Waiting On Wednesday #10

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly blog feature to showcase/spotlight anticipated book releases!

It was created by Jill at BreakingTheSpines 

This week I’m spotlighting…

Heartstruck (Flicker #1) by Angeli E. DumatolHeartstruck by Angeli E. Dumatol (Flicker #1)

Publisher: Smashwords

Release Date: September 15, 2018

Pages: 124

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Alexa Zamora looks as if she’s always been the beautiful and graceful center of attention. If you knew her in grade school though, you’d remember a sad little girl, who had lost her parents, and spent most of her time on the martial art arnis—a rough sport, not something girls were supposed to like. If you knew her then, you might have ostracized her for it.

She learned from this mistake, and has done her best to hide all traces of her sport and skill in a new school, and now she’s New Hope Academy’s It Girl. But transfer student Theo Guevarra, who happens to be her old arnis buddy and first love, arrives and makes her question the life she’s been living. How long can she keep up appearances, before it all falls apart?

Heartstruck was a book that was recently added to my TBR!

I originally heard about it through Sil at TheBookVoyagers! (´▽`ʃƪ) ❤

I always go to Sil’s twitter for new & upcoming recommendations for indie & romance authors! She had recently tweeted about this book and the cover/summary immediately caught my attention!

The main character Alexa is the academy It Girl and in her past, spent her time doing martial arts arnis. Now at her new school, she’s left that passion behind her, but when a boy from her past, Theo Guevarra happens to be a new transfer student at her school, things begin to change!

The summary itself sounds so different from any other YA Contemporary I’ve read and I’m really looking forward to reading more about Alexa & Theo!

I also don’t usually read many sports-related contemporary, but this one sounds amazing and I was immediately hooked from the summary !!

Everything about Heartstruck has me really looking forward to reading it! + I’m always looking to support diverse/ #OwnVoices books (& this book has Filipino rep.!)

Can’t wait to read Heartstruck!! It releases Sept. 15, 2018!

June 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 5

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin + Nina Vakueva1.Heavy Vinyl Volume 1 by Carly Usdin +Nina Vakueva (Heavy Vinyl #1)

Owned | Started/Finished June 1 |Rating: ★★★★★ | Heavy Vinyl Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A fun, diverse, graphic novel with so much girl power set in 90’s New Jersey! Heavy Vinyl follows Chris who works alongside her all-female co-workers at her local vinyl store. With anxiety, she wants to fit in with her new friends but hasn’t gotten the chance! That is until a case of missing singer introduces her to the world her co-workers have been hiding from her: their vigilante fight club! Now she’s tagging along with them to solve the mystery and maybe uncover more along the way! This is an incredible graphic novel that’s character-driven, diverse, and just a fun story! Friendship is at the heart of Heavy Vinyl and it really shows with each page. Additionally, there’s a lot of fantastic representation among the main cast/side characters: f/f & m/m relationships, lesbian rep., black & Puerto Rican rep., interracial relationships! I adored this graphic novel so much & highly recommend it!  I think there’s only 1 volume planned which is sad, because it ends on at place leaving you to want more from the story & characters, so definitely pick it up & support it, you won’t be disappointed!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters2.Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Owned| Started June 3 + Finished June 7 |Rating: ★★★★☆ ½| Running With Lions Full Review

Overall Thoughts: A coming-of-age YA sports contemporary, that really focuses on characters! Sebastian Hughes is ready for his last summer of soccer training camp with his teammates, before senior year. However things get a bit complicated when his former friend, Emir Shah, shows up. Though regardless of their past, Sebastian is eager to make Emir feel at home! Through a 3rd person POV, the characters, plot, summer setting/atmosphere come to life! A huge aspect of this novel is the way Winters explores sexuality, with characters identifying as gay and bisexual + through the teammate’s support + acceptance of each other throughout the entire book! The characters really grow as they spend their time at Camp Haven and I loved seeing their friendship dynamics with each turn of the page! The plot, characters, etc. are all wonderfully developed and the pacing is great! Highly recommend checking out Winter’s debut!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl3. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

ARC| Started June 9 + Finished June 12 |Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾| Neverworld Wake Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Neverworld Wake was an intriguing YA Contemporary that blends with science fiction! Beatrice Hartley gets the opportunity to reconnect with her friends from boarding school at an estate, since the year or so since her boyfriend Jim’s passing. But when a mysterious man arrives, he tells them they’ve been caught in the Neverworld Wake and only one person can make out alive by the end. The mystery that surrounded Neverworld and how the info was revealed was both delivered and explored at perfect moments throughout the story. While the plot and mystery remain such huge parts of the story, I did find myself not enjoying this book as much as I’d hoped. The writing (which is 1st person) never really made me find a connection to Bea as a character and with the simplicity to the writing, some elements of the story, like side characters were pretty forgettable. However, what definitely made Neverworld Wake an immersive read, was definitely the mystery, and exploration + complexities to the Neverworld!

