REVIEW: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (+ Giveaway)

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Title: What If It’s Us
Author: Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera
Format: E-ARC
Publication: October 9th 2018 by Balzer + Bray and HarperTeen
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you HarperCollins and JM @ Book Freak Revelations!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic, Romance
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | National Book Store

Synopsis

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to the last day of the #WhatIfItsUs International Blog Tour!

Funny, charming, and heartfelt, What If It’s Us captures the nuances of relationships—both romantic and platonic.

Sixteen-year-old Arthur, a “five-foot-six Jewish kid with ADHD and the rage of a tornado,” is living in New York City for the summer while interning at his mom’s law firm. Having recently come out to his best friends back home in Georgia, he is ready to find out whatever the universe has in store for him. Ben, Puerto Rican and a native New Yorker, is an aspiring fantasy writer stuck in summer school with his ex-boyfriend who cheated on him. He thinks “the universe is an asshole,” while Arthur believes “in love at first sight… [f]ate, the universe, all of it.” But what if they meet at the post office on a random Monday afternoon? What if they get separated anyway and then reunited? Long time fans of Becky and Adam are in for a treat as the duo’s writing both shine and complement each other in this gem of a summer romance.

“But Arthur? I barely know him. I guess that’s any relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

Ask someone in the book community who even remotely knows me what book they associate me with and chances are they would tell you Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And for good reasons, too. I have read and loved Becky’s debut when it came out in 2015 and have never quite shut up about it. The same can be said of Adam and More Happy Than Not, which sucker punched me one too many times in the same year. And in What If It’s Us, the two team up to deliver a heartwarming tale of missed connections and cute boys believing in the universe. Of first dates and do-overs. Of missteps and grand gestures. Of families and friendships. This is a seamless collaboration, a thoughtful blend of each author’s signature style (Becky’s is often smile-inducing; Adam’s gravitate towards heartrending). And perhaps there was a lot of work behind the curtains to make that seem effortless, but it does seem effortless. You feel Arthur’s giddiness over New York and a budding romance, you feel for Ben and the sting of a recent break up, you share their hopes, and you root for them. Arthur is such a Becky Albertalli character—smart, eager, hilarious, and endearing. Ben, on the other hand, grounds the narrative. Adam Silvera’s imprint. Bit of a nerd, video game-playing, angsty, and all cynicism. At one point, he has a conversation with Arthur about being Puerto Rican but also “being so white and not speaking Spanish,” and I think it invites the reader to a bigger discussion about color and race.

“If I’m going to feel something, I want to feel it.”

As with the authors’s other titles, friendship is central to the story in this novel. And there is quite a cast of secondary characters, all as well written and diverse. Ben’s “bromance” with his best friend Dylan is probably my favorite. It is one of support and utter affection. And outside of Ben and Arthur, their scenes together are some of the ones I enjoyed the most. There is Jessie and Ethan, Arthur’s best friends back in Georgia, and I don’t know what this tells you about me, but there is this confrontation between the three, and it is one that has stuck with me and one that I bring up in conversations. Further exploration of friendship includes how people in one have to make room for romantic relationships and how people navigate shifting friendships because of break ups within a circle. There is of course the present parents, too, which we are increasingly seeing more of in YA. I appreciate how involved the Seusses and Alejos are in their children’s lives, of which the former provides a messier look at marriage.

“But maybe this isn’t how life works. Maybe it’s all about people coming into your life for a little while and you take what they give you and use it on your next friendship or relationship. And if you’re lucky, maybe some people pop back in after you thought they were gone for good.”

What If It’s Us is also just ridiculously charming. There is a line in the book that goes, “I’m smiling so hard my jaw hurts.” And that is such an accurate image of my reading experience. The banters, as well as pop culture references, are aplenty and Arthur has no chill that his chapters are often laugh-out-loud funny. But if there is one thing about this that I’m not a fan of? It is the epilogue. It seems gratuitous, to me at least, and I would much rather we skipped it altogether.

