The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah Review

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London ShahThe Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah (Light The Abyss #1)

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: October 29, 2019

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository: The Light At The Bottom Of The World

Summary: At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Light At The Bottom Of The World is YA Sci-Fi debut that will leave you with a sense of wonder and is a delightful immersive adventure! Set in a future underwater, Leyla is a quest to reunite with her father! Layered politics, unique world building, and mystery are just some of the many things to expect from Shah’s wonderful debut!

I’d been looking forward to this book for over a year because the concept sounded fascinating, so of course that meant I had to add it to the TBR! Underwater society, the turn of the century, sub races, and government conspiracies? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

16-year old Leyla McQueen is a dedicated sub racer and she’s on a mission! Set in Great Britain in the year 2099 nearing the end of the century, people for the most part have adjusted to life underwater. However, up above on the surface the water levels continue to rise, there’s devastating storms, and back underwater there’s a sickness that’s spreading.

Leyla’s father is accused of spreading the illness known as Seasickness, but she knows he’s innocent! So, when Leyla’s chosen to compete in the London Marathon, she hopes her wish can accomplish one thing: Bringing her father home!

When her wish doesn’t go exactly as planned, she decides to seek out answers herself, but luckily she’s not alone! With her friends Theo & Tabby, her grandfather, and a mysterious new companion, Leyla is on a race against time traveling the dangerous waters in her submersible to find her father!

Shah’s writing is atmospheric and thought-provoking. Not only does she beautifully lay out this futuristic setting of an underwater society, but she weaves in the unique technology, habitat/environmental layers, and complex politics that come with it.

Told through a first-person POV you really get inside Leyla’s head and learn more about her past and what I really appreciated, was how much you learn about the world through her eyes! The world itself is layered subtly where your getting this clear picture of the underwater world and the politics, setting, and character development building with each chapter!

Leyla is a wonderful main character and I loved following her journey! She’s dedicated to racing, worries about her father, and is experiencing the world outside London for the first time. She’s hopeful, unwavering, and just has a wonderful spirit!

“Hope is all I have right now; it’s as unending as the oceans―and I must hold on to it…” (23).

In terms of representation this novel centers around our main protagonist and her family who’re Pashtun/Afghan Muslim! (Also, this book is #OwnVoices for British Muslim rep!)

Throughout the novel, Leyla grows in ways that test her knowledge of the world she thought she knew. Following her perspective, you get a layered look at the politics, setting, and government established in underwater Great Britain.

The story moves at such a great pace where at the end of each chapter, your left with so many questions and trying to piece the mystery together!

Leyla’s joined by her dog Jojo, an internal sub navigator who’s presented as Oscar Wilde, and Ari, a family friend who’s been tasked with looking after Leyla by her grandfather! What stands out as the story progresses are the really distinct changes to their dynamic as it shifts & grows in subtle ways. I loved how Shah explored their enemies to friends (maybe lovers?) dynamic and had so many surprises for them along the way!

I don’t want to get into it too much, because you really have to read it for yourself, but Leyla & Ari’s dynamic was developed in a really great way! They start out not really liking each other, but throughout their adventure together, what the dynamic is rooted in is trust! Trust within themselves and with each other! Its a wonderful message that layered itself into the story and adds so much to their friendship/dynamic!

The plot twists in this book were just SO good and made me really think about the world itself and what our characters have been tricked into believing!

A good adventure isn’t without a few bumps along the road for our duo! There’s the mysterious government security known as Blackwatch, a mysterious captain named Sebastian, and monsters (Arthropoids) that lurk within the waters!

I really loved how Shah beautifully explored and delved into the element of nostalgia, whether its for characters that Leyla notices are obsessed with the Old World, groups known as the Old World Heritage Society, even people’s fascination with collecting Old World objects. In this speculative fiction future, it created this sense longing and promise for what’s ahead! That was a beautiful message I picked up on while reading and really appreciated it.

There’s also a message woven in about family! Leyla herself never admits it too often, but she is lonely. She misses the time when she could spend the holidays at home with her parents and with her mission to find her father, she hopes she can regain that loss along the way. Friendship itself is also anchors itself as an important familial unit for Leyla and it’ll be great to see how those important themes are explored in the sequel!

The setting itself is layered with beautiful imagery and alongside Shah’s great writing, your given a sense of wanderlust that makes the world dazzle and make you wish you could go on your own underwater adventure too!

Now onto my critique: Its really just boils down to the writing! Though I really love (and will absolutely defend) the beauty of first person POVs, I felt at least for this first novel (for me personally) there were something about its presentation that made it difficult to fully connect with the plot at some points (mainly during Leyla’s journey as she traveled the oceans, looking for her father). As I read, I noticed there was a big focus to the emotion and emotional layers of the story through Leyla’s perspective.

With the way it was presented, the perspective made certain plot points feel glossed over. Because we’re in Leyla’s head, we really get an in-depth look at her as a character, which is great, BUT I did find at points there was a bit too much internal description of her thoughts/emotions. From my perspective, it took away from some of the exposition and execution of plot points. However, I really loved Shah’s writing style, its so beautiful and I definitely found myself writing down a lot of wonderful quotes!

After that ending I can’t wait to see what happens next in the sequel! I’m really looking forward to seeing whats next for Leyla’s journey!

The Light At The Bottom Of The World is a thought-provoking YA Sci-Fi that features a sub racer on a mission to save her father! With beautiful writing, a great cast of characters, plot twists, mystery, and a wonderfully immersive setting, you don’t want to miss London Shah’s debut!

Hey everyone, just wanted to share that yesterday I posted my author interview with Isabel Ibañez whose releasing her 2020 debut, Woven In Moonlight, in just a couple months! It would mean the world if you gave it a read, we talk about her inspiration, main character, and tons of different elements of her book she’s looking forward to sharing with readers! There’s also an awesome pre-order campaign I share in the post too! Hope you can check it out! 🌙✨💞

Crier’s War by Nina Varela Review

Crier's War by Nina VarelaCrier’s War by Nina Varela (Crier’s War #1)

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pages: 434

Available Through The Book Depository: Crier’s War

Summary: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Crier’s War is a deftly woven political fantasy, featuring stellar world building, romance, poetic writing, and a brilliantly crafted plot that will keep you hooked! 

I just finished this book over the weekend and I’m not sure how my review can do this incredible book justice! Ayla & Crier were AMAZING characters, I loved them both so much and my heart burst with joy and sadness throughout their POVs! This book swept me away from the very first page and I’m incredibly excited to see what adventures lay ahead for our protagonists in the sequel, Iron Heart!

Even well before the start of the novel, from the epigraph: “For the queer readers. You deserve every adventure” you can sense the heart and soul Varela poured into this gem of a story! The compact timeline introduced from the very first page lays the groundwork for an epic adventure, the complex dynamic and history between humans and Automae in the lands of Zulla!

Crafted by a specific Maker, the Automae soon began to rebel against their owners and quickly became in charge, turning the tides of society. Now essentially starting from scratch, the Automae rule over humans (who are now servants) and some of the monarchs even take pride in still finding the fascination in human culture they’ve oppressed.

Crier is the current heir, an Autmoae who is brilliant and politically savvy, eager to prove it to her father, the current king, Hessod. However, she’s also set to be married to Scyre Kinok, the cunning war hero who may also have secrets of his own. Yet, when she learns early on that there’s something within her that makes her Flawed, she realizes she is still not fully free herself.

Ayla has one thing on her mind…revenge! For her family that was killed, for the future that was taken away from her, and for those she’s sworn to defend. As part of a rebellion group, she finds she’s given the opportunity to make strides in their uprising for freedom when she becomes handmaiden to Lady Crier, the current heir to the Kingdom of Rabu!

She isn’t entirely alone however, she sticks by one of her best friends Benjy and Rowan a “bird of prey” who is one of the leaders in a group of human rebels who are gearing to take down the Automae and give themselves a fighting chance at a new life.

The story is tightly-plotted with a lot of intrigue, mystery, and continuously builds on story threads that showcase their importance to the world and narrative!

Both Ayla and Crier are placed in positions where the secrets they carry are vital to their futures, requiring them to keep a close eye on each other and the figures around them as well. It’s in the underlying language that we see: both girls are working to stay one step ahead and know that even the smallest slip, could mean their downfall.

The 3rd-person / dual perspective allows for insight not only into the different sides of Zullan society (both human & Automae alike), but it also connects the plot in such a seamless way where your always left surprised by what will happen next.

