Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud ARC Review

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

Publisher: Point Paperbacks (Scholastic)

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

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

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

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

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

*Received ARC through Bookish*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Volume 2 by YupechikaSatoko And Nada Vol. 2 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #2)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: June 25, 2019

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2

Summary: Satoko, who is Japanese, has a new roommate in America: a Saudi Arabian woman named Nada, who practices Islam and wears a hijab. While under the same roof, Satoko and Nada learn how to live together with very different customs and still have all the fun young women crave! Through mutual respect—and the hilarious adventures of their daily life—Satoko and Nada prove that friendship knows no borders.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 continues the adventures of two women who pursue their studies abroad, in America! This manga not only focuses on friendship all while having such great humor, but it also deeply explores Japanese and Saudi Arabian culture! Satoko And Nada is a must read manga series for fans of contemporary!

I recently posted about Satoko And Nada on my twitter because honestly, this series needs SO much more love and it makes me sad its gone under so many book bloggers radars! (*I also see people constantly tweeting about wanting more New Adult/college-set novels that don’t focus on romance–well, Satoko And Nada is here!!)

It’s no surprise that I’d be picking up the second book in this series, because I adored the first volume when I read last year!

Satoko and Nada are both students studying abroad in America (Satoko from Japan and Nada from Saudi Arabia). When Nada is looking for an apartment roommate, Satoko hears about the listing and the moment she moves in, they instantly become the best of friends!

While volume 1 introduces us to these wonderful characters and their adjustment to life in America, Satoko And Nada Volume 2 shows how strong their friendship continues to be, in addition to illustrating how much they care about respecting each others culture!

Satoko And Nada follows a 4-panel style of manga. Each page (or couple) is set in its own scene and delves more into the different happenings of their daily lives.

Starting on the very first page of volume 2 in all honesty felt like reuniting with an old friend and that’s what makes this series so beautiful! Its through the writing, art, alongside Satoko & Nada as characters, where you feel so connected to them as you continue to read! From the very first page, it feels like you’re right there with them in all their adventures –and that’s really something special! 💖

It was great to see returning characters in this volume as well, like Kevin and Miracle! We also get introduced to a new character, Rahman, Nada’s older brother!

Seeing how Satoko and Nada continue to be incredibly supportive and encouraging to each other, was definitely one of the many highlights of this volume. Their friendship was already incredibly heartwarming to read, but seeing it go through even more development was fantastic!

For example on page 14, Satoko has already gotten a job at the university cafe (shown in previous pages) and Nada convinces their mutual friend Miracle to buy something for her during Satoko’s shift, but without her actually being there because she doesn’t want to stress her out and still wants to support her.

Then on page 15 we learn Nada had spent a while working on a project, which Satoko knew all about, so she snuck into class to see her present it!

Not only does Satoko get a job, both Satoko and Nada get invited to a party, they go out to tons of places to eat and shop, and there’s more preparation for Nada’s husband-to-be!!

Overall its a joy to see even more discussion between Satoko and Nada not just about the things they go out to do, but about their personal lives and opening up more to each other!

Their friendship has grown to the point where you can see its in the little moments, they’ve really influenced each other! On the page Powerful Presence, Satoko’s professor tells her how confident she’s gotten in her public speaking and by the end, Satoko comments that it may have been because of Nada!

One moment in this volume that left me with a bittersweet feeling was Someday! In this scene, its late at night and while Nada is sleeping, Satoko thinks about how their lives will be when they leave America. Its a really quiet kind of scene, but left such an impact because Satoko knows they won’t be there forever, which got her thinking that their their close friendship might one day be separated by distance!

I had so many favorite panels from this volume: Yogurt Time (the purest 4 panel page ever 💞), Sneaky, Transaction and Hot Chocolate. These pages in particular reminded me how beautiful their friendship continues to be!

As with the previous volume, it has its funny and heartfelt moments that make Satoko And Nada such a fantastic manga series, that’s really at its core, about a supportive friendship!!

This second volume delved more into the specifics of Saudi, Muslim, and Japanese culture that were more personal to Satoko and Nada (it was incredibly heartwarming). The moment they learn something new about each other’s culture, they not only incorporate it to make each other feel more at home, but also it shows us how they are always listening to one another & always have each other’s back!

One tidbit of info I found to be super interesting that was mentioned early on by Satoko in the manga, noted that in Japan (compared to America) they have food models instead of just descriptions, commonly used in other restaurants!

