Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Review] The Olive Conspiracy - Shira Glassman: Jewish Fantasy and Queerness

In THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY, Chef Yael is blackmailed because she is transgender and Queen Shualmit is not having any of that.

What intrigued me: Jewish fantasy! Who'd say no to that. I love high fantasy in diverse settings so much.

Extremely Diverse 

Even though THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY technically belongs to Glassman's Mangoverse series, you do not have to have read the other books to read this one. There are a lot of established character relationships that you will have no problem understanding if this is your first Mangoverse read. Quite on the contrary actually, I found myself growing very interested in her characters and am even more intrigued to read the rest of the series because THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY hints at all the interesting things happening before.

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is so diverse - it's fantastic. There are transgender, sapphic, and POC characters whom you'll all grow to love. The Mangoverse is inhabited by different peoples who all have their unique customs and Glassman cleverly uses this to establish Jewish customs and familiarize the reader with the setting. THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is a very easy and educational read that absolutely managed to fascinate.

Charming and Educational

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY reads quite like a cozy mystery in a diverse high fantasy setting. Though I hoped to see the story anchored to a specific character, which ultimately made it a little more difficult for me to follow the plot. Glassman narrates for the most part from an omniscient perspective that sometimes focuses on shape-shifting wizard Isaac, whom I absolutely grew to adore. 

I wish the story would've been told from a different perspective, maybe first-person. Especially for first-time readers of the Mangoverse it does irritate a little and did make it a bit harder for me to truly get invested. THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY does work as a stand-alone and is an absolute must-read if you're looking to diversify yourself. I found myself learning a lot about Jewish culture that I didn't know before and found it quite charming how effortlessly Glassman incorporates this into the setting. 




Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE OLIVE CONSPIRACY is a unique and original delight. Jewish queer fantasy at its best and if you want to learn more about Jewish culture, I absolutely recommend this novel considering that it's written by a Jewish writer.

Additional Info

Published: July 20th 2016
Pages: 229
Genre: Adult / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781944449780

"When Ezra tries to blackmail Chef Yael about her being trans, she throws him out of her restaurant and immediately reports him to the queen. When police find Ezra stabbed to death, Queen Shulamit realizes he may have also tried to extort someone more dangerous than a feisty old lady.

The royal investigation leads straight to an international terrorist plot to destroy her country’s economy—and worse, her first love, Crown Princess Carolina of Imbrio, may be involved. Since she’s got a dragon-shifting wizard at her disposal, contacts with friendly foreign witches, and the support of her partner Aviva, Shulamit has hope. What she doesn’t have is time.

A love story between women, between queen and country, and between farmers and their crops."(Source: Goodreads)

Have you ever read Jewish fantasy?

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Why I Hardly Ever Read Sequels and Seldom Finish Book Series

Anyone who's been reading for a while knows that I review a lot of book series on my blog. I hardly ever complete series though and more often than not you'll see me read a sequel, dislike it, and then stop reading the series (or even the author!) altogether.

I feel like book series are always a commitment. Most people I know, very much to my shock, buy an entire series before having even read the first book. And then they'll go ahead and read all books, regardless of whether they liked the individual novels or not. I'd never do that.

Especially when I'm reading a series, I'll need to love the world and the characters and ideally the writing so much that I'm excited for the sequel. Or at least want to see that nice cliffhanger ending resolved. Something, anything like that is a must for me to continue the series. Naturally, that hardly ever happens. 
Too many books are forcibly turned into a series, don't make sense as a series, and are just overall drawn out. Even with those, I still get people asking me all the time why I won't continue and give the series another shot with a sequel. The long answer is this.

There are too many better books out there!

To me, there are too many books out there to even remotely consider sticking with every series I start. I think the first novel in a series is to be treated the same way as a regular stand-alone. Don't like, don't pick up another novel by that author. I make most of my reading decisions like this, thinking about the other books I've read by the same author and asking myself whether I really want to waste my time with something I very likely won't enjoy.

Just think about that wasted time that you could've spent reading something you'll enjoy, possibly even a new favorite. I'm always angry about every one or two star read that wasted my time, considering that I could've read something better in the meantime. Aren't you?

Why would I continue something I hated?

With book series it's even more than just a time commitment. If I don't care about the characters, don't care about the world, possibly even hate the writing, why would I waste any time on that? 

