Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire By Lexa Hillyer

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 11th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 351 pages

Format: eGalley & physical ARC (giveaway win)

Rating: ★★★ (3 Stars)

HUGE thanks to HarperCollins, Edelweiss, and Lexa Hillyer for the ARC copy of Spindle Fire.

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

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.

A dark tale is spun in Spindle Fire…when baby Aurora is born, the last of the powerful faeries that used to rule the land pay the kingdom a visit. They bestow certain gifts of beauty & grace in exchange for tithing her voice and sense of touch. The King & Queen accept these tithes but it is when the Faerie Queen interrupts & asks for the child’s youth that they draw the line. The Queen then places the curse of death on Aurora by her 16th birthday. It is her half sister’s involuntary sacrifice that offers up some hope, Isabelle’s sight is tithed by another fairy who claimed she could reverse the curse & instead of dying…Aurora would one day be put into a deep sleep…

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As preparations are made for Aurora’s wedding, plans are also being made to send Isabelle away since she is viewed as troublesome. Isabelle who is very much a free spirit makes a run for it with her best friend & love interest Gil who worked in the castle. Aurora hears of Isabelle running away & decides to go and look for her. She stumbles upon a cottage with a Spindle & whelp we all know how the story goes lol. I appreciated the turn this story took in originality. After Aurora pricks her finger she finds herself in another world created by the Faerie Queen’s sister. So, it’s not like she’s just asleep the duration of the story, she’s busy in her sleep trying to get some answers. It is within Aurora’s dream world that we get to know the story of Malfleur (Faerie Queen) and her twin sister Belcoeur…

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Aurora & Isabelle are our MC’s, they are half sister’s with a language all of their own making. Isabelle is blind & Aurora is mute, they communicate via a series of taps on each other’s hands. They’ve had years to perfect their way of communication and can easily finish each others thoughts. Although they are half sister’s, Aurora is the daughter to the Queen and therefore is treated as a royal. Isabelle on the other hand receives less than royal treatment & is viewed by the court as trouble for her rebellious nature. Since this story is told in alternating first person POV chapters, we get to know these girls and their individual traits. Aurora loves romance novels that end with the prince swooping in & Isabelle can’t fathom the idea of being tied down by anyone. The sister’s are complete opposites, Aurora knows she was born to marry into royalty and is OK with that. Isabelle on the other hand would rather be chasing the next adventure far away from the castle. I was much more a fan of Isabelle, her chapters were def more exciting and even her approach to love seemed more realistic. We get introduced early on to Isabelle’s best friend Gil who is also her “love interest” and theirs is a complicated relationship. It seems like Isabelle has love for Gil more so than actually being in love with Gil. Later on in the story she meets the one that makes her question her actual feelings. I appreciated that her feelings were made known from the start of the story & it made for a more interesting progression. Now I can’t say the same about Aurora’s love interest which felt like a bad case of insta-love. I say this because typically insta-love doesn’t really bother me but I guess when contrasted against Isabelle’s, it stood out more in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed the Faeries that were introduced and their dark history. Perhaps more than Aurora & Isabelle’s story line, I looked forward to learning more of Malfleur & Belcouer. The faeries may have played the role of supporting characters yet it felt at times that they held the real meat of the story. I hope that the sequel sees more from these dark magical beings that once ruled the land.

 I’m a sucker for all things Sleeping Beauty, probably because she’s the princess who I feel got the bad end of the stick. She doesn’t have little birds cleaning & sewing her clothes while she sings. She doesn’t get talking tea cups & kettles to keep her company or a vast library to sulk in. No, she legit gets put to sleep & laid to rest in a glass case while the 7 dwarfs try to get her true loves kiss *major eye roll* LOL! so it’s safe to assume that Spindle Fire caught my immediate interest. I loved the darker tones in this re-telling & the fact that Hillyer changed something that I for one could’ve done without in the original lol. However, Spindle Fire was told from Aurora & Isabelle’s POV’s and if i’m being honest, I found myself enjoying Isaeblle’s chapters way more than Aurora’s. It wasn’t until the last chapters that Aurora won me over & by then I kind of felt short changed. This may just be my preference however, I will say that even with this holding me back, the pacing was on point with non-stop action. The world building was A+ particularly the faeries and their fall from positions of power as well as their need to tithe. This re-telling is unique, creative, and the story itself was enjoyable but it may be just be a case of writing style that made this a 3 star read for me. Spindle Fire is told in present tense/third person POV which makes for an awkward reading experience. I see tons of ways this story can go & have some wishes for it myself. I’d love to see more of Aurora reclaiming this re-telling & more of the faeries in this world in the sequel to come. The ending sets up the groundwork for book 2 nicely which means that yes, I will be reading the sequel 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read Spindle Fire? if so, which sister’s POV did you enjoy more? 😉

