February 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton1.Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel Of The Sands #3)

Owned | Started January 31 + Finished on February 2 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Hero At The Fall Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Rebel Of The Sands Trilogy concludes with such a character-driven and immersive finale! Amani and the remaining rebels band together to take down the sultan. There’s so much character-development and the depth to the world of Rebel, the magic system, and politics continue to develop till the very end! My issues however continue to be the time-jumps/quick pacing through locations and how they tend to rush through character development/interactions & setting description/atmosphere. However, above all Hero At The Fall really wraps up Amani’s adventure & the trilogy as a whole, to a very satisfying conclusion!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones2.Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong #2)

ARC| Started February 5 + Finished on February 7|Rating:★★★★☆ ½ |Shadowsong  Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Shadowsong is an enchanting and captivating finale to the Wintersong duology. I loved every moment of this book! Very much a darker continuation, this novel takes place 6 months after the events of Wintersong, focusing on Liesl as character with her internal development + growth as she comes to terms with having left the Underground + the Goblin King behind. The elegantly constructed POV continues to brings such depth and life to the many aspects from world to characters, music etc. of this phenomenal duology. The dynamic between Liesl & Josef is heavily explored in this novel & plays such a huge role in this novel. Shadowsong is a captivating, elegant, heart-wrenching, and brilliant finale to the Wintersong duology! (This novel is #OwnVoices for bipolar disorder)

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton3.The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

Owned | Started January 23 + Finished on February 9|Rating:★★★★☆ |The Belles Full Review

Overall Thoughts: The Belles seamlessly weaves in political intrigue, themes and discussions of beauty, all through a descriptive and dazzling writing! Camellia Beauregard wants to secure her spot as the Favorite, but not everything is as it seems. Soon, the idea of beauty and power begin to shift as Camellia learns in her quest to prove herself as the Favorite! The descriptive, dazzling, and magical world of Orléans immediately transports you and the mythology/history of the world itself is explored in such an intriguing way! Though the pacing does slow throughout the middle, the intrigue, magic & mystery of the plot keeps you immersed! (#OwnVoices for black rep.)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman4.Starfish by by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Library |Started February 12 + Finished On February 16 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | Starfish Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Kiko wants nothing more than to get into her dream art school. Living with a family, who never seem to understand her, she learns what family means to her and figures out who she wants to be along the way. Kiko has anxiety and because of that, its difficult for her to speak her mind. However, throughout the novel she knows she has support from friends, both new & old, that help her find her place in the world.The writing flows so beautifully, though the heaviness of the story is there. The writing really allows you to see the characters in such a unique way and are given such depth. Starfish is a character-driven and beautifully written YA Contemporary that builds to an inspiring message of hope! (#OwnVoices for Japanese-American rep. + Social Anxiety)

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black5.The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #1)

Library | Started February 18 + Finished on February  22 | Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾ | The Cruel Prince Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Jude and her 2 sisters were forced to go to the land of the Fae when they were young, however 10 years later all Jude wants is to fit in. Both Jude & her twin sister Taryn are bullied by the fae royalty and this just fuels Jude’s anger to prove herself to them. The descriptions of the setting and various themes of politics, intrigue, and mystery all weave together really well. There were characters I was unsure how I felt about in the beginning, but ended up truly surprising me as I read. While there were elements I really enjoyed, sadly there was a mix of reasons why I rated the book low: I did find the pacing to slow a bit and felt the direction of the plot got a bit lost at times. Personally, I also didn’t really connect with or enjoy the twin sister relationship between Jude & Taryn. I also found that big moments nearing the middle and end really had much build up, so it felt difficult to really invest myself. I also found that the morally grey/anti-heroine aspects of Jude’s character that many had mentioned, felt more sporadic than I had hoped.However, the ending did leave me interested in seeing what happens next.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo6.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 

ARC | Started February 24 + Finished on February 25 | Rating:★★★★☆ ½ | The Poet X Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The Poet X is such a powerful and unforgettable YA Contemporary. Told through poems, Xiomara goes on a journey of questioning and exploring many different aspects of her world from love to religion, and finding her voice through poetry. There were a number of topics explored and discussed such a relationships, body image/self-love, and tackling sexism. Character-driven and impactful, the poems are filled with so much heart, emotion, and depth. The power of Acevedo’s words shines with each page. I also really loved the dynamic between Xiomara & her twin brother Xavier and seeing their relationship change and grow as the book progressed. The Poet X is a must read, so definitely keep an eye out on this book in March! (#OwnVoices for Dominican rep. + there is also gay & Trinidadian rep.)

