Fresh Ink: A Review

Fresh Ink by Many Authors

My Rating: 5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 5/10 it’s an ok cover. A bit generic. I think they could have done something really cool with graffiti art showcasing some really great art of people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. I think it was a missed opportunity.

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Publish Date: August 14th, 2018

Number of Pages: 208 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

“In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors come together in this remarkable YA anthology featuring ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print.

Careful–you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written–whose next chapters are up to you.

Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.

Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.”

Musings:

Eraser Tattoo by Jason Reynolds

““I love you.” It slipped easily from his lips. Like breathing. Like usual.”

This was a sweet little story. I didn’t realize that eraser tattoos were a thing. It was a pretty little slice of life and I loved it. The writing of this little short story was beautiful. It really drew me in!

Meet Cute by Malinda Lo

“Tamia cocked her head at Nic. “Is gender-flipped Sulu gay too?””

This was another really cute little story about the art of subtle.. yet not so subtle communication. I thought it was cool to see the curiosity of meeting a prospective love and wonder if they were of the same sexuality as you on top of wondering if there is actually any interest in the first place. I also loved that this took place at a comic-con.

Don’t Pass Me By by Eric Gansworth

“He glanced down at my paper. “I see. Hubert. But you know, the assignment wasn’t a self-portrait.” “It was, if you’re white,” I said.”

This story is one of my favorites. I so enjoyed seeing race depicted in this way. A lot of thought went into this. I could see in my mind very clearly what this would have looked like as it played out. Very well-written.

Be Cool for Once by Aminah Mae Safi

“He pulled out a Chap Stick and swiped it across his lips. Like he’d decided to draw shining arrows to all of Shirin’s favorite parts.”

I loved this short story! Shirin and the way she thinks of the guy she’s been crushing on is exactly me. I really loved how her thoughts were written.. with that dramatic flavor of a girl in love. It all put a huge smile on my face.

Tags by Walter Dean Myers

“BIG EDDIE works hard at his tag, which is the letters spelling out smoke sitting on a bed of flames.”

This story was oddly powerful to me. It felt so real. Which is something because it was set in the afterlife. I liked the style of it, written like a play. It reminded me of the sad reality of gang violence. The lives that are lost and for what? It’s a culture of kill or be killed that should never have had to been a part of reality.

Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan

““You don’t apologize for who you are. I’m an old lady now and perhaps that doesn’t mean much in the world we live in, but I exist and I shouldn’t have to be sorry for that. As a woman, you have to know that. Don’t ever apologize for who you are,””

Another super sweet little story. This one made my heart all happy. I loved seeing so much cultural influence in this story. The food and the places it all felt rooted in a experience totally different from my own and I loved that.

A Stranger at the Bochinche by Daniel José Older

“Gather, my children, I have a story.”

I feel like this story could have been made into a much longer one. It was packed with great description and full of adventure. I really liked it!

A Boy’s Duty by Sharon G. Flake

“Slaughtering pigs and wringing chicken necks did as much to chase me toward books as any teacher ever did.”

Again I could see this being a whole book. I really liked the character and I loved seeing how he dreamed. This was a really cool historical set short story!

One Voice: A Something in Between Story by Melissa de la Cruz

“I wanted everyone to see the truth—that even Stanford wasn’t free from this kind of hate.”

I loved this story. It made me feel like going out there and spreading my truth in such a beautiful way. It made me want to stand up and hold hands with people of all kinds and show that in my mind we are all valid, worthy, and wonderful people. Every day I see people of all kinds. The community I live in is so diverse and I think that if the diversity wasn’t there it would be colorless. I would feel empty from the lack of beauty. Hate is out there, but the more we choose to stand against it the more it weakens. That’s what I loved most about this story.

Paladin/Samurai by Gene Luen Yang, Illustrations by Thien Pham

“Aaand I’m Japanese.. hm, I wonder what a Japanese Paladin is called? Wait lemme think…That’s right we’re called Samurai!”

This was such a fun read. It made me laugh and it made me feel happy to see people standing up for what they believed in. It was super short, but I loved the drawings especially the fantasy parts!

Catch, Pull, Drive by Schuyler Bailar

“I used to dream of getting breast cancer.”

