Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Title: Heart Of Iron

Author: Ashley Poston

Pub. Date: February 27th, 2018

Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/Harper

Pages: 480

Format: eGalley

Content Warning: attempted suicide

*HUGE thanks to Balzer + Bray/Harper, Edelweiss, and Ashley Poston for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

   

Heart Of Iron immediately appealed to my love for all things Sci-Fi & the bio pitched a ragtag crew of outlaws that I just had to meet on the pages. I’m not familiar with the story of Anastasia but it’s now on my list of flicks to watch during one of my ME time days. That being said, I went in strictly for the space adventure, outlaws, and D09 cause whether he was a droid, robot, or A.I., this is my sweet addiction & it all started with a sassy android named Iko but I digress…

We meet Ana and D09 in the opening scene as they are about to get themselves into some trouble. She was warned by the captain of her ship not to deal with a shady info broker who fell through on their last deal. However, Ana is feeling desperate. D09’s memory core is glitching & time is running out, she figures why not try her luck since they’re out of options & need to find D09 a replacement. The info broker is meeting with a Iron Blood aka of the elite class to sell him the coordinates Ana & D09 are looking for. These coordinates lead to a ship where they believe they can find the solution to D09’s memory core glitch. Things of course don’t always go as planned & so begins the fast paced adventure between Ana, D09, and a Iron Blood who is also searching for answers…

Ana- Our MC  is a bit of a loose cannon, she’s willing to take all the risks as long as it means saving D09 from permanently dying down due to his memory core glitch. I found Ana a bit frustrating, she wasn’t above putting her crew mates in jeopardy & it just made her look hella selfish.

D09- the android Ana loves, D09 cannot process feelings…he shouldn’t technically have them to begin with. We see him call these feelings he is having “glitches” & so the chemistry between him & Ana never really sets off until the very end.

Rob- The Iron Blood who happens to be a Royal, more specifically he is the youngest heir to the throne. Rob is searching for his father who he was told perished back in the rebellion led by Metals (this is what they call droids like D09). Rob is actually one of my fave characters in this book, the author ships him with Jax (see below) & I found his inner dialogue whenever Jax is around to be so endearing! ❤

Jax- The pilot of the ship & another one of my faves! he is confident as hell & isn’t afraid to show it. Jax comes from a race of people who used to be able to read the future in the stars. He holds some secrets that make him all the more interesting. I would’ve loved to have had more time with this character…also his need to protect Rob is seriously swoon worthy!

Crew- I seriously NEED more of this crew! we have MC who is a POC, a gay pilot, a lesbian Captain & her wife, and a disabled crew member. LEGIT I was LIVING for this crew!

My only wish was to have had more time with these characters. Told in short multiple POV chapters, I found it very hard to connect with any of the characters. I do favor character driven over plot driven stories but welcome with open arms any book that manages to balance these both out. Heart of Iron is definitely more plot & action. Nonetheless, I appreciate the diversity in this cast & hope to spend more time with them in the follow-up.

This is a first for me…Heart of Iron was a real page turner & I really enjoyed this story. The bits & pieces of world building we were given throughout the crews adventure was SOOOO interesting! but that’s just it, it was scattered & sparse making for a disjointed reading experience. I LOVED this crew but the short chapters made it hard to connect with any one of them. We get some history on a rebellion that took place when the Metals took up arms against humans that I really wanted more info on. There’s this process called “HIVE” where I assume Metals free will is taken away & it’s made mandatory for all as a direct result of the rebellion. However, not all Metals are evil & there was a time where they helped & were medics to humans. There’s a scene where humans are viciously attacking a Metal who isn’t hurting anyone, he was just trying to show his respect at a royal event. This piqued my interest…how many other Metals are out there living in hiding…not HIVED? I have many questions & can honestly say I will be picking up the follow-up in hopes of satisfying my curiosity. Heart of Iron was a fast paced fun adventure that will have you flipping pages til the wee hours of the morning. Yes it’s true I wanted more from the characters & world building, but I’m choosing to see this as a sign that I enjoyed what I read & look forward to seeing what Poston serves up next 😉