There’s no other word to describe their friendship other than wholesome, and that’s what really makes this story so incredibly special! As someone who takes friendships so seriously (also as a uni. student), it really resonated with me that Satoko And Nada captured the importance of that–this series truly has a special place in my heart!

Satoko And Nada’s art style is incredibly unique and is definitely something that makes this series stand out from other contemporary manga I’ve personally seen! Also, if you pay attention to each page, you’ll notice the quick pace never takes away from the great dialogue that builds on Satoko & Nada as characters! Each page is incredibly immersive and you just can’t put the book down!

Yupechika’s wonderful contemporary manga series is a must-read, not only for readers of manga, but those looking for new-adult/slice of life contemporary stories that focus on a powerful female friendship!

I’m looking forward for what’s next in this series and the last page of this volume definitely hinted at more to come for Nada’s story!

The only element that made me lower my rating was because we already know these characters and their friendship is a major part of the volume, the main over-arching plot points felt more dispersed across each page!

I do know that Satoko And Nada ends after just 4 volumes. Though I’m sad this series will end, my hopes for the next volumes are even more development to their already fantastic friendship alongside their others friends too! Exploration of each other’s culture is core part of this series and I’m looking forward to reading more about their lives in America, and how they continue experiencing each others cultures + have fun together!

Satoko And Nada Vol. 2 delves more into the beautiful friendship between these two women who’ve adjusted to their life in America! There’s wonderful humor, exploration of friendship, and culture in this brilliant manga series! Satoko And Nada will capture your heart, this series is so wholesome and a must-read!!

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno Review

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

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Pages: 331

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

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

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

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

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Book Internet is influencing our reading {Book Blog Discussion}

For us avid readers its no surprise we have countless avenues of which to discover new books and connect with like-minded people:

Bookstagram, Book Blogging, Booktube, and Book Twitter, to name a few!

The internet is not only changing how we’re reading, but also what we’re reading!

joyce-mccown-791673-unsplash booksFrom book recommendation threads on twitter, bookish articles listing the newest books of the season, to a new haul on booktube, the latest book on your to-read shelf is never far behind.

According to the Publishers Weekly article titled How Has the Internet Changed Book Culture, a PubTechConnect panel was recapped where the panelists, consisting book online book editors and writers, discussed the internet’s effect on literary culture.

“…what the internet allows us to do in changing the way we interact with books is see what people connect with…[,]how people form identity communities, and how those communities affect what they read and how they read it…”

These spaces create and build connections to share our love of books whether it’s a review talking about our favorite characters and plot points or through another form of creative book content. We find ourselves seemingly unable to stop refreshing our feeds because the newest post may introduce us to our next favorite book or a new bookish friend!

Even Vox shared an article in December of 2018 showcasing the influence Instagram (or Bookstagram) has in helping independent bookstores and getting people to buy more physical books. The platform is encouraging readers to not only support their local communities, but also build one online through a love of reading.

With all of this in mind, its not all that surprising then that print sales of books have been on the rise compared to the drop in sales for ebooks and audiobooks.

Good E-Reader, an online news agency which focuses on audiobooks, e-readers, digital publishing and ebooks, shared that in January 2019 the revenue for ebooks had declined 4.9% since last year.

Similarly with audiobooks, Publishers Weekly stated that those sales had the steepest drop in unit sales at 28.9%.

Now back to focusing on “what” we’re reading, it’s clear that depending on who’s in your feed, that will absolutely influence the books you notice and will want to pick up!

Personally, I’ve made so many wonderful friends and seen my TBR grow continuously by following readers and other bookish accounts on Twitter that align with my love of Young Adult, Latinx Books, SFF, etc. & have introduced me to more romance and indie published recommendations that I may not have considered before!

To look at this topic from another perspective, take manga for instance! A recent article from Bound Into Comics shared that manga has found more success in overseas markets and has seen its popularity increase.

Though there are many factors involved, from a book community standpoint, one can’t ignore the increase of manga on Booktube!

Booktubers who mainly read YA are now reading and hauling manga titles! I can only theorize its due to the lasting wave of YA Contemporary in 2015 & 2016 that many began to pick up more manga. It was mainly through Ichigo Takano’s Orange, which falls into the genre of contemporary, realistic fiction (mental health), and merges with a bit of sci-fi, that this newly released manga was put onto many people’s radars, which opened the doors for more booktubers/viewers to discover manga.

