Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

*HUGE thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and Riley Redgate for the eGalley of Noteworthy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

In another case of “The Goodreads Blurb Does It Best” lol, I’ll try my best not to reiterate what’s listed above. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate is one of the most unique Young Adult books I’ve come across in a long time. I knew I had to request it when I saw it pop up on Netgalley simply because I am a big fan of the Pitch Perfect movies & most recently the Pentatonix. As a matter of fact I am listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Pentatonix while typing up this review 😉 Acapella as a whole has always interested me possibly because as mentioned in this book, there’s humor in it. The idea of a student cross dressing in order to join a all male Acapella group & leading a double life…sounds exhausting no? Jordan Sun manages to pull off try outs for Kensington’s uber popular & exclusively all male Acapella group the Sharpshooters securing the 8th spot in the group.

She goes on to live on campus as both Jordan and Julian successfully since for the most part, she has no friends on campus. After her in school boyfriend broke up with her, Jordan realized that she had made him her center focus & that with him gone, she is pretty much alone on campus. Jordan has a small group of gal pals back in California, but life in New York attending Kensington Blair has pretty much isolated her from them. Attending Kensington also hasn’t been without it’s challenges, Jordan’s parents are struggling to keep food on the table & we see her spend holiday breaks alone on campus to avoid burdening her parents with the cost of travel. Jordan’s dad is also disabled & the subpar healthcare system in the United States is briefly touched upon. We see Jordan going through her day to day routine while handling the very sobering reality that is her financial situation.

“The problem was the money this place asked us to drop on textbooks and supplies, even those of us on financial aid. A lot of other boarding schools were adopting full-ride scholarship options that paid for books, travel, laptops-the whole deal. Kensington hadn’t caught on yet. Every semester, I calculated my textbook costs, usually three or four hundred dollars, and prayed it was offset by the money my parents weren’t spending to feed me”

In getting accepted into the Sharpshooters as Julian, she finds a home away from home with a distinct group of guys. We get to see Jordan’s perspective as “one of the guys” when she’s dressed as Julian. Jordan’s insider pass grants her access to male friendships & bonds as well as the first stirrings of sexism in young males. As we see Jordan grow accustomed & more comfortable living as Julian, we see her question her sexuality & identity. Noteworthy touched on so many subjects that are not written about as much in YA making it a much more relatable read.

Noteworthy has to have one of the most unique and awesome cast of characters in YA at the moment…I’ve convinced myself of this lol. Starting with our main protagonist Jordan aka Julian a Chinese-American student attending a boarding school in NYC, I’ll be honest and say that it took me a bit to warm up to her during the beginning chapters. I almost felt like she was in a haze going through every day life which I pinned most of on her stress levels lol. It was hard to connect with her in the beginning but then you see her start to develop & show her personality and I started to look forward to her coming & goings. She does mention that as Julian, she feels a confidence that is missing as Jordan. The Sharpshooters are as follows:

Trav- leader of the Sharpshooters, also composes pieces for the group & takes his position very seriously (barely cracks a smile lol)

Jon Cox- is your typical popular guy with good looks & a little muscle only he is described as having an operatic voice

Mama or Theodore-My 2nd fave, Theodore was given the nickname Mama for his tendency to clean. He is described as a big lovable guy who also happens to be Jon Cox’s roommate & best friend. He’s described as having the type of deep voice you’d find in movie trailers

Nihal-hands down my FAVE of the group! Nihal is also a Tenor 1 like Jordan, he introduces himself as being Sikh & not Muslim, Indian & from Jersey who wears his turban. Nihal is very outspoken, sarcastic (LOVE!), and loyal

Isaac-Trav’s right hand man, is described as being a tall man bun rocking type of guy. He’s lively & often times the glue that holds everyone together

The 2 Rooks aka Freshmen Erik & Marcus- these 2 guys get stuck with all the grunt work since they’re freshmen & pretty much operate as one.
Riley Redgate gave each of these characters a distinct voice making it very easy to follow each one & learn their individual character traits. All very well fleshed out, these characters were a ton of fun 😉
 With Noteworthy, Redgate has gifted the YA genre with a magically diverse book. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel reading about a cisgender character cross dressing. These concerns are addressed when Jordan thinks of the Transgender community and how they’d feel if her secret of cross dressing for a spot in the group were to be revealed. In many ways, this book felt very much aware of the tough topics it was trying to grasp. I appreciated that it included many issues that we often do not see in YA such as socioeconomics, Healthcare, and disability as it pertains to the head of household. I also really appreciated the Chinese-American cultural experience we got a glimpse of through Jordan’s character. The fact that this is a Own Voices YA book only added to my love for it. On another note, I do wish that Jordan’s sexuality was explored a bit more because we were seeing her question her sexuality as well as the gender she identifies with.  This is one of the reasons I docked it a star, Jordan’s development towards the end felt unaddressed. The other reason would be strictly pacing which was a bit slow in the beginning. I’ve heard other readers say that Noteworthy is a much quieter read than it appears & I’d have to say that I agree. Around the 40% mark it does pick up & maintains until the very last page. I highly recommend Noteworthy to lovers of diversity & Acapella 😉

