Spoiler Free Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Title: Reaper of Souls

(Kingdom of Souls #2)

Author: Rena Barron

Pub. Date: February 18th 2021

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: eGalley/ARC

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 448 pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

“𝐼 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑔𝑖𝑛𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑑𝑑𝑙𝑒, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑛𝑑. 𝐹𝑜𝑟 𝐼 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑖𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑠, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 𝐼 𝑑𝑖𝑑, 𝐼 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑦.“

Reaper of Souls was one of my MOST highly anticipated sequels to look forward to in 2021 and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Kingdom of Souls (My Review) introduced us to Arrah who comes from a powerful family of witch doctors but for some reason hasn’t come into her own powers. After the catastrophic events we left off in Kingdom Of Souls, Arrah finally has the gift of magic but it came about in a terrible way. Returning from exile, we see Arrah go after those who have taken her people from their tribal lands. What she soon discovers is that this is a war between the Orishas and their demon children and caught in the middle are mortals. The Character development alone was phenomenal & the world building/magic system is very richly woven and inspired by folk magic. Arrah is discovering along the way the many secrets she unknowingly carries within. A deeper connection to it all. A sort of forbidden love. A choice to make. The inevitability of it all.

Rena Barron has delivered such a rich and beautifully written Fantasy where the lives of our key characters are constantly haunted by the mistakes and transgressions of their parents and ancestors. Will they choose to repeat those mistakes OR course correct for the good of their people? This story is told in multi-POV format between Arrah, Rudjeck and a third entity that for spoiler free reasons I won’t disclose. If you love character driven stories that are more slower paced with a big reward at the end, then this is absolutely a trilogy worth giving a go. Seeing as it had been some time since I had read Kingdom of Souls I would’ve loved it if there had been a Legend/Key at the very start. There are a handful of Orishas and their history is fleshed out in the first book but this follow-up goes even deeper into their history and conflicts with one another. Pacing can seem a bit off at times but I chucked that off to Arrah’s own personal journey to self realization which in my opinion was done perfectly! If you’re expecting NOT to be left reaching for more after this book, you are sadly mistaken! I cannot wait for the conclusion to this fantasy/love story💜


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Spoiler Free Review: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Title: The Never Tilting World (The Never Tilting World#1)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Pub. Date: October 15th 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy/LGBTQIAP+

Publisher: Harper Teen

Pages: 496

Format: eARC

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

 🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤

I’ll admit when I first heard this book described as Frozen meets Mad Max I was very intrigued at how uniquely strange this came across. Whoever came up with this description hit the nail on the head! We have a world literally torn in half. Aranth is shrouded in darkness, frozen over & surrounded by a raging sea. While The Golden City sees only daylight under a scorching sun & is plagued by desert cannibals. At the center of the story are two sisters/Goddesses who are divided by a broken prophecy. Each one of them holds secrets & each one of them also have a daughter. It’s made known from the very beginning that these “daughters” are actually twins being kept apart. Odessa & Haidee are destined to meet, this is the story of their journey to their fated union. All they know is that there are higher powers at work pulling them towards one common direction, much else isn’t known.  Both Haidee & Odessa set out on a quest to try and repair the damage that has been done sine “The Breaking” or splitting apart of their world. This was a WILD ride! & having read The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco I can also honestly say that this is a big departure from the style of world building we see in those books. There’s more chaos in this world & at times I wondered at just how odd this book really is…but it works!!! 🙌🏽 I often felt I was watching a movie play out in my head as we alternate between the two sides of the world. Although it’s a Fantasy, we see environmental ramifications that hit close to home in the real world. This blend of Fantasy with reality made for a surreal reading experience.

Content Warning: Death of a loved one, panic attacks (PTSD related), mention of sexual assault, violence, torture

Odessa daughter of Asteria & heir to the throne, Odessa is Lesbian & a lover of romance novels

Haidee daughter of Latona also expected to one day rule, however she truly has no interest. Haidee is a Mechanika with a soft spot for animals. Haidee is my new FAVE fictional character! 😍

Lan Bi-sexual, a healer & travel companion to Odessa. Lan & Odessa’s relationship is complicated to say the least 🤷🏻‍♀️ Lan also suffers from PTSD & is my second FAVE character. I felt a bit overprotective of Lan & at times felt the interactions with Odessa were very toxic.

Arjun A no-nonsense orphan with Fire gate abilities, he is disabled by way of a missing hand. Arjun falls for Haidee even though he set out to hate her for the sins of her mother.

