Book Review: Anger Is a Gift

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Synopsis:

Moss Jeffries is many things―considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.

But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else―someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.

And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.

Moss can’t even escape at school―he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations―it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals.

Something will have to change―but who will listen to a group of teens?

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Tor Teen. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel was released on May 22, 2018.*

As a person of color, I’m well aware of police brutality and the injustice that occurs to people who look like me. That being said, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. When I went to school the only thing we had to go through was the doors. We had one security guard, who was a POC and was quite chill but besides that, you just showed your school ID and you went inside. That was it.

My point in saying this is I did not grow up in an environment like the one Moss and his friends go through. If anything, I’d say I’m more like his best friend, Esperanza, who goes to a different high school, and doesn’t truly understand all that Moss and his friends have to go through on a daily basis, both at school and with the police in general. And recognizing that privilege in myself was definitely uncomfortable, but that’s the whole point of the book.

Moss is a young black man who’s father was killed by the police six years ago. Since then, Moss has suffered from anxiety and after seeing all the protests that were done for his father and how that didn’t really lead to change, Moss tries to stay away from protests and anywhere else where there will be a heavy police presence. That is until metal detectors are brought into his school. When one of the detectors ends up harming one of his good friends, Moss is rightfully angry and he decides to take action. Together with the help of his mother, Wanda, his friends, and his community, they stage a walkout at school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end well.

Over the course of the novel, Moss struggles with wanting to do something about all the injustice he’s seen, but also feeling defeated, wondering if there really will ever be change. I think this is something that many POCs experience. I know I have myself. But what Mark Oshiro does so well with this story is he keeps it real about how bad it really is for POCS, particularly in areas like West Oakland where Moss is from, but Oshiro also shows the hope and joy in these communities as well.

While this book made sad, angry, upset, and uncomfortable, it also made me laugh and smile. Moss’ relationship with his mother was heartfelt and something I could definitely relate too, being close to my mom. Similarly, Moss’ meet cute with a boy named Javier and the romance that ensued, also made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

And in between all of that, this book showed be a different experience that made me question my own worldview. Even having what I felt was a good understanding of police brutality, reading this book at times I found myself asking, “Is this legit? Do these things really happen?” When really I should be asking why does this happen and why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? The fact that this book raises those questions and will hopefully spark those conversations, is reason enough for me to say you have to read this book.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Book Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life

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Synopsis:

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Crown Books for Young Readers. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 15, 2018.*

I didn’t know about this book until I went to the New York City Teen Author Festival and Nisha Sharma was on a debut authors panel and read an excerpt of this novel. I thought it sounded hilarious, so when I saw it was available to request on NetGalley I immediately jumped on it and I’m so glad I did.

Told in a close third person narration, My So-Called Bollywood Life follows Winnie, a senior in high school who’s returned home from film camp to discover her boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, Raj, is dating someone else. Although, in Raj’s defense, they were on a break. However, if he’d watched Friends he would know that’s not a reasonable excuse, but I digress.

The point is, Raj and Winnie are over, which is especially confusing for Winnie because all her life she’s believed in a prophecy she got from a pandit who said she’d meet the love her life before her 18th birthday and the guy’s name would begin with a ‘R’ and would give her a silver bracelet.

Now Winnie is fighting against believing that prophecy and wants to make her destiny, beginning with getting into NYU. To do that she needs to run the film festival at her school and be co-president of the film club…with Raj. Of course this doesn’t go well and it doesn’t help that another boy at school, Dev, is now showing renewed interest in Winnie and Raj just can’t seem to let go and still believes he and Winnie are meant to be.

With a love triangle, drama, a lot of Bollywood references, and the best parents you’ll ever meet, My So-Called Bollywood Life was a fun read that I just couldn’t put down. It also made me want to watch a Bollywood movie (I’ve never seen one!). My only issue was with the conflict at the end. It’s hard to explain without spoiling so I’ll just say I thought the conflict made it seem like Winnie should give up on something she worked quite hard for just for a guy, and the fact that her best friend, Bridget, seemed to also agree with this sentiment really irked me. If you want a more detailed explanation I’ll put it down below with spoilers.

