The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees Review

The Waking Forest by Alyssa WeesThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Pages: 297

Available Through The Book Depository: The Waking Forest

Summary: Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Waking Forest is a YA debut that melds contemporary with fantasy and magic in an interesting way! Rhea begins questioning  what’s real and what’s not when dreams begin merging into her everyday life! With her pet fox by her side she begins uncovering and losing herself in a peculiar magic only she can see! The Waking Forest is an eerie, whimsical debut that introduces fairy tales, a descriptive writing-style, and a story that’s more than it seems!

The Waking Forest is a book I’d really been looking forward to–a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch–there’s also a magical forest and the main character has a pet fox?!?! This book had a lot of different elements that would work great together! (+ The cover is so beautiful and atmospheric–it really went with the story).

I did find the story to be a bit underwhelming and it got a bit lost along the way. But, I do see myself reading more of Wees books in the future because I loved the unique concept!

There were a lot of different elements that made this book really stand out and kept me invested–from the unpredictability of the plot, atmospheric writing, unique incorporation of fairy tales, and main themes that stay present throughout the book!

Told through dual POV’s we follow our main character Rhea who continuously has dreams about the attic in her house, but can never quite reach it. However early on in the book, she does and fears for what it could mean. Then within the attic she learns of a mysterious boy (who she calls Darkness) whose giving her some sort of test/game to play! If she wins, she can unlock all the answers he’s hiding. If not, her family will pay the price!

As she’s running out of time, she gets even more lost in this game as she tries to find the answers she’s looking for! I found this plot point to be the most interesting because it gets developed throughout the story and it was just a unique plot point I’d never really read before!

Aside from that main storyline, it also follows her everyday life with her parents, sisters (Rose, Renata, & Raisa), and their unique dynamic as Rhea’s dreams begin to worry them.

The 2nd POV follows the Witch In The Woods who lives in her sanctuary hidden deep in the forest with her army of foxes and grants wishes for a price! Throughout her POV its told in a fairytale/storyteller-type fashion as a boy (who for some time was disguised as a fox) tries to learn more about the Witch by intriguing her with a fairytale of a princess, magic, castles, and a forest!

As we delve more into her POV, we learn how lonely she is and that with each continuation of the boy’s story, she begins feeling less alone.

What I really enjoyed about this book that was underlying, but explored throughout was Wees use of fairy tale elements! But, they were incorporated in a very original way! From princesses, magical forests, witches, storytelling–it all felt familiar but also different and I enjoyed how Wees really created her own tale within a tale!

Before the reveal of how these 2 POV’s were connected, I felt that the Witch’s story line (granting wishes, getting told a story & finding herself no longer alone) seemed to mirror Rhea’s growth as well!  Rhea finds herself lost and unsure of the world, but then its through magic that she’s able to find her way again. Wees’s symbolism through both POV’s was an element that I really enjoyed as I began making my own connections as the story progressed.

The Waking Story is also very much a character-driven journey as Rhea learns more about herself as she unlocks the mysteries about these dark dreams and the magic that’s seeping into her everyday life! The way that dreams were developed near the end of the story honestly surprised me in a way I did not see coming!

There’s also the element of family and sisterhood, as Rhea lives with her 3 sisters (Rose, Renata, Raisa). Their dynamic is different and complicated, but no matter what they really do care for each other, even in the most difficult moments! Having sisters myself I liked seeing this sister dynamic explored throughout the book!

Rhea’s story is told through 1st person and found it to be a very introspective POV! While The Waking Forest could have been more developed in other areas, I found what did make this book an immersive read was reading from Rhea’s perspective. The focus on her & her dreams, and the magic that gets explored made this book incredibly character-driven where Rhea really stands out as a protagonist!

Now onto why I rated this 3.5 stars: I just felt the story/writing was just lacking in execution…The writing is very direct, vivid, and descriptive, but described things in a very odd way. It was going for a sort-of purple prose which I could see, but it just didn’t work for me personally.

I also found that as we delve more into the story, Part 2 which reveals more secrets about these 2 POVs and how they work together, was just executed in a way that felt like a bit of a let down.

