Blog tour, book review, fantasy, magic, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR} These Feathered Flames by. Alexandra Overy | ARC Review

Welcome to the blog tour for These Feathered Flames by. Alexandra Overy!

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: These Feathered Flames

Author: Alexandra Overy

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 496

Publication Date: 4/20/21

Publisher: Inkyard Press

BUY HERE: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sibling Rivalry, Political Intrigue

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

  • It has a gorgeous cover! I love red covers.
  • I liked the power of the Firebird. Izaveta and Asya are twins but separated because one will be Queen and the other will be this mysterious, powerful Firebird. The Firebird basically finds someone who’s done something it deems wrong and takes “payment” in usually violent ways from the person committing the crime. Asya is the Firebird and she is trying to control the power in her, afraid of it’s power.
  • Izaveta is the cold and cunning princess who will be Queen. She plays the politic games and tries to stay a step ahead of everyone, including her own sister.
  • There is a strained relationship between them since both have different roles in this kingdom. But each of them have missed one another, so it was interesting to see them navigate their relationship as strangers pretty much. Deep down though, their need for each other is fierce.
  • I liked Asya’s growing relationship with her guard. Asya is feared and despised by everyone around her, including her guard, but things change when they are thrown together. Things definitely get intense between them and it’s a f/f romance. Izaveta has a growing love interest as well but with a scholar.
  • Sadly, I didn’t connect to any of the characters.
  • If you like Three Dark Crowns where sisters are against one another, you will enjoy this one. I think I needed to be in the right mood to read this one.

For me this was just an okay read, maybe it would have been more enjoyable for me if I was in the right mood for it. I do think the story is fascinating with the Firebird storyline and it will definitely appeal to young adult fantasy readers.

🔥 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

ALEXANDRA OVERY was born in London, England. Ever since she was little she has loved being able to escape into another world through books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and is completing her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA. When she’s not working on a new manuscript or procrastinating on doing homework, she can be found obsessing over Netflix shows, or eating all the ice cream she can.

https://www.alexandraovery.com/

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

adult fiction, Blog tour, book review, historical fiction, netgalley, romance

BLOG TOUR } The Last Bookshop in London by. Madeline Martin | ARC Review

Welcome to the blog tour for The Last Bookshop in London!

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: The Last Bookshop in London

Author: Madeline Martin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 4/6/21

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Buy Here: Amazon | B & N | Bookshop | IndieBound | Libro.fm | Books-A-Million | Target | Kobo | AppleBooks | Google Play | Audible

Categories: Historical Fiction, WWII, London, Romance, Friendship, War, Bookshop

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

  • How can I not enjoy a story about a bookshop? This one is even more inspirational because it’s about a bookshop in London during the Blitz in World War II. London was being bombed and yet this bookshop was there to keep people’s spirits up, keep them hoping, or keep their mind off what was happening.
  • Almost all the characters are wholesome, especially Grace who is a nice girl just wanting to get some work experience in London. She helps turn a bookshop around but other than that she is a very caring person ~ you can see it with the way she is with her friends and the new people she meets in London.
  • There is a minor romance in this story and what is a war story without a love story? Thankfully this one isn’t tragic, but sweet and hopeful. It’s always nice to remember when once upon a time, people did fall for each other through letter writing! It was all about patience back in the day.
  • I learned a lot of historical information from the book. I got a glimpse of all the organization people could volunteer for to help in the war. I thought that moment Grace and Viv go out on the town while bombs were dropping was pretty surreal! Also I enjoyed all of the St. Paul’s Cathedral history because it was one of my favorite places to visit when I did go to London few years ago. London really did survive!

Triggers: war, death, bombing

  • This was a super fast read, almost like the story glossed over the many things about war. I expected depth but it felt like a light historical fiction story. There was death and such but the story never felt heavy, unless I just never connected to the characters to feel their grief. Despite lacking depth, I think it held on to the message of Grace and the bookshop being an inspiration, a candle in the dark to so many suffering in the city during that time.

If you want to read a World War II story about books and hope, you will enjoy this one. Although it lacked the heaviness and depth of typical stories set during war time, I think the message about friendship, and community is a beautiful thing.

📚 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Madeline Martin is a USA TODAY bestselling author of historical romance novels filled with twists and turns, adventure, steamy romance, empowered heroines and the men who are strong enough to love them.