Additional Posts From This Month:

February 2018 YA Books I’m Looking Forward To!

Literary Listens: Audio Drama Podcasts That Need Book Adaptations


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo ARC Review

The Poet X by Elizabeth AcevedoThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Pages: 368

Available for Pre-Order Through: The Book Depository

Summary: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

*I received an ARC from the publisher through Karina (Afire Pages)* Thank You!! 😄❤💕

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Poet X is must read! Told through honest, raw, and impactful poems, Xiomara finds her voice through the written word as she questions + navigates her world to understand who she wants to become!

If you haven’t added The Poet X to your TBR yet, I highly recommend you do!

Told through verse, Acevedo’s writing evokes so much passion, emotion, and with each poem Xiomara’s story becomes so vivid and real!

Xiomara feels a number of divides and uncertainties in her world. With a sense that she will never be the perfect daughter her mother expects, to the rocky dynamic/relationship she has with her twin brother Xavier and her father, to the questions she has about religion, life, and love.

With each and every poem you get deeper into Xiomara’s life, her as a character, & how she wants to better understand herself in the many conflicting aspects of her world.

Probably one of my many favorite character dynamics of The Poet X was between Xiomara and Xavier (usually called Twin). Having a twin myself, I loved the little details that not only explored their dynamic as twins (such as Xo’s comment on twin telepathy) but also the unique side to their distant relationship that develops and changes as the story progresses.

I felt that the contrasts and differences with Xiomara & Twin (from seeing them at spearate schools, differing hobbies, and their own personal way of showing their care/love for each other), were just so well explored and developed that it really allows you to see the growth of their distant relationship to a much closer bond, & how this development changes their dynamic for the better.

The Poet X is such a character-driven story and although the poems are fast-paced & quick, they leave such an impact through the heart, emotion, and depth that Acevedo weaves into each one. From Xiomara to Twin, her mother & father, her English teacher Ms. Galiano, Xiomara’s bio lab partner Aman, and so many other characters, they all shine through the moving and complex poetry!

The characters all come to life through the power of Acevedo’s words and just stay with you throughout the entire book!

There were so many themes and topics discussed in this novel and I felt they were all fully developed and explored. From family, body image/self-love, independence, love/relationships, religion, and tackling sexism–through Acevedo’s impactful writing you get the messages she’s exploring with each and every one.

Through the raw and vivid writing, Acevedo made The Poet X such a gripping read as I learned more about Xiomara and her world. As mentioned above, though the poems are fast-paced and quick, they continue to build every aspect of Xiomara and her world from her dreams, thoughts, and the family/friends + other important people in her life!

What also made this novel so special for me was the Latinx representation! Xiomara & her family are Dominican and just reading the phrases or words of Spanish throughout the poems just allowed me to connect with this novel so much and left such an impact!

As for other representation, we have Aman who is Trinidadian and there is also gay representation that is explored as we learn Twin is in a relationship with one of his classmates.

Seeing how poetry and the power of words allows Xiomara to connect to the world and find her place was such a deeply explored message throughout the entire story. Seeing her journey to share her love and connection of poetry was so beautifully weaved into each and every aspect of The Poet X.

Xiomara’s dynamic with her mother was such a vital aspect of the story, that was explored through a number of ways. From Xiomara’s views on herself & love, to her uncertainty with religion, seeing how her mother impacted them in such huge ways really allowed me to see just how their complex and difficult relationship shaped so many different aspects of Xiomara’s life.

