Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Who's That Girl - Blair Thornburgh

Who's That Girl
Blair Thornburgh
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Junior Nattie McCullough is totally OK with her place in life: Latin whiz. Member of the school’s gay-straight alliance. Joni Mitchell superfan. Seventeen-year-old who has never been kissed. So when last summer’s crush and her former classmate—Young Lungs lead singer Sebastian Delacroix—comes back to town with his new hit single “Natalie,” she can’t bring herself to believe it could possibly be about her…could it?

As Nattie sorts through the evidence (the lyrics, Sebastian’s elusive text messages, and their brief romantic encounter last year), the song’s popularity skyrockets, and everyone starts speculating about “Natalie’s” identity. If that wasn’t mortifying enough, Nattie runs into another problem: her confusing, flirtation-packed feelings for her good friend Zach. With her once-average life upended, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her short-lived past with Sebastian was something love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.
This was a super-cute rom-com that had me laughing out loud and often. I am pretty sure I wore a smile from the beginning until the end of this book. I am of lover of all things fun and cute and this one really delivered.

Things I loved:

  • Nattie was adorable, quirky, a little nerdy, and a bit awkward. I really enjoyed her Lucy-esq antics, and that she was just so normal. Her emotions, fears, and joys were so commonplace. It was easy to relate to her. 
  • Nattie's friends were such a wonderful, eclectic group. I adored listening in on their conversations. There was some great banter going on here, and it was often very amusing. Her squad was very special and as Nattie was dealing with all these emotions, I was glad she had her squad there to support her. They were all special, but Tess stood out, because she played such a huge role in the secondary plot. I liked that Thornburgh made her a little more than a sidekick, and I had a mile-wide smile when her big plot line was fulfilled. 
  • Another wonderful group of people in Nattie's world was her family. The quirky apple didn't fall far from the tree here. We get lots of laughs with each visit to her parents and her "brother", foreign exchange student, Sam. They were all very warm and open, and their home seemed like a lovely place to grow up. I really liked that her relationship with Sam evolved a little over the course of the book, and that it may have been stronger than she had anticipated. Lots of warm and fuzzy feels on the family front here. 
  • The romance was adorable. It was a total slow burn, with one party being totally oblivious to its existence! There were so many times that I wanted to shake some sense into Nattie and tell her to open her eyes. But alas, these things take time, and that just made it so much sweeter when it finally happened. 
I will not lie, the main plot hardly mattered to me, as I was enraptured by this lovely group of people that Thornburgh assembled. Who's That Girl was a fun story of love, friendship, family, and being oneself, which kept me jolly and fully entertained. 

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book.

There is a lot of baking while doing Latin homework in this book. All the baking sort of made me hungry. I don't really like to bake, but I do like to eat home-baked goods.

Do you like to bake?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Post - June 25, 2017

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

My Week in Review

My current location is North Carolina. Today is the day that my daughter can finally move into her dorm room. I am going to miss the hotel life, but I knew I would have to eventually return to reality. And I cannot lie, I was pretty giddy when I saw this:

On the blog:

What I Read Last Week

With the long driving, packing, and unpacking, I did not read as much as I would have liked to, but I read some good books. I sort of changed up my planned books for a few different reasons. I put Today Will Be Different aside, because of a combination of not stellar reviews, and because I really wanted to read Wild Beauty, and Kiersten wanted to bring it to school with her, so I had to act quickly. I am glad I did. Wild Beauty was my top read of the week. Between the beautiful prose and the great storytelling, I was totally captivated by this book.

What I Am Currently Reading

I am really excited to read the new Kasie West book. I love her so much, and I did not think I was going to get a review copy of this one. When I saw the approval, I almost cried. I started listening to Rules of Contact, and will probably listen to it as I drive from North Carolina back to New Jersey.

What I Plan to Read

I have the drive home on Monday. It took 10 hours to get here, so I don't think there will be much reading, but I may get through an audiobook. 

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Discussion: How Do You Know It's a Spoiler?

Confession: I struggle with writing reviews. I am always worried about trying to do the book justice or of properly trying to express my feelings and opinions of this work, but I also struggle because I strive to keep my reviews spoiler free.

