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

Runners Up (2)

Character art

signed swag pack

THROW YOUR 🎩 IN THE RING FOR A CHANCE TO WIN HERE

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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 🖤

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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 🐉  

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” 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 🐉  

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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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Spoiler Free Review: SEAFIRE by Natalie C. Parker

Title: SEAFIRE

Author:Natalie C. Parker

Pub. Date: August 28th. 2018

Genre: YA FANTASY

Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill

Pages: 384

Content Warnings: Violence, murder, death, drug addiction, loss of loved ones, and captivity

Buddy Read: Melanie from Meltotheany & Amy from ACourtofCrownsandQuills

🦋 ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review 🦋  

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“Loss is inevitable. Some losses will be harder than others. So remember this: Never risk more than you’re willing to lose”

I have a fascination of all things Pirates & reading all of the YA pirate themed books this past year has been quite the fun adventure, none as pulse pounding as SEAFIRE though! We are introduced to a world with a villain by the name of Adric & his crew of boys he calls Bullets. Terrorizing both land and water, Adric takes young boys away from their families and puts them to work for him. Caledonia Styx grew up on a ship alongside her Captain parents and younger brother. The Ghost became a refuge ship for families trying to keep their sons safe and away from Adric’s grips. Catastrophe strikes and Cal’s family is killed while she is off the ship scouting for danger. Both Cal and her best friend Pisces are the only survivors and together they put together a crew of fifty two girls to navigate the Mors Navis. Loyal and fiercely protective of one another, this all female crew take no risks with their safety. This all changes when pisces rescues a Bullet who claims to have gone rogue and is in need of help. Cal is adamant on not helping this Bullet for personal reasons…she believes taking him in can only lead them straight to trouble. When Oran (Rogue Bullet) claims to have some very important knowledge about Adric, Cal has to decide whether she can put her reservations aside for the sake of taking Adric down once & for all. Fast paced and full of action, SEAFIRE had me rooting for the crew of the Mors Navis! I celebrated their victories and felt deeply for their losses.

It can’t be easy writing a large cast of characters and yet Parker gave us some stand-out crew members I’ll find very hard to forget. Our MC  Caledonia is just trying to be the very best Captain she can be by following in her mother’s footsteps. She’s learning from her mistakes and for that we can thank her best friend Pisces who isn’t afraid to check her BFF no matter that she is the Captain of the ship. It was interesting seeing some of their power struggles play out especially since Pisces clearly doesn’t want the responsibility, she just wants Cal to be the best she can be. Cal & pisces have their ups & downs but what pair of sisters doesn’t? 🖤 Then we have crew members that are more of a Sisterhood, each with their own voice/personality. Redtooth, Hime, Amina, Lace got the most page time and I LOVED each one of them for their loyalty to one another. This book may have made its rounds as being a Sapphic Pirate tale & although it isn’t one in the most forthcoming sense, a relationship is implied between two of the shipmates. I won’t say who for spoilers sake but I will say that I love these two characters to pieces & together they made me smile all the more 🖤

SEAFIRE had my adrenaline going for the majority of my time spent within it’s pages. When I wasn’t pumped up for this feminist pirate tale, I was wiping away tears for their losses. I love a good found family story & this year we’ve been blessed with so many good ones, SEAFIRE now joins those ranks. The only reason I docked this a star was because I wish the romance was a bit more convincing, I saw it coming but wasn’t really with it. Who knows, maybe they’ll win me over in the next one haha! Nevertheless, I LOVED all of these characters to pieces and seeing them handle some hard hitting issues made them feel all the more real. Grief and drug addiction are two of the darker themes we see the crew struggle with, making Adric in my book, one of the most vile villains in YA Fantasy I’ve come across. The abduction of young boys already being a major threat, we then see how Adric keeps them in his service through forced addiction to a drug he pushes. The scenes in which certain characters experience withdrawals were tough to read but also came across as a healing/fresh start for those who made it off the drug. Cal and her crew don’t have a history of giving up on people which is part of the reason I think Pisces was so hard on Cal for not coming around to Oran aka the Bullet who wants to defect. One thing is for certain, the crew of the Mors Navis is a Sisterhood! 🖤


Happy Thursday Bookworms! I hope you’re all having a fantastic day! SEFAIRE has already hit the shelves & everyone is talking about this Feminist Pirate tale 🖤 I am in deep need of the sequel but for now I’ll settle for fan-girling with those who love it as much as I do! 🖤