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

ARC| Started June 13 + Finished June 18 |Rating:★★★★☆ ½| Not The Girls You’re Looking For Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Aminah Mae Safi’s debut explores the complexities of family and friendship (especially female friendships) in her debut! I connected with Lulu, the main character, from the very first page! She’s outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind and I just–loved her character so much.  This novel explores the messiness of friendship in an honest + complex way, and its such a huge theme of the story. Safi really allows for both friendship & family to be explored, and I was able to really see the many different sides to these dynamics. The unique plot, themes explored, character dynamics, etc. all came together so wonderfully in Not The Girls You’re Looking For to make for such a fantastic YA Contemporary!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir5. A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

Library| Started June 19 + Finished June 25|Rating:★★★★☆| A Reaper At The Gates Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is very much a darker continuation to the An Ember In The Ashes series! Character development and lore/mythology are such huge parts of this book and really take center stage. I loved seeing the development and growth to Laia, Helene, and Elias. They are such phenomenal characters and you really see where their fates lead them in this book! War and the dark aftermath of it are explored in this novel and its just heartbreaking. While this was such a great book, I found for me personally that the pacing in the first 1/2 or so made this book a bit difficult for me to really love it as with the previous ones. With the pacing, I felt that with the urgency of the stakes that are given + alongside the writing that made side characters, setting, etc. feel a bit under-developed and not as fully immersive for me in previous books. However regardless of that, as soon as I reached the end, I needed the next book right away. So, I am beyond excited to read the final book and see what Sabaa has in store for the world/story of Ember! 

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes #12

Audio Dime Museum Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Currently Reading & YA Books On My June 2018 TBR!

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye Exclusive Cover Reveal

Dark Ages Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

Plans For July:

~READ MORE!! I feel like I just haven’t been reading much as I’d hoped (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`) & before summer ends, really want to catch up on my TBR! If you have any tips to read more, definitely let me know!! 😭💕📚📚

~ Post more podcast reviews for Literary Listens! June was my first month posting audio drama podcast reviews & they were such fun posts to make!! I really hope to review/recommend more audio dramas next month too!! 🎙✨💖

~Continue working on my summer bullet journal 😍📒💕☀

What books did you read this month?? 😍📚

+ What are your bookish goals for July? Lets discuss in the comments!! ✨✨

Running With Lions by Julian Winters Review

Running With Lions by Julian WintersRunning With Lions by Julian Winters

Publisher: Duet Books (Interlude Press)

Release Date: June 7, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

*Bought an early copy from Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Running With Lions is a fantastic YA Contemporary! With a dynamic cast of characters and page-turning plot, this novel follows senior Sebastian Hughes, goalie for Bloomington High’s soccer team! This novel follows him and his teams summer at Camp Haven to train for their upcoming fall game! Winters explores the complexities of love, friendship, and finding oneself in this unforgettable YA Debut!

Running With Lions was a book I had been looking forward to for a while! From the amazing cover + summary, and focus on soccer!

What I love about this book is that it explores sexuality in such an open way.

“No exclusions around here…Be who you are! Be proud! Treat each other like family!”

Seeing the team + coaches being supportive of each other and just having that strong friendship between Sebastian, Mason, Willie, the other team members, and Grey, the coach’s daughter, was just amazing to read!!

Sebastian is ready for summer! Spending it with his teammates at Camp Haven to train for one last season of soccer together, he’s ready!

Though things get a bit complicated when Sebastian notices his childhood friend Emir Shah is also on the team this season. Emir keeps to himself and pretty much avoids the team when he can (due to his shyness).

Though Sebastian is aware that their friendship during childhood is now over, he tries to get through to him and make him feel more at home with the team.

From a rocky start to early morning runs and training sessions to improve on his soccer skills, Sebastian finds himself trying to connect with his old friend again. This soon leads to something more!

Seeing their dynamic develop as they learn more as to why they grew apart was such a deeply explored aspect to their relationship and it was great seeing how they were able to look past it, accept, and start again!

Emir was such a great character! Through the teams eyes he seems like someone who just doesn’t care, but that is not the case! We see how lonely Emir has felt since his sudden move to the UK caused his friendship with Sebastian to crumble.

However, we see that Sebastian’s courage to make him feel part of the team regardless of their past, really allows Emir to see the team as family!

