Review: Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolscer

Song Of The Current by Sarah Tolscer

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books

Publication Date: June 6th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 373 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Bloomsbury, Netgalley & Sarah Tolscer for the eGalley copy of Song of the Current. All opinions are my own.

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Song Of The Current is THE book you must read if you’ve been seeking adventure in the high seas! the main protagonist Caro has a passion & true calling for sailing and adventure, she is an Orestia after all! Caro is waiting for the day that the River God calls her name to meet her fate however, it hasn’t happened & this makes her question if she’s even cut out for the waterways. Nevertheless she continues to work alongside her father taking contracts to smuggle all sorts of goods (some shadier than others). It is when her father is imprisoned for refusing to help smuggle a highly classified item that Caro is forced to take the helm. She plans to get her dad out of prison with or without the help of the river god by fulfilling the contract her father declined. This job will take her far away from the river she knows so well, into the vast ocean & troubled waters where only a true captain & thrill seeker would dare go. Caro has no idea what lies inside the crate she’s been tasked with transporting in exchange for her father’s freedom, only that it’s highly secretive. We follow Caro on an adventure that may seem like fate after all. This book has it all! Privateers VS. Pirates, people of color, politics, its own mythos, frogmen, Gods, feminism, & a bit of romance.

Diversity rules the pages of Song of the Current & I just LIVED for every single character introduction! Starting with Caro our main female protagonist who is described as being darker skinned with  dark reddish colored coiled hair. Although when we meet Caro she is content with life up and down the river alongside her father, we get a sense that hers is a destiny much larger. With Caro, there is nothing traditional & she’s just not having it, this includes any ideologies on being a housewife. Our MC knows what she wants & isn’t afraid to go after it. I loved seeing the strong bond she had with her dad, Father-daughter relationships are my Kryptonite. On their modest ship it’s only three of them: Caro, her dad, and Fee a Frogmen (half human/half frog). They have each others backs and basically just aim to survive until it all changes. Along the way we meet Caro’s mother but I won’t go to much into her role for fear of spoilers. I will say that Caro’s mother is also a POC & that I LOVED her flawed & all! the love interest is another I can’t go into too much detail but I will say that he is the complete opposite of Caro & that the age old saying “opposites attract” would apply here 😉

Song of the Current is THE ULTIMATE! Pirate book so if you’re a hardcore fan of pirates, this is the book you’re going to want to read. Down to the lingo used in the dialogue, you’re getting pirate talk which made for a more authentic reading experience. Earlier in the year I read & LOVED Daughter of the Pirate King (MUST READ! Lol) but I also came across reviewers who felt they didn’t get the full on Pirate experience. Song of the Current will satisfy those looking for a Pirates of the Caribbean experience. The pacing however, if i’m being completely honest, was a bit on the slower side to start. However, I was never bored and the the story itself hooked me in (see what I did there? ehhh) from the very start. The love interest wasn’t my favorite but I’m beginning to see more & more of that in YA Fantasy with strong female heroines. My thoughts on the romance are that it isn’t made to take center stage to Caro’s story & in that sense I was OK with it, her feelings are explained in the book. The world building was A+ from the lingo, clothing, way of life, and mythos behind the Gods. This is book 1 in what I think is a duology? (correct me if I’m wrong) & the ending (one of my faves) was perfect! just enough to make me want to come back for more. After-all, Caros fate awaits her…

Have any of you bookworms picked this one up yet? If you have, how did this adventure fare with you? excited for the sequel? let me know in the comments 😉

Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

Published by: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy 

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★

*HUGE thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, Netgalley, & Rin Chupeco for the eGalley of The Bone Witch

 

goodreads-synopsis-2

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

plot-banner

The Bone Witch is a beautifully dark woven tale filled with dark magic, runes, tradition, sisterhood, greed, loss, and betrayal. We meet our protagonist, young Tea who has just been discovered as a Necromancer. In the very first pages she raises a familiar back from the dead & is cast as a Bone Witch. Feared but very much needed by her kingdom to keep them safe & away from the Daeva (aka beasts), Bone Witches are still few and far between. Tea is mentored by one of the most powerful Bone Witches in the land far away from her family. We follow Tea as she studies to become an Asha by taking lessons in the arts, history, physical combat, meditation, etc. which gave me Geisha vibes all the way. Tea starts off as a novice in a Asha-Ka where she must earn for the house she lives in & climb her way up to being a well respected & highly sought out Asha. Her training is rigorous & through a network of sisters she is taught the art of entertaining very important nobles, politicians, and royals. Tea however, won’t be your average Asha since as a Bone Witch, her calling is the Dark. Bone Witches are the only asha that can kill Daeva whenever they resurrect & the time spans for resurrection are different for all Daeva. Tea sees the task that Bone Witches take on for what it truly is…a sacrifice. For every Daeva that is slaughtered, the Bone Witch is physically & mentally drained. Their lives are spent hunting & killing Daeva for a kingdom that sees them as lepers because they are able to raise the dead.