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/LGBTQIA/Diverse

Pages: 338 pgs

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

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

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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



Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Published by: Little Brown Books

Publication Date: April 4th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Sc-Fi/Diverse Reads

Pages: 512 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

HUGE thanks to Little Brown Books, Netgalley, and Claudia Gray for the eGalley of Defy the Stars in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is a seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Defy the Stars is the story Noemi Vidal who lives on Genesis, the only planet left in the solar system to reflect what Earth used to be before it self-destructed. Genesis is a planet that has closed its doors to technology & maintains a green environment because of it. Earth on the other hand is only a shell of the planet it used to be, dying and desperate to get its people re-located.

Quick 411 On This Galaxy…

Defy the Stars takes place in the solar system, mostly in a ship but there’s plenty of traveling to the surrounding planets. Our main Protagonist Noemi is from Genesis known as the planet with the beautiful green lands, clean air/water with temperate climate. Abel the A.I. is from Earth which eerily enough is described as having self destructed & the opposite of Genesis. Kismet (my fave) described as a water-world with tropical weather & fun loving people/culture. Downside: only the privileged wealthy can afford to lay up on Kismet. Cray is where the smartest of the smart reside underground enjoying total nerdom (2nd fave haha!). Too hot to live on top, scientists live down below where they are spoiled with all the fun gadgets to make it a total nerd paradise *heart eyes* Stronghold is quite the opposite of Cray, here is a cold cold and gray planet suitable for the strongest (think military).

Back to the Plot…

Genesis has closed itself off from Earth to preserve their planet from a people they know will only continue destroying wherever they go. This in turn has kept these two planets at war with Earth attempting to conquer Genesis through a Galaxy gate. Genesis may not know how to destroy the gate, but they have an idea on how to temporarily disable it…a suicide mission to be carried out by their youth. Noemi Vidal is 17 & ready to die for her planet and the belief that her sacrifice will gain Genesis an advantage. In preparation for this mission she and the other youths engage in training however, things take a turn when their training turns into the real deal. Noemi finds herself in an abandoned enemy (Earth) ship unaware how much her life is about to change…

We get introduced to Noemi Vidal, a 17 year old of Chilean descent who was orphaned and taken in by her best friend’s family. A family she very much appreciates but still can’t help but feel like an outsider looking in. Noemi is very protective of her best-friend going as far as volunteering for the Massada Run aka the suicide mission aimed at helping Genesis. This would fill the requirement per family and her best friend wouldn’t have to be sacrificed. We often see female protagonists in YA playing the role of martyr, the difference here is that Noemi is just one of the many youths who believe it’s their duty (side note: this didn’t make sense to me & i’m glad its addressed in the story lol). Noemi sees herself as having a unappealing personality because she angers often however, I did not find her to to be as unpleasant as she sees herself lol. Smart & resourceful are more adequate descriptions of Noemi, I liked her just fine. However, the stand out character was Abel the machine/Artificial Intelligence left behind on the abandoned Earth ship. Abel has been stuck in a room on the ship since the last war 30 years ago. The 1st of his kind, he was made with superior intelligence & human like qualities. Over the course of 30 years however, Abel has continued developing & growing. I enjoyed Abel so much, i’ll even go as far as saying he’s up there with my other fave A.I. AIDEN (Illuminae Files). Abel’s sarcasm & self ego stroking had me shaking my head quite often. It’s funny because it makes sense that he would have these traits given he’s not human but quickly developing at the speed of one who is. He has learned human mannerisms but its his self awareness that trips him up. I really grew to love this character and often compared him to Gepetto’s creation minus the lying haha! Last but not least, the diversity in this book was absolutely one of my most favorite aspects. Not only does Gray give us POC’s but she also gave us robots (the setting is in the future) that were also made to resemble all people. The entire cast is diverse & it made my reading experience much more enjoyable.

