Author Interview With Janelle Milanes {Analee, In Real Life}

Its been almost a month since Analee, In Real Life by Janelle Milanes has been released! Janelle MilanesSo, I have her as a guest on the blog today to talk about her latest YA Contemporary, writing, YA Books, and so much more!

Analee, In Real Life is Janelle Milanes’s second YA Contemporary with her first novel + debut being, The Victoria In My Head which released last fall!

Thanks again to Janelle for the opportunity to interview you! (´▽`ʃƪ)

And if your interested, you can check out my ARC review of Analee, In Real Life Here!

Q1: For those who haven’t heard of your latest book Analee, In Real Life, can you tell us what its all about?

Janelle: Sure! The book follows Analee Echevarria, a girl who prefers to live her life online rather than deal with the complications of reality. Since the death of her mother, she spends all of her free time playing as Kiri, her night elf alter-ego at the center of her favorite game, and chatting with the love of her life, Harris (whom she’s never actually met). In the meantime, her father is getting remarried to a yogi named Harlow and her best friend has abandoned her to embrace life with the popular crowd. Things change for Analee when she’s paired with the popular Sebastian Matias as lab partners. The two strike an unlikely friendship, and Analee finds herself venturing out of her comfort zone to deal with real life problems.

Q2: How did you come up with the idea for Analee, In Real Life? + What was the writing process like?

Janelle: I loved the idea of someone with social anxiety living a double life online as a kick-ass warrior. I went through a short but intense World Of Warcraft phase years ago, and it was fun to devise a new persona I could live through-someone tough and fearless and powerful. Role playing online can provide such a unique way to connect with people especially if you have difficulty doing it in person. From there, I got to thinking about a girl like Analee and what a relief an alter-ego could provide her. Throw in some fake dating and family drama, and it was my kind of book.

The writing process came together very easily compared to my first novel. With Analee, I had a better idea of how I wanted her story to end and what needed to happen in her emotional journey. I usually wrote a set number of words every day and followed a vague outline, letting the story take me to different places if it felt right.

Analee, In Real Life by Janelle MilanesQ3: There’s so many different elements and to this story, from the Online RPGs, fake relationship, Analee finding her inner strength, to the grief she continues to struggle with after her mother’s death. You tackled so many topics, themes, and plot threads so organically! Were these elements already in your mind as you started drafting or did they develop as you continued writing? Why do you think its important that Analee face all of these in different ways?

Janelle: I definitely threw a lot at poor Analee. Most of these elements were in my mind when I started drafting. Analee’s father’s wedding served as a catalyst for the story and from there, everything begins to unravel. Analee isolates herself to cope with her grief and the only way she’s truly able to pull herself out of it is by connecting with other people. I wasn’t sure how all these pieces would fit together until I started writing!

Q4: Similar to The Victoria In My Head, Analee, In Real Life features a memorable and diverse cast of characters! (With the MC’s Victoria & Analee identifying as Cuban-American). Another one of my favorite aspects to your books is how inclusive the cast is! How exactly did you go about developing the main cast? Who was your favorite character to write about and were there any moments when writing Analee, that characters surprised you?

Janelle: Thank you! I like diversity to be present in my books without taking center stage. Every character’s cultural experience helps form who they are, but their identities don’t revolve around it. When creating the cast of characters, I wanted Analee to be thrown together with people with which she appears to have nothing in common.

The characters went from stereotypes–the zen yogi, the popular friend, the obnoxious jock–to fully-formed characters who make mistakes and have their own ssues underneath the collected exteriors they project.

I think Harlow surprised me the most in terms of how much I grew to love her. I was a little wary of her when I started writing, much like Analee. She’s the person you love to mock because she seems to be so perfect and unshakable. As the story goes on, though, Harlow becomes more open with her vulnerability and you see her trying to fit into a family with their own set of traditions that she doesn’t quite understand.

She is also very much living in Analee’s mother’s shadow. As I got to know Harlow through writing the story, I started to feel sorry for her in a way I didn’t expect!

Q5: Analee is very opinionated in her head, but can’t exactly find the words to say what she means out loud most of the time! I found her to be such a relatable and inspiring characters as she slowly begins to unlock her her inner strength to say what’s on her mind, while also opening herself up to new experiences! Why do you think its important for readers to read about a character like Analee?

Janelle: I needed character like Analee when I was growing up. I had a small, close group of friends, but I could be timid when it came to expressing myself to other people ad getting to know them. found it was easy to get drowned out by louder voices. Speaking your truth and opening yourself up to new experiences involves stepping out of your comfort-zone that was, and sometimes still is difficult for me. I hope those who read this book realize they aren’t alone in those feelings.