In the Venn diagram of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera fans, the overlap tends to encompass a larger area. And What If It’s Us will certainly delight those who find themselves in that area. But on the off chance that I’m wrong and it doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, remember that you’re not obligated to like it, though you would be wrong not to.

4.5 out of 5

Author

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Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

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Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

Facebook | Twitter | Website

You can read What If It’s Us, too! Enter THIS giveaway for a chance to win one (1) finished copy. Entries are open worldwide (with the exception of the UK, South Africa, Australia, and India due to publishing/selling rights) and will be accepted until 11:59pm (PHT), October 19th.

BUT! What if you have two (2!) more ways to score a copy? Massive thanks to HarperCollins International and their generosity and incredible support, you have! Head over to JM’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, which you can find HERE and HERE, respectively, to find out how. And good luck! Maybe the universe wants you to meet Arthur and Ben. The universe definitely wants you to meet Arthur and Ben.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

October 5
Reading Through Infinity
Aimee, Always

October 6
Struggling Bookaholic
Kath Reads

October 7
Drizzle and Hurricane
The Ultimate Fangirl

October 9
Book Freak Revelations
Chasing Faerytales

October 10
The Bibliophile Confessions

October 11
Bentch Creates
Hollie’s Blog

October 12
Read by Nicka

Have you read What If It’s Us? Is this the cutest or is this the cutest? And with whom did you relate the most: Arthur or Ben? If you haven’t read it yet, talk to me about your favorite Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera books instead! Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.Signature 02

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REVIEW: Black Wings Beating by Alex London

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Title: Black Wings Beating
Author: Alex London
Format: ARC, 421 pages
Publication: September 25th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Gifted by a friend (thank you so much, Hazel!)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | National Book Store

Synopsis

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than birds of prey, and no one is more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer, while his twin sister, Kylee, possesses ancient gifts for it, but wants to be free of falconry altogether. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward the Six Villages, with a rebel army leaving nothing in its wake but blood and empty sky. No bird or falconer will be safe from this invasion.

Together, the twins must embark on a journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the near-mythic ghost eagle, a solitary killer and the most feared of the Uztari birds of prey. They each go for their own reasons: Brysen for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Review

Alex London explores queer heroism and complex sibling relationship in Black Wings Beating—an epic, gripping, and exceedingly original opener to a new fantasy series.

In the Six Villages, nothing is more revered than birds of prey, and no one is more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists. Kylee possesses ancient gifts for falconry, but wants nothing to do with it. Brysen longs for the glory his sister refuses. But rumors of war approaching threaten the twin’s home and the freedom they have worked hard for. And things get more tangled when Brysen gets swept up in Dymian’s, his boyfriend and trainer, debts and agrees to capture the elusive ghost eagle, a solitary killer and the most feared of the Uztari birds of prey. And that is at the core of Black Wings Beating. It is a story of power and bravery. Of longing and heroism. Of hurt. Of betrayal. Of forgiveness. It is a story of political intrigues and the fierce, complicated bond between siblings. All grounded in love.

“But he knew this was what he was meant to do. This was what his father never could. He’d gone into the mountain filled with rage, and it had been his death. Brysen would go as an act of love, and he’d survive.”

I am always drawn to stories about families, especially the beautifully complex ones. And the author certainly delivers. Brysen is this loyal and unrelentingly romantic sibling. He yearns for glory and will do anything for the boy he loves. He is reckless like that. And if it isn’t obvious, he is gay. So I won’t lie; I came to the party for Brysen. What I didn’t expect, however, was to end up being more invested in Kylee. Who is fierce, sensible, and equally loyal. Who thinks about her brother more than anything else and is ready to protect him no matter the cost. Kylee, who evidently harbors a secret of her own. And that is what’s so compelling about the book, to me at least. That in the quieter moments, you see Brysen and the lasting effects of abuse. You see him struggle, “fighting against the weight of a world that dragged down boys who wanted to fly.” You see Kylee deal with the guilt she carries. You witness how the twins hurt each other, often unknowingly, at times purposefully. But you also feel the undeniable love between the two.

“He wanted to be the hero of this story, and a part of her wanted him to be, too. She herself was no hero.”

