Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: January 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

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Hunted is the story of Yeva aka Beauty and her love for the hunt & desire for more than court life (reminds me of one of my fave protogs Freya from Long May She Reign). Yeva has only known the wealthy aristocratic life keeping the baronessa company which she finds boring & constricting. She is the youngest of 3 girls and lives with her father who is known as a wealthy business merchant. It is a business deal with good intentions-gone wrong that throws Yeva and her family into poverty. Forced to sell their home & live in their father’s cabin in the forest, their lives drastically changed. The shame & disappointment of it all proves to be too much for Yeva’s father. The Goodreads synopsis sums up the events that transpire following their misfortune. On the surface Hunted is a re-telling that runs parallel with the original classic Beauty & the Beast. However, besides the similarities this story is also about want & greed and the consequences of never being sated. Starting with a father who wanting more for his village, went as far as staking his entire mass fortune. We see Yeva abandon her home where her sisters depend on her hunting skills for their livelihood, in search of their father who’s gone missing. The thrill of the hunt has always called to Yeva who like her father, has a natural skill for it. The Beast also has his story but revealing that here would be a spoiler so i’ll keep that one to myself lol. Just as in the original, the Beast is cursed and is in need of rescuing…I think this is what I love most of this tale, that the Beauty or princess isn’t in need of rescuing. 

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I love seeing YA Fantasy turn the tables on the outdated trope of the princess needs saving & so it’s no wonder why I end up loving the Yeva’s & Freya’s of YA Fantasy. I enjoyed Yeva as a character because of her flaws, she isn’t Belle from BATB although they do share similarities. We see Yeva make questionable decisions and ultimately also be affected by her unquenchable desire for more. When I got to thinking about Yeva, I realized this made her all the more human to me. We also meet her two older sisters Lena and Asenka, & I liked them alright as supporting characters. Asenka has a physical disability that she hides and like Lena focuses on keeping the house maintained. Asenka is a giver she will sacrifice it all for her family & I rooted for hers all through the end. Lena wasn’t all too fleshed out but what I saw of her, I liked enough. Now, the real show stopper award goes to Doe-Eyes, Yeva’s hunting dog who previously hunted with her father. From what I could gather, Doe-Eyes is a female dog (I may be wrong but this is what i’m going with lol) & very loyal. Wherever Yeva went, Doe-Eyes would follow no matter how impossible this feat may have seemed. To say that I fell in love with this dog is an understatement, Doe-Eyes was spunky & lively, she wasn’t getting left behind from all the action. I couldn’t get enough of her whenever she showed up unexpectedly (Yay for dogs in YA!). Last but not least we have the Beast (I promise I did not intend for that to rhyme -_-) who just as in the original, we get brief glimpses of. What I loved about Beast? the fact that we see him warring with the human nature he carries within. We also get to know his backstory of how he came to be cursed which unlike the original, actually has some meat to it. Besides his backstory, everything else about Beast is pretty similar to the original & I appreciated Spooner staying close to the original while still making him her own.

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 Hunted is my very first read by Meagan Spooner & I’m officially a fan! this book gave me such Bear and the Nightingale (LOVED!) feels with its use of Russian Folklore. The story telling was on point. I’m always weary when picking up a re-telling of a childhood favorite but Spooner pulled it off with Hunted. Maybe it was the mixture of similarities to the original & her own take on it but…I felt like I got a piece of my childhood back, a very nostalgic reading experience. I especially enjoyed the chapter “enders” (made this word up) where we were given the Beast’s inner monologue as the human inside him wars against the beast he’s become. The pacing is a bit on the slower side but I’m the type of bookworm that doesn’t mind the slow build-up. I don’t however think that it’s so slow that it drags or bores, it felt like I was being read a fairy tale which is what I wanted. To date, this is my favorite Beauty and the Beast re-telling. It has me listening to the original soundtrack & watching the original just to stay a little longer with this tale as old as time…

*Thank you HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Meagan Spooner for the eGalley of Hunted in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

Photo credit: Crushermyheart https://crushermyheart.tumblr.com/

Have any of my bookish peeps read Hunted? thoughts? did you enjoy the similarities? are any of you watching Beauty and the Beast? I know I’ll be watching it next wknd & attempting my 1st movie review 😉

Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

25701463You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published by: RandomHouse

Pub Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: YA

Contemp/Disability/LGBTQIA

Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

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A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

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The Goodreads synopsis for You’re Welcome Universe pretty much captures what this book is about so I won’t paraphrase, instead I’ll cover the themes. This book seriously had it all & then some! the result is a EPIC story you won’t want to put down. We start off with the main protagonist Julia getting into some trouble in school after she is caught using graffiti to cover up slurs on a wall aimed at her “best friend”. Julia’s intentions were good but as we all know graffiti is illegal & frowned upon. Graffiti is Julia’s way of expressing herself in a world that is very much silent to her. More importantly, she finds that in her art she can be seen in a world where she feels invisible & therefore bypassed. You’re Welcome Universe is a book about the up’s & down’s of friendships, self expression, trust, and staying true to yourself no matter what.

