The Cruel Prince by Holly Black Review

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

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Pages: 384

Summary: Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Cruel Prince is a solid start to a unique YA Fantasy trilogy! There’s intrigue, immersive world-building, and a plot that goes in such unique directions with surprises at every turn!

I’m honestly so surprised with my rating!! I really thought I would give this book at least 4 stars. I’d heard so much buzz and great things about The Cruel Prince, but sadly it just didn’t live up to all the expectations as I’d hoped for and fell a bit short.

Now, even though my rating is a bit low, I will absolutely be continuing with this trilogy. Overall I found myself to be even more invested in the story as I neared the end.

The book takes off right away told through a 3rd person POV of Jude, her older sister Vivi, her twin sister Taryn, and her parents going about their day when a mysterious man arrives at their doorstep.

This man we learn, Madoc, is actually Vivi’s father and comes from the land of the Fae (which makes Vivi ½ Fae). He murders the girls’ parents and is forced to take them back to Faerieland for the mistake that their mother made of leaving Madoc and the land of the fae behind.

Now, told through a 1st person POV, 10 years have passed and all Jude wants is to feel a sense of belonging in Faerieland. Madoc has trained all 3 of them, but Jude just wants to prove to herself and to the other fae royalty, like Prince Cardan, that she does belong.

Jude and her twin sister Taryn continue to face ridicule and bullying from Cardan and his friends, which I saw as such defining aspect to Jude and her actions.

I really sympathized with her and the anger she felt. Being one of a few humans in this world given protection through a higher level fae, she just wants to find a sense of belonging, now knowing she can never fit in the real world again.

While I don’t want to give to much of the plot away, I will say the story continues as Jude wants to gain her place in this land and will use any means she can to achieve her goals.

What I really enjoyed about The Cruel Prince was how wonderfully the setting merged with the themes and complex elements of the story. For example in the land of Elfhame the descriptions Black uses, make the story almost cinematic and immersive, while also building/weaving in politics, intrigue, and mystery to the world so easily, which I really loved.

The beginning couple chapters were really strong. They perfectly set up the dark, magical and mysterious world of The Cruel Prince.

Another aspect I really loved was the development of certain characters. They were ones I honestly either wasn’t too much of a fan of or felt they were a bit flat, but as the story progressed, I ended up enjoying where their development led them.

Those characters include: Prince Cardan, Prince Dain & Locke (one of Cardan’s friends). All 3 of those characters really surprised me more than I thought they would and really had a lot of development throughout the story.

Especially Prince Cardan. He changes significantly as the story progresses and I truly felt he surprised me the most. I really wasn’t expecting to like him so much, but the more that is discovered about him + his unique development, made him one of my favorite characters of The Cruel Prince.

Vivi, Jude’s older sister, was probably another one of my favorite characters + one I adored from the very beginning! What made her so interesting was how she viewed the land of the Fae, not only being the oldest, but also seeing the unique way the author explored her strong connection to the real world than the Fae. Vivi’s choice to exclude herself from this world as much as possible, was to me, just a really unique direction and was explored in such a great way! (+ There is also an f/f relationship, when we learn that Vivi has been dating a girl from the real world)

As for Jude, what I liked the most about her was the intrigue and deception that builds and becomes such a vital part to her as a character.

Now as to why my rating was pretty low:

I felt there was a mix of things that made this book a bit disappointing for me. To start, I felt the pacing became rather slow for me personally and it made it a bit difficult for me at times to stay truly invested in what was going on. It made the plot feel much less gripping + in general, I felt the plot easily lost its way at certain points.

Another aspect that didn’t sit well with me (*this is completely personal/subjective*) was the dynamic of Jude w/ her twin sister Taryn. Having a twin myself, I was so happy to read about twin sisters, especially in YA Fantasy! However, there were certain moments or scenes that I felt made it difficult for me to really see them as twins.

For example, I felt that Jude/Taryn’s personalities were so starkly different that they felt less like twins and were more just sisters + opposites just being called ‘twins.’  We had Jude who was the tougher of the two & Taryn who was the more timid/emotional one.

