say I was left blown away! I read a physical copy & really enjoyed the interview format used to narrate this story however, some have found this to take away from their enjoyment of the story. I am currently listening to the audiobook version & HIGHLY reccomend to those who couldn’t get into this story in physical format. The full cast of characters production has brought this story to life in a whole new way & I am LOVING it! the writing brought the 60’s/70’s to life & I felt as if I was standing on the Sunset Strip watching a young Daisy find her way into bars/clubs. Lastly, the inclusion of the songs written by Billy & Daisy is BRILLIANT! not only are they well crafted songs but they ignite the raw emotion that was being felt between the characters stuck in this love triangle. I may have just found my new favorite author & will most definitely continue to read TJR published books as well as anything written in the future.


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: PRIDE BY IBI ZOBOI

Title: Pride

Author: Ibi Zoboi

Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Re-telling

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/Harper

Pages: 304

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BUSHWICK BROOKLYN MURAL (Photo = link to source)

🖤 ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review 🖤

There’s so much good to say about Ibi Zoboi’s Pride and why it’s such a relevant read for readers living in New York City or any major city for that matter. This is a Pride & Prejudice re-telling of sorts or as Zoboi calls it, a ‘Remix’ 🖤 but at its heart it’s a story about one girls love for her neighborhood and the effects of Gentrification. We meet Zuri Benitez, a young Afro-Latina (Haitian-Dominican) who loves slam poetry and everything about Bushwick Brooklyn. Zuri lives with both her parents and three sisters on a city block where everyone knows everyone and they treat each other like family. Her mother nurtures her daughters and the neighbors through her cooking and block parties bring everyone together with food and music.

Things in the neighborhood start to shift when a abandoned house across the street from Zuri gets turned into a mini mansion. Zuri and her sisters watch as movers move in pieces of expensive furniture and artwork all the while wondering what kind of family would be occupying this mansion. Zuri is very protective of her neighborhood and the people who have roots there, meeting this new family has her apprehensive. The Darcy family moves in, mom + dad with their two handsome young black sons. Zuri’s sisters immediately introduce themselves but Zuri isn’t trying to be welcoming. For Zuri, this family moving in means a change in dynamics for her neighborhood. All around her are the remnants of gentrification, changes that have changed the landscape of her home. We follow Zuri and her sisters as they navigate college life, college applications, crushes on cute boys, and their identity within the community they were born and raised in as it transforms.

It wouldn’t be a Pride & Prejudice remix without the romance of course & that we do get with THE hate-to-love of all ages! 🖤 Zuri may not be acceptant of the Darcy family moving in but she’s also very aware of just how attractive Darius Darcy really is. It’s the pride for the neighborhood she grew up in that keeps her from seeing Darius and his family in a more positive light. Weaved in throughout Pride are themes of Socioeconomic diversity, race, stereotypes, and gentrification that are quite relevant & currently being talked about within many New York City communities.

Ibi Zoboi writes amazing, authentic three dimensional characters with rich voices I just can’t get enough of. Our MC Zuri is passionate about everything & everyone she loves. She values the culture within her community & doesn’t want to see it washed away by gentrification. The dialogue between her and her friends & family felt like home to me as a fellow born & raised Brooklyn native. I love how fiercely protective Zuri is of her sisters and neighbor. Her rose colored glasses have long been gone & she is able to pick up on the stereotypes and issues many in the minority class face. Some of my favorite parts with Zuri are the moments of introspection we get to see through her Slam Poetry.

There are so many characters we meet along the way but I LOVED the focus on family and the relationship between all of the siblings. We get to see Zuri interact and cope with seeing her older sister leave for college while she is in her last year of High School herself. We get some humor & overall silliness from Zuri having to now step up as the big sister in house to her younger twin sisters who are a bit of a handful. Zuri is well loved & respected within her community, her good reputation is something she’s proud of as one of the Benitez girls. The community plays its own character as well as they watch over these girls making sure they stay on the right path.

