You’ve Reached Sam by. Dustin Thao | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: You’ve Reached Sam

Author: Dustin Thao

Format: ebooks (borrowed)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 11/9/21

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Categories: Grief, Romance, Coming of Age

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Content Warning: Grief, Death of Loved One

First off, I love this book cover, it’s so pretty and perfectly reflects the story. Julie and Sam had future plans but the future changes when Sam dies in a car accident.

Julie is grieving and grieving has many stages – we see Julie go through lot of them in this story about love, death and letting go. As a character Julie comes off as unlikable but what do we really know about her outside of grieving Sam? I’ve experienced grief but not in high school, when you are young and think life is so long. Some people see Julie as selfish for not attending any of Sam’s memorials or even the funeral, others know to give her space and maybe a break. Everyone grieves differently. I did find it kind of wild that she was trying to get rid of some of Sam’s things a week after he died. Like…I know we all grieve differently but wow, I couldn’t part with my late husband’s things after just a week, even if it was hard to look at it.

I thought talking with Sam through the phone was interesting. It definitely helped her get through some of the beginning stages of losing Sam but other than that, I didn’t see the point except when we hear Sam’s explanation. That part almost made the tears come – almost! I thought it would be super emotional for me but surprisingly, it wasn’t as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. I think it’s because there really wasn’t any conflict between Sam and Julie until the night of the accident, which sucks bad, but everyone can see how it was an accident and that they were crazy about one another. Strangely, I felt it was more meaningful when Sam got to talk to Mika and his brother, because they were having a hard time with his death.

As for Julie moving on – I didn’t feel like she really did have a life outside of Sam. Her connection to her friends wasn’t a strong one, the one she did seem close to, Mika (Sam’s cousin) – was someone she pushed away the moment Sam dies. I thought that sucked for Mika who clearly needed a friend and someone who knew Sam like she did. But the great thing about her is that she does try her best to move on with the help of Sam and her friends.

Why you should read it:

  • takes a look at grieving and the different ways people grieve
  • Sam and Julie’s sweet love story
  • see how Julie learns to move on

Why you might not want to read it:

  • didn’t really connect to the characters
  • at some points Julie comes off as unlikable but she’s grieving, she’s in high school on the verge of graduating and lost her first love in a tragic accident but she does come off as immature as times

My Thoughts:

For me this book was okay – I was expecting to be bawling my eyes out but I didn’t. In a way I’m relieved I didn’t cry my eyes out but I wanted to feel more than I did. This is a story that takes a look at grieving and moving on. Julie does move on, with a little help from Sam.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quote from the Book:

Letting go isn’t about forgetting. It’s balancing moving forward with life, and looking back from time to time, remembering the people in it.”

-Dustin Thao, You’ve Reached Sam

Forging Silver into Stars by. Brigid Kemmerer | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Forging Silver into Stars (#1)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 560

Publication Date: 6/7/22

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Categories: Fantasy, Politcal Intrigue, Young Adult, Romance, LGBT+, Spinoff of Series, Series

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

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

When ancient magic tests a newfound love, a dark fate beckons . . .

Magic has been banished in the land of Syhl Shallow for as long as best friends Jax and Callyn can remember. They once loved the stories of the powerful magesmiths and mythical scravers who could conjure fire or control ice, but now they’ve learned that magic only leads to danger: magic is what killed Callyn’s parents, leaving her alone to raise her younger sister. Magic never helped Jax, whose leg was crushed in an accident that his father has been punishing him for ever since. Magic won’t save either of them when the tax collector comes calling, threatening to take their homes if they can’t pay what they owe.

Meanwhile, Jax and Callyn are astonished to learn magic has returned to Syhl Shallow — in the form of a magesmith who’s now married to their queen. Now, the people of Syhl Shallow are expected to allow dangerous magic in their midst, and no one is happy about it.