However, this issue aside, I think the book kind of made up for it in the end, and overall I really did enjoy this book despite that one little thing, so I still highly recommend it. Definitely grab a copy of the book, which is on sale today!

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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More Detailed Explanation Of My Issue With This Book Below (SPOILERS!)

In short, Dev and Winnie get together, they have a great time at the fundraiser dance for the film festival, but then the next day Dev is accused of stealing the money from the ticket sales and the money is found in his locker.

It obviously wasn’t him, but there’s no concrete proof it wasn’t so the faculty advisor for the club, Mr. Reece, pulled Dev’s movie from the film festival. Winnie was determined to clear Dev’s name, but she didn’t quit the film club, and for some reason both Dev and Bridget got angry with Winnie for not quitting. I thought this was absurd and for them to ask Winnie to quit the club, something that would boost her college application, was ridiculous.

Of course Winnie wasn’t going to quit the club and give up on something she’d been working towards for so long for some guy she just started dating. That’s crazy, and it was so unreasonable to me that everyone just agreed that’s what she should do. Maybe this why I’m still single but I think it’s a bit ridiculous to ask someone to give up on their dream for a guy, much less one she hadn’t even been dating that long.

That being said, I felt the novel sort of corrected the problem by having Winnie still pursue her dream, just in a different way. The epilogue also made it abundantly clear that Winnie could have both the guy and her career as a film critic, which I appreciated. Still, that one part just didn’t sit well with me at all.

ARC Book Review: Save the Date

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Synopsis:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book while interning at Simon & Schuster Children’s. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on June 5, 2018.*

I haven’t read all of Morgan Matson’s books yet, but I’ve read enough to feel confident saying this is her best novel to date. I couldn’t put this book down no matter how hard I tried (and I had a 17 page paper to write so I definitely tried).

The novel follows Charlie Grant during the weekend of her sister, Linnie’s, wedding. Although Charlie wants this to be the perfect weekend with her family, especially now that her parents are selling their house and her mother’s popular comic strip, Grant Family Station, is coming to an end, everything that could go wrong does.

First, Charlie’s estranged brother, Mike, actually accepts his invitation to Linnie’s wedding and his plus one is his best friend, Jesse, who Charlie has a huge crush on and kissed, though she doesn’t want Mike to know about that. From there, everything begins to fall apart from the wedding planner being AWOL to a missing wedding suit. As hard as Charlie tries, her hopes for a perfect weekend slip further and further away and it becomes clear that her life isn’t exactly like the life her mother depicts in her comics.

Charlie quickly realizes that her family is more flawed than she thought and she’ll have to figure out how to deal with the truth that sometimes things change and the only thing you can do is continue to move forward. Unlike Matson’s other novels, I’d say this one is really more about family than romance, though the romance is certainly there. That being said, it was the family that really hooked me.

I loved all the Grant siblings, though J.J. was certainly my favorite. Additionally, Matson did a great job of showing just how close this family was with all their quirks, shared secrets, and games. I also really liked the character of Brooke, the girlfriend of Charlie’s oldest and favorite sibling, Danny, and Charlie’s best friend, Siobhan. As always, there are also cameos from characters in Matson’s previous novels, which I absolutely loved, and honestly they may have made this book even more special to me.

So if you couldn’t already tell, I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it. I can honestly see myself reading it again when it comes out. It’s just that good.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel

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Synopsis:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR). This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 8, 2018.*

I haven’t read any of Goo’s books before, but I’ve heard only good things about her works so I decided to request this one and I was not the least bit disappointed. The novel follows Clara, a teen who loves to pull pranks, especially when it means ruining her enemy, Rose’s, day.

However, when Clara’s prank at prom takes things too far she suddenly finds herself having to work on her father’s food truck, the KoBra, with Rose, ruining her plans for the perfect summer and visiting her mom, Jules, who she doesn’t see often. Miserable and angry, Clara wants nothing to do with this task or with Rose, but the longer she’s forced to work with her the more Clara realizes Rose isn’t all that terrible after all.