I very rarely read reviews prior to reading the book. I will go to GoodReads and check the overall rating, maybe see if anyone I am following it has shelved the book, but I tend to stay away from reviews. I do, however, love to read reviews after I finish a book. I like to see what we agree or disagree on, or to see if they gleaned any addition meaning from the text than I had. Often I find myself shaking my head, because I see spoiler after spoiler in the reviews. At first I was frustrated. How dare they spoil the story for the next person. Then I took a step back, and thought, perhaps, they don't think that is a spoiler.

For instance, I read Lessons in Falling, and after I finished the book, I reviewed the synopsis and was shocked to find a plot point revealed, which I felt was sort of spoiler-like. I then took it upon myself to research spoilers, and I found this great poll on WIRED  discussing possible indicators of spoilers.

I also had what I considered a spoiler, revealed to me during the Cassandra Clare panel at BookCon. When the moderator let this one loose, you heard a collective gasp from over half the room. Now, this is not necessarily a plot point, but it was something major about a character in the book. I felt betrayed, angry, and as if I was robbed of the experience.

When I write a review, I always re-read the synopsis to try and gauge if what I want to say could possible be construed as a spoiler. It is therefore obvious that I consider information beyond the synopsis to be in the spoiler zone. I also asked myself, if this "thing" was surprising, an important catalyst for events that transpired in the book. This bit of information could be something that contributes to the shape the story takes or expose too much about the ending. I try really hard  not to reveal too much, and that is the biggest challenge for me when I try to formulate my thoughts in a review.

I want to know what you, readers and bloggers, think about spoilers.

How do you classify a spoiler? 
Let us know in the comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mini Review: Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms
Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #5
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I feel like at this point there's no reason to write reviews for the Throne of Glass series - by now, pretty much everyone has decided whether or not they want to read the series. But while reading Empire of Storms, I felt compelled to write a little bit about it.

One thing that Sarah J. Maas never fails to include in her books is strong female characters, and these strong female characters come in many different forms. There's Aelin, who I can't even really begin to explain her strength because it's on all kinds of levels; there's Manon, who is a ferocious, wyvern-riding witch; there's Elide, who isn't ferocious or magically powerful, but is decisive, smart, independent, and fiercely loyal; there's Lysandra, who can shapeshift and who throws herself into danger to protect her friends; and there's, a fairly new character, Ansel, who is a trained assassin.

Sure, it's impressive in and of itself that Sarah J. Maas is able to build these strong characters, but what's more noteworthy to me is that all these powerful women support each other - rather than being pit head to head (although there's been a little bit of that throughout the series because of obvious plot reasons), we get to see these women banding together. Paired with how territorial and ridiculously some of the men behave in the books, and it's just wonderful.

Anyway, I am definitely a lover of the Throne of Glass series, and if you haven't decided if you want to read it or not yet, I'm Team Read TOG because these characters are so fierce and wonderful. And, I mean, the rest of it is good too.

Who's your favorite strong female character?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Trusting You & Other Lies - Nicole Williams

Trusting You & Other Lies
Nicole Williams
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams delivers a seductive summer romance worth swooning over. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.

Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years--do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better?

On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum--the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out--and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?

This one really ticked off all the right boxes for me. It was such a sweet romance/coming-of-age story, and there were so many things I loved about this story.