When a stranger rides into town offering Jax and Callyn silver in exchange for holding secret messages for an anti-magic faction, the choice is obvious — even if it means they may be aiding in a plot to destroy their new king. It’s a risk they’re both willing to take. That is, until another visitor arrives: handsome Lord Tycho, the King’s Courier, the man who’s been tasked with discovering who’s conspiring against the throne.

Suddenly, Jax and Callyn find themselves embroiled in a world of shifting alliances, dangerous flirtations, and ancient magic . . . where even the deepest loyalties will be tested.

Content Warning: Violence, Kidnapping, Abuse, Mention of Rape

I requested this book because it was written by Brigid Kemmerer but I didn’t realize it was a spinoff of The Cursebreakers series until I started reading it. I felt myself rebelling against this book because I didn’t love the ending of that first series. It was okay, I just didn’t think I’d return to that world again – yet here I was with Grey, Lia Mara and of course Tycho (who I vaguely remember).

This new series is set in Shyl Shallow and is told by three perspectives: Tycho, Jax – a blacksmith in Shyl Shallow, and Callyn, a baker and Jax’s best friend. It took me awhile to get into this book because I didn’t know what we were doing back here…is there a story to tell? Well – it seems like there is no happy ever after still and there is a growing faction of people who are opposed to King Grey and magic. The plan is to eliminate him and save the queen (but she doesn’t need saving). But things don’t go as planned.

I did like that this was Tycho’s story. He’s traveling between Grey’s court and Rhen’s Emberfall a lot and those two always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I just never liked how the previous series ended, I guess. But I did my best to concentrate on Tycho’s side of things. I love that he meets Jax – they have an attraction that gets kind of steamy. I felt bad for Jax because his dad abuses him and he is just trying his best to survive it. As for Callyn -I liked meeting her but then she lands in the morally grey area, especially when Lord Alek comes around and I’m not sure what will happen to her in the sequel. In this story no one is perfect.

Grey and Rhen are back for a little bit but like I said I don’t have happy feelings for either of them. The beginning of this story took awhile to get into but I did find myself caring about Tycho and Jax by the middle of it all. As for Cal and Alek? Ugh – all I feel are red flag alerts. I think it’s supposed to be an enemies to lovers romance building but I think I hate Alek…so, can he redeem himself in my eyes? I don’t know! In relation to the story…do we need to be back in this world? It just feels like an unending cycle and no one will come out totally happy, with magic or not. I am intrigued about the scravers though! But enough for me to want to read book two? I’m still not sure. I did enjoy the second half of this book though so we shall see.

Why you should read it:

  • you loved The Cursebreakers series, want to revisit old characters and the same world (you should read The Cursebreakers series if you haven’t)
  • M/M romance
  • political intrigue and some good action at the end

Why you might not want to read it:

  • wasn’t happy with the previous series
  • relationships are constantly tested in this series

My Thoughts:

I went into this book kind of wary of returning to Shyl Shallow and Emberfall and yes I struggled to get into the story in the beginning because I wondered – was there really a story to tell about this world again? But I found myself invested midway to the end of the book. I liked Tycho and Jax’s romance and am sort of intrigued by Callyn and Lord Alek – but also warning bells are going off on those two also. I wasn’t as interested in being around Grey and Rhen again, I have bittersweet or maybe just bitter feelings about how that relationship turned out. I think Nakiis’s story would be enough to pull me back into the next book. For fans of The Cursebreaker series, you will love this spinoff because all the old characters are there, and it’s a familiar world. For the not so big fans of the series, you may want to skip this one…unless you are as curious as I was, then you should read it.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Once Upon a K-Prom by. Kat Cho | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Once Upon a K-Prom

Author: Kat Cho

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 338

Publication Date: 5/17/22

Publisher: Disney

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age, K-Pop, Friends to Lovers

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

Thank you to Disney for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

What would you do if the world’s biggest K-pop star asked you to prom? Perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon, this hilarious and heartfelt novel brings the glamour and drama of the K-pop world straight to high school. 

Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing – she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged. 

So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together. But that was seven years ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love. 

Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?

