Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I Wanne Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Rating: ★★★★ | 320 pages | Contemporary | Roaring Brook Press | Release Date: 6/4/2019

When 17-year-old Chloe Pierce gets the opportunity to audition for her dream ballet school she’ll have to break her overly cautious mother’s rules for the first time to audition. Her carefully planned day trip is quickly derailed into an unexpected weeklong road trip, when her troublemaking neighbor Eli Greene--and his dog Geezer--tag along for the ride.

I read this book while on vacation and it was the perfect YA vacation read. Forest has crafted a solid debut about discovery, friendship and confidence-building in a fun rom-com package. In our 19 to 2019 I said this looked like the kind of book teen me would have enjoyed and it totally was!

What I like most about this book is that it features an all-Black and brown cast but there are no “on page” moments of racial trauma or microaggressions. There are a couple moments in the book where I thought it was going to go there but I found myself relieved when it didn’t. I see microaggressions pop up a lot in YA stories that are not about racial trauma. At times it feels like they are included as a “teachable” moment for white readers. I think those narratives are important but sometimes I feel like teens of color need a break. Now, there is a brief moment where Chloe notices her body is developing differently than the other white ballerinas in the book, but it felt more observational than aggressive.

This book is also perfect for a younger YA audience who may want to read a romance that has kissing but no mentions of sex.

I Wanna Be Where You Are is the perfect coming of age YA summer read about how sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. Can’t wait to see what Forest does next!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Five Great New Audiobooks About Living On Your Own Terms.

Summer isn't over yet and AudioFile Magazine is here to share some must-listen unique young adult audiobooks for those last days of summer.

What is it about individuals and society? They’re not always coming from the same place, that’s for sure. Here are our picks of five great new audiobooks about living on your own terms. Some edgy, some sweet, some joyful, some weepers. All awesome. Here’s to having an audiobook in your ear. 

                          - Aurelia C. Scott, AudioFile Magazine blogger

CROWN OF FEATHERS by Nicki Pau Preto 
Read by Samantha Desz, Jacques Roy, Joy Osmanski, Gibson Frazier, Cassandra Campbell
Simon & Schuster Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
This flawless full cast carries the listener away to the fantasy world in Niki Pau Preto's first novel. Guided by Veronyka, a war orphan who disguises herself as a boy in order to join a group of rebels who ride phoenixes into battle, you’ll immerse yourself in this tale about relationships, loyalty, and finding something you care about.

PAN'S LABYRINTH: THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke | 
Read by Thom Rivera
Harper Audio | Unabridged 
There’s nothing like fairytales for chills and thrills. In Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke’s atmospheric version of del Toro’s twisty film about a girl who undergoes a series of tests to attain immortality, chills and thrills are abundant. Beautifully voiced by Thom Rivera, who gives realistic characterizations to everyone from the girl to cruel Captain Vidal.

LOVE FROM A TO Z by S.K. Ali |
 Read by Priya Ayyar, Tim Chiou, S.K. Ali
Simon & Schuster Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
Love between two very different Muslim teens who meet on spring break is movingly voiced by Priya Avyar and Tim Chiou, with the author entering as referee when the teens’ (fictional) diaries conflict. No one said love is easy. But it’s always worth the effort. 

FIVE MIDNIGHTS by Ann D├ívila Cardinal

Read by Almarie Guerra
MacMillan Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner
This deliciously scary murder-mystery based on Puerto Rico’s mythic boogeyman-monster is fully inhabited by Almarie Guerra’s narration. A 16-year-old "GringaRican" living with her uncle for the summer and a 17-year-old recovering addict try to figure out why his childhood friends are dying on the eve of their 18th birthdays. Just don’t listen late at night.

SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS by Jessie Ann Foley | Read by Ron Butler

Harper Audio | Unabridged | Earphones Award Winner 
We’ve all said it, knowing that the phrase can’t begin to comfort someone’s pain. Well this is what it’s like to be on the receiving end - inside the pain of losing an older brother and finding a way through to the other side. Terrifically performed by Ron Butler, who sensitively portrays 16-year-old Pup Flanagan and everyone else in his large and varied family.

For more audiobook reviews, features and extras check out!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Content Warnings: transphobia, homophobia and domestic violence

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 288 pages | Contemporary | Flatiron Books | Release Date: 5/21/2019

Eric and Morgan are best friends who share everything--including a birthday. On their 13th birthday, Morgan is ready to tell Eric they identify as a girl even though they were assigned male at birth. But that moment never comes and in each chapter, we visit Morgan and Eric on their shared birthday and watch how their lives grow and change through adolescence.