Website: http://www.madelinemartin.com/ 

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Blog tour, Book Excerpt, book review, bookish, coming of age, contemporary, Teen Readers, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR } Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices

Welcome to the book blog tour for Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by. Masuma Ahuja!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Title: GIRLHOOD: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices

Author: Masuma Ahuja

Format: ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 256

Publication Date: 2/9/21

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Non Fiction, Girls

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

What does a teenage girl dream about in Nigeria or New York? How does she spend her days in Mongolia, the Midwest, and the Middle East? 

All around the world, girls are going to school, working, dreaming up big futures—they are soccer players and surfers, ballerinas and chess champions. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We often hear about challenges and catastrophes in the news, and about exceptional girls who make headlines. But even though the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, we don’t know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines.

From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty teens from twenty-seven countries in Girlhood share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs, and the girls’ stories are put in context with reporting and research that helps us understand the circumstances and communities they live in. This full-color, exuberantly designed volume is a portrait of ordinary girlhood around the world, and of the world, as seen through girls’ eyes.

  • It is wonderfully multi-cultural! So many different girls from around the world are featured in this book. I love the full color pages of the girls, it’s wonderful to see their smiles.
  • I love the diary entry format and scrapbook style of the book. This is the kind of book I would have loved to read when I was a teenager. It’s inspiring and makes me want to travel to experience the different cultures out there.
  • Showcasing different girls around the world and their own thoughts makes one feel not alone. Though the girls come from different places and live unique lives, there is something relatable about each girl whether it’s how they feel about school, friends, their family and the future.

This is a wonderful collection of stories and thoughts from girls all over the world. It is inspiring and relatable and perfect for young girls to add to their book collection!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Author: Masuma Ahuja

Blog tour, book review, bookish, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | How to Build a Heart by. Maria Padian

Welcome to the blog tour for How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian!

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 1/28/21

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Family, Friendship, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.  

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

  • Izzy is going through a lot as a teenager. She lost her dad, her best friend is in a rough situation at home, her mom is working as hard as she can to make ends meet, she meets a boy and her family has a chance to have their own home through Habitat for Humanity. We see Izzy navigate life, making a mess of things by lying and just trying to cope and find her way.
  • I learned a lot about Habitat for Humanity and how someone earns their own home through reading this book. I always thought the organization was amazing, but I didn’t know about earning hours and such, so that was eye opening.
  • Izzy is bi-racial, half white, half Puerto Rican, but takes after her white father the most. In the story she deals with certain situations like racism within her own family, from her Crawford’s side.
  • Izzy isn’t perfect but I give her credit for trying in the end to sort of make it right.
  • My favorite part of this book is when her cousin Mark comes into the picture because Izzy desperately needs that connection to her father’s side. When Roz, her best friend, reaches out to her cousin for her – it helps her deal with some questions she had about her Crawford’s side. Mark helps her open up and calls her out on running away from her problems and lying. I also love Izzy’s mom who is a good person (she helps protect Roz as best she can), and works so hard for her family.
  • Izzy’s relationship with her best friend Roz was just not okay to me. They were tight in the beginning, best friends, and then Izzy goes for the guy Roz likes and doesn’t even bother mentioning any of it to Roz. Izzy comes off opportunistic to me because she doesn’t even mention running into Sam at all…I’d tell my “best friend”. I know she’s a teenager and she’s making mistakes, but I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t even just mention it…it really felt like Izzy was throwing Roz away for a new set of friends and life. Roz has her issues though and one of them being she almost physically hurts Izzy in anger. Obviously Roz needs a lot of help because of her the scars of her upbringing and it was awesome to see some people in the end help her out. I think what bothered me was that Izzy was about to just end their friendship and here was Mark and Betts willing to help Roz and they barely knew her.

How to Build a Heart is a journey of a teenage girl trying to find her bi-racial identity, deal with the loss of her father, searching for her place in the community, and also finding family and love. If you like stories that have romance, family and coming of age themes, you will definitely enjoy this one. In the end, we are all as imperfect as Izzy but we try to do the best we can.

💕 ~ Yolanda


MOST ANTICIPATED / BEST OF LISTS:

Children’s Book Council: “Hot Off the Press: February 2020”

Latinos in Publishing: “January 2020 Latinx Releases”

Kirkus Reviews: “11 Early Books We Love”

Kirkus Reviews: “16 Books We Can’t Wait For in 2020”

“A Pretty In Pink story about grief, family, class, and first love.”