Sure book series look nice if you have all the books displayed beautifully on your shelf, but what's the use if you hated the entire experience and had to force yourself to continue? If I already bought the whole series because it was discounted or whatever, you bet I'll still get rid of those darn sequels if I hated the first one or was very indifferent to it.

An argument I hear a lot when I post my reviews to tumblr is: "Hey you'll probably enjoy the sequel more because reason x and y." Well, I certainly won't touch that sequel with a ten foot pole if I gave it a two or one star rating. I don't understand why you would ever complete a series, hoping that the next book will be better. 

Sure, if you enjoyed the first and didn't like the second so much, I totally get that you might read the third. I've done that plenty of times. But when I've hated book one, there's no reason why I would remotely consider continuing and wasting my time. Why would you?

Do you finish every series you start? Do you pick up sequels to books you hated?

More on book series:

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recommendation: Paperweight - Meg Haston: Eating Disorders and Treatment Centers

In PAPERWEIGHT, Stevie's dad signs her up for sixty days of treatment for her eating disorder. But she plans to be dead by the twenty-seventh day, the day of her anniversary that she killed her brother.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for a dark read.

Brutally Honest

PAPERWEIGHT is neither a light, nor happy-go-lucky type of story. It's a brutally honest story of a girl with an eating disorder. It's a raw emotional journey to read this and if you're looking for a thrilling read with plot twists or even a side of epic romance, this is the wrong pick. It's a minimalist story that's hard to read because it's so unapologetic. PAPERWEIGHT is a story that deserves to be read, but certainly won't be for everyone.

PAPERWEIGHT absolutely isn't romanticizing anything. If at all, it's doing the exact opposite. There are no euphemisms, no glorification, it's absolutely clear to the reader at all times that what Stevie is doing is wrong, that her motives are irrelevant, and that her experience isn't pleasant in the slightest. She isn't the most likeable protagonist, but that contributes to the credibility of the story and Stevie's actions. PAPERWEIGHT wants to make you uncomfortable and that's part of why I loved it so much.

Refreshing and Real

Stevie's narration alternates between her days in the clinic and her treatment with therapist Anna, and the past, through which we learn more about her family. The therapist plays a vital role in PAPERWEIGHT which I found refreshing. The present storyline is very straightforward and minimalist, but filled with fantastically well-developed side characters that absolutely make up for the lack of thrilling action. What had me clinging to the pages the most are actually the flashbacks and solving the mystery surrounding Stevie's brother and her best friend Eden, for whom Stevie developed more than just platonic feelings.

There are so many refreshing things about PAPERWEIGHT, at no point you'll feel like this story is told to influence the reader, to make them like the protagonist or to add any unnecessary drama to the story. It almost reads like an autobiography, which is even more admirable when you read the author's bio and realize that this an #ownvoices novel by someone who has first-hand experience with eating disorders. 

If you want an honest read that chronicles mental illness the way it is, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you struggle to understand eating disorders and learn more about them, read PAPERWEIGHT.
If you want a dark literary read and want to be emotionally invested, read PAPERWEIGHT.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

PAPERWEIGHT is a brutally honest and fantastic novel that chronicles the story of a girl with anorexia. If you want to learn about anorexia or love YA that's on the darker side, PAPERWEIGHT is the perfect pick. A total page-turner.

Proceed with caution if you plan on picking this novel up, PAPERWEIGHT may be a very triggering read for anyone who has/has had first-hand experience with an eating disorder and/or self harm. 

Highlight following text for a full list of trigger warnings and possible triggering content:

alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, cutting, death, eating disorders, PTSD, self harm/self mutilation, suicidal thoughts, suicide

Additional Info

Published: July 13th 2015
Pages: 320
Publisher: Thienemann
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9783522202152

"Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read books about eating disorders?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Review] Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days #1) - Susan Ee: Angels and the Apocalypse

In ANGELFALL, the world has been destroyed by angels and people are forced to hide in the ruins of their cities. 

What intrigued me: Angels. I missed the angel hype a couple of years ago and am now in full obsession mode.

A typical post-apocalyptic dystopia

The setting of ANGELFALL isn't much different from what you'd expect from a dystopia, and the only thing that makes this world differ from the usual apocalyptic wasteland in YA, is the occasional angel flying above their heads.