The cover calls this a love story---and it is--but this isn’t exactly a romance, which is kind of what I thought it was going to be. This story takes place in small-town Tennesse where the only way out is football. Morgan has to struggle with toxic masculinity, poverty and alcoholism while trying to come out as trans.  There is also mention of and one scene of domestic violence as well as lots of homophobia and transphobia so it can be a tough read at times.

Birthday is a heart-wrenching but ultimately hopeful story about friendship and love  I'm sure we will be hearing about around Printz time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Los Angeles Bookstore Hop

You may have noticed Kat and I had an irregular posting schedule for a few months and while part of it was a slump, it was also because we were deep into planning a  trip to Los Angeles. We wanted to get a taste (literally, 80% of what we did was eat) of West Coast vibes and being book bloggers we had to, of course, visit some of L.A's popular book stores.

The Ripped Bodice

Romance and Sensibility is our romance blog, so of course, we had to stop at the Rippped Bodice--one of the first bookstores to cater to romance readers. This was one of our first stops after landing and the quaint bookstore is on a hip little street in Culver City.  I liked the open floor plan and it had books for readers of all types. We ventured up to the used book room to check out the stacks of used old school romance. The staff was super helpful. Kat bought I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest and Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh. I picked up Red, White, and Royal Blue and a Ripped Bodice Tote !

The Last Bookstore
Part bookshop part museum this two-story bookish wonderland was like a  supped up version of The Strand with an artistic flair, The top floor is a maze of exhibits and shelves of books, while the bottom floor is like a regular indie bookstore with a rare book section. Because there are exhibits visitors have to check large bags.

Barnes & Noble at The Grove
We passed through The Grove at the tail end of our trip and stopped for a quick look around this massive two-story Barnes & Noble. Going up the escalator you can see signs for events they are hosting and I am so jealous at all the author events they have.

Our L.A Trip has some hitches along the way so we didn't get to everything we'd planned. We stayed in an awesome Silverlake Airbnb with a balcony perfect for reading and visited some of the best coffee shops I've ever been to. I could totally see myself going again in a few years.

Even though it's not bookish related here is a list of all the amazing places we ate:
  • Tito's Tacos
  • Pasta Sisters
  • Hi-Ho Cheeseburger
  • The Coffee Beanery
  • Paper or Plastic's Cafe
  • Little Damages
  • Alfred's Coffee Silverlake (literally the best vanilla latte I've ever had)
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Silver Lake Ramen
  • Milk
  • Homestate
  • Caffe Stella
  • Pine & Crane
  • Alfred's Tea Room 
  • Alfred's Coffee Melrose (This one was cool but not as good as the Silverlake one)
  • Cafe Carerra
  • Sprinkles Cupcakes
  • Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles
  • Randy's Donut

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A Curse So Dark and Lonely By Brigid Kremmer

Rating: ★★ | 496 pages | Bloomsbury YA | Fantasy | Release Date: 01/29/2019

The big marketing push for this book in the blogosphere totally put this book on my radar. Brigid Kremmer is a veteran YA author and the premise of this book sounded pretty intriguing; Harper, a modern teen girl, teams up with Rhen a  prince from another world, to end a curse. While the ending is quite the cliffhanger I generally found that this book wasn't for me

I want to preface this all by saying I'm sort of fascinated by YA Fantasy and the tropes it often inhabits. Tropes that I think are so prevalent that the YA Fantasy novel Damsel purposefully turns them on their head. Some things I keep an eye out for are :

No Boys .... Unless Thier Cute
YA Fantasy has no shortage of brooding cute boys. Usually royalty. If there isn't one just wait until book 2

Capitan of The Guard
In a YA fantasy world, you can usually count on a high ranking bodyguard or royal protector. 9 times out of 10 this character is secretly in love with their charge. I feel like this character's existence is an easy way to create an emotional bond between the main (usually royal) protagonist and the secondary character. Kremmer turns this concept on its head during the last few chapters which was pretty interesting.

There is always a rebellion. A lot of YA fantasy has a fight-against-the-machine-tear-it-down mentality. This is one of my favorites tropes in YA fantasy because whether or not I will read the second book in a series depends on how much the rebellion has changed the status quo

A Curse So Dark and Lonely hits all of the usual tropes in a way that is satisfying but sort of predictable. When Harper is whisked away to Emberfall and meets Prince Rhen, who (after sleeping with an evil sorceress) is cursed to relive the same three months over and over again until he can find someone to love him.