There’s fantasy elements explored through the story that the Witch hears and as those get developed more in Part 2, I found myself not really connecting with them honestly. I also felt that as the secrets to the Witch’s story are uncovered, they were never really given more detail and merge with Rhea’s POV in a way that while unexpected, wasn’t developed a whole lot.

Overall, I just felt The Waking Forest‘s whimsical, oddly descriptive writing, and execution of plot just didn’t work for me personally.

However, if your looking for a really immersive YA Fairy-Tale/Contemporary fantasy that really puts a focus on its main character– The Waking Forest is definitely an interesting book to check out!

The Waking Forest is character-driven, atmospheric YA Debut that melds contemporary with fantasy in a very unique way! Through the exploration of the power of dreams, nightmares, and magic, Wees immersive debut offers a unique look at magic, if one looks closely!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl ARC Review

Neverworld Wake by Marisha PesslNeverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Pages: 336 (324 ARC)

Summary: Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her six best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim—their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend—changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world—hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death. But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions. Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Neverworld Wake is a YA Contemporary which brilliantly blends mystery with science fiction! The development and uncertainty surrounding Neverworld Wake delivers so much to this intriguing mystery story, that is both haunting and thought-provoking!

Even as I’m writing this review, I am so torn on how I should rate Neverworld Wake! I’m leaving it at 3.75 though am conflicted on whether I should bump it up to a 4, because there were things I really loved/liked, and some things I wish could have been better.

Regardless, I really did find Neverworld Wake such an interesting story, that was a very interesting reading experience from start to finish! And I do hope to check out Pessl’s previous book Night Film at some point & her future books, because the way she crafted the mystery of Neverworld Wake was just so great!

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about this book, but from both the summary and eerie + haunting cover, this sounded like such a great mystery read!

Told through a first person POV, we follow Beatrice Hartley, who is spending the summer after her first year at college, working at her parent’s ice cream parlor.

However, when an opportunity arises for her to head to an estate (Wincroft) and reconnect with her best friends from boarding school after the passing of her boyfriend Jim Mason, she is hesitant at first, but believes it’ll finally allow her to find closure.

Then after a close call that almost causes a car crash, a mysterious man arrives explaining to them they are now a part of the Neverworld Wake.

And by the end, only one person can live.

What I really loved about this novel, was the mystery, development, and exploration of the Neverworld Wake. The complexities to it kept me so invested in the story!

It essentially gathered Beatrice, Whitley, Kip, Cannon, and Martha’s experiences/life events, etc. and it all blended together to create a Neverworld Wake, where they each relive the same day for a certain # of hours.

The exploration of the Neverworld with how it related to each of them, the mystery they were solving surrounding Jim’s death, the intricate time/space aspects etc. were all explored so well and delivered at such perfect times throughout the book , that it never felt info-dumped or under/overly-explained.

There was a perfect balance of information given about it to keep you guessing, but also on track with how it evolves throughout Neverworld Wake.

Because its told through a first person point of view, it was definitely easy for me to get a lot of character/internal development from Beatrice. It even allowed for the mystery and uncertainty of the story to deliver plot twists & the story in general, in a way that was very easy to follow and allowed for each element of Neverworld to build in a brilliant way, where it never got confusing.

There were particular names/references which I personally related to classic stories (like Alice In Wonderland) through the introduction of a figure from their past at boarding school called the White Rabbit.  For me that gave it another level of mystery, almost magical, and otherworldly sense that classic stories such as Alice In Wonderland offer.

Not sure if that was Pessl was going for, but I found that made Neverworld Wake even more interesting and immersive.

There was also the introduction to this fictional book called: The Dark House Of Elsewhere Bend by J.C. Gossamer Madwick, which really builds itself into the story as it progresses.

It added another level of mystery and added something unique to the story and overall it sounds like such an interesting book when you learn more about it!!

Neverworld Wake also really focuses on the plot, mystery, and interesting world/world-building, that there is little to no romance in the book (Only through Neverworld/general flashbacks Bea has about her time with Jim).