Last but not least are the Darcy boys who move into a neighborhood they really don’t know much about. Their family is well off financially and were able to buy the mansion across the street from Zuri’s brownstone home. I don’t believe Darius ever truly understood why Zuri was so proud & passionate about her community & in many ways came off as privileged. It wasn’t Zuri’s job to educate him on his surroundings (although that she did MANY times) but she often found herself trying to make him see that the walls that make up his home don’t change what’s outside. Realizing the Darcy family moving in does serve as a catalyst for change, is perhaps the toughest thing Zuri has had to face. So many interesting characters bring this Bushwick remix to life! ❤

Although we see the Pride & Prejudice influence in Pride, this story stands on its own as a modern day tale of maintaining your identity in a ever changing city. There’s so much to appreciate in this story, from the authentic dialogue to the relevant issues currently affecting those who live in major cities. Zuri’s community reminds me of the one I grew up in which is but a few blocks away from Bushwick. Community gatherings & block parties where the parents fed the neighborhood was very real. Looking up and seeing the one Grandmother who watches everyone’s kids & worrying about whether she’s going to tell your parents about that boy/girl she saw you flirting with was VERY real haha! but also, the reality of receiving an offer by a landlord to move you out in order for them to sell to a developer for a lump sum is also VERY real. The neighborhood I grew up in no longer looks like what I remember & the debate on whether that’s a good or bad thing is still going strong. Regardless of it all, home is where your loved ones are & this story although bittersweet is one way of looking at a brighter side of things 😉


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Blog Tour: The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell Spoiler Free Review + Giveaway!!!

Title: The Devil’s Thief

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Pub. Date: October 9th. 2018

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Pages: 704

🖤 ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review 🖤

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In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

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I’m just going to preface this review with a whole lot of thanks to the publishers for inviting me on this tour! The Last Magician was one of my top favorite books of 2017 & ever since then my heart has been eagerly awaiting any bit of news I could get for a sequel. The Devil’s Thief was everything I could’ve asked for in a follow-up & it will for sure be on my list of top favorite reads for 2018! ❤

Lisa Maxwell can continue writing books set in this world with these characters for the rest of eternity & I’d never tire! I thought it couldn’t get better than The Last Magician which was EPIC, atmospheric, full of action and that 1920’s NYC magic (see my review here)….coming in at 704 pages, The Devil’s Thief not only holds it’s weight, it DELIVERS!!! full of those plots twists that made it’s predecessor a page turner, The Devil’s Thief hits the ground running. This time around we get introduced to a couple of new characters along with our beloved crew of misfits. Esta and Harte are back & legit my heart could not be filled with more happiness to get more of one of all time favorite ships!<3 If you’re like me & you wished to have had more backstory to some of the side characters from The Last Magician, this book will give you all that and much more! Both Viola & Jianyu get more page time & seeing them more fleshed out only further grew my attachment to this cast of characters. Maxwell is one of those authors that gets multiple POV’s right! I love reading fantasy books in this format but find that often the characters just blend into one another. Here we have distinct voices that carry their personality all on their own, this matters when reading a behemoth of a book.

While I felt The Last Magician balanced action/plot + Character development really well, this sequel is a lot for focused on the characters. Of course I didn’t mind since I LIVE for books with characters like these but for those who love a good plot driven story, this might be a bit of a change of pace. This isn’t a bad thing in my opinion, there were still many parts that I found myself not being able to put down the book. However, we do get some slower pacing & to be honest, I for one was a bit thankful since we do get a ton of time travel between centuries and different cities. I praised Maxwell’s world building in the first book but I was left shooketh with The Devil’s Thief! I legit felt I was in St. Louis during the World’s Fair in the 1900’s so much so that returning to my every day tasks felt like a chore. I constantly wanted to be immersed in this world.

A+ world building, character development and beautiful story telling to ignite the imagination are just some of the main reasons to pick these books up! If you love Diverse Fantasy that comes off the pages organically, look no further! Maxwell has characters in her books from all walks of life, they are layered and three dimensional. One of my favorite characters to come out of these books is Viola, I wished so hard to get more from her & that wish was granted. We get a beautiful F/F romance that only further solidified Viola as my all time fave. I also enjoyed each of the new characters introduced & already am highly anticipating book 3! *adds St. Louis to list of places to see*

Lisa Maxwell is the New York Times Best-Selling author of THE LAST MAGICIAN. Also of UNHOOKED, SWEET UNREST, and GATHERING DEEP. When she’s not writing books, she teaches English at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.

