Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore ARC Review

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemoreWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family. 

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: Wild Beauty is a lush and wondrous magical realism tale that explores the magic of girls and gardens. With family, love, and identity as the main themes of this story, Anna-Marie’s latest tale will leave you breathless as you uncover the magic and mysteries that surround La Pradera!

When The Moon Was Ours was the first book by Anna-Marie McLemore that I’d ever read. After being immersed into her lyrical tale following Sam & Miel, McLemore easily became one of my favorite authors! Now having finished Wild Beauty, I can’t truly put into words how much I adore her stories! The vibrant tales and writing she weaves together, always leave me captivated!

La Pradera is home to the Nomeolvides women, who for generations have kept the lush garden estate thriving with their ability to conjure the most beautiful flowers all across the property. However with that, their legacy also harbors a curse.

If any of the women find themselves loving ever too deeply, their lovers will vanish. So centering around the cousins Estrella, Dalia, Calla, Azalea, and Gloria, the novel picks up right away when the girls decide to offer a precious belonging to the garden, understanding they are all in love with the same girl, owner of the estate, Bay Briar. Those offerings could perhaps protect her from disappearing too, just like Nomeolvides loves of the past.

Legacy and family were such present themes of Wild Beauty! Estrella begins to question and consider if the curse cast upon current and previous generations of women in her family can ever be broken. With that, this tale explores the expectations and history we bring with us in an effort to perhaps grow and break away from them, but always knowing we will have those to look back on.

The next day, Estrella finds a boy among the flowers, Fel. Though seen as an offering from the garden for Bay’s protection, regardless the cousins, abuelas and aunts take in this mysterious boy and make him a part of their family.

Fel has no memory of how he got to La Pradera, but believes he is in some sort of after-life and must atone for mistakes of his past. Over the course of the novel, as he builds a strong bond with these women he learns more about who he is and why he found himself at the Nomeolvides gardens. I fell in love with the relationship he develops with Estrella, it was written so beautifully~

I truly adored each and every thing of Wild Beauty (´▽`ʃƪ)♥♥ Through McLemore’s vivid and captivating 3rd person narrative, she forges a tale that encapsulates the magic of girls/women, family, love, legacy, and the everyday!

There’s exploration in the strength of family and sisterhood. As Estrella begins learning more about who Fel is, she also finds the bonds between her and her cousins growing so much. She discovers hidden truths of her family and through that we see how brave and determined she is to protect them, no matter the cost.

As for characters I adored every single one and they truly came to life from page 1! No matter how long/when they were introduced on the page, each character goes on their own journey with their growth and change as the tale grows. From Fel with his fierce kindness and loyalty, to Dalia with her determination and her strong-willed judgement to protect not only her family, but her heart as well.

Throughout Wild Beauty, McLemore beautifully explores differing identities of her fantastic characters with gay representation, the girls bisexuality, and Bay being gendeerqueer!

With love being a central theme of this story, McLemore not only explores but uncovers the depths of love, with all its dangers and its necessities. Wild Beauty perfectly captures the journey of the heart one takes in the trial of love and loss. But overall it delivers a powerful and true message that the love in your heart is forever and always valid.

Being Latina myself, I easily connected to not only Estrella and the Nomeolvides women so much, but the wonderfully written Latinx culture McLemore weaved in throughout this magical tale. Additionally, the sisterhood and powerful bonds between the female cousins was something I could definitely relate to!

There is so much I want to say about this novel, but truly cannot put into words. McLemore’s stories always manage to weave there way into the depths of my heart and leave me seeing and wondering in the magic of the everyday!

This novel discusses so much from culture to love, identity, family, sisterhood, and I loved each and every single moment of it!

Wild Beauty is pure magic! Through the lush prose, this novel explores mystery, magic, love and so much more! With a plot that leaves you enchanted, you’ll find yourself immersed into the secret and wonderous world of the Nomeolvides! 🌸🌹🍃✨

+ Keep an eye on the blog for a Wild Beauty Playlist! ✨🎧📚(´▽`ʃƪ)

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The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes ARC Review

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle MilanesThe Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Pages: 400

Summary:Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

*I requested an ARC from the publisher~All thoughts are my own*

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: The Victoria In My Head is a breath of fresh air in YA Contemporary! Comedic and heartfelt, Milanes’s debut novel weaves in themes of family, friendship, and courage as Victoria’s “treadmill” life becomes a little more interesting when she decides to join a band!