tumblr_olrbzsiegy1rakmkoo1_1280
Photo credit@MoonRaven NightShadow

characters-banner The main protagonist Tea is a Bone Witch who is discovering just how powerful she is among the few Bone Witches that are left. She is young and has to depend on her new found Sisters to show her the ropes & teach her how to control her power. I loved that Tea was hungry to learn everything she possibly could to further her ascension in the ranks. I’ve grown accustomed to meeting female protagonists in YA Fantasy that tend to only be about self or having these GY-NORMOUS (totally made this word up lol) egos…Tea is none of that. She is humble enough to remember the kitchen staff as she grows in rank, seeing her sneak them food because she remembered what it was like to go without, spoke to her character. I ABSOLUTELY love that Tea is a POC (person of color) because they are so rare in Fantasy (YA or Adult) & like many of my fellow blogger buddies have mentioned, if you can create a whole host of supernatural beings then it can’t be that far fetched to include POC’s in Fantasy. Tea is mentored by Lady Mykaela who is known as the best of the best & was the person to personally seek a young Tea out when she sensed her powers at work. Lady Mykaella’s story is also told in bits & pieces, we get a sense that she’s suffered heartbreak & carries a heavy burden. I enjoyed seeing this female bond play out positively on the pages. We also get introduced to some of the asha who play supporting characters & those who work within the village selling all of the things an asha needs from head to toe (clothing, hair, magical potions woven into clothing). Of these my faves were Polaire who also serves as a Sister to Tea & made me giggle with her brash no hair on the tounge comments, Rahim who custom designed all of the asha’s Hua’s always brought color to the page, Likh who worked in the special hair trinket store is a boy who wanted nothing more than to become an asha & dance all of the traditional dances. I loved that Likh felt comfortable enough in his own skin to go for what he wanted & stay true to himself. With an array of characters of all ranges, The Bone Witch gave me a new set of characters to love & worry about haha!

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

Ok, so here’s where it gets a bit tricky! I am a lover of lush worlds and if done right, I don’t mind the slower pace or the attention to detail. That being said, I did feel that plot was sacrificed a bit in place of characters & world building. It isn’t until the very end that we come full circle with what led to Tea being in her current situation (no spoilers). I didn’t mind the slow pace at all because I truly can get lost in a world & lose track of time as a whole when the writing is as good as it is in The Bone Witch. I also feel that The Bone Witch makes for a great Adult Fantasy even if it is YA Fantasy. I say this because of the complex magic system, AMAZING world building, and fleshed out characters that suck you in. This isn’t a book you’ll read in one sitting, I actually gave it my Junior’s Strawberry Cheesecake treatment…that is I savored it for as long as possible. Each & every time I picked it up, I sunk into the nearest recliner and shut myself down to the real world. This is very descriptive writing & if you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, then this is a must have! as a person who enjoys reading about other cultures, I enjoyed the Asian influences in this Fantasy setting. The story alternates between past & present. In between the chapters we are given brief accounts of Tea’s past in pages that are italicized, however they are being recounted in the present. Tea decided to call on an Asha whose specialty is that of a historian, to chronicle her side of the story. It is within the pages that are italicized, in between the chapters that we get Bard’s POV as he chronicles Tea’s stories. Being that this is book 1 in a series & since the author has hooked me in with her writing style, I know I will definitely  be picking up the next installment. I also feel that we will see the action we wanted to see in this 1st book, in the next one. Tea’s story is far from over, I am super curious as to what she has planned up her hua’s sleeves cuz THAT ending!!! smh I need more 🙂

My Bookish Peeps, those of you that have read The Bone Witch please drop your thoughts or links to your reviews down below. I’m curious to see how it fared with you all & do you plan on continuing with this series? If so….are you team Kance or Kalen? BAHA! I kid I kid! 😉

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 🙂

 

wrap-up-banner

 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)

haul-banner

img_3661
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 

img_3669
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

fullsizerender-6
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 🙂

img_3625
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!