This, in my opinion, set the stage for more manga to weave its way into YA Booktubers TBRs!

Now if you scroll through the feed of predominately YA booktubers, many of them are not only starting to pick up more manga, but also encourage other viewers and fellow booktube friends to do the same. This has also led to more manga bookclubs or read-a-thons online.

From my perspective, as a long-time watcher of booktube, being a book blogger for over 3 years, and keeping updated on the newest buzzed books, it’s not surprising that the impact of the internet is allowing for more conversation, especially influencing and inspiring readers to pick up more diverse and inclusive titles!

It’s amazing to see how influential the internet is in the the direction of the book market, what stories we’re seeing next, allowing us readers to curate our TBRs, find new recommendations, and open our eyes to new stories that we may not have known about otherwise!

Its also important to note, the impact word-of-mouth and recommendations from online friends or influencers is continuing to have on the books people decide to add to their To-Read lists, or pick up themselves!

While there’s a variety of factors involved into what gets readers to pick up certain books, one can’t ignore all the good it’s doing to bring people together, introducing them to new fictional worlds, and inspiring them to keep on reading!

There’s many pockets of the internet where one can find new bookish content and discover their next great read and that is something that I don’t see stopping anytime soon!

Thank you so much for checking out this discussion! Feel free to share your own personal experiences on how the internet or the online book community has influenced how/what your reading! 😍📚🍃

Which online bookish communities do you go to for your next read? 📚✨💖

Hey 24hr.YABookBlog here  (~˘▾˘)~💞📚✨ I wanted to share a little bit about the inspiration behind this blog discussion! It was mainly influenced by the PW article listed above titled “How Has the Internet Changed Book Culture.” I felt inspired by what the article mentioned about building community and how it impacts what we read! I felt as a book blogger + someone who keeps up to date on the newest book news/trends, etc., I had a lot to say on the subject! 

This discussion also would not have been possible without the other fantastic resources I linked above like Vox, Good E-Reader and Publishers Weekly! Close to 3-4 hours of work went into this article, but it was such a fun one to create! 

If you can, I would really appreciate if you could check out/donate to my Ko-Fi or share this article with fellow bookish people! As a university student studying journalism, if you could support the work I shared today, it would mean a lot! Thank you!! 📚💖✨📰

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu ARC Review

The Best Lies by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 2, 2019

Pages: 352

Available For Pre-Order Through The Book Depository: The Best Lies

Summary: Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

*tw: for toxic friendship, mention/discussion of abuse, trauma, & moments of gaslighting

*Requested an ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Best Lies is a 2019 YA debut that’s a must read for fans of mystery! Remy Tsai recounts her friendship with her best friend Elise during an investigation when her boyfriend Jack is killed. The story follows a brilliant narrative told through past and present POV that weaves together perfectly! Lyu’s debut is an introspective look at love, the complex bonds of friendship, and trauma!

What inspired me to read this book originally, was the summary and gorgeous cover! But, I’d also loved that the story itself would be focusing on friendship and had a mystery to solve, because I personally don’t read many of them or if I do, I’m pretty selective. So, I took the opportunity to request a copy and I’m incredibly happy I did! There’s so many positive things I have to say about this book because throughout its entirety it kept exceeding my expectations, getting better and better!

The Best Lies is a thought-provoking novel, layered with mystery that unravels a complex view of friendship! It will grip you from the very beginning!

“The best lies are at least half true..”

Katherine “Remy” Tsai’s boyfriend Jack, is dead. She can’t remember how it happened exactly, but when the police get involved, she has no choice but to recount what happened as part of an investigation. As she sifts through one years worth of memories between her and her best friend Elise, the truth of their friendship slowly unravels!

But there’s also some issues, Remy wants to desperately protect Elise (knowing she was involved) and seems to have blacked out during an ominous 14 minutes leading up to her boyfriend’s death.

At the start of this timeline we quickly learn that all Remy is desperate to do is escape the hardships in her life–her parents constant fighting, living with a brother whose seen as perfect by her mother, and her group of friends, quickly growing distant. That all changes on homecoming night after Remy has just been dumped by her boyfriend and is comforted by new student, Elise Ferro. Elise quickly allows Remy to understand that her happiness in any relationship is the most important and Remy finds herself in awe at Elise’s wisdom and this energy between the two of them because in those moments everything disappears and Remy finds this unmatched strength within her–they can conquer anything that gets in their way!

