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

Adam Silvera 03

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

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

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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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

Arvin Ahmadi 01

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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REVIEW: The Gwythienian by Savannah J. Goins

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Title: The Gwythienian
Author: Savannah J. Goins
Format: Paperback, 351 pages
Publication: November 3rd 2017 by Mason Mill Publishing House
Source: Author (thank you so much, Savannah!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Fantasy
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Enzi Montgomery had worn the stone around her neck for years. It was set in a cheap metal fitting, nothing fancy. But it made her wonder if she was crazy. Sometimes, when she had it on, she could disappear. She couldn’t make it happen. It just worked on its own. But always at convenient times, like when she’d needed to hide again from Caleb. Maybe she’d only been imagining it; insomnia could do that to you. The nightmares had never left since that day seven years ago and she’d never really learned to cope with them.

But what if she wasn’t crazy?

When she finds out that someone else has been searching for the stone—someone from another world—she must decide what to do with it. Should she get rid of it? Or find out what other secrets it holds?

Review

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

The first title in a planned trilogy, The Gwythienian is an enjoyable if a bit unpolished debut.

It is about a girl named Mackenzi “Enzi” Montgomery who, in the week she turns seventeen, learns not only that her mother has been hiding a huge secret from her but also that another realm exists and is subsequently abducted and taken to it. All for the stone in her necklace. There, she meets a dragon-like creature named Gaedyen who asks her to join him in a quest. Head reeling from her mother’s betrayal and the discovery that someone she thought dead is very much alive and maybe thrilled by the idea of escaping her boring world—along with a haunting childhood trauma—for a while, she agrees. But is she ready to take on such a task? The thing about books and reading is that each encounter is very subjective. And while I think The Gwythienian leaves much to be desired, I quite liked certain parts of it and I’d be remiss not to point out that it has potential and that it might be more fitting for other readers.

“None of the things that I tried to do worked out like they were supposed to. All I wanted was to do something right for a change. Was it so much to ask for it to just once work out like it was supposed to?”

Possibly my favorite aspect of the book is the dynamics between the MCs, Enzi and Gaedyen, which is delightful. There are banters and the gap between the two—the gap born out of innate differences between two different creatures—is often amusing. I also appreciate the fact that the heroine is fat and has to go on this very physical journey. That on top of her insecurities on top of her traumatic past. Really, Enzi has every reason not to agree to this, and I’m not even talking about her companion being a sentient dragon whom she just met. She has very real and very immediate concerns: the trip is physically demanding and her body isn’t used to running and long hikes. And yet, she takes up the challenge and not once is the subject brushed off. And then, there’s—and this is not a spoiler; it’s hinted at in the synopsis and the first chapter of the book—implied sexual abuse. I thought it’s handled well. It’s this constant sort of presence and, even though the ordeal happened years before the story begins, it’s evident that Enzi is still processing it.

“Wasn’t I entitled to a little privacy where my body was concerned?”

I must say, however, that I’m not well versed in fantasy novels but the world building seems pretty solid to me. The mythology of it is accessible and easy to follow and, despite its own set of vocabulary, I had no trouble with information overload. Although, I did find the pacing odd; the book almost opens in a conflict then nothing much happens until you’re suddenly moving from one significant scene to another, all crammed towards the last half. I believe there is a compelling way to introduce the plot line and establish your characters even if there are just pages after pages of dialogue between them. Instead, there are moments in the last third of the novel that felt strained.

“”That’s a lot to take on, Gaedyen.”
His eyes bored into mine, and they were full of such sadness that I felt a tear emerge from my own for his pain.
“Has your future never depended on proving your worth?””

If you’re looking for a quick, enjoyable read, check out Savannah J. Goin’s The Gwythienian.

3.0 out of 5

Author

Savannah J. Goins 01

YA fantasy novelist and professional dragon wrangler, Savannah J. Goins, fell in love with the genre through C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia many years ago. Since then, it’s been nothing but dragons, sword fights and talking animals. She spends her days in a veterinary hospital working with real animals, and her nights giving voices to the ones in her stories. She also enjoys sketching, drinking tea and coffee, and discovering new bookshops.

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Have you heard about this title prior to reading my review? Will you be checking it out anytime soon? What is your stand on books having their own sets of vocabulary? And what are your favorite YA fantasy novels? Let’s talk!

