Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans WelchLove & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way. 

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Love & Luck is Welch’s spin-off to Love & Gelato, which follows Lina’s friend Addie, as she spends her time in Ireland for her aunt’s wedding. Though a quick detour offers Addie the chance to mend her broken heart and her complex relationship with her brother! Character-driven and filled with adventure, Love & Luck is perfect summer contemporary!

Back in 2016, I read a book called Love & Gelato! I was expecting a light summer YA Contemporary set in Italy, but what I got was so much more!

So, of course when I saw that the author would have another YA Contemporary, I knew I had to pick it up!

Where to start with Love & Luck! Well, I really loved its focus on family and sibling relationships/dynamics!

Addie has 3 older brothers: Ian, Walter, & Archie! They all are really into sports and though tease each other every now & again, are always there for one another.

However at the start of Love & Luck, when Addie & Ian’s argument leads them to go rolling from a cliff, they definitely have some issues to work out.

Their mother has had enough of their arguing and so, as punishment, they are forced to stay together and make their way to Italy and get along!

With Addie’s soccer & Ian’s football on the line, if they don’t get past their arguing, its also a chance for them to overcome their own heartaches and mend their relationship.

The main focus of this book is really Addie & Ian learning to get along again as Ian’s detour through Ireland forces them both to stick together as Addie’s anticipated trip to Italy (to see Lina) comes to a halt!

The sibling dynamics are at the heart of this story and having sisters myself, found the complexity of those dynamics were explored really well!!

Along the way Addie follows a guide book she found in the hotel during her stay for the wedding titled: Ireland For The Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle!

She follows the guide when she learns that the trip to Italy will take a bit longer than expected and along the way, uses it to overcome her recent break-up with Cubby and the difficulties that came with it!

What made Love & Luck such an immersive read, was how character-driven it was! From Addie, Ian, & their new friend/tour guide Rowan, I felt I really got to know them and understand them fully by the end of this story!

What I find so great about Welch’s books is how invested you become in the characters! She really builds her main cast and as you learn more about them you also get more insight into their strengths, doubts, insecurities, etc.!

There’s also so much more to Ian & Addie’s difficult dynamic ( & argument) that gets revealed as the story progresses!

With much more to Ian & Rowan than Addie first expects, I was just as surprised as she was when I learned more about them.

Another plus of Love & Luck is how atmospheric it was and how Welch really builds the setting and gives it a life of its own through her characters!

I really loved Rowan! He is actually an online friend of Ian’s and as the secrets about their detour to Ireland get revealed, it turns out Ian wants to follow the different memorable sites of his (& Rowan’s) favorite band Titletrack, to in the end see them live at a festival: Electric Picnic!

He also becomes the tour guide of sorts as all 3 of them stop at various spots throughout Ireland!

I really loved his character! While he seems to be just an average guy, there’s so much more to him that gets revealed as he & Addie become closer on their journey through Ireland!

What also made Love & Luck so wonderful was that because it wasn’t really focused on romance, we really get to see the wonderful friendship between Addie & Rowan as they rely on each other to overcome their heartbreak!

+ There’s also a certain cameo I was waiting for, so of course I really loved seeing Lina & Ren again!!

Now as to why I didn’t love this book as much as Love & Gelato:

~Well, because it runs parallel to Love & Gelato, the pacing felt incredibly slow because I knew where the story was headed! (+ the in-between tour guide sections (though I liked them) really slowed the pacing for me too!)

~ Beside’s Addie, Ian, & Rowan, the other characters seemed pretty forgettable

~ There’s also the plot point of the entire reason Addie & Ian are arguing & while things are revealed, I felt that the major history to it was shared way too late in the story! Because of that, it felt that most of their problems could have been fixed with better communication, considering how quickly it was rushed through when more backstory to it is finally mentioned!

& to me what I personally found odd throughout the book, was that if Addie & Ian were being punished and had to get along, why was their mother leaving them alone & expecting them to get to Italy on their own with no problems? (This is just an odd personal gripe I had).

Overall though, what really made this book good was the focus on the main characters, their growth and the emphasis on friendship, overcoming heartache & sibling dynamics!

Love & Luck is a YA Contemporary that is perfect for summer! The story really shines through its characters and the development they undergo!  Its a character-driven, immersive and atmospheric story that focuses on overcoming heartache & the complex bonds of siblings! 