Have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy of Noteworthy?  if you’ve already read it, which character was your favorite? and why? <3<3<3

Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire By Lexa Hillyer

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 11th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 351 pages

Format: eGalley & physical ARC (giveaway win)

Rating: ★★★ (3 Stars)

HUGE thanks to HarperCollins, Edelweiss, and Lexa Hillyer for the ARC copy of Spindle Fire.

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

A dark tale is spun in Spindle Fire…when baby Aurora is born, the last of the powerful faeries that used to rule the land pay the kingdom a visit. They bestow certain gifts of beauty & grace in exchange for tithing her voice and sense of touch. The King & Queen accept these tithes but it is when the Faerie Queen interrupts & asks for the child’s youth that they draw the line. The Queen then places the curse of death on Aurora by her 16th birthday. It is her half sister’s involuntary sacrifice that offers up some hope, Isabelle’s sight is tithed by another fairy who claimed she could reverse the curse & instead of dying…Aurora would one day be put into a deep sleep…

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As preparations are made for Aurora’s wedding, plans are also being made to send Isabelle away since she is viewed as troublesome. Isabelle who is very much a free spirit makes a run for it with her best friend & love interest Gil who worked in the castle. Aurora hears of Isabelle running away & decides to go and look for her. She stumbles upon a cottage with a Spindle & whelp we all know how the story goes lol. I appreciated the turn this story took in originality. After Aurora pricks her finger she finds herself in another world created by the Faerie Queen’s sister. So, it’s not like she’s just asleep the duration of the story, she’s busy in her sleep trying to get some answers. It is within Aurora’s dream world that we get to know the story of Malfleur (Faerie Queen) and her twin sister Belcoeur…

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Aurora & Isabelle are our MC’s, they are half sister’s with a language all of their own making. Isabelle is blind & Aurora is mute, they communicate via a series of taps on each other’s hands. They’ve had years to perfect their way of communication and can easily finish each others thoughts. Although they are half sister’s, Aurora is the daughter to the Queen and therefore is treated as a royal. Isabelle on the other hand receives less than royal treatment & is viewed by the court as trouble for her rebellious nature. Since this story is told in alternating first person POV chapters, we get to know these girls and their individual traits. Aurora loves romance novels that end with the prince swooping in & Isabelle can’t fathom the idea of being tied down by anyone. The sister’s are complete opposites, Aurora knows she was born to marry into royalty and is OK with that. Isabelle on the other hand would rather be chasing the next adventure far away from the castle. I was much more a fan of Isabelle, her chapters were def more exciting and even her approach to love seemed more realistic. We get introduced early on to Isabelle’s best friend Gil who is also her “love interest” and theirs is a complicated relationship. It seems like Isabelle has love for Gil more so than actually being in love with Gil. Later on in the story she meets the one that makes her question her actual feelings. I appreciated that her feelings were made known from the start of the story & it made for a more interesting progression. Now I can’t say the same about Aurora’s love interest which felt like a bad case of insta-love. I say this because typically insta-love doesn’t really bother me but I guess when contrasted against Isabelle’s, it stood out more in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed the Faeries that were introduced and their dark history. Perhaps more than Aurora & Isabelle’s story line, I looked forward to learning more of Malfleur & Belcouer. The faeries may have played the role of supporting characters yet it felt at times that they held the real meat of the story. I hope that the sequel sees more from these dark magical beings that once ruled the land.