The Poet X is a powerful and inspiring coming-of-age story that deeply explores the power of words, their emotional impact, and how they allow one to find their voice! With such deeply explored themes of family, love, religion and so much more, Xiomara uses the power of poetry to find her place in the world and make herself heard!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones ARC Review

Shadowsong by S. Jae-JonesShadowsong by S. Jae-Jones (Wintersong #2)

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Pages: 384

Summary:Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

*Received ARC through a Goodreads Giveaway!*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Shadowsong is darker, but continues to be as enchanting and captivating as Wintersong! Liesl undergoes a life-changing journey to find herself when the days of the Underground are long gone, but still linger close. Shadowsong is a captivating + magical tale of family, belonging, and acceptance!

I remember reading Wintersong last year and falling absolutely in love with it! Now that I’ve finally finished Shadowsong (in practically 2 sittings), I’m still emotional over the fact that this enchanting + magical duology has come to an end (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)♥♥*:✧ From Liesel’s journey to the Underground in Wintersong to her new journey in Shadowsong, I loved each and every moment of this amazing duology & am sad it’s over~♥♥

*S. Jae-Jones author note in the beginning, is a must read! Its just honest, powerful and explains the complexities of this novel as it will touch on mental health, self-harm, addiction, and especially explores bipolar disorder (which Liesl has + as does the author)*

Its been 6 months since Liesl left the Underground + the Goblin King behind and we see now how she feels more lost than ever. Above all, its clearly seen and explored how that journey changed her.

Shadowsong starts off with letters that Liesl is writing to her brother Josef and the lyrical writing just pulls you in immediately. She longs to be reunited with her brother and to ensure his safety.

Liesl has slowly found that her passion and connection with music is slowly fraying now that she has come back from the Underground and left the Goblin King.

Darker than Wintersong in different ways, we see how escaping Goblin Grove and the Goblin King changed her and how she sees the world.

I loved how focused this novel was on Liesl and her character. Reading from her intricately constructed POV, its clear she is driven by the love for her family, to better understand who she is and who she wants to become.

I sympathized with her so much, understanding how lost she felt and that sense of uncertainty for where she was headed in life. Knowing the truth behind Josef being a Changeling impacted her in so many ways, from how she viewed her world now that she returned from the Underground to how that drove her to take a long journey to be by her brother’s side. I felt so much for her throughout this novel~

However the very fate of the world could be in danger when the Wild Hunt threatens to break through the thin veil between the mortal and magical world of the Underground.

Through the elegantly constructed POV’s we see how Liesl + Josef’s relationship has changed, but how their deep connection for music still keeps them tethered to each other.

Shadowsong not only explores the deep connection we share with others, but also how those connections forge us in so many ways and how we view ourselves.

We also see more into how the Underground impacts not just Liesl but countless others who’s ancestors had some sort of connection to it (through art, music, etc.). This also introduces new characters, the Prochàzkas who join Liesl on her journey to avoid the Wild Hunt. They were very unique + interesting characters and through them you see how the magic is much more complex and goes beyond than just the Goblin Grove & Liesl in Wintersong!

I also loved that the theme of family and bonds is such a prevalent element of this novel. Its shown not only through the strength of the bond between Josef & Francois, the sisterly bond between Liesl + Käthe (which is explored much more deeply nearing the end!), but also the distant +complex bond between Liesl & Josef.

Liesl and Josef’s dynamic was heavily explored in this novel and it left my heart both full & broken. We see how distant Josef has become and how that begins to impact how they relate to the world. Yet, the bond that still gives them something to hold onto as they both possibly begin to lose their tethers to reality.

S. Jae-Jones writing in this novel is just as captivating & enchanting as in Wintersong! The way she elegantly constructs Liesl’s descriptions or immersive thoughts just leaves you understanding so much about her world and the characters from just a few sentences.

There’s a few POV’s throughout Shadowsong and each and every one I felt, was so important to the story and really helped to build the intricate plot till the very end! There’s a mysterious POV from the past, Liesl’s POV, and Josef’s POV. Each was written so beautifully that I found myself re-reading passages + lines over and over because of how beautifully S. Jae-Jones weaved the words together.