Hello Bookworms!!! Happy FriYay! I hope you’re all having an amazing day & enjoying some great reads. I have been on such a sci-fi kick this month and it’s been so much fun discovering new authors. Heart of Iron hits shelves Tuesday 2/27/18, will you be picking up a copy? Sound off in the comments! ❤ ❤ ❤


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Review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Title: The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Author: Angelo Surmelis

Pub. Date: January 30th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA+

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/Harper

Pages: 336

Format: eGalley

Content Warning: Physical abuse, homophobia, emotional abuse, and child abuse, bullying, Suicidal thoughts

*HUGE thanks to Balzer + Bray/Harper, Edelweiss, and Angelo Surmelis for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

   

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

Where to begin? well first I’d like to refer everyone to the content warning up above. This wasn’t a easy book to read but then again I know it couldn’t have been easy to write either. The author wrote this book based on his personal childhood experiences & so this is Ownvoices for LGBTQIA+ and child abuse. I requested this title from Harper once I read the synopsis & found that something about this character resonated deep within me. This review will be a mix of my thoughts on the book & my own personal experience which is something I rarely if ever talk about. I’ve never wanted to be proven wrong so badly but when I met Evan Panos on the pages, I knew I was in trouble. My childhood experiences at home ran parallel to Evans or really to the author himself with regards to child abuse. There is nothing pretty about what went on behind closed doors for Evan & being silenced by your abuser is the norm. Telling our stories isn’t something we do because child abuse is a very ugly thing & many aren’t prepared to hear about it. From personal experience, as someone who was silenced by my own family, this “story” rings true & my heart broke in a million pieces at the extent to which Evan went to hide his ugly truths.

Evan Panos is a only child living at home with both mom & dad, on the outside they appear to be the perfect Greek family. He is a talented artist & loves to sketch whenever he can as a means of escape. His mother, a extremely religious woman will go above and beyond to keep up appearances. His dad is a hard working man who loves his son but unfortunately doesn’t have the courage to put a stop to the abuse going on at home. Evan’s mother considers homosexuality a sin & although Evan hasn’t come out or even really had the chance to embrace who he is to himself, his mother makes it known on a daily basis that she knows he is Gay. We see Evan doing good in school and being a all around good kid but that isn’t enough for his mom who is determined to beat sin out of him. We see Evan walking on egg shells while home trying not to trigger another attack from his mother but his very existence is enough for her to go off. She physically beats him & emotionally breaks him down every chance she gets. She vocalizes her hatred for him & goes as far as wishing she never had him. Evan is numb at this point & we see him take it and never once actually break down. He’s become a master at hiding his wounds both inside & out, something his mother has taught him to do. I’d like to point out here, many times his bruises were on his face & although others questioned & suspected abuse at home… NO ONE ever really pressed the matter & this is something that unfortunately happens every day. It is easier to accept the lie the victim gives than accept the unthinkable truth. Although Evans mother mostly attacks him when his dad is away, there is no denying that his father knows what is going on at home. Their trips to the Doughnut shop was his Dads way of taking Evan out of the toxic home for a couple of hours. This was something my own father did for me & at the time it felt like a lifeline, now as an adult I understand so much more what those trips to get ice cream really were.

There is a love interest that plays a big part of Evans life, his childhood best friend Henry. The only reason they were allowed to be friends was because Evan’s mom set out to convert Henry’s parents into her religion. Their friendship runs through High School & becomes more than just platonic. It isn’t easy though, Henry knows something is going on at home but his life & parents are the exact opposite of Evans. Henry has a supportive home & his place becomes sort of like a refuge for Evan. I wanted to really like Henry, but unfortunately this is where I shook my head no. Evan is pretty numb all around & sometimes his answers just roll off the tongue in order to keep people away from his personal life. Henry has just come out as Gay to his family & receives all their love & support. My issue was with how much he pressured Evan all around. I understood Henry wanting Evan to leave his toxic home (been there myself & had someone try this for me) but I also understand how it feels to be in Evans shoes. What I can’t imagine is what it must feel like to also be pressured to come out as Gay & that is why Henry really rubbed me the wrong way.