Q6: Seb and Analee don’t exactly get along at first, but soon after they find themselves hatching up a plan for a fake relationship to win back really important people in their lives (Seb’s ex, Chloe & Analee’s former friend, Lily). What can you tell us about their dynamic/relationship and what did you love most about developing it?

Janelle: Seb and Analee are total opposites in many ways and that’s always a fun dynamic to explore. He loves being the center of attention, she desperately avoids it. I loved that Seb nudged her into doing things that took courage, but he was never forceful about it. Their relationship begins as a sham but turns into a deeply meaningful friendship. Seb is there for her when nobody else is, and he reminds her what it feels like to connect to someone in a genuine way. I loved writing every scene with them–he brings out a more confident side of Analee, and she brings out a gentleness in him.

Q7: Were there any scenes in particular that you had a lot of fun writing or any memorable moments that come to mind when you were developing the story?

Janelle: I had a lot of fun writing the first kiss between Seb and Analee when they go to the movies. When you really think about it, the mechanics of kissing are so strange, and I love how Analee over-analyzes everything about it. Her character approaches it like a game, with levels and rules, so she thinks she is maintaining some kind of control in the situation. It was interesting to see her go from that to then getting swept up in her emotions and throwing the rulebook out the window. The scene with Harlow and Analee in McDonald’s was another moment I loved to explore. It was nice to see Harlow lose control a bit.

Q8: What I love about your books so much is the focus on family and the growth of the main characters! It’s always great to see those elements explored in YA Contemporary! Why do you think it’s important that your books feature both of those elements & are at the center of the story?

Janelle: I think the focus on family is inevitable, particularly in young adult books! Nobody lives in a bubble and for me, personally, I could never relate to books in which characters live their lives without much family interaction. As a Latina, my family was (and still is) constantly in my business! Part of growing up is finding your own identity and often seeing the world from a different perspective than your family might. It’s such an integral source of conflict and growth that it would be almost impossible not to explore it.

Q9: Are there any elements of Analee, In Real Life that changed while writing it or any interesting facts about some of the main characters that didn’t make it into the book?

Janelle: Yes! Analee was originally names Anais, but my publishing team worried that too many people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. The end was something that I tinkered with a bit too.

*SPOILER ALERT* I knew I wanted the story to be less of a romance and more of Analee coming to love herself. Initially, I struggled over whether I wanted Seb to initiate the break up, but after giving it some thought, I think it turned out much stronger that Analee made the decision to stop seeing him. I’m glad I allowed her to make that choice for herself. *END OF SPOILER*

Q10: What can readers expect next after Analee, In Real Life?

Janelle: I am working on a few different projects but am currently focused on another YA contemporary about a small town girl fighting off big life changes–the worst of which are her growing feelings for her best friend’s girlfriend.

Lightning Round Qs.

1. Current Read? Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

2. Describe your book in the 3 words? Growth, family, love

3. If your main characters Analee & Victoria could meet any other YA character, who would it be and why? I would want Victoria to meet Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy First series. Both of them are itching to experience life and escape the mundane, and I think they would appreciate each other’s snark. For Analee, I think Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would be exactly the kind of caring friend she needs. They can both recount their fake dating experiences. Oh, and Dimple from When Dimple Met Rishi since they share a similar cynicism and love of computers.

4. Favorite YA Book (Or Books) of 2018 so far? Leah And The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

5. Favorite YA Contemporary Book? For pure gooey light romance, Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I swooned so hard.

6.Any upcoming YA Books Your Looking Forward To? So many! At the top of my TBR pile right now is Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno.

7. YA Book you recommend to everyone? I’m not sure I would be writing YA if not for Judy Blume. Just As Long as We’re Together was a huge influence on me, but it’s never talked about as much as Blume’s other books!

8. Other than the Harry Potter Series (which Analee loves) what other books or book series would Analee love to read? I think she’d be into classic fantasy. Maybe His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman? I can also see her getting sucked into the Song of Ice and Fire series eventually! (Analee would never call it Game of Thrones because she would think the books are superior to the show, obviously.)

9. If Analee could play any other video game or RPG, which would she play? Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, and some obscure games I’m not cool enough to know.

10. Between both of your books, which character is your favorite? I could never choose! Victoria is my young, sheltered self. Analee is my anxiety x1,000.

Thanks again to Janelle for the awesome interview! 