Bustle

“This is not a polemic about racism but an exploration of what identity means… The force of Padian’s storytelling, the pain of watching Izzy’s worlds collide, moved me to tears more than once.”

Portland Press Herald

“Padian creates a world that the reader can easily dive into. Anyone who’s ever been a self-conscious teen will see themselves in Izzy.”

Book Riot

“A balance of vivid description and witty, discerning storytelling [gives] a refreshing zeal to Izzy’s first-person narrative… Padian’s How to Build a Heart encourages us to embrace our authentic selves by letting go, not only of secrets, but of the desire to hide parts of ourselves in hopes that others will accept us.”

Cleaver Magazine

“A sensitively rendered story, but also a fun read, brisk and engaging… Padian’s book demonstrates the importance of home as a source of support and identity for teens.”

BookPage

“Complex, heartrending, and beautifully explored, How to Build a Heart is a deeply poignant read that is not only deep enough to move you, but wonderfully engaging and quirky.”

The Young Folks

How to Build A Heart is, at its core, a contemporary romance. But it also strives to be more than that. It’s a story of family, friendship, and the bonds that get us through… The novel is simple, sweet, and bursting with hope.”

The Fandom

“A potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.”

BookBrowse

“Padian’s latest book delivers an enjoyable story about how Izzy eventually finds her place in her ever-changing world… This book effectively captured the chaos that can sometimes come with being a young adult.”

The Daily Free Press (Boston University Student Paper)

“Padian shows again and again that a story is always more complicated and more ordinary than it seems.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Padian masterfully portrays the internal struggles Izzy goes through in her Catholic faith… An absolutely enthralling depiction of family and self-discovery.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Padian creates a compelling world with relatable characters and deals with serious issues without feeling heavy-handed…An excellent classroom or book discussion starter. Hand this to readers who are ready to tackle these issues with a lighter touch.”

School Library Journal

“Padian takes a familiar theme—a girl hiding her background from others—and makes it fresh with her protagonist, Izzy Crawford… The characters around her are well-defined and support Izzy and the plot well. Throughout the novel, Izzy’s strength, candor, and humanity shine through.”

Booklist

Blog tour, book review, bookish, fantasy, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR } This Golden Flame by. Emily Victoria

Welcome to the blog tour for This Golden Flame by. Emily Victoria!

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: This Golden Flame

Author: Emily Victoria

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 2/2/21

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | Kobo |IndieBound | Powell’s | Bookshop.org

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Pirates

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

  • World Building ~ I thought this world of Scriptorium and scribes was very creative and fascinating. I also enjoyed the history of the automatons. Runes are used as their magic system in this story and I thought it was interesting how it was used to control the deadly automatons in the past.
  • Characters ~ This story is told between Karis and Alix but Alix really stood out for me more than Karis. Karis has walls, understandably so after being orphaned and separated away from her only family. Alix is also in a tough situation but for someone who should be untrusting of everyone around him, he was willing to help strangers. There was growth for Karis though and that was nice to see. The secondary characters are great, I think they were all varied and added something to the story.
  • Representation ~ I knew Karis was asexual but this is the first time I’ve heard of Aro which stands for aromantic. But I’m learning! So aromantic would be people who experience little to no romantic attraction. According to what the author said in reply to a question on Goodreads, Karis is both Ace and Aro. Yay for learning something new and for more of these representations in books so I can learn. Also there is a m/m relationship.
  • Themes ~ story explored what family and friendship is (biological & chosen) and how far you would go to protect the ones you care about. Another subject that is explored is that of being controlled by others, enslaved by others by use of magic runes. Whoever had Alix’s tome could control him and I felt for him even though he was just an automaton.
  • If you love romance in your story – this may not be for you. I usually NEED romance in a story to enjoy it. This one didn’t have any and I still enjoyed it, so you may want to give it a shot.
  • Karis’ goal in life was to find her brother, but I felt when she found him…he wasn’t as focused on finding her. I was a little bummed about that. I was hoping for this amazing reunion but, Matthias had his own life going on – I know he probably did that to cope with being torn away from Karis but I guess I was hoping for more.

This story starts off with Karis, but in the end Alix’s journey won me over. This is a wonderful story about an unconventional friendship set in a fascinating world of magic runes, a history of automatons and the Scriptorium who wields a lot of power. Oh and there are pirates too…did I mention that?