Advertisements

Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion Review

Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay ChampionSomeday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion

Publisher: KCP Loft

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Pages: 270

Summary: Dominique is a high school junior from a gritty neighborhood in Trenton, where she and her mom are barely getting by.

Ben is a musical prodigy from the Upper East Side, a violinist at a top conservatory with obsessive talent and a brilliant future.

When Dom’s class is taken to hear a concert at Carnegie Hall, she expects to be bored out of her mind. But then she sees the boy in the front row playing violin like his life depends on it — and she is transfixed.

Posing as an NYU student, Dom sneaks back to New York City to track down Ben Tristan, a magnetic genius who whisks her into a fantasy world of jazz clubs and opera, infatuation and possibility. Each sees something in the other that promises to complete them.

As Dom’s web of lies grows, though, so does Ben’s obsessive need to conquer Beethoven’s famous Kreutzer Sonata. But Ben’s genius, which captivates Dominique, conceals a secret, and the challenges of her life may make it difficult to help him.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Someday, Somewhere is a lyrical YA Contemporary that follows Ben and Dominique, their own separate journeys, and how the relationship they forge offers a bright light in a hazy, uncertain future! Eloquent writing, deeply complex characters, with a moving plot about family, love, self-growth, and chasing after your dreams!

Where to start with this book! I had my eye on Someday, Somewhere for a while and decided to finally pick it up!

It had me feeling so many things! Joy, sadness, heartbreak, acceptance!! This book has shattered me (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)♥♥

I just can’t believe this book is over!! I loved it so much!! ❤ ❤

I flew through Someday, Somewhere and it had me so emotional, from my attachment to the characters, the emotional depth woven throughout, etc! Champion’s YA Contemporary has easily become another one of my favorite reads of 2018 + made it onto my list of all-time favorite YA Contemporary books!

Someday, Somewhere follows Dominique Hall, who lives in a poor neighborhood in Trenton, N.J. with her best friend Cass and then there’s Ben Tristian who lives in a wealthy area of New York, attending a prestigious music school, Brighton Conservatory.

The novel starts with Dom & her class attending a concert at Carnegie Hall for a field trip.

With the financial stress of her mother’s laundromat, Spin Cycle, her dreams of becoming a dancer + attending NYU becoming more fantasy than reality, her uncertainty of the future, and a million other uncertainties, she finds solace in Ben’s violin playing that moves her to tears.

I loved how the differing lifestyles/finances, were explored and discussed through Dom’s POV and how it clearly differed from Ben’s more privileged lifestyle! I don’t usually see that in YA Contemporary, so I’m glad it was really given enough page time to have it discussed.

Told through dual POV, the novel then follows Dominique as she & Cass work together to try and find Ben, so Dominique can put into words just how much his music meant to her.

As for Ben, a star violinist at Brighton, he just wants to prove himself as a great musician and be the best, as he practices Beethoven’s Kreutzer for the upcoming Sonata Showcase. This performance only features 12 students and if he gets in, it’ll prove all that he’s worked years for will finally lead him somewhere.

As Dominique finally gets a chance to meet Ben, the lies she shares, for fear of him not accepting who she really is, begin to build & build as their relationship develops.

However, over the course of the story Dom finds the courage to not only be honest with him, but also herself as they both forge an incredible relationship.

This novel focuses so much on finding oneself, as seen through Ben & Dom’s POVs. While Champion does a spectacular job at building each of the other characters, you really get into Ben & Dom’s heads and learn so much about their dreams, fears, and passion to follow their hearts.

Music weaves its way into this story in such a elegant way, especially through the writing. Seen through Ben’s POV, with his passion and drive for classical music, we see how its weaved into the way he views the world.

I loved the relationship that builds! Though some may see it as very quick progression, I found it just worked so well with the story, its characters, and when you get to the heart of Ben & Dom’s dynamic, its clear its so much more than meets the eye.

I loved both Dom & Ben equally! You find yourself rooting for each of them. With Dom’s bravery to seek out Ben, follow her dreams, and take chances, I loved her so much and she was such a great main character. As for Ben, with his passion to be a great musician, you understand, but you also feel heartache for him, when its clear at times he pushes himself too much.

Ben is overly confident and it shows through his inner thoughts when he’s critical of his classmates and people in his life. Dom is very hopeful, though she has fears for what is in the future, her persistence to follow her dreams continued to build throughout the entire story!