In a Mashable article that was released in June, London said that for the Skybound series, he “wanted to try not only to write queer heroes, but to write queer heroism.” Adding, “there is a challenge in fantasy—especially epic fantasy—that even with queer heroes and romances, it can still operate in the same hetero and patriarchal modes: a hero has to stab stuff with pointy things to dominate the bad guys and win.” And this translates really well into his work because Black Wings Beating is queer in the most beautiful of ways. The author not only uses love and gentleness as sources of power, he centers both in a brutal world. And I am so ready for more conversations about this that don’t necessarily revolve around toxic masculinity.

“All things were bound to their opposites. The hawk didn’t always win against the mouse, and brutality didn’t always conquer gentleness. It was rarely celebrated, but sometimes gentleness won.”

There are also the unique world-building and thrilling battle sequences. As well as matriarchal owl cults and a giant killer bird. But more than anything, it is the diverse cast of well-written characters that makes London’s return to YA a must-read. Like Brysen’s goshawk, I needed no tethering. I was drawn to the story—a raptor trained to return to its master.

Do not let this fly under your radars!

5.0 out of 5

Author

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Alex London has written books for adults, children, and teens. His young adult debut, Proxy, was an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, a Rainbow List Selection, and a 2016 ALA Popular Paperback, and appeared on state reading lists across the country, from New York to Texas and California to Arkansas. At one time a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, Alex lives with his husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Twitter | TumblrWebsite

Hey y’all! Yes, I’m still alive! How have you been? Have you read the Proxy duology? Are you going to pick up Black Wings Beating anytime soon? Have I convinced you to? No? What are some of your favorite YA fantasy series? Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.Signature 02

EXCERPT: All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

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Hello and welcome to the second stop of the #AllofThisIsTruePH blog tour! Thanks to my dear friend JM @ Book Freak Revelations for letting me be a part of this!

I will never not find a single narrative told from multiple perspectives compelling. It is endlessly fascinating, to me at least, how the writer uses this device to examine the inherent power—and limitation—of story: that it is shaped by the person who tells it. And that is what I really enjoyed in Peñaflor’s sophomore novel, All of This Is True. That sense of not getting the whole account. That some things were being constantly and purposefully withheld from me. And that it was told through a series of interviews, online articles, and book excerpts was such an excellent narrative choice.

And today, I am sharing an excerpt from the novel itself! Here; you’re welcome:

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MIRI

So, tell me about Fatima Ro. There are a lot of people who are curious about her right now.

All right. But I’m just going to say this outright because it’s probably the one thing we still agree on—me, Soleil, and Penny. We were shallow before we met Fatima Ro. We were all about the scene. You know what I mean about the scene: the parties, the trinkets, the lifestyle. We hosted.

Hosted?

House parties at Penny’s place. It feels like forever ago. Ugh. [shakes head] All those people, the throbbing music . . . Handling all that money.

What money?

We collected a cover charge to fund subsequent parties. Very industrious.

That’s us. [sighs] We met on Orientation Day in seventh grade when we were grouped together for the Graham scavenger hunt. Winners become orientation leaders the following year. We won by splitting up and then finding the last clue together—the school seal on the roof.

You’re a good team.

We were, yes . . . before this. Anyway, our parties were epic. The last one we hosted was casino night. We had game tables and chocolate poker chips. It won’t be outdone for years.

That’s pretty impressive.

[laughs] Oh, please. We thought taking selfies on the roulette table was the stuff of life. The reality was we were bored out of our skulls. You see, the basic human need for emotional intimacy can’t be satisfied by a sushi station or a celebrity DJ. Fatima made us realize that. She changed everything for us. Even that phrase, “the stuff of life,” that’s something I picked up from her. I wouldn’t have said that just now if it weren’t for her; I probably would’ve said something more like “We thought taking selfies was so Vogue-worthy.” But now, I’m saying “the stuff of life” because Fatima pretty much gave us a whole new language, a new way of thinking, of living. When she took us in, all of a sudden I realized . . . we all realized that we were starving to be part of something meaningful. Becoming friends with Fatima Ro—I mean, actually being part of her inner circle—was it.