  • I was sort of won over with the whole family summer camp thing. It was a great setting for this story, and I thought Williams used it brilliantly. This was a story of a broken family in need of healing. Phoenix's father had lost his job two years prior, and had not been able to get his mojo back. That, coupled with her parents constant bickering, and both of them being so closed off from the rest of the family really warranted this off-site setting. The family was forced to spend more time together, and this proximity was bound to result in them actually talking and working through their issues. 
  • Harrison, aka Harry was a little packet of awesome. This kid played true to age, but he was also so astute and often the voice of reason. I loved the bond he shared with Phoenix, and could not help but cheer for him with each small success he enjoyed. 
  • Callum, *sigh*. I wore a smile on my face almost every time he was on page. I adored this rugged, manly-man, who was trying to rise above his circumstances. He had a good heart, even if some of his decisions were not always right. 
  • You knew it was coming, the romance! Callum and Phoenix were great together. Their relationship was so honest, and they were able to connect and share things with each other, that they had previously not shared with anyone else. They listened to each other, had some really mature discussions (Bravo Ms. Williams!), and most of all, forgave each other when they made mistakes. 
  • Speaking of forgiveness, there are a lot of characters in this book, who needed forgiving. I love that this theme was explored, because it's realistic. People make mistakes and disappoint us, but because we love them, we will forgive them. 
  • Another HUGE theme in this book is lying. Williams puts the characters in several different types of situations, where they omit facts or lie. Sometimes the lies are for a good reason, sometimes they aren't. I liked the way she explored this grey area in this story, because it really worked in this case. We lie to protect someone, we lie so as not to hurt their feelings, we lie because we don't accept the truth. There are so many reasons why we lie, and Williams really gave me a lot to think about with respect to this issue. 
  • This book is about heavy things, but it's a rather light read. I am a fan of the fluff. This one is not too fluffy, it has plenty of depth, and angst. Phoenix is angsty, but it's just the right amount of drama for me. Williams balanced out the happy with the sad, the deep with the shallow. I felt plenty of emotions without falling into the emotional abyss. 
  • Growth, there is so much growth. I don't know if there were any main players who left Camp Kismet as the same person they were at the beginning of the summer. Phoenix, Callum, Harry, heck, even mom and dad all grew and changed. I always find it a positive thing, that when a character must suffer some pain in their life, they are made better from the experience. 
  • A good epilogue goes a long way. Williams wrapped this one up in a bow with a lovely epilogue, which left me feeling happy and satisfied. 
Overall: This was lovely story of love, family, and forgiveness. 

**Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

This book takes place at a family summer camp. The characters engage in running, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and of course, arts and crafts. 

What is your favorite summer camp activity?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: What to Say Next - Julie Buxbaum

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum.

What to Say Next
Julie Buxbaum
Series: n/a
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Waited on by: Amrutha
Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?
HELLO FRIENDS, my annual back-for-the-summer posting is beginning again. I FINALLY started reading Julie Buxbaum's Tell Me Three Things the other day and so far, it's super good and the book just generally has great reviews.

What to Say Next sounds just up my alley -- contemporary which basically promises a bunch of character development from the beginning of the blurb. Buxbaum has been compared to Rainbow Rowell before but the summary of this story can't help but remind me of When Eleanor Meets Park, a book that I adored.

Stay tuned for updates on What to Say Next because you better believe I am waiting for it to arrive!!

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Have Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is...

Top Ten Series I Have Been Meaning To Start But Haven't!

Kiersten's Picks

The Raven Cycle
Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Admittedly, the first time I heard about The Raven Boys a few years back I was not interested - the blurb just didn't grab me, so then I never read it. But after hearing more about the series and seeing Maggie Stiefvater on various book event panels, it has moved up my list of series to read. I ALMOST got to read it a few months ago after waiting for the first book at the elibrary, but there was a mishap with my card being expired and it still auto-checked-out the book. However, I got back on the waitlist again, and it is almost my turn!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Looking at my TBR on Goodreads, the first book in this series is one of the first books I added to my shelves when I started my account, which is really sad because I've heard so many good things about this series.

Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen

I think the reason I've yet to read this series (or at least the first book) is because somewhere in my head I told myself that I remembered seeing that the first book is 800 pages long, which is definitely not true, and I'm not sure where I came up with that. I haven't read any angel books in a while, so this seems like a great option!

The Winner's Trilogy
Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Honestly, they're so pretty that I feel like it's reason enough to read them. Besides that, I've heard so many great things about this story, and I heard the love interest is swoony. Plus, it's dystopian, which is one of my favorite genres.

Susan Kaye Quinn
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

In my experience with Susan Kaye Quinn books, I have never been disappointed. From a book about mindreading to a "Bollypunk" fantasy romance, every story is so well executed. Which makes it even sillier that I haven't read this series yet despite having it!

Sam's Picks

As expected, this list is endless, but since I can only pick 5 to share, I had to come up some criteria for the selection process. I decided upon sifting through my list, that I will narrow it down to the series, which I have no excuse for not starting. These series have been fairly well received, and I own the first book in the series. It is my goal to be able to tell you in December, that I have read the first book in each of these five series.