Overall I loved how complex and dynamic Ben and Dom were. They are very different, but you see this passion they both share and how it connects them. You really get to understand them so fully by the very end of the novel and I just wish there’d be another book with these 2!!

You see how much they find a freedom with each other to escape the complex obstacles they are facing in their own lives, and how their relationship gives them courage to have faith in themselves and I loved that so much! ❤

Their dates we’re so cute ❤ ❤ From their first official date at the Village Vanguard to see Jazz music and just seeing how they shined and saw the world just a little bit brighter with each other.

Though their is a romance that develops, it definitely is not the core of this story! Its more about Dom & Ben themselves, how they grow, think about their futures, and who they want to be and I loved that so much!!

The way Champion crafted her other characters from Dom’s POV such as her mother, estranged father, her best friend Cass, all are all explored and crafted so wonderfully that their personalities shine throughout the entire book.

As for Ben, while I found his parents to not be as developed, his brother Milo, classmates Claire, Carter, music instructor Yaz, and many other characters, were explored with such depth as well!

Champion really crafted her characters with such heart and they were so incredibly real and really came to life!

What really stood out to me about Someday, Somewhere was definitely the eloquent writing! As the novel focuses on music, the emotionally impactful writing brings such a realness and beauty to the story that elevates the characters and story even more!

I truly adored the writing and found it effortlessly weaved itself to bring such life to the main characters Ben & Dom.

As for diversity, Dominique is biracial (1/2 white + Ecuadorian), her best friend Cass is gay & black, and her father, Reg, who’s Ecuadorian.

This novel also explores mental health (bipolar disorder)! Though the topic of mental health is weaved into the novel through Ben’s POV very subtly, it definitely becomes a more prominent aspect to the story nearing the last 50 pages or so, when we learn he does have bipolar disorder!

The way its explored, is seen through Ben’s actions and his inner thoughts.

I truly fell in love with this book and recommend it if your looking for an eloquent, moving, and character-driven YA Contemporary!

I suppose my only minor issues, were a few characters that weren’t really developed and the ending (from Ben’s POV) did feel a bit rushed.

However, I adored the ending! It was hopeful and left me very emotional. Champion’s story had me feeling so many things from joy, to heartache, sadness–so many things!

Someday, Somewhere is a deeply moving YA Contemporary, with main characters you’ll fall in love with! With elegant writing, impactful messages, unique plot, and an incredible cast of characters, Champion’s debut is an incredible and powerful read!

Highly recommend it!

Little Witch Academia Vol. 1 by Yoh Yoshinari Review {Manga}

Little Witch Academia Vol. 1Little Witch Academia Vol. 1 by Yoh Yoshinari & Keisuke Sato (Artist)

Publisher: Yen Press (Yen Press JY)

Release Date: June 26, 2018

Pages: 176

Summary: “Reach out your hand, and your story will begin!” 
Those words changed young Atsuko “Akko” Kagari forever, sparking in her a lifelong dream of becoming a real witch. Now she’s been accepted to the same school as her childhood hero, Shiny Chariot-the prestigious Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. As the only student to come from a non-magical family, Akko finds herself surrounded by prodigies from around the world, but giving up isn’t in her vocabulary. Whether it’s making friends, proving the doubters wrong, or just flying on a broom, Akko is going to make her fantasy a reality!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Little Witch Academia Volume 1 follows Akko who dreams of being a witch and finds herself attending the Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy! With fun adventures and a delightful cast of characters, this is a great start as an adaptation for fans of the show and those unfamiliar with the series!

Little Witch Academia is easily one of my all-time favorite animes! I watched it when it first was released as a short film and fell in love with it!

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (start with the 2013 short) and then the series on Netflix! While the manga is definitely a great intro for those who’ve never seen it, the show is also just fantastic from the characters, world, story, etc. that you should definitely check it out (you won’t be disappointed)!

It basically follows Akko Kagari, who comes from a non-magical family, and her adventures as she attends Luna Nova, an all female school for witches. She’s always wanted to be a witch just like her childhood hero who inspired her, Shiny Chariot! She attends as one of only a couple non-traditional attendees at the school and makes new friends like Lotte & Sucy!

Though she gets into quite a bit of trouble, she doesn’t give up on her dream to become a witch and has such wacky adventures along the way!

From Akko’s first day, to a competitive volleyball match, the case of a mysterious broom by the name of The Shooting Star, & plan for a birthday party, she gets into some fun and interesting situations!