Analee, In Real Life is out now & its available to add on Goodreads:

Analee, In Real Life

Have you read Analee, In Real Life? If you haven’t yet, do you plan to? ✨🕹📚

YA Contemporary Books That Need Netflix Adaptations {Book Blog Discussion}

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny HanThe long awaited film adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA Contemporary novel To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, debuted on Netflix August 17!

As a fan of Han’s To All The Boys trilogy, I was incredibly happy to finish the film asking myself a couple questions:“P.S. I Still Love You is going to be a thing, right?” but also, “What other YA Contemporary Books do I need to see adapted on Netflix, like in the near future?”

With the well deserved love of Han’s spectacular novel come to life on the small screen, I have a list of YA Contemporary books that I would love to see on screen and if we’re lucky, could be Netflix’s next YA Contemporary adaptation! (For either show or film💕).

(* And because I’m always looking to support diverse/inclusive books, I’ll add the rep. within each book if it has any!)

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes1.The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes (Cuban-American MC & anxiety rep. and overall diverse cast) 

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.

Why It Needs A Netflix Adaptation: This YA Contemporary is so heartfelt, funny, and really centers around family and friendship! With the main character Victoria really growing over the course of the story, she finds the courage to come out of her shell and pursue her passions, its something I’m sure many can relate to! Milanes’s debut has such a unique plot, so much heart, dynamic & diverse cast of characters, and focuses on music!! The Victoria In My Head just hits all the notes for a perfect adaptation!

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia2. Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (Social anxiety/anxiety rep.)

Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Why It Needs A Netflix Adaptation: This story includes an exploration of mental health (anxiety and depression). The way these deeply complex and relatable main characters are developed, is something not usually seen on-screen! There’s webcomics, fanfiction, internet culture/fandom, and the overall perspective of an online content creator, that aren’t usually explored in mainstream entertainment! There’s themes of family, heart-warming friendship & maybe even romance! (And as a plus: It would be so cool to see Eliza’s webcomic & Wallace’s fan-fiction animated or edited somehow on screen!)

Flight Season by Marie Marquardt3.Flight Season by Marie Marquardt (Brazilian/Brazilian-American & Indigenous Guatemalan MC’s)

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Why It Needs A Netflix Adaptation: The way love, loss, family, acceptance, forgiveness, and countless other themes are explored in this book, would make this such a moving story on-screen! TJ, Vivi, & Ángel’s lives weave together and through that, the story explores complex, beautiful dynamics of their friendship and how they grow + learn from each other. With exploration on topics of immigration, grief/acceptance, economic struggles, and so much more– it’s a character-driven story that becomes so real!

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi4.Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (Korean rep., Korean-American MC & side characters that have Black & Mexican-American rep.)

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

Why It Needs A Netflix Adaptation: Emergency Contact is truly a contemporary romance like no other! There’s such a focus on the main characters Penny & Sam, as they find solace in each other while they navigate family, obstacles in life, & loneliness. With their relationship explored via texting too, I think this element of the story would be nice to see on screen. With the story told through Penny & Sam’s POV, also as college students, elements from starting out in college, working while in school, etc. is something that I would love to see explored on screen too!

Driving By Starlight by Anat Deracine5.Driving By Starlight by Anat Deracine ( Saudi-Arabian rep.)

Sixteen-year-olds Leena and Mishie are best friends. They delight in small rebellions against the Saudi cultural police—secret Western clothing, forbidden music, flirtations. But Leena wants college, independence—she wants a different life. Though her story is specific to her world (a world where it’s illegal for women to drive, where a ten-year-old boy is the natural choice as guardian of a fatherless woman), ultimately it’s a story about friendship, family, and freedom that transcends cultural differences.

Why It Needs A Netflix Adaptation: Set in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this story emphasizes so much on female friendships, the various dynamics of that friendship, and the power of it! The complexity to this novel from the politics within Riyadh, Leena’s dream to continue pursuing a higher education, exploration of friendship, love, and seeking independence, Driving By Starlight is a powerful and incredibly moving story that would be amazing to see adapted on screen!

And those are 5 of my all-time favorite YA Contemporary books that need Netflix adaptations!! I highly recommend checking out each of these books, they are incredible!! 😍📚🎉📽

Out of each of them, I can definitely picture these as films: Eliza & Her Monsters, Emergency Contact, & Driving By Starlight!

As for the others, it seems they could go either way, but I feel they would be better suited as shows!

Have you found your next YA Contemporary read & would these be the next Netflix film or TV show to watch?

Any YA Contemporary books you want to have Netflix deals? Let’s Discuss In The Comments!

