Spoiler Free Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Title: All Boys Aren’t Blue

Author: George M. Johnson

Pub. Date: April 28th. 2020

Genre: YA LGBTQIA+ Memoir

Format: Libro.fm/audiobook

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 304 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | LIBRO.FM

It’s no surprise to me by now the level of procrastination I take on whenever I’m to review a favorite book. I listened to this memoir told in a series of personal essays on Libro.fm & strongly believe this was the best way to go. I love when authors narrate their own books & this truly felt like I was sitting at the table with George listening to him recount stories from his childhood/young adult years. Going back to his childhood days spent with his grandmother & cousins, we see the support he received as he embraced his sexuality. We Journey with him as he goes through the awkward dating years & then ventures into the rites of passage that comes with Fraternities in college. George starts his story in New Jersey discussing some of the issues he experienced as a queer black boy. The shedding of toxic masculinity as well as exploring gender issues & the decision to change his name are just a few of the things shared in this memoir. There were also some personal essays on his first sexual encounters, the topic of consent, and the boundaries he learned to create while learning his body. Some of  my favorite essays were those that gave us an inside look to some of the cherished family members who supported George from the very beginning. They say it takes a village to raise a child & we definitely see that when meeting family & friends who left a lasting impression.

It is important when reading Queer Lit that we’re looking to also read books that speak on intersectionality. This memoir gives us a look at what it’s like to navigate the challenges of being a queer black man in America. There were moments I smiled at fond memories shared while other times I felt the pangs of grief when speaking on the loss of a loved one. I don’t believe I have ever personally read a memoir written for Young Adults but after reading All Boys Aren’t Blue, I wondered out loud how many teens could’ve found wisdom and/or solace in these stories. These often untold stories are the ones I want on my home shelves. Although I listened to this on Libro.fm (phenomenal service btw), I most definitely am hauling my own physical copy <3’s!


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Spoiler Free Book Review: Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Pub. Date: April 7th 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Macmillan

Pages: 544 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

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

🖤Although this is a spoiler free review of Ruthless Gods, you will probably be spoiled for the first book Wicked Saints if you haven’t read it🖤

Is it possible to love a second book way more than you did the first? ABSOLUTELY! Although I did enjoy Wicked Saints, I felt like Ruthless Gods really put me through the ringer of emotions. Our characters are bruised and battered after the events of the first book. Nadya shows a tremendous amount of character growth & development now that she’s left without the blessing of the Gods. She’s lost her direct line to them & any sparks of power she may have are dark in nature & unknown because she’s tapped into Malachaisz through blood magic. She’s lost the boy she loves & has so many complex feelings to sort through. Seeing him twisted into the demon shape he is leaves her constantly at war within her self over feeling she feels she shouldn’t have for him. Told in multiple POV’s we are also following Serafin the new Crown Prince who this book mainly focuses on. Serafin is the character I cherish the most & that’s just because he is silently fighting a war no one sees & he isn’t looking for a shoulder to lean on. Serafin is an alcoholic who has lost vision in one eye. More like he’s lost control of it to the God who has possessed him. We see him stumble about trying to hold thoughts of going mad at bay whenever he hears voices in his head or sees stars in the one eye he’s lost all vision in. Serafin also discovers some HARD truths in this book that will complicate many of his decisions along the way.

We also get a lot more background info on the REAL war taking place & it goes much deeper than Tranvians Vs. Kalyazin. Although I will say that as someone who roots for the underdog, there was something satisfying about Kalyazin making generous progress in the fight & pushing back. They went from having terrible odds to actually standing a chance because they’ve found something to sort of even the odds. Of course we can’t forget our “villain” or favorite Black Vulture Malachiasz (just found out I’ve been pronouncing his name allllll the way wrong smh) who is hella wicked yet I can’t hate him. Quite the opposite, this dark little soul just manages to leave me wanting to understand him all the more SMH! especially after getting a glimpse into his childhood *heartstrings* 

Content Warning: body gore/eye horror, self harm, alcoholism

I have pictured Emily A. Duncan in a dark little dungeon baring her soul to write this book. These characters have gone through hell & back but they’re only now getting to the heart of the matter. All of our characters are mentally tortured & coping as best they can given the circumstances. I loved getting the POV’s of Parijahan who is basically the closest Malachiasz has to a friend. I was very intrigued by her royal back story & the reasons that placed her on this journey to begin with. We also were introduced to a new character, Katya who is the Crown princess of Kalyazin and should be ready to strike Serafin down. Katya however finds herself relating to Serafin & it was also interesting seeing them cross paths and gain perspective from one another. As for the writing itself, I won’t lie the pacing really tested my patience here but it was SO worth it. I find this is the case with any stories the are centered around an actual journey. About 50% of the story is build up and backstory. The second half of the book raises the stakes with the presence of the Gods, at this point I couldn’t stop flipping pages fast enough. Considering this story focused a lot on Serafin, my best guess is that book 3 will be more Malachiasz focused & for that I will drop everything! *evil hands* haha!


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL BY MAUREEN GOO

Title: The Way You Make Me Feel

Author: Maureen Goo

Pub. Date: May 8th 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 336 Pages

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This book will forever go down in my little corner of the universe as THE book that snuck up & delivered such a beautiful message of finding yourself and the connections we make along the way. Our MC Clara Shin is known as the school prankster & she sort of thrives on being disruptive. When one of her pranks goes a bit too far, she comes face to face with her archenemy. Rose Carver is the polar opposite of Clara, she’s very rigid and serious about her academic journey. Rose has made it very clear to Clara that she can’t stand her chill laid back approach to school. This last confrontation ends up getting a bit physical and both girls get heir parents called. Clara’s dad is a single parent trying to run a successful food truck in hopes of one day opening his own restaurant. It’s his idea to have the girls hash out their issues by working together at the food truck. The Way You Make Me Feel serves up delicious Korean-Brazilian dishes, teenage drama, cute romance, new found friendships, and parent/child relationships. 