Told through a 3rd person POV, it allows you to get an overall + in-depth look at the characters, plot and builds the setting/summer atmosphere, which comes to life on the page!

The characters all are written and explored with such depth that they also come to life from their first introductions!

Each and every character is written in such a way where you know so much about them from such few words and you really find yourself connecting with each of them!

We also see there’s so much more to these characters than when we are first introduced to them! Over the course of this novel, we see how their friendships/relationships change and grow as the summer at camp progresses!

There’s just so much development to the Bloomington High team and each character was given a great amount of page time, so were able to see the many different sides to these teammates!

I also really loved Grey Patrick (Coach Patrick’s daughter, who tags along at Camp Haven)! She was just such a great character and I loved her interactions/moments with the guys, like Sebastian & Mason!
She’s fierce and confident and overall she was such an amazing character! I also loved Willie, he was also one of my favorites!

Over the course of the novel Grey and Willie go through their own journeys, which are really given enough page time as we see them develop over the course of the story!

While its mentioned he has a knee injury in the beginning, we see how Willie’s soccer training develops and changes, as does the relationships + dynamics that grow among his friends/teammates throughout the book.

Both Grey & Willie’s journeys were given such interesting development and I loved following each of them throughout the book! Their personalities shined with each page!

There’s also such a diverse cast of characters, which was great to see!! Sebastian who identifies as bisexual, Emir who is pakistani-muslim + gay, Willie is gay, Hunter is black, & Gio is stated to be hispanic.

Winters also explores sexuality in such an open and honest way thorough out the entire novel! The team is very accepting and having that is so important to Sebastian as we see throughout Running With Lions.

Sebastian was such a complex main character! What I loved exploring through his POV (which I don’t see much of in YA), is life after high school and being unsure of what that future holds.

Winters explores this element so well throughout the entire book that it gradually becomes an even more recurring thought from Sebastian as he gets closer to the start of his Senior year!

Additionally, Winters explores so well the side of Sebastian who questions who exactly he is without soccer as the thoughts of college, the future, and the future of friends comes into play.

*I also recommend checking out Kris Hui Lee’s Out Of Left Field if your looking for another sports (baseball) YA Contemporary that discusses future after high school in a unique way * 

Running With Lions is fantastic Coming-Of-Age YA Contemporary that explores sexuality in an open and honest way! With a supportive cast of diverse characters, great writing, and themes of friendship throughout, this is a great YA Contemporary to check out!

May 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

Here’s my wrap-up for May 2018! Now that I’m officially on summer break, I’m hoping to read + review more this month!! 

Out Of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee1. Out Of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee

ARC | Started April 28 + Finished May 10 |Rating:★★★★☆ | Out Of Left Field Full Review

Overall Thoughts: If your looking for a contemporary that doesn’t focus on romance, this is the book for you! Out Of Left Field is about Marnie as she takes the place of her best friend Cody on her high school baseball team after he gets injured. There’s such a big focus on the dynamic of friendship, life after college, + Marnie’s passion for baseball and I really loved that. The plot, in my opinion, just went in such unique directions compared to other YA Contemporary novels and continued to surprise me with very interesting plot twists! There’s also representation through the side characters (Filipino + Latinx & bisexual rep., Indian-American rep.). The pacing does get slow at some points & I wish that some of the main/side characters had more expansion + development, additionally there are some plot threads I wish could have been expanded on. However, overall Out Of Left Field is a uniquely plotted YA Contemporary that really focuses on its characters and the complex dynamics of friendship! Definitely recommend Kris Hui Lee’s Out Of Left Field if your looking for more sports in YA Contemporary!

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo2. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Owned | Started May 11 + Finished May 13 |Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ | The Way You Make Me Feel Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Having been a big fan of Goo’s previous novel, I Believe In A Thing Called Love, I knew I would be picking up, The Way You Make Me Feel. Clara is a bit of a troublemaker, so when she gets tasked with working on her father’s Korean-Brazilian fusion food truck w/ her school nemesis, she feels her perfect summer (w/ plans of visiting her mother) has come to an end! But, she soon finds herself changing and growing throughout the summer, making new friends, and maybe finding romance along the way. The development of family and the complex dynamic was developed so incredibly well in this book as was the friendship! The Way You Make Me Feel was a book that captured my heart from page 1 with its character-driven story, wonderful writing, and summer adventures! The Way You Make Me Feel is a must read for summer!