This was my favorite one. I can say wholeheartedly that this is the story that pulled at my heartstrings the most. It was so real and so full of the emotions of what it is to live life in the body of someone who you aren’t. That line above tore me up.. I love to hear stories from the trans community. To me they have a struggle that is one of the hardest because they are just trying to show themselves and the world who they are inside and be strong when there are people from all communities and walks of life standing against them. I have mad respect for the people of the trans community they have some of the toughest armor out there.

Super Human by Nicola Yoon

““I won’t hurt you,” he says. Which is ridiculous, because that is the whole point of her being here. He is going to hurt everyone.”

Wow… just wow. I don’t have the words for this one. It gave me chills. This was such a beautiful heartbreaking story. I wanted more.. so much more and yet it was perfect in its length. So.. so good!

Final Thoughts:

Our stories matter. All of our stories matter. I am so tired of living in a world where we look at each other and our difference is all we see. We all feel. We all love. We all are trapped in the same cells of bodies that we must walk with everyday. We all have issues. We all have dreams. Every book store. Every library. Every show. Every movie. Every piece of art. Should be filled with the experiences of all of us. With all of our passions. So many of us feel forgotten by the world. So many of us feel like we don’t matter. But we matter. We all matter. I am tired of living in a world where it’s all about just pure survival. I am tired of living in a world that for many compassion is forgotten. A lot of the time the weight of it all just makes me tired. Yet, still everyday I wake up and I try. I get so angry at some of the stories I read sometimes. Stories where people get so full of themselves that they lack basic respect for fellow human lives. Where they judge like their opinion is the only one that matters. Like how they were wronged is the only thing that matters. It makes me so angry and so so very sad. Sometimes I want to shake people and tell them to open their eyes.. and see.. look at these people.. look at how they dance.. how they laugh.. how they cry.. how they celebrate…how they kiss.. how they hug.. how they scream and shout for what they believe in.. and show them don’t you do the same? Don’t you laugh and cry and celebrate and work and keep taking every day step by step… don’t you see that them living their lives the way they want to does nothing to make your life any less. Reading Fresh Ink reminded me of that chip in my soul that angers for all the wrong. That just wants to see the world be a place where we could all be peaceful and happy. That even if I can’t do much on my own.. I can work to be compassionate. That maybe, if I could inspire one other person to do the same (all the time not just some of the time) that it would all be worth it. We need more anthologies like this. More inspiring works. More words that shake the people who read them and remind them of what they are fighting for.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below!

-Till next time!

Ash Princess: A Review

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

My Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 6/10 Ash Princess has a really strong cover and it fits the book, but I think it comes off as generic fantasy and I think that somehow that leaked into some of the reviews.. even though this while a fantasy is a story that stands on its own, but I digress.

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Publish Date: April 24th, 2018

Number of Pages: 432 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

“Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.”

Opening Sentence: “The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath.”

Musings:

Ash Princess is a fantastic fantasy about a girl who lived her life lying low finding her way to claim the title she was born to have. The world of this novel is bleak, but as characters grow and take action, hope is found in bread crumbs.

What I Loved:

Everything seemed bleak. Sometimes in life, shit hits the fan. This book has a lot of that. It’s messy and awful and almost hopeless. There are no holds barred and if this was real I think it would truly have been that way. When rulers take over countries things are awful for the oppressed. The terribleness made the book feel more real.

I didn’t like Theo. Sometimes, it’s not about having a likable character. Theo and the way she handled things was something I didn’t care for, but was I rooting for her? Yes. Right or wrong she did as she felt was best and that is admirable.

Religion. I don’t see it often in fantasy, but there are belief systems in this novel! I think it’s something a lot of fantasy books neglect. Of course people have things they believe in! It added to the authenticity of the narrative.

The little things. There are some small little things like the remembrance of a holiday that create little bright spots in a darker narrative. Even the touches of small actions characters took were lovely.

Attention to detail. There were so many subtleties to the writing that made great impact in how much I enjoyed the narrative. I felt like there was a world outside the palace even when all you got was Theo’s captivity.

Other things:

There is a love triangle in this book. A lot of people hate that. I for one enjoyed how it was done. It’s important to the story.