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

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Review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

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Title: The Wicker King
Author: K. Ancrum
Format: E-ARC
Publication: October 31st 2017 by Imprint
Source: Author (thank you so much, Kayla!)
Genre: Fiction—Psychological Thriller, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Review

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

Ancrum examines love, friendship, and mental illness in her debut The Wicker King—a quiet, dark, and beautiful novel told in vignettes.

It’s 2003. August Bateman, a poor boy of mixed race, tries to earn extra money by running drugs in their high school. Jack Rossi, a popular, light-haired varsity rugby player, seems to enjoy a perfect life. The two are so far apart on the social spectrum that it shouldn’t make sense for them to be friends and yet they are. In fact, they know each other better than anyone knows anyone. So when Jack starts showing signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, August comes to his aid, determined and inclined to do anything. But can two boys keep each other from spiraling into madness? This is at the core of Ancrum’s work. This sense of responsibility one imposes upon himself to save and protect someone. And the author does a remarkable job of writing in this raw, muted, and haunting style, of exploring what it means to be a friend, to love someone so fiercely, and to be young and believe you’ve got everything under control but at the same scared that something will go wrong.

“They were only seventeen. The world was so big and they were very small and there was no one around to stop terrible things from happening.”

In her website, Ancrum described the type of kids she writes about as “complex and beautiful and interesting and passionate” but “frightening.” And I think that’s such a spot on observation of her own writing because what’s really striking about The Wicker King, for me at least, is how nuanced August is and how complex his relationship with Jack is. There certainly were scenes where I wanted to simultaneously hug August and punch him in the face. And there were parts where I longed to care for him, to take him as far away from his home of parental neglect as possible. But it wasn’t just him. I spent half the book rooting for Jack to be okay, for things to work out in the end, but also wanting to shake him. For all the terrible decisions. For all the twisted ways they treated each other. And then there were those quieter moments where a secondary character did a random act of kindness and I was left tearing up. Clearly, I was very emotionally invested in this narrative.

“I am doing this for you. Not the Wicker King. Not what we have become. But for you. If anything goes wrong, I want you to remember that.”

Another central theme of the novel—one I wasn’t expecting but turned out to be so embedded in the story—is codependency. I’m lucky to have never had any personal experience with serious mental health issues, but I think it’s worth noting that the manner with which the author addressed such an important conversation was thoughtful and brave. I won’t go into details lest I give away too much, but August and Jack’s friendship is intense, underscored by hunger and a distorted sense of duty, and not once did Ancrum shy away from that.

“They were stronger together; they were always stronger together.”

There’s the technical aspect, to boot. The story unfolds in these extremely short chapters, which I absolutely adore. Although, I can see how this fragmented style might not be for everyone. The writing is gorgeous. There were passages (“like a secondhand kiss on a breath of ash”) where I was silently sobbing but also thinking, that is a beautiful line. It’s wistful, eerie and poignant. And then there are the police reports, photographs, and notes and the color of the pages gradually darkens until the last act plays out and it’s white type on black. A brilliant metaphor for the overall tone and trajectory of the book.

The Wicker King is without a doubt one of the best titles I read in 2017 and I strongly recommend it, especially for people who are always on the look out for something different to read.

5.0 out of 5

Author

Kayla Ancrum 01

K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago Illinois. She attended Dominican University to study Fashion Merchandizing, but was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. Currently, she lives in Andersonville and writes books at work when no one is looking.

Twitter | TumblrWebsite

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

Are you going to be picking up Jack and August’s story anytime soon? How can you not? Have I convinced you to? What are some of your favorite quiet YAs? Or novels in verses? Sound off in the comments below!Signature 02

REVIEW: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (+ Giveaway)

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Title: Batman: Nightwalker
Author: Marie Lu
Format: ARC, 252 pages
Publication: January 2nd 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and JM @ Book Freak Revelations!)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City. The city’s elites are being taken out one by one when their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. And Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

Bruce is about to become eighteen and inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he loves. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice and is sentenced to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most nefarious criminals.

There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She’s the mystery he has to unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?

Review

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

Welcome to the ninth stop of the #NightwalkerPH Blog Tour!

The DC Icons series continues with Marie Lu’s fast-paced, riveting, if slightly disjointed, Batman origin story.

