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 😉

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

WWW Wednesday

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

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

*Covers = Links to Goodreads 

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I’m currently reading Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer which I’ve read so many negative reviews on *unfortunately* but I’m not hating so there’s that *glass half full* I wouldn’t say that this a 5 star read but at the 50% point I see some things that I do like. I’ve always been a sucker for a Sleeping Beauty re-telling & couldn’t resist this one but I am feeling a bit under-whelmed.

I recently finished Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis (review here) which I rated 3 stars. Although I didn’t LOVE it, I am in love with two of the characters in this book to actually want to pick up the conclusion to this duology. This is Mindy’s 1st dip into YA Fantasy pool & in the spirit of giving authors a 2nd chance, I’d say that yes I would give it another go. I admire authors who take risks and cross genre’s (thinks of Adam Silvera & smiles lol) when done right, it can be interesting to see a different style of story telling from your favorite author. Now, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I believe was aiming to shatter my cheeks with how much smiling I was doing haha! I have been seriously going through a YA Fantasy burn-out/slump due to ARCS I’m trying to do right by smh lol. I needed a contemporary & I’m so glad I picked up Upside!!! I have a review going live on Thursday & I can’t recommend this book enough. The positive body image representation for plus size was FLAWLESS! and yea I can say this since I am plus size 😉 

I’m not really sure in which order I’ll read these yet, it really all depends on my mood after I finish Spindle Fire. Although I am currently feeling slumpy with YA Fantasy…I’ll shamefully admit, I haven’t read anything by Renee Ahdieh *for shame* &&&& I’m curious about her writing now. I mean I own The Wrath & The Dawn but don’t honestly know why I haven’t read it yet…the woman obviously speaks to my cover lust/vanity side. Also, who doesn’t want to read a Mulan re-telling? I think ya’ll know which one I’m leaning towards LOL! it’s a close tie if i’m being honest only because I love Magical Realism & have heard lovely things about A Million Junes so far 😉

Comment down below whether you think I should read A Million Junes or A Flame in the Mist next? Also, did any of you participate in WWW Wednesday? if so, drop that link & i’ll swing by your blog for a peek. <3<3<3 XOXO!

WWW Wednesday

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

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

*Covers = Goodreads

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I’m currently reading The Upside of Unrequited & LOVING the lightness of it all, it’s just what I needed. I’m enjoying the sibling relationship & the main protagonist is seriously my type of gal. Molly Peskin-Suso is someone I could easily relate to. At the rate that I am reading this one, I’m probably going to be finishing up by tomorrow 😉

 I recently read, reviewed, and ADORED the hell out of Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray! for those of you missing the Illuminae files something BAD!…this one is for you 😉 check out my review here. After Defy the Stars I jumped in Given to the Sea (Given Duet #1) by Mindy McGinnis since this one was from Penguin’s First to Read & I was cutting it close on time limit. The First to Read program is pretty cool but you do have a due date before the book expires my bookish peeps! *always tardy to the party* haha! anyways, I’m still working my thoughts out about Given to the Sea…thoughts a PLENTY! and should have a review up this week *fingers crossed* BUT if you’re really curious or you’re just looking for a really cool Book Blogger, check out Kourtni @KourtniReads review here. Kourtni & I share similar thoughts on this one, she gave it 2 stars I gave it 3 but we both want to see how this duology works itself out 😉

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

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

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

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

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1) by Lexa Hillyer, its not often we get a Sleeping Beauty re-telling & as a kid I always wanted to see more from this fairy tale princess. I was over the moon excited to hear of Spindle Fire & although I’m trying to remain positive…I have caught wind of the mediocre ratings *Le sigh* nonetheless I will enter this one with an open heart & hope for the best 😉

Did any of you participate in WWW Wednesday? if so, drop that link & i’ll swing by your blog for a peek. I’ve made a considerable dent in my arc spreadsheet & I’m wondering if I should reward myself with reading Strange the Dreamer…tempting! 

Waiting On Wednesday 

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at @Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 

img_3766They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Published by: HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, LGBTQIA

Publication Date: September 5th 2017

*click on image for Goodreads link 

In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, this tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut the New York Times called “profound,” reminds us that there’s no life without death, no love without loss—and that it’s possible to change your whole world in a day.
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

By now it’s safe to say that I am a fan of Adam Silvera & the man can do no wrong in my eyes..no seriously, he can’t 😌 When I first watched an interview of him where he mentioned that he was writing a Sci-Fi book next, my heart skipped a beat lol. Here is probably my ONLY favorite YA Contemporary aauthor & he is willing to take risks. I love that he is not trying to conform to just one genre. Yes, I believe there is some truth to authors having trouble when trying to cross over however Adam is still new to us readers. I’d take risks in the beginning too, why not? Life is too short to be put in a box & Adam in his writing has shown us that. I’m excited for this new book & it’s setting in NYC which is where I live. Adam knows these streets better than most & it’s nice to see familiar places in his books. There’s something real  & raw about the friendships/relationships in Adam’s books. I cannot wait to read They Both Die at the End with its GORGE cover 😍💙😍💙😍

Which of my bookish peeps are READY for another Adam silvera book?!?! 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 I know I am, cuz History Is All You Left me SLAYYYYYED my life 😩 Haha! 

