Thursday, January 16, 2020

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

By: Isabel Ibañez
Published By: Page Street Books
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

First Thought After Finishing: I know this is a standalone, but I’d love to read a sequel!

I love cultural books, particularly ones that transport you beyond your current walls and to a rich, new setting that you have never seen before. Fantasy is also my favorite genre. Combining them into a Bolivian-inspired world full of secrets, revolution, and forbidden love had me very excited to read this book.

Ximena can never truly be Ximena. From the time she was eight years old, she has been the decoy for Catalina, the Illustrian Condesa. When the enemy Llacsan king demands the Condesa’s hand in marriage, Ximena has no choice but to journey to the castillo to accept his proposal or risk the lives of her people. Ximena is eager for the opportunity, hoping she will find a way to end the king’s reign—permanently. Only she never expected people in enemy territory to be kind, or to find that perhaps history did not happen the way she had always been told. All too soon, Ximena must decide where her loyalties lie, but in doing so, she will risk losing the only life she has ever known—or losing herself.

Woven in Moonlight may be a story of royalty and revolution, but it is also a story of growth and change. Due to the Llacsan rebellion, Ximena lost her parents and found herself serving as the Condesa’s decoy. After spending so much time sublimating her own thoughts and feelings for the greater good, her deepest desire is to simply be herself. As much as she dreads travelling to the castillo and essentially being a hostage in enemy territory, it was this uncomfortable experience that allowed her to grow and have a more expansive worldview. The message felt a bit heavy-handed at times, but in today’s radically charged political climate, it is important to remember that there are always two sides to every story and that the best way forward may not always be the same way that it has always been before.

Although the plot was a bit predictable, the rich setting, the bits of Bolivian culture sprinkled throughout the novel, and the slow-burn romance kept the story engaging. More than once my mouth was watering for the Bolivian dishes described, and I loved the bits of Spanish woven into the story! I also enjoyed the details of Ximena and Tamaya’s weaving—I could easily envision the beauty of the tapestries, particularly with the vibrant colors, animals and scenery included.

Woven in Moonlight is Isabel Ibanez’s debut novel, but when visiting Goodreads, I discovered that she has already said that there will be a sequel set in the same world! I will be eagerly anticipating this next book, Written in Starlight, and look forward to journeying back to this Bolivian-inspired world for the characters to build a better future!

Most Memorable Aspect: Ximena’s animal companions—I wish that I could have them!

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Isabel Ibañez was born in Boca Raton, Florida, and is the proud daughter of two Bolivian immigrants. A true word nerd, she received her degree in creative writing and has been a Pitch Wars mentor for three years. Isabel is an avid movie goer and loves hosting family and friends around the dinner table. She currently lives in Winter Park, Florida, with her husband, their adorable dog, and a serious collection of books. Say hi on social media at @IsabelWriter09.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
1/6/20 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
1/6/20 - Nay's Pink Bookshelf - Review
1/7/20 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
1/7/20 - Ramblings of a Book Nerd - Review
1/8/20 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
1/8/20 - Cuz I'm A Nerd - Review
1/9/20 - Life Within the Pages - Review
1/9/20 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
10/10/20 - Fictitious Wonderland - Review
10/10/20 - Fictitious Fox - Review

Week Two:
1/13/20 - Eli to the Nth - Review
1/13/20 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
1/14/20 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review
1/14/20 - Not in Jersey - Review
1/15/20 - Fire and Ice - Review
1/15/20 - Pop the Butterfly Reads - Review
1/16/20 - History from a Woman's Perspective - Review
1/16/20 - Portrait of a Book - Review
1/17/20 - Two Points of Interest - Review
1/17/20 - D Wants to Read - Review


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 10, 2020

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning

Throw Like a Girl
By: Sarah Henning
Published By: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Series: None
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson's The Unexpected Everything in this contemporary debut where swoonworthy romance meets underdog sports story.

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she'll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched... Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he'll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland's halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

With well-drawn characters and a charming quarterback love interest who's got brains as well as brawn, Throw Like a Girl will have readers swooning from the very first page.

First Thought After Finishing: The YA genre needs more sports romances!

