Goodbye, 2017

2017 has been a BAD YEAR. A wild medical ride with a lot of unexpected hurdles. Despite it all, I read over 100 books. And most of them were good. There were only a few I didn’t like or didn’t finish. It would be hard to list all my favorites but here are a few recommendations.

March by John Lewis

Turning Japanese by MariNaomi

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Mean by Myriam Gurba

Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Warcross by Marie Lu

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September Releases

Summer is coming to an end. (That sound you hear is my tears falling on my keyboard.) But at least it means some great books are being released soon. Four of them from authors I love, I’ve already gotten to read. I am here to make sure you get on those pre-orders or library holds in for a few September releases.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera Gut Punch characters
Release Date: September 5, 2017

Want to feel like you’re being stabbed in the heart multiple times throughout one book? Well, do I have the book for you! Several actually. Everything Adam Silvera has written. In this new journey through sorrow, Silvera poses the question “what would you do if you knew it was your last date alive?”

So it goes that the protagonist gets a call that it’s his day to die. (This “service” exists in this version of our world.) Naturally, he makes a friend. (The “they” mentioned in the title.) Not to be too vague, but then a series of things happen. Each chapter gets you more and more attached to characters you know are going to kick the bucket by the end. This book is both a joy and torturous. Heartwarming and heart-wrenching. While it’s busy messing with your emotions, the book also offers important messages about friendship and identity and a whole lot of other things.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart Page Turner Good Ol' Fun
Release Date: September 5, 2017

I rarely hear a lukewarm response to one of E. Lockhart’s books. It’s usually love or hate with no in between thing. I feel like this will be another one of those books.

Lockhart excels at writing female protagonists with a bite. However, this book is a little different than We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It’s a story told backwards, but keeps the suspense as you try to figure out how everything ended up the way it did. The plot is implausible at times and the characters aren’t the type to be loved. I suspect a lot of readers are going to be annoyed by some of the plot reveals and the unlikable qualities of the characters. Lockhart doesn’t set out to make characters you’ll love though. Instead, she writes characters with grit and plots that poke at your suspension of belief. I personally enjoyed the story’s unexpected turns. Will you? I don’t know. But I think it will at least be a page turner for anyone who opens it.

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older characters  badass 
Release Date: September 12, 2017

If you enjoyed Shadowshaper, you’ll love this second book as well. Sierra and all her friends are back and this time things are a little more hectic. I know what you’re thinking: how can things be more hectic than the last book? Just trust me. It happens.

Sierra’s friends now all being brought into the shadowshaper world makes them an even stronger team of friends. There is a closer look at characters that didn’t get a lot of page time in book one and I love them even more. While they’re all caught up in an ancient battle with enemies they didn’t know existed and there’s something called the Deck of Worlds that’s a puzzle to figure out, there’s still their everyday problems to deal with, too. This book touches on police violence and racism as well as the typical teen issues involving romances and school. These kids have A LOT going on. Daniel José Older is a master at integrating all these conflicts into something that’s both fun to read as a fantasy and important to read as a commentary on Real Life problems.

Also it gets another stellar cover, which I always need to point out.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng fave2 Pretty Words Wow Factor 
Release Date: September 12, 2017

Celeste Ng broke my heart in several different ways in Everything I Never Told You. She’s managed to do it again in her new book. But it’s an honor to have my heart broken by the words of Ng.

This book is just REALLY, REALLY good, okay? I barely know what else to say because I want to talk about every single detail, but that would ruin it for you. I need everyone to read this ASAP so I have someone to talk to. I think about this book a lot even though I finished it weeks ago. I don’t know how Ng does it, but her characters get under my skin. She writes about families so tragically and beautifully. Unlike Everything I Never Told You, which focused on one family, this one juxtaposes several. It’s fascinating. I love it. I need to stop my gushing, but I want to yell I LOVE YOU, CELESTE NG at the top of my lungs. She’d probably think that’s a bit creepy and over the top though. But I can’t help how I feel. Anyway, this book is really good.

So go forth readers and prepare for the fall. Have a cozy spot in mind and put a tissue box there. Your September is going to be good. Also sad, but good.

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The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

“At moments like this, I appreciate how the weather in Scotland is never the same, and how swiftly it changes. How the rain itself seems to breathe, soft and slow.”

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May
Release Date:  June 13, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: e-ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Ratings: Page Turner Gut Punch badass

Full disclosure: I adore Scotland so that setting alone will attract me to a book. I had downloaded the first of Elizabeth May’s Falconer series to my Kindle some time ago, but then didn’t read it until I was IN Scotland last summer. I thought the first book was fun and moved onto the second one, which was even better. I grew to love the main character, Aileana, a fierce fae-slayer. As it always is with final books in a series, I (electronically) opened the final installment of the trilogy, “The Fallen Kingdom,” with: a little bit of sadness that I’d have to say goodbye to all the characters by the end; a tiny amount of worry I might hate it; and, of course, tons of excitement. The final verdict? My heart is a little shattered in the best kind of way.