Additionally, the symbolism in this novel is just brilliantly executed which reveals so much yet keeps the perfect hint of mystery about the magical and dark worlds explored both in Wintersong & Shadowsong!

My only minor issue is that I did want a bit more page-time from the Goblin King~😭♥ (Despite the minor issues, overall for me the Wintersong duology is absolutely a 5-star series ❤ <3)

Shadowsong is a dark, but powerful conclusion to the Wintersong duology! Through beautifully constructed and elegant writing, Shadowsong explores themes of family, self-acceptance, and the bonds that make us who we are! This impactful and captivating finale will leave you hooked till the very last page!

January 2018 Wrap-Up

Can’t believe the first month of 2018 is already over! Today I’ll be sharing my first Monthly Wrap-Up of 2018~ 

# Of Books Read: 9

Anchors &amp; Vacancies by Kat Savage1.Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage

Owned | Read/Finished on January 1 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Anchors & Vacancies Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Now pretty much a yearly tradition for me, I try to start off the new year by reading a poetry book, for 2018 I decided to read Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage!

This book contains 45 poems centering around the journey of a love lost and how that loss can impact a person when its difficult to let go.

This quote really stuck with me throughout the entire book:

“There’s a certain kind of ache in the chambers of my heart…”

While I really understood the complex emotions + journey Savage portrayed in the collection, on a personal level (aside from a few) many didn’t really connect with me (hence the 4 stars). However, I loved her writing-style and plan to read more of her poetry in the future.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes2. The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Library | Started December 23 + Finished on January 4 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |The Arsonist Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Told through 3 unique POV’s, The Arsonist brilliantly weaves coming-of-age, historical fiction, & Mystery/Thriller all in one! This novel follows Molly Mavity + Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef who’s paths cross when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of Ava Dreyman, who was a resistance fighter during the time of the Berlin Wall. The friendship between Pepper + Molly was so beautifully written and you really see how lonely they feel, but the bond of their friendship reminds them that they aren’t alone & I loved that! There’s so much complexity + mystery that really makes this book surprising. I suppose my only issue was that compared to Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly (Which I loved), the writing for The Arsonist felt rather flat and certain aspects from side-character development to setting description, etc. fell a bit short. Aside from that, The Arsonist is a compelling story that weaves in so many differing genres/themes that I highly recommend it if your looking for a unique read!

Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire3.Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #3)

ARC | Started January 7 + Finished on January 8 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ |Beneath The Sugar Sky Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Beneath The Sugar Sky was easily my favorite book of the Wayward Children series so far! The descriptive and whimsical writing really showed McGuire’s growth as an author with this series. When Rini finds herself Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children characters, both new & returning, join Rini on her quest to the peculiar world of Confection, to bring back an old friend. Kade & Christopher are easily my favorite characters of the entire series & not only did this book remind me of that, but their banter + friendship easily made this book one of my favorites! Filled with adventure, a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, magic & mystery, Beneath The Sugar Sky is a fantastic continuation to the Wayward Children Series!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen4.A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

ARC | Started January 5 + Finished on January 13 | Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½ |A Taxonomy Of Love ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The unique format & expansive timeline, made A Taxonomy Of Love a pretty unique YA Contemporary. We follow Spencer from 13-19 as he navigates life + his friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong. Allen really developed the main character Spencer, while bringing so much progression & growth to his character that you can really see by the end of the novel. Throughout the story, Spencer + Hope begin to drift apart when Hope suffers an important loss in her family. Your left wondering if they’ll ever reconnect, while also seeing where their own paths are leading them. I felt however, with the constant jumps in the timeline, characters + story points had uneven development, going from extremely fast + rushed pacing to uneventful & slow moments. That made it difficult to really connect with any of the other characters, aside from a few main ones (hence the 3.5). However, Allen did a fantastic job at weaving in so many themes + developing the atmosphere of her contemporary story over such an expansive timeline!

