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Friday, January 19, 2018

Release & Review - Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Title: Love, Hate & Other Filters
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 16th, 2018

Publisher: Soho Teen

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.



Buy Link: Amazon

3.5 “More #OwnVoices” Stars

I wanted to love this book, but I ended up having problems that I can only describe as  a “It isn’t You, It’s Me” sort of thing.

First, let me just say that this book made me feel a lot of things—they were not all good, but feelings are feelings, and lately not a lot of stories have managed to give me that.

During the first half, I mostly went from really liking the voice to getting my hopes up with the romance to getting annoyed by the romance and the protagonist (Maya). Anyone who knows me is aware I will hardly ever complain about a book being romance-focused, but in this case, the romance didn’t work for me at all.

There’s a love triangle for a few chapters, but it doesn’t last. My problem, though, is that this triangle only served to introduce a character I liked as a LI a lot more than Maya’s pick. For me, the author gave Kareem, the Indian guy who gets all Maya’s jokes and references, a lot more personality than she gave Phil, the white guy Maya has had a crush on since forever.  The first scenes between Maya and Kareen had chemistry and built a connection that the rest of the book didn’t achieve for Maya and Phil. Honestly, I’m still wondering why Maya liked Phil in the first place. What was so appealing about him other than the fact that Maya seemed to make it her life’s mission to like everything her parents disapproved of?

Phil wasn’t a remarkable enough character and the two of them seemed to have no common interests beside him teaching her to swim.

And, the most important thing of all (for me, at least), Phil was taken. Yes, Phil had a girlfriend, not that Phil or Maya seemed to care too much about it. I honestly don’t understand why the author chose this specific “obstacle” for the romance. They had other things going for them, mainly the fact that Maya’s parents would never approve of Phil. Still, the girlfriend trope was thrown in there and both Maya and Phil didn’t react in a nice way about it.

I’ve talked about this over and over. When I read about a protagonist who’s hoping to be kissed by a boy who has a girlfriend, I tend to immediately dislike said protagonist because of her lack of respect for other people’s relationships. I understand having a crush on someone who is in a relationship. I understand struggling with those feelings and daydreaming about what could’ve been. What I don’t understand is openly flirting and leaning into a possible kiss when the guy is still dating someone else. Same goes for the Love Interest who’s flirting with someone else behind his partner's back. Get your act together, people!

So, yeah, the romance did not work for me. And the problem is, the romance was a HUGE part of this book. Like, much bigger than I expected it to be. From the blurb, I’d hoped to see a deeper approach on the islamophobia aspect, since it’s such an important topic. It was there, but it wasn’t as deep as I’d hoped.

That is also kind of sad because the little we got from this was so well-done. Everything  about the attack, the mistaken identity, the consequences to both Maya and her family broke my heart. There was suffering and hatred and doubts. I understood Maya’s point of view and her parents’ worry, and it was so sad that those good people had to go through that.

Speaking of Maya’s parents, this was another aspect of the book that made me dislike Maya. I’m not Indian, but when it comes to overbearing parents, it seems our cultures are similar. In Brazil, parents also act as if their children are small kids no matter how old they are. They want to have an opinion on everything and sometimes it feels like teens/young adults/even adults can’t breathe. So I got Maya’s struggle with wanting to follow her cinematography dream and going to NYU while her parents wanted her to stay close to home and become a doctor/lawyer/etc. Having said that, Maya dealt with this whole thing in a very immature way.

I wasn’t a fan of how she disrespected and disregarded her parents’ feelings at every turn. Does that mean I wanted her to give in to what they wanted? Of course not, but I also didn’t see how being rude to them constantly would help her case. Maya needed a lesson on how to pick her battles. It seems like she wanted to fight her parents in every aspect of her life, and it didn't seem productive. She hardly ever used reason to talk to them (leaving that job to her aunt, who was a saint). She pretty much refused any show of affection from her mother, which broke my heart. She pushed away their worries over her well-being even when it was obvious any parent would worry. And her little disappearing act? *rolls eyes* Maya could’ve handled the whole situation a lot better, in my opinion.