Were you a fan of her novel Undertow?

Definitely. That’s how this whole thing started. Absolutely. All of us were fans. Well, we girls were, anyway. Jonah was along for the company. But still, even he was fascinated by her. I read Undertow when it first came out. When I found out how young Fatima was—barely out of college—it made sense that I felt close to her writing. She got me. I love Undertow as if it’s a living being, which is passion in its truest form. That’s what separates a casual interest from a passion. I credit Fatima for my understanding of that.

You see, you can be in love with a thing the way you can be in love with a person. A thing can physically trigger the same chemical responses as another human can: oxytocin and vasopressin. Fatima taught me this. Her book proved it. But I just cringe at how the media is comparing it to other novels. Because what you have to understand is that Undertow was never a Harry Potter phenomenon. I mean, nobody’s wearing Undertow Halloween costumes. There’s no Undertow Disney theme park. But that’s what’s so authentic about it. If you love Undertow it’s because you get it, not because there’s a Tom Hanks movie and a Happy Meal. This book has a much quieter, more thoughtful following. And to me, it feels more genuine to be part of something personal like that.

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Title: All of This Is True
Author: Lygia Day Peñaflor
Publication: May 15th 2018 by HarperTeen
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Mystery
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

Synopsis

Four Long Island teens befriend a bestselling YA novelist, only to find their deepest, darkest secrets in the pages of her next book—with devastating consequences.

Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined…

Author

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Lygia became a writer by writing letters to a friend she met on a cruise ship when she was 14. She is the author of Unscripted Joss Byrd (Macmillan) and All of This Is True, which will be published by HarperTeen US, Bloomsbury UK, and translated in six countries in summer 2018.

Lygia also teaches child stars on television and movie sets. Her students have included cast members of Gossip Girl, Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order SVU, I Am Legend, and others. She lives with her husband on Long Island where she rides horses and watches reruns of everything.

TwitterWebsite

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

May 17Book Freak Revelations
May 19The Ultimate Fangirl
May 20Bibliophile Kid
May 21Stay Bookish

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

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Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Author: Lee Blauersouth
Format: Ebook
Publication: March 15th 2018 by Createspace Independent Publishing
Source: Author via blog tour (thank you Lee Blauersouth and Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch!)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

Synopsis

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

Review

I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to one of the stops on the second day of the #SHOSPH Blog Tour!

Heavily character-driven, Lee Blauersouth’s Secondhand Origin Stories is less a superhero novel and more a novel about a dysfunctional family of superheroes. And that makes for a more compelling narrative.

The book follows four teens; each having something to prove, all wanting to protect their family. There is Opal, who has always dreamed of becoming a superhero and joining the Sentinels. Issac, who has been developing secret but positively illegal brain-altering nanites to save a family member. Yael, who has been training for the life of a superhero for as long as xe can remember. Except the past, an inheritance xe has no control over, keeps resurfacing and threatening that future. And Jamie, who will always support her siblings no matter what. But can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed? One of the things I love about Secondhand Origin Stories is that even though it has an ensemble cast, the author does a fantastic job of shining a spotlight on the individual characters. And that is no easy task. You feel for the characters. They are complex and flawed and you root for them.

“Xe stepped towards him. His knees bent as if to step back, but he held his ground. He was a hero. Which meant Yael had to be something else.”

It is quite hard to miss out the amount of thoughtful nuances that went into writing this story. It is timely, gripping, and emotionally resonant. Each character has a distinct voice, and although the novel is told in third-person, the shifts are seamless and at times even smart. For instance, there is a confrontation between Issac, Jamie, and their mom, and it unfolds in such a way that the reader views it from Opal’s POV. And I think that is brilliant, because it strips down the scene to its barest form. It also shows that Opal is an outsider. Which is another aspect of the book I appreciate: it does not shy away from the struggles of its characters. You join Yael as xe makes peace with who xe is and who xe wants to become. You are there as Opal wrestles with the reality of her dreams. As Jamie tries to reconnect with her dad. And as Issac reevaluates what he believes in and how much he is willing to fight for them. I am a sucker for family drama, and Secondhand Origin Stories certainly delivers. It could have easily fit in the CW lineup.