Our main protagonist Julia considers herself a rare anomaly & proud of it. This character is confident even when she may not feel that way on the inside. Most of the time she is speaking her mind through sign language & won’t shy away from giving her two cents when asked. I appreciated Julia’s raw & straight forward personality because we don’t see a lot of that in YA contemporaries.

I flip Through some magazines, hoping lightning will strike, but there’s not a cloud in the sky. No one in the pages of Nylon is like me. I’m a fingerprint, an anomaly, a snowflake. Indian, Deaf, girl, two moms. You couldn’t make this shit fit in the pages of those glossy mags.”

Julia is also very loyal & expects the same in return from her friends. She doesn’t wear a hearing aide & communicates via sign language. Both of Julia’s moms are also deaf which meant that a lot of the book was also internal monologue. Julia is sarcastic & so when you’re in her head you can’t help but smile at this strong & witty gal who is navigating friendships, crushes, and the parentals while also trying to feed her passion for graffiti. what I loved most about Julia had to be her commitment to being REAL when it came to her friends/non friends & giving it to them straight! This is admirable, too many times your friends hold back for fear of losing you but its rare when you find a Julia 😉

The Parentals Mee & Ma play the role of good cop/bad cop which felt realistic, there’s always one parent who gets pegged the “strict one”. I enjoyed seeing Julia’s parents interactions & conversations as well as the cute traditions they created. There are good times & bad ones just like with any teenager but at the end of the day, their love for one another helped them overcome the challenges along the way. Julia also befriends a girl in her new school who she assigned the nickname YP (Yoga Pants) in sign language. YP is an interesting character, from the instant she meets Julia they hit it off but even they are aware of how unlikely their friendship appears. YP at the time is in the Cheerleading squad and is dating the “hot” guy in school, but YP also has a secret. I loved YP’s character, seeing her take initiative to learn sign language in order to be able to communicate with Julia stood out the most for me. Given how our story begins with a broken friendship, I was weary of YP but also happy to see Julia find a good friend. YP struggles with a hidden disorder I won’t disclose cuz spoilers but I will say that I appreciated how it was handled.  I also loved Julia’s treatment of YP, she wasn’t afraid to tell her friend “you’re beautiful” & that’s quite rare. Julia cared to see YP happy & looked out for her feelings which meant a lot considering Julia herself is the opposite of sensitive. We also get to meet Julia’s interpreter Casey who sits in on all of her classes & truly cares for Julia. Casey, I felt played an important role in the sense that her presence gives the reader a taste of what it’s like for Julia to need her to communicate with other people on her behalf.

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Every once in a while I pick up a YA Contemporary that gives me all the feels & renews my interest in the genre…You’re Welcome, Universe is that book! Julia referring to herself as an anomaly/snowflake set the tone for the book. She knew she was one of a kind & that gave her a sense of pride which I loved seeing. The positive portrayal of a Indian deaf girl with 2 deaf moms…I absolutely admired & adored this fictional family.

Throughout the book we get to see some of the street art Julia so graciously shared & I enjoyed seeing the Graffiti battles on the pages. I didn’t include any of the actual images from the book because I found those to be the most fun getting to as I was reading. You want to flip the page & see what she tagged on the wall & how the mystery person who is challenging her tags with their own, responds. I also got bit nostalgic since Julia lives in NYC and the places she was visiting to tag up are places I am familiar, being born & raised here in NY. Graffitti played it’s role in this city’s history and can still be found if you’re looking…

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5 POINTZ (Julia’s dream wall) actually existed in Queens NYC, this is just one of the walls. This place has a ton of history & is home to many of the famous taggers. In 2013 it was purchased & the walls white washed causing much anger in the community 😦

The writing is very easy going in this book but perhaps what has resonated deeply within me is the positive messages this book sent out to overpower the negativity people with disabilities & disorders are subjected to. I couldn’t be more satisfied with our female protagonist & wish only to see more from Whitney Gardner in the near future *fingers crossed*

*Thank you RandomHouse, NetGalley, and Whitney Gardner for the opportunity to read & review You’re Welcome, Universe in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*

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Whitney Gardner is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.

Have any of my bookish peeps read You’re Welcome, Universe? Thoughts? drop your links down below if you happen to have a review 😉

Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

30689335The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Published by: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery/Contemporary

Pages: 276 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

Trigger Warning: suicide & sexual abuse

*HUGE thanks to Penguin Random House/Penguin’s First to Read & Amy Engel for the eGalley of The Roanoke Girls

 

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Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