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter3. Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Library | Started May 16 + Finished May 19 |Rating:★★★★☆ |Not If I Save You First Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Carter delivers another political thriller, with a mystery that keeps you turning the page as the stakes continue to build! Maddie, daughter to a secret service agent and Logan, the president’s son, have been friends since they were little. However after an attack at the White House when they were 10, leads Maddie to stay off the grid for almost 6 years in the Alaskan wilderness alongside her father. Maddie & Logan are soon reunited and their friendship is no longer what it used to be, yet when its revealed someone may be after Logan, they have to team up and uncover the answers. Carter does a fantastic job at seamlessly integrating politics and mystery within her novels and I always look forward to reading her books! However, through out Not If I Save You First I felt the pacing was pretty slow and while the build up to the mystery was done incredibly well, when answers are revealed it felt not only rushed, but a bit disappointing in its execution. Additionally,there was a bit of repetitiveness when it came to the setting. Overall though, Not If I Save You First was definitely an entertaining mystery thriller that really kept me turning the page!

Driving By Starlight by Anat Deracine4. Driving By Starlight by Anat Deracine

ARC| Started May 21 + Finished May 22 |Rating:★★★★★ |Driving By Starlight Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Driving By Starlight has easily become another one of my all-time favorite novels and is one that I will never forget!! I haven’t seen a lot of buzz for Driving By Starlight, but if you haven’t read it, please do, its phenomenal!! Set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia crafted an honest and moving YA Contemporary, which follows Leena & Mishail, who are no strangers to a bit of rebellion within their town. Due to strict laws however, they find themselves unsure of their futures as women within society. Leena dreams of attending university and studying law, but with the absence of her father (who is a rebel), needing to take care of her mother, and not wanting to leave her friends/life behind, its becoming uncertain whether she will be able to follow her dreams. Over the course of the novel, Leena goes through quite a journey! From the powerful messages, themes of family & friendship explored with such depth, incredible cast of characters, thought-provoking & beautiful writing, Deracine’s novel is phenomenal! There’s honestly so much to this amazing novel I can’t put into words, but I highly recommend reading Driving By Starlight, its a must read!

caraval-by-stephanie-garber5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Library |Started May 23 + Finished May 26 |Rating:★★★★☆ |Caraval Full Review

Overall Thoughts: I’d been putting off reading Caraval because of all the hype, but I’d recently been fortunate enough to get an ARC of Legendary and felt I’d give it a try! I’m so glad I did because I ended up really enjoying it! Garber’s writing easily pulled me into the story and crafted mystery into her novel so well, as we follow Scarlett attempting to find her sister throughout Caraval. Garber’s novel surprised me in ways I wasn’t expecting and I really enjoyed it. I did find that the repetitiveness of color to describe setting/emotion didn’t really click with me and I found other than Caraval, the world-building wasn’t really expanded on either, & I was expecting a bit more from the ending. However, I was definitely more surprised by Caraval than I expected and found it to be an immersive, mystery adventure!

Legendary by Stephanie Garber6. Legendary by Stephanie Garber (Caraval #2)

ARC |Started May 28 + Finished May 30 |Rating:★★★★☆ |Legendary Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Legendary takes what you knew in Caraval and really makes it more of a mind game, which was very interesting! Following Tella, were back into the game of Caraval, but there are very much real-life stakes involved. I loved how Garber seamlessly weaved in the fantasy elements, however all throughout Legendary I was thinking ‘why wasn’t this introduced more in Caraval?’, but I’m glad it was added into the story! Garber introduces new settings and a character by the name of Jacks who I really loved! It takes a bit of a darker, more fairy tale vibe, but I really enjoyed it! The plot is filled with intrigue, magic, mythology of the world of Caraval, and really had me guessing & on the edge of my seat wondering where the next book is headed!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Book Bytes #11

The Last 8 Cover Reveal

Author Interview w/ Maura Milan about her upcoming novel Ignite The Stars

Plans For June:

~ Catch up on reading, now that I’m officially on summer break & work on my summer reading bullet journal!

~Post upcoming TBR lists/other posts that I’ve had drafted for a while! 😂✨📚

~Planning to hopefully create + share another Literary Listens post! 🎙✨💕

Out Of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee ARC Review

Out Of Left Field by Kris Hui LeeOut Of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Pages: 320

Available For Purchase Through The Book Depository: Out Of Left Field

Summary: Marnie has never had a hard time fitting in with the guys. It would take a lot more than their goofy antics to keep her from joining them at the neighborhood sandlot to do what she loves best: play ball.

An added perk of hanging out at the sandlot? Spending time with Cody Kinski, their high school’s star pitcher and Marnie’s best friend. Sure, he can be stubborn and annoying. He also knows how to make her laugh and respects her skills on the mound. And when he gets nailed in the arm by a bone-fracturing pitch, Marnie becomes the team’s best chance at making it to the playoffs. Except no one told the guys they’re supposed to be on her side.