The two instantly click and become the best of friends! Whether its talking openly with one another, confiding in each other, or putting in effort to hang out and get out of their shells a bit more (like driving around & attending parties together). Remy also respects Elise for her fearlessness. As Remy finds herself continuously pulled into Elise’s orbit, we see they quickly begin relying on each other and promise to be at each others sides no matter what, but the bond between them slowly begins to change.

As they support and confide in each another, we learn that Elise’s life isn’t all too great either. She struggles to share her devastating personal life with Remy in the early stages of their friendship, but we soon learn more about it as she opens up: Elise lives with an abusive father and she’s lived with the fact that she  her estranged mother abandoned her at a young age, only to see her 9 years later at her funeral.

Elise quickly introduces Remy to her world of pranks to get back at those who’ve wronged others– this happens on the first night they meet when Elise persuades Remy to set fireworks near her ex-boyfriends room. Elise sees herself as somewhat of a vigilante, helping those who’ve been wronged by exes, former loves, or female classmates being bullied (This is made clear throughout the Kill Bill movies they watch together & the references that are made more apparent as the story progresses).

Their friendship which starts off loving and supportive, slowly alters into something toxic, that both Elise and Remy can’t seem to escape.

You know when you finish a book that has captivated you from the beginning & you finally reach the last page in disbelief that its over?? That’s what reading Lyu’s debut was like! This book has easily made it to my list of favorite books of the year & all time–this book ruined me…(;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) It was SO GOOD, but also heartbreaking!! I’m not sure how I’ll recover; The Best Lies was–just utterly phenomenal and I’m broken…

There’s just so much I have to say about this phenomenal book from its brilliant use of past and present POV, the writing which shows Lyu’s attention/care to her characters, and the spectacular way the plot unfolds. The Best Lies also offers an incredibly introspective look at friendship while chronicling Remy & Elise’s story throughout each and every page.

Friendship throughout this novel is many things for Remy and Elise–it’s a home, it’s love, but it’s also complicated, messy, and obsessive.

The depth of their friendship and why that is such an important foundation for people in their lives, was something that Lyu explored so heavily in this novel!! Friendship is something incredibly important to me and I loved how Lyu really developed that message through her writing.

The main characters from Remy to Elise, Remy’s parents, Christian, Jack, Remy + Elise’s other friends like Melody, Julie, Jae, and others– all feel so incredibly real in ways I can’t explain. You understand this depth to their hearts, their pain, their expectations, and even the hurt they feel (especially Remy, Elise, and her parents).

More on the writing, its a style unlike any I’ve ever really read before. Its kind of hard to explain unless you read it for yourself– you really get in the character’s head space and are pretty in-tune with their emotional state. Lyu’s writing is just incredibly good and if your looking for a novel that really shows you the depth of a character’s inner thoughts, emotions, and is layered with focus on its characters and pays attention to detail, you’d really love the writing-style in The Best Lies!

Throughout the novel, Remy struggles with the fact she isn’t the typical daughter her parents expect her to be. She smokes, isn’t taking expected AP classes like her friend Melody, and isn’t “perfect” like her older brother Christian. Lyu also explores Remy’s internal battle between her expectations and who she really is, feeling like she will always be the disappointment in her parents eyes.

I loved the relationship between Remy & Jack. They meet when Elise “abandons” her at a party and they develop this beautiful relationship that allows them to learn more about love and growth! I adored their scenes together so much because you know how much they love and care for each other!! (Also the text scene between Remy & Jack about his dog Lola was the cutest (´▽`ʃƪ) 💞 Jack’s backstory was heartbreaking, reading about his parents abandonment only to lose his grandpa (who practically raised him) a few years later. + Jack’s confession that he started swimming again because of her was so beautiful!!

Expanding on the pranks, I found they were also a brilliant metaphor for many different aspects of the story! They represent Elise’s fire, determination, and complex emotions she keeps bottled inside due to her neglect (with each prank getting more intense than the last). Similar to the Pink Caddy & Mansion, the pranks also represent this cement in their friendship, which keep them coming back to each other.

What also made this book so emotionally gripping was that you root for Elise and Remy because you see how they become this anchor in each others lives. But, knowing how the story ends–you still don’t expect it until you see the threads of their friendship slowly unraveling through their actions–your still heartbroken anyways.