“We can’t always save everyone.”

I could not stress this more: we still need diverse books. There are still not nearly enough diverse stories by and about people from diverse experiences out there, and that is why I am stoked for Blauersouth’s book and what it adds to the conversation. Secondhand Origin Stories has representations on gender, sexuality, race, and disability. It touches on systemic racism and the insidious ways marginalization works. There is one scene where a black character finds herself faced with uniformed men and she gets anxious, not without reasons, and is suddenly “hyper-aware of her skin, dark enough to paint a target on her.” And it is these little details that really leave the most impact, for me at least.

“There was something about queer kids that made them seem to cluster together, without even meaning to. Without even knowing. It was something she’d learned to trust.”

Perhaps it has a slow start and perhaps it is a bit unpolished, but this novel is self-published y’all! I can only imagine what Blauersouth can accomplish with the backing of an established publisher.

For superhero film buffs who want well-written character arcs. Go grab yourself a copy of Secondhand Origin Stories!

4.0 out of 5
Author

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After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.

If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.

TwitterWebsite

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

April 23
Secondhand Origin Stories blog tour launch
Feature post from The Backwards Bookshelf
Feature post from Candid Ceillie
Review from The Backwards Bookshelf
Review from Crimson Blogs
Review from Samantha House
Review from Stuffed Shelves

April 24
Excerpt from Not Just Fiction
Excerpt from Utopia State of Mind
Feature post from Unputdownable Books
Review from That Bookshelf Bitch
Review from Cliste Bella
Review from wallflower’s plight

April 25
Excerpt from The Nerdy Elite
Excerpt from BookMyHart
Review from Candid Ceillie
Review from F A N N A
Review from forthenovellovers
Review from Igniting Pages
Review from Spines In a Line

April 26
Excerpt from Provocatrix
Review from Bookish Wanderess
Review from bookishwisps
Review from Flying Paperbacks
Review from TheHufflepuffNerdette
Review from My Reading List
Review from Unputdownable Books

April 27
Author interview on That Bookshelf Bitch
Feature post from Cliste Bella
Review from Afire Pages
Review from The Book Maiden
Review from The Little Miss Bookworm
Review from Reader Fox and a Box of Books
Review from The Youngvamp’s Haven

Question: are you Team Plot-Driven or Team Character-Driven? And have you heard about Secondhand Origin Stories before today? Would you be picking it up anytime soon? Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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Unmissable Weekly: February 25, 2018

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news, lists, and/or think pieces from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

The Most Anticipated Book of 2018
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Disney-Marvel’s “Black Panther” is heading for a stunning $235 million debut over the four-day President’s Day weekend at 4,020 North American locations, estimates showed Monday.

“Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, has blown away its original tracking in less than a month. The film, which carries an estimated $200 million production cost, had been tracking to bring in between an impressive $100 and $120 million when first estimates emerged on Jan. 25.

Wakanda forever! (Yes, I am totally chill and not freaking out.)

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This book is set to come out amidst a national conversation about student activism and weapon use on campus. It’s surreal watching it happen; Anger was born out of my desire to explore my own experiences with police forces on high school campuses, becoming an activist while still a teenager, and learning how to join with fellow students to fight for what’s right. It is unfortunate that this is all relevant again, nearly 16 years since I graduated high school. That’s one reason I love this cover so much: it conveys a sense of hope more than anything else. It’s my desire that Anger inspire kids everywhere to join a long tradition of student activism and to feel supported while doing so.

Mark Oshiro’s debut Anger is a Gift has a new cover art and IS IT MAY YET!

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Yara Shahidi is in talks to star in the adaptation of the best-selling YA novel The Sun Is Also a Star.

The Nicola Yoon book centers on Natasha, a girl in New York City whose pragmatism is challenged when she falls in love right before her family is set to be deported back to Jamaica.

The Sun is Also a Star may soon find its lead actress.