The mystery of the novel is built in such a way that honestly left me guessing each and every moment, because when you think you figure out how Jim died, you get even more pieces to the puzzle and I loved that!

They are all introduced and developed in a great way that doesn’t leave you lost as you meet more characters and find out how they connect to Jim’s story.

Now what I found to lower my rating were a couple of aspects such as writing-style, slow pacing, and word choice for a couple lines (planning to see if they are in the FC & share them soon!).

As mentioned above, were following the story from a first person POV, told through Beatrice’s eyes.

From the writing-style in general, I never really found an attachment to Beatrice as a character. I felt her personality didn’t shine through at all to be honest. While I was definitely invested in the story and what was happening, I never really found a point in the story where I ever really connected with her as a character, even though we were following her and getting a lot of her inner thoughts, etc.

The writing-style never really allowed her to stand out.

Because of that, it also made surrounding/side characters (maybe aside from Martha & a couple other characters) not entirely memorable.

Additionally, while we are told Beatrice knew these friends in high school and were inseparable, I never really felt there was a friendship dynamic between them & Beatrice at all (or at least through the writing and execution of their dynamics, I never really felt it in the story). I could definitely feel the relationship/friendship between all the friends, but never with Beatrice.

At points overall, the simplicity to the writing-style made elements of the story feel a bit generic and forgettable.

However I will say that the writing in my opinion, really delivered in developing and intricately expanding on the mystery, Neverworld Wake as a whole and how they tie together.

Neverworld Wake is an eerie and immersive YA Contemporary that focuses and shines on the plot, mystery, and complexities of the Neverworld Wake! Merging contemporary with science fiction, and mystery, Pessl’s novel delivers an intricate story with a plot that will leave you guessing till the very end!

What I’m Currently Reading & YA Books On My June TBR!

Book Blog Discussion BannerThere’s been a lot of books I’ve made made plans to read over summer and now that I’m officially on summer break, I’m hoping to read as much of these as I can this month!

So, today I’ll be sharing with you what I’m currently reading and the other books I’m planning on getting to!

Currently Reading:

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl1.Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

I was able to get an ARC of Neverworld Wake from Yallwest and finally started reading it early last week, but sadly put it down to catch up on a graphic novel & Running With Lions (which I’m hoping to post my review of next week!). I’m still very interested in reading Neverworld and want to try and finish it within the coming week + post my review!

From what I know about it & have read so far, it follows Beatrice Hartley who lives in her small town working at her parents ice cream parlor.

She’s been disconnected from her 6 friends after graduation for a while, with the loss of her boyfriend Jim.

Then she returns with her friends to “Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world…”

Soon, they receive a mysterious knock at the door and I think, find themselves caught in a Neverworld Wake??

Overall I’d really been enjoying it so far and want to finish it! I don’t read much mystery, but Neverworld Wake has had me intrigued!

June TBR

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova1.Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova (Labyrinth Lost #2)

I read and loved Labyrinth Lost when I read it back in 2016! It centered around Alex who is a bruja and an adventure that takes her on a quest to find her family after a spell she preforms, causes them to disappear!

From the Latinx rep. to themes of family (and sisterhood), all of which I could relate to so well, I fell in love with this book, from the story to the world–everything!

Now with Bruja Born finally out, I am beyond excited to get back into this amazing world & follow even more of Alex’s adventures!

Mariam Sharma Hits The Road by Sheba Karim2.Mariam Sharma Hits The Road by Sheba Karim

Similar to Neverworld Wake, I was also able to get an ARC of this from Yallwest! This book basically centers around a group of friends who go on a road trip after their freshman year at college!

As always, I’m always looking to read more #OwnVoices + diverse books and overall, Mariam Sharma just sounded like such an amazing read, perfect for summer, so I’m definitely going to be reading this one soon as well!

And being a college student myself, I’m also just looking forward to reading more college-centered & about college-aged YA characters!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir3.A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

I’m such a big fan of An Ember In The Ashes quartet, so of course I would definitely have this on my TBR list! I can’t wait to read where Sabaa takes the story, characters, everything!!