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Spoiler Free Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Title:Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

Author: Christina Lauren

Pub. Date: September 4th. 2018

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 320

Content Warnings: Homophobic slur referenced & cheating on behalf of a background character

Buddy Read: Mel from Meltotheany

🦋 ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🦋  

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

    

I’m newer to the Contemporary Romance genre than most of my Blogger friends but Christina Lauren is a name I’ve heard float around since the beginning of my blogging journey. I came across Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating on Bookstagram & of course the colors caught my attention for a potentially fun read 💓 Happy to report that it is most definitely one of the MOST fun reads I’ve read in a long time. I laughed & giggled so much and also just rooted for a new found favorite character. Hazel & Josh are the definition of night and day but also give truth to the saying “Opposites attract.” I enjoyed getting to know these two characters over the course of several bad double dates and shook my head so many times reading my first ever friends to lovers romance. Funny & a downright blast to read, I’d easily recommend this book for a good time. Weaved throughout the story is a awesome F/F friendship, A+ sibling relationship, and Korean-American rep.  I also might be a little biased only because Hazel reminded me SO much of Polly Prince from Along Came Polly who I absolutely ADORE for all her unapologetic quirks and eccentricities 🙌🏽

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These characters were so much fun getting to know and although Hazel and Josh are the MC’s, I also included a side character. Emily is BFF to Hazel & also Josh’s sister & many times fills the role of translator between the two. Emily knows her brother & BFF better than they know themselves and really does have both their best interest in mind. One of the best examples of F/F friendship #GOALS I’ve found on the page.

Hazel– Quirky, eccentric, free spirited, feminist AF, and openly admires Josh which really made for some of the funniest lines. Hazel is a teacher & everything from her quirky clothing to her love of animals make her the complete opposite of Josh who she’s known since college. Hazel’s unbending will to stay true to herself made her an instant fave for me & I just LOVED the message she sends out with regards to self acceptance 🖤

“The world seems full of men who are initially infatuated by our eccentricities, but who ultimately expect them to be temporary. These men eventually grow bewildered that we don’t settle down into calm, potential-wifey girlfriends.”

Hazel’s mother is also briefly mentioned but we get enough to know where Hazel’s beliefs come from. Having a mother who was unhappily married to a man who never accepted her quirks, Hazel looks up to her mom for having the strength to move away from that. It isn’t about changing the person you’re with, it’s about loving them for all of the things that make them stand out 🖤

“I realize that finding the perfect person isn’t going to be easy for me because I’m a lot to take” she says, “but I’m not going to change just so that I’m more dateable.”

Josh/Jimin- a Korean-American doctor Hazel went to college with but has since lost touch with. Once she recognizes him as the guy she sort of had an embarrassing encounter with & that he’s her BFF’s brother, the fun really begins haha! Josh is legit the complete opposite of Hazel & often looks upon her with awe although he’d never tell her as much 😂 Josh is reserved and quiet, he has a rough start in the beginning of this story as he navigates a long distance relationship gone cold. Josh is also traditional & very close to his parents who he hopes to one day take care of as the only son which is also a part of Korean culture. The moments Josh found himself admiring Hazel were some of my fave parts…

“I could never quite tell whether she was oblivious or just didn’t care what people thought, but no matter how chaotic she was, she always managed to give off an innocent, unintentionally wild vibe”

Emily- I realize I started this segment of my review talking about Emily for being such a FAB friend to Hazel & caring sister to Josh but she really does deserve her own spot here. Emily truly cares about Hazel & accepts her as she is. Knowing how different & sometimes vulnerable Hazel can be, seeing Emily talk to Josh and question him to make sure he doesn’t do something he may later regret was really indicative of the kind of friend she is.

“I think that’s the one thing that could dim her light. We both know Hazel is a butterfly. I think you have the power to take the dust from her wings.”