I would’ve much rather he supported Evan & encouraged him to get help to get out of his abusive home more than his focus on them as a couple. I was happy to see that Evan had found another home & another example of what a supportive family looks like even if it was Henry’s. I myself found a home that showed me love & support and ultimately gave me the strength I needed to leave. From this book I wanted a ending that empowered others to seek out their peace of mind away from any form of abuse. Did I get that? Ultimately, yes! and no it wasn’t with Henry. If I had a book like this when I was a child/teen, I’ll be honest & say I may have hated seeing the truth written on the pages but by the end I know I would’ve also been emboldened to get help. I read the author’s note & the inner turmoil he had within himself to share his story is one that I’ve felt many times and still experience. Another well known author who is also his best friend, advised him to give the story to someone else. This is how Evan came about & through this character he was able to share something that not many are ready to hear. This book won’t be for everyone, the abuse is very raw & the wounds are deep but for those who have experienced it or still are…maybe this book will give you hope & strength to find your safe space.

The author shared some helpful links at the end of this book…

LGBTQ ORGANIZATIONS The Trevor Project—www.thetrevorproject.org

It Gets Better Project—www.itgetsbetter.org

LGBT National Help Center—www.glbthotline.org

ABUSE National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) and its affiliate, Childhelp—www.childhelp.org

BULLYING Stomp Out Bullying—www.stompoutbullying.org

StopBullying—www.stopbullying.gov


Review: The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

Title: The Glass Spare (The Glass Spare #1)

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Pub. Date: October 24th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Pages: 416

Formats: eGalley

    

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano can very well be seen as a gender-bend version of the King Midas & the Golden Touch myth. We are introduced to Wil Heidle the only daughter to the Northern King as well as her 3 brothers & mother. The King himself is a man who will stop at nothing when he sets out to seize lands & so the North is at the brink of war with the South. The South may not be wealthy like the North however, the King knows that the land itself is rich in medicinal plants that can produce miracle cures.

The King sees each of his children as pawns & as such has groomed each of them to serve a purpose in his Kingdom. Wil however is the child he has always feared & never loved due to the circumstances revolving her birth. She wasn’t born with her mothers beauty but rather with what appeared to be a birthmark over her heart. From the moment she was born she was said to be carrying a great evil… EVERYTHING Wil touches that has life turns into gemstone. No one including Wil herself are aware of this dormant power & so the King who trusts no one, decides to groom her from a very young age to be a spy to the Kingdom. Until the day Wil’s power manifests itself in the worse possible way leaving tragedy in its wake. Wil is forced to leave the kingdom & chooses to go in search of a cure for what she believes is a curse. Hiding her true identity, Wil ventures into enemy lands in the South on her quest for a cure. Meeting another cursed soul was never in her plans. Finding out that he’s the Prince of the South doesn’t simplify things.

King of the North- a man only interested in power & the lands he can acquire. He loves his wife who is his Achilles heel but he will use his kids and their skills to his benefit whenever he sees fit.

Queen of the North- It scared me how much of myself I saw in this character. The Queen has OCD & her biggest fear is anything bad happening to any one of her kids. She spends nights awake roaming the castle halls checking in on them to make sure they are breathing. Oftentimes counting random things such as the number of kisses she gives each one of them while they are asleep. The Queen has a wanderer heart which she gave up once she became the Queen & a mother but her free spirit lives in on in two of her kids.

Wil Heidle- Craves to see the world & experience life in all corners of the world, Wil is very much like her mother. She is also a very talented spy who really just wants to make her father proud. This is her only connection to her father & so she works hard at gathering secrets all throughout the kingdom. It is because of this that she plays all her cards close to the chest & has her walls up high. Wil loves her family, flaws & all but it’s her brother Gerdie she is attached to most.