It's a survival story at the core, a lot of walking, a lot of stalling time. Naturally, this isn't always easy to read, I caught myself skimming the generic descriptions of building ruins and empty streets and litter. The scenery is so generic that it almost doesn't need any descriptions at all if you've ever seen a post-apocalyptic movie in your life.

I longed for every little bit of explanation about the angels that didn't quite come. With novels with supernatural elements that are out there in the open in the real world, it's very important to me to understand how this happened. The only glimpse we get is that Penryn mentions that the messenger of God Gabriel came down to Earth and was immediately shot. That's it. Very frustrating, generally the book just throws things that happen at you and doesn't explain a lot, probably a technique to make people buy the second book. And yeah, I shamefully have to admit, it works.

Thank the heavens (or not?) for a realistic romance plot

Ee absolutely had me hooked through the character of the angel Raffe. Penryn's and his dynamics are hilariously wonderful and his dry humor and arrogance incredibly entertaining. Of course we have some obligatory side romance, but it's very subtle. 

The first time in a long time that I actually thought to myself that this story could really happen. It's very realistic, they actually take time to even just not be awkward in conversation. No premature declarations of love here. They don't even really care about the other one surviving this whole ordeal until 60% in. It's refreshing to see a relationship and friendship(!) develop at a realistic pace.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANGELFALL is easily one of the better dystopias out there, however it could use some more world building. I did like it and will quite possibly read the second one as well, in the hopes to learn more about the world. So yes, go ahead, I think you should read it.

Additional Info

Published: August 28th 2012
Pages: 288
Publisher: Skyscape 
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781444778519

"It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite book about angels?

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Jolly Fish Press is Closing - Check out these fantastic YA books & help the authors out.

Today we've had some terrible news. Jolly Fish Press is closing after five years without any notice to the authors. 

While we still have the time to, let's support their authors and let me pitch some cool books to you!

JERKBAIT - Mia Siegert
Even though they're identical, Tristan isn't close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself. Amazon

CONSIDER - Kristy Acevedo
When mysterious holograms suddenly appear, heralding the end of the world, seventeen-year-old Alexandra Lucas must brave her anxiety disorder and make the ultimate decision for her friends, family, and the human race: to stay, or to go. Amazon

DREAMLESS - Jennifer Wardell
Elena’s sleeping curse was designed without a cure, which means that she’s getting a century-long nap for her eighteenth birthday whether she wants it or not. Amazon

SONGBYRD - Anna Silver
Songbyrd is a modern take on the mythology of Sirens. Innocence Byrd discovers a complicated family legacy after she and her mother move to dusty town in Texas to escape a haunted past. Amazon

Zander, Alexa, and the other sixteen-year-old children of their village must prepare for their quest, a dangerous rite of passage, by earning tokens through good deeds to combat the deadly omens incurred for wrongdoings. Amazon

SURFACING - Mark Magro
Sixteen-year-olds Zoe and Balt must escape an underground research institute and find their way to the surface in order to learn once and for all the truth about themselves, the institute, and the fate of the human race. Amazon

Fifteen-year-olds Malcolm and Valentine Gilbert must stop a villain from the future, whose plan threatens their town and everyone they love, and discover there's more to the universe than they ever knew. Amazon

ELEANOR - Johnny Worthen
Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be. Amazon

*all blurbs and covers taken from Jolly Fish Press

More things you can do to help:
  • spread the word and promote their books (send a tweet or two!)
  • request the books from your local libraries
  • buy the books
  • check out the authors' other work

Are there some books among these that sound interesting to you?

Continue Reading...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are you awkward about getting Review Requests from Authors? | Book Blogging Tips (#44)

Even though I don't really mean to be, I have to admit I'm super awkward about getting review requests by authors. This is 100% on me.

Most experiences I've made so far were delightful and I ended up liking most of the books that were offered to me by their authors.

But what if I hadn't?


How do I phrase politely that I absolutely hated your novel and wrote a 300 word review about how much I hated it? Even though I feel like my reviewing style is at that point where even negative criticism is phrased respectfully, I'm sure no author wants to read this about their book. And yea, indie authors read reviews. I know they do because I get reactions to the reviews from them once I have sent the links over...!

I still want to review books that are offered to me by the authors, I think it's a great opportunity and I like that they are so approachable, but sometimes I just wish there was more .... distance. I wish I didn't have to bite my nails feeling ashamed. I wish I would stare at my email account, just waiting for one author to absolutely flip out when I send over a bad review. That stuff happens. 