Content Warning: Bullying

When I first picked this up and read the first chapter, I thought this was going to be a drag to read because I wasn’t in the mood to read a high school prom story at the moment. Few weeks later, I picked it up again and never put it back down!

Elena’s childhood best friend, Robbie Choi is back in town and he’s a big K-Pop star now. He comes around asking her to go to prom because they made a promise as kids but Elena isn’t a kid anymore and prom is the least of her concerns. She’s trying to bring awareness to kids at school that the money they are spending for prom could go to a good cause like the community center she volunteers at. But Robbie is persistent, so when he keeps popping up in her life, they start to renew their bond and this time their relationship is on another level, one that Elena isn’t sure about.

This story is so cute! There is something about these “falling for a K-Pop star” books that is so addictive, even if at first I didn’t think I would be into this one – it got me in the end! I loved seeing Elena and Robbie rekindle their friendship and seeing it turn into something more, despite the drama that comes a long with it. It seriously played out like a K-drama show and I hope someone (Netflix) makes this one into a movie. But it has that recipe or formula that K-drama’s have, a relationship that has it’s problems and funny starts, then the feelings start catching and the betrayal or drama and then a super sweet ending that pulls at your heart strings. This story has all of that.

WDB is the K-pop group that Robbie is a part of and we get to meet the members. They are so sweet, except the leader of the group Jongdae but the only K-pop group I know is BTS so it’s who I compared to in my mind when reading. I am always fascinated when reading these K-pop romance stories when the business side of K-pop groups are revealed. There is a lot of sacrifice that goes into becoming a superstar, sometimes at the expense of who these stars really are inside as people and I think it’s a good reminder to us who just see them as celebrities that it’s not all glitz and glamour. It’s a controlling industry and we get a glimpse into how Robbie’s life is restricted as well as Sooyeon, the girl pop star they are friends with.

As for the characters, Elena isn’t the most likable but I think she is relatable. Sure, she’s the girl who thinks prom is a waste of time, and she’s a planner, a bit controlling and when things don’t go her way, she freaks out or pushes people away. She doesn’t know what she’s good at, or what her passion is (besides the community center) and always feels invisible compared to her siblings. But I think that’s where Robbie balances her out – he is sweet and laid back.

Why you should read it:

  • childhood friends to lovers, sweet love story, falling for a K-pop star
  • if you love K-drama and K-pop, this one is for you
  • loved all the Korean rep plus K-pop industry info

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into K-pop

My Thoughts:

Honestly these K-pop romance stories have a good formula and it works. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this one and yet in the end it was pulling on my heartstrings and making me wish a K-pop star asked me to prom! I need this one as a movie on Netflix, it would be so cute.

📚 ~ Yolanda

An Unreliable Magic by. Rin Chupeco | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: An Unreliable Magic (A Hundred Names for Magic, #2)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: 5/3/22

Publisher: Sourcebook Fire

Categories: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Fairytales

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

Thank you to Sourcebook Fire for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about found family, modern day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Tala, Alex, and the rest of their friends are safe for now, but know the Snow Queen is still out there. They have to be prepared for when she eventually attacks—and all decide to do so in their own way.

When Ryker comes out of the woodwork, showing himself when he starts attacking American detention facilities and freeing refugees. And the Nameless Sword, a legendary weapon that according to Avalon legend, will make its wielder the most powerful warrior of their time turns up with her name on it, Tala’s life gets messier…But when the Snow Queen arrives with an unlikely ally, the group will have to work together.

Content Warning: Racism, Violence

I really enjoyed Wicked as You Wish, which was book one in this series. I’m not sure why it was a struggle for me to get through this sequel.

One thing I love about Rin Chupeco books is the diversity she puts into her books. This story is no exception – there is so much diversity, it’s wonderful! Being a Filipino-American, I love seeing all the Filipinos represented in this book, especially with the women warriors. The old crew is back and the fairytale settings are present again and when I say fairytale settings I mean the author includes every fairytale out there from Peter Pan to Alice in Wonderland and then some. It’s a chaotic mix but it works.

