Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: January 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

25701463You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published by: RandomHouse

Pub Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: YA

Contemp/Disability/LGBTQIA

Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

30689335The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Published by: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery/Contemporary

Pages: 276 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

Trigger Warning: suicide & sexual abuse

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Razorbill/Penguin Random House

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Pages: 384 pages

Format: Physical ARC 

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75 STARS)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: 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

30256109.jpgAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi

Published by: Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins 

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Diverse/Own Voices

Pages: 336 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Published by: Del Rey

Publication Date: January 10th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 336 pages

Format: Physical ARC (Bookcon) 

Rating: ★★★★★

HUGE thanks to Del Rey & Katherine Arden for the ARC copy of The Bear and the Nightingale at Bookcon.

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

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The Bear and the Nightingale weaves the tale of Vasilisa, a child who grew up listening to the Russian Fairy Tales told by her nurse every night. Tales of the blue-eyed demon and the belief that honoring the house spirits would offer protection from the demon were taken seriously. Everyone in the village would leave out milk & bread to the house spirits in hopes to ward away the evil. The difference between everyone else & Vasilisa however, is that these tales were true and she is known as what is called a seer. Vasilisa’s mother who died in childbirth knew that she was leaving behind a very special girl. A girl that one day would be needed & as such she asked that her husband take much care of Vasilisa. When the tales/demons of Vasilisa’s childhood begin to come to life and threaten her village, she is the only one who could fight the impending war. Many years later, Vasilisa’s father is advised to re-marry in order to provide his daughter with a woman to guide her in life. Her father who was still very much devoted to the memory of his late wife, decided to take this advice and travel to Moscow where he was to find a wife…and here is where all of Vasilisa’s troubles begin…In a village where she is viewed as a witch and the people are easily swayed to convert to christianity, Vasilisa herself must be weary of a witch hunt while trying to protect the entire village.

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Besides the lush world building (see writing & thoughts) in The Bear and the Nightingale, the characters quickly turned out to be some of my favorites. Our female protagonist Vasilisa hasn’t had an easy life, losing her mom on the day she was born and her seer abilities have ensured a challenging road for her. I immediately loved Vasilisa, compared by many to a wood sprite, she loved running into the woods where she would lose track of time. Vasilisa was able to see the spirits in her home as well as in the woods and the water. She maintained a good relationship with them all, many times bringing them offerings to keep them peaceful and in high spirits. She refused to be treated like a maiden & opted instead to wear her brothers clothes. If given the opportunity, she would also carry daggers like her brothers. I loved her spirit and kindness, the warrior in her made me root for her and smile whenever she got her way. The sibling relationship between Vasilisa & her brothers and sisters was interesting & at times fun to read. Vasilisa was very fond of her siblings but i particularly enjoyed seeing her relationship with her brother Alyoshka. He absolutely knew that Vasilisa was not meant to be tied to a man bearing children. As much as he feared for her safety, he also respected her free spirit and was the only one to believe her no matter what. The witty banter between these two also got a few chuckles out of me. The relationship between Vasilisa & her father on the other hand is a bit more complex. He loves his daughter & doesn’t resent her for the death of her mother (the love of his life) but he also would like if she could conform to tradition & be wed. Of course, he knows each of his children and knows that Vasilisa settling down is a challenge he can’t see himself taking on by himself. This man is as old school Russian as they get, yet he himself realized that Vasilisa doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional wife. Some may say that he wasn’t a good dad because of certain scenes where he went old school on her with a “thrashing” whenever she would disappear for days into the woods. I saw the good & the bad in this man burdened by traditions and the fact that he is a Lord of the lands with a reputation to maintain. A widow with a house full of daughters & sons to raise and marry off to ensure their good futures. I didn’t enjoy certain scenes but I saw what the author was giving us… a complex man, flaws & all who loves all of his children and fears seeing any one of them alone. Dunya who is Vasilia’s nurse is hands down my new Grandma! not only can she spin a good tale by the oven in the middle of winter, but she loves all of the kids as hard as she loved their mother when she was her nurse. Last but not least we have the house spirits who all serve their own purpose. All of the different house & wood spirits take offerings whether it be food or blood. The Vazila, a  little old man that lives in the horse stables in essence is the soul of all horses and was my favorite of all the spirits. Add talking horses to these amazing characters & it just doesn’t get better than this cast ❤