The other main characters from Benjy to Kinok, rebels, royalty, etc. you feel their weight and impact to the story, even from secondary characters in such a way where the political unrest brings all these different voices to the forefront in some way.

Crier’s War doesn’t shy away from the impact and ferocity of emotion that courses its way through different layers of the story: from its characters to world, the politics, and the inner journey of our main protagonists!

Ayla, her anger and rage bled through each page and you could feel it through her words, actions, and internal thoughts! All she wants is to avenge those she’s lost (mother, father, & twin brother Storme) and create a better life for people. That can only be achieved by getting rid of the Automae, starting with Crier.

I can’t put into words how much I loved following her & Crier’s journeys! They were layered with depth, growth, hurt, and healing, which became such central and emotional themes of the book!

In the world of Crier’s War, though its setting is entirely new and unique, the way Varela develops the different villages, the intricate political relations, and the layers to society feel incredibly real as if they could very well exist in our own world.

What I also loved delving into, when it comes to Automae was their own history and influence in society, their reach goes to practically every sphere of this world! Another intriguing element to the Automae themselves is how their Designed, Made, and the influence the 4 Pillars has on how it makes them who they are (Reason, Calculation, Organic, & Intellect). Again this also ties in with the world building itself, but I loved all the little details that were described really brought the setting to life!

One of my favorite parts of this world (as with any other sci-fi/fantasy) was the politics! I studied this in college and I find it utterly fascinating and I can’t count how many moments I stopped reading to take notes on it.

From Scyre Kinok’s hidden agenda for acquiring power not only within the kingdom, being a former protector of the Iron Heart, to his part within the elite guard to advance Automae, and vying for power in the Red Council (which he continues to do successfully).

Kinok was easily one of my favorite antagonistic characters in this book because, from the very beginning we know he has worked to acquire power for himself, yet we still don’t know to what extent. He was fascinating to learn about because even as we learn more about him and his mysterious motives, the way he presents himself vs. what he keeps hidden are completely different things! This allows us as readers to constantly feel unsettled by him but also fascinated by his cleverness.

Additionally, its through the heriarchy of the characters themselves and their words, Crier with Kinok, Crier with her father Hessod, Ayla with Crier, and so on!

A favorite scene of mine involved Kinok and Crier dancing and to me, I felt this scene reflected the impact their reputations have on the status which they can successfully attain in the kingdom! It was beautifully written and impacted me in ways that had me enthralled by their dynamic!

Varela’s writing is incredibly thought-provoking and she brilliantly captured the political tone and intrigue that’s teeming on the edge of revolution! Her writing just connected with me on such a deep level, it felt philosophical. As we learn about this entirely new world the words are presented in a beautifully composed and scholarly way (Like I’m not entirely sure this makes sense, but the writing kept me thinking and I felt I was learning so much? About politics, the depth of dominating emotion, etc…)

Her writing above all was beautiful, captivating, and elegant!

When it comes to the romance, its slow-burn and again, elegantly written! As you read Crier & Ayla’s beautiful descriptions of one another, your heart feels the depth of emotion where you can truly understand them on a deep, internal level.

My only minor critique is that because SO many people were emphasizing the f/f romance, I was personally expecting more just a bit more exploration to their dynamic throughout the book! But, I can tell Book 2 will delve more into that. Also, more Kinok! He was such a fantastic antagonist and I just wanted more pages from him, as I mentioned above there’s just so many layers to his agenda and I couldn’t help but be intrigued as to how he would make things more complicated for Ayla and Crier!

Crier’s War is a beautifully crafted debut that explores politics, intrigue, tackles philosophical questions on what it means to be human and what does one fight for? Against an expansive backdrop of a world led by alchemical magick and dangerous AI royalty! This is another stellar debut and its a must read for 2019!!

Blog Tour: Songs From The Deep by Kelly Powell {ARC Review}

Songs From The Deep by Kelly PowellSongs From The Deep by Kelly Powell

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon Teen)

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Pages: 304

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Songs From The Deep

Summary: The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.

*Received ARC from the publisher as part of the blog tour*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Songs From The Deep is an atmospheric murder-mystery debut, set on an island town surrounded by sirens! When everyone is convinced a murder was the work of sirens, violin-player Moira and lighthouse keeper Jude work together to solve the case! Moira’s atmospheric narrative voice delves deeply into the characters and lore of the town! Powell delivers a story about friendship and self-growth that will captivate you, as she weaves together a quiet, character-driven mystery led by a dynamic duo!

Songs From The Deep is a novel that just from the basics of the story alone, just had me incredibly excited to check it out! There’s an island town surrounded by sirens, a childhood friend duo teaming up to solve a murder mystery, and one is a violin player and the other a lighthouse keeper? I mean how cool does that sound?

Overall I had such a fun time reading this book because from the main characters, to the setting and intrigue of the mystery, it all leaves you wanting to know more! Moira and Jude  I felt I learned so much about them and their history, and there’s just such a unique energy to them that just made me so happy every time they were on-page together solving the case! I’ll tell you, I was heartbroken when I reached the end because, Moira and Jude were just wonderful characters to get to know and they really come to life in ways its difficult to explain.

The way Powell laid out the town of Twillengyle, you can sense the deep fog, hear the crash of beach waves, the eerie and overall, atmospheric feel of a town that’s filled with life through Moira’s elegantly constructed and first person POV!

According to her bio, Powell is interested in maritime history and nautical folklore. From the very first chapter, you can sense how those interests built into the world and the atmosphere, creating a setting so vivid and unique: from the element of sirens and their lore and overall just the way the town is described with the small details.

I’d definitely say this is a quiet YA Mystery, which makes it very character-driven, slow building, and incredibly introspective through 17-year old Moira Alexander’s POV. Because of that, you are left with a certain sense and perception of the town that creates a unique image in your mind. You are able to connect to characters very quickly as well, which makes the mystery such a fun ride as you gather more pieces with each turn of the page!

Moira plays the violin for the sirens that surround her island town, because she’s grown up, both learning and understanding them through her father, who was a well-known researcher of these mystical creatures (even according to the detective, he laid the foundation for a lot of the knowledge of sirens the town is now aware of). She knows these sirens are dangerous, but seems to understand them in ways that no one else does (not even her mother).

That’s something that really shines through her POV as well, just all the knowledge she has about the sirens and her town makes the mystery a lot of fun trying to piece together!

Later that same night she runs into her childhood friend, who she hasn’t spoken to in years, 19-year old Jude Osric. He warns Moira that there’s been a murder at the beach near his lighthouse and that it could be the work of sirens.

She is not convinced that her former violin student Connor Shehan, was killed by sirens. Moira’s grown up around them to learn the details about them only she can really notice, and is determined to prove it. When the local detectives Dale and Thackery. This leads her to journey’s across town piecing together clues and speaking with her local townsfolk, to gather as much as she can to build her case!

What I loved about Songs From The Deep so much was the fact that the rekindling friendship between Moira + Jude, even the ups and downs of navigating it, are such vital parts of the story!

We learn that Jude’s family (mother, father, & older sister) were taken by sirens when he was younger. He was left alone to look over the local lighthouse!

Slowly, Moira and Jude began to drift away and I loved how layered their history was as you uncover more about their deep friendship.

Powell’s debut is not just a murder mystery, it’s also about the characters (especially our main duo), the town and how siren’s are so deeply woven into its folklore, history, alongside the past of Moira and Jude’s families.

I fell in love with both Moira and Jude so much! Their dynamic is built on friendship and you see that although they grew up being the best of friends, it’s this murder-mystery that really brings them back together! Throughout the entirety of the book,  there’s a big emphasis on friendship and although there are some developing romantic moments, it progresses perfectly as they slowly build of their relationship.

Also, just as friends, they have such great chemistry and work together as such an incredible team! While there is a hint at romance, I appreciated that a good 98% of this book focuses on them as friends and their growth! The romance is really sweet too and I  never felt it took away from the story, it was developed so perfectly!

They have their ups and downs in the friendship for sure, where they have to confront truths about themselves in order to better understand just how much their friendship means to the both of them. Its through the little moments where they show their vulnerable sides, forgive, or ensure each other’s safety where you see how much they care!

A majority of this novel though, really focuses on Moira not only as she gathers clues, but also how us as readers learn more about her town and the people within it. For example, as she gathers more evidence she decides to talk to her former teacher Ms. Nell Bracken, who was Connor’s teacher too! There’s also local kids who knew her and Jude growing up, and the local detectives who work on the case!