I really loved this story because I think Goo did a really good job of showing where Clara’s needs for pranks came from and I really understood her as a character. On the flip side, I also totally got where Rose was coming from and I liked seeing these girls being forced to realize that even though they were different that didn’t mean they had to be enemies. I’m a big fan of girl friendship stories and this was a great one.

Additionally, Clara’s dad, Adrian, is definitely a DILF. I fell in love with him pretty early on and I have no regrets. I also really liked Clara’s romantic interest, Hamlet. He was so quirky and genuine and I thought that was a nice contrast to Clara, who definitely struggled with facing her real feelings about things.

Lastly, Goo did an incredible job of showing the relationships between Clara and her separated parents. I think it would’ve been really easy to make one parent look like the good one and the other look bad, but Goo did a great job of showing why Adrian was so awesome, but also how Jules was flawed but still tried. I thought it was amazing to see Clara learn more about her parents, because I think it’s something a lot of kids with divorced parents go through, where they realize their fun parent isn’t always the best parent.

Thus, overall, I highly recommend this book. I truly loved it and it made me incredibly hungry, but in the best way. Now I want to read all of Goo’s books so I think I’ll go do that. If you’ve read The Way You Make Me Feel, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Borrow or Buy: Definitely, buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Book Review: The Summer of Us

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Synopsis:

American expat Aubrey has only two weeks left in Europe before she leaves for college, and she’s nowhere near ready. Good thing she and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last group trip across the continent. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible with their friends Clara, Jonah, and Gabe.

But when old secrets come to light, Aubrey and Rae’s trip goes from a carefree adventure to a complete disaster. For starters, there’s Aubrey and Gabe’s unresolved history, complicated by the fact that Aubrey is dating Jonah, Gabe’s best friend. And then there’s Rae’s hopeless crush on the effortlessly cool Clara. How is Rae supposed to admit her feelings to someone so perfect when they’re moving to different sides of the world in just a few weeks?

Author Cecilia Vinesse delivers a romantic European adventure that embraces the magic of warm summer nights, the thrill of first kisses, and the bittersweet ache of learning to say goodbye to the past while embracing the future.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from The Novl. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on June 5, 2018.*

What is this? A book review? From me? Why yes, your girl is back! School is finally winding down, which means I can finally read the books I want, which includes a backlog of a plethora of ARCs. So without further ado let’s get to it.

True story, I kind of forgot I requested this book, but I’ve been in a contemporary mood as of late so I was excited to dive in. The Summer of Us is told in alternating close third person POVs of two best friends—Aubrey and Rae—as they embark on a backpacking trip across Europe with their other three best friends: Gabe, Clara, and Jonah. Except things in this friend group are totally complicated.

Aubrey’s dating Jonah, but three weeks ago she kissed Gabe. Oops! Meanwhile, Rae has a huge crush on Clara, but Clara’s so obviously straight…or is she? Naturally, as the trip goes on people’s secrets come out and drama arises, but at the heart of this novel is story about friendship and what it means when everything in your world is changing, but you want it all to stay the same.

I found this story to be very relatable, and it made me reflect on my own experience of graduating high school and being both excited to move on and start the next chapter in my life and also being totally scared of losing my friendships from high school. Cecilia Vinesse perfectly captured that feeling with her novel through both perspectives, and the romance was also a nice touch.

Overall, The Summer of Us is a quick read that will make you want to hop on the next flight to London and take your own backpacking trip around Europe with a group of your closest friends. I highly recommend this novel if you love tales of friendship and romance. It’s a perfect summer read!

Borrow or Buy: Buy it! I could see this being a book you want to read every summer.

Stars:

4 stars

ARC Book Review: The Cruel Prince

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Synopsis:

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Purchase From:

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Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from The Novl. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on Jan. 2, 2018.*

I’ve never read a Holly Black novel before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this novel. All I knew was there would be faeries, who are super in right now, and that Black is considered a queen in the YA fantasy world. That was enough for me to be interested.