This being my first Christina Lauren read, I can now say it won’t be my last. I actually already have a copy of Roomies on deck I can’t wait to get to & I’m sure will also love. This was the perfect read this Summer & also a perfect pick for #SMUTATHON which was a read-a-thon hosted by Lainey from GingerReadsLainey & Riley from RileyMarie that was SOOO much fun to participate in! This book had me in stitches at some points while in others I was red in the face embarrassed for Hazel’s predicaments haha! It was a fun  slow burn/friends to lovers read that kept me flipping pages through the night. The two reasons I docked a star was for the fast paced ending that didn’t match the tempo of the book as a whole & made it feel a bit rushed. Lastly, there is a conversation that takes place where a character mentions how a homophobic slur was used. Although it’s made clear that it was used in a negative light, it did leave me bothered to read it on the page and made me question the need for it in this story. It didn’t really serve a purpose at all & it was someone who isn’t a character in this book who said to begin with…just seemed like something that could’ve either been challenged by a character in the book or just completely left out. Overall I HIGHLY enjoyed this book, characters, and writing! Christina Lauren has now joined the ranks of my fave Contemporary Romance authors & I will most certainly read whatever they write next 🖤

🦋 Quotes taken from ARC/pre-publication & may be subject to change


Hey Bookworms! This little Bookworm is struggling a little on day 1 of being back from vacay & would LOVE it if you could drop down into the comments with YOUR fave friends to lovers recommendations, I’d love you FOREVER! Well I already do but you know 💓


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Spoiler Free Review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèli Clark

Title: The Black God’s Drums

Author: P. Djèli Clark

Pub. Date: August 21st. 2018

Genre: Sci-Fi/Steampunk/Fantasy/Novella

Publisher: Tor.com

Pages: 110

Content Warnings: Death, Slavery, War themes, racism

Buddy Read: Mel from Meltotheany

GOODREADS | BARNES AND NOBLE | AMAZON 

🖤 ARC received in exchange for an honest review 🖤

    

Black God’s Drums takes place in a alternate New Orleans in the late 1800’s, two decades since a slave uprising against the Confederates which led to their freedom. The slaves & “Free Coloured Militias” joined forces against the Confederates in a all out war that resulted in New Orleans getting assistance from Haitian, British, and French airships. From this a Truce was signed & New Orleans was made a neutral and open port. Our MC Jaqueline aka Creeper roams the docks picking pockets in order to feed herself.

Image from Pinterest, not my own

Creeper is also blessed & chosen by the Goddess Oya, ruler of the winds. Oya is one of many Orisha aka Black Gods known to live among the people although they can’t be seen. Oya makes her presence known to Creeper in her own language & living in alignment with her sister God is key to living a less chaotic life. I love reading anything about the Orishas & seeing them come to life on the page really enhanced my reading experience. They weren’t in the background, one God/Goddess can recognize when another human comes with another Orisha link and since the Orishas themselves have history, it doesn’t always make for a pleasant experience. One thing is for certain though, the Orishas want to help these people and they don’t want to see New Orleans succumb to terror & war at the hands of the Confederates or any other group of people who can’t accept emancipation.

Always silently sneaking in & out of places, trading in secrets for her survival, Creeper does stumble across some information that put New Orleans in danger. Her path crosses with Ann-Marie, a female lesbian Captain with a disability who Creeper thinks would be interested in buying said secret. Ann-Marie is a Privateer who ships cargo…well she also has a side job helping “General Tubman” smuggling slaves out and helping with the war against the Confederates. This makes Ann-Marie the ideal person to sell this secret to. Of course Ann-Marie is far from naive & decides she’s going to need to hear it from the horses mouth. Thus begins Creeper & Ann-Marie’s journey to uncover the threat hanging over New Orleans.

The Characters we meet along the way made me wish so hard for this to be turned into a full length novel! How can I get so attached to them in so little time?!?! Maybe because just like New Orleans, they come full of personality & life 🖤 I giggled a few times when we met the Nuns who know EVERYTHING & do a bit more than pray for New Orleans. We get a bit of alchemy in the mix that left me giving these characters a nod cause I really didn’t know what to expect.