 

 


Grand Prize for the Tour Participants:

Signed copy of The Devil’s Thief

pavé snake bracelet

character art

signed swag

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Character art

signed swag pack

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Review: Unbroken 13 Stories Starring Disabled Youth

Title: Unbroken 13 Stories Starring Disabled Youth

Authors: Marieke Nijkamp, William Alexander, Fox Benwell, Keah Brown, Dhonielle Clayton, Corinne Duyvis, Keah Brown, Heidi Heilig, Kody Keplinger, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Francisco X. Stork, Kayla Whaley, Kristine Wyllys

Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Anthology

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 320

🖤 ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review 🖤

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

   

This Anthology holds such a special place in my heart, I found myself taking my time with each story many of which moved me or empowered me. Many left me in tears while others left me with hope. These stories are filled with strong characters who really just want to be seen and heard for the person they are rather than their disabilities be it it physical or mental or both. I am on my own personal journey with mental health, this collection felt very therapeutic to read & ultimately kept me company on days I needed it most.  Told by authors with disabilities, these stories are important and I for sure have found some new to me authors I look forward to read more from.

*Note: I’m not sure these stories are inspired by the various authors specific disabilities as it isn’t indicated. 

The Long Road by Heidi Heilig: 3.5 STARS

About a Chinese Protagonist with mental health disability who travels with her parents to Persia in search of a “cure” (mental health disability) & along the way discovers the possibility of finding others that are doing to same for their loved one(s). I loved seeing super supportive parents & also the acknowledgment that change to a more clean/healthy lifestyle can be costly.

Britt And The Bike God by Kody Keplinger: 5 STARS

Loved this story so much! Keeping in step with the first story, this also features a supportive parent. The MC has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition that causes the gradual loss of vision. Dad share a love of bikes with Britt, his daughter. He starts a Cyclist club since Britt’s school doesn’t have any “blind friendly sports club” & makes it all inclusive. All ages welcome with the only exception being that each gets trained to ride a tandem bike when they join & volunteer to Captain for Britt. There is a romance with a POC character (F/M) & it’s super cute! I loved the inclusivity of the bike club & that Britt is able to physically take part in the sport she loves.

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley: 3.5 STARS

Carnival stories always make for eerie settings, throw in a aggressive ghost/possession, some tarot cards and we have ourselves one atmospheric short story! This one stars a girl in her wheelchair and her BFF who she’s started to grow feelings for (F/F), this one could’ve definitely benefited from being a full length novel. The progression from long friendship to romance is hard to dive right into in such a short period of time.

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke: 4.5 STARS

A Sci-Fi short story starring a female coder who has panic attacks. MC lives and studies from her room not having stepped outside in months. This all changes when her world is attacked & at war, she must decide whether she can step out & offer her coding expertise to save the planet. I’m a big supporter of ALL women in STEM so this one definitely captured my interest. I also loved the supportive side character who doesn’t sweep the MC’s feelings of anxiety & fear under the rug.

Found Objects by William Alexander: 3 STARS

Latinx MC (gender not mentioned) who has idiopathic pain. This one threw me for a loop, I don’t think I fully grasped what was going on but I didn’t dislike it if that makes any sense? MC has a passion for performance art & there’s a conversation between the MC & their deceased grandfather where the issue of casting disabled people as villains is briefly mentioned. There’s also discussion of chronic pain & feeling like you can’t really talk to anyone about your pain because of the stigma. I’m not quick to label anything as being Magical Realism but this one did have an element of MR that gave off very vivid imagery.

Plus One by Karuna Riazi : 4 STARS

MC goes on her spiritual journey aka Hajj, along the way she battles against “IT” this is a presence the MC feels, sees, and tries to escape. We see her struggle with religion as well, feelings of inadequacy at not experiencing a huge transformation by the end of her Hajj. Feelings of not being devout enough all the while dealing with her plus one that only she can see. I feared for the MC at the airport where customs is known to flag people down for wearing a Hijab. I feared they wouldn’t offer up any understanding for someone struggling with mental health just because they’re wearing a Hijab. I felt this story the hardest & would love to read more from Karuna Riazi.