I appreciated how there many interwoven details that influenced different layers of the story and our main characters. Such as Moira’s reasoning for keeping to herself until the mystery begins,  which was due to the passing of her father and the grief that came with that. There’s also a secret she kept from Jude, where in time she found it much easier for them to just drift apart, even how her grief played a part in her leaving the local music hall for years where she was a rising star.

Next I wanted to talk more about the setting! A main location of the story is Jude’s lighthouse, its where they meet up and hangout for a majority of the book. There’s so much history within it, how it ties into Jude’s family and Moira’s past when they used to hear legends and tales, and explore the beach together, its a place with a lot of history for them both. I loved how this was a place they could just feel comfortable and rekindle their friendship!

This is an interesting tidbit, but before going into the book and well within the first few chapters I was picturing a modern-day setting just with sirens. But, I learn very quickly when they mentioned telegraphs, this is NOT set in modern day. Its more of a historical urban fantasy-esque world and that was something that really surprised me 😂😅✨

When it comes to the town and sirens themselves, again there were just all these little details and the way the prose just captures the setting so well! For example, there’s a brief line about sea pink flowers that represent good luck or the legends that surrounded different things around town like a small well or the lighthouse! Even reading from Moira’s POV that shows the complexity to the sirens and how sympathetic she is towards them, compared to others that live in Twillengyle.

There were a couple critiques I did want to dive into that lowered my rating. First, I felt the build-up to the mystery was so fantastic and that’s what kept you reading however, when the reveal is finally introduced, I felt it concluded very briefly and while it did surprise me, I felt it could had further explanation as to the motives. Also, very minor but there were a couple more characters I felt could have had more page time to be developed!

I also really wish there could have been more plot points added to get more of Jude/Moira together and just getting more perspective of the town from Moira’s eyes, because I loved Powell’s writing so much!

Again, this is more of a personal preference, but the writing does deliver a slow, atmospheric pace to the story, but I think it worked well because your left knowing so much about the characters and world! I loved that a lot!

I’m also just left a mess of emotions because I felt the ending wrapped up really nicely and again, just emphasized that strong bond Moira and Jude have together! I would love to read more books with them together solving more mysteries or just delving more into the town itself!! I loved these 2 so much!! 💖💖 (keeping my fingers crossed 😭💖💙)

Songs From The Deep is a YA debut that delivers a quiet murder-mystery tale through an incredibly detailed and immersive writing-style! If your looking for a character-driven mystery, atmospheric writing, and a dynamic detective duo, this is a great book to pick up! Enchanting, immersive, and filled with mystery!!

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen ARC Review

The Infinite Noise by Lauren ShippenThe Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions #1)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Pages: 336

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Infinite Noise

Summary: Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

*Relieved ARC via a book festival* *TW: brief mentions of self-harm & past attempts, bullying, & internal discussion of Depression*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Infinite Noise is an introspective and character-driven debut based on the fiction podcast, The Bright Sessions! Serving as both a companion for fans of the podcast and introduction, this YA Contemporary/Sci-fi debut sends readers on a deep and layered journey following the perspective of Caleb, star football player with the unique power of extreme empathy and Adam, a lonely classmate who helps Caleb find anchor in the rough wave of high school emotions! The Infinite Noise for fans of the podcast is no doubt an absolute treat, while offering moments of both joy & nostalgia being able to revisit two beloved characters from The Bright Sessions universe!

I originally started listening to The Bright Sessions podcast back in 2016 and it instantly became one of my favorites!

It was one of the earliest audio drama podcasts I’d ever heard and throughout the series, Shippen has put such care in her discussion/exploration of mental health and positive representation of therapy! In addition, her both moving + relatable storytelling, deeply complex cast of characters, and inspiring messages have stuck with me since I first started listening.

As a long-time listener of the podcast, I was beyond excited when Shippen’s book deal was first announced! Her storytelling is phenomenal and because I love these characters so so much, I was really looking forward to seeing how she’d expand on their stories in book form!

I adore the main characters Caleb Michaels and Adam Hayes in the podcast, they are the sweetest m/m couple I’ve ever encountered and getting to revisit them & their stories again in book form just left me turning page after page. Their also one of the fan-favorite couples of the series!

Shippen really knows her characters (especially in a first-person perspective) so getting to fully immerse myself into their inner thoughts didn’t feel like such a rehash of the podcast. I truly felt I learned more about these characters from a completely different perspective and I really appreciated that.

In this review I’m going to try and speak from a book perspective and leave more of my podcast-related thoughts near the end!

So, Caleb Michaels is a football player for his high school and from his very first few chapters its clear there’s something unique about him! As it turns out he has extreme empathy, which means not only can he sense the emotions of everyone around him, but he can take on those emotions too and in a way, amplifies them!

Having powers or supernatural abilities like this makes Caleb an Atypical!

Adam Hayes is a bit of an outcast, he’s quiet and doesn’t have many friends. He struggles with depression and throughout his perspective you see how it makes him feel disconnected from the world, feeling incredibly isolated and lonely.

As Caleb begins seeing Dr. Bright, a therapist for strange and unusual people like himself, she recommends he get to know Adam when they delve more into his ability and how he stopped one of his teammates from bullying Adam.

We get a deeper dive & different perspective into Caleb’s empath ability through the descriptions of color + comparison of nature to relate back to the impact of emotions that he feels.

Caleb and Adam have a slow and steady friendship that clearly develops into more over the course of this novel! Shippen incredibly weaves in the emotion, voice, and heart of these characters in such a deep and relatable way that really highlight all the complex, powerful, and distinct feelings associated with high school!

Throughout the novel, we get glimpses into all these different aspects of both Caleb and Adam’s lives and deep into their subconscious as well. Together, The Infinite Noise delivers such a balanced and relatable view as it explores family dynamics, friendship, love, and mental health.

Adam is dealing with depression and the representation of it is something directly explored and addressed throughout the novel. When both Caleb & Adam are together, Shippen doesn’t ignore the depth of those emotions and how they make Caleb feel as well (though it can be intense, he accepts those emotions and gives Adam his time when necessary). 

Similar to that of the show, I feel Shippen also highlights the importance of mental health, taking care of yourself, and brings layers and depth to that exploration in such relatable ways. Both the podcast and novel explore it a bit differently, but without a doubt its an important developed layer of the story!

From Adam’s perspective, he’s not sure what to make of Caleb. He later makes it clear he’s had a crush on him, but feels that their daily lunch hangouts together are a bit suspicious. He’s confused as to why a popular jock would want to hang out with him, but as they talk more and more, both Adam and Caleb begin to develop a special relationship!

Caleb finds himself falling for Adam too and the way Shippen develops it felt like such a steady progression, where we got to know both of them fully and how their relationship allows them to bring out the best in each other, by keeping each other green!! (its a podcast reference 😂💚)

Also, can I just say that Adam’s playlist for Caleb, their fun lunch hangouts and general moments together were the sweetest!! 💞

What is highlighted especially in The Infinite Noise that I never really gave much thought about in The Bright Sessions, was how this novel puts a focus on the connections between people and how the abilities give ways for Atypicals to connect with people in the most unlikely of ways!

However, looming over Caleb’s head are his empath powers, which he has to keep secret. With Caleb feeling in sync with Adam and Adam finding that happiness whenever he’s with Caleb, he also can’t help but feel steps behind him and can’t seem to figure out why.

Over the course of The Infinite Noise, Caleb and Adam’s relationship really cements itself in the novel alongside brewing mysteries and government conspiracies!

I’ve followed the podcast for years and learned more about Lauren’s inspirations behind TBS and her characters (with certain one’s based on different parts of herself). With that said, you can see how this novel really is a reflection on those emotions/experiences of high school and I really resonated with that.

I will say from both a book and podcast perspective, Lauren Shippen is an absolute genius when it comes to her characters and their development. Not only is every single one relatable in some sort of way, but their journeys develop in a way that leave you surprised but also leave you fascinated as to what happens next and why!

It also wasn’t until I read this book that I found this important theme also connected to the podcast, which is that of understanding, especially when it comes to one’s own emotions, and the connections we have with the people around us + why they are important!

The Infinite Noise highlights that incredibly well as we dive deep into the thoughts of Caleb and Adam!

Now onto my podcast-related thoughts:

I can’t put into words how my heart felt so connected with my soft, sweet boys Caleb and Adam again! Having already known the direction of their relationship I was just along for the ride, but loving every moment of it.

Because I already knew so much of them from the podcast, I loved being able to just appreciate the deeper introspective side to these characters & their high school journey, which are elements we never really get to explore in the show (especially Adam’s POV).