Last year an author actually tracked down someone who gave them a negative review and wrote an article in The Guardian about this, not seeing what's wrong with that. Since I read that article I've been extra picky with accepting books for review that weren't offered through a publishing house.


Heck yea, I am. I'm scared of getting negative reviews, possibly managing to agitate a black sheep that turns out to be a psychopath. Things like this are known to happen. Remember that author who tracked down a reviewer and hit them over the head with a bottle? I'm flat out scared to get my face slashed by someone that didn't like my opinion. Is this far-fetched? Maybe

The thing is, while this probably, very likely *knock on wood* won't happen to me, there's always the possibility. The easiest solution would be to only work with big publishers then and completely cut off any contact with authors that isn't going through their publicists first. Well. I don't know if that really is a solution. 
  • I want to read indie books, 
  • I want to talk to authors, 
  • I want to see their reactions to nice reviews, 
... but there's always going to be this little voice inside my head that will tell me to keep this or that sentence out of my review.

It will tell me to censor my review a little more, which I definitely wouldn't have done if the book were offered to me through a publicist.

While I do know that not every author can afford a publicist and/or it doesn't make sense for everyone, sometimes I wish there was a puffer person. 

Am I weird or are you also awkward about getting review requests from authors?

Continue Reading...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

[Review] Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton: Middle Eastern Fantasy, Guns, and Djinn

In REBEL OF THE SANDS, Amani wants to escape her abusive family by leaving town and ends up having to team up with a fugitive.

What intrigued me: Mostly recommendations from friends.

Very Unique and Hard to Get Into

REBEL OF THE SANDS has a beautifully unique setting that's somewhere between a Middle Eastern and a classic Western town. Surprisingly, the mashup isn't as strange as you'd expect. There's shooting, djinns, other malevolent creatures and magic. It's certainly something that I have never seen before in YA and therefore definitely gets the full score if we're talking originality. Though I do think that REBEL OF THE SANDS plays into stereotypes too much and does very little to help you familiarize yourself with the world. 

I love that Hamilton drew inspiration from Middle Eastern culture, but I really would've wished for her to make it easier for the average reader to truly understand the culture. Similar to the criticism I had for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, which also features a Persian-inspired world, I would've been over the moon happy if there was a glossary included. So many words of Arab origin that you'd never understand or recognize unless you're googling what it means, little nods to clothing and culture and food, that you'd have no way of understanding. 

I think especially when you're not including a Western setting, considering that this is a book first published in the US in English, you have to consider that that will frustrate readers. It did frustrate me and take away from the narration because I was constantly looking up words and absolutely couldn't get truly immersed into the world.

Gimmicky and Lacking in Execution

Ultimately it's a mixture of the lackluster storytelling that just didn't get to the point, and the confusing world building that really didn't make REBEL OF THE SANDS match my taste. Hamilton merrily uses lots of info-dumps at the most inconvenient times that made me want to skim, skip, or even quit altogether. I never quite grew invested in the story, all about it felt gimmicky to me and kind of unbelievable. 

REBEL OF THE SANDS tries to be a western with paranormal elements, but also a classic high fantasy novel and the genre-mashup just doesn't work. I found it lengthy and boring and the writing too bulky and awkward to pull all of it off. At the core there is just no story to tell. REBEL OF THE SANDS purely relies on the world building (which is pretty much summed up by "there are monsters in the desert"), and that just doesn't work. While the setting is interesting, I think this lacks severely in execution and storytelling and I wish there was more to it all aside from the unique setting. 




Overall: Do I Recommend?

REBEL OF THE SANDS tries to bring a new perspective and breath of fresh air into the genre, but doesn't quite deliver. If you generally enjoy Westerns, you still might enjoy this. But don't expect this to be the first Western to get you into the genre.

Important: It has come to my attention that Hamilton's portrayal of Middle Eastern culture is a little offensive. Please read the review by my blogger friend Aimal, she's Pakistani Muslim and makes some valid points that you should take into consideration.

Additional Info

Published: August 22nd 106
Pages: 352
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9783570164365

"She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him... or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is." (Source: Goodreads)

Have you read REBEL OF THE SANDS?