 

January Wrap-Up & Book Haul

January was a month of quality reads for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a month where every book I read, I loved. One thing is clear though, I am really enjoying Diverse reads and being able to relate to some of the characters. I am also still on a mission to lower my arc pile with the help of my handy spreadsheet lol & making progress. This however, has not stopped me from acquiring new books cuzzzz i’m a helpless bookworm who can’t resist good deals & steals 🙈🙈🙈 annnnnd let’s face it, February doesn’t look like it’s going to be a slow month in the book world either. Yet still, I do plan on mostly picking up those books that I’ve already read & loved in arc form in order to support the authors & cuz If I loved them so much, i’d like to own them 🤗😍🤗😍

I’m very happy that The Bear and the Nightingale & Gilded Cage are solid starters for series. I get to go back to these worlds/characters and see what they’ve been up to & I can’t wait! I also hope to see more from all of these debut authors, they were all seriously noteworthy for many different reasons. I’ve reviewed all and attached the links 😉

January also saw me host my very 1st giveaway (see here) and I am happy with the outcome. The winner of the Owlcrate giveaway was Naz @ ReadDiverseBooks, check out his wonderfully diverse blog for all things diverse reads! The next giveaway will most likely be in May to celebrate my 1 year blogoversary and there will be 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place prizes 🙂

 

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 Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

 American Street by Ibi Zoboi  ★★★★ (4STARS)

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden   ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

The Education of Margot Sanchez ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas  ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

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Follow me @Lair_Of_Books <3’s 

*These 3 were Goodreads wins, your girl was a bit lucky this month (thank the Book Gods)

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall 

The Story Of  New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2) by Elena Ferrante 

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante 

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Follow me @Lair_of_books <3’s

The Bear and the Nightingale (the Bear and the Nightingale #1) by Katherine Arden

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney 

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry 

Wires and Nerve (Wires and Nerve #1) by Marissa Meyer

City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Arabella of Mars (The Adventures Of Arabella Ashby #1) by David D. Levine

Frost Blood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Follow me @Lair_of_books <3’s

January’s Book Of The Month, I went with Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk and added Good As Gone for $9.99. BOTM gifted their subbies Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup 🙂

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Follow me @Lair_Of_Books <3’s

I purchased these two lovely Book Biff’s from Breanne over at BizzyLittleB, she was very sweet & filled my custom order very quickly. Currently she isn’t taking custom orders due to starting a new school semester but she’ll be back & i’m keeping an eye out for when she does 😉

what-i-watched-bannerunderworldbwposterI managed to squeeze in a movie with the hubby this month. We went to see Underworld Blood Wars & although it was enjoyable we felt it wasn’t the strongest film in the franchise. That’s tough to say cuz I’m a HUGE Underworld & Kate Beckinsale fan. I’m still not giving up on Underworld & hope that the next one is re-vamped (hehe see what I did there smh).

maxresdefaultOn the TV front, i’ve admittedly fallen behind on a lot of my shows since they returned from Winter break but the DVR is working over time saving them for me. However, I have returned to one of my faves Vikings Season 4 (link to IMDB) & i’m once again hooked. Team Lagertha all the way & I really hope they don’t kill off my boo lol 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼

As has been the case these past couple of months, I’m a bit late with this book haul/wrap-up but i’ve been catching up with some of yours. Seems like for the most part, January was all about getting back in the swing of things. Love seeing how your January went & wish all my bookish peeps happy reading in February <3’s!

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Each week, a new topic is put into place and bloggers share their top ten accordingly. This week was Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels/Comics OR Ten Comics on My TBR or Top Ten Favorite Picture Books. I decided to go with my Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels/Comics on My TBR:

*All photos will take you to their Goodreads page except for America by Gabby Rivera which is not yet on GR. However, I’ve linked the EW article announcing this new Comic by Marvel*

1.Saga Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan

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2.Wires and Nerve Volume 1 (Wires and Nerve #1) by Marissa Meyer

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3. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler

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4. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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5. Mockingbird: I Can Explain by Kate Niemczyck, Chelsea Cain

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6. America by Gabby Rivera

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7. Zodiac Starforce: By The Power Of Astra

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8. Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan

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9. Archie by Mark Said & Fiona Staples

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10. Jughead

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Which Graphic Novels/Comics are you all looking forward to in 2017? excited about any of the ones I’ve listed? Today is the release date for Wires & Nerve…anyone else heading to the bookstore after work/school? I know I am 😉

 

 

 

 

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

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The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

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14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

Waiting On Wednesday

The Library Of Fates.jpgThe Library Of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Published by: Razorbill

Publication Date: July 18th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Diverse/Own Voices

Pages: 354 pages

*Click on image for Goodreads

 

 

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A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

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Disclaimer: what is everything Indian and/or Russian Folklore, I WILL be reading this year! why? you might ask… well because honestly, I love all stories that are rich in culture and can transport me to a completely different setting, culture, time, and people. I have not yet read The Star-Touched Queen or The Wrath and the Dawn however, I own them both and will get to them some time this year. Besides this one being infused with Indian Folklore, I love stories & movies with oracles. Yea, sometimes they give me the creeps cuz they claim to know it all and tend to only have one eye. This one however, sounds pretty tame in the Oracle department (unless author has omitted description to save us the creepy details). I’m also intrigued to see whether they can actually pull it off..that is the whole reversing their fates through The Library Of Fates. This probably goes without saying but if a book has the word Library in the title, please rest assured I will be reading said book 😉

What are you wonderful Bookish Peeps waiting on this Wednesday? Are any of you planning on reading The Library Of Fates? If your WOW is a Diverse Read, please drop that link down below & I will make my way over ❤ ❤ ❤

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