Although I’m not an athlete myself, I enjoy reading stories that feature sports. I always admire the dedication that these teenage athletes display as they pursue their dreams. Throw Like a Girl showcased not only athletic talent but also the challenge of balancing family pressure, romance, and normal teenage life.

Liv has it all—a sports family, the perfect boyfriend, a great group of friends, and the star spot on her private school’s softball team. But all of that vanishes with one punch during a tournament game. Much to her dismay, Liv will have to attend the rival public school, which is home to the softball team of the girl she punched. Liv expected talent to carry her through, but her new coach wants to see something more—teamwork. When the starting quarterback approaches her with an offer to help if she joins the football team, Liv knows she has to take the opportunity. Only she never expected to like football so much, or to pass her heart to the quarterback. And when secrets come to light, only Liv can decide what play to call and hope it results in a touchdown.

As a teenager, I stopped playing soccer because playing on a team against boys several years older than me made me nervous. Liv, however, is almost fearless, earning her place on a male team in a male sport and earning not their contempt but their admiration. This is not only because of her athleticism but also because of her work ethic, strong character, and determination to be the best that she can. I appreciated her reminders of all the lessons she had been taught by her father and sister, and they made me want to redouble my efforts in my own passions.

This book was pitched as a sports romance, and it does not disappoint on either count. The vivid description of all of the games—softball, football, and even volleyball—transported me to the bleachers and left me cheering for Liv and her team. And the romance between Liv and Grey, though not without its problems, was often incredibly sweet. True, they both made mistakes, but what girl doesn’t want to discover that the handsome, unattainable quarterback is actually a devoted friend and boyfriend? And no review would be complete without mentioning Addie, Liv’s sassy softball friend. Addie is the loyal, unconditional friend that everyone needs, and she is the voice of reason in the midst of Liv’s tempest. If there was ever a spinoff about her, I would most definitely read it.

At its heart, Throw Like a Girl centers around standing up for oneself in the right way, whether it is with family, in relationships, or against enemies. But with this message woven into a book that is by turns humorous and touching but always engaging, the story never feels like a sermon. I was sad to see the end of Liv’s journey, and I can only hope that a companion novel might offer a glimpse of these wonderful characters. This book is perfect for fans of Miranda Kenneally's novels. I will be eagerly awaiting Sarah Henning’s next book!

Most Memorable Aspect: The detailed descriptions of all of the sports games.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Sarah Henning is a recovering journalist who has worked for the Palm Beach Post, Kansas City Star and Associated Press, among others. While in South Florida, Sarah lived and worked through five hurricanes, which gave her an extreme respect for the ocean. When not writing, she runs ultramarathons, hits the playground with her two kids and hangs out with her husband Justin, who doubles as her long-suffering IT department. Sarah lives in Lawrence, Kansas, which, despite being extremely far from the beach, happens to be pretty cool.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

By: Erin Stewart
Published By: Delacorte
Release Date: October 3, 2019
Series: None
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn't need a mirror to know what she looks like--she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be "normal" again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends--no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn't have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn't afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she's going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

First Thought After Finishing: I was not expecting that to be so emotional!

There is something fascinating in stories of survival and rebuilding. Perhaps it is because we are grateful that those experiences are not our own, or it is simply human nature to puzzle out that which we do not understand. I had heard this book mentioned several times, and the synopsis intrigued me. I found myself glued to the pages, fascinated with this new approach to navigating high school life.

One night—that’s all it took to change Ava’s life forever. Before, she was a theater junkie, center stage in every performance. After, burns covered 60% of her body, and she was a patchwork quilt of skin grafts, though not even the grafts could fix the shape of her nose or her missing ear—or the fact that her parents and cousin perished in the fire. Now, she is only a specter of her former self, haunting her cousin’s house as though she could replace the daughter her aunt and uncle lost. When the “Committee on Ava’s Life” decides she needs to reintegrate to high school, Ava balks at the idea. But it’s only ten days. She can survive that long—she’s a survivor, after all. Ava is prepared to keep her head down, her headphones on, and drown out the world. But she didn’t count on Piper, Asad, or the fact that perhaps she too could be a phoenix.

“She moves her fingers to her chest. ‘You decide how your scars change you /here/. You decide how much love you let in. You chose to live that night in the fire, and you need to keep choosing it.”’