Gerdie Heidle- Struck by Gray Fever when he was a child, Gerdie is a living miracle. He is able to walk with the assistance of metal leg frames & wards off fevers via his homemade remedies. He is an alchemist & therefore the King looks to him for warfare & ingenuity. Gerdie & Wils relationship was my favorite of them all in this book. The scenes in Gerdies lab were some of my favorite & I could vividly imagine the mini explosions Gerdie set off while Wil ran to check on him.

Owen Heidle- Oldest son & therefore heir to the throne, Owen will one day be king & perhaps the kingdom would be better off with him in charge. Also a wanderer like his mother, Owen has traveled the world & seen many things. He has a vision for the Northern kingdom & preventing his father from starting a war is top priority. Owen loves all his siblings & is seen as the level headed responsible one of them all.

Baren Heidle- The son the king has cast off as useless. He lacks the IQ Gerdie brings to the table & the logistical/physical skills Owen carries. This has made Baren into a very bitter & angry brother/son who hates everyone except his mother. I would’ve liked to have seen more of this character, he was definitely treated as the invisible son.

Loom & Zay- Later on in the story we meet the Southern Prince Loom & his traveling companion Zay. The Prince does carry a curse within him & very much like Wil doesn’t agree with the way his father the Southern King is running the land. They are enemies without knowing it & so their relationship is based on lies. Won’t go into detail for fear of spoilery things but I will say that I really did enjoy Looms character. He has a big heart & wants to do more for his people in many ways similar to Owen Heidle. Zay his companion is AMAZING!!!! she is the definition of Momma Bear! very maternal, Zay will fight you to the death if you hurt her loved ones.

A solid start to The Glass Spare series!!! this was my 1st Lauren DeStefano read & it really took my by surprise how invested I got in this story. I picked this book up on a late Friday night & couldn’t put it down, before I knew it I had reached the last sentence. A genderbend version of King Midas & the Golden Touch, one of my favorite myths growing up as a kid. My first revelation was that Wils power although it may sound beautiful at first is actually pretty gruesome when seen in action. No, not everything that glitters is gold & pretty! I still have this one scene in my head that was very descriptive & left me contorting my face & literally shaking my head NO! (yes, yes I am a scaredy cat) & yet I REALLY enjoyed her writing LOL! I kept flinching whenever she came into close contact with another person in fear she’d turn them into a giant ruby, trust me it isn’t pretty. The character relationships were my favorite & even the King in the North managed to make me question whether he was always that cold. Speaking as a person who deals with OCD, I found the Queen to be extremely relatable with compulsions I myself carry out on the daily. I will most certainly continue on with this series & highly recommend to those looking for a strong & fresh take on a tale as old as time 😉

*HUGE Thanks to Balzer + Bray/Harper, Edelweiss, and Lauren DeStefano for the eGalley copy of The Glass Spare in exchange for an honest review.

Hello Bookworms! what are some of your favorite myths/legends/stories you’d like to see given a modern twist? Does The Glass Spare intrigue you? I’ll be picking up my finished copy this Tuesday the 24th & sending a quick wish to the Book Gods that the wait for the sequel isn’t long 😉


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WWW Wednesday 10/18/2017

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?

I am currently 40% into Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1) by Scott Reintgen & OMYGOSH Bookworms!!! It’s too early for me to start gushing about this book but it’s SO GOOD! I’ve had so many fellow bookworms read my status updates on Goodreads & get just as excited that I’m reading Nyxia. Beautifully diverse in such an interesting setting, Nyxia leaves you wondering what if we could all understand each others different languages. The most fascinating aspect of this book is that each character who signed up to venture to the newly habitable planet of Eden, is able to understand each other through a facial translator of sorts. The characters themselves are quickly becoming faves but never have I grown this attached to a male MC!!! I think I found the ONE! more to come on that 😉