While I understood why that was done, personally I found it would have made their relationship much more interesting if they had more similarities than differences and see how that played out instead. Also I found they had such few scenes together!~

There was also moments where through the writing, it would feel like there wasn’t much build-up to what was going on & then out of nowhere things would happen. I felt it made it really difficult for me to really invest myself in those moments because they came & went so quickly!

I also did find it difficult to really buy that Jude was the anti-heroine/ morally grey character I’d seen so many people talk about. I felt that those moments were more sporadic for me and she wasn’t as dark/cunning as I had expected.

Regardless, as I found myself reaching the end I closed the book feeling more positive and intrigued to see where the sequel will take the story (the epilogue really surprised me!).

The Cruel Prince is an immersive YA Fantasy that takes you on a magical adventure exploring the politics and intrigue in the land of the fae! The writing allows not only for various themes and topics to be explored, but also sets up an intriguing + magical world. Filled with mystery, politics, and magic, Black’s novel develops (though a bit slowly) to leave readers eager for the next installment!

Advertisements

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton Review

The Belles by Dhonielle ClaytonThe Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion (Freeform Books)

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Pages: 448

Summary:Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. 

*Received a finished copy through a giveaway*

*Trigger Warnings: attempted sexual assault*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Belles is a dazzling, thought-provoking & unique tale that explores the concept of beauty! As a Belle in Orléans, Camellia Beauregard wants nothing more than to secure her spot as the Favorite, but things aren’t all that they seem as this immersive YA Fantasy explores a number of themes and topics from family to beauty, even political intrigue!

The concept of the Belles was so fascinating! They are young women born with the ability to control beauty, which means they use their power to alter not only people’s appearances, but can even heighten or lessen emotions/temperaments (which was fascinating!). There was mythology explored, but also mystery surrounding the Belles and it was presented in such an intriguing way.

From the very beginning, the descriptive and dazzling writing you are immediately transported to the world of Orléans. The detailed way the setting, food, atmosphere, and especially clothing were crafted was just described in such a way that sparkled!

What I loved so much about The Belles was Clayton’s writing-style. Through Camellia’s first-person POV, you not only get such a character-driven perspective, but also one that balances a number of differing themes and topics.

The topic of beauty is really a foundation for this novel. Not only does it play a huge part in the world as the Belles are given the ability to manipulate it, but it also explores it in depth from a number of angles. For instance, what one is willing to do to achieve beauty, the high standards one sets for it on themselves, and so much more!

Camellia, though she has her other Belle sisters by her side, wants nothing more than to be the Favorite (the one Belle chosen by the queen) and is driven to achieve her goal. Her determination to not only reach them, but also prove to herself all that she’s worked for can pay off, was so inspiring. I loved how driven she was to pursue her goals.

Though things don’t go the way she plans at first, she soon finds herself as the new Favorite and knows her dreams have finally come true.

However, the power of the Belles is complex and soon Cameilla sees a side to her world (mainly through the youngest princess Sophia) that the quest for beauty can sometimes come at a cost.

My favorite themes and topics explored was definitely the sisterhood between the Belles and the political intrigue. Clayton shows us through flashbacks of Caemilla’s past & especially through the Belles dynamics in the beginning, just how close they are. Regardless of competition, they all want the best for each other and while it is explored less throughout the middle of the novel, its a clear and present aspect of not only the history of the Belles in Orléans, but also through Cameilla’s POV.

The main characters were all really wonderfully developed and while I felt some characters could have had a bit more page time (like more of the sisters) Clayton really gave such depth to the main cast and while you can see the complexities to their character, their also given the perfect elements of mystery.

Now as to why I took off a star: While I loved the writing and felt the world was presented through such unique descriptions, I couldn’t help but feel the pacing was really slow for me personally, especially throughout the middle of the story. And while it does pick up nearing the end, it took me much longer to read this novel than I had planned.

Regardless, the ending really leaves you wanting more when more secrets are discovered and I cannot wait to read where the story is headed in the sequel!

The Belles is a magical and unique tale that immerses you from the very beginning! The various themes and discussions of beauty become such prevalent aspects of this novel and are explored with such depth. The world, characters, and plot all weave together wonderfully through the descriptive and dazzling writing!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones ARC Review

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

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Pages: 384

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

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

*Received ARC through a Goodreads Giveaway!*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton Review

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

Publisher: Faber&Faber

Release Date: February 1, 2018

Pages: 506

Summary: When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Amani’s journey wraps up in this character-driven, magical conclusion to the Rebel Of The Sands trilogy! World-building, magic, politics and character-development become such central aspects to this novel as we see what happens to the rebellion!