 I’m a sucker for all things Sleeping Beauty, probably because she’s the princess who I feel got the bad end of the stick. She doesn’t have little birds cleaning & sewing her clothes while she sings. She doesn’t get talking tea cups & kettles to keep her company or a vast library to sulk in. No, she legit gets put to sleep & laid to rest in a glass case while the 7 dwarfs try to get her true loves kiss *major eye roll* LOL! so it’s safe to assume that Spindle Fire caught my immediate interest. I loved the darker tones in this re-telling & the fact that Hillyer changed something that I for one could’ve done without in the original lol. However, Spindle Fire was told from Aurora & Isabelle’s POV’s and if i’m being honest, I found myself enjoying Isaeblle’s chapters way more than Aurora’s. It wasn’t until the last chapters that Aurora won me over & by then I kind of felt short changed. This may just be my preference however, I will say that even with this holding me back, the pacing was on point with non-stop action. The world building was A+ particularly the faeries and their fall from positions of power as well as their need to tithe. This re-telling is unique, creative, and the story itself was enjoyable but it may be just be a case of writing style that made this a 3 star read for me. Spindle Fire is told in present tense/third person POV which makes for an awkward reading experience. I see tons of ways this story can go & have some wishes for it myself. I’d love to see more of Aurora reclaiming this re-telling & more of the faeries in this world in the sequel to come. The ending sets up the groundwork for book 2 nicely which means that yes, I will be reading the sequel 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read Spindle Fire? if so, which sister’s POV did you enjoy more? 😉

Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Published by: Little Brown Books

Publication Date: April 4th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Sc-Fi/Diverse Reads

Pages: 512 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

HUGE thanks to Little Brown Books, Netgalley, and Claudia Gray for the eGalley of Defy the Stars in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is a seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Defy the Stars is the story Noemi Vidal who lives on Genesis, the only planet left in the solar system to reflect what Earth used to be before it self-destructed. Genesis is a planet that has closed its doors to technology & maintains a green environment because of it. Earth on the other hand is only a shell of the planet it used to be, dying and desperate to get its people re-located.

Quick 411 On This Galaxy…

Defy the Stars takes place in the solar system, mostly in a ship but there’s plenty of traveling to the surrounding planets. Our main Protagonist Noemi is from Genesis known as the planet with the beautiful green lands, clean air/water with temperate climate. Abel the A.I. is from Earth which eerily enough is described as having self destructed & the opposite of Genesis. Kismet (my fave) described as a water-world with tropical weather & fun loving people/culture. Downside: only the privileged wealthy can afford to lay up on Kismet. Cray is where the smartest of the smart reside underground enjoying total nerdom (2nd fave haha!). Too hot to live on top, scientists live down below where they are spoiled with all the fun gadgets to make it a total nerd paradise *heart eyes* Stronghold is quite the opposite of Cray, here is a cold cold and gray planet suitable for the strongest (think military).

Back to the Plot…

Genesis has closed itself off from Earth to preserve their planet from a people they know will only continue destroying wherever they go. This in turn has kept these two planets at war with Earth attempting to conquer Genesis through a Galaxy gate. Genesis may not know how to destroy the gate, but they have an idea on how to temporarily disable it…a suicide mission to be carried out by their youth. Noemi Vidal is 17 & ready to die for her planet and the belief that her sacrifice will gain Genesis an advantage. In preparation for this mission she and the other youths engage in training however, things take a turn when their training turns into the real deal. Noemi finds herself in an abandoned enemy (Earth) ship unaware how much her life is about to change…

We get introduced to Noemi Vidal, a 17 year old of Chilean descent who was orphaned and taken in by her best friend’s family. A family she very much appreciates but still can’t help but feel like an outsider looking in. Noemi is very protective of her best-friend going as far as volunteering for the Massada Run aka the suicide mission aimed at helping Genesis. This would fill the requirement per family and her best friend wouldn’t have to be sacrificed. We often see female protagonists in YA playing the role of martyr, the difference here is that Noemi is just one of the many youths who believe it’s their duty (side note: this didn’t make sense to me & i’m glad its addressed in the story lol). Noemi sees herself as having a unappealing personality because she angers often however, I did not find her to to be as unpleasant as she sees herself lol. Smart & resourceful are more adequate descriptions of Noemi, I liked her just fine. However, the stand out character was Abel the machine/Artificial Intelligence left behind on the abandoned Earth ship. Abel has been stuck in a room on the ship since the last war 30 years ago. The 1st of his kind, he was made with superior intelligence & human like qualities. Over the course of 30 years however, Abel has continued developing & growing. I enjoyed Abel so much, i’ll even go as far as saying he’s up there with my other fave A.I. AIDEN (Illuminae Files). Abel’s sarcasm & self ego stroking had me shaking my head quite often. It’s funny because it makes sense that he would have these traits given he’s not human but quickly developing at the speed of one who is. He has learned human mannerisms but its his self awareness that trips him up. I really grew to love this character and often compared him to Gepetto’s creation minus the lying haha! Last but not least, the diversity in this book was absolutely one of my most favorite aspects. Not only does Gray give us POC’s but she also gave us robots (the setting is in the future) that were also made to resemble all people. The entire cast is diverse & it made my reading experience much more enjoyable.