The Victoria In My Head easily became one of my favorite YA Contemporary books of all time + probably the rest of the year! I HIGHLY recommend adding this book your TBR if you haven’t already~

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)♥♥

Told through a humorous + wonderfully written 1st person POV, we follow Victoria Cruz as she starts off another “treadmill” of a day. She’s gotten used to the routine of her daily life: breakfast, school, Cross Country practice, etc.!

Until she sees a cute guy hanging up a poster in the hallway of school. While she is very shy, she makes an on-the-spot decision to check it out & attempts to talk to the guy!  It turns out the mystery guy leaves up a poster for lead vocalist auditions for the band he’s a part of.

After talking it over with her best-friend Annie Lin, who is extremely organized, focused, and not one for spontaneity, she convinces her its probably not a good idea. That is until later that day (b/c of Annie) she gets a spot for an audition and finds the courage to at least check it out!

With that, her life becomes a little more interesting! When she becomes a part of the band, she’s making new friends, band members like Levi (band leader), Strand (the poster guy +guitarist), and Krina (the drummer), learning more about her best friend Annie in the process + tackling first love, + better understanding herself along the way and attempting to try new things.

She has a love for music (collecting vinyls + has an extensive knowledge of rock music) and makes playlists for random moments or things (like stargazing, rainy days, etc.) which I loved reading about (´▽`ʃƪ) Above all, I adored how music was weaved all throughout this novel!

There were so many aspects that I loved about this book! From the spectacular writing + great pacing, diverse cast of characters, to the unique plot, and important themes…the list goes on!

I loved how diverse this cast was! There’s the main character Victoria Cruz + her younger brother who are Cuban-American + of course also her parents who are Cuban! While I may not be Cuban, but being Latinx/ Latina myself, reading from her POV honestly brought me to tears because I related to her so much. She is quite shy +has anxiety (even around her family sometimes), but when she gets comfortable enough around new people/friends can really open up!~

From the food mentioned like platanos, a quincenera being mentioned later on, even to Victoria mentioning in one scene that while parents were speaking Spanish and she commented that her parents joked/assumed she’d never know what they talking about her as though she didn’t know Spanish at all 😂😂 It was moments like that which were just so relatable that I cried tears of joy!! (I loved reading from her POV so much 😭❤️🎶✨!!)

As I mentioned above, it was amazing to read such a diverse YA Contemporary! There’s her best-friend Annie Lin (Chinese), Krina the drummer (Indian + Lesbian), cute-mystery guy Strand (biracial), + Levi, the band leader (Jewish).

There’s also a friendship + f/f relationship that later develops between Annie & Krina.

While I loved all the characters equally, my favorites aside from Victoria, were Annie & Strand!

Victoria’s parents are set on her applying and attending Harvard, that over the course of the novel, its clear that she is overwhelmed with the plan her parents have laid out for her and she isn’t entirely sure of what she wants anymore.

While she is unsure, she fully understands she wants to make her parents proud and understands why they are expecting her do Cross-Country + keep her grades up to make her application as outstanding as possible, because all they want for her is to be successful & happy once she heads to college!

What I also loved (a don’t often see in YA Contemporary) was how involved Victoria’s parents were! They loved her very much and were very protective! While both Victoria and her parents had their reasons for agreeing/disagreeing with each other, I loved how central they were to the story!

While I have read quite a number of YA Contemporary novels, this one truly stands out and has easily taken the top spot of my favorite YA Contemporary book of all time! Its been quite a while that a YA Contemporary has truly stuck with me as much as this one did.

There were a variety of themes + discussions over the course of this novel! Themes of family and independence are truly at the heart of this story.

The Victoria In My Head also has so many positive female friendships + I don’t think once does Victoria think badly of another girl! So often in YA Books there’s girl vs. girl hate, this book had NONE of that!