The thing is, this is totally a mood read kind of book for me and I was not in the mood for this type of this story. I tried my hardest to get into the mood though! What tripped me up was the huge cast of characters. I didn’t re-read the first book before going into this one and maybe that would have helped. Because of this the first chapters of the book was going way too slow for me. It was a struggle for me. I was having trouble connecting to Tala because I was getting invested in Ken and Nya, but then I would be trying to remember who was who from the first book. There is so much going on in this book and it did not slow down. I just felt like I couldn’t catch up yet I usually love fast paced books! I think there was just too much going on for me in this one.

Why you should read it:

  • fairytale infused story (every fairytale and myth you can think of)
  • lots of action and so much diversity
  • you want to be back with Tala, Alex and their crew

Why you might not want to read it:

  • too much going on, first part of the story is slow
  • it was hard connecting to the characters, too many characters to remember
  • (re-read the first book if you can)

My Thoughts:

The great thing about this series is the action, the diversity and how all the fairytales come together in one creative story. Unfortunately, I had a hard time getting into the story. There was too much going on in the story and I didn’t re-read the first story to reacquaint myself with the large cast of characters, and I struggled through the first part of the story. It’s definitely a book where I need to be in the mood for. I think many fans of the first book will enjoy this one and be happy to see the same characters from book one.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Ebonwilde by. Crystal Smith | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Ebonwilde (Blood Leaf #3)

Author: Crystal Smith

Format: ebook (owned)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 4/12/22

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance

Get ready to be swept away, seduced, and swindled in the wickedly vicious third and final installment in the Bloodleafseries that Laura Sebastian called “enchanting, visceral, and twisty.”

Welcome to Ebonwilde. Come and find me. 

Aurelia’s last words haunted Zan. Left with the task of finding and reviving Princess Aurelia, Zan sets off on his own adventure to find her and return the gift she sacrificed for him—her life. But not all is what it seems, and Ebonwilde is more dangerous than anyone can predict.

Content Warning: Death, Violence

I’m not sure what I was expecting with the end of this series but this one surprised me, sometimes not in a good way.

I love the twists and turns but that came mostly at the ending. I like how the story was resolved and loose ends were tied up. I even liked how everyone is separated but come together to defeat the villain and make everything right. Some people get happy endings, others get a bad deal.

The thing I didn’t really enjoy was the timeline jumping. I understand why it happened, because Zan can basically time jump in the Gray. So there are many things going on at one time, kind of like the webs that the Spinner has to deal with. I did like that parallel. But it could get confusing at times. There is a Then, Now, 1620, 1921 (10 days before Midwinter…etc…)…and it was hard to follow at times. I wish it was a bit more straightforward but that’s what happens with time jumping!

Also, the love triangle bit was breaking my heart. I refused to believe it was happening and was thinking, this cannot end this way! Why now? I was getting upset. There were people dying that I didn’t want to die. Of course you have to read and find out what happens in the end and it is beautiful how it ends but I think it took a confusing way to get to there.

The thing I love about this series is the mythology and questions about power and how it affects people. I found this particular book fascinating because it touched on present day issues like like when a virus ravages a community. Or when a radical figure uses his power influence a group of people and cause chaos.

It was always about Aurelia in the beginning and her choices. Now we know why but I did like that in this last book, it took all of them, a collective effort, not just Aurelia, to save humanity. I like that we get to see other characters and their relationships. I loved all the reveals – but they really did come all at the end.