I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens near the end, but when truths are revealed, I sobbed so much! Understanding the truth of their friendship and where it was headed hurt most of all.

Remy learns a lot over the course of this story about trauma and not only how it impacts someone’s life, but also what it can represent. Again I don’t want to give exact spoilers but throughout The Best Lies, Elise teaches Remy about trauma can make you stronger and if she’s survived thus far, she can make it through anything! Those were incredibly inspiring messages, but Remy (with Jack’s help) also learns that often time that pain is something to just something to accept, learn from, and move on! Both messages weave themselves perfectly into the story and develop at such pivotal points in the plot!

Lyu also includes an incredibly open authors note within the ARC which delves more into the themes explored throughout The Best Lies. I can’t put into words how admired I am of Lyu to include this message and how the themes hit close to home for her. The themes explored throughout this book feel just so real and you sense that through the complex main heroines of Remy and Elise!

Overall this debut just resonated with me in so many ways, I could sympathize so much with main characters, understand their hardships and connect with the story on such an introspective level. Although I’ve never personally experienced topics like these explored throughout the book, the deep exploration of friendship, its incredibly complex layers, and how people’s past (or trauma) just impacts them in many intricate ways is something that Lyu develops so so incredibly well!

The Best Lies is an utterly brilliant mystery thriller novel with a deeply layered, complex view on friendship, trauma, and so much more! Lyu’s debut explores so many themes, provides an introspective look at its main cast, and brilliantly unfolds the tale of an intricate friendship that turns to obsession! 

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu comes out in July and its a fantastic debut, so definitely pick this book up!

Nocturna by Maya Motayne Review

Nocturna by Maya MotayneNocturna by Maya Motayne (A Forgery Of Magic #1)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Pages: 480

Available Through The Book Depository: Nocturna

Summary: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Nocturna is a Dominican-inspired YA Fantasy you don’t want to miss! Motayne’s debut follows a grieving prince and a clever thief who have to save their world when a dark magic is unleashed! Character development, a wonderfully developed story, and an immersive world are just some of the many highlights of this delightful fantasy debut!

Nocturna is a novel forged in magic, complex topics and themes, alongside the deep introspection we uncover about the main characters Finn and Alfie!

You know when you read a book and although you know more is coming, you can’t help but feel sad that this introduction to a series is over? That’s how I felt the second I turned the last page of Nocturna! Without spoiling anything my thoughts summed up to:

How am I supposed to wait for book 2?!? I need more page-time with my prince/thief duo–I can’t believe I reached the end!!😭💖

Motayne’s debut is one I had been looking forward to for months because coming from a Latinx background, I was just so incredibly happy to see more Latinx YA (especially fantasy) being released! And more specifically, I was so excited to see more Latinx representation (in this novel its Dominican specifically) get the spotlight!

Just reading the Spanish phrases/words I grew up hearing, recognizing the food, etc. just made me SO SO happy!! 💞 Also just to get this out there, there’s a heist & thievery!! + another bonus ✨: Nocturna has chapter titles & they need to be appreciated 😆💖 because they’re great + who doesn’t love chapter titles!?!

Told through a 3rd person POV, we follow quite a few characters throughout this novel but two that I want to focus on are Prince Alfher (or Alfie) and Finn Voy (though I absolutely loved Alfie’s cousin Luka)!

Alfie returns to his kingdom of Castallan grieving over his lost brother Dez and is unsure he has what it takes to assume his role as king. But, he still hasn’t given up hope on finding his brother, who he still believes is alive! Finn, is a face-changing thief who gets forced to do a seemingly impossible mission of stealing a vanishing cloak from the royal palace!

The 2 collide and Alfie connects with an ancient dark magic that gets unleashed unto the world while trying to save Luka–now the two must team up to stop it!

To get into more detail, since Dez’s death after an attempted royal coup, Alfie has felt nothing but grief for his brother who he believed to be the rightful heir. Not only does he carry that loss with him, but also this feeling of not being the ruler that his kingdom needs! He still holds this anger inside of him for the world having moved on from Dez and he’s still holding onto hope! ( I loved the story of Dez’s carved figurines).