So, despite my lack of connection with the romance and some of Maya’s choices, I enjoyed the cinematography approach, the immersion in the Indian culture and the approach on important subjects, like islamophobia. Love, Hate & Other Filters was worth the read. 


*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Blog Tour & Review - Love Between Enemies by Molly E. Lee


Title: Love Between Enemies
(Grad Night #2)
Author: Molly E. Lee
Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: January 8th, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen (Crush)


Zoey Handler is ready to put an end to her decade-long rivalry with Gordon Meyers. They’ve traded top spot between valedictorian and salutatorian for years, but all that’s over now. Right? But after a crazy graduation speech prank gets out of hand, suddenly their rivalry turns into all-out war. Time to make peace with a little friendly payback.

Step one? Make him believe they’re now friends.

Step two? Show him the time of his life at an epic graduation party.

Step three? Don’t fall for his tricks.

Step four? Absolutely, positively, do not kiss him again.

So what if he’s cute? (Okay, hot.) So what if he’s charming? (Heaven help her, tempting.) So what if he apologizes? (That has to be fake.) She knows the real Gordon. And no matter how much her heart begs her to stop, there’s no turning back.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two rivals who discover maybe they could be something much more…if only they’d stop fighting long enough to notice it.


“Help me out here,” Gordon whispered, his cheek brushing against mine as he spoke in my ear. “I’m blanking.”
The breath stalled in my lungs with how close he was, and how his soft words sent warm chills across my skin. The notion that he thought I was someone he could ask advice from both thrilled me and made my nerves twist. Or that could be because I could smell him again, which seemed to have a direct line to my crazy-button. Because only an insane girl would be wishing her enemy would keep whispering in her ear like that—he could recite the alphabet for all I cared, as long as he kept talking.
“Um,” I said, stumbling over my own words. New experience. Not exactly fun. My eyes darted over the faces in the room—completely oblivious to the battle raging inside me, the one that screamed to give in to what I was feeling for Gordon, and the other side reminding me how he’d slayed me this morning. I finally spotted the quarter on the table and remembered how to use my brain. “Any time someone says quarter, they have to drink.”
Gordon smiled and I felt it in my bones. “Thanks,” he said. “What she said.” He spoke a little louder as he sat up straight again, and I instantly craved the warmth of his nearness.
I’m in so much trouble.
I focused solely on the game and on the plan, but my body…my heart…wanted what I couldn’t have.
 
3 “Team Gordon FTW” Stars

ARC via NetGalley

Thank you, Entangled Teen!

After reading and loving the first book in this series, I was anxious to get my hands on this!

With one of my favorite romantic tropes, Love Between Enemies shares a parallel timeline with Love in the Friend Zone. Like the first book, the story of Gordon and Zoey start at graduation day and stretches into the grad party, where we get most of the interactions between the two main characters.

I know not everyone is a fan of this format, but I think it works well for this series because these characters have all known each other for a really long time. They’ve seen each other almost every day for years, so I can’t really classify their feelings as “insta”-anything, even when it only takes one night for them to realize those feelings exist. You know what I’m saying?

Here, Zoey and Gordon have been each other’s closest competitors. This competitive dynamic makes them work harder every time to try to win/be the best student/get the prize or whatever is at stake. So though they aren’t exactly enemies, it’s clear they’re nemesis. Until Gordon loses a much-needed prize to Zoey and decides to act stupid because of it.
  
Of course Zoey can’t let it slide, so she comes up with a revenge plan of her own. But her revenge involves distracting Gordon, a.k.a. spending too much time with him, and that’s when things start to turn from hate to something else entirely.


 Here’s the thing, though…. Gordon’s little revenge started the whole thing, but I still rooted for him the entire time, mostly because I could understand why he did what he did, but I couldn’t connect with Zoey’s reason…or how far she took her revenge plan.