🧡 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Emily Victoria lives on the Canadian prairies with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, works at her public library, and has just finished her Masters of Library and Information Studies.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author website: https://www.avictoriantale.com/

Twitter: @avictoriantale

Instagram: @avictoriantale

Blog tour, book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR } One of the Good Ones by. Malika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Welcome to the blog tour for One of the Good Ones by. Malika Moulite & Maritza Moulite!

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: One of the Good Ones

Author: Malika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 1/5/21

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play | IndieBound | Books-A-Million

Categories: Racism, Social Justice, Protests, Family, History, Contemporary, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again. 

  • I loved how this story explored racism and it’s history through Kezi’s life and death which happens because of a protest for a black man who lost his life, Jamal. The story ties into racism in American history with Happi and Genny’s road trip using The Negro Motorist Green Book! This trip also helps Happi and Genny learn about their own family history. I learned a lot of things through their journey.
  • The road trip opens Happi and Genny’s eyes to a lot of history and to some things in Kezi’s life they were missing. It’s a healing journey for them and Kezi’s youtube followers too.
  • The way the Smith family copes after Kezi’s death is different, as everyone grieves differently. I thought it was interesting how religion is brought into the story and how the Smith parents have to deal with certain truths about Kezi’s life. I like that it touches on how the girls were “raised”. How they were the good ones: good life, grades, looks, family, etc…as opposed to the bad ones who are vilified in the media because they don’t have all those things.
  • The plot twist in this book made my eyes go wide. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I kept on reading, but the ending of the book is really unexpected. It goes in a direction I never expected!
  • Triggers: mention of lynchings, racism, police brutality, stalking, grief, kidnapping
  • I had a hard time getting into the story at first because there are many different perspectives with many different dates (timelines): Kezi, Happi, Shaqueria, and Evelyn. They are all connected but I’m not even sure if Evelyn’s story perspective was needed since Kezi explains who she was and how her family was close to Derek’s.
  • I feel like this story turns into something else entirely in the second half and almost wish it picked one story to go with. I would have been satisfied with an amazing road trip story or the plot twist really could have been a separate book on it’s own. Honestly…the second half would be my pick because then the story becomes a thriller!
  • With all this said, there are so many great stories in this book, but I think maybe there was too much going on.

Overall, I think this is an impactful story when it comes to talking about racism, American history, family dynamics and social justice. It took me awhile to get into because of all the different perspectives and timelines but I do love how thrilling the ending becomes, which was so unexpected. This is an important story about how society as a whole values black lives.

♥️ ~ Yolanda

About the Authors:

MAIKA MOULITE is a Miami native and the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Miami. When she’s not using her digital prowess to help nonprofits and major organizations tell their stories online, she’s sharpening her skills as a PhD student at Howard University’s Communication, Culture and Media Studies program. Her research focuses on representation in media and its impact on marginalized groups. She’s the eldest of four sisters and loves young adult novels, fierce female leads, and laughing.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

MARITZA MOULITE graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in women’s studies and the University of Southern California with a master’s in journalism. She’s worked in various capacities for NBC News, CNN, and USA TODAY. Maritza is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania exploring ways to improve literacy in under-resourced communities after being inspired to study education from her time as a literacy tutor and pre-k teacher assistant. Her favorite song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

https://www.maikaandmaritza.com/

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog tour, book review, fantasy, magic, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | Kingdom of Sea and Stone by. Mara Rutherford

Welcome to the blog tour for Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford!

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #2)

Author: Mara Rutherford

Format: ebook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Sibling Fiction

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

“A fabulous interweaving of fantasy, politics, and sisterhood – this unusual, tense tale will have you on the edge of your seat!” –#1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce on Crown of Coral and Pearl

The Cruel Prince meets Ash Princess in this thrilling fantasy, the much-anticipated sequel to Crown of Coral and Pearl.

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: read in three days

World Building: In this sequel we get to venture into the land of the Galethians

Writing Style: easy to read, descriptive

Crazy in Love: definitely

Creativity: We learn more about magic in this sequel.

Triggers: blood magic, manipulation, violence

My Takeaway: You can be more than beautiful on the outside.