I’ve had just– so many theories for where I think A Reaper At The Gates will be going, so I’m just counting down the days until this is out!

I’ve really been looking forward to reading more from Laia, Elias, etc. and am beyond excited to finally get my hands on A Reaper At The Gates!

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

Similar to the other ARCs above, I was also able to get a copy of Not The Girls Your Looking For at Yallwest & even met Aminah, who was so nice! Getting the chance to talk to her about the importance of representation and books in general was just so great & I’m beyond excited to read her debut novel!

Definitely check out the summary for Not The Girls Your Looking For below & add it to your TBR if you haven’t already!

“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.” 

A Thousand Beginnings And Endings by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman5. A Thousand Beginnings And Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

I don’t usually read many anthologies, but when I first read the summary (& saw the gorgeous cover) of A Thousand Beginnings And Endings, I knew I’d have to read it!

This book will contain 15 short stories from authors of East and South Asia background, writing re imagined folklore and mythology!

I love reading about mythology and the blend of fantasy + mythology in this anthology sounds like it’ll be right up my alley!

I also do want to try to get into reading more YA anthologies and in general, it just sounds like an overall great read!

The Game Of Hope by Sandra Gulland6.The Game Of Hope by Sandra Gulland

Additionally, this was also another ARC I was able to get from Yallwest @ PenguinTeen’s booth, out of I think 3 other choices, The Game Of Hope was my pick!

Set in 1798 Paris, France, this novel is a YA Historical Fiction that centers around Napoleon’s step-daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais.

Wanting to go into this book without much knowledge, I do know it essentially follows Hortense as she goes about her daily life in boarding school, studies, arts, etc., but is unsure of where her future lies when her mother marries Napoleon.

I don’t usually read much historical fiction, but this novel just intrigued me from the summary and I’m beyond excited to read it!

And that wraps up my June TBR! 📚✨😍

What are you planning to read this month? Any of the books on your TBR similar to mine? Let’s Discuss! 📚✨☀

Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland + Michael Miller Review

Shadow Run  Cover RevealShadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller (Kaitan Chronicles #1)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Pages: 400

Summary: Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Shadow Run is a fun, action-packed space adventure, with a diverse cast of characters + twists and turns!

The characters were all phenomenal! They are not who you expect when you’re first introduced to them and there are secrets and unexpected surprises uncovered about them along the way. While told through Nev and Qole’s 1st person POV, you really get attached to these characters and really feel the bonds they have with each other and how they are strengthened as the story progresses!

As always I’m always on the look out for diverse books and loved reading the gender-fluid representation + POC characters!

The inclusion and discussion of Shadow (a dark energy of sorts) that travels freely across space was such a fascinating concept of this novel and it really brought a unique element to the story that I don’t really read much about in science fiction! It was definitely reminiscent to me of fantasy/Sci-Fi video Games!! ❤ ❤

Nev Dracorte (a prince) finds himself on Qole’s ship, the Kaitan as he tries to convince Qole to return to his home planet so they can better study Shadow (which Qole harbor’s within her).

I was not expecting Qole to have a shadow ability and felt it added a great twist to the story!

The banter and interactions between the characters was amazing! I could really feel the connections and bonds they had with each other!

I don’t want to go too much into the plot, b/c there’s so many twists and turns, that I feel its just best for you to read it for yourself!

The writing (1st person POV) really helped me to connect so much to Qole and Nev! Understanding them fully through their POV also helped me to better understand their own worlds and the internal struggles they face!

While there were so many wonderful aspects to Shadow Run,  the pacing did make it difficult to stay in the story every now and again and I wish there was more description for the atmosphere + background of the different planets that are discovered along the way, it would have helped to connect me more to the world!

Regardless, I’m definitely eager to read the 2nd book in the Kaitan Chronicles to see where the story is headed! ❤

Shadow Run is a character-driven story that puts its characters first, delivers a unique world and premise, while also adding tons of twists and turns to keep the reader turning the page!

Highly recommend if your looking to get into more Young Adult Sci-Fi!