Book Blog Discussion: 2017 Wrap-Up

Happy Holidays!! 😄🎄🎉 Wow 2017 really flew by and I can’t believe 2018 is actually here already!~

This past year really was big for me both personally and for my reading/book blogging~

So today I’ll be sharing some bookish stats/accomplishments with you about reading, book blogging, etc. that I reached in 2017!

1.Books Read In 2017

Originally I planned to set a goal for at least 15 books (mentioned in my 2017 Book Blog Goals {Bookish Goals} post)

Its a pretty reasonable goal I’m planning to set for myself each year and I’m happy to have accomplished it by completing:

72 Books 🎉📚📚

There were so many fantastic books I read this year! Ones that took me on grand adventures, made me cry, smile, etc.! While there are more to add to this list, here are just some of the 2017 books that truly stuck with me throughout the year or whenever I read them + are ones that constantly come to mind, when I think about my 2017 reading as a whole! These books are ones that truly captured my heart & I hope, if you haven’t read them, my reviews inspire you to pick them up too:

wintersong-by-s-jae-jonesWintersong by S. Jae Jones

The Golem And The Jinni by Helene Wecker

A Crown Of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (Full Book Review To Come)

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Also mentioned in my 2017 Bookish Goals post, I really wanted to make more of an effort to read more diversely and just promote diverse books more!

With that said out of the 72 books I read, 31 of them were either written by authors of color or #OwnVoices books!

I know I can definitely push myself to read even more diversely in 2018 & really want to continue to do so! I already have back-list 2017 titles from #OwnVoices or authors of color I cannot wait to read 😄📚✨💕~

2.Book Blogging Accomplishments

In the 2 years I started 24hrYABookBlog, I never expected to make new friends and just have my blog grow to where it is now!

I’m so grateful to have gotten to know and even meet such inspiring book bloggers  through social media/blogging or even in person through book events!

That has definitely been one of the highlights of 2017! 😍💕📚

literary-listens-24hryabookblog-feature-banner3.Blog Features

One of my newest and most favorite blog features I expanded on in 2017 was Literary Listens! If you’ve never read/heard of it, its basically a blog feature where I discuss books and podcasts! 😍🎙📚

Its a blog feature I always have so much fun writing for and definitely hope to continue with it, this new year!

I also drafted new blog features around the last few months of the year & I hope to share them in the coming months!

4.Misc. Bookish Accomplishments

There were such memorable bookish accomplishments I achieved in 2017! Some were unexpected & took me completely by surprise!

~Creating my very 1st Bookish Vlog (for Yallwest)/ Doing my very first interviews with authors! 😭💕📚📹

~Adding more books to my ARC collections! ( One definitely includes Rebel Of The Sands)

~Holding my first ARC Giveaway 

~Being contacted by a publisher to review a finished copy of an anticipated book release

~Getting my first package of unsolicited books from publishers (Never thought this would happen in 2017!!)

~Reviewing/receiving more ARCs! With some of my biggest surprises being S. Jae-Jones Shadowsong + Marie Lu’s Warcross

AND:  Reaching 200+ blog followers & 1k+ on twitter! 😭💕📚

5. Most Popular Book Blog Posts

Out of the over 90 book blog posts I created this past year, here are some that had the most views:

Life After Legend by Marie Lu Review

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

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

Uncaged Wallflower by Jennae Cecelia Review

Literary Listens: Podcast Recommendations Based On YA Books {Sci-Fi}

What were your 2017 Bookish Accomplishments or stats? Whether it be for reading, book blogging, etc.!

Any you hope to reach in 2018? 😁📚✨🎉

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

Diverse YA Books To Add To Your TBRBack in January I made a post sharing Diverse Books for a Winter TBR where I shared books releasing that season which featured YA Books by authors of color, #OwnVoices, had LGBTQIA+ characters, or featured characters of color! Sadly I didn’t make one for Spring + Summer as I’d been planning to, but in 2018 I will definitely make an effort to do a list for each season~

Now I will share with you the diverse books coming out/already released this Fall that I’m super excited to read (or one’s I’ve already read & Loved! <3)  that you should add to your TBR if you haven’t already!

Similar to the first post, they’ll be categorized by genre + release date~

I’m hoping to put as many as I can, however if there are any YA Books I’ve missed or one’s that you’ve recently heard of, definitely leave a comment below so others can add it to their tbr too!