At first glance I thought I was getting into a cute light hearted Contemporary & to some extent it is but at a further glance, it’s so much more. Clara doesn’t know why she’s never taken school all that seriously however in her efforts to maintain a relationship with her mother, she discovers some truths about herself. I loved seeing the teens & parents in this story take on the hard task of introspection, facing that which drives them to behave a certain way. There’s discussion of the after effects of separation, academic pressures, anxiety, as well as the challenges of parenting for a single dad. My favorite aspect of this book revolved around the father/daughter relationship, Adrian gets all my love for being a rockstar Dad. Those that have been around my blog long enough know I have a weakness for father/daughter bonds as I had an amazing one with my own. Adrian doesn’t pretend to be perfect, he’s just a single dad trying to get back on track with providing some structure for his teen daughter. He’s known as the cool, fun, handsome dad & that worked for some time but he has a what I call “get real” moment. Finding a balance between Cool Dad vs. Tough Love Dad which he handles so well! On the topic of writing I will say there were times where Clara’s attempts at sarcasm felt a bit awkward. I don’t think the humor hit home with me & at times I sort of just looked past it. Instead I took away the bigger message and that’s that the road to self discovery is a journey worth making.


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Spoiler Free Review: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Title: Tweet Cute

Author: Emma Lord

Pub. Date: January 21st 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 368 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

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

When Big League Burger steals a small Deli’s iconic grilled cheese recipe created by none other than Jacks’ Grandmother, it starts an all out twitter war. Pepper’s family are the owners of Big League Burger with her mother at the helm of the business. When accusations start flying, it’s Pepper’s snark and quick witty comebacks her mother has her tweet to defend their stance. Pepper & Jack happen to attend the same privileged school but have no idea they are in a war of wits against each other while defending their family businesses. All the while we see them both deal with social pressures in school & navigate expectations from their parents in an interesting way. Jack has taken an interest in app developing & is the anonymous creator of an app that allows students to chat under anonymous names in a main chat room. Eventually the app triggers itself to reveal the identity of the student you’ve been hopefully bonding with. Jack also uses his own app (honorably adheres to his own privacy rules) & somehow ends up chatting with Pepper, not knowing her true identity. This book truly had it ALL & was wildly entertaining! Twitter Wars, cute romance, sweet pastry baking, positive F/F friendships, swimming, sibling rivalries, Parentals who are visible, and also a realistic view of the stress students experience preparing for college/entrepreneurship.

Pepper –Known to many of her peers to be robotic, Pepper is goal focused & getting into a top college is what she strives for. She doesn’t really socialize in school with the exception of engaging in academic wars with her “archenemy” & perfecting her swimming skills. With a whole lot of responsibilities lumped on her plate & handling Big League Burger’s Twitter feud, Pepper finds comfort in chatting with “Wolf” who is also Jack, anonymously.

Jack – Living in the shadow of his very popular Gay twin brother isn’t easy for Jack but he manages. His brother Ethan is expected to go places & do big things after college whereas Jack’s family always saw him taking over the family Deli/business. We see Jack quietly seek out the things that actually bring him joy like app developing & being a member of the Dive team. Jack is hella loyal to his family & will drop anything/everything to help any one of them out.

The levels of enjoyment I experienced with this book are still pretty fresh in my memory. I have no doubt it’s going down as a Top Read for 2020 here on my end of year list. I lost track of the smiles it got out of me & on one or two occasions how it surprised me with teary eyes. Emma Lord brought to life current day teenagers on the page making this such an authentic smart & witty read. I loved how our author highlighted not only their intelligence but the fact that they are essentially capable of taking on a fair amount of responsibility. Both Pepper & Jack have a heavy schedule of academics & helping out with their family owned businesses. There’s a ton of stress but I enjoyed seeing how they came together in this one app to help alleviate those pressures. There’s also some more serious themes in this book like a family experiencing the after effects of a separation. There’s a healing of family issues & self exploration. Discussion on expectations & how college isn’t necessarily the only route to success. We see students choosing their paths to eventually place them in the career path that best suits their wants/needs. This book is packed with so much good & don’t get me started on the sisters who bake & give their deserts all sorts of quirky names on a blog they run together! sitting here eyes WIDE open for the next Emma Lord book *Chefs Kiss*


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Spoiler Free Review: The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

Title: The Merciful crow (The Merciful Crow #1)

Author: Margaret Owen

Pub. Date: July 30h 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Henry Holt

Pages: 384

Format: eGalley

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON

I honestly find it so hard to believe Margaret Owen is a debut author given how effortlessly woven this story truly is. I’ve been very particular with the YA Fantasy titles I’ve picked up this year because I don’t want to throw in the towel with this genre just yet. This book however, renewed my interest & has me pretty hyped up for the follow-up. The world this story takes place in is grim with a 500 year plague over the land. There’s a caste system in place that’s derived from the different species of birds: Phoenix, Peacock, Swan, Dove, Hawk, Crane, Owl, Vulture, Gull, Pigeon, Sparrow, and Crow. Each of these have a birthright with the exception of the Crow caste. Birthrights are gifts straight from the Gods; some of which are fire, glamour, blood, wind or hunting. Although the Crow caste doesn’t have a particular birthright, they do have the ability to manipulate bones which therefore grants them temporary power over any of the birthrights. The Crow caste is also the ONLY caste to have full immunity from the plague & are deemed the lowest of the low, cursed by the Gods. This being said, they are fully responsible to answer the call & deliver a merciful death whenever someone has been inflicted by the plague.