Because Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez Review

because-of-the-sun-by-jenny-torres-sanchezBecause Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: January 3, 2017

Pages: 272

Summary: Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on.

But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own.

Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward.

*Note this novel does contain physical/emotional abuse*-Be aware if those are triggers for you.*

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Because Of The Sun follows Dani as she grieves the loss of her mother. Told through a unique prose, this novel discusses death, family and love.

This was a unique contemporary I won’t forget!

What made this novel truly stand out was the atmospheric writing-style! Written in an almost “stream of consciousness” we follow Dani Falls, who has lost her mother due to a violent accident and must now leave her home in Florida behind to live with her aunt Shelly in New Mexico.

After spending weeks at her aunt’s house, she rarely leaves and manages to speak only a few words at a time. We begin to wonder if Dani will ever recover and find the strength to accept.

Blurring the line between reality and dream, a bear is mentioned when Ruby passes away and throughout the novel and just like Dani, we are left to question whether it was ever truly there to begin with.

Through out the story, she struggles with the fact that she had a very difficult relationship with her mother and wonders if she ever even truly loved her. When truths about Ruby Falls comes to light, Dani questions whether she even knew her mother at all.

The characters were all very well written and I could truly picture them and understand them fully through Dani’s eyes!

She comes to know Paulo and the two bond over movies! Dani gets to know Paulo and while the do start a relationship Sanchez never makes it a central part of the novel and truly focuses on Dani’s personal growth as she grieves and comes to terms with whats happened. I adored the dynamic between the two of them and no matter what, Paulo respected when Dani wanted to help herself and always gave her the space she needed!

I do wish Paulo was included more, because he was a very loving and supportive friend/boyfriend to Dani. However I loved that Sanchez really left the romance in the background!

There is also a big emphasis on family. With the loss of her mother, Dani comes to know her aunt Shelly and understands she isn’t alone and that she can confide in her through her struggles. She also finds comfort with Paulo and his grandmother as well. They provide her with the emotional support and love she never had.

In terms of plot, it mainly focuses around Dani and her new life when she moves to New Mexico and comes to terms with her mother’s death. What I also really loved about the plot was how this novel truly centered around Dani and her personal growth.

After completing the novel it was clear that Dani still had a long way to go to recover and was doing it slowly but surely, however Sanchez did a fantastic job to show that her recovery wasn’t going to be an easy transition and would take time. She was still accepting the truths she learned about her mother, but with her new family and friends it was clear she would be okay.

I will admit I did take off a star, because while the inclusion of Shelly’s POV added much more to the story and really gave more background to Dani’s mother Ruby and why she was very detached, it did slow down the story for me. However, I really got to know more about Shelly and that was great because through Dani’s POV, I felt there was still a lot to learn about her.

Additionally after the section centering around Shelly + Ruby’s past, I felt that the ending felt a little rushed and wanted more page-time/interactions with Dani & the side-characters who now really supported and helped her when she needed it most.

Through a dream-like writing style we follow Dani as she adjusts to a new home and grows to find the strength to accept her mother’s death and all the complexities that come with it!

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

Today I’m happy to share with you a list of Diverse 2017 YA Books coming out during the Winter months that I’m not only looking forward to, but ones that you should definitely add to your TBR!

Going into 2017, its important we continue to support our diverse authors/books!

YA Books recommended in these seasonal posts will be ones that feature:

~POC Authors/Characters + ~LGBTQ+ Characters +~#OWNVoices ,etc.

I will categorize books both in alphabetical order + by genre (Note: Dates are subject to change)

What Diverse 2017 books are you looking forward to? Any I missed? Let’s Discuss In The Comments Below 🙂

Contemporary 

allegedly-by-tiffany-d-jackson1.Allegedly by Tiffanie D. Jackson

Release Date: January 24, 2017

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

american-street-by-ibi-zoboi2.American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Summary: On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

because-of-the-sun-by-jenny-torres-sanchez2.Because Of The Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez 

Release Date: January 3, 2017

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Summary: From the backyards of suburban Florida to the parched desert of New Mexico, Because of the Sun explores the complexity of family, the saving grace of friendship, and the healing that can begin when the truth is brought to light.

Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on.

But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own.

Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward.

city-of-saints-thieves-by-natalie-c-anderson3.City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Release Date: January 24, 2017

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Summary: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

history-is-all-you-left-me-by-adam-silvera4. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

ARC Review To Come

Release Date: January 17, 2017

Publisher: Soho Teen

Summary: When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

the-hate-u-give-by-angie-thomas5.The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

we-are-okay-by-nina-lacour6. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Release Date: February 24, 2017

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Summary: “You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.”

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Retelling

ronit-and-jamil-by-pamela-l-laskin1.Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin

ARC Review To Come

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: This beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

Ronit, an Israeli girl, lives on one side of the barrier fence. Jamil, a Palestinian boy, lives on the other side. Only miles apart but separated by generations of conflict—much more than just the concrete blockade between them. Their fathers, however, work in a distrusting but mutually beneficial business arrangement, a relationship that brings Ronit and Jamil together. And lightning strikes. The kind of lightning that transcends barrier fences, war, and hatred. Ronit and Jamil fall desperately into the throes of forbidden love, one that would create an irreparable rift between their families if it were discovered. But a love this big can be kept secret for only so long. Soon, the teenage lovers must face the fateful choice to save their lives or their loves, as it may not be possible to save both.

wintersong-by-s-jae-jones2.Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Summary: Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Science Fiction

Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza Cover Reveal 20171.Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Summary: Empress 

Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

The Ship Beyond Time2.The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig (TGFE #2)

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Summary: The breathtaking sequel to the acclaimed The Girl from Everywhere. Nix has escaped her past, but when the person she loves most is at risk, even the daughter of a time traveler may not be able to outrun her fate—no matter where she goes. Fans of Rae Carson, Alexandra Bracken, and Outlander will fall hard for Heidi Heilig’s sweeping fantasy.

 

2017-diverse-ya-books-tbr-winter

The Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati Review

the-weight-of-zeroThe Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 387

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.

Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it. 

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Fortunati delivers a  YA Contemporary with an informative look at bipolar disorder, strong emphasis on the bonds we create with others, and the hope to keep going when all seems lost.

Catherine struggles with her bipolar disorder and depression. Her grandmother passed away right in front of her and her friends have left her, so she knows “Zero” will return. Because of that she’s made a plan to take her own life. After making new friends (Krystal at therapy & Michael her history classmate and soon boyfriend) she begins to feel hopeful again.

However, her fear of admitting to her new friends of her bipolar disorder makes her worry that they won’t understand and abandon her as her ex-best friends did years ago. She then begins to withhold the truth from them and with “Zero” never too far, she’s not sure what to do.

Fortunati doesn’t shy away from the elements of Catherine’s illness and what made the novel so much more richer in terms of plot/characters was the inclusion of how Catherine’s illness affected the people around her like her mother, friends, etc.

The writing itself is very captivating and reading from Catherine’s POV really brings such rawness and honesty to this story.

Reading Catherine’s struggles felt very realistic because it was clear to see after what happened to her in the past she truly feared being judged for her disorder and being abandoned again. It took her quite a while for her to open up to people as she withheld the truth about her illness from her therapy group and lied to Michael about it. Over the course of the story begins to see her lies catching up with her.

Now she must face her truths in order to save these newly forged relationships that mean the world to her

Additionally another great aspect of this novel was the emphasis and positive messages about therapy and treatment. Fortunati delivers these messages all through out the novel through Catherine’s interactions with her therapist, her new friend Krystal, and mother. With Catherine’s therapy and new relationship with Michael, Fortunati shows the mental illnesses/difficulties many families may have when one notices, but that there is always a way to make the best of tough situations.

Out of all the friendships/relationships in this novel, I adored reading the relationships Catherine made with Kristal and Michael and seeing just how happy she became because of them.