On Monday I finished The Glass Spare (The Glass Spare #1) by Lauren DeStefano which I believe to be a very solid start to this new YA Fantasy. I’ve already written my review which goes live tomorrow morning & can’t wait to chat with you about. I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring for this galley when I read the synopsis & got from it that this is at its heart a genderbend version of King Midas and the Golden Touch. As a kid I was always fascinated by stories & myths but I was always down to hear about King Midas. The Glass Spare was a hit in my book (jeje) & now I start my watch for the sequel with bated breath lol 🙂

Since I am desperately playing catch up with arcs after having a disastrous September with family (discussed in my September wrap-up), I am doubling up & powering through some October new releases. I’m pretty sure I’ll be done with Nyxia either by tonight or tomorrow morning. I plan on starting the following 2 titles next, both of which I’m beyond super excited for! they are very different from each other which is great because I have a ton of Fantasy titles to read after & the change of pace keeps me from genre burn-out haha. I’ve heard nothing but GREAT things for both of these titles, especially You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins which is a multi-generational YA Contemporary, take a look at those accolades down below bookworms! & Berserker by Emmy Laybourne truly appeals to my love for all thing Norse mythology, I have a feeling I’m going to love it 🙂


BERSERKER (BERSERKER #1) by EMMY LAYBOURNE

Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?

Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.


YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR by MITALI PERKINS

Nominated for the National Book Award | Six starred reviews: ★ Horn Book ★ School Library Journal ★ Publishers Weekly ★ Booklist ★ Shelf Awareness ★ VOYA

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.


What are you wonderful bookworms currently reading? planning to read next? any good ones? & if you’re reading any of the ones I mentioned, let me know down in the comments what your 1st impressions were <3’s!


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Review: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

Title: Even the Darkest Stars (Even the Darkest Stars #1)

Author: Heather Fawcett

Pub. Date: September 5th, 2017

Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

Pages: 304

Formats: eGalley 

Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

   

I typically read the Goodreads Synopsis before writing my Plot summary & I’m a bit confused this time around. The order of events & how they happened aren’t exactly correct in the synopsis & this is the first time I’ve seen this happen on GR. So, my Plot discussion will differ from what is listed in GR and for that reason I’ve decided to exclude their synopsis from my review.

We meet our MC Kamzin in the midst of the excitement surrounding the arrival of River Shara, a famed explorer for the Royal Emperor. River has been tasked with finding a Talisman of great value for the Emperor. However, his business in her small village is yet known, Kamzin’s sister Lusha is skilled & well versed in the study of the stars and maps & it is assumed River is there for her assistance. Kamzin however, isn’t one to be left behind & so she sets out to meet this man of great fame in order to join his quest. A turn of events (vague for fear of spoilers) sees Kamzin paired off with River Shara as his guide. Kamzin may not know much at all about astrology however, she knows maps better than anyone & she also has grit, a quality River admires. For Kamzin this is the opportunity of a life time to see the world outside of her small village, it’s also a chance to step outside of her older sisters shadow. However, when it’s revealed that Lusha is also on her own mission to retrieve the Talisman it becomes a race to the finish. The Talisman is rumored to be located at the very top of the tallest most deadliest mountain. Many have attempted this climb including Kamzin’s own mother, and none have made it back. We follow Kamzin, her bff Tem, River, a Shaman, and two adult siblings (brought along for their physical strength) as they take on the grueling task of climbing Raksha.

The plot is slow moving start to finish which if you really think about it, is fitting to their journey. Getting to the top is no easy feat & it also isn’t without its losses. Something to keep in mind: the entire story takes place in the middle of mountains & ice and so you can expect it to be very character driven. These traveling companions have a ton of time on their hands to get acquainted & that made for many moments of comedic relief. I can easily see this book play out on the big screen with the beautiful backdrop of the icy mountains. The author really gives you vivid imagery that had to have taken some serious research. That being said, I did feel that the descriptions of the climb itself did have an impact on the plot itself. The ending felt a little rushed but it also didn’t make me lose interest in continuing with this series. I NEED to know what happens next!!! haha!