The author did an amazing job establishing Gordon’s motivations and building a heartwarming relationship between Gordon and his dad. I was drawn to him instantly, and a few chapters in I was already tearing up reading scenes between those two. The love and respect in that relationship was beautiful and real and warmed my heart.

I also loved how hard Gordon worked to get the things he had and how serious he was about school and the family’s business. They weren’t exactly poor, but they were hard-working people, and that always gets to me.

Zoey, on the other hand, came from a place of privilege. Her family was wealthy and, despite my admiration for how hard she worked to prove herself, she had her future set for her. I’m not saying she should’ve have been upset at how people thought she had everything handed to her and judged her for it. Or that she shouldn’t be proud of herself for working just as hard as Gordon for her academic success. But she still needed to acknowledge her place of privilege. I understood her intentions and motivation, but I was annoyed that she didn’t see there were people who needed that prize a lot more than she did.

And here’s the thing, Gordon was wrong to do what he did, but his actions didn’t have half the consequence as her revenge plan did. She was plotting to ruin a person’s academic future and that was seriously messed up. Her revenge plan could also lead to much bigger problems for Gordon and his father—legal problems. There was simply no way I could get behind her and what she was doing.

I also expected Zoey to come into her own and do something about that terrible revenge plan much earlier, but things didn’t go exactly that way. For me, Zoey went too far into the bad side and took too long to come out of it. And even when she did, she didn’t exactly acknowledge her place of privilege. In the end, she did the right thing, but even that left a bad taste in my mouth, because it ended up making Gordon look like he only got the things he did because she interfered.


So while Zoey didn’t do it for me, Gordon was the real star of this story. I loved everything about him, especially the way he owned up to his mistake and immediately sought a way to apologize for what he did. And even if he didn’t get his happy ending the way I wanted him to, I was still thrilled for him.

 


 


Buy LinkAmazon / Entangled

Review
  

Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her debut novel EDGE OF CHAOS, and as a mentor at Pitch Wars - a program which connects promising writers to established authors in the community. Molly writes New Adult and Young Adult contemporary featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads


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Cover Reveal - Stud by Kelly Siskind

Title: Stud
Author: Kelly Siskind
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 31st, 2018 


A down-to-earth carpenter. A Prada loving personal shopper. 
A Habitat for Humanity project that erects more than walls…


The word “nail” has so many meanings:
Ainsley Hall’s manicured nails belong in the Museum of Modern Art.
The fashionista hammers nails at Habitat for Humanity.
She desperately wants to nail Owen Phillips.
Unfortunately, she mistakenly thinks he’s gay.
Owen’s never-ending divorce has taken a turn from messy to downright vindictive. Yearning for the simpler things in life, like working with his hands, he joins a Habitat build. Turns out he also wants to work over Ainsley Hall…but the confusing bombshell flirts blatantly with other men.
When Ainsley discovers Owen’s true sexuality, their mutual attraction ignites, but he hasn’t shared the extent of his divorce drama. If he can’t disprove his ex’s false allegations, it will take more than hammers and nails (and nailing studs) to keep their walls from caving in.



"…a sexy and steamy read with loads of flirty and witty banter. Siskind knows how to write characters that have off-the-charts chemistry." ~ RT Book Reviews
“Kelly has outdone herself with this book!” ~ Blushing Mom Book Reviews
"If you like your stories smart, snappy, and stuffed with sweet emotion (and even sweeter heat), Owen and Ainsley will not disappoint." ~ Bookgasms Book Blog



A small-town girl at heart, Kelly moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—gummy bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Release & Review - Everless (Untitled #1) by Sara Holland

Title: Everless
(Untitled #1)
Author: Sara Holland
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.


Buy Link: Amazon

3.5 "Time is Money" Stars

Everless’ time is currency concept was definitely the thing that appealed to me the most when I first heard of it, and this remains the best part of the story now that I’ve finished reading it.

