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 & 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!

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

Latinx YA Book ReleasesToday on the blog, I’m so happy to share with you upcoming 2018 YA Books that feat. Latinx characters or are by Latinx authors that I’m really looking forward to reading + ones to add to your TBR!!

Being Latina myself, its just so amazing + inspiring (not only being an avid YA reader + aspiring author) to see so many upcoming YA Books from Latinx authors 😍✨📚

The list will be split up by genre/category + release date/pages (if available) & publisher!(Note: Dates may be subject to change)

I did my best to compile a list of as many as I could, but if there were any I happened to miss, please feel free to comment so others can know about it too!

Contemporary

1.The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (Feb. 1, 2018, Carolrhoda Books, 344 Pages)

Summary: Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

2. Flight Season by Marie Marquardt (Feb. 20, Wednesday Books, 352 Pages)

Summary:Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

3.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (March 6, HarperTeen, 368 Pages) 

Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

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.

4. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (May 8, Razorbill, 272 Pages)

Summary: Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

5.Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro (May 22, Tor Teen, 384 Pages)

Summary: A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift. 

6.The Fall Of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez (June 12, Philomel Books, 448 Pages) *Today, Jen from PopGoesTheReader just featured The Fall Of Innocence Cover Reveal!

Summary:For the past eight years, sixteen-year-old Emilia DeJesus has done her best to move on from the traumatic attack she suffered in the woods behind her elementary school. She’s forced down the memories–the feeling of the twigs cracking beneath her, choking on her own blood, unable to scream. Most of all, she’s tried to forget about Jeremy Lance, the boy responsible, the boy who caused her such pain. Emilia believes that the crows who watched over her that day, who helped her survive, are still on her side, encouraging her to live fully. And with the love and support of her mother, brother, and her caring boyfriend, Emilia is doing just that.

But when a startling discovery about her attacker’s identity comes to light, and the memories of that day break through the mental box in which she’d shut them away, Emilia is forced to confront her new reality and make sense of shifting truths about her past, her family, and herself.

A compulsively-readable tragedy that reminds us of the fragility of human nature.

7. Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes (September 18, Simon Pulse, 416 Pages)

Summary:Ever since her mom died three years ago, Analee Echevarria has had trouble saying out loud the weird thoughts that sit in her head. With a best friend who hates her and a dad who’s marrying a yogi she can’t stand, Analee spends most of her time avoiding reality and role-playing as Kiri, the night elf hunter at the center of her favorite online game.

Through Kiri, Analee is able to express everything real-life Analee cannot: her bravery, her strength, her inner warrior. The one thing both Kiri and Analee can’t do, though, is work up the nerve to confess her romantic feelings for Kiri’s partner-in-crime, Xolkar—aka a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never actually met in person.

So when high school heartthrob Seb Matias asks Analee to pose as his girlfriend in an attempt to make his ex jealous, Analee agrees. Sure, Seb seems kind of obnoxious, but Analee could use some practice connecting with people in real life. In fact, it’d maybe even help her with Harris.

But the more Seb tries to coax Analee out of her comfort zone, the more she starts to wonder if her anxious, invisible self is even ready for the real world. Can Analee figure it all out without losing herself in the process?

8.The Resolutions by Mia Garcia (November 13, Harper Teen, 320 Pages)

Summary:New Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.

But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

9. Brief Chronicle Of Another Stupid Heartbreak by Adi Alsaid (TBA 2018, Harlequin Teen)

Summary:The summer after senior year is not going as eighteen-year-old Lu Charles expected: after her longtime boyfriend unexpectedly breaks up with her, she finds herself unable to write her relationships column for Misnomer, the popular e-zine that feels so central to her identity. Then, she meets Cal, a handsome, charming and decidedly un-single stranger. Or is he?

Cal’s ever-practical girlfriend Iris is looking ahead to her first year of college, and her plans do not include a long-distance boyfriend. When Lu learns that Cal and Iris have planned to end their relationship at the end of the summer, she becomes fascinated and decides to chronicle the last months the couple will spend together. But the closer she gets to both of them, the harder it becomes to untangle her own feelings toward Cal from the story she’s writing. When Lu’s ex-boyfriend Leo unexpectedly comes back into the picture, Lu will have to decide what she wants—and from whom—or risk losing it.