I’ve seen some weird reviews saying that this is a generic fantasy and it just got me to think about originality. (Especially because I’ve read books this one was compared to). This book 100% stands on its own and is in no way a copy of anything else. However, fantasy tends to read with twin flames and it is the nature of fantasy that it shows the oppressed trying to triumph over that oppression. Fantasy also often talks about the prince or princess, because in all of our hearts those are the stories we wanted to live out. Plus, it can add a political flavor that you can’t writing about other forms of politics in ya. Ash Princess is unapologetically a fantasy.. I see no fault in that.

Final thoughts:

Ash princess will take you away and into another world. It’s about fighting with what you have.. even if it’s only wit and mental strength. Being strong physically and able to fight isn’t the only way to make progress and that’s something to remember.

About the Author:

Laura Sebastian was born and raised in South Florida (the Redlands and Key Largo) and has always loved telling stories–many apologies to her little brother who often got in trouble because of them. No copies of her first book, a Cinderella retelling about angels circa 2nd grade, remain. Thankfully.

After getting her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, she moved to New York City thinking that she would stay for a couple of years before going somewhere better suited for a small-town, sun-loving girl. Five years later, she’s still here and madly in love with it.

When Laura isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, baking cookies or cupcakes, buying more clothes than her overstuffed closet can fit, or forcing her lazy dog Neville to take a walk.

Her debut ASH PRINCESS, the start of a YA fantasy trilogy, will be out April  24th, 2018 from Delacorte (Random House).

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

Nothing But Sky: A Review

Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

My Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 2.5/10 I don’t like this cover. Especially because the photoshop is to where I can really tell it was photoshop. Plus I think having a models face here was a poor decision. It could have been a really pretty 1920’s aviation inspired cover.

Publisher: North Star Editions

Publish Date: March 27th, 2018

Number of Pages: 284

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

A 2018 Junior Library Guild selection.

“Trueblood’s action-packed first novel explores the post-World War I époque with visceral period detail, and Grace’s ambition carries the story about fighting for one’s dreams, seeking stability in some form, and a team becoming a family.” —Publishers Weekly

Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

Opening Sentence:

“Blue sky, perfect day to fly.”

Musings:

Nothing But Sky was a fun feminist read that I for some reason had a hard time putting down. I had to know what was next with this book so I must say the author did her job and did it well!

What I Enjoyed:

The Barnstorming! I loved seeing a book featuring one of the coolest and most dangerous jobs ever! Women of barnstorming are the most badass women you could ever see and it was super cool to read about.

The Love Story. You’re going to read later on the small exception to this, but I really did like the love story this told. I liked that Henry came back from war with PTSD. Something that ends up bringing Grace and him together in a more natural way. There were some sweet moments in there and I loved all of them.

The Twist. In a book like this I was not expecting a twist like the one I got. It threw me for a loop and I couldn’t help but thinking “No way! No way! No Way!!!” Over and over again.

Her friends. Grace has two friends in this novel and their story together was actually one of the parts of this story I enjoyed the most. I loved that they kept trying to style Grace and the fact that Grace kept rejecting it to be herself.

Feminist Grace. I enjoyed Grace as a main character. She believed in herself every step of the way. No matter who was telling her to be careful or that she couldn’t do something she continued to persist. She was brilliant!

What I Did Not Enjoy:

Henry was a jerk at the beginning. I did not like seeing that for a long while Henry was not a guy that I would have liked to see as a love interest. He came off as a bit cocky and in some ways put down Grace and even though that changes later I still didn’t like seeing it happen in the beginning. (This is still a 4 star read this was the one thing I just couldn’t let go of).

About the Author:

I’m Amy Trueblood and I write Young Adult and Adult fiction. I grew up in Southern California and Arizona. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism, I lived in Los Angeles and worked as an NBC page before returning to Arizona to start a career in advertising.

My wild life has allowed me to live in many places including Nashville (for six years), and it’s true what they say, it’s very easy to pick up the accent. While living in Music City, I worked for Ingram Book Group and fell in love with the world of publishing and writing after reading an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Shortly thereafter, I started writing my first Young Adult novel and I haven’t stopped writing since!