My Thoughts
What interested me in this series to start with, aside from the whole Scotland thing, is how it pulls from dark mythology of the fae/fairies. The “girl falls for immortal creature that can kill her, but he’s more complex that” story has been told many times before, usually in a vampire fashion, but May layers her story with a fascinating history that makes it unique. So while tropes I’m bored of were present in the beginning of the series, it didn’t keep me from reading on. The stakes get higher and higher and the line between “good” and “evil” is tremendously blurry. It’s made the journey of the trilogy exciting instead of cliched.

Continue reading

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2017 So Far

Phew. It’s been a while. I had a rough winter which involved being sick a lot. My reading thankfully did not suffer, but pretty much everything else did. Including this blog, obviously. Hopefully with things getting a little better and with all the reading I’m doing, I’ll get more posts in. I also have lots of spring concerts lined up so more music to come as well!

To make up for the months of no posts, here’s a brief overview of some of what I have read and listened to:

Tamora Pierce
A few friends are massive Tamora Pierce fans whereas I somehow missed her existence during my childhood. Better late than never though I suppose. I finished the Alanna series and have started on Circle of Magic. These books are such perfect little fantasies with characters I adore. Loving Pierce’s worlds and will continue to read through her work.

Graphic Novels/Comic Books
I’ve been continuing my efforts to read more comics. The March series by John Lewis is fantastic and highly recommended for everyone. Some others I enjoyed: Paper Girls, Turning Japanese, Tetris, and Boxers & Saints (by Gene Luen Yang who I got to see talk recently so that might get its own post.) I also started a few series I’ll likely talk about later.

Non-Fiction Galore
Entering this new year I read a lot of non-fiction, which was unusual for me. I tend to read non-fiction here and there, but found myself drawn to it while dealing with winter blues and whatnot. As I’m always trying to learn more about different religions, I picked up No God But God which is great for anyone wanting to learn more about Islam. Rest in Power by Trayvon Martin’s parents is heartbreaking, but provides a lot more details about his death.  I also decided to actually read from front to back one of the many coffee table books I own, Jane Austen Cover to Cover. There was also a mix of memoirs and psychology books thrown in. I hope I continue to read more non-fiction.

Music
While I haven’t been my usual music fan self the past few months, there were still some new artists and albums added to my rotation. A fews favorites include: Half Waif, Laura Marling’s latest album, and Pinegrove’s Cardinal. I also went up to Brooklyn to see Bastille and it’s amazing how much they’ve expanded their live shows. Their new album took some time to grow on me but I’m loving Wild World now and the videos they put together for tour were incredible. Also was lucky enough to see Bear’s Den on my birthday and if you don’t listen to them yet, please change that.

This concludes my brief overview of 2017 so far. Now to come up with a reward scheme that gets me to post at LEAST once a month from now on…

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Recent Reads: September-November

As I haven’t done a Recent Reads in a while, here are a few I loved in the past few months that didn’t get reviews.

28588459Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King characters Good Ol' Fun 

A. S. King is from the Philly area and she set this latest book in Philadelphia so I was automatically interested. Part of my love for this book was just being able to perfectly visualize everywhere the MC went, but King also does weird so well.

The premise of the book is 16-year-old Sarah quits school for reasons the reader isn’t fully told until towards the end. As she wanders around Philly, she runs into different younger and older versions of herself. Through Sarah’s mini adventures and conversations with her other selves, you start to get glimpses of what Sarah is dealing with. This book captures how heavy life can feel as a teenage girl. From grappling with family and school issues to simply the weight of existence. King doesn’t belittle teenage problems. Sarah trying to figure out what “art” is and who she is is just as important as everything else going on.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo characters Wow Factor Gut Punch Page Turner I Ship It fave2 

I absolutely loved Six of Crows and was dying for the release of the second book. It was well worth the wait. I won’t say much in case you’re someone who hasn’t read the first book (go do that right now!!!) but it was a satisfying conclusion to the stories of characters I’ve grown so attached to.

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Wow Factor Good Ol' Fun Page Turner

Another follow up I was anxiously waiting for. This one I actually got as an ARC from BookCon, but made myself wait until a little closer to the release. It was just as much of a rollercoaster as the first book. I didn’t love it quite as much as Illuminae, but it was still dramatic and fascinating. Time to pick up this series if you haven’t. It’s unlike anything else you’ll read. There’s still one more book and I’m ready for the conclusion.

milk and honey

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur Pretty Words Required Reading

If you’re in need of some poetry, this book is full of beautiful lines. Some of the poems are absolutely breathtaking. Kaur’s poems are deeply personable, but mirror the experiences of many women. She makes you feel love and grief and everything in between.

I also picked up a few comics and graphic novels the past few months. The latest volume of Ms. Marvel might be one of my favorites yet. The theme of her struggling to balance between her life as a superhero and daughter and student is even more central to these issues. I unfortunately do not have any superpowers myself, but juggling different aspects of one’s life is so relatable. Especially post-election when many are trying to move forward while also fighting nazis.

Monstress was recommended many times and I now know why: it has it all. Amazing art and storyline. There’s a lot of gruesome things going on all in an art deco-esque steampunk fashion.

For something a little lighter, I recently grabbed This One Summer off my shelf which has been sitting there since this summer. The art is lovely and the whole book is very lazy summer vacation days.

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