I love me some gooooood world building & Defy the Stars delivered on this front and so much more. This being my first Claudia Gray book (still want to read the Firebird trilogy), I found her writing to be very enjoyable. Given that this story takes place in space, I didn’t go into it thinking I’m going to get a super fast paced story but was pleasantly surprised. So, what can you expect? adventure, humor, interesting diverse characters, action, and a bit of romance. The only reason I docked it a star was because I would’ve liked to have seen more from Earth being that they are the “enemy”. We meet leaders on Genesis but who is leading the war on behalf of Earth? and what of their people (other than Abel’s creator of course) The ending left me SO curious of what’s to come & a bit anxious for the sequel, I’ve even offered my housekeeping services to Claudia if it would help her any…jk but I so would haha!

Have any of my bookish peeps read Defy the Stars? Did you happen to get Illuminae vibes? If you had to choose a bestie…would you go with Abel or AIDEN? 😉

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the-hate-u-giveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published by: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Date of Publication: January 28th 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Own Voices, Diverse

Pages: 464

Format: eGalley (Edelweiss)

Rating:★★★★★ 5 Stars

*Thank you Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, Netgalley, and Angie Thomas for the eGalley of The Hate U Give in exchange for an honest review.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

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Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best-friend. Starr is introduced as a 16 year old living in a very poor & high in crime neighborhood. Her parents placed her in a school in the suburbs away from the neighborhood they live in & commute every day to provide Starr & her two siblings a safer environment to study as well as a better education. Starr pretty much lives two very different lives and prefers to keep them separate from each other. She has friends and a caucasian boyfriend who don’t really know much about her. Starr isn’t comfortable being herself around them, often changing how she speaks and adopting her friends likes/dislikes. This all changed the night that she attended a party with her friend and bumped into her childhood best friend Khalil. A friendship she had let go once she started going to a school outside of the neighborhood & carries some guilt for doing so. Khalil & Starr grew up together and he’s very protective of her. When the party turns violent it is Khalil who thinks fast to get Starr away from danger. It would be the last act of love he would carry out for Starr. The Hate U Give revolves around Khalil’s unjust death & serves as the catalyst for Starr. Along with the main plot line of Khalil’s death we get subplots that serve to present a better understanding of the fear, anger, frustration, sadness, helplessness, and yes the hate felt by people of color. Experiences in Starr’s neighborhood will leave her feeling shaken to her core. Her neighborhood is filled with tension after Khalil’s shooting by a Caucassian Police officer. The media digs deep & portrays Khalil in a negative light, focusing on the life they believe he led as a gang banger selling drugs. In the neighborhood, we see the control these gangs have over the residents. The saying “snitches get stitches” is more a code to live by for fear of retribution.

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Angie Thomas has given us in The Hate U Give some of the most fleshed out characters you’ll ever come across on the page. To say that I was invested in all of the characters is an understatement…they live within me & I will carry them in my heart for as long as time permits. Starting with Starr who although we see her struggling to keep her two worlds/identities apart, still stays true to herself in little ways. Starr has a passion for basketball & fresh kicks aka sneakers, and her family. She is someone who has experienced loss at a young age to the injustices of the world. We see her strength at a young age get her through what lies ahead. Starr’s parents have now joined my Parentals Hall Of Fame alongside the Weasley’s. They are firm and strict all the while loving & teaching their kids the ways of the world. I loved seeing mom & dad interact with Starr & her siblings as well as themselves. This couple has a ton of history, not all great but it’s history nonetheless. Mom & dad’s relationship has had its highs & lows like any other marriage, it’s far from perfect and I enjoyed how authentic their relationship played out on the pages. The sibling relationships were pretty special & their interactions often left me smiling. Starr has two brothers who she is very close with and I loved seeing them look out for each other. We also get introduced to Starr’s uncle who plays the role of a positive father figure & also happens to be a police officer. Starr’s uncle is also affected by the events of the night Khalil was shot & it was interesting to see him handle certain situations (1 of my fave characters). The Hate U Give has a ton of supporting characters giving us the readers many different perspectives. Ultimately they come together to form a narrative we’ve now become familiar with through real life media/news coverage.