Although there are some amazing side characters in Even the Darkest Stars, I’ve decided to highlight the main players on the chess board…

Kamzin- This MC has to be one of my newest faves for her persistence, ambition, intelligence, determination, and true grit! she will not give up once she’s set to task. She’s also very funny unintentionally, Kamzin is being trained to be the next village Shaman when we meet her but she’s terrible with magic & has no problem critiquing herself.

Lusha- I really wanted to like Kamzin’s older sister but sadly she was as cold as the mountains they were climbing lol. I did love that she is a wiz at Astrology & that her Familiars are two fierce looking Raven so there’s that.

Tem- Kamzin’s bff who had a romantic past with her but has since settled for friendship. I enjoyed this character & how well he wielded his magic. perhaps what I liked most was how he never made Kamzin feel bad for her shortcomings.

River Shara- This guy! lol smh, he’s charismatic & lives life on the edge. I really enjoyed the banter btwn. him and Kamzin, there were many LOL moments. I’m very curious to see how he develops in the next book & what path he takes 😉

The Familiars-  I mentioned Lusha’s Ravens but the real star of the show goes to kamzin’s Familiar Ragtooth. A feisty little fox who has Kamzin’s back with or without invitation lol. It’s rare for anyone to have a Familiar aka a animal protector & so that makes these siblings really important in their village.

Ultimately, Even the Darkest Stars was an enjoyable journey with amazing characters both human and animal. There were some aspects I would’ve liked to have seen expanded upon like the “villains” in this story. Although we do get some of their backstory, we don’t actually get much on-the-page time with them & our cast of characters. The final part of their journey also seemed a little rushed but it also spiked my interest up ten fold for the next installment. I am really looking forward to the follow-up & getting some of my questions answered. I had so many LOL moments which is rare in Fantasy so I’m hoping for more of that as well. Even the Darkest Stars has a very cinematic feel to it & I can’t wait to see what Fawcett has in store for us next 🙂

*HUGE Thanks to Harper/Balzer + Bray, Edelweiss, & Heather Fawcett for the eGalley of Even the Darkest Stars in exchange for an honest review

Hello Readers! has anyone read or plan on reading Even the Darkest Stars? I was OBSESSED with Ragtooth! I need more furry book companions please & thank you 🙂


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Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/LGBTQIA/Diverse

Pages: 338 pgs

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Becky Albertalli for the eGalley of The Upside of Unrequited in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Honestly, a more Feel Good plot I have NOT come across! Molly Peskin-Suso is many things: a fraternal twin to Cassie, prone to harboring a high # of secret crushes, a DIY Queen, Pinterest aficionado, and baker who also happens to be plus size. Molly’s best friend is her twin sister Cassie, they are inseparable & with their twin bond, they hold no secrets from each other. When Molly introduces Cassie to a girl she meets in the bathroom; who she thinks would make a perfect match for Cassie…she never would’ve guessed they’d fall in love. Both Molly & Cassie see their relationship shifting and with it comes a fear of losing their bond. Cassie tries to play match maker in hopes that it will help Molly feel less lonely. The issue with this is that although Molly has had plenty of crushes, she hasn’t actually dated or kissed anyone. In fact, for Molly it’s all about that feeling that you get when you have a crush…

“And it’s a little different with every guy, so it’s kind of hard to generalize—but if I had to describe the feeling of a crush, I’d say this: you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you’re starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It’s this close to intolerable. But I like it.”
Becky Albertalli, The Upside of Unrequited