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I picked up The Roanoke Girls not knowing a thing about the plot or premise other than it was making waves in the blogosphere & sometimes that makes for the best possible reading experience. I’m glad I had no clue what I was getting into, this book definitely was dark & twisted with a bit of shock factor working for it. Told in first person point of view, the main protagonist Lane is living her life in NYC when she gets a call from her grandad letting her know that her cousin has gone missing & that she needs to come home. Lane reluctantly heads back to Roanoke, the one place she swore to never return to. There are a ton of secrets, mystery, hurt, and cover-ups in Roanoke that Lane can’t seem to escape. I immediately started asking myself questions as to what could possibly make Lane stay away from her grandparents home. She opted to leave to NYC where life is not at as easy as it would be if she’d stayed at Roanoke with her wealthy family. As the plot unravels you realize how deep the secrets go & that Lane is just one from generations of Roanoke women that can’t seem to escape the manipulation and abuse in the Roanoke home. I was not expecting this book to go the direction that it did & yes I am purposely being vague because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone trying to read it. It is the darkest book I’ve read to date and seriously made me question the psyche of these characters from all angles. The air of mystery is held throughout the book until the very end since we are from the very start trying to figure out what happened to Allegra? did she run away? or is she dead in a ditch somewhere like everyone thought she was fated to end up? & while Lane attempts to solve this mystery, we are also being exposed to the family secrets one by one…

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I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a cast of characters this messed up smh. Our main protagonist Lane is carrying some serious baggage from childhood that stems back to her relationship with her mother. Lane’s mom fled Roanoke while pregnant with her but she never truly escaped her past & lived a life of sadness where she cried daily and couldn’t actually have a relationship with Lane. Her mom carried the Roanoke secrets buried deep within her & committed suicide when she was 15 which meant that Lane would be sent to live with her grandparents (next of kin) back at Roanoke. The book is told by a now adult Lane who has flashbacks to the summer she arrived at Roanoke after her mother committed suicide. We meet Allegra in the flashbacks & for those of you who have watched the show Pretty Little Liars, Allegra is the equivalent of Allison & that’s as close a comparison as I’ve ever seen one haha! She is energetic & oftentimes frenetic. Allegra is ecstatic to have Lane join them at Roanoke & we get to follow the girls that summer while they date & even fall in love. We also get to see how the extent of the abuse they’ve experienced affects their relationships with their boyfriends at the time. Lane considers herself unworthy and therefore sets out to destroy whatever good she comes across through toxic behavior. I am not kidding when I say EVERYONE in this book is messed up but the Roanoke girls have it the worse. Paraphrasing here but one of the characters actually mentioned that there are messed up families & then there’s reallllly messed up when he referred to Lane’s own family. They were all twisted enough to stay in my psyche for quite a bit, this book won’t be for everyone but I found these characters interesting & they kept me wondering at all hours of the night.

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The formatting of this book kept me completely captivated, alternating between the present & the summer Lane arrived in Roanoke was interesting enough. However, I also really enjoyed the excerpts written in third person POV for all of the Roanoke girls who suffered the same fate while living in the Roanoke household. I couldn’t put this book down for too long, I needed to find out the truth but also Lane felt like a loose cannon the majority of the time & I couldn’t keep my eyes from reading just to see what she would do next. A page turner that for sure will make you uncomfortable but I think this speaks to the authors skilled writing. This book won’t be for everyone however, I enjoyed it probably because I gravitate towards complex characters. Given, this is on a whole other level of complicated but still, it made me feel several emotions & that was enough for me to know that this was a solid read my bookish peeps 😉

Have any of you read The Roanoke Girls? If so, what are your thoughts? If you reviewed The Roanoke Girls, feel free to drop that link down below & i’ll swing by your corner of the inter-webs 😉

Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy 

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★

*HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, Netgalley, & Rin Chupeco for the eGalley of The Bone Witch

 

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The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

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The Bone Witch is a beautifully dark woven tale filled with dark magic, runes, tradition, sisterhood, greed, loss, and betrayal. We meet our protagonist, young Tea who has just been discovered as a Necromancer. In the very first pages she raises a familiar back from the dead & is cast as a Bone Witch. Feared but very much needed by her kingdom to keep them safe & away from the Daeva (aka beasts), Bone Witches are still few and far between. Tea is mentored by one of the most powerful Bone Witches in the land far away from her family. We follow Tea as she studies to become an Asha by taking lessons in the arts, history, physical combat, meditation, etc. which gave me Geisha vibes all the way. Tea starts off as a novice in a Asha-Ka where she must earn for the house she lives in & climb her way up to being a well respected & highly sought out Asha. Her training is rigorous & through a network of sisters she is taught the art of entertaining very important nobles, politicians, and royals. Tea however, won’t be your average Asha since as a Bone Witch, her calling is the Dark. Bone Witches are the only asha that can kill Daeva whenever they resurrect & the time spans for resurrection are different for all Daeva. Tea sees the task that Bone Witches take on for what it truly is…a sacrifice. For every Daeva that is slaughtered, the Bone Witch is physically & mentally drained. Their lives are spent hunting & killing Daeva for a kingdom that sees them as lepers because they are able to raise the dead.