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The dialogue in The Hate U Give has such an authentic feel to it which pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the very last page. At 464 pages, this never felt like a dense read even if the subject matter itself was profound. This book will lift the veil from your eyes if there is one there, it most certainly will make you feel uncomfortable as it should. We can’t learn if we are stuck in comfort. Many times while reading I felt my heart & mind heavy with thoughts of our future. After all, this book is heavily influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement & is a story that we have unfortunately seen play out in the media in real life too many times. I believe this book to be relevant to our current day & one that should be read by all. I connected with this book on a more personal level & for that I will forever be thankful for Angie Thomas. See, I am married to an African American man and we have two beautiful children. Our son is brown skinned like his dad & our daughter is white skinned like myself. I remember being pregnant with my son, watching the news and fearing for my unborn child. Young African American teens were losing their lives in senseless shootings by police officers across the nation. The conversations I had with my husband on how we would raise our son always left me deep in thought afterwards. Is this really the world/life I’ve brought my son into? he is now two going on three & the shootings have continued with little to no justice for these young souls. It is my hope (like any other mothers) that his future is a somewhat better place for people of color. The Hate U Give at its core attempts to give the reader some insight on how it feels to be targeted over the color of your skin, the powerlessness that converts into hate, and the motivation behind activism & protests. A poignant read, The Hate U Give will impact many lives by the time the very last word is read.

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15049422Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

GIVEAWAY: JANUARY OWLCRATE

These past 48 hours have been very nerve wracking for many U.S. citizens. My anxiety has been through the roof, so when I received book mail Friday…it helped in distracting me for just a bit. I knew I wanted to host my 1st giveaway this year, I just didn’t think it would be this soon lol. The spirit of giving hit me though, and so I shall go with it. I hope this box finds its way to a wonderful bookworm who might also need a bit of a distraction. I meant to  post this box earlier in the day but btwn my 2 tiny humans & being absorbed watching the Women’s March I have truly lost track of time. Running this giveaway is giving me a little happy back & for that I am grateful. The rules for this giveaway will be listed at the bottom of this post. This giveaway will be open to my INTERNATIONAL bookworms as well, inspired by the outpouring support I’ve seen this morning from women all over the world. I have also been actively seeking out Diverse Books and this will play a part in this giveaway 😉

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Click on photo if you’d like to follow my journey with books on IG ❤

goodreads-synopsis-2In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. 

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

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🥀Roseblood by A.G. Howard (hardcover)

🥀1 mint tea packet by @firsteditiontea 🥀1 Secret Garden inspired book-shaped soap (smells SO good!)

🥀1 Slaughterhouse Five inspired watercolor #bookmark

🥀1 children’s classics inspired calendar by @obviousstate

🥀1 Phantom Of The Opera fridge magnet

🥀 1 Owlcrate Theatre pin

🥀1 Wires and Nerve by Marisa Meyer mini poster

 

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🥀 This giveaway will be open to my INTERNATIONAL bookish peeps as well, you just have to have a valid mailing & email address that you are willing to share with me

🥀 Follow my blog of course  (i’ll be checking loves)

🥀 Must be 18 years or older

🥀 Comment on this post with your most anticipated book for 2017, if this book happens to be a Diverse Book, you will get 1 extra entry 😉

🥀 This giveaway will run starting today 1/21/17 til next Sunday 1/28/2017

Good luck to all those who decide to throw their hat in the ring. I have my lucky mason jar ready and can’t wait to see all of your recommendations. My excited face is on at the moment hehe 🙂

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On a World of Words and to participate all you have to do is answer the three W’s listed below. Once you’ve posted your WWW, drop a link to your post in Sam’s comments <3’s!

The questions are:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

*All covers will take you to their Goodreads page*

 

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Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

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Currently reading this short story collection and honestly taking my time with it because of the heavy subject matter. The author was nice enough to send me a eGalley a couple of weeks ago after seeing me express interest in her book. The writing is poignant & thought provoking. I’m currently on story 4 out of 5 and think I already have a favorite unless the last one dethrones my current favorite. My heart strings have been pulled while reading Manipulated Lives, making me think of my own personal experience with a manipulative friendship. My husband says that he’s never seen me take such copious notes lol, I just don’t want to forget anything with my terrible memory. I should be done reading Manipulated Lives by tomorrow & then a full review will follow 😉

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

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I recently read & reviewed Scrappy Little Nobody (review here) by Anna Kendrick, I listened to the audiobook which I tend to do with all comedienne autobiographies/memoirs. I gave this one 4.5 stars, Kendrick delivered tons of laughs & an inside look to her childhood and come-up. Never once did she sound braggy of her fame, instead we get a humble down to earth Anna who is still in awe of just how far she’s come. If you’re a fan of her movies and find her funny, Scrappy Little Nobody is worth a read.