Finn lost her parents at a very young age and has learned to survive on her own as a thief, but also carries the hurt that was caused by her manipulative (adoptive) father figure, Igancio. He essentially felt that she was destined to be just like him, so he manipulated her into always remaining at his side–until one day she finally left!

I can’t put into words just how much I loved Alfie & Finn! The depth to their character arcs and development was another highlight of this book. Looking back, I found that at its core, Nocturna is really about two people from opposite sides who are overcoming grief and obstacles to become better people and in turn be their best selves!

They don’t want to be selfish about their choices to bring about their happiness, but they learn to not let their grief cloud their judgement as they learn to work together and I LOVED that message! Exploring their grief so deeply throughout the story allows them to talk about it and grow!

They both felt so real and I could understand each of the obstacles they were facing throughout the book, but I loved that their journey to growth really developed with one another! Finn’s wit was so much fun to read as was Alfie’s cleverness and how his shyness really bounced off of Finn’s confidence! I loved their banter and friendship so much, their dynamic was great!! 💞💞

Overall though I loved that with each character they all felt so real!

Now onto the magic system–which was one of my many favorite world-building elements to explore in Nocturna!

Within this world that Motayne created, we explore this personal magic that one can carry called a propio! Within the novel it explains that magic itself moves in a cycle of sorts with people–which creates a balance. People can house magic within them and the magic itself “[offers] its wonders to man…” (8).

The magic can be elemental, like in Alfie’s case to control water or a supernatural type of magic, like Finn’s to change her appearance! There’s this overarching theme, however, throughout Nocturna that time and time again (especially when our main characters encounter dark magic) there’s a balance!

I loved that–especially as its explored through the main characters Alfie & Finn! For me personally, I found that the forbidden magic they encounter was a kind of metaphor for the power they wish they had to overcome their traumas.

There’s so much depth to the magic system, from influence of language (Spanish), but also how the unknown/dark magic can impact each person differently–in this case we see that when Alfie attempts to carry dark magic alongside him throughout his journey with Finn!

Next, there’s such a present discussion on on colonialism, slavery, and its effects! I don’t often see this explored in YA Fantasy (from recent memory the only books I’ve seen that explored this were Children Of Blood And Bone & The Gilded Wolves–though that’s more of a historical fantasy). Overall though, I applaud these female authors of color exploring topics like this in YA because again, its something that I don’t always see talked about! As an aspiring YA Fantasy author of color as well, its so inspiring to read these books that explore real-life topics and themes with such depth and complexity!

Castallan in the past, was taken over by Englassen colonizers and with that, their culture was taken away (especially their magic)! Over time they reclaimed what they lost and Nocturna explores this in such a layered way!

Now onto something I wanted to discuss because as a reader who is from a marginalized background, its disheartening to see books by authors of color so quickly compared to previous books.

I’ve seen Nocturna compared a lot to ADSOM (I’ve read them both) and for me personally I didn’t read this book at all with that comparison in mind–the only similarity I saw, but even then it was completely different–was how Finn & Kell can traverse to different locations. Overall I can completely understand the points being made, but for me Nocturna was a wholly unique fantasy in its own right. Also Nocturna tackles discussion of poverty, slavery, and colonialism (which ADSOM doesn’t).

Of course I know that not every book is for everyone and every reader has differing opinions! ^_^ Overall, I just hope with my little discussion here, people are willing to look past some parallels because at the end of the day these stories, characters and inspirations–are different.

Now onto why its a 4.5: There were a few moments of slow pacing. + As the story progressed I wasn’t really liking the villain all that much anymore–I saw what Motayne was trying to do and when looking at it from a character arc perspective I see what it did to Finn’s character in allowing her to grow, but the villain himself was just kind of bland at points.

I would have loved more of an exploration between Finn & Alfie in their world and the magic their forced to carry with them instead of a lot of focus on this villain, but in the end it did work with the story and I loved the ending!! I may have shed a few tears 😭💖

But overall, I can’t wait to see where Alfie & Finn’s journey is headed in the sequel! I’m excited to learn more about the world of Castallan, the magic system, my favorite characters Alfie, Finn, Luka–and see what they’ll be tackling next!

Nocturna is a YA Fantasy debut you should definitely add to your to-read list! If your looking for a fantasy that’s character-driven, has an immersive setting that explores a variety of themes, is filled with adventure, a complex magic system, and a delightful main cast, don’t miss out on Motayne’s debut! Nocturna is a YA Fantasy adventure you’ve got to pick up!

