A Curse of Ash and Embers | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Curse of Ash & Embers

Author: Jo Spurrier

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 272

Publication Date: 11/3/20

Publisher: Voyager

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witches

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

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

Thank you to Voyager and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC!

My Attention: it couldn’t hold my attention

World Building: Black Oak Cottage, witches and a mystery to uncover

Writing Style: atmospheric

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: nope – not crazy

Creativity: magic, witches and monsters

Mood: mixed feelings

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Elodie is a strong and brave young woman who can take care of herself.

  • I enjoyed the story of Aleida and Gyssha, the witches of Black Oak Cottage. When Elodie meets Aleida, Black Oak Cottage isn’t in good condition. We learn about Gyssha’s demise and then more about the witches’ history but Aleida is pretty fierce.
  • The female characters in this book are strong. Elodie is a great character because she is literally just turned out from her home. Her step-father wants her gone and unfortunately her mother agrees it’s time for her to go. She’s a young woman, away from family and home. Elodie is smart, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. I liked her inquiring mind as she met different people like the wizard.
  • The writing is wonderful and atmospheric. There is action and danger to keep things somewhat exciting.
  • Unfortunately, I found myself bored at times reading this story because it moves slowly like a mystery.
  • Would have liked a little more romance, but that’s a personal thing for me because I love romance in my stories.

This book may have not captured my full attention but many people who read young adult fantasy will enjoy this story very much. It has witches, action, danger and a girl named Elodie who finds a new home in the most unexpected place.

Kingdom of the Wicked | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 10/27/20

Publisher: JIMMY Patterson

Categories: Historical Fantasy, Witchcraft, Family, Romance, Young Adult/New Adult, Demons

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

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

Thank you to JIMMY Patterson and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: engrossed

World Building: 19th century Sicily, there are practicing witches, there are hot Princes of Hell, scary demons, a murderer on the loose, and so much FOOD

Writing Style: a quick moving story, great dialogue

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: slow burn in hell…ha!

Creativity: this whole story is dark and delicious

Mood: witchy 

Triggers: violence, gore, rituals, death

My Takeaway: Hooking up with a Prince of Hell might be a bad idea…but it sounds pretty hot.

  • Let’s start with aesthetics – the cover is to die for. A pre-Halloween publication date? A cover like that and this story has witches and demons? Come on! It is perfection.
  • Speaking of witches and demons…whew! Emilia and Vittoria are twins and have been learning witchcraft since they were born. Their Nonna is the one who taught them all the spells they know and how the Malgavi will return to collect on a blood debt. As far as these Princes from Hell, they are exactly as Nonna said they would be: Trouble.
  • The setting of Sicily is fantastic and made me crave all kinds of pasta and cheese ALL week. I felt like I was there, or I wished I was. I wanted to be eating at the Sea & Vine and tasting Nonna’s delicious meals.
  • This story is dark and doesn’t shy away from gore. Someone is murdering girls and ripping their hearts out of their chests! Ugh…but why? There is a mystery. Emilia and a hell prince named Wrath is trying to put the pieces together to find out who it is before another girl dies.
  • Wrath and Emilia’s growing relationship is an enemies to lovers romance- or should I say…we shall see if they ever become lovers? They are enemies but start working together. Their dialogue is fun since they drive each other crazy.
  • At times I thought this book was going into New Adult territory – it totally could with the hotness factor of the Princes and Emilia’s scandalous thoughts about one in particular haha.
  • I wanted this to be fast paced because of the danger at every corner that Emilia was being exposed to but at times, the mystery (and this is a personal thing for me – always happens with mysteries)…made it go a bit too slow for me at times.
  • There is a cliffhanger.

Kingdom of the Wicked is the perfect book to read for fall! It has danger, gore, hot Princes and food…so much good food. I loved the family and community bond Emilia has in her home town. I could feel the warmth of her Nonna’s love and glares! We get a little bit of everything in this story and it is quite entertaining. This book will put you in a very witchy mood.

💕 ~ Yolanda

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

Buy Links: Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

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/

Twitter | Facebook | IG | Goodreads

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.