Strange House Series
Kathleen Baldwin
Publisher: Tor Teen

I was lucky enough to win the first book in the series, and I was really excited to read it. Spies, boarding school, scientific inventions, romance -- this book has tons of interesting elements, which I would definitely enjoy. It also has a lot of great reviews. I really do want to read this, since it sounds great and I tend to enjoy historical fiction when I read it too.

Monsters of Verity Series
Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

I fell in love with Schwab's writing through the Shades of Magic books. I was really excited about this series when I first heard about it, and quickly added it to my TBR. Monsters and the fight between good and evil is so classic, and I know Schwab did an amazing job with it, because there are scads and scads of stellar reviews. I was so eager to read this, that I personally bought a copy of this book. Now, I must hang my head in shame for not reading it.

The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press

I was so excited when I got this book at BEA last year. "What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes." This idea, that you have one day, when you can establish a clean slate or you can take total advantage and be as bad as you want to be. But there is one person, who remembers it all. Sounds great, right? I had every intention of reading it. I was doing a great job with the BEA books. I read at least 1 every week, but then Kiersten took some books to school, and you know, out of sight, out of mind.

Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Simon Pulse

This is another book I won in a giveaway. Now, I know what you are thinking. This is exactly the kind of book I would love. A cute, contemporary romance, which leans towards the fluffy side. It's my signature read. And Echols is an author, who is well liked. I deserve to be shamed for this one sitting unread.

The Fixer
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

I kept seeing reviews for this thriller popping up everywhere, and I like to read a good thriller every once in a while. The blurb talks about this girl, who is thrust into this world of politics and power, and becomes the one who "fixes" her peers' problems, but being the fixer gets Tess involved in something much bigger. Count. Me. In. Put it on the TBR, bought the book, and then...never read it.

What series have you been meaning to start?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: More of Me - Kathryn Evans

More of Me
Kathryn Evans
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, SciFi
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Teva goes to school, studies for her exams, and spends time with her friends. To the rest of the world, she’s a normal teenager. But when she goes home, she’s anything but normal. Due to a genetic abnormality, Teva unwillingly clones herself every year. And lately, home has become a battleground. When boys are at stake, friends are lost, and lives are snatched away, Teva has a fight on her hands—a fight with herself. As her birthday rolls around, Teva is all too aware that time is running out. She knows that the next clone will soon seize everything she holds dear. Desperate to hang on to her life, Teva decides to find out more about her past . . . and uncovers lies that could either destroy her or set her free.
Teva, version 16, is well aware of her fate. She knows she has one year to be the Teva who interacts with the outside world. She has one year to live her whole life before she is replaced by Teva version 17, and is then forced to spend her days locked away with her previous versions. But it appears the later version Tevas are not happy with this arrangement, and they are willing to fight for the right to live their lives, but will Teva survive long enough to accomplish this task?

When I first discovered this book, I thought the concept sounded really interesting. I love science, and genetics is an ever-evolving and growing field. I have to admit, when I started reading this book, it was a little weird, but then I remembers, SciFi books not set in space are a little weird, therefore, I kept reading. I am glad I gave this book a chance, because the story did hit its groove, and I grew to enjoy reading about all the Tevas.

Something I really liked, was trying to figure out if this was legit or if we were dealing with an unreliable narrator. Evans did a great job keeping me in that grey area. I was vacillating between the two scenarios, and found myself analyzing past passages to figure out if there were really clones or was it all in Teva's head. Well play, Ms. Evans.

I also thought Evans blended these out-of-the-ordinary parts very well with the ordinary parts of every day life. These Tevas never came across as science experiments or less than human. In fact, the two oldest versions, fifteen and Teva, were preoccupied with such average teen girl issues, that it read almost like a contemporary (my favorite genre). That SciFi twist added an extra layer to the story and brought up the intrigue factor.

The story was interesting, and there were some great characters supporting this story. Two of my favorite were Maddy, Teva's best friend, and Tom, Teva's classmate. Maddy was a fun and faithful friend, who challenged and supported Teva. Tom provided most of the comic relief, in my opinion. His character was quite amusing, but we did get to see that he had some depth later on, and I really loved where Evans went with him.

Now, I am going deep. When I was trying to decide if the multiple versions were real or not, I started thinking of them metaphorically. This idea, that each year you shed your younger self, thus emerging with some of your former thoughts and beliefs, but also open to forming new ones. I even saw some symbolism in the physical pains Teva experienced as her new, older self was battling to emerge. Growing up is hard and can be painful, and I thought this was illustrated in an interesting way throughout the book. OR that was totally not the author's intention, and I am reading into it too much. Either way, I love that it made me think so much.