Fantasy

1.Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez (June 5, Imprint, 448 Pages)

Summary: Not you without me, not me without you.
Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

2.The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera (The Tiger’s Daughter #2) (August 28, Tor Books, 400 Pages)

Summary:The Phoenix Empress, the sequel to K Arsenault Rivera’ the wildly buzzed about The Tiger’s Daughter, an epic historical fantasy in the vein of Patrick Rothfuss and Naomi Novik.

Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.

Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.

As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?

Dystopia

1. Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera (August 21, Simon Schuster BYR, 352 Pages)

*Note: I double-checked not only Rivera’s twitter + the publishers website & Dealing In Dreams is set to be out in 2019! Apologies~

Summary: At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Sixteen-year-old Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throwdowns and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but Nalah quickly grows weary of her questionable lifestyle. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega Towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search of the mysterious gang the Ashé Riders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles crews and her own doubts but the closer she gets to her goal the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone—she cares about.

Nalah must choose whether or not she’s willing to do the unspeakable to get what she wants. Can she discover that home is not where you live but whom you chose to protect before she loses the family she’s created for good?

Graphic Novels

1. Moonstruck Vol. 1 by Grace Ellis, Shea Beagle + Kate Leth (Artists) (March 27, Image Comics, 120 Pages)

Summary: Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late. (*Features Latinx characters, not by Latinx authors)

Magical Realism

1.Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (Oct. 9, Feiwel & Friends, 320 Pages)

Summary: A magical realist Snow-White & Rose-Red meets Swan Lake, in which two sisters become rivals in a game that will turn the losing girl into a swan. 

Retellings

1. Pride by Ibi Zoboi (September 2018, Balzer+Bray/Harper Teen, 304 pages)

Summary:Zuri Benitez, a young woman with four wild sisters is contending with a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister Janae starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius — that is, until they’re forced to find common ground and they start to bond.

Urban Fantasy

1. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova (Brooklyn Brujas #2) (June 5, Sourcebooks Fire, 352 Pages)

Summary:Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Latinx YA Books 2018

What Latinx YA Books are you looking forward to? 😄🎉📚📚

Lets Discuss In The Comments Below! 🙂

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes Review

The Arsonist by Stephanie OakesThe Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial Books (PenguinTeen)

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Pages: 493

Summary:It starts with a fire. A diary. A murder.

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer…or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Arsonist is a thriller, mystery, historical-fiction, and coming of age all in one! With such depth to the main characters, threads of mystery that weave together so perfectly, and surprises at every turn, Oakes novel will have you immersed in this brilliantly crafted story! 

Having been such a huge fan of Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly, I knew I wouldn’t miss out on her upcoming books! Though while this one has a lesser rating compared to her 1st book, I still really loved it and had such a fun time reading it!

We follow 3 differing POV’s that all end up weaving together in such a way, you don’t expect! I know as I saw all the pieces coming together, I found the twists and turns of the story to be so well done and left me surprised!

Told through essays (Pepper), letters (Molly), and diary entries (Ava), the story unfolds in such a unique and interesting way!

Starting with Molly Mavity, she’s somewhat of an outcast at school and knows she’ll never really fit in. Her father is a convicted arsonist and currently in jail and as for her mother, is dead. But Molly believes she’s still out there somewhere and is waiting for her return.

Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef is just trying to graduate high school, so he’s given an assignment by his counselor to write essays about each of his classes.

And Ava Dreyman, a girl living in East Germany who, along with her family resist the Stasi rule and hope to one day be free of the Berlin Wall.

Molly and Pepper soon team up when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of what happened to Ava Dreyman.

They find themselves reading her diary titled The Arsonist, visiting people from Ava’s past, traveling to Berlin, and forging a complex friendship along the way.

What I loved about Pepper & Molly so much, was the complex but underlying strong friendship that forges between them as they try to solve the mystery. While Pepper later admits he could possibly imagine a nice relationship between them, he also states their friendship was so much more important and I loved that!

Its clear throughout the novel, that they both feel pretty lonely and really want someone to connect to, feeling like they don’t really belong. Seeing just how alike they are through their POV and seeing them slowly forge their friendship was so beautiful!

Through Ava’s POV we see just how independent and brave she is, when she’s forced to leave her home in East Germany to avoid the Stasi from capturing her. She grows and undergoes so much pain and betrayal when she must leave her family and her home behind. While I loved each of the POV’s equally, her’s was just filled with so much pain and heartache that you just feel so connected to her story and want to see her be reunited with those she loves and be free.

