#ARCSTRAVAGANZA: Wild Beauty

#ARCstravaganza is a weekly meme hosted by Krysti at YA and Wine and Sarah at The Clever Reader to give book bloggers/bookstagrammers a chance to show off those ARCs/eARCs/Galleys! Comment on their weekly posts with a link to your own #ARCstravaganza blog post, or post a pic on Instagram using the #ARCstravaganza hashtag, and you will be entered to win an ARC copy of an upcoming YA novel! One winner will be chosen at random each month!

After reading & loving When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore late last year, I knew I’d be reading everything by this author. Fortunately, the wait wasn’t too long & this beautiful books started making its rounds. I am already super curious about the Nomeolvides women, the name “Nomeolvides” is made up of three Spanish words which translate into “Don’t forget me” All of McLemore’s books have the Magical Realism touch and this one is no different. Looking forward to diving right into the beautiful, magical, and lush writing McLemore is known for 🙂


Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Published by: Feiwell & Friends

Date of Publication: October 3rd 2017

Genres: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism/LGBTQIA+

Pages: 320

 

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.


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ARC Review: Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: June 13th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/Diverse

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*Trigger warning: attempted rape

*HUGE thanks to Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, Netgalley & S.K. Ali for the eGalley copy of Saints and Misfits

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tight knit Muslim community think of her then?

Before I get into my review of this wonderful gemstone of a book, I’d like to include two #Ownvoices reviews I found on Goodreads. Both Leenahreads (Muslim & Arab) & Hadeer (Muslim & Egyptian) give a perspective that is much needed in the community & appreciated by this bookworm. Also, today is the release day for Saints and Misfits & on behalf of LairOfBooks, I’d like to wish S.K. Ali a very happy book birthday!!!

In Saints and Misfits we follow our main protagonist Janna Yusuf who is a Arab Indian-American hijabi teen navigating life within her Muslim community & High School. Janna finds herself having a major crush on Jeremy, a Irish student in her school that is non-Muslim. With these feelings come a slew of questions we get to see Janna find answers to along the way. We are introduced to Janna’s family & friends as well as the community she is very involved with. The daughter of divorced/co-parenting parents, living with her mom & slightly older brother…Janna & her family are already viewed as different within their own community. Having a crush on a non-Muslim boy complicates things for her & to add to her plate, she’s harboring a hurtful secret. Janna doesn’t know whether she will be believed if she speaks up since the secret is about a respected individual in the community. This is a story about self reflection, family, community, identity, friendship, strength, faith & courage to face your fears.

Ever come across a fictional character who has qualities you yourself wish you possessed? such is the case with my admiration of Janna Yusuf. She is by no means perfect but strong willed and firm in her beliefs. Like any teenager she deals with High School crushes and social pressures both on & offline. Seeing her navigate through certain situations gives you a feeling that you’re reading one confident character. For the most part Janna is confident which was refreshing, I loved seeing her take pride in wearing Hijab. Janna’s sarcasm proved to be one of my fave qualities since witty characters always win me over. Perhaps my most favorite trait of Jannas is her interactions with those around her & how empathetic she is even when she doesn’t want to be lol. I also loved the relationship between Janna and her slightly older brother Muhammad. Throughout the book Janna’s older brother is courting another Muslim girl his age & he has asked Janna to supervise their dates. Janna does so even though she’s not a fan of his romantic interest & in doing so we get to see them spend more time around one another. It was nice seeing Muhammad be so attentive to Janna that he was able to pick up on there being something wrong. His genuine concern for his little sister made me wish he was my big brother *sobs*

Janna also has a non-Muslim bestie  who I’m just going to go ahead and say it….Tats = Ride or Die Bestie for life! Tats is such an amazing friend to Janna & respectful of her beliefs even when social pressure got in the mix. Of course they had moments where Tats didn’t understand fully but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Ultimately Tats respected Janna & had her back, love seeing positive f/f relationships. Lastly, one of my fave characters was Mr. Ram who lived in Janna’s complex and who Janna would take to/from a community center for the elderly. Mr. Ram has a passion for poetry & for encouraging Janna to pursue what makes her happy whether it’s sketching or photography. He imparted so much wisdom to Janna & just loved life so much his good spirits were contagious right through the page. There were many other characters in this book but I fear that going into them all would take away from the fun it was getting to know them. Overall, an amazing cast of characters!