Though I love all the characters in the podcast, one of my favorites has to be Damien! I’ll tell you I legit screamed when he showed up, it was so fun to see his cameo in the book and getting Adam’s thoughts on him was the best 😂 I’m not lying when I say I’m really looking forward to his book & learning more about his past at 18! If you’ve listened to the show, you know what a clever and fascinating antagonist he is!! 😆🎉

It was brilliant how Shippen weaved podcast moments into the novel in an unexpected way for the fans, even the important plot-specific moments that non-listeners wont really pick up on (Mark, The AM, Frank, Chloe & Adam’s aunt, though her character was left pretty hidden/vague).

What I also found interesting was getting this limited perspective through Caleb on what we (the audience) already know about Atypicals, The AM, etc. because we already get  all that background through the podcast! So, it was nice to get a different view on how an Atypical would think about this other world alongside ours.

As mentioned in my interview, Shippen and I talked about the Canon of both the book and podcast. Though she said that this book does delve into certain specifics and expand on certain moments, the podcast is the truest form of the story. So, because of that you can tell she had a lot of fun changing up the timeline and it was interesting getting to read certain podcast lines at different sections of the story, giving them completely different contexts.

As mentioned in the show as well is the discussion of labels! Caleb is an example of that― he really loves Adam, but even in The Bright Sessions, he’s not entirely sure he fits into a specific label and I feel discussions like that are so important and valid because throughout life, you can’t always put an exact label on things! It was great to see that explored in the novel itself too 💞

As for the diversity of this novel, we have Adam who is Gay, biracial & Jewish, members of Adam’s family are dark-skinned, and an m/m relationship!

Now onto my critiques: Because I really love the TBS universe I would have loved to get a little more of that world woven into this book somehow, but overall it was fun to see how those elements developed through Caleb & Adam!

While the writing was strong in terms of the characters, there were detailed moments that because I’m very familiar with YA I felt taken out of the TBS world for a bit, also for me personally I found book-specific world building could been developed a bit more.

As I followed Caleb and Adam’s relationship, I realized just how strong Shippen’s writing is in terms of developing that deep emotion in ways that felt different than the podcast, but wholly familiar! Shippen just has a unique way of exploring her characters and I loved how that translated in the book.

The Infinite Noise delves into a different perspective of The Bright Sessions podcast and is a fun read for long-time listeners! Shippen puts a focus on her characters as we follow Caleb, Adam, and their relationship! Merging sci-fi contemporary, mental health, and introspective characters, The Infinite Noise is a story that delivers the relatable theme that no matter how powerful outside forces may impact you, you have the power to determine how they influence you and who you choose to be!

Today I’ll also be shouting-out a fellow book blogger’s review 😍📚🎉

Review: The Infinite Noise ARC from Gail over at Northern Plunder

As a longtime listener of the podcast, Gail goes into the depth of Caleb, Adam, and how their relationship develops organically!

Also, this is something I ABSOLUTELY AGREE with, is that Gail mentions how Lauren really understands and portrays the teenage experience! That’s something also seen through her college-aged/adult characters as well, where no matter who they are you can tell she’s portraying such an authentic character alongside their experiences!

Melding both a book and podcast perspective I recommend checking out Gail’s review as well! 🎉💚📚

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai ARC Review

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini BajpaiA Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers (The NOVL)

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository: A Match Made In Mehendi

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

*Received ARC from Yallwest*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Match Made In Mehendi is a fantastic debut and one you definitely want to add to your Fall TBR! When Simi develops an app to match couples at her school, things get pretty interesting! Its a fun, delightful YA debut that also focuses on pursuing your dreams, friendship, and love! 

Simi Sangha aspires to continue developing and pursuing her passion as an artist, she also happens to come from a long line of female matchmakers! When she’s able to successfully match her cousin Preet with the son of a local furniture store, Jolly, her mother and aunt are certain she has the “gift.” Her mother insists she continue the family legacy, but Simi doesn’t have much interest and would rather focus on her art (primarily sketching and mehendi) as sophomore year looms closer!

When her best friend Noah Siegal insist they try to improve their popularity in the coming year, Simi’s older brother Navdeep also happens to be working on an app inspired by their family’s matchmaking business!

She see’s this as the perfect opportunity to try out her “gift” while also using her artistic skills! Simi knows this’ll not only help her best friend, but also allow her to use her family’s matchmaking knowledge in getting classmates of Mayfield High, to find their match!

I’d been looking forward to reading this lovely book for over a year and it was so good, easily on my list of all-time favorite YA Contemporary books!

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ💖💖*:・゚✧

Hopefully my review inspires you to look more into this debut because its just so much fun! + If your looking for a unique contemporary story that also explores many themes, while at its heart, is a story about pursuing your dreams, then please check it out! I feel this a YA Contemporary many have not read or heard of and I think everyone should read it! 💖🌸✨

A Match Made In Mehendi also shines through its first-person POV! Following Simi’s perspective brings such an energy to the story and everything else that you want to keep reading! The way the plot, character development, and journey Simi undergoes allow you to feel incredibly connected to the story― you feel your right there alongside Simi the entirety of the novel! She was an incredibly fun character to follow― she’s awkward, funny, confident in her artistic skills, and much more!

Simi is one of the more relatable YA Contemporary characters I’ve read in a while. Though I’m no longer in high school I really resonated with her on her journey of friendship, love, and the expectations we set upon ourselves + our futures: I feel people at any age are still navigating these situations, so I really appreciated Bajpai’s exploration of them and how they really connected with me!

Friendship is one of the many important themes of this novel and I loved how it was explored! Not only through Simi and Noah, but also through the camaraderie between Simi and her classmates (especially when trouble occurs). I also appreciated the focus on m/f friendships (which Simi has quite a few of), I don’t often see that explored in YA so that was really great to read about!

With a book about matchmaking, of course there’s also lots of exploration of romance! Simi finds herself learning more about the app and how it works, when her school begins using it and we see perfect matches being made!

Simi navigates some romance herself when we learn about the boy she’s had a crush on since they were little (Aiden) and how their common interest in art brings them closer together! There’s also Suraj (Jolly’s cousin) who recently transfers to Simi’s school and is good friends with her brother Navdeep! I loved their dynamic so much and this was a really cute romance as you learn more about both of the guys and Simi’s exploration with love herself! There’s some unpredictability to the romance which was really fun to read!

The Matched! app was easily one of the most clever and creative catalysts that drove many important themes, elements, and layers to this fantastic story! From its incorporation of Navdeep’s tech skills (and love of robotics) alongside Simi’s passion for art, I loved how Bajpai combined technology and family tradition that also represents Simi taking her family’s legacy and making it her own! It involves a variety of school-related and hobby questions that all come together into their algorithm, which also assigns people a unique animal (created by Simi), to see how the app changed and developed with each few chapters was incredibly fun to read about & I appreciated how it was such an important element to a lot of the growth throughout this novel.

As the story develops, while the app starts as a fun experiment for their high school, it soon causes drama when one of the matches upsets one of the popular girls in Simi’s class, Amanda! Now, Simi and Noah are navigating their newly developed popularity and the drama they get sucked into when Amanda doesn’t approve of one of the matches (which involves her ex-boyfriend)!

As I mentioned above, I really loved how Simi used her family legacy of matchmaking and turned into something completely her own! It also allows for such a big element of family to shine throughout the novel! With this legacy following the Sangha women, we see how her mother (who runs a matchmaking service for Desi families w/ her sister (Simi’s aunt)), expects so much from her in regards to the business she finds it difficult to explain how art is such a big part of her identity! It was great to see that element explored so much into the story (though I wish there could have been a bit more page time to develop their mother/daughter dynamic).

The writing is also wonderful! It not only allows for the story to progress in such a fantastic way, but it also allows for elements of humor, mystery, and overall brings everything to life off the page! Tying into the writing itself, is the atmosphere of this novel. Simi is confident in herself, skills as an artist, and as you see the expectations put upon her (both internal & external), you see that above all she is incredibly loyal to those she cares about and herself!

Simi is an incredibly inspiring protagonist and her narrative voice just leave you smiling throughout this entire book!

Next I want to talk about the characters, who are all fantastic (even the ones your not supposed to like): Navdeep, Noah, Suraj, Teá & Ethan, Aiden, Amanda, Simi’s cousins Preet & Geet, and her other friends at school. Through Simi’s narrative they all really come to life!

Overall, there was just a great cast of characters who are all given depth and developed from beginning to end regardless of how little page time they have!

I will say that, although Simi’s grandmother was a great character introduced near the last few quarters of the book, I wish her character was just a bit more developed! Because she’s part of the matchmaker legacy, it would have been great to get a little more from her!