Victoria does have her preconceived notions of people (guys & girls), but once she gets to know them + considers the differing sides to those people, she is very understanding! She builds new friendships and though she is shy, her friendships with the females were strengthened so much as the story progressed.

There’s also a lot of discussion of sex/sex positivity as the story progressed when Victoria later gets a boyfriend and is navigating her first relationship.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but overall I highly recommend adding The Victoria In My Head to your TBR + checking it out on release day! It was a book that went above and beyond my expectations and truly captured my heart ❤️🎶

Overall, I’m so grateful to have been able to read/review an early copy of this novel and spread the word about The Victoria In My Head so other Latinx & especially Cuban/Cuban-American readers can relate to Victoria as much as I did!

The Victoria In My Head is a spectacular coming-of-age story! With a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, hilarious + comedic moments, phenomenal plot, fantastic writing, and so much more, this music-filled debut follows Victoria Cruz and the courage she gains to follow her heart!

Down Among The Sticks And Bones by Seanan McGuire Review

Down Among The Sticks And Bones by Seanan McGuireDown Among The Sticks And Bones by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #2)

Publisher: Tor Books

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Pages: 189

Summary: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Dark, gothic, and atmospheric, Down Among The Sticks An Bones is a a prequel which follows twins Jacqueline & Jillian and their adventures in the Moors set before the events of Every Heart A Doorway!

What I love about this series, is how McGuire is able to pack in so much story and character depth into such few pages! Every Heart A Doorway was just so unique and magical, I was happy to be getting more tales from this world💖~

Having a twin sister myself, I was beyond heartbroken at the forced separation that Jack & Jill were grown into from the very beginning and seeing the rift between them grow with each turn of the page. Reading passages of their resentment and just few feelings they had for each other, left me feeling so sad!

I felt the story started out completely strong with the background on their parents (Serena & Chester) and how their decision to have children really impacted how Jack & Jill would grow and see themselves. It really set the stage and tone for the rest of the story.

With their parents having their own selfish desires for what they wanted their perfect children to be, Lousie Wolcott (Chester’s mother) did her best with the time she spent with them to remind the girls to be themselves and not let anyone control who they want to become.

This quote resonated with me throughout the rest of the story “She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and all of them were valid…(34).

Jack was molded by Serena and forced to be a proper lady in her mothers eyes, while Jill was forced to be more of a tomboy, by Chester. Up until the age of 12, they lived very different lives under the same roof and there was a rift between them because of it.

Later they soon find a doorway that leads them to the Moors and their 5 year journey begins.

Jack and Jill go their separate ways and undergo their own personal journey and we get a better understanding of who they are and how they try to break free of their parent’s molds.

Additionally there is an f/f relationship that develops nearing the middle/end of the novel!

I felt the 3rd person narrative really gave a broad scope at the world and each character in this story, which made it easy to get a sense of each character, Jack & Jill’s home life + their new life at the Moors. However, there’s just something about this novel (from the writing-style) that delivered a more “telling” rather than “showing” at times, which made the novel feel rather flat in some aspects.

While the story really did resonate with me, I couldn’t help but still feel a disconnect through the writing. Additionally, unlike Every Heart A Doorway, I felt this novel’s pacing felt much slower, which took me out of the story.

Honestly I have so many conflicting feelings about this book, because while there’s a lot that I really loved about it, I loved Every Heart A Doorway a little more~ 😭❤️🚪

Aside from those minor issues, there was still so much that I really loved about this novel. The uniqueness of the plot itself, the atmosphere of the world, and I also loved the positive messages about what it means to be a girl.

Down Among The Sticks And Bones introduces a much darker and brutal world compared to the first novella, it also delivers such powerful messages on who we are vs. what we become as a product of our environment.

Through thought-provoking writing, McGuire sets the stage for a dark but whimsical fairy tale-like world where the choices we make impact who we become.

While I had a few issues, I really enjoyed this sequel and cannot wait to read how this trilogy wraps up in Beneath A Sugar Sky!

I Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae Cecelia Review

I Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae CeceliaI Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae Cecelia

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Release Date: April 15, 2017

Pages: 74

Summary: How often do you daydream? For most, it is many times a day. We stare out the window instead of the task in front of us. We fantasize about where we would much rather be, the significant other we long for, our ideal job, the body we hope to see in the mirror, a healthier mindset, pure happiness in our lives and the lives of others, peace in this chaotic world. However, how many of us daydreamers believe these pleasant thoughts will truly turn into our reality? Daydreams are more than just short bursts of happiness that only our minds can see. I know I am more than a daydream; and you are, too.

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: I Am More Than A Daydream is inspirational, filled with messages of positivity, self-growth, and finding the confidence within yourself to follow your dreams!

Earlier this year I read Cecelia’s Uncaged Wallflower and adored it and I loved her latest collection just as much! ❤

Her poems always leave me feeling hopeful and inspired!

Discussing body image, following your dreams, and finding your inner strength, this latest collection reminds the reader that while we all are set on differing paths and may face obstacles along the way, that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them to make our dreams come true!

If you haven’t read Cecelia’s collections, please do!
All throughout her poems she weaves in messages to inspire daily growth and positivity!!

Above all, I Am More Than A Daydream is a wonderful collection of poetry that reminds us that our daydreams can become reality!

Literary Listens: Publishers And Podcasts

literary-listens-24hryabookblog-feature-bannerLiterary Listens is my newest blog series/feature where I discuss podcasts & books!

My most recent post was “YA Books That Need Podcast Adaptations,” which you can check out Here!

This weeks post is all about publishers and podcasts!

As of May 1, Tor Books announced it would be launching ” ‘Tor Labs,’ a new serialized fiction podcast imprint.

Their first project is set to be “Steal The Stars” written by Mac Rogers, the award-winning writer of podcast thrillers The Message and LifeAfter, which will have weekly episodes starting August 2-November 1. This “Noir Science Fiction Thriller” plot is set to center around the “story of Dakota Prentiss and Matt Salem, two government employees guarding the biggest secret in the world: a crashed UFO.

According to Senior Editor Marco Palmieri, from The Verge “no US book publisher, as far as we knew, was doing audio dramas — plays written to be performed by voice actors.

With podcasts gaining such popularity right now, this got me wondering, “Would YA/Young Adult and Teen publishers consider getting into podcasts?

If they did, how could it work?

After some thought here are some ideas I considered that could link a print book with audio:

~Author interviews

~First chapters/excerpts or bonus content converted to an audio drama format

~Behind The Scenes

~Similar to Tor Labs, perhaps teaming up with established audio drama podcast creators to deliver an original serialized podcast

Considering podcasts are free to find/download through iTunes, it could also be just a fun way for readers to hear more from their favorite authors or books!

Aside from the traditional book this is an interesting venture to deliver/experience stories!

Storytelling can come in a number forms whether its books, podcasts, etc. and considering the dynamic, groundbreaking, and immersive power of podcasts and audio dramas, I can definitely see this as a new way for publishers to connect with readers in a different way!

What are your thoughts on this?

Do you think more publishers will/should consider podcasts as a way to deliver stories?

Let’s discuss in the comments below! 🙂

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan Review

Amina's Voice by Hena KhanAmina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Pages: 208

Summary: A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts: Amina’s Voice is a beautifully written and above all fantastic novel which weaves in important themes, following Amina Khokar as she navigates culture, family + friendship, and identity!

Amina’s Voice is a novel I highly recommend! It was fantastic!

Khan’s writing delivers so many facets to Amina’s story! Not only do we see Amina’s strong family dynamic, her struggles with shyness and fears of losing her closest friend Soojin, but also the questions she has about her culture and religion.

This novel discusses the importance of culture, faith, and community.

I don’t think I’ve read any novels with Pakistani/Muslim representation, but I’m glad Amina’s Voice was the first! I adored this novel so much!

Amina and Soojin are best friends, however when Emily (a classmate who’d bullied them in the past ) begins talking with Soojin and gets invited to join them on a class project, Amina feels she may be losing her best friend.