Just like in the anime, we meet familiar faces like Lotte & Sucy, the students Akko first meets that help her out on her way to Luna Nova & who end up becoming her best friends/roommates!

Then there’s Diana Cavendish, Akko’s “rival” who always butts heads with her! The two don’t get really get along, but there’s definitely moments where (while they don’t admit it) they see eye-to-eye on certain things & may even have more in common than they first assume!

And there’s also Amanda O’Neill, who’s a bit of a rebel and is a bit brash with Akko, but they definitely form a bond + beginnings of a friendship in this volume! (Their dynamic on the show is also really great 😍)

While the story mainly has an intro and various short adventure chapters, the ending leaves on mysterious note, where you learn a bit more about the school and are left wondering where Volume 2 will be headed!

The art was done just like it is in the show & if you ever see it in person, the cover design is so beautiful & colorful!

The characters personalities shine with each page and even if characters are shown for a short time, you really get a feel for who they are and the art/dialogue really captures the spirit of each character!

And for fans of the show, its also just a great addition to the Little Witch Academia universe! While it definitely goes in a bit of a different direction than the show & intro short, its still such a fun read!

Little Witch Academia Volume 1 is a fun, magical introduction & addition to the Little Witch Academia series! You’ll get immersed into the world of the Luna Nova Academy and as you follow Akko on all her adventures, you’ll definitely want Volume 2!

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells Review

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #2)

Publisher: Tor.com

Release Date: May 8, 2018

Pages: 158

Summary: It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Artificial Condition continues the adventures of Murderbot as it attempts to uncover more about its past and how it went rogue. The sequel to the Murderbot Diaries delivers the humor and mystery that made All Systems Red so great, with the ongoing development of Murderbot!

If you didn’t know, I love Tor novellas!  I easily get immersed in the unique stories delivered with each one and a novella that I fell in love with last year was Martha Wells, All Systems Red!

It followed an AI/SEC Unit that has called itself Murderbot and is part of a group of scientists on a distant planet filled with coastal islands and forests, conducting research!

It essentially introduced us to Murderbot and allowed us to learn more about it and what exactly it was looking for as it also clued us into its mysterious past.

Artificial Condition is even more character-driven than the previous novella as Murderbot, now on its own, takes charge to find the now abandoned mining facility, Ganaka Pit, where it went rogue and seek the answers its been searching for about its past.

It was great we were able to finally get more insight to the story we heard all about in All Systems Red!

Told through a first person POV, what makes this novella so unique is that we’re able to follow Murderbot’s perspective, which is both serious and funny!

Murderbot, being an AI knows a good amount about people, but still finds itself being awkward around them and just prefers to watch and marathon dramas, like Sanctuary Moon!

Murderbot’s perspective is funny and kind of relatable, with its seriousness/awkwardness/honesty about interacting with people! It never feels awkwardly written or too direct with Wells’ writing.

The exploration of this world though Murderbot delivers just enough about the new side to this world, from the setting, atmosphere, and especially technology.

The tech of this futuristic world gets expanded on a lot more which added more depth than just general world building, which was a unique angle for this story!

What I loved about this sequel was the introductions to new characters like its newest clients and ART, a transport bot, that becomes a new friend to Murderbot and exploring their dynamic change and grow while in the beginning they didn’t really start off on the right foot.

One of the best parts of this novella, was definitely the dynamic between Murderbot & ART.

Wells also explored, in a really great way, the unique tech. through different bots and units!

While story mainly follows Murderbot’s journey to seek answers, there’s also an overarching story in which it gets a new set of clients as a security consultant + gets involved in an interesting case that involves getting a group’s research files back from untrustworthy mining director, Tlacey.

It was interesting to see more of the setting and different side of scientific research in this novella and especially through Murderbot’s new job.

I did find that the group Murderbot works with this time around wasn’t as memorable as the group from All Systems Red, and felt the plot was a bit slow. Though that is because I had hoped there would be even more page-time dedicated to Murderbot’s journey to uncover the mystery of its past. (But there was a minor cameo to a character from the All Systems Red crew, which did make me so happy!)

However, I really cannot wait to read novella 3, Rogue Protocol, because what also makes the Murderbot Diaries so great is that they always leave on an open + somewhat unexpected note, where your left wondering what will happen next!

Artificial Condition is a character-driven follow-up to All Systems Red! This science fiction/ speculative fiction novella series is immersive, thought-provoking, and entertaining all around! With character-development, unique world-building, and so much mystery, The Murderbot Diaries continues to be such a great sci-fi novella series!