  • I liked that the story ventured to Galeth and we get to meet new characters like Roan and Adriel. I especially thought Roan was an intriguing character. Adriel brings more knowledge about magic and healing, so now Nor can actually learn something about her rapid healing abilities and about blood magic.
  • Zadie, Nor’s twin sister comes back into the story and it’s nice to get to know her a bit. She’s very much in love with Sam still and the book focuses on traveling to Galeth to find him.
  • Nor and Talin is very much in love still though the business of taking Ceren down interrupts their happy ever after. We get to meet Talin’s mother and sister in this book as well.
  • Nor’s personal journey on becoming more than just the most beautiful girl/wife in the world was the main message for me in this series. She wants to travel, she has skills as a healer, there is so much she wants to do and I thought it was noble of Talin to let her realize those dreams.
  • The beginning was a bit slow for me. This had more political intrigue between the kingdoms of Galeth, Ilara and Varenia. Prince Talin and his mom need people to join their fight to take the throne from Ceren so they have to work on convincing the Galethians.
  • Ceren doesn’t really show up a lot in this book. He’s still evil and want to keep his throne. We get glimpses of his childhood because he is bonded to Nor. But I felt the ending with him was anti-climatic.
  • Honestly, I thought Roan was going to change Nor’s mind about Talin! Haha…it would have made the story maybe a little more interesting. Talin was his usual princely self, but it seemed like for a moment there, there would be some problem in their relationship.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book more than book two because I was so amazed with Varenia. Also, Ceren’s character made the story so intriguing. In this sequel we get more of Nor and Talin’s romance, some new characters and much less Ceren. Ultimately, Nor’s journey from flawed beauty and a future as a perfect wife to a healer and adventurer has a great message. We are more than our beauty. This is a solid end to an enjoyable, and creative duology.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.

https://www.mararutherford.com/

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog tour, Book Excerpt, book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Welcome to the blog tour for The Code for Love and Heartbreak by. Jillian Cantor!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

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Categories: Jane Austen Emma Retelling, Coding, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Dating App

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: took some time to get into story

World Building: high school romance

Writing Style: easy to read

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: very slow love story

Creativity: I thought it was cool the story featured the Coding Club

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: parent health scare, bullying

My Takeaway: Sometimes you have to stop coding and get out there and have a little fun!

  • This was a super quick read and I could recognize it as Jane Austen’s Emma retelling right away, since Emma’s name is kept the same and the other characters as well.
  • Emma is fairly independent as her dad is always at work. Her mom had passed away and her older sister moved away for college, so a lot of the times, Emma is without family. She spends a lot of her time excelling at school and more importantly, coding. Emma doesn’t like social interaction much, she’s a homebody who likes to stay home and chill.
  • George is a good friend to Emma, and yes they get into some high school drama with the matchmaking app they create for the coding club – but I knew they’d end up to together…because it followed the original Emma story. Are there sparks? Not really? But it’s a friendship that grows into something more, something safe and perfect for Emma. His declaration was really sweet.
  • I’m glad the coding, STEM kids got the spotlight in this book. Coding is awesome and creative, just in a different way – but the little parts that come together to make the app was interesting to see step by step. They had to tweak it a few times to make sure it worked right.
  • Personally, I like a little angst in my rom-coms. I thought this was cute, not a little of angst, some drama yes, but it was slow to get into. I was bored at some parts.
  • It’s a retelling so yes, it was definitely predictable but I was still intrigued to see how the author carried out the story.
  • This is a perfect romance for teens. It’s pretty G rated and has that innocence of a first love.

I think this story showed us Emma’s naiveté in the world of dating because she has no real experience with it. Yet she still had the strong desire to succeed at creating a winning matchmaking app! Creating this app gave Emma the courage to go out and try new things, like go to a dance, make new friends…and even fall in love. Overall, I think this was a cute but predictable retelling of a Jane Austen classic.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

https://www.jilliancantor.com/

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Book Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

 I’ve always loved numbers a whole lot more than I love people. For one thing, I can make numbers behave any way I want them to. No arguments, no questions. I write a line of code, and my computer performs a specific and very regulated task. Numbers don’t play games or hide behind some nuance I’ve missed. I write an equation, then formulate a definitive and absolutely correct answer. 

And maybe most importantly, numbers never leave me. I tell this to Izzy as she’s sitting on her suitcase, trying to force it closed, having just packed the last of her closet before leaving for her freshman year at UCLA, which is exactly 2,764 miles from our house in Highbury, New Jersey. A number which seems insurmountable, and which makes me think that after this day, Izzy’s last one at home until Christmas break, we’ll be more like two strangers floating across a continent from one another than sisters.

 “Numbers,” I say to Izzy now, “are much better than people.”