Continue Reading...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Do We Owe It to Authors to Call Out Problematic Books "Nicely?" | YA Talk

I've been talking a lot about problematicness and diversity portrayals on my blog and on social media lately and a thing that at least one person brought up in every single conversation was this: 

Calling people out is okay, as long as you do respectfully. The question I'm asking now is do we owe it to anyone to be "respectful" when calling out?

Many people I've talked with about this said that by calling out problematic portrayals of a minority as a person who belongs to said minority, you're giving people the impression that "minority x is always angry." 

By that logic, by complaining in a not-so put together and eloquent manner, which just happens naturally when you're angry about terrible representation, you're hurting the public opinion of said minority. Well I think that's nonsense, to put it frankly.

Minorities don't owe anyone their respectful criticism.

If you judge a minority by its reaction toward you being disrespectful and delivering bad representation in your book, you're not a good person. This seems like an easy excuse to say "well, these people all suck" and carry on with your day. 

Diverse people aren't a monolith, as I keep saying time and time again in conversations like these. Talking about this is a like fighting an apologist-hydra. You shut down one person trying to justify terrible rep and two more pop up, trying to fight you, too.

At the end of the day we aren't here to educate. 

When I'm reading a book that advertises with representation that I identify with and that representation ends up being offensive and problematic, I don't owe the author a detailed review, calmly telling them how to better the next time. I don't even owe them a review. I can just leave a one star rating and tell all my friends that this book is garbage and it'll still be an okay thing to do in my opinion.

Sure, you might say "well how is the author supposed to learn how to do better if nobody is giving them constructive criticism"? The answer is that's not our problem. Easy like that. Writing representation when you're not #ownvoices, don't share that marginalization, is a choice. Yes, we want non-marginalized authors to write diverse characters, and I don't think we're asking for too much by saying, if you're gonna do it, do it right.

By tone-policing you're not helping the cause.

I feel like we all collectively have to learn to listen first before we yell "oh no poor author X is getting attacked again". You may be thinking of a specific author now because there are actually several who seem to be always in the spotlight for bad representation. 
  • Ask yourself why they're targeted. 
  • Ask yourself why minorities are angry. 
  • Don't ask them, just listen, maybe you'll find someone who's mentioning the specifics, maybe you won't. 

Tone-policing the way minorities express their anger towards incredibly insensitive, harmful representation is nothing else than saying: "so, either you're going to talk about this the way I want to, or you'll shut up." It just is. Even if you don't necessarily *think* you think like this. 

Excuses like "this is cyberbullying" are irrelevant here. Authors have a -huge- responsibility resting on their shoulders and they owe it to marginalized people to do representation right or don't do it at all. And yes, I think no representation is the same thing as bad representation and deserves the exact same treatment.

Do you think readers owe it to authors to call out nicely?

More on problematicness:

More YA Talk:

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Recommendation: Alienated (#1) - Melissa Landers: Student Exchange and Aliens

In ALIENATED, Cara is participating in the first alien exchange program and is hosting student Aelyx from the planet L'eihr.

What intrigued me: I love alien YA so much.

Hilarious and original

ALIENATED really looks and sounds like your average paranormal romance. I was expecting something similar to Jennifer L. Armentrout's OBSIDIAN, but was surprised to find that Landers took a completely different spin on the topic. 

ALIENATED is a flat-out hilarious and super entertaining YA that focuses more on two cultures clashing than the romance. Essentially the L'eihr are sexy Vulcans. There's just no other way to put it. It sounds strange, but ultimately works fantastically in the context of the book. They have no understanding of human customs, emotions, etc. and it's just funny. ALIENATED proves to be a fun, light-hearted read all around and I thoroughly enjoyed it a lot. The pages flew by!

Flawless Dual POV and Organic Romance

Landers has an incredibly strong character voice for human Cara and alien Aelyx and makes it so fun to follow the story. Despite being told from two POVs, which is usually one of my pet peeves, Landers absolutely makes the most of it and actually makes this a reason why I enjoyed ALIENATED so much. Their voices are drastically different, they both have different objectives and plot lines that they're following in the party they narrate. Especially Aelyx's POV is so interesting because Landers truly gives him an alien way to look at the world and it's so entertaining. 