Lost Girls by Merrie Desetefano 

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Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano was HANDS DOWN a 5 star read for me (review here) for the plot, characters, writing, and yes even world building…a dark & seedy one. This is a Young Adult Thriller/Mystery yet I honestly got a more mature vibe to Destefano’s characters & found that to be refreshing. The Goodreads synopsis describes this as Black Swan meets Fight Club, and a more accurate description there is not! If you’re interested in characters that are morally gray, stories with awesome family dynamics, and adrenaline infused reads then this is the book for you 😉

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Roseblood by A.G. Howard

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Goodreads Synopsis

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

A Phantom Of The Opera re-telling? I couldn’t resist picking this one up at NYC Comic Con/BookCon. I’ve always admired this authors book covers from afar & even have her Splintered series on my TBR. I’m hoping this one is a hit & if it is then 2017 will be the year I binge this authors books.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Goodreads Synopsis

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thankful to have an eGalley from Soho Teen/Adam Silvera. After reading More Happy Than Not last year I started following Adam Silvera on social media & relaized how cool & down to earth this author is with his fanbase. Once I read the synopsis to History Is All You Left me I immediately knew that it was going to put me through it but I am SO READY! super excited to read this one & I know Adam will not fail me 🙂

Review: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Spoiler Free)

gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoffGemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: October 18th 2016

Genres: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Pages: 608

Format: Physical Book (Hardcover)

Rating:★★★★★ (5 Stars)

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

 

After reading and Loving the ISH (funny cuz currency in Gemina is referred to as ISH) out of Illuminae (review here) earlier this year, I knew that Gemina would be a book to have me running to the bookstore to drop that $$$ HAHA! just like its predecessor, Gemina did NOT disappoint. Offering up non-stop page turning action & a cast of witty characters you can’t get enough of. Illustrations by Marie Lu author of the Young elites covered the pages making Gemina one beautiful book both inside & out. The Illuminae Files are addictive, fun, and overall just great story telling…

 

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CREDS & HAILS go to Gretchen @CHICNERDREADS for this EPIC aesthetic, I can’t stop staring at it with the only *heart eyes* Thanks again my fren’ you’re simply AMAZING! 

PLOT

Gemina picks up with a brand new set of characters on the Jump Station Heimdall right after the events of the Kerenza invasion & BeiTech assault. Since this is book 2 in the series, I will ward off the dreaded spoilers. Gemina is said to be a companion novel to Illuminae & for the most part it is, however it most definitely is necessary to read Illuminae as it all does tie in. The characters at jump station Heimdall are unaware of the events at Kerenza or BeiTech’s involvement. As the reader, you feel a sense of anticipation all throughout Gemina because you are aware of what’s happened & the imminent danger that lays ahead. The civilians and crew on Jump Station Heimdall are unaware of the incoming ships & just like in Illuminae, they are in for a rude awakening. This is the story of how Hemidall came to defend itself & the intricate web of deception BeiTech has woven…

CHARACTERS

Although we have quite a few players in the game, the main characters are Hannah Donelly & Niklas Malikov. These are two young adults who end up having to step into much larger shoes when the ISH hits the fan. We get to know both these characters on a more personal level since the format in this book is dialogue heavy. I enjoyed the witty banter between these two so much & found myself either smiling or outright laughing at some of the their exchanges. Hannah also keeps a journal & she’s a pretty good artist (illustrations by Marie Lu) depicting exactly what she thinks of Nik in a series of laugh out loud drawings. Hannah has to be one of my new hands down favorite kick a** female protagonists in YA PERIOD! she is smart, quick on her feet, a pro in war games thanks to her dad, witty, and loyal to her friends & family. Nik Malikov stole my heart with his dirty mind & endless attempts to win Hannah over. He was born into the House Of Knives, a criminal family (yup they exist even in outer space HAHA!) & is being groomed & taught to earn his keep through a series of innnnneresting criminal activities (I won’t divulge more than that hehe). I can’t discuss the characters in this book without mentioning my FAVORITE Spider, Ella Malikova who is Nik’s cousin and hacker extraordinaire. Ella is disabled from the waist down and spends her time in front of a computer in her wheelchair exchanging sarcastic & witty remarks with Nik through IM’s. Not only is Ella AMAZING at what she knows with computers but she’s also a fighter in every sense & I looked forward to seeing her IM’s pop up on the page.

 

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Illustrations by Marie Lu author of The Young Elites trilogy

WRITING

The format for Gemina is the same as the one the authors used for Illuminae. The story is told through a series of IM chats, E-mails, & memorandums. In between these you’ll come across transcriptions from video camera footage which in the story, are written by Analysts that have watched & to the best of their ability tried to make sense of what is caught on camera. Gemina just like Illuminae may appear intimidating at first glance especially given the 600+ page count. However, I can assure all those that are interested in The Illuminae Files that it is all well worth it & a very quick read. In fact, the format of this book only helps move the story along much faster & the dialogue is so much fun that before you know it, you’ll be requesting that Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman get working on the 3rd book hehe 😉

Donelly, H: What, you’re just going to open the door so I can creep in?