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

In Sight of Stars: A Review

In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

My Rating: 5/5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 7/10 Stars! I really love this cover, but I feel that it could’ve been even more tailored to the story then it already looks. I would have loved a sort of Van Gogh inspired illustrated cover that would’ve been more painterly. But as it stands it is a lovely conventional ya cover!

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publish Date: March 13th, 2018

Number of Pages: 288

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Klee’s father was the center of his life. He introduced Klee to the great museums of New York City and the important artists on their walls, he told him stories made of myths and magic. Until his death.

Now, forced to live in the suburbs with his mom, Klee can’t help but feel he’s lost all the identifying parts of himself—his beloved father, weekly trips to the MoMA, and the thrumming energy of New York City. That is until he meets wild and free Sarah in art class, with her quick smiles and jokes about his “brooding.” Suddenly it seems as if she’s the only thing that makes him happy. But when an act of betrayal sends him reeling, Klee lands in what is bitingly referred to as the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens in Northollow.

While there, he undergoes intensive therapy and goes back over the pieces of his life to find out what was real, what wasn’t, and whether he can stand on his own feet again. Told in alternating timelines, leading up to the event that gets him committed and working towards getting back out, Gae Polisner’s In Sight of Stars is a gorgeous novel told in minimalist strokes to maximal effect, about what makes us fall apart and how we can put ourselves back together again.

Opening Sentence: “Even before I push the fucking door open, I know.”

Musings:

At first I didn’t know what to think of this story. It took me a while to really understand the writing style and where it was all headed, but when I did I began to appreciate the story all of it. It’s brilliant from the very first sentence to the very last. Starting in a (doctor prescribed) drug induced state of hallucinations going on to become more and more clear as Klee heals made the story incredibly unique.

What I Loved:

The change in tone. The ethereal almost mystical tone of the beginning changed to a very real hard hitting one as Klee heals. The beautiful writing created a novel that I am now in awe of.

Paintings influence. I love when the emotional aspect of painting informs the emotion in the characters. Klee and his dad are both painters and the memories of their bond and how they both used it to express themselves was a beautiful touch.

The rawness. Every single moment I felt the raw nature of the story deep within me. It was a hard read for me because I started reading right before my dad went into the hospital and it was difficult for me to keep going, but I feel like reading this and watching a character heal helped me see that I too would heal. After all I have to appreciate the time I have with my family now. I’ve been a mess of worry for a while.

Misinformation. Another thing I loved was that there are secrets kept and beliefs that Klee holds that he doesn’t realize are not true. This happens in real life all too often and utilizing this as a big part of the grief Klee held was brilliant.

The memories. I really like how the memories were told almost dreams, lost in thought moments, and direct stories Klee tells his doctor while in the ape can. At first they are all tangled up and more and more you get attached and emotional as Klee finally reveals the answers to the questions you’ve been thinking about. Mainly what happened to get him into the ape can in the first place?

A unforgiving look at grief and depression. This story holds no punches. Things get dark and very real. It’s heartbreaking. At times it brought tears to my eyes.

All in all:

I think everyone should give this book a shot. The beautiful writing and raw emotion will pull every person in. You can’t not care about Klee and his grief. Another example of a story well told.

About the Author:

“I write both women’s and young adult fiction.

When I’m not writing, I’m swimming, hanging with my kids, or cooking and cleaning. Okay, fine, I’m probably not cleaning.

I have written since I was little, mostly poems and short stories through college. Then, I went to law school and, for over a decade, replaced all that creative writing with legal briefs. But after my sons were born, I decided to return to my first love.

In 1995, I set out to write a book, not knowing if I actually could. I have completed at least five full manuscripts since then.

I like to think my novels are accessible, lyrical (somewhat literary) fiction – and, my young adult stories, an homage to the character-driven fiction I loved so much as a child and teen (anything by E.L. Konigsburg, Paul Zindel, Madeleine L’Engle, or Judy Blume…). The Pull of Gravity has a special “secret” nod to the first novel I couldn’t put down – Don’t Take Teddy, by Babbis Friis-Baastad. To this day, I remember the feeling of frantically turning pages to find out if the brothers would be okay. If any of you ever read that book, please send me an email, and we can be instant BFF’s.

