Wednesday, June 8, 2022

ALC Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler
by Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: May 3rd 2022
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Find This Book: I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Rating: 5/5

**An ALC of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

High school senior Chloe Green is just weeks away from being named valedictorian, graduating, and leaving her southern hometown as fast as possible when Shara Wheeler kisses her and disappears without a trace. Without a trace until little pink envelops start cropping up, leading Chloe to put the pieces together: two others were also kissed by Shara and all three of them will have to work together if they want to find all the envelopes. I Kissed Shara Wheeler braids the stories of the star jock, the edgy stoner next-door, and the academic rival as they take on a scavenger hunt for the ages.

This book was messily complex in the best of ways. Chloe, Rory, and Smith all had charmingly realistic flaws paired with individual reasons they were toxically obsessed with Shara Wheeler. The magic that Casey McQuiston brings to her books is that even through the mess there is compassion and care between her characters that make them such a joy to read. The 'side-characters' in Chloe's life each lead such interesting and fulfilling lives that additionally add vibrance to McQuiston's narrative. When Chloe ditches her friends to hunt down an envelope and misses the Mozzarella Stick bracket to decide the best mozz sticks in town, it was the little moments like that that filled the pages with life.

The most impressive part of this novel was the author's creation of Shara as a character. As the object of the scavenger hunt, she is barely ever physically on the page, yet she lives and breaths in the pages. The other characters fixate, create, and manifest her before the reader's eyes. Shara is all-encompassing, even when missing. I don't mean to imply that Share's a malicious character, just that there's an perfect-girl enigma about her that seems to draw the town's attention. How this obsession gets weaved into their everyday lives was fascinating to see, and it was so entertaining to see Shara and Chloe collide through letters and flashbacks.

In a homophobic bible-belt town, McQuiston spins a story of hope for queer voices. What will they learn about their classmates, their town, and themselves along the way?

Sunday, May 8, 2022

ARC Review: Boys I Know by Anna Gracia

Boys I Know
by Anna Gracia
Publication Date: July 5th 2022
Publisher: Peachtree Teen
Find This Book: Boys I Know
Rating: 5/5

**An ARC of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Boys I Know tells the story of June Chu, a taiwanese-american girl living in the midwest. Starting her senior year of high school, she’s navigating boys, friendships, family and college applications. June learns three lessons from three very different boys along the way, and tries to figure out what she wants for her life after she graduates high school.

This was the kind of book I wish I’d had in my own high school years. June makes mistakes many of us have also had to learn the hard way, and it’s a relief to know that some of us can learn from June instead of finding out first-hand. June was such a compelling character, I couldn’t help but root for her. Rhys, Brad, and Gang all had their qualities to entice June while all having their red flags that had me yelling at the page trying to come to her aid, I was completely pulled into the story!

Theme-wise, the two most beautiful themes in this book come hand-in-hand: that June is the second child, following after her sister, and that June is the “just good enough” always-landing-in-third-place girl at everything she does.

June grows up in her sister’s shadow, leading her to pick up the violin just like Wendy. Her mother expects her to get a full ride scholarship to Northwestern’s music program so that her violin will fund her studies to be a doctor, just like her sister. But what if June never wants to pick up a violin again, never wants to go to Northwestern University, and never wants to become a doctor? A beautiful facet of June’s story is her discovery of what she likes, and what she does simply because it is expected of her (and I almost teared up when she falls back in love with music after years of contention).

The contention comes not only from parental expectations to follow her sister, but also in June’s self-perceived failure when she keeps finding herself in third place. Fearing to fully apply herself in case even her absolute best will still come up short, June never seems to give anything her all. This book beautifully explores June's own mental block and this really struck a chord with me. I felt truly seen on the page. After a reality check (that will remain vague for spoiler reasons), June finally kicks it into high gear and starts applying in earnest to college programs and her character growth in realizing what she deserves was so heart-warming to see. For the contemporary reader, Boys I Know is a definite must-read!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday #19

Created by The Broke and The Bookish 
Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

1) Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My first read of 2021 was Mexican Gothic, my first read by Moreno-Garcia! I loved the spoky gothic vibes and I also managed to read The Beautiful Ones by her as well! I really enjoyed both, so I've added several boks by here, including Gods of Jade and Shadow, to my TBR!