Donelly, H: It’s too far, not safe. recon before action, that’s the rule. If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

Merrick, J: What?

Donelly, H: Sun Tzu.

 IM chat between Hanna Donelly & her boyfriend Jackson Merrick

THOUGHTS

Gemina deserves all of the hype it gets because it truly delivers & packs a punch, I’m lucky to have other books I’ve really been looking forward to because the book hangover is REAL!  Once again, I am left so impressed with these two authors because I can’t tell where one starts and the other ends, they write so well together. The inclusion of Marie Lu’s illustrations in this book only enhanced the beauty and overall bad a**ness of this second installment. Although Illuminae will always hold that special place in my heart for introducing me to such an interesting world…Gemina came in & is now holding the crown. What really made this book even more spectacular is the humor & characters this round, these authors are clearly in tune with young adults making the dialogue so believable. I am now left waiting another year for the 3rd installment…currently experiencing the phase where I watch for (stalk) these authors for any bit of info…following the cookie crumb trail I go…

 

 

 

September Wrap-up & Book Haul

September…a month that I am usually looking forward to every year by the time the sweltering 90 degree weather in June make it’s presence felt. This year however, I was a bit apprehensive about all of the changes taking place with my little one starting in a “real” school lol. After completing pre-k in the same center as her daycare, this would be her 1st venture into an actual school building. Thankfully all went well & we just received news that she is actually at a 1st grade level. Could not be any more happier honestly. My reading month however, wasn’t the best but I managed to get 5 in & a very special book event (check out my About Last Night post here). October will be MUCH better 😉

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I’ve linked my reviews for each of my reads down below

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Empire of Storms by Sara J. Maas ★★★ (3.5 stars @ the time of review but…lol)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Wrecked by Maria Padian ★★★★ (4 stars)

After having a pretty slow book buying month in August (view August Book Haul here)…well slower than my usual LOL, I thought September would be mayhem but I think I kept it reasonable HAHA!…

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Follow me on Instagram @Lair_Of_Books for more photos 😉

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Kindle Deal $1.99 (no longer available however if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s currently free)

I’ve read 2 of the books I hauled in September & i’m seriously avoiding Crooked Kingdom smh, I’m just not ready Gals & Ghouls *hides face* to let go of my favorite fictional characters or this deliciously dark world *sigh* avoiding book spoilers on Twitter has become quite the challenge. I’m not sure what i’ll read after my current eGalley (When The Moon Was Ours), i’ve managed to get my Netgalley ratio at a respectable percentage that i’m content with. It may not be perfect but it’ll do 😉

As for my viewing, cuz ya girl really does love TV & movies! it was actually really meh LOL. I didn’t catch any movies in the theatre BUT I did binge watch season 2 of Gotham with the hubby. truthfully speaking, I wasn’t a big fan of the first season but it’s so atmospheric & they did an AMAZING job of giving it authentic classic Gotham feels that we stuck with it. I enjoyed season 2 WAY more because we get a different side of Gordon, he’s been through a lot that I won’t list because of spoilers but he’s pretty bad a** now. The performance I enjoyed the most however, goes to Cory Michael Smith who plays Edward Nygma aka future Riddler. Season 2 focused on Nygma’s development into who he will ultimately become. I can’t get enough of this guy’s shenaningans but in all seriousness he truly kills it on this show *tips hat off*

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Photo on IMDB

Fun fact: a lot of the outdoor filming in Gotham was done around my neighborhood. Some around the corner from my block & other shots were filmed by the train station near my place. We often joke our neighborhood might as well be Gotham since it’s so Gray smh. Whelp I guess word got out to FOX & Gotham has come to us. My husband took photos of the vehicles parked overnight for the shoot. There’s a pretty big old abandoned building that looks like an old bank but served as a Boys & Girls club many years ago, that was also used in one of their episodes where a banquet/party was filmed. I couldn’t get photos of that w/out trespassing though LOL.

 

Hope you all had an AMAZING September! We are now in October & i’m sure a lot of us are looking forward to all of the exciting book releases this month. What are some October books you all are looking forward to?

Rapid Fire Book Tag

Thank you Drew over at The Tattooed Book Geek for tagging me on this. If you’re not familiar with Drew’s blog, head on over but be warned, all of his posts are filled with humor guaranteed to make you look quite crazy if read in public places.

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Tag Questions:

 

E-Book or Physical Book?