We meet Fie, her dad & crew of Crows as they are called to the royal castle to deliver mercy to the Prince and his body double/bodyguard. Things take an interesting turn when they arrive & learn Prince Jasimir has faked his as well as his bodyguard Tavins deaths. The Queen has been attempting to have Prince Jas killed now that she bore the king a son & would like to see him take the throne instead. The Crows make a deal with the Prince, an Oath that can’t be broken in exchange for safety out of the Queens way. The Crows are constantly under threat of violence while on the road & Fie wants to ensure their safety and protection if/when Prince Jasimir takes the throne. The journey begins to get the Prince & his Hawk bodyguard to allies who will help him overthrow the Queen.

If you’re a fan of outcasts & grim worlds with cutthroat royals, this may be just what you’re looking for. I found myself feeling very overprotective of the Crows & their travels in a world where they should’ve been revered or at the very least protected. I can understand some animosity to an extent felt from the loved ones of those hit by the plague whenever they see the Crows show up to deliver a merciful death. The alternative however, would be a very slow and painful death. Those they deliver mercy to are relieved when they show up & the Crows show a lot of respect to those they put to final rest. We get the story told from Fie’s POV as she travels with her Dad, Crows, Prince Jas and Tav. Margaret Owen did a FANTASTIC job of showing us the slow process of enlightenment being bestowed upon the Prince. Jas has many positive traits that will help make him a great leader which is why there are those willing to put their lives at risk to make sure he gets the throne. However, he is very stubborn & that can be irritating but both he & Fie have a lot to learn from each other as leaders. I enjoyed seeing our three main characters interact & evolve on their journey. Last but not least, this is one hella effortlessly diverse story! The kind that doesn’t try hard at all to show how inclusive it really is. In our cast we have a Pan MC, Gay MC, non-binary side character, as well as females in leadership roles. Hella atmospheric, you feel the desperation in the air brought on by the Sinners Plague. There’s also a love story that doesn’t take center stage to the plot which got major brownie points from this here reader. Lastly, I loved that it all doesn’t get tied up neatly for you by the last page yet it does deliver a satisfying conclusion with some hope for a better tomorrow. I will most definitely be pre-ordering the sequel & cannot wait to see how my Crows have been faring.

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


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Review: Unbroken 13 Stories Starring Disabled Youth

Title: Unbroken 13 Stories Starring Disabled Youth

Authors: Marieke Nijkamp, William Alexander, Fox Benwell, Keah Brown, Dhonielle Clayton, Corinne Duyvis, Keah Brown, Heidi Heilig, Kody Keplinger, Katherine Locke, Karuna Riazi, Francisco X. Stork, Kayla Whaley, Kristine Wyllys

Pub. Date: September 18th. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Anthology

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 320

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

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

   

This Anthology holds such a special place in my heart, I found myself taking my time with each story many of which moved me or empowered me. Many left me in tears while others left me with hope. These stories are filled with strong characters who really just want to be seen and heard for the person they are rather than their disabilities be it it physical or mental or both. I am on my own personal journey with mental health, this collection felt very therapeutic to read & ultimately kept me company on days I needed it most.  Told by authors with disabilities, these stories are important and I for sure have found some new to me authors I look forward to read more from.

*Note: I’m not sure these stories are inspired by the various authors specific disabilities as it isn’t indicated. 

The Long Road by Heidi Heilig: 3.5 STARS

About a Chinese Protagonist with mental health disability who travels with her parents to Persia in search of a “cure” (mental health disability) & along the way discovers the possibility of finding others that are doing to same for their loved one(s). I loved seeing super supportive parents & also the acknowledgment that change to a more clean/healthy lifestyle can be costly.

Britt And The Bike God by Kody Keplinger: 5 STARS

Loved this story so much! Keeping in step with the first story, this also features a supportive parent. The MC has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition that causes the gradual loss of vision. Dad share a love of bikes with Britt, his daughter. He starts a Cyclist club since Britt’s school doesn’t have any “blind friendly sports club” & makes it all inclusive. All ages welcome with the only exception being that each gets trained to ride a tandem bike when they join & volunteer to Captain for Britt. There is a romance with a POC character (F/M) & it’s super cute! I loved the inclusivity of the bike club & that Britt is able to physically take part in the sport she loves.

The Leap and the Fall by Kayla Whaley: 3.5 STARS

Carnival stories always make for eerie settings, throw in a aggressive ghost/possession, some tarot cards and we have ourselves one atmospheric short story! This one stars a girl in her wheelchair and her BFF who she’s started to grow feelings for (F/F), this one could’ve definitely benefited from being a full length novel. The progression from long friendship to romance is hard to dive right into in such a short period of time.

Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke: 4.5 STARS

A Sci-Fi short story starring a female coder who has panic attacks. MC lives and studies from her room not having stepped outside in months. This all changes when her world is attacked & at war, she must decide whether she can step out & offer her coding expertise to save the planet. I’m a big supporter of ALL women in STEM so this one definitely captured my interest. I also loved the supportive side character who doesn’t sweep the MC’s feelings of anxiety & fear under the rug.