The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp: 4 STARS

This one tells the story of a girl with a cane who is treated poorly by the towns people who view her disability as a curse. She wishes to leave her town and travel/see the world. She then meets a Carpenter boy (may be Trans) who feels quite the opposite for the town they live in. He enjoys being a part of building the churches and other buildings. He also understands what it feels like to live somewhere that doesn’t accept you for who you are. A friendship turned romance story with a touch of dragon lore.

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork: 4.5 STARS

Latinx MC hears a consistent voice in his head that encourages him to liberate himself from the responsibilities that keep him by his sisters side. This voice very much tries to influence the MC’s every move. Evaluated in a school setting and said to have a “intellectual & development disability” his options for work limited. He has a sister and baby nephew he stays with along with a mother & siblings in Mexico he helps out with. His sister is in a abusive relationship & he fears what will happen if he leaves. Sibling bond is strong in this one.

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton : 5 STARS

MC has a love & dating advice column for other teens, a idea she got from her grandmother who she admires. MC has never actually been in love & so it adds a bit of humor to this short story. This character has
episodes of irritable bowel disorder that keep her from being social & she also has anxiety. I actually would’ve loved a full length meet cute out of this short.

A Play In Many Parts by Fox Benwell: 4 STARS 

This short story was told in different formats, parts read like a screenplay and others are being narrated. Our MC is non-binary and
uses They/Them pronouns. MC walks with a cane and suffers from chronic pain. At first I was a bit intimidated by the format of this story but ended up really enjoying it. There’s a love for theater & the arts, and a teacher who has a passion for creating. The teachers husband may have dementia & the final act saw me unexpectedly teary eyed.

Ballad Of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys: 3.5 STARS

Bi-racial MC (Native American) who has to grown up way too fast when her father up & leaves with his mistress. A hardworking mother is left to pick up the pieces of a broken home by working long hours in order to provide. MC steps up as a mother for her siblings all the while trying to cope with Bi-Polar II Disorder. There is a romance (F/F) with a Cuban girl who is super supportive and is also dealing with her own issues at home.

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown: 5 STARS

I LOVED this one to pieces! which really doesn’t surprise me since Fantasy is my genre of choice. This short stars a MC with Cerebral Palsy who is being bullied in school. MC has hidden powers as do her siblings & her mother, she isn’t supposed to use them for wrong but makes an exception to get even with her harassers. I rooted for her of course! but it didn’t go unpunished by her mother. Each of the family members can control a different element of weather/nature & I am legit interested in a full length anything with this family! ❤

One, Two, Three (re-named “A Curse, a Kindness”)by Corinne Duyvis: 5 STARS

This in my opinion was the best story to close off this collection. A autistic girl finds herself cursed after bearing witness to a accident. MC is a young girl when she witnesses the accident & isn’t able to respond to a call for action at the moment. Autistic, young, and in shock she is approached by a mysterious man who places a curse on her life. She must grant 3 wishes to whoever shows her a kindness for the rest of her life. A chance encounter with a girl in a parking lot has the potential to change her life. F/F romance that left me smiling.

Content Warning: Death, Physical abuse, misgendering, anxiety, adultery

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Spoiler Free Review: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Title: RULE

Author: Ellen Goodlett

Pub. Date: September 11th. 2018

Genre: YA FANTASY

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Pages: 384

Buddy Read: Mel @Meltotheany & Julie from Pages & Pens

🐉 ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review 🐉  

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

  

” Family is the bond that holds the Reaches together. but to be a part of my family is as much a curse as it is a blessing”

Early reviewers have pegged RULE as a blend of Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars, I can only speak on the latter to say that it absolutely has the PLL feel. RULE tells the story of a dying King who has  just lost his only son & heir to what is believed to be a murderous act by Travelers. He has three illegitimate daughters walking different paths of life that he calls to the Kingdom. None of them know why they are being summoned or their relation to the King. All three have had tough lives but have the wits & cunning to get by. It is the Kings hope to have all three trained & that by the end of their training, he will have chosen one to rule the people of Kolonya. The problem is, the King isn’t the only one to have harbored a secret. Each one of his daughters carries within, dark secrets that in some way or another trace back to the King/Kingdom. Once they are made aware of their lineage and purpose, the daughters all have very different feelings about what is expected of them. With their identities revealed all of their secrets are in danger of being exposed. The sisters soon learn there is someone with knowledge of what they have hidden, set on blackmailing them.

