Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on WILDCARD by Marie Lu

 

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is WILDCARD by Marie Lu  Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover for the sequel to Warcross this week and it reminded me all over again how much I loved Warcross when I read it last year.  It was one of my favorite reads of 2017 and it ended with a huge cliffhanger so I need Wildcard in my hands ASAP so I can find out what happens next with Emika and the Phoenix Riders!

 

WILDCARD by Marie Lu

Publication Date:  September 18, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

 

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Hated But Don’t Regret Reading

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read (maybe just for bragging rights).  This topic was actually pretty tough for me.  I guess I’ve been lucky in the sense that there haven’t been too many books I’ve read that I’ve just outright hated.  That said, when I started thinking about the topic, with rare exception, most of the books that I have disliked have been required school readings.  I’m still glad I read them since most of them are classics and classics are often referenced in modern works as as the saying goes, the more you know…but yeah, hated them!  And the last two on my list are more recent reads that I just really disliked even though most people I know loved them.  I’m glad I read them to see what the fuss was about, but they just ultimately weren’t my kind of reads.

 

Top 10 Books I Hated But Don’t Regret Reading

 

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 1. THE CANTERBURY TALES by Geoffrey Chaucer

 

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2. THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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3. GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens

 

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4. MOBY DICK by Herman Melville

 

* * * * *

 

5. GULLIVER’S TRAVELS by Jonathan Swift

 

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6. THE METAMORPHOSIS by Franz Kafka

 

* * * * *

 

7. ETHAN FROME by Edith Wharton

 

* * * * *

 

8. A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles

 

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9. EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

* * * * *

 

10. THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks

 

* * * * *

 

Question:  What are some books you hated but don’t regret reading?

Review: BRIGHTLY BURNING (a Jane Eyre retelling)

Review:  BRIGHTLY BURNING (a Jane Eyre retelling)Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
three-half-stars
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 1, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 391
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

When I was in high school, I fell in love with Jane Eyre when I read it.  I just couldn’t resist the tale of a plain young woman from a humble background who falls in love with the wealthy but dark and brooding Mr. Rochester.  The Gothic setting, the secrets and the lies, but underneath it all, an attraction that they just can’t fight – all of it was just so perfect.

Needless to say, when I heard a retelling of Jane Eyre was coming out and that it was set in space (!), I rushed over to Netgalley to request it and was so ecstatic when I was approved.

I dove in and was immediately impressed by what a unique storyline author Alexa Donne had crafted, while at the same time, retaining so many elements from the classic novel.  Donne’s story is actually set in the future where a second Ice Age has made the Earth uninhabitable forcing those from Earth to live aboard a fleet of spaceships.  When the story opens, they have been living aboard these ships for a couple hundred years and some of the aging ships are starting to show signs that they cannot remain in space for much longer.  Resources are becoming scarce, especially aboard the poorer ships and residents know there will come a time when they are forced to return to Earth.  All they can do is hope that the Earth has thawed enough so that they have a chance to survive.

Our Jane Eyre character, seventeen year old Stella Ainsley, is aboard such an aging ship.  Stella works as both a teacher and a part-time engineer on the ship so she knows firsthand how poor their prospects are for remaining in space much longer.  She also knows that her only chance of not being sent to Earth is to secure employment on another ship but jobs are as scarce as resources are so her options are few and far between.  That is, until a privately owned ship called The Rochester, offers her employment as a governess.  Ecstatic at her good luck, Stella accepts the job immediately and leaves for The Rochester.