Another plot point of this book that I loved was the soldier history project! Michael + Catherine have their plan to report on Jonathan Kasia but after a trip to the local museum with Kristal, she discovers Jane Talmadge (part of the 6888th, the first black female unit to go across Europe during WW2!) Through reading her archived letters, Catherine comes to find her story inspirational and moving! The letters help Catherine through difficult times throughout this story and through her POV you could really see just how inspired she was from learning more about Jane!

There is also a big emphasis on family, especially through the relationship between Catherine and her mother + the strong relationship Catherine sees between Michael and his family. While I do wish Fortunati gave more page time to the side characters, she managed to bring them to life and show just how flawed they were as well through Catherine’s eyes.

I did take away .5 stars because once I neared the end, I did feel it was a bit rushed and just wanted more from Michael & Catherine. Additionally, as mentioned above I also wish there was more interactions/page-time with Catherine and the side characters!

Overall Fortunati’s debut delivers a realistic, raw and engaging story about mental health. Through Catherine’s POV, you’ll join her on her journey to recovery as she finds happiness again during dark times and sees that there is always hope!

 

Book Bytes I #9

Book Bytes is a monthly feature I created to share news in the world of YA!

Each month posts can contain anything from new cover/title reveals, book-to-movie news, even the latest book deals!!

1.Wayfarer Tour

Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger duology will come to an end with Wayfarer releasing January 3, 2017!

As of November 4, Bracken revealed her tour dates for the upcoming novel and will be joined by Susan Dennard, author of Truthwitch + the upcoming novel Windwitch.

2.Roshani Chokshi Book-Deal

NYT Bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen Roshani Chokshi, had a new trilogy acquired by St. Martins titled The Gilded Wolves.

With plans for a Fall 2018 release, this trilogy is set in a darkly glamorous Paris and “Follows a charismatic but cursed heir of a massive fortune as he plots to steal one of three ancient and powerful artifacts of fate. He and his crew will navigate the elite gatherings of secret occult societies, traveling through Paris’ catacombs where they must confront their worst secrets as well as a destiny they never imagined” (Source: PW)

a-criminal-magic3. A Criminal Magic Bought By CW

Lee Kelly’s YA Historical Fiction/Urban Fantasy is set in 1926 Washington D.C. where magic is illegal!

According to Deadline as of November 11, The CW picked up the novel and is set to be an hour-long drama from the team who brought iZombie.

However according to the article the show will be: “Set in present-day Los Angeles, it revolves around two warring street gangs who fight the cops and each other to corner the market on the most lucrative contraband of all: magic. A young woman hiding spectacular magical powers and an undercover cop must try to survive this glamorous world of speakeasies, crime and danger. “

4.Before I Fall Movie Trailer

Lauren Oliver’s 2010 novel Before I Fall movie trailer debut November 17! The movie is set to be released March 3, 2017 and stars Zoey Deutch as the main character Samantha Kingston!

EpicReads also revealed the Movie-Tie in edition cover + cast list which you can check out on their blog!

 

5.Lin Manuel Miranda set to adapt Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicles

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is set to adapt the trilogy along with Rothfuss for TV w/ Lionsgate!

Miranda is set to compose original music for this project as well!

More info can be found on these articles: Deadline + Variety

6. Everything,Everything 2017 Release Date

The adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s Everything,Everything is set to be released: May 19, 2017!

Amandla Stenberg is set to play Maddie and Nick Robinson is set to play Olly!

What Book News Have You Heard? 📚✨

November 2016 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd1.The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon 

The Sun Is Also A Star ARC Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 384

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: In another incredible contemporary from Nicola Yoon, she explores themes of destiny and love. Main characters Daniel and Natasha are complete opposites, but learn more about themselves, confront tough obstacles and come to bring out the best in each other.