I rarely read contemporary YA unless I am in the mood for a quick, beach-read-vibes romance or the story deals with heavier issues. As an adult, the general teen drama and pettiness so often found in contemporary stories does not interest me, and as a high school teacher, I see quite enough of it. Scars Like Wings, though in a high school setting, has so much more than that. To be sure, part of the story deals with navigating high school with a face that looks like Freddie Krueger at best, Phantom of the Opera at worst. But as Piper tells her from the first day at Crossroads High, nobody survives high school alone. The initial stares will eventually fade, but it is the support network that must be in place to escape the crushing loneliness.

“‘I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to know why God lets things happen to good people like you and your folks, but I know this: God puts people in our path, and my path crossed yours that night,’ she says. ‘Your story is part of mine now, and I know that’s how he wants it—our hearts all jumbled together.’”

Enter Piper, another burn survivor who flaunts her status. Unlike Ava, who wants to fade into the background, Piper makes a statement of standing out. Her infectious positivity and refusal to be ignored slowly but surely help Ava emerge from her self-imposed cocoon. Piper is exactly the kind of cheerleader friend that everyone needs, but that hardly means that her life is a bed of roses. She becomes a main character in her own right, and when we are finally given a glimpse into her psyche, you cannot help but want to envelop her in a hug as tight as her compression garments and not let go. As for her other friend, Asad—I still have mixed feelings about him. However, I appreciate that the story does not shy away from gritty reality simply because Ava is a burn survivor. As the vice principal often says, she gets no special treatment, and that was refreshing.

“She lost a daughter. I lost a mother. But as we sit there side by side, the differences don’t matter. Pain is pain.”

Piper and Ava’s friendship reflected nuances present in everyday life, and that was often a roller-coaster journey on its own. But for me, the true emotional power of this book came from the familial conversations, the ones exploring the impact of being a child without a mother (and what she could do to make her adoptive mother happy) and of being a mother without a child. Ava’s aunt and uncle are, without a doubt, some of the best parents I have read in YA novels. Their family has a seemingly impossible road to navigate, and yet with time, they are able to live into a new normal. The depths of their love and sacrifice in the face of loss will tug at your heartstrings and not let go. Even reflecting on their conversations now is bittersweet—their pain is still tangible, but so is their love. As someone lucky enough to still have her mother, it makes me want to be a better daughter while I still have the chance.

“‘There’s always beauty in the ashes. Sometimes we just can’t see it yet.’”

We all have scars—some are just easier to see. We all have doubts, loss, and heartache to some degree. But after reading this book, you start to believe that you too can rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Powerful, poignant, thought-provoking, and dare I say inspiring, this debut novel from Erin Stewart is not to be missed.

Most Memorable Aspect: Learning to love again as a family. (Also all of the Broadway references and quotes.)

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Erin Stewart is the author of SCARS LIKE WINGS, her debut novel. Erin is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and a BYU undergraduate who works as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a weekly columnist in Salt Lake City.

Erin lives in Utah with her husband and three children. She is represented by the amazing Brianne Johnson of Writers House.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
10/1/19 - Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Review
10/2/19 - BookHounds YA - Review
10/3/19 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
10/4/19 - Fictitious Fox - Review

Week Two:
10/7/19 - Fire and Ice - Review
10/8/19 - Moonlight Rendezvous - Review
10/9/19 - Novel Novice - Excerpt
10/10/19 - Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers - Review
10/11/19 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

Week Three:
10/14/19 - Treestand Book Reviews - Review
10/15/19 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
10/16/19 - Riddle's Reviews - Review
10/17/19 - Jena Brown Writes - Review
10/18/19 - Book-Keeping - Review

Week Four:
10/21/19 - A Bookish Dream - Review
10/22/19 - Life Within the Pages - Review
10/23/19 - Portrait of a Book - Review
10/24/19 - The Pages In-Between - Review
10/25/19 - Paper Readers - Review

Week Five:
10/28/19 - Southern Girl Bookaholic - Review
10/29/19 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
10/30/19 - Novel Novice - Excerpt
10/31/19 - Two Points of Interest - Review


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 18, 2019

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

By: Julia Drake
Published By: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: None
Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: The Larkin family isn't just lucky—they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.

But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.

Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece - the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.