I don’t know if the author took inspiration for this concept on that Justin Timberlake movie—In Time—but there were some similarities there. Not enough to make the book seem like a copy of the movie, though. Either way, I thought that the world the author created here was pretty impressive.

Aside from the idea that time can turn into blood-iron coins that, if digested, add days/months/years to a person’s life, the story also comes with its own mythology about two ancient and powerful beings, a Sorceress and an Alchemist, who, in their quest to keep their immortality, have turn into enemies.

All of that is the background for the world inhabited by Jules, a girl who grew up in Everless in the company of the two very rich Gerlings brothers, Roan and Liam—one who Jules believes to be good, the other bad, but things might not be as they seem at first. After an accident, Jules and her father are forced to flee Everless and that’s when all the starving and struggling to survive begins. Many years later, out of option, Jules decides to go against her father’s warnings and returns to Everless to work as a servant for the wedding between Roan and the Queen’s adoptive daughter.

My first issue with the story starts here, because Jule’s father clearly knows something big. Something that has the potential to endanger his daughter’s life, but instead of telling her what it is, he simply begs her not to go back to Everless without giving her a reason. Jules got on my nerves plenty of times later, but I couldn’t blame her initial decision to go despite her father’s vague warnings. The man was practically dying, and I would’ve been much more irritated at her if she had sat back and done nothing. Later on, her father gets another chance to tell her the truth, but decides to keep being vague until he can tell her nothing more. *sighs* All this holding back information obviously serves no other purpose but to keep the main character in the dark until the big reveal. It works, but it’s a little annoying.

Something else that annoyed me a lot was Jules’ recklessness, especially toward the end. It was incredibly hard to follow her line of thought when she made decisions that were clearly not very smart and were bound to end up in disaster—as they did. I found myself rolling my eyes more than once when it came to her complete lack of strategy. It seemed that she often sent a prayer up, wished for the best scenario and jumped into the most dangerous situations, then she’d blame her lack of luck for the obvious outcome. Girl, please!

She wasn’t all bad as a protagonist, but she wasn’t all that likable, either. Her impulsiveness and naivety made it hard for me to connect with her. Despite having a feeling that things weren’t as they seemed, Jules often stuck with blurry memories from her childhood, ideas her father had put in her head and concepts that no longer applied. She didn’t try to see things from a different perspective, no matter how many signs there were that maybe, just maybe, things weren’t exactly how she thought. This, for example, is the case when it comes to the Gerlings brothers. I don’t know if everyone will see things the way I did, but I could see from the start where that was leading.

Jules was also quick to trust the people around her. Although, I can’t quite blame her for the big reveal in the end, because not even I could see that one. The villain caught me totally by surprise—great job on that part—so I’ll cute Jules some slack.

Speaking of the villain, I think her motivation works well and the whole thing behind the big reveal was smart and well-planned. That and the world the author created were my favorite things about the book by far! 

But I was confused about how the villain got that “breaking the heart” solution. Was that just a guess she was willing to try because she’d failed in her previous attempts? Or was she sure it’d work with the right person? If so, how did she get that information? Maybe the sequel will bring the answer to that and to some other questions that were left unanswered.

As to the romance, I’m guessing that will be left for the sequel, too. At least I can’t complain about the direction it seems to be taking, because Jules’ infatuation with her childhood crush made no sense whatsoever. She hadn’t seen the guy in ages, but I was supposed to believe she was so in love with him still? Other than that, the whole thing came a little too close to cheating for my taste, and Jules never once showed any sign of regret for lusting after another woman’s man (something that was even worse after she found out the truth about the princess).

Despite my reservations, Everless was a quick, entertaining read. I don’t imagine it’ll be on my top reads of the year list, but it wasn’t bad, either. Besides, the book also gets extra points for that pretty cover!


*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: The Cruel Prince
(The Folk of the Air #1)
Author: Holly Black
Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: January 2th, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Adults

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.


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.