Overall: An interesting portrait of growing up sprinkled with romance, mystery, drama, and humor.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

In one of my favorite parts of this book, one of the characters talks about how they will get coffee, lots and lots of coffee. It was a very sweet declaration in its context, but it made me think, that would be wonderful, because I love coffee. 

Do you like coffee?
Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Post - June 18, 2017

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where I can share my wrap up of the past week, as well as plans for the current week.

First and foremost, to all our fathers out there:

My Week in Review

It's like Groundhog Day here. Pack and store. Pack and store. Lots to get done before driving the kid to school this week, but at least I read some really great books. Since I will be on my road trip this upcoming week, I don't anticipate reading as much, but I hope what I do read will be high quality.

On the blog:

What I Read Last Week

I finished one audiobook and 4 books. My standouts were The Names They Gave Us and This is How it Happened. Names was a lovely coming of age story. This was my first Lord book, but will most certainly not be my last. I was really excited to read the Stokes book. I am a fan, and am in awe of her ability to genre hop and do it so well. This book explores internet shaming, and really resonated with me and my love/hate relationship with some social media sites.

What I Am Currently Reading

I may actually be finished with my book, In 27 Days, by the time you read this, but I can say so far, so good. I love this idea of getting a second chance to express your feelings, and maybe save someone. I only have an hour left of my audiobook. The second installment of this series is not narrated by Kristin Bell, but I think the narrator is doing a good job, and I keep getting teary-eyed every time Logan and Veronica's relationship is the focus. Forever team Logan!

What I Plan to Read

With a road trip this week and the unpacking that will follow, I am going to shorten my TBR for the week. My loan finally came through on OverDrive, and I am excited to read the new Maria Semple book. I am also going to read a graphic novel for a reading challenge. I am struggling with my summer book bingo challenge, but still hopeful. If you have any suggestions for me, head on over to my reading challenge page and leave me a comment.

How was your week?
Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Stuffed Animal Saturday: Brooding YA Hero - Carrie DiRisio

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

This Saturday, me and Sloth are reading Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie DiRisio and illustrated by Linnea Gear!

So Far: Sloth is really digging Broody McHottiepants and his tips from the book (I fear that soon Sloth will be going by Slothy McBroodysloth - I mean, he's already got the pose down in the photo). Broody's humor thus far is really funny, playing with the idea of YA tropes.

Sneak peek: The prologue of the book really gives a sense of who Broody McHottiepants is, so we'll share part of that from the ARC (quote may differ from final version).
Alone in his room, Broody McHottiepants contemplated his future. He was the best of all fictional characters ever created - that he knew. His phone never stopped ringing (playing his theme song, from his latest hit movie-adaptation, of course) with Authors begging him to star in their latest novels. An endlessly talented man, he'd been everything from a vampire to a quarterback. Into each novel, he brought his incredibly adjective-filled beauty, his gemstone-colored gaze, his strong, strong arms, and his potent blend of wish fulfillment and slightly toxic masculinity.

And each time, people swooned.

Everyone loved him. He'd recently opened a Twitter account, and there, loyal fans waited for him to speak his beautiful, vivid, wondrous wisdom. As the hero of so many stories, he was uniquely qualified to share the brilliant advice everyone adored.

Sure, he'd had movie and TV deals, too. Even comic books. He'd overthrown evil dystopian governments, won the state championship in sportsball, and always, always found true love.

And yet, something wasn't right. Not today. It wasn't a usual day in New Story City, the place where all character archetypes, from the wisest, old mentors to the youngest, annoying-est siblings, waited for Authors to draft them into new stories.

Most mornings, Broody woke to a summons from an Author. Depending on the type of story, it might arrive by text message, or by carrier-pigeon. Reality shifted easily in New Story City.

But it had been two weeks, and still no Author had contacted him. 
Bonus: Sloth really liked this quote about how Broody stays in shape, so he wanted me to share that as well - Sloth has already added it to his new workout regiment and suggests you do the same.
My workout routine includes eyebrow lifts (for maximum quirking potential), leaping over plot holes, high-jumping to conclusions, bench-pressing my emotions to make them easier to suppress, and climbing up cliffs I've been left hanging on.
Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me hits shelves on October 3rd, so make sure to add it to your TBR and check back here for a review around then!