We also learn that in this world there is blood magic aka The Blood Arts that a person can access within themselves by “Tithing.” The process of tithing requires that one cut themselves and in a rather vague/unexplained way, get in tune with the blood running through their veins. Those that can achieve this can heighten their senses and magical abilities. The concept & secrets the sisters were keeping were hella intriguing & dark! The magic system however was very undefined and the rules briefly mentioned to an extent. I ended up having more questions than answers with regards to who or if everyone had access to blood magic. We got some clarification on the darker parts of the magic system with regards to The Vulgar Arts aka the act of Titheing into someone in your own lineage/relative with dark intentions. In this world, The Vulgar Arts is considered the worse of crimes punishable by death. Besides the vague magic system breakdown, I wasn’t comfortable with the imagery I got of seeing one cut into themselves to tap into their abilities.

The books is told in multiple POV, each sister alternates telling their story from the point they get summoned to the castle. All have lived very different lives & I did end up really enjoying one more than the others…

Content Warnings: Self harm, abduction, death, murder, physical & verbal abuse

“Bloody seed beget bloody crops, What you curse comes back to haunt, And if the family blood you taint, You seal your own bloody fate”

Akeylah This character is very introverted & IMO carries the darkest secret between the three. She’s had to deal with the verbal & physical abuse from a father who blames her for the death of her mother at childbirth. Akeylah finds love (possibly lust #jussayin) in the castle but I can’t say I was with that ship…I’m all for f/f romance but there it just felt odd having it be between Akeylah & her stepmother aka the Queen.

Zofi Started off being. my favorite of the three, she’s a Traveler and that means she pretty much lives a Gypsy-like lifestyle. She’s very protective of her people & would like nothing more than return to them and forget all this business that ties her to the Kingdom. Zofi is a bit rough around the edges but eventually comes around & sees the benefits of her position and how best to wield it to help her people. Zofi is also the only one of the three who has able to tap into her magical abilities. She actively tithes and uses her abilities whenever necessary. Her secret also traces back to the Kingdom, similar to Akhelyas.

Ren a maid in the Kingdom who one day learns her fortune has turned for the better. Ren is savy & is basically this kingdom’s Varys (Game of Thrones reference), she’s not the one to be mistreated based on her position in life. Ren knows who is sleeping with who in the Kingdom, there isn’t anything that happens in the castle that she is unaware of. I LOVE how Ren’s mind works, she knows the elite like the back of her hand and being able to stand above them now puts her at an advantage. She may be in competition with her siblings for the position as heir but that doesn’t sop her from telling them they need to accept their new roles & shape up. Ren has been vulnerable in the past for a love that used her, the secret she carries weighs heavy on her shoulders.

I won’t deny how fast this book had me flipping pages, a part of that was me hoping against all that this wouldn’t lead me on in the same fashion as Pretty Little Liars. I felt like the mouse chasing the cheese but nonetheless I went for the ride after all, secrets as dark as these I haven’t come across in any YA books I’ve read. Ultimately, I really wished the world building was more fleshed out & better constructed. Fantasy is my genre of preference & so it’s no surprise that I wanted to understand the magic system better, it’s rules & consequences as well as (if any) the various abilities. Lastly, I wasn’t a fan of being led till the very end by the blackmailer plot line. I understand setting up the story arc for the next book, it just felt like for the climax being built that we should’ve had some sort of resolution for act I. RULE is a very entertaining read but possibly may not have been the read for me. If you’re a fan of Pretty Little Liars or Three Dark Crowns, this may be the book for you 🖤👑🖤