Rin Chupeco has pretty much solidified her spot in my very top fave authors of all time. The change of pace in this new series had me blown away & also unable to pull myself away from this world. This series may not be everyones cup of tea because of how chaotic & high octane it truly is but I just can’t deny that the writing skills are top notch. Just when I would begin to feel as if I were going to start favoring one twin over the other, something would throw me back to uncertainty. You spend just enough time with each character so that you never tire & can quickly return to your faves if you wish. The only reason I docked it a star was because I felt I still did not have enough clarity on the secrets Asteria & Latona are keeping. This however did not hinder my enjoyment of this story & I hope we’ll get some questions answered in the follow-up. Rin Chupeco gave us Goddesses, demons, cannibals, sand dolphins, elemental magic, discussion of climate change & its effects, and a bit of romance in the background! 🔥 The Never Tilting World was a WILD RIDE! I’ll be on the look out for the sequel 🖤


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The One Where I Try To Read All The Books…

Hey Bookworms! It’s Saturday morning when I’m writing this post to go up on Sunday. TBH I had no intentions of making this “Official” I kind of always participate on the low 😂🙈 which is probably because of how high I set the standard for myself & don’t always meet it 🤷🏻‍♀️ This time, I wanted a bit of accountability. These are just the books I’ll be reading during Contemporary-A-Thon, my actual September TBR is dreadful & scares me putting on paper so that’ll just stay in my head 😂 This readathon is run by some truly fantastic Booktubers I adore to pieces & you should definitely consider checking out:

Julie @PagesandPens

Chelsea @ChelseaDollingReads

Natasha @MyReadingIsOdd

The Challenges:

1. Read a contemporary with orange on the cover
2. Read a dark/spooky contemporary
3. Read a diverse contemporary
4. Read a contemporary in a non-traditional format
5. Read a contemporary that has your initials somewhere on the cover
6. Read a contemporary from a new to you author
7. Read a contemporary that is a 5 star prediction

 

Read a contemporary with orange on the cover  What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera Not only is my MOST anticipated Contemporary book of 2018! 😱 One of my top 3 fave authors co-wrote this book! If you’ve been following my blog for some time now, you probably know how much I LOVE Adam Silvera’s books! They always leave me wrecked yet I keep returning for more tear jerking reads. I also think this will be a 5 star read & it also fits the diverse read category as well.

🌟Bonus🌟 One of the MC’s  is Puerto-Rican & therefore this book aligns with Latinx (I sure did change it to be more inclusive) Heritage Month (9/15/2018-10/15/2018) 🖤

Read a dark/spooky contemporary  Sadie by Courtney Summers which I’ve been trying my hardest not to start before the readathon! this book legit checks off so many of my boxes & appeals to my love of Podcasts. It’s been a while since I discovered Serial & the Adnan Syed case, but my time listening/obsessing over each episode is still fresh in my memory. I’ve had a couple of book blogging buddies tell me there is now a podcast to go along with the book & GAHHH! I’m so ready! I have this book in physical format & then used 1 of my Audible credits for the audiobook after hearing some AMAZING things about the narration.

Read a diverse contemporary  The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory  is sort of a companion novel to The Wedding Date (My review) published earlier this year. Carlos, one of the side characters who starred in The Wedding Date had me wishing so hard for a character swap #jussayin 😂 he was way nicer & just all around chivalrous which is something rare. Carlos also IMO has excellent taste in foods 😉

🌟Bonus🌟 Carlos is a Latino Doctor which means this book also book aligns with Latinx (I sure did change it to be more inclusive) Heritage Month (9/15/2018-10/15/2018)

Read a contemporary in a non-traditional format  Blue is The Warmest Color by Julie Maroh is a graphic novel I’ve been meaning to get to since 2017 & never got around to it. I’ve heard it’s best to go into it blind but that it for sure is a tear jerker starring a F/F romance. STOKED to finally have no excuse to not get to this one. I also just found out a movie exists for this story (IMDB) 🖤

Read a contemporary that has your initials somewhere on the cover  The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid & no a longer title I could not find 😂 truth be told, I’ve been DYING to read this for so long. My initials are simple, ‘LB’ or my unmarried initials ‘LL’ can both be found in this title. I’m possibly even more excited to read this one than What If It’s Us. All great books but this is one I’ve owned for so long with the knowledge it’s going to be a 5 star read & that once I read it I won’t be able to experience it for the first time again…anyone else do this? procrastinate with nooks you know will be your next obsession? 😩😂