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We’ve been told the same story for so long. We’ve seen literally 1,000 Lord of the Rings movies. I keep thinking about what it would have been like if I had seen this growing up — if I’d seen someone even darker than me, someone who doesn’t have straight fantasy hair, but a curly magical afro. I know what it would have done that for me, because I know what it did for me when I did see these things for the first time. Like with Kerry Washington on Scandal. I remember being like — that’s me, I’m the main character! I’m badass! I’m emotionally complex! I’m making out with the president! Cool cool cool! You don’t realize what’s missing until you see it. And then once you do, you’re like, why do I feel like I could lift a car right now? So this is why white men feel so great all the time.

Tomi Adeyemi is coming for y’all, starting with the book trailer for Children of Blood and Bone and a fantastic interview.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

Unmissable Weekly: February 18, 2018

Bookish and Awesome’s weekly round-up of buzz-worthy news, lists, and/or think pieces from around the bookternet in bite size. Click on the links to be directed to the full articles.

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It was sitting down and thinking about what it was that brought me to write THUG. Starr’s story [from THUG] is a tragedy we see unfortunately too much, and it always makes headline news. But I had to think back to when I was a teenager, and I had to think about what was my big tragedy as a teenager. I never saw a friend get killed by a cop. My big tragedy as a teenager was when my mom lost her job. Kids like Bri, they don’t end up on the news like that. Kids like Bri, they become statistics and numbers. We hear numbers about poverty. We hear statistics about poverty. Then we see the stereotypes about poverty. Those kids are never seen as actual people. Their stories are never told. For me, I sat down and I said, “You know what, I want to write something about that big tragedy that happened in my life, because there are so many kids out there who are going through that same thing, and we don’t talk about that enough.”

Angie Thomas’ sophomore novel, On the Come Up, has a cover and she talked to EW about it and what the process of writing this follow-up was like.

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Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish and Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy are finalizing deals to star in The Kitchen, based on comic by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, published through DC’s Vertigo imprint. Andrea Berloff, who co-wrote Straight Outta Compton, is writing the screenplay and making the film her feature directing debut.

I have yet to see Haddish in a project but I’ll definitely watch anything McCarthy works on, so yes please!

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In a recent post on his blog, comedically titled “Not a Blog,” about the Hugo Awards nominations, Martin engaged with curious fans in the comments section. There, he revealed that “Fire and Blood,” a spinoff about the Targaryen family history, will be split into two volumes – both of which will come out before “Winds of Winter.”

At this point, I’ll be more surprised to see a press release actually talking about Winds of Winter.

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The week began with the world of children’s and young adult literature celebrating its most prestigious awards, the industry’s version of the Oscars. It ended with surprise and confusion as trade groups, literary agents and a publisher broke with several best-selling authors over allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The industry’s sudden reckoning with the #MeToo movement primarily involved complaints that a long list of prominent writers and editors exploited their power and position at keystone industry events to make sexual advances, particularly toward female authors hoping to further their careers.

These past days have been heartbreaking and enraging and, for some people, confusing. But with everything that has been happening in Hollywood, it was only a matter of time. The publishing industry still is an industry after all. An industry with men and power imbalance.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

REVIEW: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi (+ Giveaway)

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Title: Down and Across
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Format: ARC, 322 pages
Publication: February 6th 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and JM @ Book Freak Revelations!)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | National Book Store

Synopsis

Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try—all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

Review

I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to the last stop of the #DownandAcrossPH Blog Tour!

Smart, funny and exceedingly relatable, Down and Across is a solid debut from YA newcomer Arvin Ahmadi.

It centers on sixteen-year-old Iranian-American Scott Ferdowsi who doesn’t quite know what to do in life. He has tried several clubs in school and has considered and changed career paths one too many times. His strict immigrant parents want him to take things seriously and choose medicine or engineering or law, but Scott doesn’t want to settle. So, the summer his parents fly to Iran to take care of an ailing grandfather, Scott quits his internship and hops on a bus to Washington, DC, where he intends to seek counsel from a Georgetown professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of passion, perseverance, and success. What Scott doesn’t intend to do is to stay more than a day. Or befriend the girl she meets on the ride to DC. Or pick up another at the National Zoo. But Scott is definitely in for some adventure. And that is what’s so refreshing about Down and Across, because it’s at once fun and enjoyable and moving. I can’t even tell you how many times I snickered or downright laughed in my commute to work. Scott is charming and funny but he doesn’t make the best decisions. And that made me root for him all the more.