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Photo credit@MoonRaven NightShadow

characters-banner The main protagonist Tea is a Bone Witch who is discovering just how powerful she is among the few Bone Witches that are left. She is young and has to depend on her new found Sisters to show her the ropes & teach her how to control her power. I loved that Tea was hungry to learn everything she possibly could to further her ascension in the ranks. I’ve grown accustomed to meeting female protagonists in YA Fantasy that tend to only be about self or having these GY-NORMOUS (totally made this word up lol) egos…Tea is none of that. She is humble enough to remember the kitchen staff as she grows in rank, seeing her sneak them food because she remembered what it was like to go without, spoke to her character. I ABSOLUTELY love that Tea is a POC (person of color) because they are so rare in Fantasy (YA or Adult) & like many of my fellow blogger buddies have mentioned, if you can create a whole host of supernatural beings then it can’t be that far fetched to include POC’s in Fantasy. Tea is mentored by Lady Mykaela who is known as the best of the best & was the person to personally seek a young Tea out when she sensed her powers at work. Lady Mykaella’s story is also told in bits & pieces, we get a sense that she’s suffered heartbreak & carries a heavy burden. I enjoyed seeing this female bond play out positively on the pages. We also get introduced to some of the asha who play supporting characters & those who work within the village selling all of the things an asha needs from head to toe (clothing, hair, magical potions woven into clothing). Of these my faves were Polaire who also serves as a Sister to Tea & made me giggle with her brash no hair on the tounge comments, Rahim who custom designed all of the asha’s Hua’s always brought color to the page, Likh who worked in the special hair trinket store is a boy who wanted nothing more than to become an asha & dance all of the traditional dances. I loved that Likh felt comfortable enough in his own skin to go for what he wanted & stay true to himself. With an array of characters of all ranges, The Bone Witch gave me a new set of characters to love & worry about haha!

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Ok, so here’s where it gets a bit tricky! I am a lover of lush worlds and if done right, I don’t mind the slower pace or the attention to detail. That being said, I did feel that plot was sacrificed a bit in place of characters & world building. It isn’t until the very end that we come full circle with what led to Tea being in her current situation (no spoilers). I didn’t mind the slow pace at all because I truly can get lost in a world & lose track of time as a whole when the writing is as good as it is in The Bone Witch. I also feel that The Bone Witch makes for a great Adult Fantasy even if it is YA Fantasy. I say this because of the complex magic system, AMAZING world building, and fleshed out characters that suck you in. This isn’t a book you’ll read in one sitting, I actually gave it my Junior’s Strawberry Cheesecake treatment…that is I savored it for as long as possible. Each & every time I picked it up, I sunk into the nearest recliner and shut myself down to the real world. This is very descriptive writing & if you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, then this is a must have! as a person who enjoys reading about other cultures, I enjoyed the Asian influences in this Fantasy setting. The story alternates between past & present. In between the chapters we are given brief accounts of Tea’s past in pages that are italicized, however they are being recounted in the present. Tea decided to call on an Asha whose specialty is that of a historian, to chronicle her side of the story. It is within the pages that are italicized, in between the chapters that we get Bard’s POV as he chronicles Tea’s stories. Being that this is book 1 in a series & since the author has hooked me in with her writing style, I know I will definitely  be picking up the next installment. I also feel that we will see the action we wanted to see in this 1st book, in the next one. Tea’s story is far from over, I am super curious as to what she has planned up her hua’s sleeves cuz THAT ending!!! smh I need more 🙂

My Bookish Peeps, those of you that have read The Bone Witch please drop your thoughts or links to your reviews down below. I’m curious to see how it fared with you all & do you plan on continuing with this series? If so….are you team Kance or Kalen? BAHA! I kid I kid! 😉

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

30320053Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Published by: HarperTeen/HarperCollins

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 432 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Rhiannon Thomas for the eGalley of Long May She Reign in exchange for an honest review

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

plot-banner The 1st YA Fantasy standalone I’ve read with an interesting premise in a very long time, Long May She Reign is more than just a Fantasy, it can also be classified as a mystery. The blurb & beginning pages disclose that the King of Epria & his court have all been poisoned to death during his birthday celebration leaving Freya the 23rd in line, the heir to the throne. Freya, a self-proclaimed Scientist who loves to experiment in her lab away from court & all of its politics would never have imagined herself sitting on the throne as Queen. Surrounded by the nobility & citizens of Epria who lost family as a result of being poisoned, Freya’s reign begins on a dark note. Met with opposition, anger, accusations, and suspicions she takes on this task she’s inherited & tries to find answers while also bringing about some much needed change in the kingdom.