It was such a delight to read excerpts of The Shagun Matchmaking Guide with each chapter! Not only was it an important Sangha heirloom, but I also appreciated how it wove its way into the story more near the end! Its an incredibly vital tool for her family’s matchmaking service and I loved how it was woven into the story to provide Simi with a feeling of luck and guide her as she navigated matchmaking in her school!

As for the representation of A Match Made In Mehendi, it features a mainly Indian and Indian-American cast, Gay rep (Noah), and though its not specifically stated its hinted at that Simi’s school is diverse!

A Match Made In Mehendi is an incredibly fun, heartwarming debut that explores a variety of themes, that will have you turning the page from family, legacy, love, friendship, and pursuing one’s dreams! Bajpai’s YA Contemporary debut has such great writing, a wonderful cast of characters, humor, mystery, romance, and much more! I’m looking forward to reading what Bajpai publishes next!

I was also a part of the blog tour for A Match Made In Mehendi and if you’d like to check out a Q & A where Nandini goes into more detail about her inspiration and other fun elements, you can read it Here! 🌸✨📚

Blog Tour: A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai {ARC Review, Q&A & Wallpaper}

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini BajpaiA Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers (The NOVL)

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Pages: 320

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: A Match Made In Mehendi

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

*Received ARC from festival* 

My Thoughts: Hey everyone, I’m incredibly excited to be part of the blog tour for A Match Made In Mehendi! Its a YA Contemporary I’d really been looking forward to and today I’ll be sharing a list of 5 reasons why you should read it!

1.The Story

Doesn’t the summary just immediately make you want to read? Long line of matchmakers? Two best-friends want to improve their high school status? A match-making app that causes chaos everywhere–don’t you want to pick up this book right now?

Nandini’s debut at its heart though is about pursuing your dreams and better understanding your own goals alongside the expectations others may have of you!

The story is incredibly character-driven and you’ll keep turning the page wondering what’ll happen next!

2.The Characters

Simi and her narrative voice just pull you in from page 1! She’s determined, honest, and knows she can be incredibly awkward at the worst of times! I adored her character a lot and felt I related to her in so many ways, and while I’m not a high school student like her it was the journey of finding yourself, expectations, exploration of love and friendship that resonated with me in many ways― and I feel people at any age are still tackling and exploring!

If you love contemporary stories with a dynamic cast, this book will not disappoint! From Noah to Simi’s mother and aunt, her brother, and her high school classmates all come to life as you delve more into their character and overall, I just loved this cast a lot!

3.Pacing

You know when your reading a book and you can’t explain it, but the pages are flying by? That’s what reading A Match Made In Mehendi is like! The plot, its mystery, and questions of what could happen next, swirl around in your mind as you speed through page by page of Simi’s story! If you love stories that pull you in from the very beginning and keep you hooked, you will love Nandini’s debut!

4. Writing

The writing is just so good? I’m not sure there’s any other way to describe it! Not only does Simi’s narrative voice keep you reading, but the way the plot unfolds through her POV just makes you feel incredibly connected to the story and feels incredibly personal because you feel like your right there with her!

5. Atmosphere

This ties into the writing as well! Through Simi, you see she’s confident, focused in her passion as an artist, and although there’s many expectations she’s facing (both internal and external) you see how she is incredibly loyal to herself. The theme of self-discovery alongside her own personal journey make A Match Made In Mehendi such a wonderful story through wholesome and inspiring protagonist like Simi! You can’t help but smile all throughout this book while reading from Simi’s POV!

A Match Made In Mehendi_Blog Tour Banner

To celebrate the release of this lovely debut I’ll also be sharing a mini Q&A with Nandini, where she talks all about A Match Made In Mehendi, plus a free downloadable wallpaper based on the cover! 🌸📚💖

1. Hey Nandini, thanks for joining me on the blog today! To start off this Q&A, what inspired your novel A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: I’ve always been interested in how first and second generation Desi American families have adapted to life in the US. How kids born and/or raised here have view their parents’ traditions and what they choose to change, keep, or leave behind. Teens get such different signals from their peers and parents especially about things like crushes, dating, and assimilating or holding on to traditional values. Arranged marriage is one of those things that has been widely misunderstood and it’s good to lift the curtain on that process a little bit and examine it in a entertaining way through the Desi lens in the American context both for the young people that can see themselves in these characters and for their peers from different backgrounds.

2. Simi’s family believes she has the matchmaker “gift,” but Simi doesn’t want to be involved and focus more on her talent as an artist. From the summary it looks like your novel will delve into quite a variety of themes involving family, art, pursuing one’s dreams, and the passion that comes with art! Could you talk a little bit more about your inspiration behind these themes and which theme you personally, had the most fun exploring?

Nandini: Well, the matchmaking aspect was really fun to develop, honestly. What makes a good match? What makes a good matchmaker? Can the process really be developed into an app? How would that all work? How does a professional matchmaker put people together? How would a teenager view all of this differently from her mother or aunt? I have a background in systems analysis so it was nice to use that part of my brain as well to break down the problem of turning the very amorphous matchmaking process into an algorithm for an app. This theme was really different than any other story I’ve worked on!

3. Any fun or interesting facts you can share about your writing process or development of A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: Initially I had different generations of matchmakers in Simi’s family telling stories of matches they had made scattered through the book. It was a fun challenge to write about couples in the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1980s all in the voices of three generations of women in Simi’s family and how the lessons learned from those matches becomes part of the lore and wisdom of the Shagun Matchmaking Guide – the book handed down in Simi’s family from mother to daughter. The matchmaker log didn’t make the final cut but I do feel that the deep dive into Simi’s family history colors the tone of the book, even though it’s not there any more.

4. In your novel, Simi develops this matchmaking app and it drives different layers of the story! What inspired you to explore Simi’s journey of family, friendship, and art through the inclusion of this unique app?

Nandini: It was really fun to do a close examination of how this generation deals with parental expectations, discovers what they’re really passionate about, and figures out who they might or might not love. This is a world I know, and though there are many other valid experiences that may be quite different, I can only speak from my own personal experience and try and tell one story I feel confident I can. I also think that while books about underrepresented groups that deal with heavier issues are necessary and important it’s really good to have lighthearted books that are about joy and happy things like the search for love. I certainly didn’t have any such books about Indian kids to read when I was growing up and it was so hard to see that nothing had changed when I was looking for books for my own kids. Like Gandhi said, “Be the Change!”

5.Overall, what are you most excited about in regards to your novel and anything in particular your excited for readers to discover in A Match Made In Mehendi?

Nandini: Overall, I’m just excited for the book to finally be out there in the hands of readers, but one of the smaller things that I enjoyed creating and that I hope readers like is the way the Matched! app analyzes profiles and puts people together. It’s kind of like a technical sorting hat that not only figures out where you fit and creates a cute personal match icon for you (the match icons, were SO fun to dream up!), but also finds your top matches and lists their match icons for you, sorted from best to last.

Thanks so much for celebrating Nandini’s A Match Made In Mehendi here on 24hr.YABookBlog! Also, check out my FREE downloadable wallpaper inspired by the novel:

A Match Made In Mehendi Wallpaper

Here’s the other wonderful bloggers, who’ll be joining me on the Blog Tour for A Match Made In Mehendi (from Cake Literary):

Kat @ Pretty Little Library (September 6)

Olivia & Lori @ The Candid Cover (September 9)

Fanna @ Fanna Wants The World To Read (September 10)

Are you looking forward to reading A Match Made In Mehendi?

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite ARC Review

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza MouliteDear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Pages: 432

Available For Pre-Order: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Summary: When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

*Requested ARC from publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a YA Contemporary debut from sisters Maika and Maritza who seamlessly weave together a tale of family, healing, and much more! Alaine’s narrative voice presents an intimate and personal depth to her perspective as we explore her family and her Haitian culture, alongside her journey of self-growth! The use of mixed media also offers a unique depth that provides so many layers to this complex and immersive debut!

There’s something both personal and special that comes with reading about someone’s life through the use of primary sources like letters, emails, diary entries, articles etc. It captures the depth of emotions and snapshots of one’s life in unique ways you just can’t get through prose. Maika and Maritza Moulite truly showcased the emotion and personal journey through the main character of Alaine Beauparlant!

Alaine is an aspiring journalist with dreams of pursuing this career at the same university her mother― Celeste Beauparlant― beloved GNN political talk show host and award-winning journalist, attended!