My first piece of women’s fiction, The Jetty, was a Top Semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. My second piece, Swim Back to Me, will be revised one day soon and hopefully see the light of day. In the meantime, my next YA novel is coming soon from Algonquin, and I have several more teen novels in the works. So, please check back here often for updates.

I live and write on Long Island with my two amazing boys, my handsome, smart husband who sings, and two very “enthusiastic” cockatiels, Taha and Bobo. When I’m not writing, I’m still a practicing family law attorney/mediator, and when I’m not doing that, I’m swimming in my pool or, better yet, the open water off of Long Island.

To learn more about YA-author me, come on over to my YA blog, That Wee Bit Heap.

To learn more about wife/mother/swimmer me, follow my women’s fiction blog, Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words.”

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below!

-Till next time!

To Kill A Kingdom: A Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

My Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 7.5/10 I really like this cover. It’s really pretty and I like that the octopi legs remind you of the Sea Queen. It’s an elegant cover and it attracted me to this book.

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing

Publish Date: March 6th, 2018

Number of Pages: 352 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most–a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby–it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good–But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Opening Sentence: “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

Musings:

To Kill A Kingdom swept the ya scene in a building phenomenon. Raving reviews poured in bringing me to the decision that I had to read this book. That turned out to be a wonderful decision as I enjoyed this book immensely! Dark Sirens, budding magic, and hate to love relationships make me happy. This is a really great fantasy read.

What I Loved:

A dark spin on a familiar tale. The little mermaid is one of the most beloved fairytales of all. Seeing a retelling take that story and make it it’s own was a lot of fun for me. I liked seeing the little nods to the original storyline here and there.

Actual reasons for why the sirens act the way they do. I think it was really smart of the author to make sirens cruelty to be a part of their culture. It’s even praised among them! They are not necessarily bad just to be bad, but because it is what they know and what is expected of them as productive members of their people.

The descriptions of the kingdoms. I really like that even though the majority of the book is on the sea I had a sense of what other kingdoms were like based on their waters. It was like their character was defined by the surrounding sea.

Shipping on an actual ship. I mean as a fan girl I love seeing my ships set sail on literal ships. Nothing makes me happier.

The sea queen is a gorgeous Ursula. I’ve always thought it was a tragedy that Disney made Ursula ugly. Gorgeous villains and villains who are just regular people can often be more interesting. Although even the original Ursula didn’t hesitate to let her fab flag fly.

Final thoughts:

Whenever I am looking for a fun fast paced read I’m turning to this book. Retelling make for things of beauty more often then not.

About the Author

Alexandra Christo decided to write books when she was four and her teacher told her she couldn’t be a fairy. She has a BA in Creative Writing and works as a copywriter in London, both of which make her sound more grown up than she feels. When she’s not busy making up stories, she can be found buying far too many cushions and organizing food crawls all over the city.

Alexandra currently lives in Hertfordshire with an abundance of cacti (because they’re the only plants she can keep alive).

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below! What do you think of To Kill a Kingdom?

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-Till next time!

Tess of the Road: A Review

Tess of the Toad by Rachel Hartman

My Rating: 3/5

Cover Rating: 10/10 I LOVE this cover. It’s illustrative, cool toned, and simply GORGEOUS! Plus it features a dragon! I could gush about this cover for ages.

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Publish Date: February 27th, 2018

Number of Pages: 544

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

Award-winning Rachel Hartman’s newest YA is a tour de force and an exquisite fantasy for the #metoo movement.

“Tess of the Road is astonishing and perfect. It’s the most compassionate book I’ve read since George Eliot’s Middlemarch.” — NPR

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.

Returning to the spellbinding world of the Southlands she created in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina, Rachel Hartman explores self-reliance and redemption in this wholly original fantasy.

Four starred reviews!

“The world building is gorgeous, the creatures are vivid and Hartman is a masterful storyteller. Pick up this novel, and savor every page.” — Paste Magazine

Opening Sentence:

“When Tessie Dombegh was six and still irrepressible, she married her twin sister, Jeanne, in the courtyard of their childhood home.”