We also get so much depth to her as we see how these traumatic events from her being forced to flee her home, to seeing her members of her family put in danger & even killed, to the betrayal she endures and how it just causes her to become a shadow of who she once was.

I wish I could put into words the complexity of the story, but truly can’t. There’s just so many brilliant points that bring these characters together in ways you just don’t see coming!

What I found made me difficult to truly rate this book a 5, was the writing-style. While I loved that it truly gave you such depth into each of the characters minds and their personalities, I couldn’t help but feel that other aspects fell a bit short. From the setting descriptions to some side characters, they weren’t given as much depth as I would have hoped, which did make it a bit difficult to truly immerse myself in this book. Additionally, the story does get slow paced throughout and due to its length did drag a little bit at some points.

Aside from that, what the writing-style brings that really makes the book stand out and truly shine, is the uniqueness of each POV and how its just brilliantly executed.

There were definitely a few side characters that I felt truly were given such depth and you felt you really knew them by the end of this novel. To start with, Pepper’s father, as we learn what brought him to the U.S. and the heartache he also endures with the loss of his wife, Lido, a friend Ava makes who allows her to find hope again when she finds herself mistakenly put into a mental institution, and Heinrich Werner, a Stasi officer who is in charge of eliminating those who rebel against current republic or attempt to flee.

Overall I highly recommend this book if your looking for a unique mystery that really delivers complex and interesting characters, while keeping you putting pieces together till the very end!

The Arsonist is a uniquely woven tale that brings in mystery, coming-of-age, historical fiction, as you follow 3 distinct POV’s that bring to life such unique and memorable main characters! With such deep underlying messages about family, fighting for what you believe, and the depths of love and loss, Oakes The Arsonist, is not one to miss!

Literary Listens: Podcast Recommendations Based On YA Books

literary-listens-podcast-recommendations-based-on-ya-booksIf you’re new to my blog, Literary Listens is a feature I created to share my love of podcasts while also incorporating my love for books! When I’m not reading, I also love listening to podcasts, especially audio dramas!

Its a blog feature I always have fun writing about & my hope is to introduce readers to cool new podcasts!

You can also check out my most recent feature, which was “Publishers and Podcasts” where I discussed TorLabs and speculated how Young Adult and Teen publishers could incorporate podcasts into their publishing!

Today I will be recommending and pairing up some Audio Drama Podcasts with Young Adult Science-Fiction Books!

YA Sci-Fi is a genre is a genre I’m just starting to get into, but hopefully the recs. I share today inspire you to pick up the books or podcasts mentioned!

Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza Cover Reveal 20171.If You’ve Read: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza OR Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller

Listen To: The Strange Case Of Starship Iris

Why:They feature rag-tag crews as they chart across space! All 3 are very character-driven and have such unique and immersive worlds/world-building!

Shadow Run  Cover RevealShadow Run + Starship have a fantastic group/squad dynamic that will have you rooting for them even in the wackiest situations!

Additionally, there’s diversity both in the novels + podcast!

~Empress: Features a predominantly diverse cast (Filipino + Black characters)

~Shadow Run: Features POC main/side characters + gender-fluid and gay representation

The Strange Case Of Starship Iris~Starship: Features a w/w relationship/romance, nonbinary, Chinese and Indian MC’s/representation

Summary: In 2189, Earth narrowly won a war against extraterrestrials. The Strange Case of Starship Iris is about what comes after. It’s a story of outer space, survival, espionage, resistance, identity, friendship, found family, romance, and secrets.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada2. If You’ve Read: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Listen To: The Elysium Project

Why: Both heavily feature science, scientist parents, genetics in a near-futuristic U.S., and have tons of action/adventure!

The fascinating characters, world, and world-building will have you hooked from the very beginning! They are very plot-driven The Elysium Projectstories and will keep you guessing as to what’ll happen next!

Summary: The Elysium Project follows those who are pulled into the world of a powerful formula that allows its subjects to manipulate the world around them based on thought and desire.This is an independently produced audio drama series created and produced by Natalie Van Sistine.

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan3.If You’ve Read: No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

Listen To: The Bright Sessions

Why: Both feature groups of people with superpowers/supernatural abilities and have great diverse representation in their casts of characters (POC, anxiety rep., characters with different sexualities)

The Bright SessionsSummary: Dr. Bright provides therapy for the strange and unusual; their sessions have been recorded for research purposes. The show documents these patients’ struggles and discoveries as well as the motivations of their mysterious therapist, Dr. Bright.