She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

First Thoughts After Finishing: I want adventure in the great wide somewhere...and I miss the beach!

I am (almost) always a fan of retellings, so when I saw that this was inspired by Twelfth Night and set in a coastal town of Maine, I knew that I needed to read this book. In many ways, this book mirrored the ocean—the story stayed in the shallows until, in moments when you were not expecting it, the continental shelf dropped away and the depths were open for exploration.

Violet is descended from a shipwreck survivor who helped found the town of Lyric, Maine. She is convinced that she has the “shipwreck gene,” that her life is destined to be dashed into pieces on rocks and leave her floundering to recover. And in fact, that hardly seems far-fetched. A teenager at loose in New York City, she makes more than questionable decisions that leave her as emotionally frozen as if she had been the one thrown from safety into icy water rather than her great-great-great-grandmother. While her brother Sam struggles to cope with a mental disorder, Violet turns to the numbness of sex and drugs. After Sam’s suicide attempt, he is sent to treatment in Vermont, and Violet is sent to spend the summer with her uncle in Lyric. The city holds many memories for her, but a return to the past might be exactly what she needs for her family’s future. With the help of friends that she never expected to make, Violet embarks on a quest to uncover the long-lost shipwreck of Lyric and of her family.

“Survival was its own quest: we needed to choose to survive over and over again. We had to wash up on shore, and we had to choose to keep washing up every single day.”

Many contemporary stories are character-driven, and The Last True Poets of the Sea is no exception. The book followed the pace of a small coastal town, particularly one that is not overrun by tourists despite the summer season. The plot itself could have been distilled into a fourth of the pages, but the depth of the character development ensured that the book never felt slow. Violet is by turns fascinating and frustrating. I kept hoping for a revelation that would explain her self-destructive path, but one never came. However, this is not to say that her past was not explored. Certain stories were gradually revealed that made me sympathize all the more with Violet’s internal battle to be a better friend, daughter, and sister. She gave words to those feelings that are all too easy to creep in, particularly in an age of disconnectedness. Her brother might be the one with a diagnosis, but the exploration of Violet’s mind highlights how not all struggles come with a name. Throughout the book, her gradual realizations are important reminders for all readers, whether they are teenagers or adults.

One of the highlights of this book is a slow-burn romance with emotions ebbing and flowing like waves lapping the shore. The relationships did not unfold in quite the way I was expecting; in fact, this book probably has one of the best uses of a love triangle that I have seen. For a long time, there were only small eddies of romantic current, but once Violet and Liv were able to admit to themselves and each other how they felt, it was like a tidal wave unleashed—so much feeling but almost over before it seemed like anything had happened. However, I loved the fact that even though there was queer representation, it was not the sole focus of the story. Being attracted to both sexes was only one facet of Violet’s character and hardly the one that defined her, which I appreciated.

Friendships also played an important part in this book, particularly the idea of friendships as an anchor. I loved Violet’s diverse friend group, especially Orion, and I would have enjoyed seeing all of them interact more. Familial relationships also shared the spotlight. The Larkin family dynamic is one that is all too familiar—nothing is necessarily wrong, but at the same time, they are not the happy family they wish to be. I appreciated that there was a process to rebuild relationships; the family was not fixed by a single day or single conversation. Also, Toby may be the best uncle ever—I would like to sign up for his puzzles and pastries!

Despite the engrossing nature of the character development, I do wish a bit more time had been spent uncovering the family genealogy and the shipwreck history rather than reading the unifying thread at the end of the book. Overall, however, this book was a quick read that drew me into the minds of new characters and left me with much to think about. I will look forward to seeing what Julia Drake writes next!