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The Bear & The  Nightingale is the ultimate cozy read which I found ideal for this winter season. Every time I opened this book & entered the village and home of Vasilisa, I found it incredibly hard to leave. This book is atmospheric, lush in Russian folklore, culture, and language. The world building is insanely magical and transcending, from the scenes in the woods to the scenes in this families home. There’s plenty about this world to gush about but I really think that it would take away from your reading experience if I were to include it in this review. Some things are just better to discover on your own, I promise you will not be disappointed with all the interesting characters both alive & not so alive that you’ll encounter along the way 😉

I’ve never been to Russia, but this author has lived & studied in Moscow and it’s clear to me that she truly loves & appreciates its culture. The well fleshed out characters made me connect further with this story & that’s key for me whenever i’m reading no matter the genre. The cover for this book captures the heart of the story…Vasilia’s home which is what she chose to protect. The strong familial bonds between Vasilisa and each of her family members was a major focal point & made this into a Fairy Tale of its own. Lastly, I appreciated that nothing was rushed especially not the ending. Instead we see the framework set down for the continuation of Vasilia’s adventure since this is book 1 in an Adult Fantasy trilogy. I am BEYOND excited & READY to go back into this world…kind of hoping that we see book 2 this Fall *fingers crossed* 

Have any of my bookish peeps read The Bear & The Nightingale? if so, who was your favorite character/house or wood spirit? Looking forward to the sequel? if you’ve reviewed TBATNG, drop that link down below and i’ll swing by ❤ ❤ ❤

Review: History Is All You Left Me

history-is-all-you-left-meHistory is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Published by: Soho Press

Date of Publication: January 17th 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ

Pages: 320

Format: eGalley (Edelweiss)

Rating:★★★★★ ALL The Stars In The Galaxy!

 

*I’d like to thank Soho Press & Adam Silvera for the eGalley of History Is All You Left Me via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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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.

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History Is All You Left Me starts off with the main protagonist Griffin getting ready to attend his ex-boyfriend Theo’s funeral. Griffin has not come to fully accept the tragedy that is Theo’s death and so he begins to tell us his tale in chapters that alternate between  “History” and “Today”

Griffin and Theo were best friends since childhood before their relationship turned romantic. Griffin, Theo, and Wade were basically the modern day Three Musketeers who did everything together and their parents all knew each other. In “History” we get introduced to these three friends who enjoy playing video games, Harry Potter, reading, putting together huge puzzles, and inventing zombie apocalypse stories. During one of their usual excursions to Brooklyn on the L train (my borough whoop whoop!), Griffin & Theo’s relationship turns into something more than just friends. I loved the build-up to this moment and the chemistry between them was fully felt on my end. Wade expresses a bit of apprehension at the possible change in friendship dynamics now that he would be the odd man out but they promise to never put him in an awkward position. We get to see their friendship continue and get stronger. Things begin to change when Theo is advised by his school counselor to apply for Harvard early. Theo decides to skip on Harvard but does decide to apply to his top college of choice in Los Angeles which would mean leaving Griffin behind in New York. Griffin decides to be fully supportive even when the mere thought of not seeing Theo on the daily was suffocating and anxiety inducing. They decide to make the best of it just in case he does get accepted. I thought we were going to see them experience a long distance relationship but for some reason, I was glad that it wasn’t the case here. Griffin is a character who suffers from OCD and the representation here is one that I am beyond satisfied with, being that I myself have mild OCD. Griffin knows himself well and through plenty of self reflection he just knew that long distance & all of it’s pitfalls isn’t something he would be able to manage. Though they decide to maintain their friendship through Skype calls, handwritten letters and care packages, long distance eventually does take its toll. Theo starts to date Jackson who Griffin believes to be his real life clone and things take a turn for the awkward. Its during this time that Griffins OCD compulsions begin to take him down a path of self destruction…