Stella gets a lot more than she bargained for, however, once she is aboard The Rochester, including handsome 19-year old Hugo Fairfax, who unexpectedly is the Captain of the ship and now Stella’s boss, as Stella will be teaching his younger sister, Jessa..  Although Hugo has a reputation for being moody and a drunk, Stella finds him to be charming and kind, at least around her.  She finds herself immediately attracted to him but becomes weary when she realizes that he is keeping secrets from her.  She has heard rumors that The Rochester is haunted and when strange things start happening aboard the ship, Stella becomes determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. What Stella doesn’t bargain on, however, is that trying to find the answer to one mystery leads her down an even more dangerous path, one that she may not be able to escape from…

Stella.  I really liked Stella right away.  Just like the original Jane Eyre character, Stella is smart, plain, and very outspoken.  She’s also an orphan who happens to be great with kids.  One of my favorite qualities about her is that while she remains respectful at all times, she doesn’t just stand there and let people insult her because they think they’re better than she is.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am a sucker for a scrappy underdog and Stella fits the bill. When Stella goes head-to-head with a wealthy young woman named Bianca who perceives Stella as a threat for Hugo’s affections and goes out of her way to belittle Stella in front of Hugo, I was cheering Stella on every step of the way. Aside from her outspokenness, I also admired Stella’s sense of self-sacrifice.  She has a very strong moral compass and will sacrifice herself at any moment to save the lives of others.  It was an impressive quality to see in someone so young.

Hugo.  My love for Hugo stems from my love for complicated characters and they don’t get much more complicated than Hugo Fairfax.  One moment he’s fun, flirty, and charming, and being the best big brother Jessa could ever wish for, but then the next moment, he’s broody, secretive, and constantly drinking.  It’s clear that he’s hiding something.  It’s just not clear what that something is, or whether anyone else on his crew knows what it is either.  I loved that his character had all of these layers, and like Stella, I wanted to get through all of them and figure out who the real Hugo is.

Romance.  I really liked that Donne crafted a romance between Stella and Hugo that was very reminiscent of what we got with Jane and Mr. Rochester in the original tale.  The chemistry between Stella and Hugo is believable and I liked that even though the attraction was almost immediate, the relationship itself still takes time to develop and is fraught with obstacles, including not only Bianca but also whatever Hugo is hiding from Stella regarding the happenings aboard The Rochester.

Secrets, Mysteries, and Danger.  Even though the setting is in space, the story still has a Gothic feel to it because of all of the secrets that seem to be lurking in the shadows aboard The Rochester.  As Stella begins to investigate, the suspense and tension really starts to ratchet up and I found myself getting more and more into the story because I wanted to know what was really going on aboard the ship once it became clear it was not just Stella’s imagination getting the better of her.

Made Up Words.  This will probably be one of those things that bothers me but no one else, but it was driving me crazy that the characters in Brightly Burning kept using the word FREX as a curse.   I mean, seriously – Set in the future or not, most of the characters we encounter on the ships are descended from Americans and even if they aren’t, the ‘F’ word they are clearly trying to use is universal enough that it made no sense to me how they got from the familiar ‘F’ word to frex.  Frex this, frex that, frexxing etc.  Like I said, it’s probably just me but I just cringed every time the word came up.

Rushed Ending.  I don’t want to say that the pacing was slow throughout the rest of the novel because it wasn’t, but it felt like we really kicked it into high gear as the end drew near.  I’m being vague here because I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll just say that it felt like a few important details were just glossed over in favor of wrapping things up quickly.  For that reason, while I did love the ending overall, I just would have liked a little more from it.

Brightly Burning is a fun and unique retelling of the classic novel, Jane Eyre.  The author does a remarkable job of updating the story to a believable and entertaining science fiction tale set in space, while retaining all of the memorable details from the original novel.  I think Brightly Burning would appeal to readers, even if they’ve never read Jane Eyre, as long as they enjoy science fiction with a side of swoony romance, dark secrets, and even a conspiracy or two.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

three-half-stars

About Alexa Donne

Alexa Donne is a Ravenclaw who wears many hats, including fan convention organizing, teen mentoring, college admissions essay consulting, YouTube-ing and podcasting. When she’s not writing science fiction and fantasy for teens, Alexa works in international television marketing. A proud Boston University Terrier, she lives in Los Angeles with two fluffy ginger cats named after YA literature characters. Brightly Burning is her debut novel.