Ok so I’m just going to start off by saying I was Molly Peskin-Suso sans her craftiness lol. I too carried on way too many crushes & gave them all pseudonyms for easy recollection lol. That new crush feeling she describes? yea all too familiar smh, and I also never found the courage to say anything to said crushes *awkwardly looks away from screen* lol. Molly’s character brought back some fun memories and as a plus size gal myself, I found I could relate to her even as a grown adult. Her honesty about the feelings she has rang true to me. Molly has moments where she doesn’t feel comfortable with her weight, she doesn’t want to be just “the girl with the very pretty face”. At the same time, she has moments of empowerment & never once feels the need to be thin just to get a boyfriend. Molly has the same thoughts we’ve all had about our bodies & her inner monologues mirrored my own at that age. Needless to say, I LOVED Molly! I also really enjoyed reading her twin sister Cassie who is the complete opposite of Molly. Cassie & Molly have a great sibling relationship & because they’re twins (same age haha) they have the same circle of friends. Cassie is the extroverted twin, described by Molly as being very attractive & also happens to like girls. Seeing Cassie fall in love while still trying to be there for Molly and even play match maker was super cute. Molly and Cassie also spend time with their cousins (same age) over Skype videos & YAY for female friendships and seeing more of that in our books! *whoop whoop*  

I realize this is getting lengthy but Albertalli really knows how to make you fall head over heels with all of her characters. Last but not least are the AMAZING parentals! Molly’s moms are in tune with their kids and by no means are they your traditional types. I loved seeing their genuine interest in seeing their kids happy. They aren’t holding tight leashes on their kids but instead trust them enough to right. Some may think they were a bit too understanding but when it mattered they stepped in. Also loved seeing each mom’s personality pop on the page. They weren’t just background characters, their own experiences are woven into the story which gives you a more well rounded look at this family.

This is my 1st Albertalli book & I’m quickly making her an auto-buy author. I have Simon waiting for me on ibooks & can’t wait to see what the buzz is with that guy. Simon does do a cameo in this book & that Becky knew what she was doing! I need to know more about Simon!!! haha! this was a fun feel good contemporary. I smiled from start to finish and loved all of the diversity and plus size representation in Upside. Also in the mix, Albertalli found a way to include a quick conversation between Molly, Cassie, & friends on a comment made by another and how it is considered problematic. This then led to a healthy discussion and I found it refreshing to see how it was handled. Upside of Unrequited is now a top 2017 fave & will probably make the cut at the end of year for top 10. I can’t recommend this book enough! PLEASE BUY IT. PLEASE READ IT. PLEASE LOVE IT. 😉

Have any of you wonderful bookish peeps read The Upside of Unrequited? fave character? quote? I mean Molly did have quite a few good lines lol…



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.

Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Published by: Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins 

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Diverse/Own Voices

Pages: 336 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting On Wednesday

ramona-blueRamona Blue

Published by: Balzer + Bray

Date of Publication: May 9th 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 

Pages: 491

 

 

 

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For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson comes this sharp and thought-provoking novel about modern love, family, and the labels that we just can’t seem to escape—from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

As Ramona falls more in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift as well, and she must decide if knowing who she is is more important than figuring out who she might become.

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I am currently reading & loving Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1)  on a whim really after leaving the book I was currently reading at home. I have a 1.5 hour commute to & from work, and not having a book on hand was just unacceptable lol. I started Dumplin’ & immediately got sucked into this small town girls story, personality, and inner monologue. I got curious and opened up my Goodreads to see if Julie Murphy has any other books & found 2 things: Dumplin’ is a series (almost positive it was originally a standalone) + a new book set for 2017 titled Ramona Blue. That cover immediately caught my interest & then I read the synopsis (cuz let’s face it, it’s usually in that order LOL). This story has LGBTQ characters but what stands out for me is that the protog is introduced as one of only two lesbians in her small town who then falls for her childhood friend who happens to be male. I’m curious to see how bi-sexuality is handled by Murphy…the original blurb I believe, had mentioned something along the lines of not being put in a box by labels. The blurb has since changed & I see that there seems to be a bit of controversy on Goodreads as well as rating the book 1 star before it’s been published or made its rounds for anyone to see. I also see the book getting 5 stars by readers who are trying to negate the low ratings because they find this to be unjust to the authors yet unpublished work. I don’t agree with either of these methods. Considering that Murphy is handling body image in Dumplin’ so well, I think i’ll give this one a shot & formulate/provide my own informed opinion/review/rating 😉