When we first meet our main protagonist Freya, she is in her laboratory working on an experiment to self-create heat in your hands. She lives alone with her father a man who climbed his way up the nobility ladder with the help of his now deceased wife. Freya’s mother was of a noble family & was known for her charm whereas Freya experiences anxiety at the thought of working a room. I instantly found myself relating to Freya who is more comfortable amongst her books and test tubes & not socializing. Rhiannon Thomas gave us some of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Those of us who have anxiety know that everyone is different & we don’t all experience the same symptoms yet I was able to recognize & relate to what Freya was feeling. I also found myself feeling uncomfortable with her which speaks to the authors writing & knowledge of anxiety. Freya has BIG dreams which her father & the rest of the world would deem non-traditional. Court life just isn’t for her, not when there’s a whole world of Who? What? Where? When? Why? to be answered. She’s known since she was a little girl that science was her calling. As the 23rd in the royal line, it was highly unlikely that she’d ever inherit the throne. When the unlikeliest of events occurs & she is thrust into the throne, we get to see Freya’s personality unfold. She could’ve been selfish & run away from everything she feared & disliked but instead she decided to rule like only Freya could. I enjoyed seeing her infuse her ingenuity into strategies of war & apply her knowledge to investigate the poisoning. Freya developed strong female friendships within the court which I absolutely loved reading since again, we don’t get them enough in our books. We also get introduced to the King’s illegitimate son who also is presented as a love interest to Freya. I’ll admit to being a bit weirded out by this one…Freya being 23rd in line & all at some point I wondered aloud…aren’t they related? I guess this would be a good question to ask the author *mental note*… I do wish we’d been given a little more background on the King’s son & some of the other supporting cast. I will say though, the characters in Long May She Reign delivered when it came to politics & court intrigue. They had me suspecting each & every one of them of murder & high treason LOL!

Long May She Reign may be at its core a YA Fantasy however, it also fits in the Mystery genre. I was pretty much consumed, following Freya’s science experiments & deductive reasoning. Freya doesn’t have a large court to begin with since they were for the most part all in attendance for the King’s birthday where they ate their last meals. This helped in limiting the amount of players on the board but it also meant that those closest were to be suspects. I had wondered how a YA Fantasy standalone would read since I’m accustomed to long standing series or trilogies but it worked well. Since this is a standalone we don’t see too much world building, instead this book is very plot driven. The supporting characters aren’t really too fleshed out. We do get a well developed female protagonist, Freya was pretty awesome however,her development wasn’t w/out its faults. The Freya we meet in the beginning who suffers from anxiety isn’t quite the Freya we get at the very end. I wondered what happened to her anxiety since I myself am a person who deals with this disorder every day. Then again, as I mentioned at the very beginning of my review…we don’t all suffer the same symptoms or cope the same way 😉

The writing style is engaging, I felt very much a part of Freya’s investigations which I really enjoyed. This is a slow build which is something that as a YA Fantasy reader I’m also not accustomed to & yet it never once lost my interest. I’d definitely recommend Long May She Reign for those bookworms looking for strong female friendships, ingenuity, & a good ol’ murder mystery 😉

Long May She Reign was released this past Tuesday (while I was moving to my new home lol), & so I’m a little late with my review. How many of my bookish peeps have Long May She Reign on your TBR’s? a Scientist Queen? Who can resist?!?! 🤴🏻💰❌👸🏻🔬📚

Review: Daughter Of The Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1) by Tricia Levenseller

dotpkDaughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

Published by: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Publication Date: February 28th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 320 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Netgalley, and Tricia Levenseller for the eGalley of Daughter of the Pirate King in exchange for an honest review

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A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

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Daughter of the Pirate King is the story of Alosa, a 17 year old pirate captain who has been sent by the Pirate King AKA her father to find a hidden map. Alosa along with her crew of female pirates plot her own kidnapping, fully intending to allow herself to be taken by another ships captain. She downplays her physical capabilities as well as other abilities that would give her a serious advantage in any physical altercation. The objective is to be taken onto the ship in order to find the hidden map that will lead them to a Island filled with treasures. There are three important/royal pirate families descended from three well known & highly feared pirates. Alosa is descended from the Pirate King himself and they hold one of the maps needed to find the island, the other two maps can be found within the other two pirate families. Alosa successfully manages to pull off being kidnapped however, her mission turns out to be much more difficult than she had anticipated. Although she was trained by the Pirate King himself in a all manners of defense, it is keeping those skills hidden that will prove to be her biggest weapon. We get to follow Alosa on board the enemy ship as she gathers intel all the while trying not to raise suspicions. After all, no one can know that she fully intended to be captured or what she hopes to find…

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The characters in Daughter of the Pirate King remind me plenty of those in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise only I enjoyed this cast a bit more. Starting with Alosa, the daughter who wants nothing more than to make her father proud and follow in his footsteps ruling the seas. Alosa is strong physically & mentally, she is also very sharp & sarcastic which quickly made her a fave. We get a bit of background on her and how she came to be so strong. Her relationship with her father is not a positive one but Alosa is very proud & grateful for how it has molded her into a force to be reckoned with. Alosa has a crew of women on her very own ship, all of which she has handpicked herself. Each woman has their strengths & Alosa values everyone one her crew. Once on the enemy ship, we get introduced to their captain and first mate who happen to be brothers. Alosa & the first mate have some fierce chemistry and their banter throughout the book often made me laugh out loud and visibly shake my head. These two know which buttons to press to get the other one going & NOTHING is too far below the belt. There is plenty more that I LOVED about Alosa that I can’t quite say because *spoilers* but just know that she is seriously kick a**!  I got Merida from Brave/ blended with Jack Sparrow/Pirates of the Caribbean vibes & I couldn’t get enough. I haven’t had this much fun with a cast of characters like I have with Daughter of the Pirate King, in a very long time!