Alexa is represented by Elana Roth-Parker of Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Weekly Recap #52: Week of 5/6 – 5/12

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

First of all, let me say Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms who are celebrating today!  My mom is visiting today, so I’ll be joining her for lunch and a movie as soon as I finish writing up this post.  My son chose our Mother’s Day activities so we will be seeing Avengers: Infinity War today.  Probably not what I would have picked for Mother’s Day but oh well, it should be entertaining anyway, lol.

This week started out slow but then went a bit off the rails for me and my family.  We won our last soccer game of the season on Tuesday night but then found out Friday morning that playoffs started the next morning, with our playoff game being at 10a.m.  Normally we have some time in between the last games and the playoffs so no one was expecting the schedule to come out so quickly and for the games to start the next day.  Needless to say, we hadn’t practiced at all going into the game on Saturday.  Even better than that was that our coach had to work and couldn’t even be at the game.  My husband and another parent stepped up and coached the team so that we at least didn’t have to forfeit.  The game ended up being one of the most intense kids’ soccer games I’ve ever watched.  We were tied 0-0 going into the 4th quarter, then with 2 minutes left on the clock, we finally scored a goal.  We thought we had it in the bag then, but with 45 seconds left in the game, the other team tied it up.  Because it was a playoff game, it couldn’t end with a tie, however, so the refs told us that we would play two bonus quarters, 5 minutes each.  At the end of those, we were still tied, so then we played a sudden death shoot out.  After a round of that, we were still tied!  Finally, during the second shoot out round, the other team scored on our goalie and the game ended.  Our season may be over, but I could not be prouder of this group of kids.  They did not go down without a fight.  And it was over 90 degrees and brutally sunny while they were playing so it was all the more impressive since I was melting into a puddle in my chair just watching them.

Aside from the soccer drama, not much else has gone on here.  Work, home, read, watch a little TV.  I’ve actually spent way too much time watching the TV renewals and cancellations this week and stressing out about whether or not Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be renewed.  As of my typing up this post, S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only show ABC hasn’t made a decision on yet so I’m on pins and needles about that.  This week’s episode was so fantastic too!  Any Philinda shippers out there?!  OMG!

On that note, I think that’s about it for me.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

     

 

 UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

 
 

 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

 
  
  
 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for I STOP SOMEWHERE and GEEKERELLA

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for I STOP SOMEWHERE and GEEKERELLAI Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
five-stars
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 27, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn't need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn't the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

Review:

T.E. Carter’s I Stop Somewhere is a stark, raw, and heart wrenching story about a teenager named Ellie Frias, who finds herself trapped after a brutal assault.  Not only is Ellie unable to escape, she is forced to watch many other girls be victimized as she was because her attackers are serial rapists.  As she waits for someone to find her, Ellie resorts to using her memories as a way to cope with not only what she has gone through, but what she is forced to witness each time her attackers find a new victim.

What I found so interesting about this book is that even though there’s clearly a crime, there’s no mystery here to solve.  Because we’re seeing everything unfold through the eyes of the victim, we know exactly who the perpetrators are.  The only questions here are will they be punished for their crimes and will the victims get justice, which is where the crux of Carter’s narrative lies.  I Stop Somewhere points out some ugly truths about rape culture and misogyny, victim blaming in particular, and it also exposes how wealth and privilege mean more to some than making sure justice is served.

The most powerful aspect of I Stop Somewhere, however, is actually not its exploration of these dark themes.  Instead, it’s the look inside of Ellie’s mind that we are given.  As we watch the events of the present unfold through Ellie’s eyes, we also take an intimate look at her life as she reflects on all of her hopes and dreams, regrets, as well as any and all choices that she has made throughout her life that have led to her current situation.  I found myself in tears a few times while reading Ellie’s thoughts because all she wanted was to be loved. It’s a heartbreaking look at just how fragile and vulnerable a teenage girl’s esteem can be and how there are monsters out there who prey on that vulnerability.