Another highlight is the relationship between the two. It's swoon-worthy in the least, bordering on the epic. Because Landers takes so much time with it and lets it develop naturally and slowly, it feels absolutely organic and realistic. There's no instant love or superficiality, these two truly develop feelings for each other in a manner that feels real and with a dash of humor all of that is even more fun to read about. ALIENATED is a fantastic read, spiked with swoony romance and humor, it's the light-hearted delight you'll love when you're in the mood for some extraterrestial romance.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

ALIENATED is a fun, light-hearted read that you'll love if you like paranormal romance with a side of humor. A clear recommendation and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel and read more about Cara and Aelyx.

Additional Info

Published: Feburary 4th 2014
Pages: 344
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781423170280

"Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite alien read?

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[Review] Daughter of Smoke & Bone (#1) - Laini Taylor: Chimeras and Wish-Granting

In DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, Karou who was raised by wish-granting chimeras yet knows nothing of their world, is cast into the human world after angels destroy the portals she uses to visit her family.

What intrigued me: Honestly? The hype about Taylor's writing. I didn't even know what this is about when I started it.


DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE starts off with a lot of world-establishing backstory that I really would rather have skimmed. The awkward part is, the side characters that are used to establish the world aren't really that important after all and could have as well just have been omitted.

The real story and actual premise with the angel attack only starts about a hundred pages in (!!). In consequence, the book is structure-wise all over the place. While I do found the world very intriguing and absolutely longed for any and every explanation that clarifies the demon/chimera mythology, the book does its best not to do that, but play into clich├ęs instead.

...but everything goes wrong

The novel is divided into two parts: one being the introductory storyline, following Karou around and learning more about her family - fabulously developed world, super interesting concepts that are SO unique that I'm in awe. It's witty, it's charming, it's fun, it had all the ingredients for a five-star-read.

The second part though, is a cheesy, rushed and unnecessary instant love romance with a character that doesn't even talk to Karou until about 65% into the book, and that truly ruins the story. Not even the plot twist (that you could see from a mile away!), redeemed this book for me. I didn't enjoy anything involving the angel Akiva and felt utterly confused and thrown out of the story whenever he suddenly got his own point of view chapter for seemingly no reason.

To me, he absolutely destroyed this wonderful book. I don't have a problem with adding romance to this story per se, but his introduction is just way too late and his only attribute is his beauty. I don't understand why he was even in this, if Taylor wanted a love interest, I would have absolutely enjoyed seeing the hilariously cocky ex-boyfriend Kaz with Karou. It would have certainly made more sense, but like this I feel like his character is just a set up for the inevitable love triangle in the sequels.

I honestly don't know what happened here, the book absolutely changes directions half-way in and makes all the mistakes you can make to the point that this doesn't even feel like it's the same person writing the story anymore.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE could have been epic. Its concept reminds me a lot of INKHEART, similarly bubbling with new ideas that I haven't seen in any other novel before, creating a rich and imaginative world. The romance, however, absolutely ruined this, causing DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE to be nothing but yet another urban fantasy read with a sappy instant-love romance and an unsympathetic melodramatic pretty-boy love interest.

Additional Info

Published: September 27th 2011
Pages:  418
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780316134026

"Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"(Source: Goodreads)

 Have you read any books by Laini Taylor?

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Monday, October 10, 2016

6 Popular YA Books That I'm Scared Of: A Look at my TBR

I've already confessed to you guys that I usually shy away from popular books. So, sometimes they really have a great premise and I'm still intrigued despite being a snobby closet book hipster. Here are some books that are quite popular and that I haven't read yet, or read recently.

I heard so many good and equally as many bad things about this book. Some people praise it for being heart-breaking and beautiful, some people demonize it for glorifying suicide. I kinda want to read it but I'm scared I'll agree with the latter group. After disliking HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE I don't know if I want to take any chances.

LEGEND - Marie Lu
The premise is wonderful. I read a couple of pages in a book store and absolutely adored it, but so many people praise this book that I just keep putting it off.

I have read two other novels by Sarah Dessen before (arguably some of her very early works) and wasn't really a fan.

RED QUEEN - Victoria Aveyard
Honestly, the premise isn't even anything I'd usually go far. I avoid high fantasy at all costs, because it's hardly ever for me. So many people love this. Sadly, I didn't in the end.

MORE THAN THIS - Patrick Ness
The idea sounds intriguing, but this whole phenomenon of Patrick Ness is insanely intimidating. I don't know anyone who dislikes his books.