Slay | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Slay

Author: Brittney Morris

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 323

Categories: Gaming, Race, Racism, Relationships, Family, Friendship, Contemporary, Young Adult, Own Voices, Identity

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

My Attention: Read in 1 day

World Building: Washington State

Writing Style: Kiera’s voice carries us through this story and it flowed so well, even when it was describing game play scenes which can get confusing as a non-gamer

Crazy in Love: Kiera and Malcom are definitely in love but they have challenges

Creativity: I loved everything about Kiera’s virtual reality game!

Triggers: racism, toxic masculinity

My Takeaway: Wear your crown!

  • This story covers so many topics! Racism – Kiera and her sister are 2 out of 4 black kids at their school. Toxic Masculinity – in Kiera’s relationship with Malcom and when it appears in a male dominated gaming world. Identity – who is Kiera? She’s hiding this VR game she created, she’s smart, beautiful, and she has a great family and boyfriend, she seems to have it all – but her secret remains a secret because she doesn’t think anyone would understand it or accept her.
  • Gaming is a big part of this story and I’ve been reading more books about it because my son is a gamer. I’ve learned more about how male dominated it in and how feels go through so much harassment as a gamer. So this story was so good because Kiera created this rich, lush virtual world based on black and African culture – a world where black people can feel safe playing in no matter what kind of black they are. But then the question of safety comes at the forefront when someone dies after playing the game…so yes to all the issues and questions that come up in this story! Safety, racism, toxic masculinity, responsibility, all in the gaming world.
  • I love Kiera’s family – her parents have raised her as well as they could, and her sister, Steph always has her back. But there was a moment I teared up at the end, when she tells her parents why she never told them about the game and the pressure to conform to what they think is acceptable. Kiera poured her heart and soul into this game and to be afraid that her loved ones wouldn’t accept that – I felt her.
  • There are parts of this book where some of the main gamers in Kiera’s game gets some book time. For Cicada/Claire, who is an African French national but half Italian, in her France she has to deal with French people assuming she was born somewhere in Africa. She’s smart, can speak many languages and has a mom who is dying in Italy. Then there is Spade, a businessman who plays the game to escape the everyday life. I loved that the gamers were all different ages all over the world.
  • The search for Kiera’s black identity is a journey – for Kiera, I thought it was fascinating how she talked about being the voice of blackness at her mostly white school because she was one of the four black kids there. We see it in her relationship with her friend white friend, Harper. And then there is her boyfriend, Malcolm who is filled with goals and dreams to succeed as a black man in America. He has a plan for how this will happen with Kiera at his side…but will he accept her secret? The discussion in the news about if the game she created is racist because the game only allows black people to play…so much to think about and I loved that the book kept asking questions.
  • The ending! It shocked me and bugged me a little because I didn’t expect it. Like, no, how could that happen?! It came near the end and we don’t get to see Kiera try to work it out fully. But wow…and yes I’m trying to be vague and not spoil anything!

Read it. Gamer or not, I think you can relate to people wanting their own safe spaces and finding their identity. The game Kiera creates is fantastic – the costumes and scenes that are describe in this world of Slay is something I would love to experience as well. Also, the game cards (the cards they use in a duel) are so cool and inventive! Most importantly though are the issues and questions this book touches on. Kiera is a Queen, in her game and outside of it. I’m definitely going to be reading more from Brittney Morris.

💕 ~ Yolanda

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/

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

BLOG TOUR | Furia by. Yamile Saied Méndez

Welcome to the blog tour for Furia by. Yamile Saied Méndez!

“In this stirring novel by Argentine American author Méndez, passion for sports and personal growth intersect in Camila’s powerful, feminist first-person narrative about her experiences as an ambitious athlete, a teenager deeply in love, the daughter of an abusive father at the point of taking charge of her own life, and a young woman finding her voice in a deeply sexist, patriarchal society… A riveting coming-of-age story.”

Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Furia

Author: Yamile Saied Méndez

Format: Paperback (gifted by Publisher)

Pages: 358

Publication Date: 9/15/20

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Own Voices, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Young Adult, Soccer/Fútbol, Family, Friendship, Romance, Latinx

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

Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far her talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university, but the path ahead won’t be easy. Her parents, who don’t know about her passion, wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. Meanwhile, the boy she once loved, Diego, is not only back in town, but has also become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Things aren’t the same as when he left: Camila has her own fútbol ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, she is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and passion of a girl like her.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me an ARC of Furia.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: engrossed ~ finished in one sitting

World Building: Rosario, Argentina ~ a melting pot of various cultures

Writing Style: beautiful, easy to digest and heartfelt

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: sweet love story

Creativity: Camila wants to be a fútbol star but she has to keep it secret for now ~ I loved learning about Argentine culture and the people

Mood: Inspired 

Triggers: misogyny, abuse, death

My Takeaway: If you don’t see a way to your dream, pave your own way!

  • Camila is so inspiring! She is of mixed ancestry: Russian, Palestinian, Andalusian, African. Camila’s African roots is what came out physically in her but her heart is all Argentina. She is complex: smart, beautiful, independent, ambitious, athletic and determined. Camila’s is also a teenager who is trying to balance going after her dreams, and chasing after love.
  • Life isn’t perfect for Camila, her family has secrets. Her dad is an overbearing misogynist, who wants a way to riches and fame through his kids! Camila’s mother is trapped in a loveless marriage and her brother, a talented fútbol player has the pressure to elevate his family. It all falls apart when her dad goes too far, but that’s when they find their strength as a family.
  • Part of the reason Camila keeps secrets is because people in their town thinks fútbol is mainly a male sport. Her brother and their friend, Diego, a young superstar are praised for their talents. Camila is as talented but fairly unknown except in the women’s leagues.
  • The book touches on many issues like poverty, domestic abuse and women’s rights. There is a feminist movement growing and the story connects it to Camila’s fight to play fútbol and shine as a talented, female player.
  • The romance is so sweet! I loved Diego and Camila’s relationship and yes, it didn’t seem to stand a chance with their life paths going different ways. But man, did I cheer them on and hope so hard that they would have a happy ending! They are young and in love and I felt it was realistic. The two of them had to make tough choices for their future.
  • The fútbol scenes were pretty awesome! I’m not a huge fan, but I’ve watched my fair share of the FIFA World Cup. I felt the excitement, I felt the tension ~ it was like watching a real game.
  • There is a violent family abuse scene in the book but Camila’s dad is the worse. I’m glad Camila was strong enough to not let her dad destroy her self-esteem and dreams.

Furia is a fantastic Own Voices story about a girl who will stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Camila deals with many challenges from an abusive father, and a love life she wants but cannot ultimately have. There are tough choices to be made in life, but Camila shows she’s strong enough to make them. By the end of the book I was inspired and overwhelmed with joy as Camila achieves her dreams. Furia is inspiring!

❤️~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Furia is her first novel for young adult readers. https://yamilesmendez.com/

You Should See Me in a Crown | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: You Should See Me in a Crown

Author: Leah Johnson

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 328

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, F/F Romance, Racism, Sickle Cell Disease, Friendship

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

My Attention: read in 3 days

World Building: Campbell County, Indiana – where prom is the event of the year

Writing Style: easy to read, flowed beautifully

Crazy in Love: cautious in love 

Creativity: a prom giving away prize money? I can see the appeal of running for prom court!

Triggers: racism, outing, mention of death, illness, homophobia

My Takeaway: “I was born royalty. All I had to do was pick up my crown.” ~ Leah Johnson

  • Liz Lighty, is smart, talented and queer. Only her friends and family know but now she’s running for prom court because there is a money prize she needs to attend the college of her dreams. So everything about her now is in the spotlight at school – who she talks to, who she hangs with and who she likes.
  • The f/f romance was so cute and Amanda’s promposal was a winner! These two don’t have it easy dating each other but it’s obviously easier for Amanda because she’s a new girl, quirky and white. Liz is black, in Indiana and queer. She has it harder on all levels but they try to make it work and mostly do with some challenges.
  • For me the friendship stories really stood out in this book. Liz has a different crew of friends, each with their own quirks and talents – but Gabi is her best friend. Gabi is also all in with helping Liz win prom court, but it gets too be a bit overwhelming for their friendship. And an old friend, Jordan, reunites with Liz because they are both running for prom court – but they have a troubled past and relearn to be friends again.
  • The message of taking the crown for your own is empowering. Liz stays classy while fighting for her right to run for prom Queen despite her race and who she loves. I absolutely loved that moment when her friends help her come up with her motto! It was so inspirational.
  • I can see this one as a movie or tv show.