Musings:

Tess of the Road follows Tess’s journey on the road to finding herself and turning running away into running toward. There are parts of this novel I love and parts of this novel that frustrated me. However, despite all that, the core message of this novel resonated with me.

What I Loved:

Tess is a flawed human who is learning all the time. Not only is Tess flawed, but the novel gives the why. How she was raised made her think that she was worth dirt. She goes through life thinking that she was born evil. During the time she’s on the road and reflects over her past and what she wants finding happiness in the strength of her feet propelling herself forward. It’s something that inspires me. She changes.

Her friendship with Pathka. Pathka is a creature that Tess befriended when she was young. Pathka is also flawed, but somehow the way they lean on each other and help each other grow inspired me.

The World Serpent. I love magical creatures and I was so excited to see this particular creature living inside Tess of the Road. Especially after watching a play through of God of War.

Tess’s backstory. Our main characters backstory is harsh and unforgiving yet full of mischief. I honestly feel like the book could have been stronger if it’s entirety past and present showed that sort of struggle.

What I Didn’t Like:

The beginning. There was a lot of things about the pacing of the beginning that made me feel like I was slogging through the novel. It felt like nothing was happening and I felt bored.

The weird language. This might just be a me thing, but it went from really complicated words to cussing language pretty often and that through me off. It was like the Author was trying to smash together to appeal to new and older audiences and I wish she would have just chosen one.

Final thoughts:

Tess of the road has a message and ending that redeems its beginning. I really enjoyed parts of this novel and I wish I could have said it’s entirety was great.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

Getting Free of my Netgalley TBR Pile

Netgalley. We all love it. It supports authors gives us the chance to read books for free and seeing all the shiny new titles on the site brings excitement in our bookworm hearts.

However, once you start using Netgalley it can get harder and harder to stop requesting every title you see. Books on your shelves become abandoned. The mountain of approvals becomes bigger and bigger until you can’t see the light anymore.

This became my nightmare especially when for a good while I was reading a book a day every single day for a few months. Naturally, this created a situation where I requested without guilt knowing I could read all these books on time, but then things changed. I started prioritizing myself, my writing, and getting healthy in mind and body. This meant that I couldn’t read so many books anymore. So it left me with a mountain of books to read and much less time to read them.

Right now my Netgalley tbr has become significantly smaller. I have 18 left to read. Once I crawl out from under this I will request fewer books and read a lot more books that are currently on my shelves. It’s been difficult and I’ve been slowly making progress for the past few months, but seeing my Netgalley percentage at 75% is incredibly encouraging.

After reading these remaining books and reviewing them I am going to feel some great freedom. But I am also going to discipline myself much more strictly by obtaining a maximum of 4 books at a time that must be complete before requesting again.

I hate that so many of these titles weren’t read on time. I won’t let that happen again. Plus, I have a whole world of books on my shelves to read. I want to feel pages in my hands again so that’s what I’m going to do.

Thanks for reading! what is your Netgalley pile like? Leave your struggles in the comments below.

-Till next time!

The Book of Pearl: A Review

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

My Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Cover Rating: 7/10 I really like this cover! I like the old fairytale feel to it that really matches the essence of the book inside. I also like how a lot of the things pictured are like little things in the book. It’s a really great representation of The Book of Pearl.

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publish Date: February 6th, 2018

Number of Pages: 368 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

In prose as magical and intricate as the tale it tells, Timothée de Fombelle delivers an unforgettable story of a first love that defines a lifetime.

Joshua Pearl comes from a world that we no longer believe in — a world of fairy tale. He knows that his great love waits for him there, but he is stuck in an unfamiliar time and place — an old-world marshmallow shop in Paris on the eve of World War II. As his memories begin to fade, Joshua seeks out strange objects: tiny fragments of tales that have already been told, trinkets that might possibly help him prove his own story before his love is lost forever. Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon translate the original French into a work both luminous and layered, enabling Timothée de Fombelle’s modern fairy tale to thrum with magic. Brimming with romance and history, mystery and adventure, this ode to the power of memory, storytelling, and love will ensnare any reader’s imagination and every reader’s heart.

Opening Sentence: “Who could have guessed that she used to be a fairy?”