If your looking for more space podcasts, definitely consider checking out, Girl In Space! Its a fairly new podcast with 4 episodes out and it has Girl In Space Podcasteasily become one of my favorites! The writing and plot are absolutely incredible! I highly recommend it (´▽`ʃƪ)♥♥~

Here’s a summary: Nothing fancy here — just the simple audio diary of a girl in space. Also, there’s this weird and potentially ominous light in the distance that seems to be growing steadily closer. Listen biweekly for science, guns, trust, anti-matter, truth, beauty, inner turmoil, and delicious cheeses. It’s all here. In space.

If you’ve read any of the books mentioned or have suggestions for other YA Sci-Fi titles that would go along with any of these podcasts, definitely leave a comment!

Additionally, if you’ve listened to any of the podcasts mentioned, are planning to, or have other sci-fi podcast recommendations, lets discuss in the comments!  😄🎙✨

October 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 7

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore1.Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild Beauty Full ARC Review

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Pages: 320

My Rating:★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: Wild Beauty was such a lush and magical tale, one I’ll never forget! It follows Estrella and the Nomeolvides women as they live on La Pradera, conjuring up the most beautiful flowers. However, when a mysterious boy named Fel appears, Estrella and the cousins uncover more about the mysteries that surround the gardens of La Pradera. The writing is gorgeous, the plot is unique + wonderful, and delves into many themes that weave their way throughout the novel, such as love, family, and sisterhood. There is also such fantastic representation from the Latinx culture, genderqueer, and bisexual characters! Another amazing novel from Anna-Marie McLemore, I highly recommend!! ❤ ❤

The Backstagers Volume 1 by James Tynion IV and Ryan Sygh2.The Backstagers Volume 1 by James Tynion IV + Rian Sygh

The Backstagers Volume 1 Full Review

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Pages: 112

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Such a fun and diverse graphic novel! When Jory attends a new all-boys school, his mom convinces him to find some sort of after-school activity to join. He soon finds himself joining the drama club and becomes friends with the stage crew aka The Backstagers! He quickly finds out that there’s magical tunnels backstage and soon gets tangled up with the adventures backstage! As for diversity, there’s so much representation from Jory (black) to Aziz (Middle-Eastern), gay and trans rep. too! The Backstagers is a fun graphic novel with a fantastic cast of characters, great magic/fantasy elements, and themes of friendship/adventure woven throughout!

Elizabeth And Zenobia by Jessica Miller3.Elizabeth And Zenobia by Jessica Miller 

Elizabeth And Zenobia Full ARC Review

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Pages: 208

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: This was a fun, atmospheric and light paranormal middle grade story! The plot is so unique and it has a lot of important themes of family, self-growth, and friendship. Following Elizabeth & her imaginary friend Zenobia, they embark on adventures while staying at Elizabeth’s father’s childhood home which is supposedly “haunted” and they learn more about it.

All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry4. All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry

All The Wind In The World Full Review

Publisher: Algonquin Books For Young Readers

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 264

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Sarah Jac and Jame Holt travel across ranches to gain enough money to one day stop working and settle to have a ranch of their own. However an accident causes them to flee and then they find themselves on the Real Marvelous (which is supposedly cursed). Slowly they find themselves drifting apart and it is heartbreaking to read, but also so emotional 😥 All The Wind In The World is so atmospheric and weaves in contemporary-dystopian/magical realism genres together so well and in such a unique way! Its was also great to see diversity, with Sarah Jac who is mixed-race and an m/m relationship developed through out the novel. 

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada5. This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada (This Mortal Coil #1)

This Mortal Coil Full ARC Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 432

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: This Mortal Coil is a brilliant sci-fi/dystopia debut! I loved this book so much! We follow Catarina Agatta, who is a brilliant gene-hacker and her geneticist father, Dr. Lachlan Agatta who left her with an important mission. Soon she embarks on a journey with Cartaxus soldier Cole to unlock an antidote which could save thousands of people from a rapidly mutating plague. Suvada introduces such fascinating technology in a detailed and complex dystopian future. This is an action-packed, character-driven tale you don’t want to miss!