Contemporary

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera1.They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Publisher: Harper Teen

Summary: On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins2.You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Summary: Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes3.The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes

The Victoria In My Head ARC Review

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Simon Pulse

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.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman4. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta5. Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary: Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo6. A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers

Summary: The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos7. Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Summary: In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone8. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Crown BYR (Random House)

Summary: Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez9. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Publisher: Knopf BYR (Random House)

Summary: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal? 

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani10. Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Release Date: October 24, 2017

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Summary: Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly-knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating. 

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga11. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Balzer +Bray

Summary: Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she’d ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense – kinda – because Julian Oliver is Taliah’s father, even though her mother would never admit it to her.

Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father – her grandfather – who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother’s trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.

With her best friend Harlow by her side, Taliah embarks on a three-day journey to find out everything about her ‘father’ and her family. But Julian isn’t the father Taliah always hoped for, and revelations about her mother’s past are seriously shaking her foundation. Through all these new experiences, Taliah will have to find new ways to be true to herself, honoring her past and her future.

Fantasy

Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao1.Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Rise Of The Empress #1)

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Publisher: Philomel Books

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Beasts Made Of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi2Beasts Made Of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Release Date: October 31, 2017

Publisher: Razorbill

Summary: In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life. 

Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne3. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Summary: A healer who cannot be healed . . .

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . .

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

Magical Realism

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore1.Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild Beauty ARC Review

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: October 3, 2017

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.

All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry2. All The Wind In The World by Samantha Mabry

All The Wind In The World Book Review

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Summary: Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

Science Fiction

Warcross by Marie Lu1. Warcross by Marie Lu (Warcross #1)

Warcross ARC Review 

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh2.Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

Publisher: Lee & Low Books (Tu Books)

Release Date: September 14, 2017

Summary: After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Historical Fiction

The Girl Wth The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke1. The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Publisher: Albert Whitman Company

Release Date: September 1, 2017

Summary: When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process. 

September 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 4

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes1.The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes

The Victoria In My Head Full ARC Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Pages: 400

My Rating:★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: Victoria Cruz is shy but over the course of the story overcomes her anxieties to try new things (like joining a band) and figures out who she is & wants to be, in this spectacular coming-of-age story! It made me so happy reading how diverse this novel was, there was Cuban, Chinese, and Indian-American rep., Lesbian, Jewish, and biracial representation! Family and friendship were huge themes present throughout the novel which I loved. I adored the writing and reading from Victoria’s phenomenal POV brought tears to my eyes bc I related to her so much (being Latinx)! If your looking for a breath of fresh air in YA Contemporary, The Victoria In My Head is the perfect novel to add to your TBR!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell2.The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician Full Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Pages: 512

My Rating:★★★☆☆

Overall Thoughts: There were so many interesting + great aspects to this novel from the magic system, time-travel, and even to the atmosphere Maxwell creates! However, my biggest issue was the writing. Told through a 3rd Person POV we follow a number of characters, however because the writing is very direct and did more “telling” than showing, the characters + their motivations became very 1-dimensional/flat and the pacing became extremely slow. Additionally, I found the crew in this novel to be extremely similar to the Six Of Crows crew and never really connected with them. While The Last Magician was somewhat disappointing, Maxwell left the ending on an interesting note that has me pretty interested to read what happens! 

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn3.Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn (Heroine Complex #1)

Heroine Complex Full Review

Publisher: DAW Books

Pages: 378

Release Date: July 5, 2016

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Heroine Complex follows Evie Tanaka (assistant to San-Fran Superhero Aveda Jupiter) and how she comes to accept who she is and possibly become a superhero herself. I adored reading from Evie’s comedic and real/relatable voice! There was never a dull moment in this book, from taking down monsters, to the friendships, and inner workings of a superhero team. However I did find the pacing to be a little slow and felt more development could have been added to expand on the superpowers/demons would have been great (hence the 4-stars). Regardless,this was a diverse, action-packed adventure that was such a fun and immersive read! I will definitely be reading the sequel!

An Enchantment Of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson4.An Enchantment Of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment Of Ravens Full ARC Review

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Pages: 300

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Isobel must journey to the land of the fae to clear her name with Autumn prince Rook leading her there, with monsters, intrigue and danger at every turn! I really loved the writing, it was descriptive and flowed really well with the story to add a unique layer to it! There were so many layers to this novel from the political intrigue of the fae, the world, depth to the fae and their adoration with Craft, etc.! I did find the pacing to be rather rushed and felt more of the plot could have been expanded on + given more depth! However, this was a unique and immersive tale that really surprised me and I cannot wait to read more of Rogerson’s books in the future!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Warcross by Marie Lu Reading Playlist

What books did you read this month? 😄📚✨

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!