 

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.

goodreads-synopsis-2

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.

plot-banner

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.

characters-banner

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.

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

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.

about-the-author-banner

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: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.

goodreads-synopsis-2

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.

plot-banner

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…

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

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.

about-the-author-banner

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.

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.

goodreads-synopsis-2

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?

plot-banner

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?

characters-banner

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…

writing-final-thoughts-banner-2

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: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

 When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Published by: Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: October 4th 2016

Genres: Young Adult/Magical Realism/LGBTQ

Pages: 288

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★(5 stars)

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I’d like to thank Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press for approving me to receive an eGalley of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT

When the Moon Was Ours is the story of two best friends, Miel & Sam who meet when they are children, under unusual circumstances. The town’s water tower has fallen & Miel, a child at the time is found sitting there when the water washes away. The belief is that she came from the water tower. Sam is the only person/child that Miel allows to approach her & since that day, they’ve been inseparable. A friendship that grows with them & eventually turns into much more. Both Miel & Sam hold secrets close to their hearts. This is their story of coming to terms with, accepting, and loving who they are. It’s about releasing your fears & understanding your loved one’s journey at their pace. A story about self-identity & living your truth. Sam short for Samir is a transgender Pakistani boy who the town often refers to as moon for all of the globes/moons he paints & hangs all throughout the town and woods. Sam & his mother who is a stay at home teacher, moved to the town with no paper trail to their past. Miel (Spanish to English translation: Honey) is a Latina girl with a fear of pumpkins & is believed to have been cursed. Miel has an open wound on her arm where a rose with vines & thorns grow. when in full bloom, Miel offers them up to the river. Miel was taken in & cared for by a neighbor after she was found by the tower of water. The neighbor, a Latina woman who is known as the town’s Curandera, specializes in curing lovesickness. The story revolves around Miel, Sam, Sam’s mom, Aracely (Miel’s caretaker), and lastly the Bonner sisters (4 in total). The Bonner sisters are known for their beauty, red hair, and ability to attract any male in town with little to no effort as if they have bewitched them. When one of the Bonner sisters does something that could bring shame to the family, she is sent away. It is her return that shakes up Miel & Sam’s lives. The Bonner sisters seem to have lost their magic but believe the  rumor that the roses growing from Miel’s arm can restore beauty & attraction, are true. So begins this story filled with pain, sadness, and beauty…


“To the boys who get called girls, the girls who get called boys, and those who live outside these words. To those called names, and those searching for names of their own. To those who live on the edges, and in the spaces in between. I wish for you every light in the sky.”


CHARACTERS

I LOVED these characters so much that my heart was breaking for them for more than 80% of the book. Sam, a transgender Pakistani boy who binds his chest & practices his voice to make sure it sounds low & developed at the same rate as other boys in school. Sam who adopts a tradition that his grandmother passed on to him, called bacha posh “a cultural practice in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in which families who have daughters but no sons dress a daughter as a boy. The daughter then acts as a son to the family. As an adult, a bacha posh traditionally returns to living as a girl, now a woman” Sam adopts this tradition thinking he would one day want to be a woman. Sam will forever be in my heart for all of his beauty & tenderness towards Miel. For all of the moons he lit up & hung around the homes of children who couldn’t sleep. Miel is a girl who carries guilt, pain, and beauty on her arm. This book is full of metaphors & beautiful prose but it’s clear that the roses are connected to Miel’s own heart. The cruelty she experiences at the hands of the Bonner sisters broke my heart into pieces & I felt the need to protect her. The parentals, it’s rare nowadays that you come across parentals in YA books that you actually like but that are also flawed themselves. Such is the case with Sam’s mom & Aracely who is Miel’s caretaker, these women have plenty of pain of their own but they both are portrayed as very strong women.  What I loved the most about these two is the support & understanding they both provided to Sam & Miel. They guided both Miel & Sam, making sure to toughen them up for what was sure to come.