I have so much love for this book I don’t even know where to start honestly! as a diverse blogger, I know the importance of seeing these books on our shelves. Most recently I read a Latinx YA book that left me smiling from ear to ear because I saw myself on the pages. In reading reviews such as the ones I linked in the intro to my review, I get a sense that this will be the case for many Muslim, Hijab, Arab, Indian-American readers. I can honestly say this book gave me so much more than a few hours of enjoyment, the lessons I took away are of much higher value. S.K. Ali organically wove bits & pieces of culture, religion, and faith throughout Saints and Misfits making for a rich reading experience. Our main protagonist is holding onto a hurtful secret & Ali gives us a realistic view of the situation. What it really would be like to expose a religious leader & the ugly truth of it all. A strong message is delivered ,many will stand against you but also, many will stand WITH you. The strong theme of community at the core plays an integral role in Janna’s life & I believe Ali captured that well with Saints and Misfits. I 100% reccomend this book to any & all, I just can’t wait to read more from S.K. Ali! 🙂

Will you be picking up Saints and Misfits today? If you’ve already read & reviewed, please drop a link & I’ll most def swing by your corner of the interwebz 😉

May Wrap-Up & Book Haul

It finally feels like Summer is right around the corner! &&& I’m also late with my May Wrap-Up/ Book Haul but that’s less surprising. I had one goal in mind for the month of May & that was to keep my book buying to the bare minimum because I’d be attending Bookcon the 1st week of June. I succeded & have already given myself some pats on the back for this little accomplishment. I also read a bit more than expected what with all the Bookcon excitement keeping me up at night lol, so that was nice. I also managed to squeeze in 2 movies & celebrated LairOfBooks 1 year Blogoversary!!! *throws confetti* Since we’re already a week into June, I’ll keep it short & sweet 😉

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate ★★★★ (4 Stars)

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich ★★★★ (4 Stars)

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier ★★★★ (4 Stars)

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

 

I had a pretty great reading month in terms of quality & quantity (for me anyways lol). I was over the moon excited to hear my favorite Thriller/Suspense author released a book in May (Lisa Unger, Red Hunter) & when my twin called from the Strand Bookstore saying she picked me up a copy, I did a little dance. I’ve only read her books through Netgalley so this will be my 1st physical copy on my shelves, thanks Twin @ChicNerdReads! It was an amazingly atmospheric read that I had a hard time leaving behind once I had reached the last sentence. My 2nd favorite read of the month is hands down Eliza And Her Monsters which is another I can’t let go of. For everyone who has ever belonged to a fandom or was behind the creation of one, this one is for you! for those of US who seek & find comfort at home reading or watching a fave show because social anxiety is ever present in your life, this one’s for you! there is so much good in this book, I really do believe there’s something for everyone 😉

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A Court Of Wings And Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (BOTM additional book I added)

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (Owlcrate)

Milk And Honey by Rupi Kaur

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember 

The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger (gift from my twin Gretchen @ChicNerdReads)

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (BOTM selection)

Hubby & I started May off with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, we typically take off 1 day from work every month to chill, hit up a movie & bookstore/comic book store…basically nerd out sans the two tiny humans giving us major side eye haha! I want to say that I enjoyed Vol. 2 more than the first but I think that my feelings toward it are the same (3.5 stars). Except I could’ve done without the cheesy dad bit. The soundtrack & Groot continue to be my fave parts of this movie. Trang & Lashaan over at Bookidote have a EPIC review or as they call it on their blog, a “Cinedote” (see here) which pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie. I’d give them a follow if I were you cuz they’re pretty dope 😉

Towards the end of the month, my sister & I went on our sisterly date to watch Snatched cuz Goldie Hawn & Amy Schumer LOl. I love these ladies & the idea of them together on the screen at the same time reallllly gave me the giggles so I had to see what it was all about. OMYGOSH it was so funny! I’m talking bust your stitches funny smh lol, I spent it holding my tummy the entire time. It’s centered around a mother (Goldie) & daughter (amy) getting kidnapped in South America. They end up being more trouble for their captors than it’s worth with escape attempts turning into jaw dropping high jinks. As a fan of Goldie Hawn since childhood, it was great seeing her back on the screen. I recently read & enjoyed Amy’s autobiographical memoir The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo  within the last couple of months & can say I am now a fan, LOVE HER! Def recommend (5 stars) 😉

Hope you all are having a wonderful June so far! How was your May? read/watch anything AMAZING? thank you for reading my late post & I’ll see ya all in the next post <3’s!