My only grievance if that, would be that this book really deserves to be a full length novel 🖤 Clark fleshed out these characters so well they are still fresh in my mind a month after having read the last page. The world building had me in its clutches cause who doesn’t love airships, lesbian captains, Black Gods/Godesses and a all black main cast of characters?!?! I need more 🤗 & cannot stress enough how important it is to get these Own Voices diverse stories  🖤


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: TO BE HONEST BY MAGGIE ANN MARTIN

Title: To Be Honest

Author: Maggie Ann Martin

Pub. Date: August 21st. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Romance

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Pages: 304

Content Warnings: eating disorders, fat shaming, emotional abuse, cheating, anxiety/panic attacks

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🖤 Thank you Swoon Reads for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review 🖤

We meet Savvy as she and her mom are taking her sister Ashley to her dorm in college & there are a lot of feelings from the start. Savvy does struggle with anxiety & having such a tight bond with her older sister made separating all the harder. Besides not having her very best friend around anymore, she also has to deal with a difficult, strained, and just plain toxic relationship with her mother. Savvy’s mom went through a life changing event after her husband/Savvy’s dad cheated on her with her best friend. Her mom won a spot on a weight loss TV show & was flown across the country for intense weight loss training. Upon her return, her whole outlook on weight was toxic and Savvy was unfortunately the person she affected most. We see Savvy miss the relationship she used to have with her mother  prior to the drastic weight loss. Savvy is vocal with her thoughts on the unhealthy weight loss these TV shows promote which causes her to butt heads more often with her mom.

“It took everything within me not to add some extra hashtags, like #LoveYourBody or #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies. I walked such a fine line with her because, yes, she was my mom, but I also did not agree with her views on her body and my body, for that matter”

That being said, Savvy really does love her mom & since it’s just the two of them home now, she tries her hardest to not cause friction or let her mom’s comments get to her. We follow their relationship & the very real fights that take place leading to days of silence. Maggie Ann Martin also did a A+ job of showing us Savvy’s mom & her battle with body image. I felt terrible for her mom because you know she’s a good mom but life’s curve ball really threw her off & her self esteem really took a hit. I wanted so badly to see her mom get the help she so desperately needed & be a positive role model for Savvy.

Savvy is in High School & we also get to follow her life outside her home which balances out against her home life. Savvy has an amazing best friend who she enjoys spending time with. She’s also a math tutor on the side but her real passion is journalism. There’s a a really caring teacher who encourages her not to drop out of working on the school’s paper & it leads to the sub-plot of this book. We see Savvy uncovering some under the table dealings with one of the athletic departments. We also see her tutoring turn into something more than 😉 & I cannot tell you the number of times I found myself smiling for Savvy 💓

Savvy- Our MC stole my heart! she’s her own level of cool & doesn’t even realize it. Savvy is fat, tall, blue eyed and blonde with no interest in losing weight in the same unhealthy manner her mother has. She definitely has her inner monologue of self doubt running in the background but she knows that to love her is to love ALL of her & nothing less will do! This made her all the more relatable cause we all have those moments of self doubt but to see her love the skin she’s in meant everything to me 💓 Savvy is also very funny, knows all the lyrics to every Eminem song, and is a math wiz even though she’d much rather be writing to make a difference in the world of journalism.

Ashley- aka Big Sis 💜 I LOOOOVE the sibling relationship between Savvy & Ashley who is now in college & trying to be there for Savvy even while college life is taking place. Ashley is described as being tall, slender, and a beauty by Savvy herself but never does Ashley make Savvy feel anything less than a beauty herself. Ashley is Lesbian & seeing Savvy encourage her to show interest in her college crush was the sweetest! 💜

Grace- Savvy’s best friend & partner in crime when it comes to journalism. Grace is Colombian & part of a BIG family who has welcomed Savvy into their circle whole heartedly. What I loved MOST about Grace is how supportive & in tune she is with Savvy when it came to her anxiety/panic attacks and general discomfort. She also isn’t afraid to give it to Savvy straight when she sees her bestie self sabotaging her own chances. Grace legit got Bestie Award Of The Year from me at the very end when they went shopping for Homecoming dresses…😉

George- The love interest here who also happens to be Grace’s cousin. I knew this guy was going to be a favorite of mine the minute he corrected Savvy for thinking he wasn’t part of the family based on his more Caucasian appearance. George is also blonde, tall, and slender and very much Columbian 🙌🏽 George is tutored by Savvy in math & all throughout we see him take a real interest in Savvy. Legit I wish I had a George in my life at 17 😩😂🙌🏼💓🙌🏼