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira Ahmed5.Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

ARC | Started January 15 + Finished on January 19 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Love, Hate & Other Filters ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters tackles such a relevant + timely issue while also balancing heart-warming moments and chilling/honest ones too! I loved Maya so much, from her passion to follow her dreams of becoming a film director to the strength and courage she builds over the course of the novel. There was one important moment I found that pretty much put the entirety of the novel into focus and that was the importance of Maya’s camera. I found it represented not only a shield for Maya, but also thinking broadly how people tend to view each other lenses (or filters!). Throughout the novel we follow Maya Aziz and her journey to not only understand who she wants to become, but seeing her inspirational journey to follow her dreams and tackle whatever life throws her way!

Fence Issue 1 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad6.Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: 16-year old Nicholas Cox has the heart, but not exactly skill, for fencing. He’s worked from the basics and is eager to win the local tournament (Connecticut Regionals). The win from this competition could earn him a spot into a top school and allow him to receive a scholarship & continue with fencing if he is serious about pursuing it. His competition is none other than  Seiji Katayama, fencing prodigy. This first issue introduces so much from Nicholas’s past to his passion for fencing & the mysterious fencing prodigy. There is so much great development, action and dialogue that will keep you hooked! Its a brilliant start to a new comic series! (Honestly, there’s tons more I discuss in my full reviews that I can’t fully explain in this wrap-up, but I HIGHLY recommend checking out Fence 💙✨🤺)

Fence Issue 2 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad7.Fence #2 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #2 is very much build-up to Nicholas & Seiji’s dynamic when they begin at King’s Row and introduction to new characters on the fencing team. We definitely see the stakes set for not only the team, but Nicholas too (considering we learn there are a limited # of spots for the main team + upcoming championships). Both Issue #1 & #2 introduce characters of color + trans rep. & it does hint at gay rep.! The tension really builds in this issue and similar to Issue #1, will keep you hooked!

Fence Issue 3 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad8.Fence #3 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #3 is easily my favorite issue in the series so far! There is much more character development/background + is a very plot-driven continuation! This issue very much follows Nicholas & not only his daily campus life on King’s Row, but his determination to prove himself before his first match against a classmate. The characters from Issue #2 are getting better developed as is the gay rep. The perfect pacing, development for plotting, characters, and slight twists + turns make Issue #3, such a brilliant addition to the Fence series!

Love Sugar Magic-A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano9.Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano (W/ Cover art by Mirelle Ortega)

Library | Started January 25 + Finished January 27 | Rating:★★★★★  | Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Easily one of the best middle-grade novels I have ever read! Themes of family and friendship, alongside a delightful writing that delivers a sweet and magical tale, Love Sugar Magic was a truly unforgettable read! The story follows Leo Logroño and she comes from a family of bakers, they run the Amor y Azúcar Panadería. She’s always felt left out of the family business + feels her mother + sisters are hiding something, so a day before the Día de los Muertos festival, she sneaks her way into the bakery to see what really goes on (she soon discovers she comes from a family of brujas, who use their powers within the bakery + their treats). Now that her oldest sister Isabel knows, Leo begins to use the powers within her & experiments with the special family recipe book. However as Leo begins to lie about using her abilities to the rest of her family, she soon gets into trouble & must make very important decisions. The magic system is one of my favorite aspects about this novel, it really builds and you see how unique it is for each member of Leo’s family. The plot is perfectly developed, the writing is beautiful, the characters are spectacular, & so much more!! Such a fantastic novel, I highly recommend it!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Latinx YA Book Releases To Add To Your TBR {2018}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

You may have noticed, I never posted one for December. Well, that was mainly because of vacation, but also because as the months passed nearing the end of 2017 when making my monthly wrap-ups, I noticed that I began to lose my enjoyment for making/posting them because I felt like I had to (being a pretty common post in the book-community). While I do enjoy them I felt it was time to change up the review format a bit to add more to make a bit more personal (adding the format of the book + when I started/finished). And I think doing that really brought back my enjoyment for them~

So similar to this one, I may be trying out this new format for the upcoming monthly wrap-ups, but again I’m really liking how this one turned out! 😄✨📚📚💻~ But, feel free to let me know what you think of the new format in the comments!