In the “Today” chapters Griffin who hasn’t fully accepted Theo’s death, talks to him as if he were still alive and walks him through all of his emotions before and after their break-up. The things that he did while Theo was away at college and the things he did after learning of his death. History Is All You Left Me is a character driven book and one of the best ones i’ve read at that. Griffins mind isn’t one that can be forced to accept what he is not ready to accept. We get to see his thought process during his journey to acceptance and it’s not a pretty one but it is a more realistic one than if he were to have just completely moved on after loving Theo for so long. The “Today” chapters also see Griff come to terms with his secrets, ones that he can no longer confess to now that Theo is gone but nonetheless will bring to light since he believes Theo is listening & seeing all that he does.

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I couldn’t get enough of Griffin, Theo, and Wade which is probably why I finished this book in two days. Their friendship is pretty awesome and nerdy with plenty of pop culture references. The guys love leaving Manhattan and venturing into hipster Brooklyn or meet up at one of their homes after school. It was through these after school hangouts that we get introduced to Griffin & Theo’s parents who i’m just going to go ahead and say it…2nd fave set of parentals only to be beat by Molly & Arthur Weasley! They’re simply amazingly supportive, understanding, loving and welcoming human beings that I wish every young adult had in their lives. I also enjoyed Griffin & Theo when they were dating because of how positive this relationship was portrayed. Griffin & Theo truly loved each other, looked out for one another, and supported each other. Theo fully accepted Griffin’s compulsions and never once made him feel crazy. He learned all of Griffin’s ways and was the perfect missing puzzle piece (if you’ve read HIAYLM, you’ll know what I just did there LOL). I can’t forget about Wade aka the third musketeer who is an AMAZING best friend to Theo & Griffin but overall just a really cool guy. His besties decide to date each other & besides the initial conversation, he is fully supportive of them. I love that Adam gave us a chance to get to know Wade & that he didn’t fall back in the shadows of Griffin and Theo. I even ended up liking Jackson who was Theo’s new boyfriend in L.A. and I seriously didn’t want to but it happened *shrugs shoulders* maybe Griffin was right & Jackson really is his clone…

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After reading More Happy Than Not last year, I knew that Adam Silvera would be an author to follow throughout his writing career. The emotions he was able to stir in me, made him stand out from any of the Young Adult or Adult Fiction I have read all together. I am very thankful to have received a eGalley of History Is All You Left Me, as a matter of fact I teared up the night that I received the e-mail. I knew that I was going to be reading an impactful book by a person who has now become one of my top 5 favorite authors. There is seriously nothing like experiencing one of Adams books. His characters grow within the pages while going through it & taking you along for the ride. The relationships he gifts you remain with you long after you’ve read the last sentence. History Is All You Left Me wasn’t any different. I lost track of the times that I smiled & wiped away my tears. It was heart wrenching and painful to see Griff lose his favorite person and yet this was more than a story about grief & loss. This is a story about self reflection, healing, acceptance, coping mechanisms, friendships, human error, love in all its forms. Adam gave us Griffin who struggles with OCD which was one of the things that interested me the most. He showed us the internal tug of war that is having OCD & how it can impose limitations. The scenes where we get Griff’s inner monologue were spot on accurate. During times of high stress, I myself, internally will go back & forth with my compulsions. At times it feels like you can’t move on until it is right, with Griffin it was even #’s at all times with the exception of the numbers one and seven or any number ending in seven. I happen to have the same compulsion of even numbers, but my OCD is more on the mild side than Griff’s. Besides the accurate portrayal of OCD, Adam also gave us healthy relationships on all fronts including the parentals in his book. The LGBTQ and POC (people of color) representation in Adams books, have made him one of my auto-buy authors. If you’re looking for a book that will touch your soul and make you self-reflect, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for your next diverse read with all around positive representation, this is the book for you. I was able to see myself in this book & since that is rare, I appreciate Adam Silvera’s writing and can’t wait to give this book a home on my shelves on it’s birthday 😉

“History remains with the people who will appreciate it most”- History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Review: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

manipulated-livesReview: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

Date of Publication: June 8th 2016

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, psychology, Short Stories

Pages: 274

Format: eGalley (provided by author)

Rating:★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

A very special thank you to the lovely H.A. Leuschel for providing me with a eGalley of her book Manipulated Lives. All opinions are my own.