I just can’t believe this trilogy is actually over? I remember reading Rebel Of The Sands as an ARC back in 2016 & was just immersed in the unique world that merged magic, desert, and machines.

No matter how many books I’d read since then, I’ll always have such vivid memories from this series. There’s always just been something about this series that always had me constantly thinking/reminiscing, from Amani’s introduction in Deadshot to gather enough money to leave her town behind in Rebel to the inner politics that had Amani question her new-found place in the rebellion in Traitor!

Hero At The Fall was just such a unique, surprising, & captivating conclusion that I’m not entirely sure how to put my thoughts into words (but I’ll do my best!). *I’ll try to be as vague as possible, however there may be some minor spoilers as I go further into my review, so read w/ caution*

What I loved about this novel so much was that it was much more reminiscent to Rebel Of The Sands. From the numerous journeys across Mirjai, to the politics, adventure, and so much more, I felt this novel really brought back all those elements that reminded me  of the adventures Jin & Amani had in Book 1!

With the rebellion now in the hands of Amani, a few remaining rebels + old friends, she does what she can to ensure the Sultan doesn’t turn all that they’ve worked months for, into nothing. The rebels plan to not only take down the Sultan, but continue pushing on to get Ahmed his rightful place on the throne.

What I loved so much about this conclusion was that we really see Amani’s growth as a character. She constantly remembers her selfish + reckless behavior just a year ago and how her role in this rebellion has allowed her to become a different person. Now focused on much more than just herself, she works with her crew to keep the Sultan from destroying all that they’ve worked for. She considers decisions from so many different angles because she wants to ensure the safety of the people of Miraji and the rebels who’ve already sacrificed so much.

There’s so much depth and growth to Hero At The Fall from the expansion on the politics and world, as Amani tries to keep the rebellion going. We return to old places and explore new ones as along the way as the rebels Amani, Jin, Tamid, Hala, Izz & Maz, & many more as they try to save the crumbling rebellion.

The uncertainties in Hero At The Fall left the adventure filled with mystery, suspense, surprises, depth and so much more that not only builds into something new and unexpected than in previous books, but also manages to weave together all those aspects + threads that were built in Rebel & Traitor!

Without spoiling, what I can say is that Hero At The Fall just doesn’t go the way you think!! Hamilton brilliantly makes Hero At The Fall work for the series & on its own. For me, its seen as such a separate piece from the previous books in the series, while also being a brilliant addition to it (if that makes any sense?).

Sam, though he was only introduced in Traitor To The Throne, easily became one of my favorite characters of the entire series!! ❤ ❤ From his wit & humor, to the mystery surrounding him as a character & the phenomenal growth seen in him in Hero At The Fall was just so spectacularly done. I just…loved Sam so much! His dynamic with Jin, Shazad, & his comedic flirting with Amani + his own growth as being more than a deserter of Albis.~ Hamilton just really created a character in Sam who is so much more than he appears to be.

I also loved the development between Amani & the crew. From Jin to Prince Ahmed, Sam, Shazad, Tamid,  & all the others. Seeing how much their relationships changed and grew in Hero At The Fall really made this book special also considering how much Amani has grown too.

The magic system really becomes such a pivotal aspect to the world and politics that occur as the rebellion builds in Miraji. Hamilton really made it such an integral part to the story than I expected. I felt she easily balanced the politics, magic, character/world-development and all the other elements so well that Hero At The Fall always had something new to discover with each page!

I want to be as vague as I can on the plot to avoid spoilers, but overall keep in mind that Hamilton just continues to build the intriguing plot of Hero all throughout the story and I felt it just being so reminiscent of book 1 really made this conclusion special.

My only issues that kept this from being a full 5 was that, as with previous books, I haven’t always been such a huge fan of the time-jumps. I felt that the time jumps made moments feel rushed and left some character interactions + settings under-developed as the plot went at such a quick pace. Additionally though this is the conclusion, I felt compared to the previous books, at points some aspects of the setting description/atmosphere weren’t present. This made it a bit difficult for me to really picture the settings at times.