The Midnight Star Cover Reveal2.The Midnight Star by Marie Lu (TYE #3)

The Midnight Star Full Review

Publisher: G.P.  Putnam’s Son’s Books For Young Readers

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 316

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Adelina’s dark story comes to an end in this fast-paced conclusion. The world does continue to expand in some aspects and the plot definitely keeps you surprised.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 11.24.46 AM3.Blood For Blood (Wolf By Wolf #2)

Blood For Blood Full Review

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 481

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: The stakes are raised in this conclusion to Wolf By Wolf. The world continues to develop and world/character development play a huge part in this novel. Tone and pacing are quite different than book 1, but Graudin delivers a fantastic plot that will keep you turning the page!

the-grift-of-the-magi-by-ally-carter-book-review4.The Grift Of The Magi by Ally Carter (Heist Society #3.5)

The Grift Of The Magi

Publisher: NLA Digital LLC

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Pages: 105

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Readers return to the world of Heist Society in this holiday novella! Kat and her crew come together to save a charity when one of its valuable auction pieces has been stolen! The plot is fast-paced and entertaining! Characters are given great development and the plot, while wrapping up quite quickly in the end, is filled with mystery and surprise!

labyrinth-lost-by-zoraida-cordova-book-review5.Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (Brooklyn Brujas #1)

Labyrinth Lost Full Review

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: September 6, 2016

Pages: 336

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Weaving together Latinx Culture + Urban Fantasy, we follow Alex, a bruja who is unsure if she wants to keep her powers. When a spell makes her family disappear to Los Lagos (a mythical land) she must find a way to bring them back. The world/plot could have used more development, but regardless its a magical story of self-identity and family!

bound-by-blood-and-sand6.Bound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen (Bound By Blood And Sand #1)

Bound By Blood And Sand Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 320

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: In a magical desert world water is running out and Jae may be the only one who can bring it back. This novel is filled with remarkably written/developed characters that truly come to life on the page. While the world could use a little more development, both world/plot are fascinating and unique. The little-to-no romance leaves so much room for character/plot development.

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes I #8

What Did You Read This Month? 🙂

Bound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen Review

bound-by-blood-and-sandBound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen (Bound By Blood And Sand #1)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free. 

Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Allen delivers a character-driven fantasy that shows a dark and oppressive world, but the bravery and lengths characters will go to bring change!

The best part of this novel was definitely the characters. Allen created her characters with such complexity and wasn’t afraid to show their dark and flawed sides. In doing so, Jae,Tal, Shirrad, and Elan go through immense character development and really come to life on the page.

Additionally there was no romance! Which was definitely a plus for me. With that, more development and focus is given to the characters and plot.

Jae is a slave living in a fantasy desert world. She lives in a house with other slaves (Closests) called Aredann where she among others are forced by their Curse to follow orders by the owner of the property Lady Shirrad to care for it and have minimal freedoms.

From page 1 Jae, is out for vengeance to free herself and her twin brother Tal from the awful Curse and escape after years of oppression.

She discovers there is magic on the property and figures that will be the only way she can bring water back to the land and free herself and other Closests just like her.

A prince from a neighboring land comes to inspect and reveals that the minimal water will leave Shirrad no choice but to vacate.

As the novel progresses prince Elan discovers Jae’s magic and wants to use her to find a magical Well which can bring water back. However, Jae who has been seen as less by Elan’s people (the Highest) is skeptical of his motives and doesn’t trust him.

As Jae learns more about her magic, she discovers there is more to her world’s history than she is lead to believe and that she may be the only one who can bring back the water and free herself once and for all.

However there were 2 issues that prevented this from being a full 5!
1.Pacing: A majority of this novel moved extremely slowly for me personally and that really took me out of the story at times.
I will admit, for me it definitely picks up around the ~70-80% mark and I was hooked to the very end.

2.Elements of world-building:
I felt the world-building (in terms of background history + magic) was quite under-developed. Flashbacks were the general bulk of the historical aspect of the world building and b/c of that I felt the world didn’t feel as rich and developed.

However I applaud the author with her writing style because I could really picture the setting and the characters and overall the plot itself is very unique!!

There were definitely many heart-breaking and emotional moments in this book! Allen weaves in and discusses many topics in this novel such as abuse/assault and social class.

I felt so connected to the main characters Jae, Tal and Elan and could definitely understand their differing points of view + individual struggles over the course of this story!

Bound By Blood And Sand is filled with rich and captivating characters that definitely drive this story and an intriguing world/plot that shows promise for the next installment!