Found Objects by William Alexander: 3 STARS

Latinx MC (gender not mentioned) who has idiopathic pain. This one threw me for a loop, I don’t think I fully grasped what was going on but I didn’t dislike it if that makes any sense? MC has a passion for performance art & there’s a conversation between the MC & their deceased grandfather where the issue of casting disabled people as villains is briefly mentioned. There’s also discussion of chronic pain & feeling like you can’t really talk to anyone about your pain because of the stigma. I’m not quick to label anything as being Magical Realism but this one did have an element of MR that gave off very vivid imagery.

Plus One by Karuna Riazi : 4 STARS

MC goes on her spiritual journey aka Hajj, along the way she battles against “IT” this is a presence the MC feels, sees, and tries to escape. We see her struggle with religion as well, feelings of inadequacy at not experiencing a huge transformation by the end of her Hajj. Feelings of not being devout enough all the while dealing with her plus one that only she can see. I feared for the MC at the airport where customs is known to flag people down for wearing a Hijab. I feared they wouldn’t offer up any understanding for someone struggling with mental health just because they’re wearing a Hijab. I felt this story the hardest & would love to read more from Karuna Riazi.

The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp: 4 STARS

This one tells the story of a girl with a cane who is treated poorly by the towns people who view her disability as a curse. She wishes to leave her town and travel/see the world. She then meets a Carpenter boy (may be Trans) who feels quite the opposite for the town they live in. He enjoys being a part of building the churches and other buildings. He also understands what it feels like to live somewhere that doesn’t accept you for who you are. A friendship turned romance story with a touch of dragon lore.

Captain, My Captain by Francisco X. Stork: 4.5 STARS

Latinx MC hears a consistent voice in his head that encourages him to liberate himself from the responsibilities that keep him by his sisters side. This voice very much tries to influence the MC’s every move. Evaluated in a school setting and said to have a “intellectual & development disability” his options for work limited. He has a sister and baby nephew he stays with along with a mother & siblings in Mexico he helps out with. His sister is in a abusive relationship & he fears what will happen if he leaves. Sibling bond is strong in this one.

Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing About Love by Dhonielle Clayton : 5 STARS

MC has a love & dating advice column for other teens, a idea she got from her grandmother who she admires. MC has never actually been in love & so it adds a bit of humor to this short story. This character has
episodes of irritable bowel disorder that keep her from being social & she also has anxiety. I actually would’ve loved a full length meet cute out of this short.

A Play In Many Parts by Fox Benwell: 4 STARS 

This short story was told in different formats, parts read like a screenplay and others are being narrated. Our MC is non-binary and
uses They/Them pronouns. MC walks with a cane and suffers from chronic pain. At first I was a bit intimidated by the format of this story but ended up really enjoying it. There’s a love for theater & the arts, and a teacher who has a passion for creating. The teachers husband may have dementia & the final act saw me unexpectedly teary eyed.

Ballad Of Weary Daughters by Kristine Wyllys: 3.5 STARS

Bi-racial MC (Native American) who has to grown up way too fast when her father up & leaves with his mistress. A hardworking mother is left to pick up the pieces of a broken home by working long hours in order to provide. MC steps up as a mother for her siblings all the while trying to cope with Bi-Polar II Disorder. There is a romance (F/F) with a Cuban girl who is super supportive and is also dealing with her own issues at home.

Mother Nature’s Youngest Daughter by Keah Brown: 5 STARS

I LOVED this one to pieces! which really doesn’t surprise me since Fantasy is my genre of choice. This short stars a MC with Cerebral Palsy who is being bullied in school. MC has hidden powers as do her siblings & her mother, she isn’t supposed to use them for wrong but makes an exception to get even with her harassers. I rooted for her of course! but it didn’t go unpunished by her mother. Each of the family members can control a different element of weather/nature & I am legit interested in a full length anything with this family! ❤

One, Two, Three (re-named “A Curse, a Kindness”)by Corinne Duyvis: 5 STARS

This in my opinion was the best story to close off this collection. A autistic girl finds herself cursed after bearing witness to a accident. MC is a young girl when she witnesses the accident & isn’t able to respond to a call for action at the moment. Autistic, young, and in shock she is approached by a mysterious man who places a curse on her life. She must grant 3 wishes to whoever shows her a kindness for the rest of her life. A chance encounter with a girl in a parking lot has the potential to change her life. F/F romance that left me smiling.

Content Warning: Death, Physical abuse, misgendering, anxiety, adultery

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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: TO BE HONEST BY MAGGIE ANN MARTIN

Title: To Be Honest

Author: Maggie Ann Martin

Pub. Date: August 21st. 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Romance

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Pages: 304

Content Warnings: eating disorders, fat shaming, emotional abuse, cheating, anxiety/panic attacks

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

    

🖤 Thank you Swoon Reads for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review 🖤

We meet Savvy as she and her mom are taking her sister Ashley to her dorm in college & there are a lot of feelings from the start. Savvy does struggle with anxiety & having such a tight bond with her older sister made separating all the harder. Besides not having her very best friend around anymore, she also has to deal with a difficult, strained, and just plain toxic relationship with her mother. Savvy’s mom went through a life changing event after her husband/Savvy’s dad cheated on her with her best friend. Her mom won a spot on a weight loss TV show & was flown across the country for intense weight loss training. Upon her return, her whole outlook on weight was toxic and Savvy was unfortunately the person she affected most. We see Savvy miss the relationship she used to have with her mother  prior to the drastic weight loss. Savvy is vocal with her thoughts on the unhealthy weight loss these TV shows promote which causes her to butt heads more often with her mom.