I Stop Somewhere is, by no means, an easy book to read. There were times when I had to set it aside because it just had me too upset to continue. I went back and forth between being heartbroken about everything that happened to Ellie and being absolutely furious about how law enforcement and the justice system were treating the victims.  It’s an emotional draining read at times, but one that I would highly recommend.  5 STARS

 

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for I STOP SOMEWHERE and GEEKERELLAGeekerella by Ashley Poston
four-stars
Series: Starfield #1
Published by Quirk Books on April 4, 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad's old costume, Elle's determined to win - unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons - before he was famous. Now they're nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake - until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Review:

As you can probably surmise from the title, Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is a retelling of the classic Cinderella fairytale.  What I loved most about this story is that although it clearly retained lots of awesome shout-outs to the original tale –  the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the pumpkin coach, the dance, the slipper, and so much more – it was still a completely unique, fun, and quirky contemporary tale in its own right.

I liked the spin the author put on the Cinderella tale here because not only do we get Cinderella’s side of the story, as we would expect, but Poston also delivers Prince Charming’s side of the story as well.  Our Cinderella in this story is a teenager named Elle.  Her parents are dead so she is living with her stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle is a geek at heart and a diehard fan of the cult classic sci-fi show Starfield.  When she learns there is going to be a cosplay contest as part of a promotion for a new Starfield movie, Elle can’t resist entering, especially since the prize is a trip to the fan convention, ExcelsiCon (that her father founded).  Our Prince Charming in Geekerella is Darien, a popular actor who has been cast to play the lead in the new Starfield movie.  We learn that even though he’s a teen heartthrob and has fangirls practically throwing themselves at his feet, he’s also a super geek and diehard Starfield fan as well.  Playing the lead in this film is a dream come true for him.

Even though I’m not a big romance reader, I thought the budding romance in Geekerella was super cute. I thought it was hilarious that Elle absolutely hated Darien’s guts in the beginning and thought he was the worst possible choice to play the lead in the movie.  Darien kind of brings this on himself because he has kept his fanboy life a secret, but it’s great fun watching their relationship unfold and develop from that initial misunderstanding.

My absolute favorite part of the book though was the way the author writes about the Starfield fandom.  She does such an amazing job that I was practically convinced that there really was such a fandom.  And I wanted there to be such a fandom – I wanted to watch the TV show, get dressed up and go to the ExcelsiCon.  I thought she just did such a brilliant job capturing the excitement of being a part of a fandom, particularly her descriptions of the cosplaying and going to cons.  If you’re looking for a book that will bring out your own inner geek, definitely consider reading Geekerella.  It’s one of the cutest and quirkiest retellings I’ve read in a long time.  4 STARS

five-stars

About Ashley Poston

ASHLEY POSTON loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in How to Kick Butt Without Even Trying (aka English), and solidified her love for storytelling. When not proclaiming her undying love for movie star studs and emotionally compromised robots, she’s in search for her next great adventure. She lives in South Carolina with her bossy cat, and they are firm believers that we’re all a bunch of weirdos looking at other weirdos, asking for their usernames.

Sometimes, you can catch her lurking around in coffee shops where she reads copious amounts of fanfic, watches way too much anime, and plays a lot of video games. Oh, and she writes books, too. Sometimes. When the stars are in position.

For rights inquiries, please contact Holly Root of Root Literary.

About T.E. Carter

TE Carter was born in New England and has lived in New England for pretty much her entire life. Throughout her career, she’s done a lot of things, although her passion has always been writing. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found reading classic literature, playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge watching baking competitions. She continues to live in New England with her husband and their two cats.

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE by Lauren James

 

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE by Lauren James.   I have to admit that the cover of this book is what really drew me to it – that image of the girl sitting alone, surrounded by all of that darkness and looking out at the vastness of space.  As I started reading the synopsis, I got really excited when I saw that it’s actually a sci-fi thriller, which wasn’t at all what I was expecting based on the cover.  I especially want to know what J’s mission is and why it makes Romy suddenly think that there are worse things than being all alone in space.  It sounds so ominous…

 

THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE by Lauren James

Publication Date:   July 3, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

A surprising and gripping sci-fi thriller with a killer twist

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

 

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Purple is My Passion: Top 10 Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover