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Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? 
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. 
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. 

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Manipulated Lives is a short story collection that follows the lives of those who have fallen victim to manipulative people. Although this is a work of fiction, Leuschel accurately portrays the impact left on those affected by manipulation. Through personal experience alone, I was able to connect to her writing & feel the depths of confusion felt by those who had to have the veil lifted from their eyes one way or another. These short stories are packed with pain, sorrow, betrayal, but also hope. Hope for those that are able to escape the grips of manipulation & understanding that it isn’t something they did wrong. That it is however, a special trait in those inclined to manipulate, to target those that are seen as too caring or good hearted. I found it most interesting that in each story, the manipulator varied in age and gender. We get both sides of the coin, the effects on the lives of the manipulated but also the self destruction of the manipulator when discovered/confronted.  Each of these stories was impactful & moving in different ways but there are two that stand out the most for me. I won’t go into too much detail describing each of the stories because I do feel that it is is best to go in blind reading this collection. The manipulation described is so disturbing that it will catch you off guard which I took as a sign of great writing. The second story in this collection is titled Tess and Tattoos, this one is my favorite in the collection because it’s told from the perspective of an old woman in an assisted living complex. Tess is a very independent woman who really is in need of love & good company but instead she is lonely with not a single family relative to visit her. She befriends a nurse rather quickly who takes interest in Tess’ background & just why exactly she has no one come and visit her. Her story unfolds and ends rather sadly but I felt that in befriending Sara (nurse), Tess found the strength to liberate herself from all her demons. Tess was a living testament that you may physically detach yourself from a manipulative person however, their reach may be very far into your psyche. This story will probably stay in my soul. The last story in this collection is titled My Perfect Child, and it honestly sang to the mother in me. Although I couldn’t relate to the protagonists experience with her son, I was able to understand the need or want to be the BEST for your child because your own parent fell unbelievably short of mediocre. The mother in this story decided that her son would not want/need for anything, that she would be his EVERYTHING. She plays a big role in the man he grows up to be. I had a hard time digesting the ending for many reasons, in part because I am a mother myself. This one had me questioning what i’d do if I were in her shoes (no spoilers here lol)…it’s actually still lingering in my mind so i’ll take it as food for thought & a cautionary tale. I am really hoping to read more of Leuschel’s writing in the future, it stands out as one of the best for me in 2016.

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This was a tough read for me because of a personal experience that honestly has changed how I make and view new friendships. It’s not an easy thing to trust again after you’ve encountered a manipulative person, especially after many years of their mind games. The part that gets me, is that it’s always someone who is either very close to you or will manage to get very close to you. This book intrigued me as soon as I saw a few trusted blogger friends read & review it…that titlethat cover…it wouldn’t stop calling my attention. The author kindly reached out after seeing my re-tweet of a fellow blogger friends review & I was very happy to accept. What I hadn’t expected, was for this to be such an impactful & poignant read. I know now that there was a reason for my crossing paths with this book & it’s author. I spent many years after physically cutting ties with my manipulator,  wondering about them & how they were faring and if they were up to the same old games. I went through a range of emotions, some where I even got on myself for being so naive & blind to their intentions. See, although I had physically parted ways…that person still had a hold on my thoughts & therefore still had a hold on me. I am finally mentally liberated from this person as a whole but it wasn’t until reading Manipulated Lives, that I realized how lucky I am really, because this person didn’t get to ruin my life. I may still be a work in progress, but at least all is not lost 😉

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

scrappy-little-nobodyScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Published by: Touchstone

Date of Publication: November 15th 2016

Genres: Autobiography-Memoir-Humor

Pages: 271

Format: Audiobook

Rating:★★★★ (4.5)