With a few remaining months from graduation, Alaine’s got everything planned out! That is until one day on Celeste’s show, she causes an uproar far and wide after slapping one of her guests and when Alaine defends her mother from a classmate jokes about the incident, Alaine takes her school project a bit too far!

Now she’s suspended. But, her teachers leave her with an assignment to complete over her suspension and when her father sends her to Haiti, she’s told to take part in a “Spring Volunteer Immersion” project to ensure she passes her last semester.

With this novel mainly taking place in Haiti, it was wonderful to explore the culture through such a personal style of storytelling, it made the plot even more special to experience this journey through Alaine’s eyes.

A big theme and element of this novel, which I found was explored so thoroughly in Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was journalism! If you didn’t know, one of the co-authors of this novel, Maritza Moulite actually has a masters in Journalism!

Considering that is also my university major, I felt such a deep connection to the references, style of storytelling, and how this novel showcased the importance of this field throughout the story!

Some references I caught onto were: leads, “giving a voice to the voiceless,” reference to Cronkite, the use of multimedia (very present in journalism) to tell this story, and of course exploring Alaine’s love for the subject and how she unfolds the story of her mother’s own personal journey as a journalist!

I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but I also found the way the story unfolded referenced styles of journalistic writing as well! In Journalism, its often about how you present the information you’ve collected and how you choose highlight what you’ve uncovered. The way the plot, characters, and development are explored, to me, they referenced this style of writing in a seamless way where you are left looking at things from a new perspective.

Overall, I loved that this novel showed the depth and facets to this field in such a positive way, where its often downgraded in pop-culture and other forms of media/storytelling.

What I loved about the use of mixed media, was how it seamlessly delved into many plot threads, themes, characters, and their dynamics, I found that they were all explored in such a realistic way where they really came to life from the page.

Family is such a huge part of this novel and you see that develop through Alaine’s relationship with her mother (more on that in a bit), her father, her cousin Felicite and Tati Estelle! Not only just her family, but her friends as well, like the people she meets at Patron Pal (like Jason, who’s a fellow intern).

There’s a clear focus on the dynamic between Alaine and her estranged mother, who’s constantly been occupied with work. The time that the Moulite sisters take to explore family dynamics allows it to become such a layered element of the novel.

Alaine has never had such a strong connection with her mother, but is very close with her father! But, throughout the book, we see Alaine strengthen that connection with her. We even see when Alaine gets to Haiti, she learns more about her parents past and noticing them spend more time together, it gives them opportunities to talk and be more open.

Told through an epistolary style, we get an in-depth view of Alaine’s personal development through the different plot threads that find their way into this story! For example, we learn that Celeste has early on-set Alzheimer’s and a big plot thread of the novel explores Alaine’s internal struggle and confusion, as she also attempts to connect more with her mother during this transition in her life.

While there are many things that stayed with me by the end of this novel, something that really stuck with me through Alaine’s journey, was in learning about her mother’s Alzheimer’s. It allowed me to reflect and go back to a time when I was exactly in her shoes (one of my older relatives has Alzheimer’s). For me, though it was a much different journey I had to accept with a lot less time, I just can’t put into words how present I felt during those scenes and how they allowed me to reflect a lot during that time too.

From Alaine’s time at Patron Pal (her aunt’s organization/app to help kids in Haiti), learning about figures of her family and their country’s past, and much more, the plot threads are all given a great amount of page time and brilliantly weave their way together.

What I also appreciated about this novel was how it was very focused on the women of Alaine’s family, how their journeys are highlighted and are such vital pieces to the story that Alaine uncovers as she spends her time in Haiti!

I feel Marie from Drizzle And Hurricane Books interview with authors Maika and Maritza summed it up perfectly:

“…to create a story about the women who make sacrifices for themselves and their families. They are often forgotten or overlooked but vital to a family’s survival…”

Women from the past/present of Alaine’s family and the country of Haiti itself are given a spotlight and through their stories and experiences, its tied deeply to how Alaine sees her family!

Now while this is novel with many layers and depth to it, I did want to discuss a couple elements that lowered the rating, for me personally.

I did find the pacing (at points) did get a bit slow and there were times I struggled to continue immersing myself at some points of the story. Though I do feel that’s mainly because of the format of the story and how personal it is. Secondly, though there were many plot points explored really well, it felt they were given such a focus at certain points, that later on they didn’t feel too vital anymore. By the end, some threads felt incomplete and I still felt there was more to explore (light romantic story-line between Alaine & Jason, Alaine’s dynamic with her parents, & the curse).

There minor issues aside though, this is a book that delivers such a personal journey through an honest, brave, and vulnerable protagonist like Alaine! Dear Haiti, Love Alaine really needs more hype because it takes you on such a unique journey, you have to read it and experience it for yourself!

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a unique YA Contemporary that is introspective through its mixed media format and delivers a deep and personal story with many layered messages! The journeys Alaine and the family around her undergo throughout this novel, are explored thoroughly during Alaine’s visit to Haiti. The Moulite sisters deliver a debut that’s focus is on its complex characters and you see that through the mixed media format! Family, love, self-growth, and healing are just some of the many themes explored throughout this wonderful debut!

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen ARC Review

The Merciful Crow by Margaret OwenThe Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (The Merciful Crow #1)

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: The Merciful Crow

Summary: A future chieftain

Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince

When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard

Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

*Received ARC from Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Merciful Crow is a YA Fantasy debut that takes readers on an adventure following future chieftain Fie, a runaway prince, and his bodyguard as they travel across Sabor to save Fie’s fellow Crows! The setting’s atmosphere and cast of characters will keep readers immersed in this action-filled debut that presents a unique magic system and intriguing politics that build as the story develops!

The Merciful Crow was one of those debuts I knew I just had to read! I was really looking forward to the story not only because it had a really unique concept, but also I’d seen so many positive reviews and that had me even more excited to check it out!

Though Owen’s debut wasn’t a 5-star read for me, it still had a lot of elements that I enjoyed and that I’ll be exploring more in-depth!

From the opening pages featuring a Caste Legend, I knew I was going to be immersed in a distinct fantasy world unlike any I’d really read before!

The world of Sabor is divided into 5 different castes which all have separate classes within them, all named after different birds (Peacock, Swan, Dove, Hawk, and Vulture, to name a few), with Phoenix being the highest caste.

Among these castes, people are all born with a Birthright that gives them a specialized skill or affinity (for example, the Vulture caste has an affinity for hunting). Crows, however have no affinities or skills, so they must take teeth of the dead from other castes to perform magic. Crows are also the only ones with the unique ability to defend themselves against the Sinner’s Plague, a deadly disease that can wipe out entire cities within days. However, even with this life-saving ability, they are still treated poorly by the other castes.

We follow Fie, future chieftain of the Crows, who travels across the land with her band who deliver mercy killings to those struck with illness. When the Crows find themselves at the royal palace that’s been struck by the plague, it’s just another average day. However what we quickly learn is that 2 boys have recently been struck with the illness, and one of them is the crown prince.

It turns out however, crown prince Jasimir and his Hawk bodyguard Tavin, were actually using that as a cover to escape the royal palace, because the queen Rhusana is trying to get rid of him.

As the two join Fie’s Crows, they agree to a pact that will offer the Crow’s lifelong protection from the assassins and castes loyal to the crown, such as the Oleanders and Vultures, who don’t give much thought to how they’re treated.

The Crows do a very important job within this world, but are still seen as outsiders in a society that at the end of the day relies on them, as the illness continues to spread.

The setting and atmosphere of Sabor, with its dense forests, stone infrastructure, traveling bands of friends and family, together painted for me, a picture of an early century Europe. This image I had in my mind definitely wasn’t by accident because, according to a recent article from Tor where Owen discusses the inspiration for The Merciful Crow, she states that she was inspired by the history of executioners of Medieval Europe!

“One of the most overt parallels is the ostracization of historical executioners and that faced by our heroine, Fie. For background, Fie belongs to a caste known as the Crows, who are not quite executioners, but may as well be: they are immune to a fast and terminal illness called the Sinner’s Plague, one that is believed only to initially infect people as divine punishment. The Crows are expected to remove the infected, mercy-killing them if need be, and give them funeral rites. Like executioners of old, they may not hand out the sentence, but it’s their duty to carry it out…”

Owen explored the dynamics between Crows and their societal standing extremely well, where you sense that tension (and division) between castes throughout the entirety of the book. You can see how the politics of each caste and especially treatment of the Crows is built with so many layers/threads that definitely leave for more exploration in the sequel!