🌟Bonus🌟  MC is a Cuban bi-sexual woman which makes this one perfect for Latinx (I sure did change it to be more inclusive) Heritage Month (9/15/2018-10/15/2018)

Read a contemporary from a new to you author  Flight or Fight by Samantha Young which I’ll be buddy reading with Melanie from Meltotheany (we’re also BR The Proposal). I admittedly don’t know much about this one other than it’s a cute hate to love contemporary everyone has been buzzing about. This will be my first Samantha Young read & I’m hoping to find a new fave author 🖤

Read a contemporary that is a 5 star prediction  Pride by Ibi Zoboi is one I’ve been highly anticipating! After reading American Street & the short story written by Ibi Zoboi in the YA anthology Meet Cute, I can’t help but want to read everything this author writes. The fact that it takes place in my home city of Brooklyn & that it’s a Pride & Prejudice REMIX (not a retelling 😂) has me HYPED!

🌟Bonus🌟  The MC Zuri Benitez is Afro-Latina….we don’t have no where near enough Afro-Latinx MC’s in our books, so happy to be reading this one for Latinx (I sure did change it to be more inclusive) Heritage Month (9/15/2018-10/15/2018) 🖤


Contemporary-A-Thon takes place from 9/17-9/23, all info to participate can also be found in the Booktube channels listed above. If you are participating in the readathon or just happen to have ready any of the titles I’ll be reading, drop me some luv in the comments down below 🖤


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THE LADY JANIES ARE BACK WITH A SMASH HIT! BLOG TOUR: MY PLAIN JANE REVIEW + GIVEAWAY! 💙

Title: MY PLAIN JANE (THE LADY JANIES #2)

Author: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

Pub. Date: June 26th. 2018

Genre: YA HISTORICAL FICTION/PARANORMAL/HUMOR

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 464

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON | TARGET (EXCLUSIVE BONUS CHAPTER)

    

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

When I first read My Lady Jane last year, I giggled and snorted in the most random crowded places with absolutely NO regret! I still vividly remember how much fun I had reading that book & so when I heard My Plain Jane was on its way, I legit couldn’t contain my excitement! luckily for me, there are some AMAZING humans in this world and I was able to read an arc copy early on (thank you Sarah!). What I wasn’t expecting was to love it so much I didn’t want it to end! My Plain Jane shares many similarities with its predecessor except, it’s not a continuation in a series and can be read as a stand-alone (I still urge you to read My Lady Jane lest you miss out on all the laughs 😉). Humor infused with a paranormal twist, this is one Jane Eyre re-telling I could not put down! The Lady Janies quite literally took two of my favorites & meshed them together: 1. a love for all things Gothic Victorian and 2. Ghostbusters 😱😱😱 WHAT?!?! YES!!! These books are fun & best of all…they don’t take themselves too seriously allowing the reader to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the silliness of it all. The writing is once again seamless, The Lady Janies are these 3 wonderful authors who must share the same sense of humor. I’m convinced when I am reading that it’s only 1 author but in all reality I can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. This is to say, it has an organic flow and makes for such an enjoyable reading experience with unexpected laughs along the way.

💙Fan Made Book Trailer (and all other MPJ graphics here) by the Wonderful Sarah over at the YABOOKTRAVELER💙

Jane is an orphan who has the ability to see & speak to ghosts, she also enjoys painting and looks forward to a stress free life as a governess one day. The day comes sooner than she thought and Jane ends up in Thornfield Hall working for Mr. Rochester who has a pension for brooding. All the while, Jane has left the orphanage in the midst of a murder investigation. A Mr. Brocklehurst has been killed and his ghost is lingering behind in hopes of finding his killer. When the orphanage calls upon the services of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, Alexander Blackwell shows up and crosses paths with Jane right before her departure to Thornfield Hall. He quickly makes out Jane for having Seer abilities and offers her employment in the agency. Jane turns down his offer choosing the more “practical” route of governess. Jane’s best friend Charlotte Brontë is also an orphan at the same orphanage. As an aspiring writer, she would love nothing more than her BFF to take up the mantle as paranormal detective. Charlotte finds Jane’s life to be MOST fascinating! and even has a little notebook where she writes stories inspired by Jane. Polar opposites, the friendship between Jane & Charlotte are serious #FRIENDGOALS 💓