Created at canva.com

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is Books With My Favorite Color On the Cover (or In the Title).  Okay, so I have a thing for purple.  Dark purple, lilac, lavendar, grape, you name it, I love it.  And I have ever since I was a little girl.  I don’t know what it is about the color, but I’ve just always been drawn to it and it just makes me happy whenever I see it.  And oh yes, boy does it carry over into my books! I’m most likely to be drawn to a book I wouldn’t normally pick up if the cover has plenty of purple in it.  I’ve found a few new favorites that way and yes, I’ve picked up a few duds that way too, lol.  And what an easy color to find 10 books for.  All I had to do was turn around and stare at my shelves a couple of minutes for most of them, although Muse of Nightmares isn’t out yet. I’m just already in love with that cover and couldn’t resist adding it to my collage of purple goodness.

 

* * * * *

Purple is My Passion: Top 10 Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover

 

THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker

AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

GEEKERELLA by Ashley Poston

MUSE OF NIGHTMARES by Laini Taylor

WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE by Lana Popović

RED WINTER by Annette Marie

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY by Amanda Foody

JAZZ by Toni Morrison

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by J.K. Rowling

 

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Question:  Do you have any favorite purple covers?  If not, what’s your favorite color and does it entice you to pick up books you might normally not give a second look to?

Review: THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL

Review:  THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEELThe Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
three-half-stars
on May 8, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW:

Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel is a fun and lighthearted book that is filled with my favorite three F words:  friendship, family, and food.  The story follows Clara Shin, a teenager who thrives on her reputation at school as the class clown.  Clara lives to disrupt school and pull pranks on unsuspecting people like uptight class goody two shoes, Rose Carver.  Rose and Clara loathe each other, and Clara loves every opportunity that presents itself to get under Rose’s skin, which leads her to devise a prank that is so outrageous, it’s sure to push Rose over the edge.  Clara’s prank not only goes terribly wrong, but it also manages to land both she and Rose in hot water with the school administration, and with their parents of course.  The principal initially plans to suspend both girls from school, but Clara’s dad comes up with an even better punishment:  he proposes that Clara and Rose work together all summer aboard his food truck and that the wages they earn can be used to pay for the damage done to the school by Clara’s prank and the aftermath caused by Rose’s reaction to it.

What could possibly go wrong?  But that said, maybe something could actually go right…

Clara and I got off to a rough start because I wasn’t a fan of her fondness for pranks and disruptions.  I immediately worried that this might end up being an issue for me since I’m the type of reader who really needs to like or somehow relate to the main character.  I’ll expand more on my issues with Clara in the ‘Dislikes’ section of my review, but for now I’ll just say that I was able to move past them fairly quickly so that I could enjoy the story and by the end, I really liked Clara.

Why the change?  Mainly because she grows so much as a person throughout the story.  I quickly realized that most of Clara’s clowning around was her way of protecting herself.  She is afraid to open herself up to others for fear of getting hurt and so she wears her humor like a suit of armor, keeping all but a select few at a safe distance.  She walks around acting like she doesn’t care about anything because it’s just easier that way.  Realizing this about Clara made it much easier to connect with her, mainly because I wanted her to take a chance and open herself up to something real, whether it be friendship, romance, or a bit of both.  It probably sounds cliché but I wanted her to not just laugh, but to live, laugh and love, which brings me to the fabulous relationships in this book.

The relationships in this book were what really made the book for me.  When Clara is initially forced to work with Rose all summer long, she thinks it’s going to be an absolute nightmare because they can’t stand each other.  What they realize over the course of their summer together, however, is that maybe they aren’t as different as they thought they were.  If you’re into the idea of enemies becoming friends, this is a relationship that will certainly appeal to you.  Even though I truly thought Rose and Clara were going to kill each other early on in the book, I soon found myself really looking forward to their scenes together as they friendship started to take off. It was so cute, since it became clear that neither of them had had this kind of friendship before.  In that sense, it was a journey of discovery for both Clara and Rose.