Most Memorable Aspect: Exploring so many timely issues without over-labeling everything.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Julia Drake grew up outside Philadelphia. As a teenager, she played some of Shakespeare's best heroines in her high school theater program and their stories would stay with her forever. She received her BA in Spanish from Williams College, and her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, where she also taught writing to first-year students. She currently works as a book coach for aspiring writers and teaches creative writing classes for Writopia Lab, a nonprofit that fosters love of writing in young adults. She lives in San Francisco with her partner and their rescue rabbit, Ned.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
10/1/19 - Twirling Book Princess - Excerpt
10/2/19 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
10/3/19 - Wonder Struck - Review
10/4/19 - Dazzled by Books - Review

Week Two:
10/7/19 - The Layaway Dragon - Review
10/8/19 - PopTheButterfly Reads - Review
10/9/19 - Novel Novice - Excerpt
10/10/19 - Southern Girl Bookaholic - Review
10/11/19 - Fyrekatz Blog - Review

Week Three:
10/14/19 - Jena Brown Writes - Review
10/15/19 - Fire and Ice - Review
10/16/19 - Moonlight Rendezvous - Review
10/17/19 - A Bookish Dream - Review
10/18/19 - Portrait of a Book - Review

Week Four:
10/21/19 - The Pages In-Between - Review
10/22/19 - Lisa Loves Literature - Excerpt
10/23/19 - Two Points of Interest - Review
10/24/19 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
10/25/19 - Nerdophiles - Review

Week Five:
10/28/19 - Novel Nerd Fiction - Review
10/29/19 - Book Keeping - Review
10/30/19 - Eli to the Nth - Review
10/31/19 - That Georgia Gypsy - Review


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Crier's War by Nina Varela

Crier's War
By: Nina Varela
Published By: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: Crier's War #1
Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will. Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla. Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

First Thought After Finishing: I need answers!

The synopsis of this book offered all of the best elements of current young adult literature: a fantasy world, science fiction and historical elements, a slow-burn romance, and political rest. In Crier’s War, Nina Varela delivered all of this, crafting a story that felt both familiar and new, leaving me with anticipation for the sequel.

Once upon a time, there were no Automae, only humans. Then a barren queen, desperate to be a mother, issued a challenge: Build her a daughter and obtain innumerable riches. Thus the first Automa was Made, and so began a new era. However, itt did not take long before Automae—with their superior strength—usurped power from the humans and relegated the humans to a servant role. In the aftermath of the War of the Kinds, the Automa Sovereign Hesod rules Rabu, and his Made daughter Crier is poised to follow in her footsteps. That is, until she meets the human Ayla, a victim of the continuing class war and spitfire who makes Crier come alive in ways she never imagined. Crier is drawn to Ayla and makes the human her new handmaiden, unwittingly giving Ayla the opportunity for revenge she has always dreamed of. Crier wants to become a benevolent ruler, to make her father proud, and to explore these new feelings. But with tensions growing between humans and Automae, the constant threat of uprisings, and Crier’s engagement to Scyre Kinok, it seems that the only path forward may be war—within the country, and within herself.

From the beginning of the narrative, I was drawn into the world. Glimpses of journal pages documented the history of the world, and their reappearance throughout the story helped to shade the picture already in place. Despite the recent war that should have made Crier and her father separate and distinct from humans, Sovereign Hesod harbors a fondness for human traditions. In Crier, this fondness becomes a dream of returning (in part) to a life before the war. Automa are not supposed to have feelings, yet Crier never felt like a distant narrator. Throughout the book, her emotions—worry, longing, fear, and more—were tangible, and she was a more sympathetic character for it. She stood in stark contrast to both Ayla, who actively tried to have no emotion save her anger and her drive for purpose, and Kinok, who is too embroiled in schemes to display anything but cold, calculated manipulation.

In other stories, gender and tradition serve as the obstacles to romance, but not here. In this instance, political unrest and class differences serve as the chasm needing to be crossed. The palpable tension between Crier and Ayla is heightened through alternating points of view that weave together seamlessly into one story rather than feeling like battling perspectives. The ebb and flow of their growing feelings for each other occurred naturally, though it largely happened in their thoughts rather than in actual encounters between the two. Their rare intimate moments were quite touching, and I would have liked to see more of them. Instead, most of the page time was dedicated to unraveling the puzzles presented by Kinok, Queen Junn, and Ayla’s past. Both girls encounter more than a few surprises along the way, and trusts and loyalties are often called into question, both of which made for a gripping read.

“’Fever and fervor,’ said Junn.
‘There is very little difference, in the end.’”

This quote aptly describes so many aspects of Crier’s War, from the dangerous political climate to the all-consuming thoughts of new love. Varela did an excellent job of crafting this feeling for her story as well—I read most of the book over two days and found myself disappointed when I had to set it aside. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel and the answers it provides!