I will also note that the ideas of stories and myths, how people remember you and their importance was such a present theme in this novel compared to previous books and Hamilton weaved it in such a way where it becomes such a bigger part as the novel progresses.

Hero At The Fall brings the Rebel Of The Sands trilogy to a satisfying conclusion as you join Amani on one last adventure to fight for the rebellion! With action, adventure, twists + turns, even more depth to the plot, characters, politics, & world, it creates such an immersive and page-turning finale that will leave you hooked till the very end!

January 2018 Wrap-Up

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

# Of Books Read: 9

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

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

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

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

This quote really stuck with me throughout the entire book:

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

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

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes2. The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Posts From This Month:

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

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

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

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

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano Review

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

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary:Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: Love Sugar Magic is a delightful and magical novel that follows Leo as she discovers the mysteries and magic within her family + their beloved bakery. There’s baking, delicious treats, themes of family, friendship & identity as Leo uncovers the magic that has been kept secret!

Love Sugar Magic was my 1st full 5-star read of 2018! Its a truly magical and unforgettable novel & easily one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve ever read! ❤

Leonora (or Leo) Logroño comes from a family of bakers. For generations, the women in her family (great-abuela, abuela, aunt, mother & now sisters) have gotten into the business of running the Amor y Azúcar Panadería.

With the bakery being the most beloved in their town of Rose Hill, Texas, Leo has dreamed of the day she will finally be able to help out, especially with the Día de los Muertos festival happening in town the next day. With her 4 older sisters: Marisol, Isabel & the twins Alma & Belén, always asked to help with the baking each year, Leo figures that’s all about to change.

She’s always felt left out of the family business with her sisters + mother always saying she isn’t old enough. However, not being able to take part in such an important family tradition leaves her feeling not only upset, sad + confused, but also suspicious as to what her family is keeping from her.

After discussing with her best friend, Caroline Cambell, on the way to school, she conjures a plan to sneak her way into the bakery to see what her family may be hiding from her.

Finally inside the bakery, she hides from her family and sees a special initiation. Unsure of what it could mean, she believes its best to go back to the source (the bakery) & find more clues.

Isabel, her oldest sister, soon discovers Leo snooping around in one of the offices & finds a special recipe book, it gets revealed that all the women in her family are brujas.

Not long after this bonding moment with Isabel, Leo decides to try out the magic for herself and that’s where the trouble begins.

Now Leo’s other sisters soon figure out about her powers, but as Leo continues to lie about her experimentation with magic, she finds herself getting into some pretty sticky situations. They lies and & trouble she gets into build, until she accepts she has important choices to make and be honest with herself + her family.

Meriano delivers such depth in this novel from the development to the characters, magic system, and themes of family, family legacy, friendship, and discovering who you are.

I found myself in love with each and every aspect of Love Sugar Magic. Being Latina myself, I connected w/ the Mexican-American Rep., traditions of Día de los Muertos, the recipes of the panaderia, and so much more! Regardless of age, there was just countless elements to this middle-grade novel that I easily connected to and it made feel at home.

The magic system was easily one of my favorite aspects of this novel. Introduced to Leo through her older sister Isabel, we learn not only the basis of how it applies to the bakery, but also just how complex it really is. Not only through the importance of being specific with spells, but how unique + different it is for each member of the family (even to how it applies specifically to Leo as the 5th sister!). The depth to this system was so brilliantly done & I loved how Meriano expanded on it from the beginning to the very end.

The theme and importance of family is such a huge part of this novel and you can sense it with each page, from the family traditions of the bakery, Leo’s dynamics with her sisters, to how Leo’s actions + decisions with her magic are done because of her family.

I adored this book so much & am so happy that other Latinx readers will be able to connect to this novel just as much as I did! I laughed, smiled, cried, and felt so connected to Leo & her journey not only to feel closer to her family,  but also to see her learn on her own and understand that when moments get to difficult, its important to remember that your family will always be their to guide you.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble is a enchanting and beautifully written middle-grade novel! Throughout the novel Mariano weaves in spells, family, and friendship. Leo’s growth and journey delivers a special kind of magic itself that readers will easily connect with. Delightful, sweet, and magical, Meriano’s novel is a must read!