 

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: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism/Contemp

Pages: 350 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Razorbill and Emily Henry for the ARC copy of A Million Junes.

goodreads-synopsis-2

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

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At first glance, A Million Junes is hands down a Romeo & Juliet re-telling in the country. However, at its core A Million Junes can also read as a open love letter from a father to his daughter. June O’Donell lives with her mom, stepdad, and half brothers in Five Fingers Michigan where the O’Donell’s are sort of famous in their own right. June’s dad who passed away, made sure June knew to stay away from the Angerts aka the other infamous family in Five Fingers. The bad blood has run for 3 generations however, no one can pinpoint the exact moment the feud started or the cause of it. Both the O’Donell’s & the Angerts believe they’ve been cursed so that whenever their paths cross (often they do) bad things happen. June’s dad may no longer be living but this doesn’t stop June’s mom from continuing to keep a healthy distance from the Angerts. This of course all changes when June goes to the fair with her best bestfriend Hannah & bumps into Saul Angert. Saul is a few years older than June & has just returned from a pricey artsy school for writers. No one really knows why he’s back in town other than that he is staying with his dad who was a former top bestselling author. Although Saul has heard all about the curse over both their families, he is a non-believer and crossing paths with June soon changes that. For June is a O’Donell through & through, she believes in the curse and in the magic thrumming in Five Fingers. She sees a spirit with a pink feathery aura & a fox who appears every so often in their backyard waiting for them to give it their shoes. To June, her dad was a hero and a wonderful story teller & she believed each and every last story no matter how outlandish they may have seemed at the time. The more June tries to avoid Saul, the more they are thrown together. The spirits in and around her home are trying to tell her something, they keep transporting her to others memories. Memories of her dad from his recollection when she was just a little girl. Each & every time the “Whites” (aka little puffs of white that can be seen on her windows) come to show her a new memory, June gets to know her dad a little more. Everything she thought she knew to be true may or may not be a fact. To June, these trips to the past through the “whites” offer her so much insight on her father, grandfather, and great grandfather but are they harmless? And can June let go of what she & every O’Donell before her has always believed in & follow her heart?…

Starting with Five Fingers, this town is its own character filled with spirits, ghosts, and forest animals that steal your shoes. I fell in love with this strange little town even though at times it did creep me out just a little bit. Everything from the famous O’Donnell Cherry tree to the haunted lake kept me hooked in Five Fingers. June herself is sarcastic and blunt, making her a fun character to follow. Her best friend Hannah is one of my new fave sidekicks! From their own made up way of greeting eacother to how she has June’s back no matter what, Hannah is an instant fave. This right here was A+ female friendship goals 🙌🏼 Saul Angert aka the Romeo in this book, wasn’t THE BEST on the interesting meter but he scored some major brownie points towards the end. Now, last but not least is June’s dad. Although deceased, he is definitely a character all throughout this book. We get to know him and his love for June in a way perhaps that wouldn’t have been possible if were alive. He clearly had tons of love for June, enough for it to transcend beyond the veil of the living & dead. It was this relationship in particular that will stay with me for a lifetime. I myself lost my dad, a man who loved to tell stories just like June’s dad & I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked this book up…I’m glad I did though 😉 these characters are endearing, strange, and filled with magic.

I’m usually very weary when it comes to Magical Realism & A Million June’s was no exception. I love MR but it’s not always an easy experience to read & enjoy. This book is for those that may even be a little intimidated by Magical Realism. I found the writing style to be easy to digest which only heightened my level of enjoyment. This was a very atmospheric read that will ask you suspend all disbelief which I found myself doing immediately (leave it a Fantasy lover lol) once I entered the town of Five Fingers. I mentioned in the beginning that on the surface this is inspired by Rome & Juliet however, it was so much more than that. By the time I finished the last sentence I found myself in a puddle of tears at the realization that this story is more about a father’s love for his daughter. I’ve never read anything by Henry but now I am absolutely buying her last book The Love That Split The World if only to get a bit more of her unique writing style 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read A Million Junes? or are planning to? Sound off in the comments below <3’s! 

Also, if any of you have read The Love That Split The World please let me know if I should pick up a copy 😉