 “You’re such a nerd, Em,” Izzy says, but she stops what she’s doing and squeezes my arm affectionately, before finally getting the suitcase to zip. She’s a nerd, too, but not for numbers like me—for books. Izzy is running 2,764 miles away from New Jersey to read, to major in English at UCLA. Which is ridiculous, given she could’ve done the same at Rutgers, or the College of New Jersey, or almost any one of the other sixty-two colleges in our state, any of which would’ve been within driving distance so we could’ve seen each other on weekends. Izzy says she’s going to California for the sunshine, but Dad and I both know the real reason is that her boyfriend, John, decided to go to UCLA to study film. Izzy chose John over me, and that part stings the most. 

“I can’t believe you’re actually going,” I say, and not for the first time. I’ve been saying this to Izzy all summer, hoping she might change her mind. But now that her suitcase is zipped, it feels like she’s really leaving, and my eyes start to well up. I do love numbers more than people. Most people.

 Izzy and I are only seventeen months apart, and our mom died when we were both toddlers. Dad works a lot, and Izzy and I have barely been apart for more than a night in as long as I can remember, much less months.

 She stops messing with her suitcase now, walks over to where I’m sitting on her bed and puts her arm around me. I lean my head on her shoulder, and breathe in the comforting scent of her strawberry shampoo, one last time. “I’m going to miss you, too, Em,” she says. “But you’re going to have a great senior year.” She says it emphatically, her voice filled with enthusiasm that I don’t believe or even understand. 

“You really could stay,” I say. “You got into two colleges in New Jersey.” This has been my argument to her all summer. I keep thinking if I say it enough she really will change her mind. But even as I say it, I know it’s probably too late for her to change anything for fall semester now, no matter how much I might want her to. And she just looks back at me with worry all over her face. 

“Em, you know I can’t.” 

“Can’t or won’t?” I wipe my nose with the back of my hand, pulling away from her. 

She leaves me on her bed, and goes back to her suitcase. She shifts it around, props it upright and then looks back at me. “You know what you need?” she says, breathing hard from managing the weight of her entire life, crammed inside this giant suitcase. “To get out there this year. Be more social. Get some friends. Maybe even a boyfriend.”

 “A boyfriend?” I half laugh, half sniffle at the ridiculousness of it. 

“If you keep busy, you won’t even notice I’m gone.” She speaks quickly, excitedly. There’s nothing Izzy likes more than a good plan, but this sounds terrible to me. “Christmas will be here before you know it—” she’s still talking “—then next year, you’ll be off to college, too.”

 Maybe that would be true for her, if I were the one leaving, and if she were staying here. If I were the older one, leaving for California first, Izzy would stay here, spend the year with John and barely even notice my absence. Which is what I guess she’s about to do at UCLA. But I’ve always needed Izzy much more than she’s needed me. 

“I hate being social. And I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say. “And anyway, you know what the boys are like at our high school. No thanks.” Mostly, they’re intimidated by me and my penchant for math, and I find their intimidation so annoying that I can barely even stand to have a conversation with them, much less a date. And the few that aren’t? Well, the one that isn’t—George—is my equal and co-president of coding club. He also happens to be John’s younger brother. We’re something like friends, George and I. Or maybe not, because we don’t really hang out outside of family stuff, school or coding club, and I guess in a way we’re supposed to be rivals. One of us will for certain be valedictorian of our class this year. The other will be salutatorian. And knowing George, he’s going to be more than a little bit annoyed when he’s staring at my back during graduation. 

“You love numbers so much and you’re so good at coding,” Izzy says now with a flip of her blond curls over her shoulder. She wheels the suitcase toward her bedroom door and stops and looks back at me. “You could always code yourself a boyfriend.” She shrugs, then laughs a little, trying to make this moment lighter. 

I don’t even crack a smile. “That’s a really ridiculous thing to say,” I tell her. “Thank God you’re going to be an English major.”

 But later, after it all fell apart, I would blame her. I’d say that it was all Izzy’s fault, that she started the unraveling of everything with her one stupid offhand comment on the morning that she left me.

Excerpted from The Code For Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor Copyright © Jillian Cantor. Published by Inkyard Press.