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🐉Spoiler Free Review: As She Ascends by Jodi Meadows🐉

Title: As She Ascends (Fallen Isles #2)

Author: Jodi Meadows

Pub. Date: September 11th. 2018

Genre: YA FANTASY

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/Harper

Pages: 560

🐉 ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review 🐉  

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

    

The sequel I’ve been anxiously awaiting is FINALLY here & it was everything  I was hoping it would be! If Before She Ignites was the breaking down of Mira’s reality, then As She Ascends lives up to it’s name with Mira rising like the Dragon Queen she really is! In the previous book we meet our Protagonist as she come across the cold hard truth about the government in Fallen Isles. A world entrusted by the Gods to take care of their children the dragons, has turned their backs on these creatures. Mira believes whole heartedly in The Great Abandonment, the belief that if the dragons aren’t fiercely protected, the Gods would truly abandon their people and devastation would spread across the islands. The problem is, not everyone believes in The Great Abandonment. Dragons are mysteriously dissapearing  from their sanctuaries due to unexplained illnesses and acts of violence. Mira and friends are being hunted by Altan & his group of Drakon Warriors (Once were in a position of honor for being protectors of the Isles) all the while they search for truths & a way to save all Dragons.

Mira’s character is one that I hold near & dear to my heart for so many reasons. Mira struggles with anxiety and OCD, we see her thrown in a jail cell without access to her medications in the last book and the effects that had on her. Here Mira is learning how to cope with her anxiety and find peace within the chaos her life has been turned into. I’m glad to see her mental health challenges weren’t written away, instead Meadows gives us a very realistic MC who isn’t made of Teflon. Mira’s strength comes from deep within, she’s caring and loving to her friends and has a maternal love for dragons that even they can sense. To see that even those saving the day in our books, can struggle with mental health issues is appreciated & frankly something we need to see more of. Seeing Mira experience many of the episodes I myself deal with felt relatable. Seeing her have a support system of friends who understand & help her through them send such a positive message.

There are so many great characters to love in this book besides Mira but I have such a soft spot for Aaru. Silent in movement & speech, this Idrisi has stolen my heart. Strong in his beliefs & unwilling to bend or break his faith, Aaru finds himself unable to stay away from Mira. This character intrigued me so much in Before She Ignites, so much so that when I realized Meadows had given him his platform to tell his story through a series of flashbacks I was elated. I figured Aaru had to have had a difficult past but I just didn’t imagine how hard its been. On Aaru’s Island, women aren’t allowed to work and are though of as the lesser sex. This is something he can’t wrap his head around & seeing him fight for what he believes in made me respect and appreciate him all the more. Aaru is the calm Mira seeks, when they’re together the whole world is a much quieter place where Mira feels at peace.

Last but not least, for those who wanted to see more dragons in Before She Ignites Meadows delivers & honestly has me obsessing! 😍 Not only are Lala & Crystal back 🐉💓🐉 but we get introduced to more amazing majestic dragons along the way. Lala & Crystal are given personalities and we get to see Mira & her BFF/Wing Sister train & take care of them.

There’s so much positive to say when it comes to this trilogy, mental health rep being at the forefront. Having a strong support system & practicing self-care even when you think it’s not possible. I love these characters with all of my heart & every time I step into this world is a real treat. Hella diverse, our MC is a POC as is her love interest and this time around we also have a Lesbian relationship between two of the supporting characters. The character growth is A+ if you’re looking at Before She Ignites as Mira hitting rock bottom. As She Ascends sees Mira finding real confidence, growing, and breaking away from those who’ve lied to her. Surrounding herself with genuine people & discovering inner strength. Aaru also had deep character growth while some of the others found new meaning & purpose in life.

The World Building was EPICCCC!!!! between the dragons & the culture/history we got from each of the Islands and the Gods that represent them/their people, I don’t know what I enjoyed most. This time around we see how these Gods affect the people & the power/strengths they draw from their Gods. I can picture the Fallen Isles so vividly & the ending left me with chills!!! to say that I miss this world having just been in it would be the understatement of the year for this bookworm. I am so curious to see where Mira goes next & the dragons she discovers along the way…


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