2) V.E. Schwab

Another early January 2021 read for me was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. My very first Schwab book, and an instant favorite. One of my favorite books ever kind of favorite! In 2021 I also managed to read her Shades of Magic trilogy, which introduced me to the fantastic character that is Lila Bard. I've definitely got more Schwab in my future.

3) Kendare Blake

A hit-or-miss new-to-me author has been Kendare Blake. I loved the concept of her Three Dark Crowns Quartet, but was less of the fan of the execution. It could have been a book shorter I think. That being said, I stuck around and tried out All These Bodies, her historical fiction horror, and was blown away. While I didn't read it all in one sitting, I finished it all within 24 hours! Blake did a fantastic job with All These Bodies and I am curious about Anna Dressed in Blood.

4) Heidi Heilig

Heilig was a life-changing discovery for me in 2021. I adored each book in her Shadow Players Trilogy. A Kingdom For a Stage did NOT suffer from second book syndrome which is a rare treat, plus her method of story telling mixes regular prose with letters, newspaper clippings, and songs. It's a truly well-developed world with well-rounded characters that I couldn't recommend more!

5) Axie Oh

In 2021, I discovered XOXO and fell in love. This is such a charming contemporary romance that I couldn't get enough of. Oh's upcoming book The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a highly anticapted 2022 release for me and I'm trying to be patient for my pre-order to arrive. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of GIRL which you can read here.

6) Malinda Lo

Lo has actually been on my TBR for several years now. For Marie Lu's Warcross tour, she had a Boston with Malinda Lo that I attended and immediately wanted to read A Line in the Dark. I still haven't, buuuut this put Lo on my radar and I DID read Last Night at the Telegraph Club in 2021. LAST is an extremely moving work of historical fiction (with a fantastic audiobook narrator) that delved into overlapping minority identities in the 1950's. It was seriously amazing, and made my best of 2021 read recap post over on Instagram.

7) Marissa Meyer

Meyer has been on my TBR for a long long time, and within the last year I've read three of her books! I started with Heartless, which I almost DNF'd several times and ended up being just a 'meh' experience, but I'm so glad I gave her another chance. I've adored The Lunar Chronicles! I've listened to the audiobooks of both Cinder and Scarlet so far and already have the next in the series on hold from my library. I'm planning on trying Renegades as well!

8) Darcie Little Badger

I discovered Elatsoe on my quest for fantasy standalones and I couldn't be happier. Set in Texas, the the story is steeped in the culture of the Lipan Apache tribe. This book also has Western Fae and Vampires, as well as asexual representation. It’s such a rich and vibrant standalone fantasy, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from Darcie Little Badger.

9) Maureen Johnson

With Johnson's latest Stevie mystery The Box in the Woods being a standalone sequel, I thought it'd be the perfect jumping off point as a new reader. They are a great opportunity to 'sample' the characters and world building with the benefit of an all-inclusive plot. No loose ends like a series might have! And if you *do* like it, you can go back and read the original trilogy! All of the Truly Devious books are certainly on my TBR now.

10) Erin Morgenstern

Last but certainly not least, another author I read for the first time in 2021 was Erin Morgenstern! I found a signed first edition of her debut, The Night Circus, at a local used bookstore and it felt meant to be. A 4-star read for me, ti was utterly charming. It's hard to believe that this was a debut book! I've got The Starless Sea on my 2022 TBR for sure.

What Authors 

Did You Discover in 2021?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

ARC Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea
by Axie Oh
Publication Date: February 22nd 2022
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Find This Book: The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea
Rating: 5/5

**An ARC of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a stunning new fantasy standalone from Axie Oh.With Mina's world devastated by storms from the spirit realm, she can't bear to see the love of her brother's life sacrificed to the Sea God and jumps into the sea herself.