Blog tour, book review, Children's Corner, Middle Grade Reader, new releases

BLOG TOUR | Skunk and Badger by. Amy Timberlake

Welcome to the Skunk and Badger blog tour! This one is a little different from the books I usually feature on this blog but I couldn’t pass up on the illustrations in this book. Look and their faces!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Skunk and Badger

Author: Amy Timberlake

Illustrations: Jon Klassen

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 136

Publication Date: 9/15/20

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Middle-Grade Fiction, Animals

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.

  • The illustrations are what caught my eye in the first place. I love the facial expressions of Badger and Skunk, the drawings really capture their personalities.
  • The characters Badger and Skunk are so different that living together comes with some challenges. Badger is set in his ways and Skunk is a flurry of energy. I like how the story shows how people with different personalities can learn to get along if they try.
  • This is perfect for middle grade readers but as an adult, I enjoyed it a lot too.
  • The ukulele scene had me! I live in Hawaii, so when Badger started belting out a Hawaiian tune, it made my heart melt and smile.

Skunk and Badger is so full of charm! I love how they eventually resolve their problems. It just goes to show that even with differences we are also alike in a lot of ways.

💕 ~ Yolanda

Blog tour, book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | Smash It! by. Francina Simone

Welcome to the blog tour for SMASH IT! by. Francina Simone.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Smash It!

Author: Francina Simone

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 269

Publication Date: 9/22/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Book Here: Amazon | B & N | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: Coming of Age, Romance, Drama Club, Theater, Identity, Sex, Body Image, Family, Friendship

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me. 

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned? 

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”  

A lot, apparently.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Orlando, Florida

Writing Style: raw and relatable

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: love triangle…sorta…

Creativity: It’s an Othello retelling, which I don’t remember much of – but I love how we get Liv who’s basically in a Desdemona situation

Mood: drama…and let’s talk about sex  

Triggers: cheating, negative body image, insecurity

My Takeaway: F#ck it lists are great! As long as you don’t take it too far.

  • I liked being in Liv’s thoughts because we get to see her insecurities. Being a teen is all about insecurities! She’s best friends with two guy, one of which she is in love with – but maybe in honesty she’s attracted to both. Confusing? Can’t pick a lane? Yeah maybe, but she’s trying something new – it’s a year of saying YES to things that make her scared, or like she says…a year of F#ck Its. She writes a f#ck it list, and it leads her to so many new experiences. She’s a teen, making mistakes – and oh so relatable.
  • There is a lot of sex talk in this story – and not adults talking, teens talking and honestly I can’t say that my friends and I talked that honest about sex in high school. I WISH. It was the 90’s and we had songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”…which was awesome, but I only talked about it when I went to college and let me tell you, it was a relief to have friends you can talk to about sex.
  • Lennox and Jackie become Liv’s first female friends! Liv grows a lot when she opens herself up to more experiences like auditioning for Othello and hanging out with the drama kids. I totally loved Lennox’s vibe – she wasn’t ashamed of her love of sex. But I thought it was cool that it was okay to be like Liv too – unsure about sex and not into something casual.
  • Diversity abounds in this book – we have POC characters, and bisexual representation. Now Liv isn’t someone exposed to much it seems – she’s shocked about Lennox’s sexual freedom, embarrassed at Jackie’s loudness at being black and proud (Jackie is from Atlanta). Mind you Liv is black but her mom taught her to basically be quiet about it. Her new black friends help her to embrace her body image and identity.
  • This story touches so many topics about identity, body image, race, cheating, sex, love, friendship and family.
  • I love how real the characters are. It’s the first book I’ve read from this author, but now I’m curious to read more. It had me laughing out loud at many parts because I felt like the characters were so relatable!
  • If you don’t like love triangles, this book may put you off. It’s not a “love” triangle, per se, she knows who she loves but it’s complicated. I thought the guys were fun, but at times I did want her to stand up for herself when she tried to shine within their little trio. I think the mistakes come when Liv is trying to figure out love, lust, like, etc…and it’s okay that she’s confused.
  • Liv’s problems become messy when certain events take place…I was happy with the conclusion, but this won’t work for some people. I would have equally happy if she ended up with no guy and just happy she had new girlfriends!

Smash It! is an engaging, drama-filled, coming of age story of a girl named Liv caught between trying to find her identity, loving herself – imperfections and all, and opening herself up to new experiences. Liv makes some mistakes along the way but with a new outlook on life and some new friends, she finds the strength to own up to it. This one got me cackling out loud and reminded me how we always make mistakes in life, we just better recognize it and fix it when they do happen.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.  http://www.francinasimone.com/

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