I love me some gooooood world building & Defy the Stars delivered on this front and so much more. This being my first Claudia Gray book (still want to read the Firebird trilogy), I found her writing to be very enjoyable. Given that this story takes place in space, I didn’t go into it thinking I’m going to get a super fast paced story but was pleasantly surprised. So, what can you expect? adventure, humor, interesting diverse characters, action, and a bit of romance. The only reason I docked it a star was because I would’ve liked to have seen more from Earth being that they are the “enemy”. We meet leaders on Genesis but who is leading the war on behalf of Earth? and what of their people (other than Abel’s creator of course) The ending left me SO curious of what’s to come & a bit anxious for the sequel, I’ve even offered my housekeeping services to Claudia if it would help her any…jk but I so would haha!

Have any of my bookish peeps read Defy the Stars? Did you happen to get Illuminae vibes? If you had to choose a bestie…would you go with Abel or AIDEN? 😉

March Owlcrate & Book of the Month Unboxing

March proved to be a bit of a slumpy month for me in so many areas…books, blogging, putting away the laundry, etc. etc…One thing I managed to muster up some enthusiasm over however, were my BOTM & Owlcrate boxes. Super excited to have received Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, I was lucky enough to snag a arc copy a few months back & absolutely loved this swashbuckly story of what I’ve come to refer to as the female Jack Sparrow HAHA! As for Book of the Month, I was actually considering skipping March since I could NOT decide if any of the books appealed to me. After coincidentally watching three Booktube videos for BOTM, I was convinced by one book & I’m so happy I opted to go with this one because it has so many elements I’ve come to love in Fiction (Magical Realism) & it’s a diverse/own voices read. So w/out further ado…

Follow my gram @Lair_Of_Books for more snaps 😉

This month’s theme is Sailors, Ships & Seas, in the box are the following items:

⚓️ Hardcover copy of Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (My 5 Star review here)

⚓️ temporary skull tattoo (won’t wear but saving for the Gram)

⚓️ roll of Simply Gilded Mermaid Washi Tape (maybe in planner?)

⚓️ Kitch Studios Tea Towel (saving for the Gram)

⚓️ Boy Girl Party Notepad (cute as hell, using RIGHT AWAY!)

⚓️ necklace & pendant from The Geeky Cauldron Compass Pendant Necklace (already wore this out & got 1 compliment YAY!)

⚓️ exclusive Owlcrate Pirate pin (not picture here, already in my 6 yr olds possession)

My Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

 

Follow my gram @Lair_Of_Books for more snaps 😉

Goodreads Blurb

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

*I haven’t gotten around to reading Exit West just yet due to a back log of arcs I’m working my way through at the present moment. However, if any of you have a non-spoilery review or just thoughts then I’d ❤ to hear them 😉

What are your thoughts on the March Owlcrate box? Have any of my bookish peeps read Daughter of the Pirate King? For my fellow BOTM subscribers, what were your selections for March? also, if you subscribe to any other boxes & have done a unboxing, drop your link down below 😉

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: January 14th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

25701463You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

Published by: RandomHouse

Pub Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: YA

Contemp/Disability/LGBTQIA

Pages: 304 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

30689335The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Published by: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: March 7th 2017

Genre: Adult Fiction/Mystery/Contemporary

Pages: 276 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

Trigger Warning: suicide & sexual abuse

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review:The 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.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Published by: Del Rey

Publication Date: January 10th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 336 pages

Format: Physical ARC (Bookcon) 

Rating: ★★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling/Romance

Pages: 448 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 Stars)