Nightwalker follows Bruce Wayne before he dons the cape and cowl. The night of his birthday—as he turns eighteen and inherits his parents’ legacy—Bruce acts out of impulse and ends up having to do community service at Arkham Asylum, a place for the most horrible criminals of Gotham City. A place where he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers who are currently terrorizing the city. Here’s my caveat: my reading experience brought me to the immediate but perhaps unsurprising realization that I knew close to nothing about the Batman mythos. Even the modicum of characterization I vaguely recall from my childhood, watching Batman Returns and Batman Forever and endless runs and reruns of the animated Justice League series, wasn’t much. I skipped the Christopher Nolan films entirely. Because, although I loved the X-Men and Justice League growing up, I wasn’t big on superheroes. And Bruce Wayne was the least I was interested in. (That was rather lengthy, wasn’t it?) But Lu somehow manages to capture in the meager 250 pages the nuances of this boy who lost his parents at a very young age, who is on the cusp of adulthood, who is naive and good and reckless. Suddenly, I was rooting for Bruce. I wanted him to figure out what he would do after graduation (well, spoiler alert: he would become the caped crusader). I wanted to protect him from Arkham Asylum. And I found myself getting frustrated at some of his less than astute judgment.

“It’s not up to you to save the world, Bruce.”

I appreciate that Nightwalker isn’t peppered with comics references and too much foreshadowing; there isn’t a need for Easter egg hunting. It’s still clearly a Batman novel, but the author’s imprint is also very evident here. Like Bruce’s training regimen involves a neat virtual reality and there are robotic drone police reinforcements at one point. It’s hard to classify this title in terms of genre but it surely has a strong speculative tinge. Then there are the original characters. I was mildly startled to learn Bruce have friends, but definitely thrilled that one of them is of Filipino descent. This adds to the YA appeal I’m pretty certain. Just as I’m certain the rice-and-egg breakfast of Dianne’s (Bruce’s Filipina friend) lola was garlic fried rice. #Yesrepresentation! I was not, however, startled to learn that the main villain is unreliable. I enjoyed the interactions between Bruce and Madeleine, even if I itched to drag the former away half the time.

“”The first rule of fooling someone,” she said, “is to mix a few lies in with many truths.””

The only thing that felt off to me was the tone of the book. It was almost as if Lu and her editor wanted this to be dark but had to pull back mid-punch. Or that wasn’t the intention at all; it’s just that Bruce’s story is inherently dark. In any case, it was bizarre to have this sort of disconnect between where the reader thinks the narrative is headed, tone-wise, and where it actually goes. And what’s up with sending an eighteen year old to a psychiatric hospital/prison with “the city’s most nefarious criminals”? That’s extreme for me, but okay.

“”I’m saying this objectively,” Bruce snapped. “I’m not crazy.”
“No. You’re just naive.””

Intriguing and positively entertaining, Batman: Nightwalker will most likely please both fans and newcomers.

3.5 out of 5

Author

Marie Lu 01

Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

You can read Batman: Nightwalker, too! Enter THIS Twitter giveaway for a chance to win one (1) advance reader copy. Bonus point if you leave a comment on my review! Entries are open worldwide and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), February 2nd.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Stay Bookish
The Hogsmeader Reader
Bibliophile Kid
The Ultimate Fangirl
Divergent Gryffindor
Book Freak Revelations
Book Allure

Happy New Year, bookworms! How was your holiday? I hope it was all kinds of fun and lovely and magical! ❤ Are you a fan of the dark knight? Have you already picked up Lu’s take on his origin story? What did you think? Alternatively, we can talk about your current read. Sound off in the comments below!  

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

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REVIEW: Jek/Hyde by Amy Ross

Jek-Hyde 01

Title: Jek/Hyde
Author: Amy Ross
Format: ARC, 329 pages
Publication: October 3rd 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Author (thank you Amy Ross!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Gothic, Mystery, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Retelling, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

Lulu and Jek are science nerds, and have been best friends since they were young . . . or at least they used to be. Lately Jek has been pulling away from Lulu, just as she’s coming to terms with how she really feels about him. Just as she’s ready to see if there could be something more between them.

But Lulu’s thoughts are derailed by a mysterious new guy who’s showing up at local parties. Hyde is the definition of a bad boy, and everybody knows it . . . but no one can seem to resist his charms. Girls can’t stay away from him, and guys all want to be him. And even though Lulu’s heart belongs to Jek, she can’t deny Hyde’s attraction either.