“It took everything within me not to add some extra hashtags, like #LoveYourBody or #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies. I walked such a fine line with her because, yes, she was my mom, but I also did not agree with her views on her body and my body, for that matter”

That being said, Savvy really does love her mom & since it’s just the two of them home now, she tries her hardest to not cause friction or let her mom’s comments get to her. We follow their relationship & the very real fights that take place leading to days of silence. Maggie Ann Martin also did a A+ job of showing us Savvy’s mom & her battle with body image. I felt terrible for her mom because you know she’s a good mom but life’s curve ball really threw her off & her self esteem really took a hit. I wanted so badly to see her mom get the help she so desperately needed & be a positive role model for Savvy.

Savvy is in High School & we also get to follow her life outside her home which balances out against her home life. Savvy has an amazing best friend who she enjoys spending time with. She’s also a math tutor on the side but her real passion is journalism. There’s a a really caring teacher who encourages her not to drop out of working on the school’s paper & it leads to the sub-plot of this book. We see Savvy uncovering some under the table dealings with one of the athletic departments. We also see her tutoring turn into something more than 😉 & I cannot tell you the number of times I found myself smiling for Savvy 💓

Savvy- Our MC stole my heart! she’s her own level of cool & doesn’t even realize it. Savvy is fat, tall, blue eyed and blonde with no interest in losing weight in the same unhealthy manner her mother has. She definitely has her inner monologue of self doubt running in the background but she knows that to love her is to love ALL of her & nothing less will do! This made her all the more relatable cause we all have those moments of self doubt but to see her love the skin she’s in meant everything to me 💓 Savvy is also very funny, knows all the lyrics to every Eminem song, and is a math wiz even though she’d much rather be writing to make a difference in the world of journalism.

Ashley- aka Big Sis 💜 I LOOOOVE the sibling relationship between Savvy & Ashley who is now in college & trying to be there for Savvy even while college life is taking place. Ashley is described as being tall, slender, and a beauty by Savvy herself but never does Ashley make Savvy feel anything less than a beauty herself. Ashley is Lesbian & seeing Savvy encourage her to show interest in her college crush was the sweetest! 💜

Grace- Savvy’s best friend & partner in crime when it comes to journalism. Grace is Colombian & part of a BIG family who has welcomed Savvy into their circle whole heartedly. What I loved MOST about Grace is how supportive & in tune she is with Savvy when it came to her anxiety/panic attacks and general discomfort. She also isn’t afraid to give it to Savvy straight when she sees her bestie self sabotaging her own chances. Grace legit got Bestie Award Of The Year from me at the very end when they went shopping for Homecoming dresses…😉

George- The love interest here who also happens to be Grace’s cousin. I knew this guy was going to be a favorite of mine the minute he corrected Savvy for thinking he wasn’t part of the family based on his more Caucasian appearance. George is also blonde, tall, and slender and very much Columbian 🙌🏽 George is tutored by Savvy in math & all throughout we see him take a real interest in Savvy. Legit I wish I had a George in my life at 17 😩😂🙌🏼💓🙌🏼

To Be Honest (see what I did there? 😂)this book hit very close to home, I wasn’t expecting it to stir the feelings that it did in me but by the end I was left asking where was this book when I needed it MOST?!?! growing up as a plus sized gal myself. This book introduced me to Savvy, a fat MC who isn’t fiercely confident in the skin she’s in but she isn’t NOT confident either if that makes any sense. Well it did to me since this was the attitude I adopted in High School, I was Savvy & the things she experiences in this book with her mother and even in her love life, are things that feel all too familiar to me as a grown woman looking back. I wish this book had existed back when I found myself in a toxic home & turned to books as a way of comfort. Within these pages I see strength & courage for those who just want to love themselves but keep getting dissuaded at every turn. I see a MC who although she battles internally with what others may think…knows that she won’t allow anyone to love her any less. This book handled a variety of topics well, body image & mental health being at the forefront. I couldn’t have chosen a better time to read this book as I am currently on my own personal weight loss journey. This book lifted my spirits & reinforced my confidence in my own path to healthy 💞


Hello Bookworms! Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend! To Be Honest will be hitting shelves this coming Tuesday August 21st, 2018 & I cannot wait to pick up my copy to display on my shelf of positive rep 💜 If any of you lovely Bookworms have recommendations for plus sized rep books, please drop them in the comments down below 💞


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Spoiler Free Review: Airports, Exes, And Other Things I’m Over by Shani Petroff

Title: Airports, Exes, And Other Things I’m Over

Author: Shani Petroff

Pub. Date: May 15th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary/Romance

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Pages: 224

Format: Physical ARC from the Publisher

Goodreads | Barnes & Nobles | Amazon

*HUGE thanks to Swoon Reads/Macmillan and Shani Petroff for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

   

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A bad storm, two canceled flights, stuck in an airport with a hot stranger and the guy who broke her heart… what could go wrong?

After Sari caught her boyfriend Zev cheating on her, their romantic Florida vacation was ruined. She can’t get back to NYC soon enough. Unfortunately, mother nature may have different plans. A huge storm is brewing in the Northeast, and flights all over the country are getting canceled—including Sari’s. She winds up stuck at the airport for hours. With Zev!

When another stranded passenger (a hot NYU guy) suggests a connecting flight to Boston, Sari jumps at the chance. But when her mom freaks out about her traveling alone, she has no choice—she has to include Zev, and somehow survive being trapped with the guy who broke her heart!