Honestly . . . this curse is kind of convoluted

The curse only resets time on the grounds of Rhen's castle....also, if he kills people they don't come back... also, every time he fails to find love he is turned into a monster and attacks his kingdom. Also, he can leave the grounds of his castle if he wants to where time goes on normally but he doesn't tell people he is cursed? Also Grey, his trusty commander-- can cross worlds to kidnap girls because... reasons?  I mean I get Grey having the ability to cross worlds to get the girls got Harper into the plot but ... why? Why would that even be a thing?

A majority of this book was just a bit too earnest for me. When I read YA fantasy I like it when character's actions are flawed or selfish because sometimes being a teenager can mean being a little selfish. You never have to worry if Rhen and Harper are doing the right thing because doing what's right is all they want to do.

There was also a lot of forced proximity which always makes me feel claustrophobic. For a large portion of this book, Rhen and Harper barely leave the grounds around the castle and so much of the story is focused on Rhen,  Harper, and Grey that I didn't immediately get a feel for Emberfall or what makes it special.

The ending intrigued me, I may check the next one out from the library. Also, I'm surprised there is no audiobook. I think Chris Coulson and Eva Kaminsky would be a great pair for this.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely features a heroine with Cerebral Palsy, if you are looking for that representation give this book a shot!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Rating: ★★| 8 hours 48 minutes | Fantasy | Skypony Press | Release Date: 11/8/2016

In Sim's Victorian London clock towers do more than just tell time...they keep it moving. Danny Hart is London’s youngest clock mechanic and his job is to repair England’s many clock towers. But when Danny falls in love with the spirit of the Enfield clock tower their forbidden relationship could stop time forever.

Oh, and they solve a crime.

I kept hearing Eric Smith talk about this book on the Hey YA podcast so when I saw it at the library I decided to pick it up. This is such a unique genre-bending story. It’s got a steampunk setting with fantasy elements and some mystery beats. I will say, the rules about clock spirits and how they work and who can see them does fall apart if you look too hard. I'm a little afraid Sim will have to break her own rules to continue telling more stories in the series.

The audiobook is narrated by Gary Furlong (whose name kept making me think of the character in Veep) who gives a great performance and I highly rec this on audio. Furlong has this great arsenal of British male accents, although he only has about one female voice in him. I see he does some romances so I'll have to check those out.

Even though Danny is 17-years-old I think this is a great YA for younger readers. It has interesting themes and questions without being too dark. Sims' world is also inclusive. The clock spirit, Colton, is a boy and Danny being gay is part of his story but not the whole story. I do kind of side-eye the half Indian character who is constantly described as fair and blonde.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

That Time I Read The Grishaverse Books Out of Order

In the Star Wars fandom there is this thing called Machete Order. It was created by software developer and Star Wars fan Rod Hilton in 2011 as an alternative to watching the films in chronological or release order. In Machete Order, you watch a New Hope and then the 2000’s movies are watched as a flashback between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I’ve been thinking about Machete Order because that is sort of the way I read Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books and I kind of think it’s a really effective way to read them.

Here is my Machete Order of the Grishaverse:

I think Shadow and Bone should be read first because it breaks down the Grisha orders, how they exist in the world at large and how their power works more so than the other books. Now, I personally still find some of Bardugo’s magic, er science system, confusing but I think it can be even more confusing if you go straight into Six of Crows.

Much like in the Star Wars Machete Order some of the twists and reveals get moved to earlier in the series and yes, you will get spoilers. Most of the spoilers are about who survives in the Grisha series but I actually like the idea of knowing where they end up and then flashing back to how they got there. I’m thinking particularly about *mild spoiler* Zoya. When I first read Shadow and Bone I wrote Zoya off as a basic mean girl who existed to show Alina wasn’t “like the other girls”. But when I re-read Shadow and Bone after knowing her role in the Six of Crows series, it made her character arc more apparent and I understood why she was there.

I'm not going to review the entire Grisha series but I do want to talk about it a little bit. I think there are a lot of critiques and nitpicks that could be made, but on a surface level, I've really come around to the series. I enjoyed binging it all at once and just living in that world. It’s a classic hero’s journey but with a female character who not only gets to be strong but also vulnerable. I see how such a rabid fan base has developed, although you can keep all that Darkling fan service. My biggest issue with the series is he got way too much redemption for my taste.

I am so nervous about the upcoming Netflix series. They are smashing the books together and I’m not sure how they are going to do it. At this point I have it in my head the television shows plot won’t follow either of the books but take elements to create something new?


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