When Fie’s tight-knit group of Crows are taken, she embarks on a journey with the help of  Tavin and Jasimir to get them back. However with a pact ensuring future protection for the Crows, she tries not to lose hope even as they avoid the Oleanders, trackers, and monstrous ghasts that chase them at every turn!

While the fantasy world of Sabor was distinct and that’s something I really loved about it,  I wish there was further development of this vast setting as the story progressed. We focus on the Crows, Vultures, and Hawks (mainly) and while we definitely get glimpses into each caste, I felt there just wasn’t enough information to really connect me to the world fully–pockets of this world seemed to be missing and because of that I didn’t feel such a strong connection to the world in its entirety.

As for plot, while I do enjoy journey stories (which this one definitely is), I did find that the team jumped around from one spot to another a bit too quickly. Because new locations were introduced every few pages with very brief descriptions and then moved onto a new place, I felt lost as to where the Crows were headed exactly, early on.

I will say though, what I enjoyed about the journey that Fie, Jas, & Tavin embark on together was how with each new location, it did layer more of the politics and perspective of different castes within the world–I just wish it was more developed.

One of my favorite parts about The Merciful Crow was the dynamic between the main trio! Jas and Tavin had grown up together and as Fie learns more about them, we see how strong their bond really is. While it does seem that Fie has more page-time with Tavin, I liked that Owen weaved in a good amount of development with both of the guys and we learn a lot about their fears and hopes for their own futures and of the world!

Owen’s writing really highlights how wonderfully developed she makes her characters and I really appreciated that! As I continue to read more YA Fantasy, I realize that I also try to find that connection to the cast–the dynamic of Fie, Tavin, and Jas brings a lot of great energy to the story and was a definite highlight of The Merciful Crow!

Fie is a character who’s fierce and loyal to her caste. While it can seem like there isn’t much more explored beyond that, its the little moments in the journey she embarks on, where you see bits of her character shine through.

Jas is a royal prince who jumps at the chance to bring change to his world, especially the Crows! His deal with the Crows, alongside joining them to reach his forces deep in Sabor, takes him on his own journey outside his lavish palace as he sees more of the outside world he’s planning to one day lead!

Then there’s Tavin, Jas’s protector along this journey! As he connects more with Fie, we learn while he’s well aware that he’s in Jas’s shadow, he also fears the uncertainty of where that duty will end and he can begin! I really loved his character arc and felt it explored so much about identity and forging your own path when you feel one has already been laid out!

The writing while immersive and descriptive, just didn’t flow well with the constant starts and pauses in the journey. Through 3rd person, there’s good glimpses into each character and I really appreciated that! However, when it came to the world itself, I still felt a bit distant from it and found the exploration of the setting (either new or previously explored), seemed to be a bit surface level and felt it could been more developed.

While the writing successfully creates a unique atmosphere for the setting, if I were to look at just the writing itself, I found it was a bit generic–descriptive when it needed to be, but in the end it was quite hard to find that special element that also made it stand out alongside the story.

Aside from those critiques though, I’m personally really looking forward to seeing more of how the characters develop in the sequel! They are what kept me reading and I can’t wait to see where their journeys take them next!

The Merciful Crow is an atmospheric fantasy debut that introduces a unique and immersive world! Fie embarks on a journey to save her people and along the way, gather the wisdom to determine if she’s ready to be the chieftain her people need! If your a fan of character-driven journey stories, Owen’s debut is one to check out!

Today I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger’s review 😍💕📚

The Merciful Crow ARC Review from Sab over at Vengeance & Starlight

We follow each other on twitter & for a while I’d been seeing all her lovely tweets talking about this book! She goes into discussion of a couple topics I wasn’t able to cover much in my review such as the oppression of the Crows and the interesting change in writing voice as the story progresses! 💞

Overall she gave this book 5 stars and as I read her review I could feel the love she has for this delightful book from the characters to the world and how everything ties together! If you need more convincing to check out Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow, check out her wonderful review!

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud ARC Review

Truly Madly Royally y Debbie RigaudTruly, Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Publisher: Point Paperbacks (Scholastic)

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: Truly Madly Royally

Summary: Zora Emerson is not here to play. She’s enrolled in a prestigious summer program, and is ready to use what she’s learning to change the world (or at least her corner of New Jersey, for now).

Zora’s not expecting to vibe with any of her super-privileged classmates. So she’s shocked to find she’s got chemistry with Owen Whittelsey, who is charming, funny, undeniably cute…and turns out to literally be a prince. As in, his parents are the king and queen of a small European country. What?

Suddenly, Zora’s summer is looking a lot more complicated — especially when Owen asks her to be his date at his older brother’s wedding. Can her feelings for Owen, not to mention her sense of self, survive the royal chaos?

*Received ARC through Bookish*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Truly Madly Royally is a YA Royal romance, perfect for summer! Zora’s summer gets a bit more interesting when her chance encounter with a boy in the library during her pre-college program quickly puts her into the spotlight. As it turns out, he’s actually a prince! From its focus on characters, to a sweet summer romance, Truly Madly Royally is a fun debut filled with heart!

You know those books that you always find yourself interested in, but never happen to pick one up? That would be me with royal romances–I see them on my twitter feed all the time and I know about a good number of them, I’ve just never taken the time to read one!

But now I have and let me tell you, Rigaud’s debut is one that was just such a blast to read and I definitely recommend it if your looking for a fun, royal romantic contemporary that really puts a focus on its main character!

Truly Madly Royally balances the fun, cute romantic moments alongside discussions of real world issues and topics, so perfectly!

I’d already been looking forward to Rigaud’s debut because I don’t often read royal romances and this was one looked like it’d be a perfect read for me! Not only is it a debut from an author of color, but its also centered around a biracial relationship, featuring a Black protagonist! I’m always here to support debut, #OwnVoices books, and especially those featuring characters of color!

Told through a first person POV, Zora Emerson is the highlight of this novel! She is such a dedicated and hard-working young woman, you  can see the vibrant energy and spirit to her character!

Zora started an organization called ‘Walk Me Home’ as a way to help kids whose parents/guardians were busy after they finished school. She’s really dedicated and dreams of getting it expanded, to make sure it continues to grow!

From the work she puts into hoping to receive more sponsorships and ensuring she see’s it expand within her community, Zora’s organization means a lot to her and nothing stops her commitment to this project!

This summer, not only is Zora busy with her organization, she’s also attending a summer program at Halstead University as a part of its college prep program.

Throughout the novel (especially from her time in the summer prep classes), she talks about the privilege the more wealthy students have compared to others and how she doesn’t ever really feel like she fits in this atmosphere of the university!

What Zora wasn’t entirely expecting either was that a seemingly normal meeting, alongside a phone mix-up with a guy in the university library, would quickly change her day-to-day life and put her in the spotlight!

The guy she meets is Owen Whittelsey, who happens to be a prince! We learn he’s the prince of Landerel, a fictional European country. Zora wasn’t all too prepared for all the attention and royal protocol that happened because of their meeting, but she does the best she can!

Truly Madly Royally is really about Zora and her development as she continues to pursue her dreams as a community organizer! The plot itself really focuses on the introspection of her as character, as she makes new friends and tries to understand what kind of relationship she wants with Owen.

She doesn’t agree to constantly meet up with him at first, but the more she gives it a try, she realizes she’s falling for him!

The story also explores her journey to navigate all these different aspects of her life that get a bit more complicated when she meets him: relationships, being in the spotlight, her organization, & so much more! She’s a really wonderful protagonist and I loved reading from her POV!

What made this novel such a refreshing contemporary, was that it was definitely a YA that’s on the younger side, in terms of voice and the lightness on romance, which was nice! Also because of that, I found the story felt more realistic!

What I loved about this book was how plot-heavy it was! For a pretty short contemporary (averaging at about 280 pages in the ARC) there were so many different plot points and threads that were explored, which was a lot of fun!

Also, while the summary does explain a royal wedding and was mentioned somewhat early in the book, it’s definitely more of a plot point nearing the end chunk of chapters.

Friendship is another aspect of the story I loved exploring! Zora & her best friend Skye keep in touch throughout the novel while their both attending different college summer programs! They always make time to talk to each other and keep updated on what’s going on during their summer apart. Their dynamic and supportive friendship was really fun to read! I appreciated that Rigaud made it such a central part of the plot!

There’s also a plot point introduced about 1/2 way through the book when secrets get out about Zora and Owen and one of her classmates Matt, wants to be her friend! I liked that a friendship randomly blossomed in this book because to me that’s pretty realistic and I loved how it showed Zora that the classmates in her summer program weren’t all the same!