This book was filled with ghosts, witty banter, social commentary, feminist empowerment, and so much more! If I had to pick a favorite character, I’d have to go with Charlotte who truly embodied the feminist movement. There is no telling Charlotte what she can or cannot do. Strategic, intelligent, and resourceful are just some of the words that describe this beloved character. The romance she gets caught up with is hella swoooooon worthy! When I realized this was a full on ghost busting story, my heart skipped beats! This book left me happy with a smile from ear to ear, the ending was PERFECTION!💙

We’re the authors of the young adult novels, MY LADY JANE, and MY PLAIN JANE, which is coming in June 2018. Our group is made up of Brodi Ashton (New York Times bestselling author of the EVERNEATH series and DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY), Cynthia Hand (New York Times bestselling author of the UNEARTHLY series, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and THE HOW AND THE WHY), and Jodi Meadows (New York Times bestselling author of the INCARNATE trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN duology, and the FALLEN ISLES trilogy). Between the three of us we’ve written nineteen novels, a bunch of novellas, a handful of short stories, and a couple of really bad poems, but we have the most fun working on our books together. We’re friends. We’re writers. We’re fixing history by rewriting one sad story at a time.

💙 Win a signed copy of My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. Open US only.

🎉🎉Rafflecopter Link Here 🎉🎉

💙 Photo Challenge & Giveaway!

Share a photo or selfie with your copy of My Plain Jane and you could win a custom designed book sleeve, made by Second Hand Pages, a custom Jane Eyre candle from Canterbury Road Co, Jane Eyre (Barnes and Noble Collectible Edition), the Blu-Ray DVD of Jane Eyre, and a My Plain Jane Bookmark! For the photo, you can use your copy, a friends or one from the library. Use the hashtag #MyPlainJaneGiveaway to enter. Open to US only. Ends Sunday, July 8th.

 

Week 1
June 25 – The YA Book Traveler – Trailer & Review
June 26 – Alexa Loves Books – Gift Guide
June 27 – YA Wednesdays – Jane’s Playlist
June 28 – Novel Novice – Styled by Books
June 29 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Famous Janes
June 30 – A Backwards Story – Leaking Top Secret Dossier Files of Current ( Royal ) Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits Members
Week 2
July 2 – Bookcrushin’ – Supernatural Meets Jane Eyre – Tips for the Reluctant Ghost Hunter
July 3 – The Reader and the Chef – Guide to eating á la My Plain Jane (Bookish Menu) + Bookstagram Post
July 4 – The Clever Reader – Launch Event Recap
July 5 – Booknerd Addict – Review + Bookstagram Post
July 6 – Lair of Books – Review
July 7 – Mary Had a Little Book Blog – Famous ghosts & ghost hunters

Happy Friday Bookworms! Thank you so much for stopping by today, It’s been such a pleasure participating in the #MYPLAINJANE tour 💙 The 1st week alone has seen AMAZING news with My Plain Jane hitting the TOP 10 Bestsellers List! If you haven’t yet, check out the bloggers above who’ve come up with some of the most unique, fun, and creative blog posts to ever hit the net! Have you read My Plain Jane?!?! Plan to? let me know in the comments down below & best of luck to those who’ve entered the amazing Giveaway 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼


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Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Title: The Final Six

Author: Alexandra Monir

Pub. Date: March 6th, 2018

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 345

Format: eGalley

Content Warning: attempted suicide

*HUGE thanks to HarperTeen and Alexandra Monir for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

  

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

March was the month of Sci-Fi for this little bookworm & I really had  a blast spending time with one of my fave genres. After reading Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia last year, falling head over heels for the Illuminae files, and being blessed with Pierce Brown’s Iron Gold… I decided reading all Sc-Fi is vital in my life. I caught wind of The Final Six & immediately jumped to request a galley from Harper in hopes of finding my next beloved crew of characters. There was SOOO much good packed into this book but it wasn’t without it’s flaws. If you’ve been around my blog for a bit, you know 3.5 stars means I enjoyed the story & still very much recommend the read. As a matter of fact I hear this isn’t a stand-alone anymore & a sequel is in the works. Also on the horizon is the film adaptation acquired by Sony (see here). So it’s definitely one filled with potential & I’m actually very interested in seeing the next chapter in this space adventure after THAT ending *eyes wide open*