Thanks to Sky Pony Press for the ARC I received at BookExpo!

Are you and your stuffed animal reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: Saints and Misfits - S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits
S.K. Ali
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster BYR
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.
And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?
Saint. Misfit. Monster. These are titles bandied around within this story of self-discovery. Janna often identifies as a "misfit" - she is a book nerd, avid photographer, academic over-achiever, who likes boys with high foreheads, and one high forehead in particular, belongs to a non-muslim boy. While Janna is struggling with this "crush", she is also grappling with exposing a so-called "saint" for the monster he really is.

There were so many things I liked about this book, but the most important thing for me was how Ali was sharing her culture and religion with me. I am a huge proponent of learning more about people, who hold different beliefs from ourselves,  so that we can build bridges. In my adult life, I have met many Muslims, but I still have a lot to learn, and found some of what Ali shared very insightful.
"There are diverse ways of reading texts, depending on who you are. We all access books differently."
This quote stopped me dead in my tracks, as I get very frustrated with the social media wars waged against some authors. I accept that the collective "we" bring different experiences to the table, and it was such a relevant point Ali raised. The context was very interesting too. But, I digress....

A horrible, terrible, very bad thing happened to Janna, and she accepted to carry this burden by herself, because the perpetrator dons his "saint" mask for the community, whereas, Janna has been recently found in a few compromising situations. Right there, Ali illustrated the way many victims are made to feel. The burden of proof is on the victim, and any of their indiscretions can and will be used against them. So instead, Janna lives in fear of him, and withers away inside. These parts were written quite effectively, because I felt and shared Janna's pain. I wanted to reach into the page and harm the "monster".
"Instead, I see a husk of corn. An empty one. Because, like Mr. Ram said, that's what the master is, just a husk with nothing inside."
As far as MCs go, Janna was very likable. This girl had so many good qualities, and I quickly fell in love with her. She was bright, driven, artistic. She was fun, quirky, and a little awkward. She was also lucky enough to be surrounded by so many people, who loved her. From Nuah, Muhammad, Mr. Ram, Sarah, Tats, to even Sausun, there were so many people, who cared enough about Janna to realize something was wrong.
"I can't imagine what it means to love everyone. But I'm just going to start right here, by loving a bit more of myself. And maybe then the rest will follow."
And speaking of all these wonderful characters, I have to commend Ali on the fine cast she assembled. Nuah was so goofy, sweet, and funny, he instantly won a place in my heart. Muhammad was lovesick, but still able to be a good big brother, who meant well, and the sibling bond was excellently illustrated. Mr. Ram was such a beautiful addition to this story. I truly adored the time that he and Janna shared together. He was a font of wisdom and shared all these beautiful thoughts along with some very lovely poetry. Sarah ended up being one of the more complicated characters. I was really surprised by her and it was a pleasant surprise. But the best, was Sausun.
"Do you want him to keep thinking he's got you in control, like he's going to dictate how you act, how you are, just because you won't give in to him?"
Sausun was a niqabi, she covered her face in addition to her hair, and she was the most fierce and empowered character in this book. Sausun had an anger that was fueled by the treatment of her sister. She believed women were not chattel, but should be respected. She saw the niqab as a symbol of this empowerment, and it was quite awesome the way it was explained.
"Plus most girls who cover their faces do it because they want to be the ones to decide who gets to see them."

"Well, when you think of it that way, it sounds kind of powerful. Like no one can sum up your identity without permission."
Ali effortlessly intertwined heavy issues such as assault, bullying, taboo dating, divorce, and victimization with levity and joy. She introduced many aspects of the Muslim religion seamlessly into the story, and taught me some things without getting preachy. This is a solid debut, and I look forward to more of Ali's stories.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

Have you ever participated in a quiz bowl?
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin - Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin
Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I can't tell if I'm overwhelmed writing this review because I haven't written one in so long (lol sorry I'm trash) or because this book was just a lot. I'm gonna go with the latter???

I just...have so many feelings??? Most of them are spoilery feelings, though, so, even with my ability to drag a two page paper into seven pages, this should be more concise than usual.