Most Memorable Aspect: The crafted human fairy tales, how they were shared, and their adoption for political code.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays and short fiction. She was born in New Orleans and raised on a hippie commune in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood playing in the Eno River, building faerie houses from moss and bark, and running barefoot through the woods. These days, Nina lives in Los Angeles with her writing partner and their tiny, ill-behaved dog. She tends to write stories about hard-won love and young people toppling the monarchy/patriarchy/whatever-archy. On a related note, she’s queer. On a less related note, she has strong feelings about hushpuppies and loves a good jambalaya. CRIER’S WAR is her first novel. You can find Nina at any given coffee shop in the greater Los Angeles area, or at

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Blog Tour & Book Spotlight: Sam Saves the Night by Shari Simpson

By: Shari Simpson
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Series: Sleepwakes #1
Pages: 304
Genre: Paranormal
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Thirteen-year-old Sam has no friends, but you can't really blame her. She lives her life in a state of chronic exhaustion thanks to her nightly sleepwalking jaunts, which include trips to the store, treehouse-building projects, and breaking-and-entering escapades-none of which she remembers in the morning. Her condition is taking its toll on her family (and her life), so when her mom takes her to see a wacky strip-mall sleep specialist, Sam is wary, but 100 percent in.

The night after the doc works his mojo, Sam wakes up outside her body, watching herself sleep. FREAKY! But once she gets over the panic attack, she realizes there's a whole world of detached-souls out there, called SleepWakers-cliques of kids like the Achieves, who use their sleep time to learn new things; the Numbs, who eat junk food and play video games all night long, and the OCDeeds who search for missing things and organize other people's stuff. And then there are the Mean Dreams, led by Madalynn Sucret, the nicest girl in Sam's school, who shows Sam that she can use her power to get back at a bully who's been tormenting her. Sam is intrigued-until it becomes clear that Madalynn is the real bully and the "tormentor" is just, well... sad. Now Sam is faced with uniting the various tribes of SleepWakers to fight back against Madalynn and the Mean Dreams in the most epic battle the night has ever seen.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Shari Simpson is a playwright and screenwriter who cowrote the off-Broadway hit Maybe Baby, It's You and the Disney Channel Original Movie The Swap, both with her longtime writing partner, Charlie Shahnaian. She also won the 2012 BlogHer Voice of the Year for Humor Writing. Shari lives in Hoboken, NJ, with a patient husband, two hilarious teenagers, a demonic cat, and her pug, Mila Kunis. This is her first novel.

Find Her Online:
Twitter | Goodreads


Week 1:
10/1 - Cindy's Love of Books - Review
10/2 - Portrait of a Book - Spotlight
10/3 - Moonlight Rendezvous - Review
10/4 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt

Week 2:
10/7 - Struck by Stories - Review
10/8 - Twirling Book Princess - Excerpt
10/9 - Shortcake Bibliophage - Excerpt
10/10 - Love, Stars, and Books - Review
10/11 - Dazzled by Books - Review

Week 3:
10/14 - YA Book Nerd - Review
10/15 - Life Within the Pages - Review
10/16 - Fictitious Fox - Review
10/17 - Fyrekatz Blog - Review
10/18 - The Try Everything - Excerpt

Week 4
10/21 - Novel Novice - Excerpt
10/22 - Nerdophiles - Review
10/23 - Southern Girl Bookaholic - Review
10/24 - Two Points of Interest - Review
10/25 - Little Red Reads - Review

Week 5
10/28 - Pop the Butterfly Reads - Review
10/29 - Savings in Seconds - Review
10/30 - Wonder Struck - Review
10/31 - Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers - Review


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Monday, August 26, 2019

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad Apples
By: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Published By: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. 'This will be really embarrassing,' I kept saying to my family, 'when she shows up at the door in a week or two.'

When Deena's wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears - presumed dead - her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It's just another bad thing to happen to Deena's family. Only Deena refuses to believe it's true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family's blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions - but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse's roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family's rotten past - or rip it apart forever.

First Thought After Finishing: I can’t believe stories like these still happen for so many girls.

Irish history wrapped into a mystery? Yes please! But this story comes with so much more than a mystery infused with hints of magic. It’s a story of overcoming the past, of defying societal conventions and expectations, and of being proud of who you are.