On a similar note is Clara’s relationship with Hamlet.  Hamlet is absolutely precious.  He’s a Chinese American teen who works at a coffee cart at one of the spots where Clara’s dad likes to park his food truck.  Hamlet is clearly enamored with Clara as soon as he meets her, and he’s so sweet and cute and funny, that he starts to work his way into Clara’s heart, no matter how determined she is to keep that armor of hers in place.  It was just so cute to watch their relationship grow.  Even though I’m not a romantic at all, I wanted Hamlet to get the girl so badly I couldn’t stand it, lol.

In addition to her budding relationships with Rose and Hamlet, I was also an especially huge fan of Clara’s relationship with her dad, Adrian.  Adrian isn’t perfect by any means.  He makes mistakes like all parents do and he realizes he has probably been a little lax in the way he disciplined Clara over the years, but he’s still just such a great dad.  I loved that he came up with the idea of making her work on his food truck all summer and even though she was livid at the beginning, it was fun to watch them work together and to see Clara learn to appreciate just how hard her Dad is working to try to make all of their dreams come true.

I also really appreciated all of the sacrifices that he made in his own life in order to always be there for Clara.  And the more we learned about just how much he really did for Clara, the more I adored him.  He really makes up for the fact that Clara’s mother is basically a dud of a parent.  Seriously, what kind of a person just abandons their family because they’d rather be a social media influencer and live the posh life.  (As I’m sure you can guess, I was not a fan of Clara’s mom, especially since I have a feeling that she’s the reason why Clara felt like she needed to protect herself from getting hurt).

The Food:  This might sound silly, but one of my favorite parts about The Way You Make Me Feel was the newfound appreciation it gave me for food trucks.  I guess it’s because we don’t have many here and the ones we do have are basic, but I had no idea what truly incredible meals you could get from a food truck.  Goo’s vivid descriptions of the Korean-Brazilian dishes that Clara’s dad served from his truck had my mouth watering every time he or the girls cooked and made me wish that his KoBra truck was a real thing so that I could stop by and try his delicious, spicy concoctions.

I have to admit that even though I ended up really liking Clara overall, I found her class clown routine in the opening pages of the novel to be so obnoxious and juvenile that I almost didn’t continue reading.  It’s probably a personality thing with me because when I was in high school, I never found the class clowns to be very funny either. It always seemed like they were trying too hard to be funny and that was the same vibe I got from Clara.  The humor just felt forced.  Thankfully, once she began serving her “sentence” working on her dad’s food truck, Clara toned down the class clown bit and became a much more enjoyable character for me.  She was still funny but the humor felt a lot more natural than her juvenile pranks did.

 

Even though I had some issues with Clara in the beginning, she really grew on me and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Way You Make Me Feel to anyone who enjoys lighthearted stories about friendship, family, and first loves. If you’re looking for a great summer/beach read, give The Way You Make Me Feel a chance.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

three-half-stars

About Maurene Goo

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Weekly Recap #51: Week of 4/29 – 5/5

 

It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

I’ve had a major case of Spring Fever all this week now that we have finally gotten some warm weather and the flowers are starting to bloom.  We pulled out and dusted off our deck furniture this week and now I’m just so ready to start spending more time outside.  I actually put on shorts for the first time this year today and promptly realized — when I could barely get my ass into them — that it’s also time for me to get out there and exercise more again.  I had been so good last fall about walking everyday and even jogging a few times here and there, but then I wimped out as soon as it got cold and haven’t done much of anything since.  I learned this week that even though I always say audiobooks aren’t a good fit for me, I actually do enjoy listening to them while I walk so yay for reading and exercising at the same time.  Multitasking at its best! 🙂

Speaking of reading, I’ve been in one of those moods where I just want to read books and not write any reviews.  Great for my reading week, not so great since I now need to hurry up and write 5 reviews before I forget everything about every book I read.  Why do I do this to myself?  My goal is to get caught up this week, but I’m not making any promises, especially since I just checked out Leah on the Offbeat from the library today, which immediately put every other book I planned to read on the back burner.  I can’t wait to dive in, which I’m going to do as soon as I finish working on this post!