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Ok, the selfish bookworm in me just wants to get this out of the way…this book was way too short for me! I need more of this fantastic crew, more of this adventure/quest, more Riden! I had so much fun reading Daughter of the Pirate King that I seriously had to pace myself when I noticed that I was inhaling the book. I want to gush all about what I loved about Alosa but I know that I can’t for fear of spoilers lol. The YA Fantasy genre has been a go to for me this past year & therefore has gotten bit harder to find new story lines/characters. However, not only is Alosa a refreshing new character but she will catch you unawares. Just like she manages to keep the crew of the enemy ship in the dark, we the reader also don’t fully grasp the depth of her skills. We get introduced to a very cocky, self-assured, and brave female protagonist & then we are shown that she can back up everything that she says & thinks she is. Hands down my 1st fave female protagonist in YA Fantasy since…thinking…thinking…yea no, she simply is my favorite (the Illuminae Files girls don’t count cuz that’s more sci-fi lol). This being Tricia Levenseller’s debut fantasy series, i’d say she’s onto something here cuz who doesn’t like pirates? this book will leave you wanting to hop on the next ship out of port to your very first adventure with no care in sight. Many of the fighting scenes have a cinematic feel and overall was a ton of fun to visualize. I can’t wait for the sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King, the next adventure that i’m sure will be packed with non-stop surprises 😉

Are any of my bookish peeps looking forward to meeting Alosa, Daughter of the Pirate King? What do you make of that cover? I can’t stop staring at her fierce red hair contrasted against the black & cream parchment *heart eyes*

Review: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

30375703The Valiant (The Valiant #1) By Lesley Livingston

Published by: Razorbill/Penguin Random House

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Pages: 384 pages

Format: Physical ARC 

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Gretchen from Chicnerdreads for her arc copy of The Valiant, Razorbill & Lesley Livingston

 

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Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, “The Valiant” recounts Fallon’s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.”

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This is one of those books where Goodreads has pretty much spelled out the plot for you in their blurb so i’ll just add to it here & there. Perhaps the best part of The Valiant were the many plot twists along the way that kept me flipping pages til the very end. You quickly figure out that nothing is as it appears & the second half of the book has a different tone/pace than the first. We are first introduced to Fallon on the night of her 17th birthday, she is getting ready for her father’s festivities where she believes he will officially make her a part of his war band. The celebration itself ends up being the night that sets her on her true course after things take a very wrong turn. Faced with heart break, betrayal and murder, Fallon must pave her own path to freedom…

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Our main protagonist Fallon quickly earned my respect from the very start when she opted to put her wants/career before a possible relationship. Fallon is ambitious, brave, and has known which path she wants to take ever since she was a little girl watching her older sister fight for her father. She’s had her sister as a role model & wishes to follow in her footsteps. Every day she practices riding her chariot and honing her skills in fighting. Her sister’s words always playing in the back of her head…

“Are you a weapon or a target? Choose!” 
― Lesley LivingstonThe Valiant

Fallon has chosen to mold herself into a weapon and is ready for any curveball that is thrown her way. I enjoyed Fallon’s character development along the way & seeing her take control of her life. In the second half of the book we get to see Fallon’s relationship with another girl who was also sold to be a Gladiatrix. Elka & Fallon’s friendship was actually my favorite part of this book. It’s rare when we come across positive female friendships on the pages we read & therefore I tend to appreciate that a whole lot more than say a love interest (jussayin lol). The exchanges & witty banter between these two also proved to be entertaining. Fallon does have a love interest towards the second half however their story isn’t too fleshed out. I got the impression that this being book 1 in a series (or trilogy, not sure) that their relationship will unfold in the 2nd installment. I was ok with this because it meant that their budding romance didn’t take center stage to Fallon’s journey/experience as a Gladiatrix. There are some other characters who I enjoyed however for fear of spoilers I won’t mention. I will say though, that I hope to get a bit more depth to some of the supporting characters that are pivotal to the story.

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The Valiant is honestly a solid start to what has the potential to be a very entertaining new series featuring strong female leads. I immediately got Spartacus vibes when I started reading, and being a lover of that series I just knew I was going to devour this book. The first half of this book was a bit slow for me however, once I reached THAT point…you know the part in the story that sinks its teeth into you? yea THAT point lol, I couldn’t put the book down. I seriously took this book with me into the shower (not a drawn bath with candles that you see on tv) & read it through to the very end. The concept of female gladiators in a bloody Rome intrigues the hell outta me & the fact that this is a Historical Young Adult book made for some interesting familiar faces. We not only get to meet Julius Caesar himself but we also get Cleopatra & some actual facts were thrown in there to give it that authentic Roman history feel. I appreciated the fact that the author did not try to paint a pretty picture of life as a Gladiatrix & was actually very detailed in the brutalities experienced while training and while in the arena fighting for their freedom. I actually read the author’s note & I’m glad I did because in it I learned that Gladiatrices did actually exist. Through excavation, the remains of what appear to be female gladiators have been found. I’m a big history fanatic & these types of facts will always reel me in, knowing that they actually existed has increased my interest exponentially. I look forward to continuing with this series & seeing what Fallon has been up to since last I saw her in the Ludus.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

30258320Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Published by: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Dystopian

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

I’d like to thank Del Rey Books, Netgalley, and Vic James for providing a eGalley of Gilded Cage in exchange for an honest review.