Goodreads:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

the-audiobook-experience

I went into listening to Scrappy Little Nobody with very little expectations since besides Pitch Perfect, I really didn’t know much about Anna Kendrick. I did know that she was someone who I wanted to know more about, her on-screen presence giving you only hints of her actual personality. She’s one of the few funny ladies that I love watching yet I didn’t know why. In Scrappy Little Nobody, Kendrick completely obliterates any notion that she is fame ready & the belief that she’s this A-list celebrity reaping all the benefits of Hollywood stardom. Kendricks very humble beginnings set the stage for what was to come but it wasn’t easy and it was her fierce determination & hunger to do what she loves that got her to where she stands now. She invites us into her youth days when she auditioned for many small time plays, commercials, and movies. Like the time she played one of many supporting actors/actresses on the Twilight set as a corpse covered in blood. She didn’t turn her nose at any of the roles thrown her way but instead took them as an opportunity to fatten up her resumé. She tells us about a time she had been offered an audition in NY & her parents allowed her to take the metro to the city. The audition turned into a call-back and her parents paid for a hotel, called ahead and informed the hotel that they were certain to follow when in reality they just needed to be there for the following morning. After all, in show biz there are no rooms for excuses & a second chance is hard to come by. She jokes that whenever an actor/actress thinks to raise a complication or complaint, they are offered a glass of water…the show must go on. Anna washed her clothes in the hotel sink and used the $40 in cash her parents had given her to buy shoes from Payless. You can tell she is proud of these humble beginnings and this made me love her all the more for it. Later in her career, Kendrick began to generate some buzz and with it came roles like Up In The Air alongside George Clooney, a film that went on to win many Academy awards. All throughout, she lets us know that she by no means had her life together while starring in these films. She was however, a struggling actress living paycheck to paycheck and it was reflected in the simple clothing she wore and in the small apartment she shared with 2 of her friends. The well put together Anna we saw on the red carpet was polished hours before we saw her. She was often left in awe at some of the clothes & jewelry that she was allowed to wear, mostly rentals because of the price tag but nonetheless it didn’t go unnoticed by her that these were indicators of her progress in making her dreams come true. All throughout she remains humble, giving us an inside look on what it takes to make it when you come from nothing. I had many laugh out loud moments listening to hilarious takes of her trying to get a scene right only to have it cut as a whole, leaving her physically bruised but never defeated. She speaks on body issues, being a smaller size was never easy and she’s honest about the teasing & challenges that shopping presented. I love her resilience & fighter personality. I found myself rooting for her whenever she found herself confronted with a bully or an awkward situation with one of the guys she was dating. Scrappy Little Nobody is a title that fits this book so perfectly that now that i’ve finished it, I can’t imagine it being named anything else…

thoughts-super-cropped

I don’t think i’ve ever understood friends or strangers when i’ve heard them say they wished a certain celebrity was their real life friend lol. After finishing Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick is now this person for me. She is one of the few rare gems that shine and just aren’t aware of it. Anna narrated Scrappy Little Nobody herself & the sincerity is there. I felt her awkwardness in many situations and also her eagerness & motivation to do what she loves. Like many of us, she works on being comfortable in her own skin and including this made her only more relatable. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t easy to experience some of the things mentioned in her book, but they seem to have been a contributing factor in the wonderful human being she is today. I’ve never once looked at her on screen & thought her weak or small or less than. I get now, that what I loved about her while admittedly knowing very little about her, is her energy and fighter attitude. I’ve added Up In The Air on my queue, a movie that i’ve stayed away from because I find movies about cancer patients to hit too close to home. In her book, she lets us know that neither the cast or herself thought this movie would win anything & it came as a huge surprise when it did. I’d like to see her performance & will definitely be following her career in acting since I love what i’ve seen so far…btw i’d check out her Twitter, she is seriously funny on Twitter she isn’t kidding haha!

7041930Born in: Portland, Maine, The United States 
August 09, 1985
Anna Kendrick is an American actress and singer, born and raised in Portland, Maine. She is widely known for her roles in The Twilight Saga, Up in the Air, and Pitch Perfect. Throughout her acting career, Kendrick has received various awards and nominations.
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