On that note, I think that’s about it for me.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

     

 

 UPCOMING REVIEWS

       
 
   

 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

  
  
  
 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Source: Pinterest

Blog Tour Book Review: SONG OF BLOOD & STONE

Blog Tour Book Review:  SONG OF BLOOD & STONESong of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
three-half-stars
Series: Earthsinger Chronicles
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 1, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

Today is my stop on the St Martin’s Press Blog Tour for L. Penelope’s new novel, Song of Blood & Stone., so in this post, I’ll be sharing my honest thoughts on this first installment in Penelope’s exciting new historical fantasy series, Earthsinger Chronicles.

MY REVIEW:

Song of Blood & Stone is the captivating and thrilling first installment in L. Penelope’s new Earthsinger Chronicles fantasy series.  It follows Jasminda, a young woman who is orphaned and living alone.  She lives caught between two warring lands, Elsira and Lagrimar.  The people of Lagrimar are dark-skinned and many of them possess an unusual magic called Earthsong, while the people of Elsira are fair-skinned, non-magical, and possess a strong fear of this strange magic.  The Elsirans and Lagrimars have disliked and distrusted each other for generations and live in relative peace only because the two lands are separated by a magical wall called the Mantle.  The mantle has occasionally been breached over the years and each time there has been a breach, war has followed.

Even though she considers Elsira to be her homeland, because she is half-Elsiran and half-Lagrimar, Jasminda is treated as an outcast by everyone around her.  She therefore lives alone on the outskirts of Elsira and has little human contact on any given day, that is, until a group of menacing Elsiran soldiers show up on her doorstep seeking refuge.  With them is a prisoner they have clearly mistreated and beaten within an inch of his life.  Jasminda is drawn to this prisoner, whose name is Jack, right away and communicates with him whenever she can steal a moment to visit him.  She learns that Jack is actually a spy who had disguised himself to go behind enemy lines and prove that the rumors are true:  the Mantle is about to be destroyed and then nothing will stop the tyrant True Father and the people of Lagrimar from bring war and their magic to Elsira.

Jasminda helps Jack heal from his wounds and, working together, they manage to slip away from the Elsiran soldiers.  Realizing that their homeland truly is in danger, Jack and Jasminda vow to do whatever they can to stop this war and so they set off on a dangerous journey together to save Elsira by unlocking the mystery of what caused these two lands to become enemies in the first place…

 

Jasminda was such an easy character to fall in love with. Being half Elsiran and half Lagrimar, Jasminda is dark-skinned and possesses a weak version of the Earthsong like the Lagrimars, so while the Elsirans tolerate her on their land, they do not trust her and shun her at every opportunity. She endeared herself to me from the opening scenes of the book when some Elsiran ladies sneer at her while she is retrieving her mail, and she responds by using her Earthsong to change her skin color to match theirs, taunting the women and asking them if that made her appearance more acceptable to them.  I laughed aloud as the ladies, with horrified looks on their faces, scurried away from Jasminda as fast as they possibly could.

I’m always drawn to a character who is portrayed as an underdog anyway, but Jasminda also appealed to me because she’s smart, independent, and resourceful.  She knows how to take care of herself and she’s also a proud woman who refuses to hang her head no matter how poorly those around her treat her, not even when her grandfather tries to pay her to say that she is not related to him.  Apparently he fears that this mixed race child, visible proof of his own daughter’s transgression, might put a crimp in his political ambitions, so he wants Jasminda out of his life permanently.

Jack was also a likeable character.  He’s a proud Elsiran who serves in their military.  When Jasminda first encounters him, he is working as a spy, trying to gather evidence to prove there is a breach imminent so that his people can prepare for the war that will also be imminent. Even though he’s fiercely devoted to his own people, what I immediately liked about Jack was that he didn’t turn his nose up at Jasminda because of her skin color like the rest of his people do.  Instead, because she lives on Elsiran land, he sees it as his duty to protect her just as he would protect any other Elsiran citizen.  I admired his sense of duty and how passionate he was about doing what was right and honorable.

Even though I liked Jack, I have to admit there were a few moments when I wanted to throttle him.  As he became more and more attracted to Jasminda, he became very intense in his need to protect her.  I found myself yelling at him:  “Dude, she wears a knife strapped to her with a garter belt and she has saved your ass more than once already! She does NOT need you to save her!” LOL!