Musings:

This was a pleasant book of magic that really made me feel like I was a little girl dreaming about fairies again. It had those hints of magic and a sad lost love that was beautifully described and often tragic. Even though it read like a fairytale it was also unique enough that I felt like I was reading a brand new tale of lore and history and that always makes me happy.

What I Loved:

The meeting of two worlds. I love how things would leak into circulation in the regular world to find Joshua as an item of proof. I think I love that idea so much because it makes me think the ‘what if our world was truly touching another that was magical like what we dream about?’ It makes me believe the other world could really be true.

The suitcases. There is something of a dragon like curiosity that lights up in me when I think about the idea of a whole wall filled floor to ceiling with suitcases that all contain all sorts of treasures. It’s even more magical to think of a man doing his best to travel with all of them always with him.

Fairies! Who doesn’t love a good story about fairies? It’s one of the most beautiful mythical creatures that brings joy to so many peoples hearts!

Tragedy. Because of everyone’s individual agendas Joshua and his fairy love are separated throughout the novel destined not to be together. It’s like Romeo and Juliet but even better because everyone is alive, but torn apart by circumstance.

Innocence. I don’t know why, but this book has this really innocent essence to it that I really enjoy. The wants and dreams are so pure and I just want to hug all the characters.

Final Thoughts:

The Book or Pearl is a really light and enjoyable novel that makes you want to dream. Seeing through the eyes of a child is probably the best way to read this pure novel. It’s a fantasy the kid in you would truly appreciate.

About the Author:

As a child…

Timothee de Fombelle was born in the heart of Paris in 1973, but often accompanied his architect father on his travels to Africa. Each summer his family left for the countryside (the west of France), where the five brothers and sisters lived like wild horses, making huts in the trees, playing in the river and losing themselves in the woods. In the evening they performed plays for their parents and devoured the books in the library. Childhood remains for him the lost paradise which he re-discovers through writing.

As an adult…

After becoming a literature teacher, Timothee taught in Paris and Vietnam before choosing the bohemian life of the theatre. Author of a dozen plays, he writes, designs, builds sets and directs the actress he admires the most, his wife Laetitia. They have a young daughter, Jeanne Elisha, who already loves climbing trees. Toby Alone is his first novel and has already been translated into 22 languages.

As an artist…

Passionate about books and theatre, Timothee has been writing since he was young. The stage has been his testing ground but it is life, with its joys and trials, which inspires his real work. A great traveller, Timothee recognises that the writing of Toby Alone has been his best journey so far.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

Layover: A Review

Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

My Rating: 2/5 Stars

Cover Rating: 8/10 Stars! The cover is what brought me to want to read this book. It’s very well designed and brings to mind the beautiful end to a summer day in Los Angeles. Plus the little detour place markers is such a cute and interesting addition to it.

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Publish Date: February 6th, 2018

Number of Pages: 272 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc copy in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

Fans of Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things and Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone will get caught up in the drama of this road trip romance that begins with an unplanned flight layover in L.A. and turns into a wild adventure.

FLYNN: At first we were almost strangers. But ever since I moved to New York, Amos was the one person I could count on. And together we were there for Poppy. (I mean, what kind of parents leave their kid to be raised by a nanny?) I just didn’t expect to fall for him–and I never expected him to leave us.

AMOS: I thought I was the only one who felt it. I told myself it was because we were spending so much time together–taking care of Poppy and all. But that night, I could tell she felt it, too. And I freaked out–you’re not supposed to fall for your stepsister. So I ran away to boarding school. I should have told her why I was leaving, but every time I tried, it felt like a lie.

One missed flight was about to change their lives forever. . . .

Perfect for fans of Clueless and brought to you by two Hollywood screenwriters, this wild journey of unlikely romance, heartbreak, and adventure–set against the backdrop of a blended family in free fall during a rebellious layover in Los Angeles–reveals the true value of the unbreakable bonds we forge when we dare to let ourselves risk it all.

“A thoughtful, charming journey into the nature of love and family.” –Rachel Cohn, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

“This road-trip saga from Hollywood screenwriters Andelson and Meyer is being hailed as a must-read for fans of ‘Clueless.'” –Brightly

Opening Sentence: “It’s become my favorite sound in the world—the soles of my shoes slapping the pavement erratically.”