I’d like to preface this review by stating that I am a sucker for stories set in airports…it’s my #1 setting of preference for cute rom-coms & so naturally, seeing a book with airport in the title meant I was going to have to read said book 🤗 No Regrets here! this was exactly what was pitched, a fun fast easy read that got quite a few giggles out of me along the way. Our MC Sari does catch her boyfriend Zev kissing his ex girlfriend at a house party. Sari doesn’t stick around for explanations, she’s ghost in nano seconds and decides to keep her vacation plans. Plans she had with Zev to go visit her grandmother in Florida. This is the perfect way to get away from the hurt & pain of Zev’s betrayal and also a chance to prepare for her upcoming performance at one of the hottest clubs. Sari is a signer/composer who travels with her guitar Ruby in hopes of one day being a break out star & this seems attainable when she gets the call to perform at a club known to be the the home of many famous singers. Focused on nailing her performance, Sari tries her hardest not to think of Zev. The only problem is Zev refuses to let her throw in the towel before he can explain. We see Zev follow Sari to Florida & later get stuck together at the airport due to inclement weather.

* Photos from Pinterest, not my own

Strangely enough, I found myself enjoying all of the characters in this book. From the MC and her determined ex to her parents, grandmother, and BFF there really wasn’t a shortage of awesome people in Sari’s life. Although I do wish they were more fleshed out, I was happy to see how much of a positive support system Sari had at home. Her best friend never seemed judgmental and seemed genuinely concerned for Sari, dropping everything at a moments notice to talk some sense into Sari. The Parentals were actually visible in this book, yeah they seemed like the typical parents who obsesses over the safety of their children but I found this made them all the more realistic. They also reminded me of my parents who at one point formed a tight bond with an ex of mine, so much so that they’d bypass calling me as a whole which also happens to Sari. Along the way Sari also meets Fitz & Dylan, two college guys who are super chill and left me wondering if after they parted ways, would ever meet up with Sari again once she’s in college. Sari herself had me feeling like she couldn’t catch a break. No matter where she turned, she couldn’t escape the guy who up until recently only  had eyes for her. Zev on the other hand is the guy you don’t want to believe capable of cheating. They’re the picture perfect fairytale high school sweethearts who may just have to accept a different future where they aren’t meant to be together…

Did I think things could’ve been handled better with some communication? YES. However, I also felt Sari’s reaction & coping mechanisms were pretty accurate for someone her age who is basically with her High School sweetheart. I found it so hard hard to dislike Zev, the guy is pretty charming in a nerdy way that makes you shake your head while mouthing “how could you”? although I do wish we’d had more time with these characters, I really enjoyed my time with this book. Sari’s efforts to put distance between her & Zev in an airport proved to be challenging & offered up some comedic relief. The text messages between Sari’s mother & Zev had me wanting to call her mom & beg her to STOP! haha! This is one of those books I’d love to see adapted as a Rom-Com on the big screen if only for another chance to see all of these characters together again. If you’re looking for a cute, fun, fast read about trust & taking a risk on love then this is one you’ll want to give a go 💜


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Review: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1)

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Pub. Date: March 6th, 2018

Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy

Publisher: Macmillan/FierceReads

Pages: 525

Format: Physical ARC

*Maji Clan Quiz at the end of my review*

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan/FierceReads and Tomi Adeyemi for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

    

Its been 2 weeks since I finished what I consider the BEST Fantasy book I have EVER read for a multitude of reasons. I cried some real tears reading this beautiful book, within its pages I found familiar names that have always carried weight in my childhood & made this reading experience all the more special. Now let’s see if I can do this justice & get you to read this EPIC masterpiece…

Our story is set in the land of Orïsha where King Saran has worked very hard to wipe out the magic inherited by the Maji. Maji once walked the land in abundance, they were said to have received their magic aka Ashe from Sky Mother. Healers, Earth shakers, Mind connectors, Tiders with the power to control the waters,  and  Reapers who can raise the dead are just some of the few types of Maji to have walked the lands. This all changed when a group of rebel Maji killed the King’s first family. In a bloody event known as “The Raid” all Maji above the age of 13 were ordered to be killed by the King. Our MC Zélie’s mother, a Reaper is dragged out in chains and hung in the village for all to see. The connection between the Maji & Sky Mother is broken and efforts are put in place to destroy the magical pieces with the power to restore the Maji’s Ashe.

Young Zélie remembers this day as if it were yesterday well into her young adult years & it is the fuel that propels her throughout this story. In stressing the importance of eliminating the threat Maji pose & by instilling fear, the King has managed to keep Maji in poverty. Expected to pay a higher tax or face labor camps that are the equivalent of slavery, Maji’s are opressed & forced to come up with ways to survive on a daily basis. It is during one of Zélie’s trips to the market that her whole world gets turned upside down.

We are introduced to King Saran, the Queen, Prince/heir Inan, and Princess Amari. The Kings efforts to keep his second family away from all Maji are nixed once Princess Amari realizes her fathers cruel & murderous ways. Running away from the palace with a highly valuable scroll, Princes Amari crosses paths with Zélie placing them both on the path to try & restore magic to all Maji…

 

Children Of Blood and Bone features a large cast of strong characters down to the supporting cast. Below I’ve listed the main players in this story however, there is a wealth of supporting characters contributing greatly to our main MC’s journey. There are NO weak links, these characters come to life on the page with vivid descriptions & personalities. Told in multiple POV, each chapter is broken down from Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s perspectives. We get to know their most intimate thoughts & see them battle their inner demons. These characters come scarred, they hold a lot of pain & their journey is hard & filled with loss. The entire cast are POC (people of color) & through their eyes Adeyemi tackles some of the toughest topics such as oppression, colorism, and slavery. These characters aren’t the ones to quickly flee your memory…they’re the type to set up shop in your mind & your heart.