That said, I did very much enjoy their relationship.  Even though there was a bit of instant attraction, there was clearly chemistry between them and it felt like their relationship naturally progressed throughout the novel.  Even more than the romantic aspect of their relationship, what I really liked was how well they worked together as a team to try to find a way to stop the breach and the war.

Aside from these two great characters, what appealed to me the most about Song of Blood & Stone is that even though it was a fantasy, the author has packed it full of social issues that parallel important issues we are dealing with today in our own society.  This fantasy world very much mirrors our reality so it just made the story feel all the more relevant.  The two warring lands have created a refugee crisis similar to what we have witnessed in Syria.  Elsira has hundreds of Lagrimar refugees, and as we’ve witnessed with the Syrian refugees, reactions to them are very mixed.  While some are accepting of them, by and large, people are prejudiced against them and afraid of the magic and just want them to go back where they came from.  We also clearly see the racism and prejudice everywhere Jasminda goes.  She even experiences it as a guest in the royal palace.

The author also creates a magnificent backstory that explains how the war between the Elsirans and the Lagrimars got started in the first place.  The story is locked inside of a magical stone, and for reasons no one understands, only Jasminda is able to connect with the stone and reveal the story.  She does so a little at a time so that the backstory unfolds parallel to the story we’re following.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I’ll just say that it illustrates the roles that both the noble Sleeping Queen and the tyrannical True Father play in the conflict’s origins, as well as how the magical Earthsong factors in, and it ultimately reveals why Jasminda is able to connect with the stone when no one else can.  It’s all quite fascinating and I loved watching the two stories unfold alongside each other.

 

I don’t want to call any of these issues dislikes, but there were a few areas where I just felt like I wanted more from the story.

The first of which is the worldbuilding.  While I loved what the author created with the two warring lands and the mantle dividing them, I still felt like I only had a vague notion of what this fantasy world actually looked like.  I just couldn’t easily picture it, which was a little disappointing. I like to be able to vividly picture the fantasy land I’m reading about, so I’m really hoping for more detail in the next book.

I had the same experience with the magical system.  The idea of the Earthsong completely fascinated me, especially with its intense healing powers and the way Earthsingers can “link” and share their songs. That said, however, I felt like I never quite fully understand how exactly the Earthsong worked or what exactly one could do with it.  It seemed like everyone who could use it did something different with it and I didn’t really see a common thread.  So yeah, I’d definitely love to learn more about this Earthsong and what it entails, especially after seeing how differently True Father used it from so many others.

Finally, even though I enjoyed the romance between Jasminda and Jack, I still felt like it started to become a distraction the further along in the book I got.  I’m frantically flipping through pages trying to figure out how they’re going to stop the war, and Jack and Jasminda seem more and more preoccupied with how they’re going to be together since their relationship will be deemed unacceptable because of Jasminda’s mixed heritage.  War is coming, people. Focus! Fight first, love later! Needless to say, it was a little frustrating at times, haha!

 

Even with those few issues, I still thought this was a very strong start to what promises to be an outstanding fantasy series.  I thought the ending was absolutely brilliant and look forward to seeing where the story goes next.  I would recommend this to any reader who enjoys fantasy, romance, or even books that focus on social issues.  I would also say that this is probably best geared toward mature readers as the sexual encounters between Jasminda and Jack are quite detailed and intense.

That said, if you like fantasy and a badass heroine, definitely consider reading Song of Blood & Stone!

 

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. 

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

 

 

 

three-half-stars

About L. Penelope

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of fantasy and paranormal romance.

She was born in the Bronx, just after the birth of hip hop, but left before she could acquire an accent. Equally left and right-brained, she studied Film at Howard University and minored in Computer Science. This led to a graduate degree in Multimedia and a career in website development. She’s also an award-winning independent filmmaker, co-founded a literary magazine, and sometimes dreams in HTML.

Leslye lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents. Sign up for new release information and giveaways on her website: http://www.lpenelope.com.