With her own team against her, Marnie begins questioning her abilities. And when fate throws her a curveball, can she play without losing the game, Cody, and her belief in herself?

*Requested an ARC from the publisher*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Out Of Left Field is a fun, character-driven YA Contemporary! Lee’s debut focuses on friendship and its complex dynamics, while also delivering a unique plot! Also perfect for readers looking for more sports in YA Contemporary!

I’ve found, for me personally, that its easy for YA Contemporary to follow similar plots and fall into this cycle of familiar tropes, plot points, etc.

Out Of Left Field however, really moves away from that and overall, delivers a unique and unexpected story that really had me surprised with each turn of the page!

This novel follows Marnie Locke, an avid player + lover of all things baseball! But, when her best friend Cody Kinski (who may be something more…) gets injured during a game from a rival baseball team player, Santino Acardi, he volunteers Marnie to take his place on the school baseball team.

Now, Marnie has to prove to herself and the guys on the team that she’s ready to show the world what she’s made of and follow her dreams!

Aside from that, she has to juggle the changing dynamics with friends, and come to terms with the possible feelings she may have with Cody!

If your looking for contemporary perfect for summer, this is the book for you!

From her time on the guy’s baseball team, her complex friendship with Cody, and some surprises that come her way, its an entertaining read that really goes in unique directions that makes it stand out from other YA Contemporary novels!

Lee’s writing-style really delivers such a fun atmosphere to this novel, that really makes this novel ! Additionally, through the 1st person POV, Marnie is developed with each and every page, that her feisty personality really shines through!

What is also so great about Out Of Left Field (which I personally haven’t seen any reviews mention!) is the representation in this novel as well! (However its mainly seen through the prominent side characters!)

There’s Marnie’s best friend Sara, who is Filipino and Hispanic, and bisexual (which is explicitly stated in the text!). Then there’s Neha, who is Indian (Acardi’s girlfriend)

Marnie gets herself into a bit of a tricky situation when Acardi, Cody’s rival, actually ends up becoming her cousin! (Acardi’s mom ends up marrying Marnie’s uncle!) 

So, when Marnie learns that Acardi isn’t all that bad & he even helps her with her baseball when she gets on the guy’s team, she finds herself keeping the secret from Cody for fear that he may get upset + even feels she’s betraying him.

I loved how Santino + Marnie’s dynamic developed, he quickly becomes such a supportive friend/family member to her. I found the quick pace of their development really added more depth to the story as they rely on each other & he offers her advice!

Similarly to what I mentioned above about the unique direction of the novel, this plot point was on of them! Lee’s unexpected plot direction and overall unique execution of her story made Out Of Left Field such a memorable read for me!

The way she delivers her prose just has you so in Marnie’s head and you really get to understand her as a character, that it makes the unfolding of the plot all the more interesting + surprising!

Marnie is a feisty, confident character and I loved that about her! Additionally, Lee’s portrayal of all the teenage characters in this novel felt so raw and real! They have their drama, goals, convos about romance, and so much more, Lee just made them come to life on the page!

An interesting aspect to this novel that I loved, was the look at changes/growth after high school, as Sara + Cody discuss their futures with Marnie at points throughout the story!

Cody star player, consider’s quitting baseball after high school! This honestly was another one of those surprising moments, but was just so brilliantly delivered that it just leaves you thinking and even understanding!

As a college student, this aspect in particular was just so refreshing to read about in YA Contemporary because while it is definitely addressed in those books, the honesty at how interests may not always equate to future careers, etc. was just so—real that I loved how it was explored!

I even loved how this novel explored the changing dynamics of friendship and goals after high school as the characters contemplate how college will change things for them.

Marnie’s dynamic with the guy’s team was not easy at first, but as the novel progresses you see it change and grow as you see her determination to keep pushing on.

As for the sports aspect, I felt it was really given depth through the descriptions, through Marnie’s eyes of the games, her own personal knowledge, and how the baseball lingo is used throughout the novel at sports + non-sports related moments.

I think my only minor issues, were slow pacing at some points, not much background/expansion given to some main + side characters, and I wish the changing dynamic between Marnie & her mom (who Marnie see’s as absent/unsupportive of her passion for baseball) was given more page time!

Overall I really loved how the plot progressed and felt Lee left it at the perfect moment till the very end! Where you know all the strings are relatively tied up, but still leaves you wanting more!

Out Of Left Field is a uniquely plotted YA Contemporary, perfect for those seeking out more sports contemporary! There’s some romance, while friendship + Marnie’s passion for baseball is at the heart of this story! Fun, sporty, and a great YA Contemporary for your Summer TBR!