The prologue of this story sucked me in immediately, as it made it clear very quickly that this would not be a book that sugarcoated the world of the fey. Instead, this story jumped right in with the bloodshed and I was totally here for it. But then the story slowed down a bit. Jude, the narrator and protagonist of the story, is a human who grew up in the world of Faerie and all she wants is to be accepted among them. To do so, she hopes to participate in a tournament so she can become a knight. Differently, her twin sister, Taryn, hopes to marry into a Fey family. Their elder sister, Vivi, would rather have nothing to do with the fey, even though she’s actually half-fey.

As much as I loved the family and school dynamics that played out in the beginning of the novel, after the bloodshed in the prologue, I was a little blood thirsty. I wanted to jump right back into the action and get to the good stuff. However, although there was a little wait to get there when Black went there she really went there. The second half of the novel was filled with so many twists and betrayals that I realized, like Jude, I made the mistake of forgetting that we were still in the world of Faerie, and while the fey can’t technically lie that doesn’t stop them from being ruthless.

This book totally blew my mind, especially in the last 150 pages, and once it got to the good stuff, I couldn’t put it down. I was on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out what Jude would do next, in order to protect herself and her family, and I was not disappointed. What I loved most about this book, was how even though Jude and Taryn are human, you can see how they learned how to play the games of the Fey, and how they got quite good at it.

The ending of this book left me shook and I absolutely must know what happens next. Definitely pick up The Cruel Prince once it’s released; you won’t regret it.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Book Review: All the Crooked Saints

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Synopsis:

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Maggie Stiefvater has been called “a master storyteller” by USA Today and “wildly imaginative” by Entertainment Weekly. Now, with All the Crooked Saints, she gives us the extraordinary story of an extraordinary family, a masterful tale of love, fear, darkness, and redemption.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Book Depository

Review

*I won a free advanced reader’s copy of this book at Brooklyn Book Festival. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel is released today.*

If you’ve been following me for a while you know that although I really enjoyed The Raven Cycle series, I wasn’t all that enthralled with the plot, because it didn’t make any sense to me. Thus, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this new book by Maggie Stiefvater. It didn’t help that the book quickly came under fire for it’s representation of Mexican Americans after it was first announced. Despite all these things, I ended up really enjoying this novel.

The story is told in the third person, with the same kind of magical realism voice that I loved in the The Raven Cycle books, and looks at a Mexican American family, the Sorias, living in Bicho Raro, Colarado in the 1960s. The Sorias have been done throughout generations to be saints that can give people miracles, which help them overcome the darkness inside of them. Although this novel is definitely about the Sorias as a whole and the pilgrims that travel to get their miracles, it’s really about the three young Soria cousins: Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin.

Daniel is the current Saint of Bicho Raro and it’s his job to give the pilgrims their miracles, but because this is a Stiefvater book the miracle isn’t something simple. Instead there’s two parts to the miracle. First, Daniel brings out the darkness in the pilgrim, which can manifest into pretty much anything, and then it’s the pilgrim’s job to figure out how to get rid of their darkness. Until they do that, the pilgrims don’t leave Bicho Raro and the Sorias don’t kick them out because they believe a pilgrim might find success later and return the favor. Also, the Sorias don’t engage with the pilgrims because they believe they can “catch” a pilgrim’s darkness.

I really enjoyed all the characters in this story. I liked how they each handled miracles and how it affected their perspective on the world around them. Additionally, I was actually interested in all of their histories. This story gave me The Sun is Also a Star vibes, because it gives the background for almost every character. It was also interesting seeing this divide between the Sorias and the pilgrims, since they all lived in the same place, but at times it felt like they were in two very different worlds. I also enjoyed the little bits of romance in this story as well. They were subtle and cute and I would’ve loved more, but the amount given was sufficent.

Lastly, in terms of the representation of Mexican Americans, since I’m not Mexican I can’t speak for how a Mexican person will feel about it. I thought it was well done, though I’m confused as to why Stiefvater named the town Bicho Raro when that means weirdo in Spanish. Perhaps because this story is a bit weird? Who knows? Besides that though, I thought the characters were well thought out and not stereotypical. Therefore, I highly recommend picking up this book today and giving it a read.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Always take blame for your own actions but never take blame for someone else’s.”

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