The ending will definitely leave you wanting to uncover even more in Murderbot’s story!

June 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin + Nina Vakueva1.Heavy Vinyl Volume 1 by Carly Usdin +Nina Vakueva (Heavy Vinyl #1)

Owned | Started/Finished June 1 |Rating: ★★★★★ | Heavy Vinyl Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A fun, diverse, graphic novel with so much girl power set in 90’s New Jersey! Heavy Vinyl follows Chris who works alongside her all-female co-workers at her local vinyl store. With anxiety, she wants to fit in with her new friends but hasn’t gotten the chance! That is until a case of missing singer introduces her to the world her co-workers have been hiding from her: their vigilante fight club! Now she’s tagging along with them to solve the mystery and maybe uncover more along the way! This is an incredible graphic novel that’s character-driven, diverse, and just a fun story! Friendship is at the heart of Heavy Vinyl and it really shows with each page. Additionally, there’s a lot of fantastic representation among the main cast/side characters: f/f & m/m relationships, lesbian rep., black & Puerto Rican rep., interracial relationships! I adored this graphic novel so much & highly recommend it!  I think there’s only 1 volume planned which is sad, because it ends on at place leaving you to want more from the story & characters, so definitely pick it up & support it, you won’t be disappointed!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters2.Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Owned| Started June 3 + Finished June 7 |Rating: ★★★★☆ ½| Running With Lions Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A coming-of-age YA sports contemporary, that really focuses on characters! Sebastian Hughes is ready for his last summer of soccer training camp with his teammates, before senior year. However things get a bit complicated when his former friend, Emir Shah, shows up. Though regardless of their past, Sebastian is eager to make Emir feel at home! Through a 3rd person POV, the characters, plot, summer setting/atmosphere come to life! A huge aspect of this novel is the way Winters explores sexuality, with characters identifying as gay and bisexual + through the teammate’s support + acceptance of each other throughout the entire book! The characters really grow as they spend their time at Camp Haven and I loved seeing their friendship dynamics with each turn of the page! The plot, characters, etc. are all wonderfully developed and the pacing is great! Highly recommend checking out Winter’s debut!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl3. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

ARC| Started June 9 + Finished June 12 |Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾| Neverworld Wake Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Neverworld Wake was an intriguing YA Contemporary that blends with science fiction! Beatrice Hartley gets the opportunity to reconnect with her friends from boarding school at an estate, since the year or so since her boyfriend Jim’s passing. But when a mysterious man arrives, he tells them they’ve been caught in the Neverworld Wake and only one person can make out alive by the end. The mystery that surrounded Neverworld and how the info was revealed was both delivered and explored at perfect moments throughout the story. While the plot and mystery remain such huge parts of the story, I did find myself not enjoying this book as much as I’d hoped. The writing (which is 1st person) never really made me find a connection to Bea as a character and with the simplicity to the writing, some elements of the story, like side characters were pretty forgettable. However, what definitely made Neverworld Wake an immersive read, was definitely the mystery, and exploration + complexities to the Neverworld!

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi4.Not The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

ARC| Started June 13 + Finished June 18 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½| Not The Girls You’re Looking For Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Aminah Mae Safi’s debut explores the complexities of family and friendship (especially female friendships) in her debut! I connected with Lulu, the main character, from the very first page! She’s outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind and I just–loved her character so much.  This novel explores the messiness of friendship in an honest + complex way, and its such a huge theme of the story. Safi really allows for both friendship & family to be explored, and I was able to really see the many different sides to these dynamics. The unique plot, themes explored, character dynamics, etc. all came together so wonderfully in Not The Girls You’re Looking For to make for such a fantastic YA Contemporary!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir5. A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Library| Started June 19 + Finished June 25|Rating:★★★★☆| A Reaper At The Gates Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is very much a darker continuation to the An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development and lore/mythology are such huge parts of this book and really take center stage. I loved seeing the development and growth to Laia, Helene, and Elias. They are such phenomenal characters and you really see where their fates lead them in this book! War and the dark aftermath of it are explored in this novel and its just heartbreaking. While this was such a great book, I found for me personally that the pacing in the first 1/2 or so made this book a bit difficult for me to really love it as with the previous ones. With the pacing, I felt that with the urgency of the stakes that are given + alongside the writing that made side characters, setting, etc. feel a bit under-developed and not as fully immersive for me in previous books. However regardless of that, as soon as I reached the end, I needed the next book right away. So, I am beyond excited to read the final book and see what Sabaa has in store for the world/story of Ember! 