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, S. Jae-Jones, and NetGalley for the eGalley of Wintersong in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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Wintersong weaves the tale of Leisl, a young woman who has more than her fair share of duties in her home. Kathe’s father is a fallen musician who is mostly inebriated, Mother is more of a partner in running the household, younger sister is seen as the beauty, and younger brother is a musical prodigy. Leisl herself is musically talented, specifically in composition but has set that aside in favor of helping her brother perfect his craft and one day gain notoriety. Besides the fact that she is running the household, her gender is one of the reasons for which her father discourages her from taking interest/composing music. As young children both Leisl & her young brother Josef would play their music in the Goblin Grove for the Goblin King, a mysterious figure who played music with them. As time passed & Kathe’s responsibilities grew, the Goblin King was slowly forgotten. That is until Leisl’s sister is taken by the Goblins into the Underworld by order of the Goblin King. Leisl finds her way into the Underworld and strikes a bargain with the King to release her sister…A life for a life…she will remain in the Underworld & marry the King and he will let her sister return to the land of the living. Although it may seem harsh at first, Leisl’s “selfless” deed is a bit selfish. She is tired of being unseen , unheard, not beautiful, and cast aside in the shadows of her younger brother’s musical genius. What Leisl didn’t know, was that her sacrifice was much heavier than at first it seems. Leisl & the Goblin King reconnect through their love for music & soon enough a love for each other. As long as her passion shines bright, the Underground will sustain and the land of the living will see Spring instead of being thrust into a deep dark never ending winter…she is essentially it’s life force all while she physically fades away…

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Our main protagonist Leisl isn’t your typical YA character & this was both a good and I wouldn’t say bad thing, but definitely someone to get used to lol. She is very much aware of her musical talent & oftentimes a bit of envy sneaks up when she is helping her brother Josef in composition. Josef is precise, he has been able to play the violin since the age of 5 while Kathe is wild passion and emotion in her composition. She also looks upon her younger sister’s beauty & is self-aware of what comes across as her own plain Jane appearance (nothing wrong with a plain Jane *winks*). Her sister is already betrothed to someone that Leisl also can’t stop herself from wanting for herself. It isn’t so hard for her to (at first) leave this life behind in favor of one where she is the center of the Goblin King’s attention & her musical abilities are praised. We get to see major character development with Leisl which I came to appreciate because it provided a better understanding of all her underlying emotions. Although her family were central to her story, they also weren’t the focus & were more in the background of the story. The Goblin King himself is actually perfectly suited for Leisl in many ways lol, he’s pretty arrogant and controlling which probably can be credited to being immortal & seeing many brides come and go. He’s also musically talented and although he comes off as having this jerk-like exterior, can actually be a decent guy…it’s a common trope, I know but it happens to work well in Wintersong. This is a a 448 page book and the author gives us full on character development & history. The Goblin King’s history is interesting and I can understand how his story and how he came to be the king of the Underworld, molded him into such a undesirable character. I wasn’t a fan of the Goblin King, particularly because of his selfishness which he fully owns up to. Also, certain parts regarding Leisl’s appearance & what he thought of her made me a bit squeamish. I appreciate however, that these characters weren’t your typical cookie cutter personalities found in YA. They were flawed & complex, which oftentimes led to me holding back judgement until I got more story. There were however, two characters that I ABSOLUTELY loved and couldn’t get enough of. Twig & Thistle are two Goblins who are tasked with the not so easy job of tending to Leisl’s needs & wants as Queen of the Underworld. Although all Goblins can’t be trusted, Twig came as close to a friend to Leisl as possible. Twig is the sweeter of the two Goblins. Thistle is Twigs opposite, sarcastic & not happy whatsoever with having to tend to Leisl. Twig is also very vocal about this and gets a kick out of withholding information from Leisl. Thistle’s mischief really added the Goblin touch & those scenes were very entertaining.

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The writing in Wintersong is beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical, and dark which managed to keep me enthralled whenever I picked this book up. However, there were two things that I struggled with just a bit. This is a slow paced book which typically I don’t have any problems with, however it may just be the dark mood and setting that made this one feel a bit too slow. The second issue I had isn’t really one that bothered me too much but it did affect the reading experience a bit, the heavy use of Classical music terminology. Its been years since I took the basics of Classical music in college but that didn’t help me much here. Although one can easily say that it’s not necessary to be knowledgable of the subject, because it was such a focal point & the author used a lot of terminology…I did feel left out of the story on more than one occasion. I won’t however, take away from the writing because it is seriously some of the most beautiful writing I have come across. I also couldn’t stop diving back into this world which leads me to the excellent world building. The Underground came to life through vivid description, the author left nothing out down to the Goblin furniture. I loved the attention to detail that was given in creating this world & can honestly say it played out like a movie for me. I will most definitely keep an eye out for this author’s future works & recommend Wintersong for those who love great world building, Romance, Fantasy, lyrical writing, and especially those who enjoy Classical music/Composition 😉