She also knows that there’s something not quite right about Hyde. That the rumors of his backwood parties make them sound a little more dangerous than what any of her friends are accustomed to. And she doesn’t like the fact that Hyde seems to be cozying up to Jek, and that they seem to be intertwined in ways that have Lulu worrying for Jek’s safety.

If Hyde has a dark secret, Lulu is determined to find out what it is, and to help Jek . . . before it’s too late for both of them.

Review

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

Jek/Hyde is more a rehashing and less a retelling.

The book—Ross’ debut in young adult literature—centers on Lupita “Lulu” Gutierrez and Jayesh Emerson “Jek” Kapoor, two science nerds who have been best friends for as long as long as they can remember. But just as Lulu is coming to terms with her more-than-platonic feelings for her best friend, Jek starts distancing himself and spending all his time holed up in his room/lab with his experiments. It doesn’t help that there’s a mysterious—and unmistakably alluring—new guy in town, who is the very definition of a bad boy, and who may or may not have connections with Jek. Confession time: I have not read the Stevenson classic. Nor have I seen any of the bajillion movie adaptations. But I feel like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been so embedded into our collective cultural consciousness that it’s almost as if I have read the book without actually having read it. And Jek/Hyde totally validates my judgment; whatever hope I had of mystery, I went to the wrong party.

“”But sweetheart. . .” He leans in close and takes a deep, slow breath, his eyes slipping half-closed. “No one is good all the time.””

To be fair, the novel kept me relatively entertained ’til the very last page. It took a couple of chapters for the story to find its footing, but find it it did and it maintained a good pacing all through out the book. I also like how the tone and setting effectively conjure a sense of helplessness and perpetual confinement. The book is set in a small town in the Midwestern, and that was executed well. But then we get to the actual narrative and it gets less than stellar. There is little character development, cases of present-but-not-present adults, and underdeveloped subplots, all culminating in a heavily expository conclusion and one that is out of touch with the rest of the main character’s journey.

“I know how it is. You think if you worry enough, if you take care of him and rescue him, that will make him yours. But you’ll never keep a boy like that.”

There’s also a huge disconnect between what the reader is being told versus what he is being shown. Lulu has a tendency to pine for Jek, which is fine, that’s her thing. But not once was I convinced of the friendship—or any sort of connection—between her and Jek she often talks about. He was a jerk to her and when the story reaches the part where certain things happen, it felt forced. And I’m not buying her science nerdiness either. Meanwhile, Jek’s arc had an interesting start. He is biracial; his mother is Indian, his father is black. And there’s a scene where he goes about being the only black person in town, even in his own house. About having “this whole part of [himself] that’s completely cut off from anyone like [him],” and I think that’s a fascinating conversation the author could’ve explored. Just as much as the minor plot line of LondonChem, an agrichemical/pharmaceutical company who may be causing its workers’ unidentified illness. Instead, they became background noises.

“I don’t know whether I’m angrier at the assumption that these two can read everyone’s race and ethnicity perfectly just from looking, or at their surprise that a black person could kick their ass at a science competition, but I can’t point out either one, since they didn’t actually say any of that.”

I’ve read in a conversation the author had with Cat Hellisen that the point is to keep the story as close to the original as possible, and I get that. Ross accomplished what she set out to do. But even so, I can’t help feeling cheated on because of how the book is marketed (“an inventive modern retelling”) which couldn’t have been more misleading. Sure, the story is set in modern-day suburban America and it has a racially diverse cast—albeit, the latter struck me as contrived in places. But that’s as modern as it gets. The other half of the equation, forgotten.

“This crazy town. Some guy nearly gets killed right in front of us, and all anyone can think about is where they can go to get fucked-up next.”

Jek/Hyde had potentials. It really did. But with plot holes and character-development inconsistencies that feel quite unresolved even towards the end, it leaves a lot to be desired.

3.0 out of 5

Author

Amy Ross 01

Amy Ross has an MFA from the University of Idaho and a bachelor’s from Brown University. She has lived in upstate New York, Providence, Paris, Chicago, Copenhagen, Kyoto, Idaho and Taiwan, and is currently in Indiana. She likes bad horror flicks, dense critical-theory texts, fomenting revolution, wild bears, cooking and the sublime. She hates everything else.

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What is your favorite adaptation or retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

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

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REVIEW: Warcross by Marie Lu (+ Giveaway)

Warcross Blog Tour Banner

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Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Format: Paperback, 353 pages
Publication: September 12th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and Raf @ The Royal Polar Bear Reads!)
Genre: Fiction—Cyber Thriller, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Review

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

Welcome to one of the stops on the third day of the Warcross PH Blog Tour!