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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

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Gilded Cage is a dystopian Fantasy set in an alternate England where all (no matter the color of your skin or your financial status) are expected to complete 10 years of slave life at a time of their choosing. The people are governed by the Equals who have Skill, abilities they are born with that for the most part only the wielder knows it’s full potential. Skill isn’t something spoken about freely & most among the Equals consider it taboo to discuss at all. The Equals control the Skill-less by imposing  Slave Days which are typically carried out in slave towns monitored closely. Life in these slave towns proves to be very difficult due to 6 day work weeks, small food rations, and often beatings from the patrolling security guards. We are introduced to a family of five: Mom, Dad, Oldest Daughter Abi (medical student), Son Luke (middle child), and 10 year old Daisy. The parents have been convinced by their eldest daughter Abi to submit an application to carry out their slave days at the Kyneston estate belonging to one of the top most powerful family of Equals. She is absolutely certain that they each can offer up a service that would make them ideal to be accepted at the estate as opposed to the slave towns. What Abi never expected was for the application to be accepted for all except her brother Luke. The family is immediately picked up & separated from Luke who is taken to the slave towns. From this point on Abi & Luke’s paths are divided and their experiences vastly differ from one another. Told in third person narrative, each character gets a chapter and we the reader get a dose of life through Luke and Abi’s eyes as well as the Equals. Luke is recruited by a small group of characters that are determined to bring an end to slave days. through a series of “jobs” they slowly begin to tear at the seams of injustice. One thing is for certain…the revolution has just begun.

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Luke may have entered the slave town a teenager but he is quickly gaining wisdom and perspective that provide him with a purpose. The friends he makes are characters who just like him, have been cherry picked for their knowledge and skill-less abilities. I enjoyed seeing the character development with Luke since I didn’t think he had it in him to survive in the slave town. I also enjoyed Reenie, the first friend Luke makes and also his recruiter into this rag tag team of misfits. Reenie is described as a POC not much older than 13 years of age who appears to have been in the slave town’s for way longer than laws permit. There’s still a lot to learn about this character, I got the feeling we’ll get her background later on in the series. On Abi’s end we get the sense that she has regret over ever applying to have their days carried out at the estate. She blames herself for Luke’s predicament & sets out on a mission to gather information to get him brought to the estate. Abi has potential to grow into a strong character & her development was nice to see as well. I definitely like the Abi we see in the end better than the one we meet in the beginning.  On the other side of the spectrum we have the Equals who we get to follow & get to know individually in each of their chapters. The Jardine’s: Lord Whittam Jardine, Gavar Jardine, Jenner Jardine, and Silyen Jardine are owners of the Kyneston estate and also one of the most powerful families of Equals. Lord Whittam is a power hungry man who doesn’t deem any of his sons fit to inherit his estate. Gavar Jardine is said to have uncontrollable skill, a great amount difficult to harness. This is made all the more difficult by his temper, he is not the nicest of the bunch lol. Jenner is my favorite, he also happens to be skill-less. I enjoyed this character the most because of all the Jardines, he was sympathetic to Abi & her family making sure they stayed out of harms way. Last but not least we have Silyen, he is an oddball and I haven’t decided whether to like him or not. He also has immense power behind his skill but what his intentions are, it’s too soon to tell. Silyen plays his cards close to his chest and I can’t wait to discover more of what he’s up to. There are also some power players in the story like Gavar’s soon wife-to-be Bhouda. This character has every intention of one day sitting in a position of power & can talk politics with the best of them. She’s also colder than ice and someone to keep an eye on at all times. With many pieces on the board, I  commend Vic James for giving each of these characters their own distinct voice in each chapter. I was never confused and found their stories easy to follow which is alway good in a fantasy series with many players. Also, in case some readers are wondering some of the Equals in power were described as people of color. In this world, you were either born with skill or not. The color of your skin did not determine your fate.

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The world building in Gilded Cage was impressive on the slave town side of the story. I did however, wish to have seen a bit more on the skill of each of the Equals we were introduced to. I’m not sure if the author purposely chose to leave that obscure til the next book or not but there were hints of this throughout the book. In the next book I hope to gain some clarity on the Jardine brothers Skill. This being book 1 in a series, I felt that it set down a solid foundation. The writing itself was enjoyable and never boring, I always found myself wanting to pick this book back up. With a plethora of characters, I enjoyed the short chapters and felt that it carried the story along at steady pace. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the Dark Gifts series & returning to these characters lives.

Are any of my bookish peeps planning on reading Gilded Cage? For those who already have, link that review down below & I’ll swing by 😉

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

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The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

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14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109.jpgAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi

Published by: Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins 

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Diverse/Own Voices

Pages: 336 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

Thank you Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, and Ibi Zoboi for the eGalley of American Street in exchange for an honest review.