Humans at war against the environment, this is a story that takes place in our present day world with one very sobering difference…Climate change is no longer being challenged as fiction. Natural disasters have led to the Earth being practically inundated with water. Tsunamis are now a natural occurrence & the world is desperate for space exploration to bear fruit. The Earth is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, food is scarce, and families are being torn apart by the destruction. To say I wasn’t thinking of our current state of climate all along while reading this book would be untruthful. I appreciated this topic being explored in a YA book since it’s one currently being silenced in our real world.  I also found interesting how close it stayed to actual events like El Niño and the effects felt around the world many years later. In many ways it can be compared to many other post apocalyptic books currently on the shelves but I felt the authors efforts to have it parallel our present day situation with climate change, makes this one stand apart from the majority. Sobering in many ways because I could see this actually happening versus the zombie apocalypse (I haven’t quite completely ruled this out haha!) that is a bit far fetched.

The Mission: The Final Six will establish a civilization on Jupiter’s Moon Europa 

Told in multiple POV’s, we get the story from our two protagonists Naomi & Leo. Naomi is Iranian American & her area of study is science (major kudos for giving us women in STEM), she is one of the 12 recruited to compete for a position as one of the final six to join the space program. Naomi is also the only candidate whose family is still intact, both father & mother are alive as well as a little brother. Leo is a Italian Olympic medal Swimmer who lost his parents and sister to a natural disaster. Up until the moment he is recruited, he was scavenging the personal belongings of his neighbors (now currently under water) in order to survive. For Leo, the call to compete for a spot on the final six is a lifeline he is more than happy to take. Feeling like he has nothing to lose, we meet Leo at his very lowest point. Leo is my favorite character in this book because he’s a survivor who is willing to fight for a second chance at life. He could’ve been moping around the entire book because his entire family was wiped out but instead he chose to go hard for Italy & the love for his country jumps off the page.

Naomi on the other hand is what you’d call a unlikeable character 🤷🏻‍♀️ & that’s ok, it wouldn’t be interesting if everyone carried the same personality so I always tend to appreciate these characters. Naomi is a Scientist & true to her field of study she is also a skeptic. She is NOT at all enthused over being selected & would much rather stay on Earth looking for a cure to help her sick little brother. Deciding very early on to self sabotage her chances on making the final six, only to find that the head Scientists in charge have already thought of this. This isn’t a voluntary thing, you are given no choice and being selected means that those who do have loved ones will not see them for years to come. I thought Naomi was seriously bad a** just off the strength that she’s a young woman in STEM doing her thing with a patent pending. However, I could’ve done with less selfishness from this character. I loved that she wasn’t naive & saw right through certain things but the reality is that Earth is about to be fully under water. She was selected for her brilliant mind & putting the seedy things governments tend to hide aside, a real asset to a team entrusted to start anew. Also, her teammates are in danger and she seems to be the only one aware but she’s still trying to ditch them for about 80% of the book. This book also falls into the insta-love trope & I wasn’t the biggest fan because Naomi’s selfishness seeped into it placing Leo in harms way one time too many.

I wasn’t too focused on world building this time around since our setting is literally mostly under water and it’s as grim as it gets folks. This being said, I was expecting to get some really fleshed out characters since there are 12 candidates to begin with. These 12 were to go through some challenges that would narrow the crew to 6. I didn’t get the  camraderie I was hoping to get, which is probably the only thing I was really counting on. We did see the expected internal competitiveness between our MC’s & other candidates but the antagonists themselves weren’t fleshed out either. The challenges themselves weren’t detailed with the exception of one. I feel showing the readers some of what the candidates had to overcome would’ve enhanced this story & also given us some camaraderie. Especially when faced with a government that is hiding many secrets placing all their lives in harms way.

The last 30% of the story took a very interesting turn that left me very intrigued on how this story would end. At the time, I believed this to be a stand-alone & after a quick google search found that a sequel was in the works. This made me relax a bit since I feared being left in the lurch right when things were taking off. The Final Six was fast paced & very easy to digest in two sittings & after THAT ending, my guess is that the sequel will take off running at the same speed. My only hope for the sequel is that we get more fleshed out side characters. After all these personalities will be the basis for which a new civilization is established on Jupiter’s Moon. On that note, I’m giving major kudos to the author for selecting candidates not only for their skill set but for their diverse cultural backgrounds. There were so many real life issues in this book that I LOVED seeing discussed & also hope to see more of. Would I recommend this book? YES, it’s relevant and speaks on a subject currently being silenced. Will I continue with the sequel? YES, I’ve got questions & need answers 😂 Will I watch the movie? ABSOLUTELY! the book trailer alone (see above) packs enough punch to have raised my interest in seeing it on the big screen 👀


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Review: The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Title: The Closest I’ve Come

Author: Fred Aceves

Pub. Date: November 7th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

Trigger warning: Alcoholism, Physical Abuse, Racism

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 320

Format: eGalley/Edelweiss

   

Marcos Rivas wants to find love.
He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.
When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.