Finding herself surprisingly not dead, Mina wakes up to an unwelcoming Spirit World that she initially struggles to navigate. This is where I really see the comparison to Spirited Away, but Axie Oh really takes the 'mortal in the spirit world' concept and makes it her own! This new world and the spirits, gods, and demons that live there are both obstacles and friends to help her find her voice, her path, and her resolution. While the magical and dangerous surrounds her on all sides, her supposedly powerful Sea God appears to be a peaceful sleeping boy. Can she wake him out of his curse to stop the storms threatening her family?

What makes this novel so special is Mina as a character. She's so compassionate and empathetic, and cares so much for her family and her mortal world. The way she handles not only her friends but also her enemies really speaks to her nature and made me love her and her story all the more.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea will be a gem of an addition of every bookshelf in 2022. Join Mina as she navigates her red string of fate, powerful spirits, a lost god, and her heart.

Friday, December 3, 2021

ALC Review: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of Us Villains
by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Publication Date: November 9th 2021
Publisher: Tor Teen
Find This Book: All of Us Villains
Rating: 5/5

**An ALC of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

All of Us Villains is a new fantasy duology that you’d have to pay me to shut up about. It was action-packed yet still had a well developed world and well developed characters. Every 20 years, seven families send a family champion to compete in a magical fight to the death. The winner’s family get sole access to the town stores of high magic until the next tournament. This tournament is a magical curse upon the town, and any families that fail to send a champion get a member of their family killed by the curse at random. Foody and Herman took the ‘games’ trope and made it totally unique. I love the concept that a curse is what forces and maintains the games and their violence. It makes for an exceptionally eerie and tragic backdrop to the plot and to the character’s motivations.

Other perks?

-Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman co-wrote. I’d be curious to know the breakdown of who wrote what because the entire book felt so cohesive. This writing duo was meant to be!

-Multiple POV’s that are all well-developed! I feel like most books always have thaaat character that you’re struggling to get through when it’s their turn to POV but that was not the case with All of Us Villains. I was excited for every single POV change and to listen to all their unique perspectives.

-Book within a book. I love when books have some internal literature and lore! In this case, an in-universe book was written about the cursed tournament and a quote from the book started each chapter.

-Only one bed trope. Without getting into detail I loved forced-proximity tropes and it was so good in this book!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday #18

Created by The Broke and The Bookish 
Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Book Quotes That Stuck With Me

“You’re not destined or chosen, I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it’s not true. You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough."

-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“I can’t blame you.” 
“But I can’t let myself need you anymore either."

-A Kingdom For a Stage by Heidi Heilig

“Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades.... Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end... everyone wants to be remembered.”

-The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

-Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

“I think that's what you say when you can't have something you want, isn't it? You say you don't want it in the first place.”

-Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“It's hard to know that you're flying too high until the feathers start dropping.”

-Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

“Live in the present, remember the past, and fear not the future, for it doesn't exist and never shall. There is only now.”

-Eldest by Christopher Paolini

“Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

-Divergent by Veronica Roth

“You love me. Real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.”

-Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Monday, October 25, 2021

ARC Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess
by Sue Lynn Tan
Publication Date: January 11th 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: 4/5

**An ARC of this book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Daughter of the Moon Goddess was a fantastic debut for Sue Lynn Tan. Our main character, Xingyin, is an immortal so the pacing was really unique in this book. The story takes place over many, many years while Xingyin struggles to try and free her mother from her exile on the moon. The immortal realm and their magic system was well developed and fascinating to read. There are a lot of cool characters in this adventure that each added on to the twists and turns!

The writing style was absolutely magical, and sucked me right into the scenes I was reading. Xingyin and Liwei have some beautiful platonic and romantic moments together, with prose I'll remember as quotes for a long time.

My one and only qualm was with the pacing of events. As I was reading I was never quite sure what the arc of the story was headed towards because every event and battle seemed like *the* most important. I kept thinking "this seems early/late for a climax" which was a bit off-balance feeling. This book an awesome epic with A LOT of plot crammed into the pages — so just be ready for that and I think this work will blow you away. Seriously, it almost felt like a standalone story, you get a lot of content when you pick up Daughter of the Moon Goddess! It’s marked as a duology so I’m curious to see what’s in store for Xingyin in book two!