Zélie- Our MC has seen & experienced a plethora of pain since seeing her mother killed at the age of six. Zélie really has no filter & has no tolerance for the injustice the King’s guards often bring to the village people. She knows her outspoken nature can potentially place her family at risk for violence however, the need & compulsion to speak up seems almost involuntary. She is a warrior in every sense of the word, her passion & love for a magic she has only slightly ever felt is stronger than her life-force. Zélie remembered a time when Maji had their Ashe and used it to help those in need. Her journey however, will make her confront all of the pain she carries. With Zélie we get raw power & a love for her people and the deities they are descended from.

Tzain- A better bigger brother could NOT exist! Tzain is described as being physically strong and handsome but it’s his fierce need to protect his sister and their father that is his driving force. I LOVE sibling relationships in books but when they’re as close as these two are, my heart fully embraces them. Adeyemi doesn’t just show us the good, she gives us the fighting as well & the genuine love between two siblings who are as close as they are.

Amari- at first glance she may seem like the pampered princess who hasn’t experienced any pain however Amari will prove readers wrong. Perhaps one of my most fave characters in this book because of her personal growth, Amari goes through an awakening of sorts. The blinds are lifted early on & the decision she makes really speak to the type of person she really is. By the end of the book you fully understand why it was necessary for this character to be a part of the journey. I’m super curious & excited to see Amari in the sequel.

Inan- I had such a love/hate relationship with Prince Inan…moments where I felt I understood his mentality & others where I wanted to talk some sense into him. I honestly found him to be quite unpredictable & that scared me with regards to him being a love interest for Zélie. I wanted so badly to love this character but ultimately I couldn’t trust him & I can’t really say his intentions were ever malicious. His love for the people in the kingdom & his inbred fear of the Maji is so much greater than the love he has for anyone. This is a Prince who wants nothing more than to earn the respect of his father the King. He’s constantly at war with himself & the irony that strikes him is just ingenious!

Honorable Mentions-Mama Agba is introduced early on in the story as the owner to a seamstress shop which really serves as a front for a training school for young Maji. The wisdom this character imparts on Zélie in regards to knowing when to fight back & when to speak up struck a chord…for those  who are familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement, there will be many scenes that align with our real world. It was hard seeing Zélie try to fight down the urge to not speak out of line or face brutality from the King’s guards. Zélie’s father although he doesn’t get much page time made me shed my first tears on what would be a tear filled reading experience. A broken spirit who breaks through his grief to encourage Zélie to fight back!

Oya- Zelie’s Sister Deity-Image obtained from Pinterest/Flickr

The Deities- Zélies sister Deity is Oya who was rewarded with mastery over life however, when shared with her worshippers it transformed to power over death & this is how Reapers came about. Throughout the book we learn of the different Deities and their descendant clans. Although we never hear them speak, they are a driving force in the story. Zélie has a deep devotion to Oya who she feels deeply connected to & so we see her more than any of the others.

I can honestly go on for days talking about the richness in culture and religion Children of Blood and Bone brought to the table & I still wouldn’t scratch the surface. Steeped in African culture & mythology, COBAB is not your typical YA Fantasy…it takes Fantasy to a whole other level! & is everything I could’ve ever asked for. From the Yoruba language to the West African foods, and beautifully vibrant Dashiki’s we get so much more from this reading experience because it’s influenced by a culture that already exists. Some of the obstacles our MC’s face in COBAB are real life issues encountered on a daily basis by young black men & women in the real world.   On the topic of the spiritual deities we get a dose of religious diversity, in COBAB the land is called Orisha however in Nigeria, South America, and the Caribbeans Orisha’s are the actual spiritual deities themselves. In these pages I found names of Orishas I grew up learning about all throughout my childhood. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the roller-coaster ride of emotions I felt while reading this book. It is really my belief that Children of Blood and Bone has set a new standard for YA Fantasy & I am  HERE for it!

Take the Quiz & find out which Maji Clan you’re in, are you a Tamer like I am?

WELCOME TO THE TAMER CLAN
You’re a Tamer, the maji of animals. Compassionate, intuitive, and gentle, you have the power to communicate with and manipulate animals.
As a Tamer, you have a special connection to parts of the human experience that others don’t always engage with. Though your ability to perceive other things can sometimes put you out of touch with reality, your kind nature awakens the compassion in others.
QUICK FACTS
CLAN: Eranko Clan
GOD: Oxosi
AURA: Pink


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Review: To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Title: To Kill A Kingdom

Author: Alexandra Christo

Pub. Date: March 6th, 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Macmillan

Pages: 384

Format: eGalley

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan, Netgalley, and Alexandra Christo for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

    

DISCLAIMER: This review will contain much GUSHING & RAVING cause it is worthy of all that & much more!

As per usual, it takes me longer to find the words to adequately describe how I felt about a book when It falls into the category of GAHHH! This was EPIC & everyone will love it & this beautiful jewel of a book needs to be framed on my wall! I had the pleasure of reading To Kill a Kingdom with a group of 4 other bookworms (will be listed at the end of review) & besides this being my first group buddy read, what marks this one as very special was that EVERY single one of the readers LOVED this book to pieces!