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee Review {Graphic Novel}

Sea Sirens by Amy ChuSea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee (Artist/Illustrator) (A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure #1)

Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Sea Sirens

Summary: Trot, a Vietnamese American surfer girl, and Cap’n Bill, her cranky one-eyed cat, catch too big a wave and wipe out, sucked down into a magical underwater kingdom where an ancient deep-sea battle rages. The beautiful Sea Siren mermaids are under attack from the Serpent King and his slithery minions–and Trot and her feline become dangerously entangled in this war of tails and fins.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Sea Sirens is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel with a unique art-style, a delightful story, and wonderful cast of characters! Trot finds herself in an underwater kingdom with her cat Cap’n Bill, where an ancient deep-sea battle rages on between Sirens & Serpents! Powerful themes of family and friendship, alongside adventure, are present all throughout Chu and Lee’s spectacular graphic novel! This one is a must-read!

Sea Sirens follows Trot, whose a dedicated surfer girl living in Huntington Beach, Cali. & her one-eyed cat Cap’n Bill who she rescued as a stray on the beach! They both get taken to an underwater kingdom of Sirens & Serpents when powerful wave pushes them underwater!

READ THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL–ITS FANTASTIC!! 💖 I was looking forward to this one for months because the beautiful cover immediately had me add it to my TBR and the story inside is just as beautiful!

Trot is a surfer girl at heart and the story starts with her spending the day at the beach surfing and her grandfather enjoying fishing! But, her grandfather goes missing (due to his dementia) and she’s heartbroken! Luckily he’s found, but her workaholic mother tells her she can’t go out to the beach without her, to ensure her grandfather’s safety!

However, Trot doesn’t let that stop her from surfing, so she finds a way to sneak out. She and Cap’n Bill catch a bad wave and get thrust to the bottom of the ocean where Sirens and Serpents are in battle! Luckily, Cap’n Bill is ready to chase the serpents away! The Siren princess, Clia invites them to stay in her kingdom– now Trot & Cap’n Bill are celebrated for their bravery (but mainly Cap’n Bill 😂)!

The story continues with Trot & Cap’n Bill exploring the kingdom, being celebrated with a feast, and learning more about the battle between Sirens & Serpents, alongside the history of the Queendom of the Sirens (I loved the scene introduced early on when princess Clia shows her a mural of their history commissioned by her great-grandmother)!

Clia, princess of the Sirens introduces Trot to her world, as does Queen Aquareine, and the 2 develop a friendship over the course of the story.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the inventions/magical objects of the Siren’s world that continuously immerse Trot into this underwater kingdom! There’s one object in particular that added so much to the story and that was a special pearl necklace that allows Cap’n Bill to talk! I loved getting to hear what he had to say and it added so much to the story!!

I don’t want to spoil things, but there’s a few plot twists that send Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Clia on a rescue mission!

Of course with the Sirens being familiar/fascinated with human world (but not exactly interacting with it so close to the surface). I really enjoyed learning more about this split between their world and ours through their fascination with the ships that sink in their territory! I also loved learning about the Sirens love of charting the ocean territories–I hope that’s explored more in upcoming releases!

The politics and world-building of the underwater kingdom were so beautifully explored and had so much depth, yet still left a bit of mystery that I can’t wait to learn more about it in future books!

Sea Sirens draws inspiration not only from Vietnamese folklore and fairytales, but mainly L. Frank Baum’s children’s fantasy novel published in 1911 titled, The Sea Fairies!

Now onto the representation! This graphic novel mainly features Vietnamese representation! Trot herself is Vietnamese-American and her grandfather is Vietnamese! It was great to see the rep. explored through the use of language and elements of Vietnamese folklore/fairytales! The representation and culture is woven throughout the pages of this beautiful story!

The art itself is so unique! There’s the use of watercolor and vibrant line-work present throughout the whole graphic novel! I really paid attention to the artwork throughout each panel and was in awe at the stunning art that not only immersed me, but left me captivated! The design of the characters, settings, and color palette brought everything to life!

Sea Sirens ends on a wonderful note hinting at more to come and I can’t wait!!

Sea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee is a beautiful and immersive graphic novel that’s filled with adventure when Trot gets sucked into an underwater kingdom! From the story to artwork, themes, and so much more–this is a wonderful graphic novel that you don’t want to miss!