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed ARC Review

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira AhmedLove, Hate & Other & Filters by Samira Ahmed

Publisher: Amulet Books Soho Teen

Release Date: January 9, 2017

Pages: 288

Summary:American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

*Received an ARC of Love, Hate, & Other Filters through a giveaway*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters is a heartfelt debut that discusses topics both relevant + timely today. While tackling such a number of important issues, Ahmed balances chilling, heart-warming +honest tones perfectly. Readers will fall in love with Maya and her empowering tale to follow her dreams and tackle the obstacles that life throws her way!

To start I loved Maya so much! She was just such an inspiring + delightful main character! Maya Aziz is an aspiring filmmaker and against her parents expectations, hopes to get into NYU & study film.

Not only does this novel surround Maya and her dedication to pursue her dreams, with some romance along the way, but it also discusses and tackles Islamophobia and how an event far from her, impacts her in her small Illinois town.

Aside from the wonderful protagonist Maya, we are also introduced to Maya’s parents (Dr./Dr. Aziz) who, with their hearts in the right place, are set on Maya finding a suitable partner and attending a university they approve of.

However, Maya builds the courage and strength to tell her parents just how passionate she is for the dream they see as a “hobby.” Her determination + strength the follow a dream she follows with such heart was so inspiring + I was rooting for her every step of the way! (+ Loved the film references sprinkled throughout the story!) 

There’s also her dedicated best friend Violet and Maya’s aunt Hina who (w/ out Maya’s parents knowledge) knows about her dream to get to NYU & is supportive of Maya 100%.

Then there’s Kareem who is the college guy that Maya’s parents approve of. He was such a great character! While we see Maya’s relationship grow with him, we also see how they are willing to see eye-to-eye on the development on their relationship + the above all, wonderful friendship dynamic they have with each other! I loved their scenes together, they had such great chemistry & although their relationship doesn’t work out, Kareem makes it clear he will always be a supportive friend to Maya no matter what!

And then there’s Phil, the guy at her high school that Maya has had a crush on for years. They too also begin to develop a relationship (although a bit fast-paced).
Both Kareem & Phil were supportive of Maya every step of the way and above all were just such kind and wonderfully-developed male leads! Ahmed just delivers the romance of her story in such a unique way that just surprised me and I loved how it was developed.

While Love, Hate, And Other Filters builds as a relatable YA Contemporary with some friendship, romance, family dynamics, common stresses & anxieties of college/university, and themes of independence, around 50% of the way through the novel does a complete 180 when Maya is soon confronted with Islamaphobia in her small town.

When news of a terrorist attack reaches Maya’s home and the person suspected shares her last name Aziz, Maya stays strong as a guy at her high school shows hatred towards her and her parents clinic is damaged in a cruel act of hatred. My heart broke for the terrible things her + her family were faced with.

When her parents fears cause them to re-consider her acceptance to NYU, Maya must continue to gather the strength and confidence to stand by her dream.

Throughout the novel we are shown that the camera is very much like Maya’s shield and we see how it distances her from situations. And as the novel progresses we see in general how one views a person/situation is all through a lens (or filter!) That, I felt became such an important aspect to the story and was really integrated all throughout!

I think my only minor critiques that kept it from being a full 5, were that I felt this book was marketed with such a focus on tackling Islamaphobia, that I wanted there to be more expansion on how Maya & her family tackled it + overall just more discussion on the impact such fears can have because I feel such discussions of timely issues are so important in YA!

Additionally (though I fully understand I read this as an ARC, so the FC has most likely gone through more edits) I felt there were moments in the story that went a bit too fast, so plot and character-wise where there could have been just a little bit more development. 

Aside from that, I honestly loved this book with all my heart & feel it was such a memorable read!

I cannot wait to read Ahmed’s future books & highly recommend checking out Love, Hate & Other Filters if you haven’t already!