WRITING

The writing in When The Moon Was Ours is full of magic, folklore and legends. Lush with the littlest of details making their world come to life on the pages. So much beauty in the words for these characters who experienced profound pain & sadness. Sam went out of his way to bring out the beauty of the night to Miel & we can feel how much he truly loves her. I found myself caught up on some of the prose describing how he viewed Miel, tissue at the ready. When I read violent scenes I was always struck by the contrast in the world Sam & Miel had created for themselves next to what it really is. To be honest I didn’t know if this book was for me because although I love Magical Realism, McLemore’s writing is very lyrical & reminiscent of Laini Taylor…I just have to be in the mood for their style of writing. Thankfully I decided to stick with it & now I have a new favorite story that will for sure stay in my heart.

THOUGHTS

I actually read the afterward at the end of this book & I’m glad because Anna-Marie McLemore shares a bit of where she drew inspiration for this book. She met her husband when they were both teens & always wondered whether he was transgender. There were moments where she noticed his awkwardness at being grouped with other females. She provided for him the same understanding that he gave her. Anna-Marie had nightmares of La Llorona as a child. In myths she is said to have drowned her own children & roamed around wailing at night and stealing daughters from their parents. She talks about providing that understanding for her husband when he did decide to live his life in the gender he identifies with. It wouldn’t be until many years later that she would write When the Moon Was Ours, a story that at its base is an extension of her own life experiences. Reading this part about the author’s personal experience made this story all the more special.

Diversity Spotlight Thursday

Diversity Spotlight Thursday

 

Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a new weekly meme hosted by Aimal over at Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Every week, you come up with one book in each of three different categories: a diverse book you have read and enjoyed, a diverse book on your TBR, and one that has not yet been released. You can check out the announcement post here.
This is my 1st week participating in the Diversity Spotlight Thursday meme & I couldn’t be more thrilled to see a fellow blogger do something positive & uplifting to bring some diverse reads to the forefront. Thank YOU Aimal!!!! 😉

 

A Book I have Read

 

img_0505

 More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

More Happy Than Not is one of my favorite LGBTQIA YA & I devoured it in two sittings. The setting felt very familiar to me coming from a block in Brooklyn where the people also felt like family (especially in the Summer). Aaron (main protagonist) has left an imprint in my soul. Adam Silvera made Aaron’s pain, guilt, confusion, and heartbreak all feel very real. This kid could not catch a break. I’m looking forward to this author’s next book as I did enjoy his writing style very much. If you’re a fan of Junot Diaz, I believe you will also enjoy Adam Silvera’s writing. Fair warning: bring tissue before you pick this one up.

“I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending- it’s a series of endless happy beginnings”

 

 

A Book On My TBR

 

9780399175411_OutrunTheMoon_BOM.indd

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Goodreads Synopsis:

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

 I’ve had Outrun the Moon on my TBR for a few months now & found a hardcover copy in Strand Bookstore for $9 in the beginning of August. I actually jumped for joy when I found this book *covers eyes* lol. Well, did you guys & gals read that synopsis? I mean, for those of you who like me enjoy a kick ass protagonist who also happens to be a POC, Outrun the Moon looks to be promising. Also, It will be interesting to read about Chinatown in San Francisco seeing as I’ve only visited Chinatown in NYC where I live.

 

 

A Book Releasing Soon

 

Labyrinth Lost

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Cordova

*To be released September 6th (next week)

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Praise for Labyrinth Lost:

“Zoraida Cordova’s prose enchants from start to finish. Labyrinth Lost is pure magic.” -Melissa Grey, author of The Girl at Midnight

“Magical and empowering, Labyrinth Lost is an incredible heroine’s journey filled with mythos come to life; but at its heart, honors the importance of love and family.” -Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and Silver Phoenix

“A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s Inferno. Very creepy, very magical, very necessary.” -Daniel Jose Older, author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is a magical story of love, family, and finding yourself. Enchanting from start to finish.” -Amy Tintera, author of Ruined.

I am currently reading Labyrinth Lost as I was lucky enough to have been approved for an eGalley just a couple of days ago. I am OBSESSED ladies & gents! So much so, that I’ve already ordered my physical copy & cannot wait to see my post office person (top fave person in the world) deliver it to me *SqueeeEE* this read is dark with elements of Alice in Wonderland, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and Dante’s Inferno. We have an entire POC cast & Zoraida Cordova’s writing is…#Ownvoices.

 

I’d love to see some of your Diversity Spotlight posts, if you’ve participated this week please leave your link. I’m trying to grow my diverse reads TBR since I know now that I am lacking in this area. Hope you all are having a beautiful Friday’s Eve 😉