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes #12

Audio Dime Museum Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Currently Reading & YA Books On My June 2018 TBR!

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye Exclusive Cover Reveal

Dark Ages Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Plans For July:

~READ MORE!! I feel like I just haven’t been reading much as I’d hoped (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) & before summer ends, really want to catch up on my TBR! If you have any tips to read more, definitely let me know!! 😭💕📚📚

~ Post more podcast reviews for Literary Listens! June was my first month posting audio drama podcast reviews & they were such fun posts to make!! I really hope to review/recommend more audio dramas next month too!! 🎙✨💖

~Continue working on my summer bullet journal 😍📒💕☀

What books did you read this month?? 😍📚

+ What are your bookish goals for July? Lets discuss in the comments!! ✨✨

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir Review

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa TahirA Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Pages: 464

Summary: Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

*A Reaper At The Gates review has major spoilers*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Reaper At The Gates is a dark, haunting, and character-driven continuation to An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development, expansion on lore and mythology take center stage as war looms on the horizon!

Wow, where to start with this book! The characters grow so much throughout Reaper:  Laia, Elias, and Helene are faced with supernatural forces as they come to terms with the path that destiny has laid out for them!

To start I loved the immense growth we see from each of the main characters! There is so much internal development that they undergo from acceptance to heartache.

What I found so heartbreaking, was reading about the separation between Laia & Elias! With both of them on their own journeys and learning how they must accept or navigate the destinies/prophecies that are leading them closer to their fates.

Laia is now fighting to save her people, Helene must make sacrifices as she leads the way for battle, and Elias must choose between the people he loves and his role as Soul Catcher if he’s to prevent ghosts from taking over the mortal world.

I loved the development to dynamics with Helene, Harper, and Dex! Seeing how they help Helene as she tries to make her way back to Antium to take down the Commandant.

Their dynamics between Helene, Harper, and Dex (at least from what I remember from book 2), feel so much more developed in this book and we really see the powerful bond they’ve forged with each other throughout this journey.

Laia is on a quest to take down the Nightbringer and won’t let anything get in her way. She meets a new friend and reconnects with familiar faces along the way.

One of the new characters introduced, who I really loved was was Musa! He was Laia and Darin’s new friend who helps them on their way to come up with a plan against the Nightbringer! His page time was definitely cut earlier than I would have hoped, but I am beyond excited to see where his journey is headed in book 4!

I also wish Darin had more page time!

Aside from new characters, secrets are revealed, and there’s so much character development as the plot expands and what is set for the finale, is clear!

While A Reaper At The Gates definitely has its heartbreaking moments, the ending and parts throughout definitely remind us there is hope for the beloved characters we’ve followed so far! There is one scene in particular at nearing the end that really surprised me & I can’t wait to see where it leads a couple of our main characters!

Elias’s story focuses so much around his fate as the Soul Catcher and how his journey is about him letting go of his humanity to accept the role he has been chosen for.

It was heartbreaking to read how the love he has for his friends and family slowly had to fade away in order for him to accept the magic he needed as Soul Catcher in The Waiting Place.

I will admit, what makes this book so difficult for me to rate a full 5 is the pacing for the first half! Because of it, the stakes didn’t feel as high as with the previous books and it wasn’t until the last half (or a bit after) that I finally found the story picking up!

Because of that, there was a lot of elements from supporting characters to plot pacing that felt a bit off for me.

The writing made elements such as setting, supporting characters, etc. feel very under-developed, for me personally. But as I made my way to about the 50% mark, I definitely found myself connecting better with the story.

What broke my heart, honestly was ch. 53 (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) I’m still not over it!! As an avid RPG gamer, this chapter reminded me very much of a scene that’s similar in one of my favorite video games and it just–left me so emotional and devastated!!

The idea/themes of destiny and fate are explored so much in this book! I find that those themes always allow me to connect even more to a story because they are themes I just really love exploring and find they add so much to a story!

War and its lasting affects are also huge factors that are explored in the later 1/2 of Reaper and are so heart-breaking, but very much reflect the world today. Tahir explored these themes that leave you so impacted and shaken.

The mythology and lore of the world is also given center stage as they get woven in deeper not only into the story, but to the characters as well!

Tahir balanced mythology, character dynamics, plot, all so wonderfully that finally reaching the end, I am still unsure how I will be able to wait for Book 4!