Musings:

If I would have read the synopsis at all before I requested this book I would have know that it wasn’t my cup of tea. I assumed this was a kind of story that it wasn’t. I imagined two people meeting at an airport taking off, going on adventures, and falling in love. That is not what this book is. I’m very sad about it.

What I Liked:

The writing. Even as I wish the words that were told were telling a different story all together, I did like the way this book was written. On its own it was told well.

The idea. I did like the idea of this story even if I wish that if it was step siblings that there was either no romance between them or in a way that they were characterized differently. The way the romance was done left a bad taste in my mouth.

The little girl. The step-siblings shared half sister was a gem with bipolar disorder. She was adorable and I loved her point of view. If there is anything I want to take it of this story and hold in my arms forever it’s her. She was so genuine it was heartbreaking.

What I disliked:

Spoilers ahead

The romance. I’ll get right to it I pretty much despised the romance in this novel. Flynn’s two romantic interests both sucked. Neither were actually truly good to her. One had shown interest and flocked to the bed of another girl almost the next day. The other her stepbrother, a boy whose chemistry with her I can only see if I squint my eyes really hard and turn my head to the side. Both boys suck. One only interested in getting into her pants and the other too caught up in his own head to realize the things he says are really really hurtful especially when they are said out of jealously. I could go on and on about this, but I’m just so done.

The neglect of the little one. Because the siblings had there minds so far away in a land of stupid drama they completely forget about there little sister in so many ways I couldn’t comprehend it. Letting her get drunk of Jell-O shots because they both were too far interested in there individual romances to pay attention to her (even though none of them should have been at the party in the first place). Literally so into there own argument that there sister takes off in Disney land and has a breakdown before they could find her. Even to the point that they don’t even realize she doesn’t have her medication which should have been one of the first things they spoke about before leaving the airport.

Final thoughts:

I wanted to like this book, but it was never meant to be. I’m tired of seeing certain types of relationships being portrayed as romantic when they are really toxic. Even when there were moments when they acted like a family it wasn’t enough. There was just too many red flags in this book for me. The reason it is not a one star is because of the little girl (she was too well-written and I love her).

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.

-Till next time!

June TBR: 2018

It’s June and that means it’s time to share a brand new tbr! I have a few roll overs from last month as well as some more Netgalley reads. I’m starting to dwindle down on the Netgalley books and I’m super excited about it. I’ve got 23 books to go till I’m finally back on track!

Currently Reading:

By a Charm and A Curse by Jaime Questell

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

I am loving this Netgalley read. It’s fun, magical, and quite a bit unexpected. I’m a bit more then halfway through it and I’m excited to see how it ends!

Once again…

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness?

What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results.

Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school.

Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

So the past few months I have included this book and each month I put it aside to read other things, but I swear I’m going to get through it in June. I’m not too far into it but I hope to at least get through it as much as I possibly can.

Netgalley Reads:

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Award-winning Rachel Hartman’s newest YA is a tour de force and an exquisite fantasy for the #metoo movement.

“Tess of the Road is astonishing and perfect. It’s the most compassionate book I’ve read since George Eliot’s Middlemarch.” — NPR

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.

Returning to the spellbinding world of the Southlands she created in the award-winning, New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina, Rachel Hartman explores self-reliance and redemption in this wholly original fantasy.

Four starred reviews!

“The world building is gorgeous, the creatures are vivid and Hartman is a masterful storyteller. Pick up this novel, and savor every page.” — Paste Magazine

I’m so excited for this novel! I’ve been anticipating reading this since the moment I got approved and I’m sad to say I was approved for this months ago. I’m just grateful to finally be able to read this!

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

A new heart saved her life—but will it help her find out what really happened to its donor?

Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was — a boy from her school — and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened.

Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living took more courage than dying?

This is a highly rated novel that I can’t wait to take on! It sounds heartfelt and beautiful and a great addition to my tbr!

The Beauty that Remains by Ashely Woodfolk

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Another heart wrenching novel I am excited to read. It seems contemporary, unique, and delightfully musical.

Thanks for reading! What are you excited to read this month?

-Till next time!