Deeply immersive and compellingly readable, Marie Lu delivers in her latest book Warcross. Think The Hunger Games meets online RPGs.

The novel, which is first in a planned duology, follows teenage hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen who is three days away from becoming homeless. With waitressing gigs in decline and a hunt gone awry, she goes for some quick cash and hacks into the opening game of the International Warcross Championships. Except she accidentally glitches herself into the actual game in the process. Now, convinced of an imminent arrest, Emika is nonplussed when she instead receives a call from the game’s creator, young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, who has a job to offer. Then she finds herself in Tokyo, drafted in one of the official teams, and working for her idol. This is my introduction to Marie Lu, and while it didn’t convert me, it has made clear why there’s a massive number of champions (pun definitely intended) of her books: the author does a fantastic job in crafting vivid, nuanced settings and stories that have mass commercial appeal.

Every locked door has a key.
Every problem has a solution.”

Virtual realities aren’t anything new; I can easily cite Ernest Cline’s massive 2011 hit Ready Player One, for instance. But there’s something very seductive about the idea of Warcross and the NeuroLink glasses. Imagine entering the Hunger Games without risking, well, your life or playing Ragnarok where you are your character, avatar and all. Take everyday occurrences, like going to a coffee shop or playing Mario Kart, but with enhanced experience and points to be gained. It actually doesn’t take a bout of imagination, given how much we rely on the internet for almost everything nowadays. Moreover, the novel is incredibly cinematic. I haven’t been to Tokyo, or anywhere else in Japan for that matter, but I grew up consuming enough anime to acquire a certain set of mental images of the city. And Lu’s Tokyo not only captures that, it also improves it. I must say I had issues with the pacing, though, mainly because I feel like it lost its momentum towards the second act. But damn those final chapters. They were pretty intense and I couldn’t read fast enough. And when it’s time for the major plot twist—the major plot twistI was inwardly facepalming myself for believing I had it all figured out.

“It’s too easy to lose yourself in an illusion.”

I also laud the author for inclusivity. Emika Chen, the plucky, badass heroine, is Chinese American. The captain of one of the Warcross teams is in a wheelchair. Two dudes have a history of hooking up and it was mentioned so casually—like it’s the most natural thing, and it is—and half the cast is non-Caucasian. Hideo Tanaka has his charm, but it often reads as paradigmatic. And I wish we got to see more of Emika interacting with her teammates. Perhaps we’ll see that in the sequel, but I think it’s a missed opportunity to witness an independent female MC have better fleshed out relationships outside of her romantic arc. Which conveniently brings up my next point: the biggest turn off for me, the romance. I was ready to forgive its insta-love nature, YA throws you that every now and then. But I find zero chemistry between Emika and the love interest. None. Where people were freaking out over their ship sailing, I was left with a resounding why? The result is me lowkey cringing over border line cheesy dialogues (and I love cheesy!).

“If I could solve these problems, then I could control something.”

If you are looking for a title that will give you the satisfaction of a good summer blockbuster, look no further.

3.5 out of 5

Author

Marie Lu 01

Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

You can read Warcross, too! Enter HERE for a chance to win one (1) finished paperback. Entries are limited to the Philippines and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), September 21st.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

September 12
Read by Nicka
The Hogsmeader Reader
That Bookshelf Bitch
Amidst the Pages

September 13
The Ultimate Fangirl
Kat Reads PH
Highlit Books
Wanderer in Neverland

September 14
Descendant of Poseidon Reads
The Owl Hoots Loudly
Bookable Reads

September 15
Home of a Book Lover
The Nocturnal Fey
Books and Photographs
The BookDragon

Now tell me: what is your favorite Marie Lu title? 

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REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Format: ARC, 389 pages
Publication: May 30th 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Won from a giveaway contest (thank you Precious @ Fragments of Life!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Depression and Mental Illness, Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked

Synopsis

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the webcomic Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans, Eliza’s persona is popular, and she can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then a key member of the fandom, Wallace Warland, transfers to her school and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s identity is accidentally revealed, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Review
Eliza and Her Monsters is at once a love letter to fandom and a touching portrayal of depression and anxiety.