I've never read a Neil Gaiman novel, believe it or not. Even though this one is the most intriguing to me because it's so short, I'm still kinda intimidated.

Have you read one of these?

More posts on popular books:

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Don’t Fear the Diversity! On Writing What You Don’t Know | Guest Post by Miri Castor

I've talked a lot about problematicness and things that I don't want to see in books this week.

I'm a firm believer in offering constructive solutions, so I brought YA Author Miri Castor on the blog to talk a little about how to write diversely.  

I think “Write what you know” has become one of the most misunderstood phrases in its existence, with regards to diversity. Diversity and representation are well-needed in the predominately white world of story-telling.

So I find when it comes to more diverse representation, some writers are scared to jump in. They don’t want to offend a marginalized group and be deemed a racist, or transphobic, etc. As a cis-gendered, straight writer, I understand and live with these fears all the time! 

These are some tips I like to keep in mind when I write “what I don’t know.”

1. Research is everything
As PhD candidate, my life is my research. I find it holds true as a writer as well. If you’re a cis- hetero writer that wants to have characters from the LGTBQ community, read LGTBQ blogs and books. Same goes for writing characters of different races and ethnicities. It also helps to talk to writers of said marginalized group and ask them questions if they’re comfortable with them. 

While real people are the best resources, they’re also real people and are not obligated to explain themselves to us.

2. Look Up Harmful Stereotypes
A major part of my first point. 

Maybe most writers know black women to be belligerent, obnoxious, and sassy, and then might be tempted to portray their black character this way. But again, do research and avoid portraying the harmful stereotypes of a marginalized group. 

Speaking as a black bookworm, negative racial stereotypes are the fastest way to turn me off. Tvtropes is an amazing site to read on tropes that’s been used for marginalized groups in all sources of media! I practically live on that site.

But also realize that stereotypes are not all bad, as long as they don’t make up the entire character. In other words, there has to be more to the character than their stereotype.

3. Avoid the Clumsy Inclusion
“Show, don’t tell” is key here, which is Writing 101. I’ve created my Black lesbian character created, backstory and all, and now it’s time to introduce them: 

“I’m a fat Black lesbian in a wheelchair with PTSD” (yes I’ve seen this in real, published books before). 
This sort of inclusion isn’t necessarily bad, but the “checklist” and “telling” style may be perceived as clumsy. My preference is to have such descriptors (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) seamlessly woven into a story as opposed to reading a Tumblr header.

4. Do it For the “Write” Reasons
(Sorry for the lame pun.) If you’re coming from a sincere place, and genuinely want to create beautiful, complex marginalized characters, then I believe it’ll come through in your writing. At the end of the day, “writing what know” means you’re imbuing your humanity into your writing. Take your joys, fears, and pains and embed them within characters to create something amazing.

Nobody’s perfect, and everyone (me included) makes mistakes in this process. And there’s a good chance we’ll get called out on our problematic mistakes. 

What really matters is how we take it – do we throw a social media tantrum? 
Or do we listen, learn from our mistakes, and from there write spectacular stories with diverse characters that marginalized people can see themselves in? 

I like option 2 better.

Miri Castor is the author of the Opal Charm series, She has written for Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine and was featured as a Spotlight New Author in January 2016

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

[Review] Holding Up the Universe - Jennifer Niven: Obesity and Prosopagnosia

In HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE, the world's fattest teen Libby, and Jack, who lives with prosopagnosia are sent to group counselling and community service.

What intrigued me: I was curious about Niven's books. The premise didn't necessarily pique my interest, I would've picked anything she'd release next.

Extraordinary writing and voice

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does bring a breath of fresh air into the genre with it's incredibly unique characters. From page 1 Niven is absolutely able to suck you into the story, to make you hear the characters' voices. 

She has an extraordinary feel for making characters speak aloud inside your head and make you forget that you are reading a fictional story, which undoubtedly shows that Niven is an insanely talented writer. However, it's the topic of choice that absolutely negates all of that for me and makes me disregard it almost completely when reviewing this.

Sensitivity is a necessity when you tell the stories of marginalized people.

When writing about marginalized identities, you have to be extra careful. There's just something about the tone of Niven's voice that irks me and makes me feel uncomfortable. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is told from the dual perspective of two teens who are obese and suffering from prosopagnosia (an illness that makes you unable to recognize faces) respectively. 