The Closest I’ve come follows Marcos Rivas’ life course in a rough neighborhood /violent household & the motivation he finds to want to get out. For Marcos, the daily grind is made up of getting up for school & hanging out with his boys after school to avoid having to go home. Life at home isn’t easy & he is met with either his mothers silence and closed doors or her boyfriends fists. Mentally checked-out, Marcos’ mother is a alcoholic who doesn’t really have much of any relationship with him. Marcos himself would love to play the role of over protective son however, the truth is that internally, more than anything he wishes she would show any signs of caring for him. Life outside his home isn’t exactly the best either but in his community he has developed friendships that have become a safe place to turn to. Academics have never really been Marcos’ main focus & with no one in his corner rooting and or encouraging him to apply himself, he hasn’t given much thought to life after High School. He believes that Maesta is the end all be all for him and many other teens like him. We come across teachers who provide Marcos with the confidence he needs & who most of all, believe in him.

At times, The Closest I’ve Come was difficult to read because of the violence Marcos experiences at the hands of his mothers boyfriend. It seemed like all the odds are set against this kid & with nothing really inspiring him & his own home being so volatile, I wondered when he would catch a break. With little to no money whatsoever, we see our MC try to earn cash the right way by cleaning parking lots but we also see one of his friends who is a straight A student go about it illegally by delivering drugs. Having myself lived in for many years what was considered a “ghetto” neighborhood, the reality is that too many bright futures are dimmed before they even get a chance to begin. There were so many tough themes in this book paired with positive reinforcement from Marcos’ educators that I found myself rooting him on in realizing that he is valued.

We see a tremendous amount of character growth take place within our MC Marcos which is perhaps the strongest aspect of The Closest I’ve Come. Aceves wrote Marcos’ character in first Person POV which allows the reader to really get into his thought process. From the way he views his barely existent relationship with his mother to how he handles rejection, Marcos isn’t a confidant cocky teenage boy. His physical appearance is something he is always hyper aware of because he lacks funds to buy clothes or pay for grooming. Something as simple as a haircut could boost his confidence briefly & a lot of the time he didn’t get the end result he was seeking but the effort was there. I LOVED this character & how humble he is the core, he definitely had me in his corner the whole way through. We meet some of his friends from around his neighborhood, mostly through visits to the courtyard to shoot hoops. There’s a sense of loyalty from these guys that I’ve seen for myself in neighborhoods where most don’t have it to make ends meet. I enjoyed one particular scene where one of the guys sets up shop on his stoop to cut hair for a couple of dollars, very much like a brotherhood. Although we meet many of Marcos’ acquaintances, they aren’t as fleshed out as our MC but nonetheless they serve their purpose in giving the reader a picture of what Marcos has in his life. The friends he has don’t really know how bad his home life is but I was glad to see them rise to the occasion when he really needed them.

Told in first person POV, The Closest I’ve Come is raw & uncensored giving Marcos’ voice & narrative life. Own Voices Latinx author Fred Aceves was raised in a poor working class neighborhood just like the one he brings to life in this book. From the dialogue between Marcos and his friends in the streets to his stream of consciousness on life after High School, our MC is raw & uncut just like the world he lives in. Many who come from similar backgrounds will find this book to be very relatable. To those who don’t, The Closest I’ve Come is a insiders look to a reality that exists in our real world. Not only do we get POC representation but we also see socioeconomic diversity when Marco meets & befriends a HS student from a wealthy background. The challenges Marco has in his life are going to resonate with others & that is one of the biggest reasons I am happy to see this narrative hit the shelves.

*HUGE thanks to HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Fred Aceves for the eGalley copy of The Closest I’ve Come in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Monday Bookworms! hope you all had a wonderful weekend & managed to squeeze in some good books. With so many diverse reads coming our way, which ones are you looking forward to? any Own Voices on your 2018 TBR?


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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: 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 😉