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On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

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American Street tells the story of Fabiola Toussaint, a young teen who has returned to the United States with her mother in search of a better life or as they’ve come to call it, Une Belle Vie (a good life). Fabiola was born in the states however, her mother took her back to Haiti when she was still a baby. Fabiola was raised in Haiti where she and her mother are all they have. The books opening scene takes place in the airport, Fabiola and her mother had just landed and were to be picked up by their family in Detroit Michigan. Immigration however, detains Fabiola’s mother on grounds of suspicion to stay in the country longer than her Visa allows. In years past, Fabiola’s mother had stayed in the country with an expired Visa and she was thought to be returning with the intent to stay. Fabiola is forced to go on with her American family-her 3 cousins and aunt. She was in her last year of High School and is to finish in the states as planned by her mother and aunt. Fabiola’s mother is taken to a detention center in New Jersey where her fate is unknown and there is no way of communicating. Getting updates on her status is made extremely difficult & Fabiola’s aunt Matant Joe wants her to focus on school while she attempts to help her sister, Fabiola’s mother. We follow Fabiola’s journey in Detroit, she speaks English very well since her aunt paid for her to receive the equivalent of an American education while in Haiti. However, Detroit looks nothing like Haiti-not the land, people, food, or customs. Fabiola’s dream of a better life never had a chance to manifest before it was taken away. While in Detroit she tries her best to fit in with the family she has now been thrust into and attend school. All the while thinking of ways to get any bit of information on her mothers status & how she can get her out of the detention center. Fabiola’s family in Detroit love and accept her however, they have fallen to the gritty life of Detroit’s streets and it proves almost impossible for Fabiola to stay out of their dealings. Matant Joe has had to survive and care for her 3 girls as best she could all the while financially supporting her sister and Fabiola in Haiti. When the truth unravels, Fabiola finds herself at a crossroads. How far will she go to help her mother?

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I’ve read a ton of Fantasy and therefore, have come across many heroines and strong leaders. However, I have never come across a stronger protagonist in contemporary Fiction let alone Young Adult. Fabiola is loyal and strong in her ideals, spiritual beliefs, and love for her family. She takes the lemons she’s been given and proceeds to turn them into lemonade. We never get the sense that she is giving up on her mother or her current situation. She is observant and strategic, with one goal in mind. I admire Fabiola’s determination to maintain her identity; from the language she speaks, to the spirits that guide her, and the flavor with which she cooks food for her cousins and aunt. We also get introduced to & follow Fabiola’s three cousins Primadonna, Chantal, and Princess AKA The Three Bees. They are known for intimidating those around them and NEVER EVER allowing either one of them be disrespected. They value family over everything and in order to survive the ruthlessness of Detroits streets, have built a reputation for being untouchable. Primadonna is known as the beauty for her fashion sense, we see her journey through an abusive relationship. Chantal is known as the brains, she has sacrificed the opportunity to go to a prestigious University in exchange for staying close to home to care for her mom and sisters. Princess is known as The Brawn and goes by just “Pri”, she is the muscle and we see her deal with her sexuality. Matant Joe, Fabiola’s aunt isn’t in too many of the scenes for health reasons but nonetheless we feel her strong presence over her household. She’s been through a lot since she arrived in the states herself and it has all taken a toll. All of the characters in this book are strong in one way or another. They all are chasing a dream whether it’s theirs or their parents. In the end I was left wanting more for all of the girls who lived in the house on the corner of America and Joy Street…

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The writing in American Street is a mix between Fabiola’s native culture and the raw grittiness of Detroits mean streets. Fabiola’s religion is that of Voodoo & we get a different take on it from Fabiola than what is portrayed in main stream media. Fabiola is very vocal about the fact that her religion is not all that is seen on tv. She speaks of the different spirit guides and what they are known for. One in particular is Papa Legba the watcher of all crossroads, this is the spirit guide we see throughout the book and Fabiola believes is there to show her the correct path. I LOVED the parts we got to see and learn about Fabiola’s religion, i’ve always been very open minded and I was able to recognize many of the names for her spirit guides who go by other names in other religions. This book is also a very fast paced read and I found myself flipping the pages almost too quickly. In between chapters we do get a couple of pages where we are given a bit of story from the perspective of one of the supporting characters. Giving us backstory on events that have shaped them into who they are now and the actions they have taken to survive in a concrete jungle. I do wish we had seen a bit of Fabiola’s mothers story, its not often we see such close bonds between mother & daughter like Fabiola and her mom. I can’t speak too much on the ending for fear of spoilers but I will say that by the end of this story, Fabiola isn’t the same girl her mother last saw in the airport. We do get some character development in a very realistic sense. This is a story of new beginnings after all your dreams have been shattered. It’s not an easy one but life for immigrants/emigrants rarely is…

I recommend American Street for readers who are looking for cultural and socio-economic diversity. Readers who want a realistic portrayal of what its like for immigrants & emigrants leaving the familiar for the foreign. Lastly, I recommend this book to those with an open mind and an open heart