And both teens express extreme hatred towards themselves and their lives. Especially when you're including multiple teens who derive from "the norm", you shouldn't make them all hate themselves. This isn't how positivity works, this isn't the representation marginalized people are asking for. This story wasn't written for people who are obese or have prosopagnosia. 

All HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE is teaching readers and teens who might live with the same illness that they should hate themselves. That they can only be loved by someone who is ill, too, if at all. I'm sure this isn't the intention, certainly not what Niven's trying to say, but this is exactly why it's so important to be nuanced and incredibly careful when tackling very real topics that affect real lives. 

In fact, I do think that to some extent this story (of course) is told for the shock value. It's oozing from the language Niven chooses to let their characters describe themselves. But I think we need to move past that. Stop telling the stories of marginalized people because it's shocking or seeminlgy "innovative". Start telling the stories of people who happen to be marginalized instead. HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE certainly does not belong to the latter.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE simply makes me uncomfortable. I couldn't enjoy the story, despite very skillfull writing and strong character voices, which I usually applaud authors for. If the topic was approached with more sensitivity, this could have the potential to become a fantastic masterpiece, but for me it absolutely falls flat the way it is and disappoints.

Additional Info

Published: October 4th 2016
Pages: 400
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN:  9780385755924

"Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.  

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours."(Source: Goodreads)

How do you feel about fat/mentally-ill characters for shock value?

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Recommendation: Apple and Rain - Sarah Crossan: Long-lost Siblings and Absent Moms

In APPLE AND RAIN, Apple's mother Annie comes back after 11 years out of the blue and brings a sibling with her.

What intrigued me: I loved ONE by Sarah Crossan and wanted to read more by her.

Genre-defying and Brilliantly Lucid

APPLE AND RAIN is very difficult to pinpoint. It's a little bit literary, it's a coming-of-age story, it's a drama, it's a little bit of a romance. To me it's genre-defying. You'd think it wouldn't work to mix all those things into a book, but strangely, it does. 

Crossan separates the novel into different parts which describe different aspects of Apple's coming-of-age journey. Some characters are more important in one part than the other as protagonist Apple goes through massive character development that's painstakingly obvious as she gets pushed out of her comfort zone more and more, and admirably manages to adapt. 

Apple is such a lovely character that you simply have to grow attached to. Crossan uses very simple language that feels very Middle Grade. It's filled with such brilliantly lucid thought processes and complicated ideas and concepts that it transcends the simplistic writing and yet again manages to come across as convincingly and essentially YA.

Poetry plays a huge role in Apple's life and there are little poems penned by her spread throughout the novel and intervowen with the story. You have to be a fan of poetry to enjoy those of course, but it does help that Crossan is an incredibly gifted poet, which is the most apparent in her latest novel ONE, written in verse, (glowing recommendation!) but also in APPLE AND RAIN. She tells this story with such authenticity and vulnerability that you can't help but grow attached and the poems beautifully highlight that.

Unpredictable and Addicting

Apple's mother Annie deserves an honorary mention. She's this young-at-heart rebel-turned-aspiring actress who's too cool for school and just feels like a recipe for disaster. This is a type of character that I'd love to see more often in YA, a parent who's still more child than mother/father.

Apple's and her dynamic very much feels reversed considering a classic mother/daughter relationship, which in turn makes a delightfully different read. Even neighbor Dell, who likes to wear pink and carry bags with mermaids on them; all of the characters feel like people that I haven't seen in YA before and it makes me so happy. Crossan really defies from the norm and surprises with fresh, fantastically unique characters. I loved them all dearly.

Everything about APPLE AND RAIN feels delightfully different. From the story, to the path the narration follows, to the structure - I did struggle a bit in the beginning, considering Crossan didn't build this on a classic dramatic structure you'd expect from novels in this genre. It's truly defying all narration tropes you'd expect and I love that. It's fresh, it's unpredictable, it's addicting. It's definitely something fun if you want to read a contemporary with its own spin on the genre.




Overall: Do I Recommend?

APPLE AND RAIN is so smart and poetic, while never ceasing to make me laugh. Crossan is a very gifted writer and slowly rising to become one of my all-time contemporary favorites.

Additional Info

Published: 22nd August 2016
Pages: 330
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-570-16400-6

"When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

A story about sad endings.
A story about happy beginnings.
A story to make you realise who is special.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read books by Sarah Crossan?

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