Deena has been raised by her older sister to be a “nice, normal girl” so that she can escape the Rys family curse. It’s what her sister expects, it’s what her father expects, and it’s what she wants—except for when she’s with her other sister, Mandy. A wild enigma, Mandy offers Deena a glimpse into something that is more than a “nice, normal life.” Until the day that Mandy disappears, and everyone believes her to be dead—everyone except Deena. A letter that Mandy left behind sends Deena on a quest to discover the truth. Along with her best friend, she finds new people who also have a part in her history. But this is one story that doesn’t end the way that anyone was expecting.

From the beginning of this book, something felt just a bit unsettled, which made me dive right into the story to figure out what was going on. Mandy was an intriguing character, and Deena’s tenacious belief that Mandy was alive had me convinced as well. The story unfolded in alternating perspectives—the present, with Mandy’s letters, and flashbacks of the family history. The flashback scenes were both fascinating and horrifying, knowing that they were loosely based on reality. In many ways, they were like traffic accidents—hard to watch but impossible to look away from. In all honesty, the historical scenes were more compelling than the present tense, but piecing together the puzzle was so intriguing that I finished the book within a few hours.

The cast of characters was diverse and felt like a group that would be fun to hang out with. The adventure bound them all in a way that made them feel like they always belonged together. I especially liked Cale’s character. She was unapologetically herself in a way that was inspirational. It would be interesting to see a spinoff story involving her and Deena. The family members, on the other hand, often left a lot to be desired. Then again, that was probably the point.

This book inspired a lot of emotions, and not all of them were positive. But I am so glad that a book like this exists, because it should cause a reaction. Anyone reading this should want better for women and children all over the world. I can only hope that this book finds its way into the hands of people who need it—into the hands of anyone who has ever been considered a “bad apple.”

All the Bad Apples is the first book I’ve read by Moira Fowley-Doyle, but it won’t be the last. I can’t wait to see what adventure she creates and what emotions she inspires next.

Most Memorable Aspect: The haunting reality of the flashback scenes.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Moïra is half-French, half-Irish and lives in Dublin. Her first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and received widespread critical acclaim. Her second, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads



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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry

By: Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Series: None
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt.

First Thought After Finishing: I would love a book with more of Winona and Lucille’s adventures!

The synopsis of Hello Girls had definite Thelma and Louise vibes, and just like it promised, this book was a fun read. I kept turning page after page to see what shenanigans the girls would get themselves into next.

Winona Olsen has the perfect life—or so it seems. Nobody would guess what her life is actually like in her house or what her father acts like off-camera. Lucille Pryce is the opposite—nobody would ever envy her. Except possibly Winona. A chance meeting one night forged a friendship that could endure the worst life had to throw at them. But when they realize that they can’t wait until graduation to be free of their small town, they hatch a plan to get away—a plan so crazy enough, it might just work. What are a few felonies compared to a lifetime of freedom?

Hello Girls was a fast-paced whirlwind of adventure. Winona and Lucille were never without a plan for very long. Lucille is a quick-witted schemer who is completely devoted to her friendship with Winona. Despite everything, she was determined to make her life better, and I loved that about her. Winona was slower to open up, but her quiet strength eventually came through. The two friends were a great balance, and their friendship shone through in the story.

However, there was a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required in this book. Despite the initial fun of this adventure, there were definitely darker moments and morally questionable acts from all characters involved. The adult side of me couldn’t believe the things the girls got away with (both legally and in terms of their consciences). Everything didn’t go perfectly according to plan, but I couldn’t help thinking that the girls were rather lucky.

If you can get past the logistical problems, this book is a quick and entertaining read. If these authors have another collaboration, I’ll definitely check it out!

Most Memorable Aspect: The unwavering friendship between Winona and Lucille.


Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, THE LAST OF AUGUST, and THE CASE FOR JAMIE (forthcoming in March 2018). She's also the author of the poetry collection GIRL-KING (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Michigan with her husband, cat, dog, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Find Brittany Online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Emily Henry is the author of The Love That Split the World and A Million Junes. She is a full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. She tweets @EmilyHenryWrite.