As I mentioned above, this novel discusses privilege throughout, but also so many other topics that really weave their way into the plot of this story. From race, celebrating Black culture, alongside privilege in communities and education. I loved how Rigaud made these themes and their discussions present throughout, while also keeping the light, fun spirit of the story!

Alongside friendship, family is also a really present part of the story! From her mother, step-father, older brother Zach, and father, they all get pretty equal page-time and I just loved exploring the family dynamic between them all. Zach and Zora’s brother-sister dynamic was really fun to read, but what got the most page-time was definitely Zora and her mom!

Her father was also in the story in certain moments and I thought exploring the dynamic between them was super interesting because Zora knows her father doesn’t always show Zora he’s proud of her, but when he does she really takes it to heart!

In terms of writing, through Zora’s voice, the dialogue really brings the characters to life and there’s a distinct voice to each of them! Many of the characters introduced aren’t just side characters but we see they become part of Zora’s story in some way whether its new friends or people related to Owen–they all come to life through Rigaud’s writing and overall they were all fun characters to get to know!

I feel like where Truly Madly Royally struggles though, is in certain aspects in terms of character and plot! Firstly, Owen–he’s nice and his relationship with Zora is cute, but I never felt I really knew him too much…by the time I reached the end, I felt there would have been more development to him. We got a bit more into his family, the grief for his sister who passed away, and that he’s a genuinely nice person, but it felt like there was still more to know about him.

Also, Landerel is meant to be a European country resembling the UK in some way and overall it was pretty well developed, but there were moments I just wanted to know more–because it is mentioned a good number of time throughout the story and Zora gets a chance to visit!

Finally, there were certain plot threads that are left hanging throughout the book that are just dropped when we reach the wedding portion and I was left wondering what happened (like Zach & her best friend Skye & the dynamic between Zora & her father).

But overall, Truly Madly Royally is a great summer contemporary and debut to check out! Its got a dynamic main character, focus on friendship, family, and centers around a girl navigating life alongside a cute royal romance!

Truly Madly Royally is a contemporary romance that really focuses on Zora’s journey when she gets put into a royal spotlight and now has to navigate all of these everyday aspects of her life, in a new way! Rigaud’s debut is a fun summer read with a focus on its characters, a light and adorable romance, and a focus on the plot that will keep you turning the page! Fans of royal romances will definitely want to check this one out!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno Review

Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina MorenoDon’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Pages: 331

Available Through The Book Depository: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

Summary: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magical, character-driven, but above all beautiful YA Contemporary debut that takes you on quite a journey! Rosa Santos explores the dynamics of her family, its complexity, love, and choices as she finalizes her university plans before school ends!

Moreno’s debut has left me a mess of emotions & I’m not entirely sure how I’ll recover 😭✨

Don’t Date Rosa Santos was just one of those books I knew I had to read in 2019! Coming from a Latinx background, I was incredibly excited to be anticipating a YA Contemporary debut that felt like it would be a story of magic, family, love, grief, but full of new beginnings and journeys– I got that and more! 🧡🌸✨

Through a lush and all-around lovely 1st person POV, we follow Rosa in her town of Port Coral, Florida where she lives with her Mimi (grandmother) and takes part in the town-wide Spring Fest ,which is a sort of a yearly homecoming and supports local businesses, but now she’s joining to help the town save their harbor for this year’s festival!

Not only that, but she also decides to help plan a wedding too, between locals Clara & Jonas that’ll take place during the festival!

For 3 generations of Santos women, they’ve been no stranger to their curse and trouble with the seas. Mimi lost her husband and Rosa lost her father! So when Rosa begins falling for her planning partner in the Spring Fest, Alex Aquino, she’s constantly worried of what will go wrong, but takes a chance anyways!

Moreno seamlessly weaves this internal journey Rosa undergoes to better understand the curse that’s haunted the women in her family, her culture, and herself as she finds the courage to do things she never thought she would–meet a boy, fall in love, go out to sea, and confront her fears head-on to find her happiness and purpose as the days wind down for her to pick the university she’ll attend in the fall!

Through the writing, you not only get this full scope of the fictional coastal/small town of Port Coral, but also its vibrant community, and the many businesses and quirks that make it a beautiful and unique place to live! There’s an intimacy and familiarity that grows on you as you read more about the town!

Moreno crafted a story that was wholly familiar to me and found myself noting passages, phrases, or other moments that I could relate to so much: the chisme 😂✨, the power of caldo, the reference of honey & ginger to cure a cough (for me & my family we use onion!), and YES even the food such as platano chips, ceviche, tres leches cake, & so much more! Also, coming from a Latin-American background, I love discovering expressions from other Latinx cultures & now I’ll never forget tiki-tiki!!

The Santos are all too familiar with the locals around town theorizing they are bad luck and because of that, Rosa didn’t really expect any other outcome, because it had happened to two Santos women already. This journey allows her to try and find her own luck in this internal place of grief and secrets.

I found Moreno explored this idea that when we hold onto grief or events that have caused us pain, it can seem like it’ll be never-ending, which can be difficult to overcome. However, there’s an underlying theme that I found not only Rosa, but also Mimi & her mother learned was that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things and know that bonds between family is something strong that’ll help us get through!

The plot is so memorable and I can’t put into words how immersed I was in each page from Rosa with her best friend Ana-Maria, pondering over her college decision to not disappoint Mimi (because she wants to go on an abroad trip to Cuba), the festival/wedding planning, her development with Alex & so much more! The story kept me compelled with each and every page and I loved following Rosa’s journey of growth!

The inclusivity & diversity in this novel is beautiful from the representation of Cuban culture, prominent characters throughout the story who identify as gay, Rosa who is bi, also Afro-Latinx and Black characters!

Additionally, Moreno explores a lot about diaspora in the Latinx community, which I hadn’t ever really seen with such depth in a YA Contemporary before!

“Enough. I was still trying to work that one out…Always caught in between…Never quite right or enough for either…” (107).

Throughout the novel, Rosa wants to find more connection to her Cuban roots, though she has found some of it in Port Coral, she’s eager to know more! The secrecy from her Mimi only creates fear for her, worried she’ll upset Mimi when she asks or mentions her study abroad trip to Cuba!

Family is such a huge part of this novel and Moreno explores it with so much depth and complexity, through each of the Santos women! Mimi & Rosa’s mother, Liliana, have a relationship that’s filled with so much history and heartache. With that, it was both beautiful and heartbreaking for Rosa to uncover more to their stories, although they were hesitant to share! Mimi doesn’t put up with any nonsense when it comes to Liliana and they both are at odds throughout the story, but I love how the events of Port Coral bring them closer than ever and allow them to slowly move past their grief little by little.

Similarly, there’s so much depth to the relationship Rosa has with Mimi and her mother! Rosa remembers a time when her mother said they’d always find a home together and that, for a time, was Port Coral. As her mother moves around from town to town to keep up with her painting, Rosa doesn’t have much faith her mother will stay for long. However, Mimi has laid the roots for Rosa to feel like she truly can be a part of Port Coral, she takes care of her, offers her advice, and wants her to be her very best!

I loved uncovering and exploring the stories of the 3 Santos women! I’m honored to have followed such wonderful characters!

Through Rosa’s POV I just loved the energy and spirit she brought to the story that made Don’t Date Rosa Santos such a heartwarming, uplifting, and wonderful book as a whole!

I could relate to her a lot, from her anxieties of trying new things, her determination when it comes to things she’s passionate about, and her bullet journaling!! 😂💞

Now onto Alex and Rosa–what else can I say but they were the best?!?! Their dynamic and development was heartwarming to read and I loved how they both learned to take chances with each other in different ways! Alex was just the best–he appears to be intimidating in the beginning but we learn he’s just a quiet sailor/baker!

When we uncover more about Mimi’s past in Cuba and unlock more of the story as to why, it reminded me of my grandparents as well (because something similar happened) that just made this book feel even more vivid and close to home–I was not expecting it!!

All of the characters and vibrant town of Port Coral captured my heart, as did this story as a whole and I’m sad I reached the end!! There’s so much life and depth to these characters and this beautiful world that Moreno crafted–I loved it so much!

My only very minor gripe was the pacing in a couple parts, but aside from that, this book was absolute perfection!! It’ll stick with me for a long time and has easily made it onto my list of favorite YA Contemporary books!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a magnificent YA Contemporary that you don’t want to miss! From the beautiful writing, following Rosa’s journey, and the themes explored from family to love and loss. The plot will captivate you as will the characters! This is a magical novel about finding your place in the world know when it seems odds are stacked against you. But no matter what, the underlying message is…you’ll always find a way!