Life After Legend by Marie Lu6.Life After Legend by Marie Lu (Legend #3.5)

Life After Legend Full Review

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR

Release Date: October 2017

Pages: 21

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: As a long-time fan of the Legend Trilogy, I was so happy when this short epilogue was announced! It really brought back the emotions of reading all 3 books again. You get a little more background to the world of Legend from Day’s perspective and what happened to him parallel to the events of the Champion epilogue. This was such a fantastic addition to the Legend Trilogy that definitely will leave readers happy!

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao7.Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Rise Of The Empress #1)

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns Full Review

Publisher: Philomel Books

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 363

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: An immersive and magical retelling of the evil queen! This novel follows Xifeng on her journey to fulfill her destiny fore-told by her aunt. She has a darkness within her and knows she cannot escape both it and her destiny. The world is rich and atmospheric as we uncover more about Xifeng’s role to become empress and the legends and magic that spread across the land. I will admit a lot of the pre-release hype did impact my enjoyment of the book just a little bit (with some plot/world elements not as expanded on as I would have hoped). However, this is a magical, dark, and immersive retelling that definitely has me eager to read the sequel!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Diverse 2017 YA Books To Add To Your TBR {Fall}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄📚✨

+ I have some new blog posts (aside from book reviews) I can’t wait to share for November! 😍📚✨

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao Review

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. DaoForest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Rise Of The Empress #1)

Publisher: Philomel Books

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Pages: 363

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Dao’s Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns is an immersive and fantastical debut, which follows Xifeng on a journey to fulfill her destiny! With beautiful writing and rich world-building, this is a fantastic fairy-tale retelling both wholly unique and magical!

From the very beginning, you are transported to the rich and magical land of Feng Lu. Xifeng longs to be somewhere else far away from the village she’s lived in her whole life with her Guma, who’s been abusive towards her as she pushes Xifeng towards her fore-told destiny to make her way to the royal palace and become the next empress.

However the journey is not easy, with Xifeng harboring a darkness within her that she doesn’t fully understand. This leads her to betrayal among other evil deeds to complete her task, no matter the cost.

Seeing Xifeng’s inner darkness develop throughout the novel was so well done. Its fluid in a sense that it came and went as she found herself connecting or meeting different people. However no matter what occurred, it was clear the darkness within her was very strong and continued to grow as the story progressed.

There’s also intrigue, love, themes of family, destiny, and shades between good and evil! Dao really brought together all these complex themes and weaved them together all so wonderfully. You can really grasp and sense of each of these throughout the story.

My favorite character of Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns, was definitely Xifeng! I loved her character!! From the very beginning, you can tell she is already grappling with the darkness within herself. Because of it, she finds herself conflicted with pursuing her destiny or forging her own path. Though her actions and intentions to become empress are wicked and dark, you can definitely understand why as you learn more about her and what happened for her to become the person she is destined to be. She was just so well-developed and complex and I loved following her journey.

I also really loved how the romance/ complex relationship that further developed between her and Wei. Now that she is free of Guma to fulfill her destiny, she is unsure whether he can still be a part of her life. While Wei continues to convince her, she can be free to choose her own path, he begins to be unsure himself whether Xifeng is trully free from Guma. However, this novel does not focus on romance, but mainly on Xifeng as she connects more with the darkness within herself and complete her journey!

There were also tons of twists I did not see coming that I loved because they were just so unexpected, but really brought the story full circle as it developed.

The mythology and world building was great. You could really sense it through the writing from the descriptions of the setting, to the details in the weather and atmosphere of the story, which really transported me as I continued to read.

Throughout the story you can also sense the magic weaved throughout the world’s history and setting. Through the writing you can grasp the rich history weaved throughout from the legends to the magic that spread throughout the land.

Even through the writing, you get to know the characters so well, for instance Wei, Xifeng’s childhood love/friend, Guma, the palace royals, among other characters Xifeng meets along the way. They were all so wonderfully developed.

My only minor issues, were I felt there could have been a little more background to some aspects of the world, some expansion on certain plot points, and little faster pacing towards the middle. For instance, there was mention of various locations mentioned across Feng Lu and I would have loved more description or development to them. As for plot, there were points where I felt could have been expanded on just a bit more and maybe given more development.

Overall I really enjoyed Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns and cannot wait to see where Xifeng’s journey takes her in the sequel!!

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns weaves in Chinese mythology with a re-imagining of the Evil Queen. Dao’s tale is an immersive, magical, dark, and character-driven debut which is wholly original and will transport you from the very first page!