Find Emily Online:
Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads



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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

By: A.K. Small
Published By: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Series: None
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

First Thought After Finishing: Oh, these characters!

If a book is about ballerinas, chances are good that I will read it. I love stories about ballerinas and ballet school (Center Stage is one of my favorite movies), and books set in foreign countries help curb my wanderlust by helping my live vicariously. Since Bright Burning Stars combines two of my favorite things, I was excited to dive in to the story.

Marine and Kate are students at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Since early in the program, they have been been friends and even made pacts about being sisters forever. However, with the final year of school upon them, they have to face the harsh reality—only one of them can win The Prize (a place with the company), and the other will have to leave. They think they can continue helping each other, but soon their weaknesses catch up with them, forcing both girls to make decisions that might affect their futures forever. But when ballet is your whole life, is there room for anything—friendship, love, or loyalty—or can there only be dance?

Let me just say—the ballet is strong with this book. The author studied dance and grew up in Paris, so everything in the story has a ring of authenticity. I loved the technical terms and bits of French sprinkled throughout the writing. Even without perfect knowledge of ballet terminology, all of the spins and jumps described helped the dancers fly off the page and onto a stage in my mind (and made me want to buy tickets to my city’s ballets next year!).

Bright Burning Stars is told in dual POVs, with chapters alternating between Marine and Kate. Knowing that only one could ultimately win, it almost felt like the chapters were competing for me to root for one girl over the other. I found myself drawn into both girls’ stories, celebrating their triumphs, sympathizing with their heartaches, and wanting to fix their problems when life became hard for them to handle. This book didn’t just show the difficulties of thriving in a competitive ballet school, although those elements were certainly part of the story. Sabotage, shifting rankings, boys, and constant pressure tested the girls’ friendship more than perhaps a normal high school would. However, both Marine and Kate have their own non-ballet baggage, and watching them work through these problems was a journey relevant for both teens and adults.

In addition to Marine and Kate, we see glimpses of their classmates and their teachers. Hands-down, my favorite characters were Luc (sorry to Cyrille the Demigod) and Monsieur Chevalier. If there were ever a spinoff about Luc, I would love to read that. I may or may not have some choice words for a few other characters, but what can I say—the world is comprised of flawed human beings, and that deserves to be represented on the page. Because of that, I read through this book rather quickly. I needed to see how the answer to the ultimate question—would you die for The Prize?—played out. When I did reach the ending, I found myself wishing that there was still more story to be read.

This book delves into myriad issues that teens (and adults) face. While it was good that the author did not shy away from these, I also wish that each one, when they appeared in the story, would have been given more time on the page and a more thorough resolution. I have so many feelings about the ending of this story, which for the sake of spoilers, I will omit here. But if you read this book and need someone to talk about it with, you know where to find me!

Overall, I appreciated this story and the way it made me reflect on my own life. A.K. Small has another book coming out in 2021 which sounds very interesting, and I will definitely be reading that one as well!

Most Memorable Aspect: The descriptions of being one with music or one with an instrument. It’s almost indescribable, and yet it was here on the page.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

A.K. Small is thrilled for her debut novel, BRIGHT BURNING STARS, to come out May 21, 2019 through publisher Algonquin Young Readers. Her talent for writing and passion for classical ballet fuse together in this novel and earned A.K. Small the honor of an Entertainment Weekly review.

In addition to BRIGHT BURNING STARS, A.K. Small spends time on short stories. Her short story, Anthrocon, 2017 was just nominated for a Pushcart prize by the Bellevue Literary Review. Other stories such as the Flour Baby and The Interior Designer were also nominated or runner-up to prizes.

She also ran a column titled, "A French Girl's View Du Monde" at Barrelhouse Magazine.

A.K. Small graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2009 with an MFA in fiction. When she's not reading her favorite authors (Rainbow Rowell, Angie Thomas, Anna Gavalda, Jandy Nelson, Ann Hood, Sue Miller, Anais Nin, Tayari Jones, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Wright, and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name a few!), she's studying her favorite dancers: Sylvie Guillem, Noella Pontois, Marie-Agnes Gillot, and Aurelie Dupont.

A.K. Small grew up near the Sacré Coeur in Paris and married her Tobagonian soul mate. She has three gorgeous daughters and owns a min-chi named Dallas.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads



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