Character-driven, cinematic, timely, and full of such heart, Ahmed’s debut is captivating! Love, Hate, & Other Filters follows inspiring Maya Aziz as she tackles with understanding who she wants to be and the heart-breaking + heavy issues she encounters in her small town!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen ARC Review

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael AllenA Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: January 9, 2017

Pages: 336

Summary:The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . .something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

*Received an ARC from Barnes & Noble B-Fest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Taxonomy Of Love is a plot-driven + complex YA Contemporary that brings such depth to its main characters and weaves in numerous themes of grief, loss, friendship, love and family. The unique format + expansive timeline that unravels, really make Allen’s A Taxonomy Of Love stand out!

What really stayed with me after I finished A Taxonomy Of Love was the writing and how it allowed me to really connect to the main character, Spencer Barton.

Not only was it refreshing to read a YA Contemporary from a male POV, but I’d also never read about a main character with Tourettes before.

A Taxonomy Of Love follows Spencer at 13 up until 19 yrs old as we follow his life and unforgettable friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong.

From their friendship as 13-year olds in middle school, journey through high school, etc. I loved being able to follow these characters through the ups and downs of their life across a wide timeline.

A Taxonomy Of Love really stood out to me because of how its told. Not only through the engaging 1st person POV, but also through the 6-year timeline. For a standalone, I feel that can’t be easy, but Allen executed it in such a way, where it all flowed well and you really see the progression and growth of the main character Spencer.

There are also illustrations of Taxonomies that allow Spencer to make sense of new situations + the world, but also the in-between chapters with letters and messages from Hope. These additions really added more to the story and allowed me to learn a different side to these characters.

The story starts when Spencer meets Hope at 13 when she moves in next door and become friends almost instantly. However misunderstandings arise when its clear they both have feelings for one another but can’t seem to find their way to each other.

Then tragedy strikes Hope and her family when her older sister Janie passes away. We see how they slowly begin to grow apart. Spencer + Hope find their friendship slowly fading away as the years go by. Misunderstandings and misfortune keep them unsure if they’ll ever really reconnect with each other.

Now as to why I rated this book 3.5 stars, my biggest issue was that the time-jumps. It never felt like I got to fully know these characters (aside from Spencer) or feel extremely connected to the story itself because it felt plot points and development would be rushed through. I also felt it dragged particularly through uneventful or average everyday events if that makes sense?

Even when important themes of love, loss and social issues (such as racism) are discussed, the abruptness of the chapters + various time-jumps made it really difficult for me to really feel connected to these important story elements.

As for the diversity represented in this novel, as I mentioned before we have the main character Spencer Barton who has Tourettes + Jayla, Spencer’s girlfriend, who is black. There is also light discussion of mental health, when the passing of Hope’s sister is mentioned and she talks about going to a support group + when Spencer begins medication that helps with his Tourettes. (Though I can’t personally say whether Tourettes was accurately represented, overall it was great to see that represented in YA! + Ablesit language was challenged~)

Not only did I read how Spencer’s Tourettes influenced his life and impacted his confidence (as he mentioned people bullied him when he was younger), but also that friends, such as Hope would give him the patience and support he needed. Throughout the novel its clear that Spencer has friends, family, and people in his life who will support + understand him.

Overall it was also great to see him gain so much confidence in himself and learn to navigate and better understand the complex friendships + relationships in his life, throughout those 6 years. He grew so much as a character and I found myself rooting for him & Hope!

An aspect of this novel that I really loved was the various messages Allen weaved into the story. There’s grief, family, independence and friendship that are such important themes throughout the story as we follow Spencer and Hope’s story. Not only were they portrayed pretty well, but they really stuck with me as I progressed through the story.

There was also illustrations of taxonomies that just add more to the story itself and letters from Hope that really allow her to come to life.

A Taxonomy Of Love is a complex YA Contemporary that spans across a rather big timeline as we follow Spencer + Hope and their complicated, but powerful relationship. Important themes of love, loss, and growth weave their way into the story. Allen’s writing really brings such depth to the main character of Spencer and brings his story to life!