Additionally when Amina gets signed up by her parents for a Quran recitation (being extremely shy/nervous in front of crowds) she begins to feel her world is falling apart.

The first person POV allows the reader to get into Amina’s head, follow along her journey to find her voice and slowly but surely find strength to tackle the problems she encounters.

Family is a huge part of this novel. The importance and discussion of culture and faith is prevalent all throughout, especially when Amina’s uncle comes to visit.

I adored the family dynamic all through out this novel. Not only with Amina’s parents and brother, but also the dynamic of her strong/supportive community.

Regardless of age, I was able to relate to Amina so much at times I find it difficult to find my voice/speak my mind, but reading this novel just left me feeling hopeful and overall was an amazing + inspiring reading experience.

This novel is filled with such unforgettable characters and plot! If you have not read this book, definitely pick it up! You will not be disappointed.

As the story progresses, we learn that the local mosque is vandalized, and the community is devastated. However, the mosque slowly gets rebuilt with the help of so many people/communities rallying together.

Amina’s Voice is a novel that is relatable to anyone! Throughout the novel Khan weaves in themes of faith/religion, importance of family, identity and community, friendship, and the complexities of growing up. 

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire Review

Every Heart A DoorwayEvery Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #1)

Publisher: Tor Books

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Pages: 173

Summary: Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Every Heart A Doorway melds fantasy with mystery, delivering a captivating tale with magic on every page!

I’d heard a lot of buzz surrounding this novel and I finally decided to pick it up!

However, I will admit with people raving about this book and seeing tons of 5-star reviews, I went in with super high expectations and while I was let down slightly, overall I’m so glad I read this book!

I adored the diversity, there’s representation from quite a few different ethnicities (Latino, Japanese) plus asexual and transgender representation!

As for plot, I was left surprised with every turn of the page. You could tell magic was weaved within each and every moment of the story. I could picture the character’s Doors/Worlds when they described them and similar to Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, could grasp the history of the boarding school as the story progressed.

The story starts off by explaining Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children, a boarding school where children/teens are sent by their parents once they return from a magical world they transported to at some point in their youth.

In these other worlds, they find themselves and once they return to their own world, they find that returning isn’t as simple. They must tackle and struggle with the sense of loss that comes with leaving their wonderland behind.

The development and idea of the Doors/Worlds, I felt were so relatable because similar to my love for books and stories, there is this connection you get every time your thrust into a new world that is captivating + just captures your heart and wanting nothing more than for them to be real. That was a very powerful message and theme prevalent all through out the novel.

Every Heart A Doorway truly captures the spirit that magical or fictional worlds create for someone and I truly loved that!

Each character (Nancy, Sumi, Kade, Jack&Jill, Christopher, etc.) were all distinct and I could really understand their character within this less than 200-page story!

With each character the bits and pieces of their world became part of them and really gave them such depth and through that I could learn more about what their world was like and how it molded them and became an integral part of them once they left!

Additionally, what added so much to their character was the bits and pieces of their worlds they took with them when they returned, which you could clearly tell through their personality and 3rd person narrative.

I’m usually hesitant with 3rd person because I feel I won’t always grasp each character fully, but I’ve got to admit I truly felt connected to these characters and felt it gave me a broader scope of the world McGuire crafted.

I adored the dialogue and interactions between all the characters! Every time Jack+Jill, Nancy, Kade, Sumi, Christopher, Eleanor & Lundy interacted with eachother, I felt closer to them because I could pickup bits of their personality with each page!

(The banter/connection between them definitely reminded me of the Dregs banter from Six Of Crows/Crooked Kingdom)

My only issues was the slow pacing with the novel once I reached the middle and while I won’t spoil it, the conclusion to the murder mystery left me a little disappointed…

Additionally, there were some moments with the 3rd person narrative that the world-building in terms of the explanation of Nonsense, Logic, Wickedness and Virtue felt like it could have used a little more expansion and depth. However regardless of those minor issues…

Overall Every Heart A Doorway was a short, but immersive story filled with a dynamic cast of characters, fascinating world-building, and the perfect blend of fantasy and mystery to keep you hooked till the very end!