Physical book, I started my own little library at home & enjoy staring at my shelves for unusually long minutes at a time. I do however read e-books for my more lengthier reads (usually Fantasy/Sci-Fi) because if I want to finish a 700 page book, it’s gonna have to be at night while my tiny humans are asleep. Also saves my pages from humidity & sogginess when i’m hiding from said tiny humans in the bathroom (it has to be daddy’s turn some time hehe).

Paperback or Hardback?

Hardback, I can’t even look at a broken spine w/out wincing. In the 3rd grade I scored my 1st “job” working in the school library. Part of my duties were binding up damaged spines with thick colored tape…it was the saddest job ever & this includes my stint working in a pharmacy.

Online or In-Store Book Shopping?

In-store. I love EVERYTHING about the experience from the moment I step foot through those doors. The book smell, new releases front & center, the book lovers quietly browsing, member’s coupons combined with 30% off in store deals (this gal knows what she’s doing lol), and the high I get from walking out with a new book & bookmark in hand smh. I also order online & take advantage of some amazing deals/steals, but nothing quite feels the same as a book store for me.

Trilogies or Series?

Series. Unfortunately I haven’t found many trilogies that left me truly satisfied (exception: Red Rising trilogy). As long as the books being put out are good then I don’t mind continuing.

Heroes or Villains?

I always choose anti-hero (sorry Drew lol). There’s something about a potty mouthed, sarcastic, loner of a anti-hero that I’m always rooting for. I don’t see myself filling the shoes of a hero but i’m not a fan of many villains either.

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A book you want everyone to read?

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta’s story filled me with sorrow & appreciation. So many of the vaccines & scientific/medical advances were made off the cells in her body taken without her consent.

Henrietta Lacks

Goodreads synopsis:

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.


The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.  

Recommend an underrated book?

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

I can’t attach a synopsis for this book since the publishers didn’t want to give anything away about this story but I can promise you that it’s one worth picking up. On Amazon the following is listed for this book:

Little Bee

Amazon:

“We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.”

The last book you finished?

This Savage Song by Victoria Shchwab & it was DELICIOUSLY DARK! my review can be found here.

The Last Book You Bought?

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

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Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark?

Nothing weird recently but while on maternity leave…a clean diaper…a pacifier clip…I mean the possibilities were endless.

Used Books: Yes or No?

I have a few, there’s a store nearby the hubby’s office that carries some used books in tip top shape (yea I said that lol). For the most part I don’t buy used books because my mild OCD would drive me nuts at a torn cover or cracked spine.

Top Three Favourite Genres?

Fantasy, YA, & Literary Fiction

Borrow or Buy?

Buy. I don’t borrow because although i’m great at returning, I have learned that others are NOT. So in order to prevent anyone from asking, I don’t ask to borrow anything myself 😉

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Characters or Plot?

Characters. I think in my last tag I mentioned that characters make the story for me, they are the ones that remain after i’ve turned the last page. My current read has me wanting to leave the characters in the dust as I high tail it out of that fictional world -_-

Long or Short Books?

Long. I like tomes, as long as by the time I reach page 500+ you’ve gotten somewhere important in thy quest.

Long or Short Chapters?

Short, I get anxious when I don’t see an end chapter in the horizon lol.

Name The First Three Books You Think Of…

And I Darken by Kiersten White (soon to read anti-hero)

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)…Need to read to catch up to hubby

The Lies of Lock Lamora…(thank you Drew, it’s now in my online shopping cart lol)

Books That Make You Laugh or Cry?

Laugh…PLEASE..put me in stitches!

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Our World or Fictional Worlds?

Fictional. Take me awaaaaaaaaaaaY! Far Far awaaaaaaaaaaaY!

 Audiobooks: Yes or No?

Yes. I do audible especially for memoirs narrated by my favorite comedians & Neil Gaiman…cuz he has the perfect story telling voice…In my mind he is my uncle lol (don’t judge)

 Do You Ever Judge a Book by its Cover?

Ha! after I said don’t judge…HELL YEA! it’s the 1st thing we see, I am terribly vein with my books *shame* not with real life people though.

 Book to Movie or Book to TV Adaptations?

I agree with Drew, either or if it’s done well but I have also seen it go horribly wrong.

 A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?

World War Z (sorry not sorry)

 Series or Standalone’s?

OooOo tough one! I like both, can’t choose one here *don’t make me*

 

I Tag:

Dee at The Bookish Khaleesi

TeacherofYA’s Book Blog

Stephanie at Between Folded Pages

Amanda at Hanging With Amanda

Beth at Reading Every Night

Melissa at BookNerdMomo