Buy LinkAmazon

4 "Teen Scandal in Fae  World" Stars

The Cruel Prince didn't turn out to be the five-star read I was expecting. But it was close.

A mix of ACOTAR, Game of Thrones and Scandal, it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. Still, it was still a lot different from what I expected. Maybe it was how light on romance and high on scheming and betrayals it was. Maybe it was my lack of experience with anything Holly Black. Whatever it was, it was different--but still pretty amazing.

Cleverly plotted, The Cruel Prince stood out in a crowded YA Fantasy market because of the main character’s arc and also because it was smart and focused on more than world building (thought that was beautifully detailed). It was a story about finding/making your place amongst those who don't respect you, about making tough choices, about fearing and overcoming fear, about loyalty and family. 

Despite the fact that I guessed early on the turns the story took, I still thought it was a smart book. It made the main character, Jude, seem smart. Sure it reminded me a lot of Shonda Rhyme's Scandal, but in a good way. And though the TV series hasn’t been as stellar as it once was, I guess I can’t fault the writers’ intelligence and creativity when it comes to plotting intrigues and betrayals. The same can be said about Holly Black regarding The Cruel Prince.

Jude is my kind of heroine. Lost at first, but desperate to find purpose. Badass with and without a sword. Clever and cunning. She's a no-white-hat (fans of the show will get the reference)  and yet likable Olivia Pope. Jude is the Olivia Pope Shonda Rhymes wished she had written these past couple of seasons, because Jude managed to become the big player, the powerful one without turning into the person everyone hates. I can't go into details about how she gets there because of spoilers, but she is the one to fear now and I wholeheartedly approve!

Now, I didn't care much for Jude's relationship with her twin sister, despite the interesting drama in the end. Nor did I care for the lackluster romance with Locke. But I loved the borderline absurd and extremely complex relationship between Jude and her "father"--the man who killed her real parents and kidnapped her into the fae world. Side note: despite my comparison to ACOTAR by Sarah J. Maas, The Cruel Prince presents a fae world much more complex and detailed, and also much darker. Anyway…Jude loved her “father”, just as much as she feared and hated him for who he was and what he'd done, and in the end, she almost became him. Once again, I have to compare that relationship with the one between Papa Pope and Olivia. The man is a monster who loves his daughter but will still does monstrous things to her. And the daughter fears and admires him while she travels down a path that will lead her to become him. It’s as dark and emotional as it sounds, and it’s what made this story so interesting to me.

That, and Cardan, the Cruel Prince himself. Fear and hate mixed with something else were also themes for Jude's relationship with Cardan. And I loved it and him. Sure Caran was a huge jerk during the first part of the book, but it was clear that there was more behind that facade. I got major Rhys from ACOTAR vibes from him. *swoon*

Since Jude was convinced Cardan hated her and was intent on destroying her, she ignored the signs that he wasn't as he seemed, but those signs were still there and they were many. I also adored how Jules acted/reacted when it came to him. For those worried that she'll turn into a love sick puppy because "Oh, Cardan is a prince and he's oh so pretty despite being so cruel", you have nothing to worry about. Jules is too smart for that. She knows better and she'll make Cardan work to get her forgivness. 

I’m already obviously Team Cruel Prince all the way, because what were the chances I’d resist a smirking, antihero hottie?

The romance fan in me wished we'd seen more of Cardan and Jules' awesome dynamic in this book, but I'm betting we'll get plenty of that in the sequel. With everything that was going on in Jule's life, the hints of romance were left for the later chapters, and I was beyond ready for it. Again, spoilers will prevent me from saying much, but I can't complain that things are still unfinished and even more complex now, because that makes me desperate for book 2. 


Overall, The Cruel Prince was a stunning start to what I can see will become a favorite series, introducing a smart, complex and likable main character, a strong world, tons of intrigue and the hints of what will be a enemies-to-lovers, slow burn romance that will make my heart beat fast. Basically, it's a lot of what I wished I had seen in the past few seasons of Scandal, one of my favorite shows.

*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.