A Reaper At The Gates is the epic continuation to Tahir’s, An Ember In The Ashes Series! The mythology, characters, themes and so much more all weave together to bring a tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat for the finale!

Not The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi ARC Review

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae SafiNot The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Pages: 336 (327 ARC)

Summary: Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Not The Girls You’re Looking For is a YA Contemporary that explores with such complexity: friendships, love, family, and self-growth! Safi’s debut also seamlessly weaves in humor while navigating a complex and heavy topics!

Through a 3rd person POV, Safi’s debut centers around Leila “Lulu” Saad as she’s continuing to navigate her life + high school with her friends: Audrey, Lo, and Emma by her side!

But aside from high school there’s also family, friendships, and so many different facets to her life that are explored throughout the entire book! From the very beginning Lulu came to life on the page and with each and every moment, Safi continued to develop her character with so much depth!

I loved that there were just–so many different sides of Lulu’s life that are explored and seen throughout.

Friendship is a huge element of this book, obviously seen through Lulu and her core group of friends. As the friendship hits a few bumps along the way, it allows us to explore the complexities of it through Lulu’s eyes as she finds herself attempting to mend the conflict that has driven her friends apart.

Safi tackles the messy aspects of friendship in what I found to be an honest and complex way that is a big element to the story!

With Lulu a bit lost and unsure of how to mend and repair those bonds, it allowed for numerous amounts of page time of seeing Lulu’s complexity and the differing sides of her life!

It really allowed for me to connect to her even more and see her struggle to find a balance with various obstacles that appear as the story progresses.

Lulu was easily my favorite character of the entire book! She’s outgoing, reckless, sarcastic, and some would say “imperfect” but that’s what makes her such an incredible character!

She loves going out to parties, making out with guys, drinking + hanging out with her friends, etc. and I loved how she’s very outgoing and just always willing to have fun!

For me personally, at certain moments it definitely takes time to be very outgoing, but reading about Lulu and how confident she was, was just really inspiring and I just loved reading about a character who’s personality is different than mine but also very much like mine in ways too!

She is very much trying to find a space for herself, both as a biracial teen (white mother & Muslim + Iraqi father) finding where she fits in with her other family members, & overall just on her own.

I loved how Safi explored Lulu’s character and made it such a grounded element to the story!

Family is also a huge aspect to this book as Lulu confronts her uncertainties of her identity as she spends Ramadan with other family members and also explores the complex relationships/dynamics with them.

Additionally, I loved the sibling dynamics explored with her older brothers Ben & Reza. Though they aren’t present for the whole novel, their moments with Lulu are done so well as we see the sibling banter between them and as they try to help Lulu navigate the rift between her friends.

I also loved how integral her parents were! Her relationship with her mother and father is explored so well throughout the entire book. For me I did find the growth and development was slow and gradual and something that really took its time to develop and change, which I loved!

Also the way Safi crafted them as characters, their development/dynamic growth with Lulu and overall through Safi’s writing-style, they really did feel so real and I found them to be so memorable and real!

While there’s definitely memorable parents in YA Contemporary, there’s just something about Safi’s complex writing that added unique layers to Lulu’s parents, Aimee +Ahmed as well!

From family to friendship, Safi makes it clear that there’s so many differing sides and the dynamics and relationships we have with them aren’t just one sided and I loved how she explored that through her writing.

There’s also a character named James who Lulu finds herself falling for and I love how their relationship was developed! She finds herself really opening up to him over the course of the story before + after the obstacles with her friends arise!

She’s very outgoing + bold and it was great seeing that part of her shine through even more as she got to know him!

Plot-wise, it was very unique! There was never a moment where I knew where the plot was going and I found that made this reading experience so great!

From Lulu’s family life, school, celebrating Ramadan, etc. I loved the way Safi developed her plot while also making it both slow and fast paced & having work perfectly for the story!

Not The Girls You’re Looking For also discusses a number of complex/heavy subjects involving consent as it becomes a relevant topic to the overall story.

There’s just so much I loved about this book!! From the amazing focus on family and family dynamics that are so central to the story, importance of finding yourself, and the messy/complex dynamics of friendships!

Overall Not The Girls You’re Looking For is a must read YA Contemporary! It explores numerous topics from friendship, family, self identity, and so much more! Safi navigates the real and messy moments in life, while also balancing with the wonderful and memorable ones too!