We’re introduced to our MC Lira the Siren daughter to the Queen of the Sea while she and her cousin scout out a Prince for the killing. Lira prides herself to be known as the ‘Prince’s Bane’  a reputation she’s worked hard to earn by ripping out the hearts of many Princes. This time however, she was to only oversee her cousin Khalia who was to kill & take her 15th heart. Lira broke tradition by killing & stealing a heart for herself bringing her count to 18 hearts. As heir to the Sea Queen’s throne, she has a limit of 60 hearts she can kill and steal before she must give up the crown. This angered her mother the Sea Queen who handed down her punishment, one aimed at humiliating her as well as cause her pain. When Lira veers from her mothers orders as part of her punishment, the Sea Queen strips her of everything that makes her a Siren and leaves her in human form. Of all the things Lira despises, humans are at the very top of the list. She no longer has her siren song and therefore can’t lure anyone in. The Sea Queen has given her until the Winter Solstice to kill Prince Elian of Midas known as ‘The Siren Hunter’ …

Prince Elian aka The Pirate Prince or The Siren Hunter is on a self assigned mission to eliminate the Sirens as a threat. Aboard The Saad he is loved by his crew for his down to earth humble nature. To the crew he isn’t a Prince, he’s their captain and one of them. Traveling the high seas they hunt sirens, specifically The Prince’s Bane. Elian believes if he can get the Siren Queen’s daughter, he can get to the Siren Queen herself and put an end to all of the killings.

Lira- Our MC isn’t supposed to be someone you end up loving…she’s a cold blooded killer who relishes collecting hearts under her bed. Yet I can’t recall ever loving a villain more than Lira. She’s been raised to kill by her mother the Sea Queen who is by all means Ursula on steroids lol. Love is a foreign word. Humans are disgusting & weak. The hunt for royal blood is what she’s known for. Christo created Lira’s character & gave her so much depth & development, seeing her whole outlook evolve was one of the BEST things about this book. Lira has a toxic abusive relationship with her mother. Many times her mother will lash out verbally & physically yet Lira aims to please the Sea Queen…she seeks out her approval but above all she wants to be seen as a worthy heir to the Sea Queen’s throne. Now, the scenes between Lira and Elian were truly enjoyable to read! the witty banter between these two made me laugh out loud & shake my head with a smile from ear to ear Haha! this is a hate to love that will leave you at the edge of your seat shipping these two for days! 😉

Elian-Many have compared him to Nikolai Lantsov & I can definitely see these two getting along just fine! Elian knows he isn’t suited for the throne, court life just isn’t for him and he’d much rather let his little sister take the crown when the time comes. Travel and freedom is in his blood and if it wasn’t hunting Sirens to protect the kingdoms, he’d still opt for the sails. Elian’s fierce loyalty to his crew keeps him from instantly falling for Lira & I admired how he put them above everything. The fact that he could keep up with Lira’s sharp wit made him instantly a fave in my book.

The Sea Queen- I may have feared Ursula as a child but that never kept me away from watching The Little Mermaid over & over again. There was something about the villainous Queen that command respect & when we meet the Sea Queen it’s really no different. Christo gave us a vivid description of her tentacles & ruby red eyes that will freeze the blood running through your veins with fear whilst reading. The scenes with the Sea Queen were tough because of how abusive she is towards Lira, it’s not your average mother/daughter relationship & she won’t hesitate to kill her daughter if need be. The Sea Queen knows her time on the throne is quickly coming to an end & she’s not going out without a fight.

Honorable Mentions: Khalia aka Lira’s cousin, this side character is the definition of Ride or Die! she’s the one I’d want in my corner facing any opponent. Khalia took some hits from the Sea Queen to protect Lira & this is why Lira feels protective over her. Lira may not know what love is but Khalia comes close to what can defined as a loved one for her. The Saad Crew also goes hard for their Captain & Elian is very lucky to have a newfound group of people he can call family when he’s away from home. I love this above everything being that I am someone who has had to make family from friends, sometimes these bonds run deeper than blood.

 I can go on for days about the writing & world building in TKAK and never tire! In the buddy read I participated in, it was mentioned that the battle scenes were so vivid they are practically made for the screen & couldn’t have agreed more with that statement. This story played out seamlessly in my mind & was a real treat & feast for my imagination. Filled with complex multi-faceted characters, there really was no hero to this story. In fact this book made me think a whole lot of the age old debate on nature vs. nurture…and I loved reading Lira’s stream of consciousness as she asked herself what if she’d been raised to love & not to kill. Could she ever be a different kind of ruler? could she ever love someone? Or is killing a part of who she is? These characters were so well fleshed out that it would be impossible to forget them. I was pleasantly surprised to see Christo weave in the King Midas mythology when creating the City Of Gold Prince Elian and his family rule over. Again, vivid imagery when it came to the kingdoms amplified my reading experience and left me enamored with this world as a whole. It’s safe to say I will be reading EVERYTHING Alexandra Christo writes! be it short stories, Novellas, full length novels! encyclopedias! the backs of cereal boxes YOU NAME IT! To Kill a Kingdom hits shelves tomorrow March 6th & this is one you won’t want to miss 😉


Happy Monday Bookworms! hope you all had a FAB weekend, I was able to get a lot of reading in thanks to my wonderful hubby which means I was in BOOKWORM HEAVEN! HAHA!  To Kill a Kingdom was a buddy read with some awesome bookworms…Melanie @Meltotheany, Destiny@HowlingLibraries, Jules @ Ja Ironside, and Wren @FablesandWren they made my first group buddy read such a wonderful experience, thank you <‘s! 

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