This story is an inspirational story about a black girl, Liz, who is trying to be prom queen and win a crash prize in a small conservative town while being queer. What starts off as a story about winning money to attend her dream college ends with a girl who takes the crown by being unapologetically herself. YES. “Eff your fairy tale.” 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

💕 ~ Yolanda

Legendborn | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Author: Tracy Deonn

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 512

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Categories/Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance/Love Triangle, King Arthur, Diversity, Black MC, History, Secret Society, Demons, Magic, Grief, Contemporary

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

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her previous life, family memories, or her childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at a local university seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure reveals Bree’s own, unique magic and unlocks a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that she knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, Bree will do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn by becoming one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur and his knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight. 

Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I was nervous to read this book because I wanted it to be amazing! Look at that blurb, look at that cover! I could hold off no longer and I read all 500+ pages in one night. I was up until 5am in the morning and then was up at 8am to take care of two rowdy kids…I have NO regrets. 😬

My Reactions:

My Attention: totally captured and even though I needed my sleep, I just could not put the book down!

World Building: luscious, layered, epic world building – set in North Carolina, we get this secret society hiding at the University of North Carolina. This story combines the legend of King Arthur, Southern Black history, racism, and intricate magic systems.

Writing Style: the beginning is slower than the second half of the book but it’s because we are meeting Bree and she is dealing with major grief, but I was immersed in every aspect of this book and there are so many quotes I highlighted.

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – some kisses and flirtation but mostly pretty mild 

Crazy in Love: ohhhhhh boy…the love drama between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot is VERY well known…so…I’ll leave it at that! Haha

Creativity: absolutely amazing, I love how everything blended together

Mood: excited, ecstatic, obsessed 

Triggers: grief, racism, prejudice, violence, death

My Takeaway: you think you know and then you don’t

  • World building – I am in love with this world. King Arthur legend, secret society, mixed in with southern black history and magic? It made me feel warm all over, like it was ticking off all the boxes I love in a contemporary fantasy story. It was refreshing to see the King Arthur’s legend brought into our modern day world with a girl dealing with today’s societal issues plus the past and present of racism in America, especially in the South. The story has so many layers.
  • The magic systems combined in this book is so good. We have Merlins (mages) who protect our “knights of the round table” heirs (Legendborns), and the enemy are the Shadowborn or various demons that come through gates. Then we have the Southern black magic or rootcraft magic that I loved SO much. It’s organic, it’s powerful, it’s the magic I would choose to practice because it involves ancestors helping to guide you. It’s beautiful. You borrow magic from your ancestors as opposed to Legendborns who have taken magic at a cost(colonizer magic!).
  • Bree – I love that she’s not perfect and all her pain, all her journey through grief is relatable to me. I recognized all her stages of grief. She makes so many mistakes, but she also tries to do the right thing. And when she comes into her power…it is glorious! I was rooting for her all of the way!
  • Nick and Selwyn…okay – yes, there is a love triangle brewing but according to legend, it’s expected. I love Nick, he is such an Arthur…but Selwyn and the enemies-to-whatever he and Bree are? I can’t help myself with enemies-to-lovers tropes and they aren’t even lovers…YET and I don’t know if they ever will be. 😭 And around them is a diverse bunch of couples – love is love is LOVE.
  • There is action with so many demons to fight and a Page trial as well. There is a mystery about Bree’s mother, there is so much danger, there is friendship and love. There is truth, there is forgiveness, and there is a twist.
  • As I mentioned, if love triangles turn you off – then this book will not be for you.
  • For any new fantasy book with a lot of details and characters, it’s easy to get bogged down with info dumps but personally, I did not feel that way with this story. I was so engrossed in learning about Merlins, rootcraft and everything else in this world.