The book is about the shy, awkward teenage Eliza Mirk who would rather spend her time in front of the computer screen or work on her art. She is the person behind LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the widely popular webcomic Monstrous Sea, a secret only her immediate family and two online friends are privy to. If things go according to plan, she will finish both her comic and high school under the radar. But things rarely go according to plan. She befriends the new guy, Wallace Warland, who turns out to be not only a hardcore Monstrous Sea fan but also a fan fiction writer and Eliza begins to wonder if perhaps life outside her room and the digital community is not so bad. Then, by some earnest mistake, she is outed, painfully and publicly. What’s striking about Eliza and Her Monsters is not how it looks at mental health with unflinching resolve, although that comes really close. It is how Zappia writes with lightness and empathy without ever treating lightly her dark subject.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

I want to commend the author for capturing the joys and complexities of family, all the while celebrating online friendships as well. Eliza’s family is incredibly well written. Peter and Anna Mirk are two very involved parents who care about their children but don’t always understand things. As a result, they are constantly on Eliza, nagging her to get her nose off her phone or otherwise hounding her to do outdoorsy stuff or hang out with “actual” people. They have zero grasp on the notion of internet-only friends and this is the ultimate source of antagonism between them and their daughter. I am a millennial okay, and there was a time in my college years when I would spend all my time in Tumblr, and I think Zappia gets that. Gets it a lot. Next are Sully and Church, Eliza’s younger siblings. They are equal parts annoying (for our MC at least) and endearing and I wish we got to spend more time with them, albeit I can see how that’s unnecessary. Then we have the online friends Max and Emmy. They only appear through group chats—and not too frequently either—but I kid you not, those are some of my favorite scenes. Because how many friends do I have, that I’ve met through the internet, that I talk to on a daily basis? The dynamics between the three just feels organic and the easy banters are exceedingly enjoyable. Even the friendships Eliza form with Wallace’s friends, founded on a shared love for Monstrous Sea, do not for once ring hollow. Now, have you met Wallace Warland? Because I swear you want to meet him. If my Goodreads updates are any indication, I was all heart-eyes emojis as soon as he steps into the campus.

“I do have friends. Maybe they live hundreds of miles away from me, and maybe I can only talk to them through a screen, but they’re still my friends.”

I absolutely adore the romance between Eliza and Wallace. Gosh, they were super awkward! #awkwardisforever Especially with Wallace not speaking out loud. So they converse with handwritten notes instead, and a I think that’s old-school romantic and b something I relate with. There were and are times when I would leave someone a note or text rather than talk to him in person. You know, how it sometimes seems like what you want to say doesn’t translate well to what you actually say. This isn’t the basis for Eliza and Wallace’s notes conversations of course, but I thought the author did a nuanced exploration of that nevertheless. The romance also isn’t some instalove business, which I appreciate. The two became friends then lovers. But more importantly, it didn’t free Eliza from her monsters. Romance isn’t the thing that saved her and tied everything neatly in a bow.

“I have to try. I have to try, because I’m doing it again—I’m shutting everything out because I’m frustrated and tired and because the real world is difficult and I’d rather live in one of my own making. But I can’t. I am here, and I have to try.”

One of the many themes of the novel is mental health. Eliza, aside from being introverted, is an intensely anxious person and she tends to fold into herself when situations get uncomfortable. Her favorite book series, Children of Hypnos, deals heavily on depression and her webcomic Monstrous Sea is a metaphor for it. Wallace is equally in need of help, if for different reasons. And there are thoughts and (arguably) one act of suicide. But Zappia handles the material with sensitivity, never romanticizing nor trivializing any of it, and the effect is often raw and moving. As intriguing as the panels and excerpts interspersed through out the story are, which make for an interesting format. As spot on as the depiction of craft and the creative life is. Really, the one problem I had with this book is a scene I don’t buy and which I will not spoil you with. It happens towards the latter part and, while it serves the plot, I believe it’s a little bit out of touch with the character.

“Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”

Eliza and Her Monsters is my first Francesca Zappia title but it will definitely not be the last. If you’ve enjoyed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell or My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga, you might want to check this one out. Or vice versa.

4.0 out of 5

Author

Francesca Zappia 01

Francesca Zappia lives in central Indiana and is the author of Made You Up.

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Have you read this one yet? Have I convinced you to? What are some of your favorite books that feature a character(s) with mental health illness? What are you currently reading? Come now, sound off in the comments below!

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