To Be Honest (see what I did there? 😂)this book hit very close to home, I wasn’t expecting it to stir the feelings that it did in me but by the end I was left asking where was this book when I needed it MOST?!?! growing up as a plus sized gal myself. This book introduced me to Savvy, a fat MC who isn’t fiercely confident in the skin she’s in but she isn’t NOT confident either if that makes any sense. Well it did to me since this was the attitude I adopted in High School, I was Savvy & the things she experiences in this book with her mother and even in her love life, are things that feel all too familiar to me as a grown woman looking back. I wish this book had existed back when I found myself in a toxic home & turned to books as a way of comfort. Within these pages I see strength & courage for those who just want to love themselves but keep getting dissuaded at every turn. I see a MC who although she battles internally with what others may think…knows that she won’t allow anyone to love her any less. This book handled a variety of topics well, body image & mental health being at the forefront. I couldn’t have chosen a better time to read this book as I am currently on my own personal weight loss journey. This book lifted my spirits & reinforced my confidence in my own path to healthy 💞


Hello Bookworms! Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend! To Be Honest will be hitting shelves this coming Tuesday August 21st, 2018 & I cannot wait to pick up my copy to display on my shelf of positive rep 💜 If any of you lovely Bookworms have recommendations for plus sized rep books, please drop them in the comments down below 💞


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: STRANGE GRACE BY TESSA GRATTON

Title: Strange Grace

Author: Tessa Gratton

Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 320

Content Warnings: Human sacrifice, Death, Trauma, and Torture…There’s probably a whole lot more that I’m missing since this in fact is THE darkest read I’ve ever read, please note trigger warnings for graphic imagery.

Buddy Read: Melanie, Julie, and Candace

*Thank you Simon & Schuster for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

    

“Every seven years their best boy is sent into the forest from sundown to sunrise, on the night of the Slaughter Moon. he will live or die on his own mettle, and for his sacrifice the devil blesses Three Graces”

In Three Graces the people live without death, disease, or injuries in exchange for their best boy. The most purest of heart & loved by all the people is raised to be sacrificed as a “Saint” every seven years to the Devil who lives in the forest, a bargain that started when a Grace witch fell in love with the Devil. When the Slaughter moon comes early at the 3 year mark, all are left wondering what went wrong with the last sacrifice. For three of the youths living in Three Graces, it’s an opportunity to give their lives some purpose…

Mairwen- A Grace Witch who has always been pulled in by the dark magic that lives in the forest. The Daughter of a Grace Witch & a Saint, Mairwen dreams of the day she can do more than just brush the borders of the Forest. Mairwen is definitely what I’d consider a daughter of the night, she collects bones and makes trinkets out of them. Mairwen does NOT fear the Devil. Fearless & strong, Mairwen also loves Rhun & Arthur who each face their own challenges.

Rhun- Our towns chosen Saint, loved by all and descended from a long line of Saints sacrificed to the Devil & the forest. Rhun is fully prepared to die for the people of Three Graces who believe him to be the best boy. However, Rhun also knows that his love for Arthur if discovered will most likely take him out of the running for “Saint.” Still, Rhun doesn’t hold back his love for either Mairwen or Arthur. What I love about Rhun is that he respects Arthur’s boundaries & understands that Arthur isn’t ready to acknowledge there are feelings there to begin with.

Arthur- The Outcast of Three Graces as a result of his mothers decision to raise him as a girl. Arthur’s mother believed she could protect him from ever having to be considered for sacrifice by keeping his gender a secret. This however backfires when at a young age he is exposed in front of others and made to question his own identity. My heart bleeds for Arthur who I just want to protect at all costs! Arthur’s also the only one who sees how messed up Three graces really is and how toxic masculinity runs deep in its core. Arthur waivers between needing to prove something to this town and basically saying SCREW YOU! Arthur is not one to self sacrifice for this town however he loves both Mairwen & Rhun most and for them anything goes.

Strange Grace lured me in with its beautifully mysterious cover with a tree and red leaves never once thinking it would wrap its roots around my every waking thought. I LIVE for dark atmospheric reads but Tessa Gratton seriously elevated the bar on what I consider Dark Fantasy going forward. I LOVED every minute of my reading experience with this book & the imagery I was left with alone makes this a stand-out read. Gratton gives us a Polyamorous relationship and a mostly all queer cast of characters. Gender fluidity is discussed from the POV of one of the main characters who was made to live as female at an age when they didn’t know the difference. This character grows up to be someone who wants so badly for there to be no hard lines of distinction between what makes one male or female. This is the first book I’ve ever come across in YA Fantasy to weave in so many important discussions on gender & sexuality and I cannot sing its praises enough! The writing might haunt you & break you but I guarantee it will leave its mark on you 🖤


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