Some books give you that feeling: heart pumping, adrenaline in your veins, wanting to relive the world again and even wishing you could see the story come to life on screen. That was how I felt after I read this book. I was on this wild, emotional ride with Bree. I want more of the characters, more rootcraft, more of Bree and Selwyn, okay I don’t mind Nick too. I want book two in my hands right now. I think I’ve found a new book to obsess over.❤️

Havenfall | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Havenfall

Author: Sara Holland

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 305

Categories: Young Adult Fantasy, Magic, Mystery

A safe haven between four realms and the girl sworn to protect it—at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds—each with its own magic. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic firsthand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens—a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer, Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie—no one can be trusted, and no one is safe…

My Attention: waned a bit

World Building: great world building about a meeting house for the supernatural from other worlds

Writing Style: easy and quick read

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: not so much

Creativity: I thought it was cool how there is a meeting place for creatures from other worlds meet to keep the peace and do business

Mood: in love with the cover 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: When you are a given a chance to lead, take it and do the best you can.

  • The cover…it’s one of my favorite covers ever, I think. The moons, the colors, the title placement? It’s so GOOD.
  • It’s a quick read and more geared for teens than young adult.
  • I enjoyed the idea of an Inn on a mountain where it’s a crossroads for other worldly magical creatures come to congregate and keep the peace between them.
  • As far as Maddie is concerned, she’s a girl running from some troubling things going on in her family and Havenfall is the place she loves the most. Maddie finds that trouble followed her there as well though and now it’s responsible for making sure things don’t take a turn for the worst.
  • Learning about the Inn was important to the story, obviously, but because everyone is pretty much stuck there – at times I found myself bored. It would have been cool to visit a different world, maybe where the Silver Prince is from.
  • The romance is mild, Brekken and Maddie already had something going but they don’t see each other much. So there is one scene where they are together and that’s about it. He’s gone for most of the book.
  • Most of the book is a mystery because there are some things going on at the Inn that has just come to light. Maddie is investigating the players and what it could mean to her and Havenfall.

Havenfall is a light fantasy read suitable for teen readers. It has a wonderful concept with the Havenfall Inn as the crossroads where delegates from other worlds meet. There is mystery, magic, secrets and betrayal, a little something for everybody.

💕 ~ Yolanda

I’ll Be the One | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: I’ll Be the One

Author: Lyla Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, K Pop, Entertainment Industry, Body Image, LGBT+, Romance, Parent Relationships, Celebrity, Singing Competition Shows

The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself. 

My Attention: full attention

World Building: SoCal

Writing Style: light hearted, humor

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, it’s a slow burn and love is love

Creativity: love how a girl who is not the right “size” for the entertainment industry inspires people around her

Mood: happy

Triggers: emotional abuse, bullying, body image shaming, parental issues

My Takeaway: Love yourself and wear your crown! And love is love.

  • Skye Shin is awesome! She’s confident (but she had to work for that confidence), she stands up for what she believes in and she keeps going even when things get hard. I couldn’t help but cheer her on from start to finish. I love how Skye tackles body shaming straight on, even when it makes her cry (because people are trolls), but she knows she’s talented and it’s what should matter in this competition.
  • Yes to all the diversity – Skye herself is bi. There is also a f/f relationship with Skye’s new friends in the competition. The characters themselves are diverse since this is a Korean tv talent show so that was great.
  • Skye’s relationship with her mom is…typical, I feel, because I related SO MUCH. I’m Filipino American but all that body shaming and ideals is the same in my culture. It was sad to see Skye and her mom’s relationship because of the emotional abuse and Skye not knowing that it was emotional abuse. I kept thing, SAME. SAME. SAME.
  • I love the humor in the book! I found myself trying not to laugh out loud because it was late at night but this book made me feel happy.
  • Skye and Henry’s relationship is super cute. It’s a slow burn, and their flirting was fun. Henry is a hottie Korean model and she’s talented and overweight but really, they were just good people. Glad they had a happy ending!
  • Snowball made me miss my fur baby who was a husky also 😭, she’s been gone two years now and her name was Sky. I loved that Snowball was in this story it was just perfect for the whole mood of the book.

I read this book so quick and it left me feeling happy so it did it’s job! From the vibrant book cover to Skye with her confidence, she’s living her best life. This story is heartwarming, funny, sweet, a little sad and plenty inspiring.