I'm going to start with some general conclusions and work my way into whatever specifics I can:
  • I liked ACOMAF better, but that doesn't mean I didn't like ACOWAR!! Like, I liked ACOMAF a lot. I'm pretty I just sat there hyperventilating after I read it, rocking back and forth like I had nothing left to live for. Those were really high expectations to ask ACOWAR to surpass and just because it didn't doesn't mean it wasn't still a great book.
  • It took me a while to read -- the pacing was very slow. The very beginning was tense and captivating but then the book settled into a rhythm of ~planning~ with not much happening for like half the book. While I understand that it's a book about war and the scenes were necessary, they made the book drag a lil and it took me a while to get through it. This wasn't actually entirely the book's fault, though, because if I'm really into a book and it's ~slow~ I'll still push through and read it fairly quickly, but my summer classes have been a time suck and I spent a lot of time away from the book. Anyway, my point here is: until things started happening, I wasn't sure I'd be into it but once it started picking up, boy did it pick up. 
  • What ACOWAR lacked in pacing, it made up for in characterization. I think giving heart to characters is Sarah J. Maas's strong suit because the moments I found myself audibly laughing or crying were less because of the plot moving along and more because of little things the characters would do. Honestly, all I really want in my life is a TV show in the style of The Office written by Sarah J. Maas chronicling the lives of these characters as they go about their day to day business. Some highlights:
    • NESTA. I can't believe how far Nesta has come???? Like, when she was introduced in ACOTAR, I was like "Who is this deadweight sister???" and assumed she would be collateral damage by the end of the first book because she was just so ANNOYING. And she was a little better in ACOMAF, but MAN, she really SOLD this book for me. Like, her entire arc just made this book so COMPELLING and INTRIGUING and I don't know if the future books about Prythian will have these same characters but if they do I hope my girl Nesta is one of them. 
    • all the Old Gods and stuff!! In the last two books, characters like the Bone Carver and the Suriel and company were always fun to read, but definitely just gave Feyre/the audience exposition. I liked that they were in more of the book this time. I love characters who are Unknown and Fascinating (like Amren). Also, did not think I would ever cry real tears over ~plot device characters~ and yet ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 
    • Lucien. He is my sad son and I love him.
    • The whole inner circle TBH. I cried inside every time Azriel or Cassian did anything or said anything or breathed and I'm always cryin every time Rhys's name is mentioned even when it's not in a book so. Also highkey in love with MOR and AMREN. Basically I love my children. 
    • (I have more but they're #spoilers so...bye)
  • cool as HECK battle scenes
    • by cool I mean DEVASTATING 
  • Okay honestly I know I already talked about characters but some of the specific ACTIONS of the characters I am just not OVER like...wild...they did that
  • There was some awkward dialogue/narration but like there were so many more amazing parts that it doesn't make me like the book less. I also feel like, in this book, while I was reading it really grated on me that SJM has a tendency to use certain phrases repeatedly but that's really a personal problem and honestly it didn't like ~take away from my reading experience~ or anything, so I won't dwell too much on it. 
Okay, I think that's all I can say without accidentally crying about some major plot point or something. To recap: 1. This book was DELIGHTFUL. 2. My favorite aspect was Nesta and her arc involving the cauldron. 3. Once the ~set up~ part was complete, it was a thrill ride. 4. I would die for all these characters. Okay, SORRY if this was all ramble and no content but I am STILL a Mess. Until next time, friends!!

What fictional characters would be in your inner circle?
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life - Shelly Tougas

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas.

Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life
Shelly Tougas
Series: n/a
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Waited on by: Sam
A life on the prairie is not all it's cracked up to be in this middle-grade novel where one girl’s mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.
Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.

Little House on the Prairie dominated my childhood. I religiously watch this program, and have read all the books. It holds a very special place in my heart. So, you could only imagine the utter joy I experienced when I saw this book.

Seriously, this family was everything to me. 

I love the mom's obsession with all things Little House, and the idea of her trying to channel the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder in order to write her own book. To sweeten the deal, her daughter catches the LIW fever herself. I see so many fun and adorable possibilities for this story.

This is really taking me back and making me wistful. I have so many lovely memories of the Ingalls family, and I hope to revisit all those feels via this book.

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!