“I woke up that morning with a throbbing headache and some nausea, but the worst offender was the foul stench that had taken over the inside of my mouth. The corpse of my adolescence. I could feel it escaping through my teeth and lips. It felt permanent, like I could brush my teeth a million times and still be stuck with that awful taste. (I brushed twice.)”

‬In Lorde’s latest album, Melodrama, she has a track that goes, “You asked if I was feeling it, I’m psycho high / Know you won’t remember in the morning when I speak my mind / Lights are on and they’ve gone home, but who am I?” And my reading experience with Ahmadi’s novel reminded me of those lines. Only Lorde will take her hangover as an opportunity for existential reflection. And she does this with such eloquence. Just as how Ahmadi takes up this conversational tone and somehow manages to drive home and capture articulately the anxieties of growing up and not knowing what it is you want. The way he commands his words, his every clever turn of phrase, Ahmadi has a pinpoint-sharp awareness of voice.

“I wondered about Jeanette, who was so assured in her beliefs that she knew exactly how to shoot down the skeptics. Wouldn’t that be nice? Not to question your identity every second of every day, but to simply know.”

The author said in an NPR interview that it was important for him to represent not just diversity of skin color or culture but a diversity of interests and backgrounds. And that, to me, translates really well into the pages because the cast of characters Scott meets in DC is just as colorful and diverse in terms of experiences and personalities, which is reminiscent of another debut that came out a couple of years back—David Arnold’s Mosquitoland. Fiora is this seemingly manic pixie dream girl who turns out to be flawed. I love how Scott doesn’t romanticize her. He gets mad at her. He calls out her bs. There’s Trent. Oh Trent. He is such a pure person. The world needs more Trents! Jeanette, meanwhile, is whatever. She’s infuriating, but her actions make sense. She’s obviously wrong and there’s no reality where I’d agree with her but she’s very firm with her values and acts accordingly and you have to appreciate that. Then there are Scott’s parents, who want what’s best for him even though they don’t necessarily know what that means. There’s this one scene where Scott phones his dad and I totally lost it.

“I spent the night on Fiora’s couch and dozed off thinking about the universe. How it’s indefinitely incomplete—like us. How the best ideas, events, people, and lives don’t need to wrap up nicely to mean something.”

I’m obviously stoked that we’re getting more representation in literature and cinema—especially in the young adult community—where the narrative is leaning towards “issues” and talking about the experience of a person from a specific marginalized race or cultural background. But at the same time I’m delighted that we’re seeing this other dialogue where the protagonist’s skin color isn’t directly linked to the plot. And Down and Across—along with Jasmine Warga’s sophomore book Here We Are Now—is such a fantastic example of this. Because these stories show us that while there’s a multitude of little and significant ways in which people are different, even if we share the same culture, even if we have the same sexuality, there are also things that make us alike more than we realize. And that is so affirming.

Down and Across is not a page-turner. It might not even be something you haven’t seen before. But it gets me. And I’m almost positive it gets you, too.

4.5 out of 5
Author

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Arvin Ahmadi grew up outside Washington, DC. He graduated from Columbia
University and has worked in the tech industry. When he’s not reading or writing
books, he can be found watching late-night talk show interviews and editing
Wikipedia pages. Down and Across is his first novel.

TwitterWebsite

You can read Down and Across, too! Enter THIS giveaway for a chance to win one (1) advance reader copy. Entries are open worldwide and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), March 5th.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Arctic Books
The Ultimate Fangirl
The Bibliophile Confessions
Divergent Gryffindor
Stay Bookish

Are you picking up this debut anytime soon or are you really picking up this debut anytime soon? If you’re lucky to have read this in advance, can we talk about Trent? ❤ Also, what are some of your recent favorite contemporary YA reads? Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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