Why you should read it:

  • to finish the series
  • great world building and the story did tie up loose ends
  • love how the characters are complex, each has a role, and our heroine isn’t perfect

Why you might not want to read it:

  • first part is slow because many different perspectives and timelines happening
  • a love triangle (but read it to find out what happens)

My Thoughts:

I loved that this book tied up the loose ends and really did a nice job ending the series. I just wish it wasn’t such a confusing timeline for me – but that could be my fault for not rereading book two. I recommend doing so, so you are reacquainted with the whole cast of characters. I didn’t like the love triangle because it was so sad and bittersweet. The ending of this book was an emotional rollercoaster with twists and turns and your faves are not guaranteed to survive. I’m glad I got to finish this series. Book two was my favorite of the three, but I really did love all the reveals in book three.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

Hope was such a pernicious, perilous thing. A rope to promised safety that could lead instead to the brink of a chasm, with no quarter for retreat or net to catch your fall.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

And I will keep choosing you, every day, every hour, every minute, for as long as I live.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

Everything that had ever separated us, every lie, every loss, every hurt, mistake, and misunderstanding, now became what dragged us back to one another.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

I don’t believe that who we are is ever set in stone. We are transitory creatures—every day, we wake up as someone new, changed just a little bit by the experiences of the day before. Who we were is always a part of us, but it doesn’t determine who we are, nor who we can still become.

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

Castles in Their Bones by. Laura Sebastian | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Castles in Their Bones

Author: Laura Sebastian

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 514

Publication Date: 2/1/22

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Categories: Young Adult, Kingdom Politics, Fantasy

A spellbinding story of three princesses and the destiny they were born for: seduction, conquest, and the crown. Immerse yourself in the first book in a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the New York Times bestselling Ash Princess series.

Empress Margaraux has had plans for her daughters since the day they were born. Princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz will be queens. And now, age sixteen, they each must leave their homeland and marry their princes.

Beautiful, smart, and demure, the triplets appear to be the perfect brides—because Margaraux knows there is one common truth: everyone underestimates a girl. Which is a grave mistake. Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are no innocents. They have been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence with a singular goal—to bring down monarchies— and their marriages are merely the first stage of their mother’s grand vision: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The princesses have spent their lives preparing, and now they are ready, each with her own secret skill, and each with a single wish, pulled from the stars. Only, the stars have their own plans—and their mother hasn’t told them all of hers.

Life abroad is a test. Will their loyalties stay true? Or will they learn that they can’t trust anyone—not even each other?

Content Warning: Death, Violence

This gave me Three Dark Crown vibes and sometimes The Bridge Kingdom but way less dark and intense.

I liked the three sisters and their back stories. They were born to be wives of Princes in neighboring kingdoms with plans of their mother taking over each kingdom. That is the plan, but when the girls are aways from their mother – plans start to change.

Sophronia, is the soft hearted one and already half in love with her Prince. Beatriz, is the pretty one and placed in the most extravagant kingdom. Daphne, is the cunning and cold one and she’s place in the most northern kingdom which lacks a lot of comforts and luxuries her homeland of Bessimia is known for. It did take a moment to get each girl and their personalities situated in my head. I had to make sure who’s perspective I was reading, by checking each chapter title.

I think the story moved very evenly between the three perspectives which was really nice but I think I wanted a bit more intensity. I wanted the stakes to feel high for these sisters but I didn’t quite feel it. They knew their duties and knew their own personalities, so it played out how their mom anticipated. There is very limited romance in the story, lots of political intrigue and betrayal.

I did like the magic system of the wishes but would like to learn more about it and the stardust. I was definitely captured by the story and kept reading to see what would happen next.

The twist in the end made me a bit sad but I feel liked Daphne’s story will be one to watch. Will she help her sisters or follow her mom’s plan? It ends in a cliffhanger of course so I feel like I have to read book two just to know what Daphne will do.

Why you should read it:

  • court politics
  • it’s got stardust magic, and sisters meant to infiltrate other kingdoms
  • entertaining story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • the story didn’t wow me – but try it out if you like court politics!

My Thoughts:

Perfect for fans of kingdoms and court politics. Like I said in the beginning it had the Three Dark Crowns vibe but with a little Bridge Kingdom (the sisters infiltrating other kingdoms). I loved the bond of the sisters and it was interesting to see how each would carry out their plans in the places they were sent. There is little romance, lots of betrayal and a cliff hanger ending. Will definitely be reading book two to see what happens next.

📚 ~ Yolanda

How to Be the Best Third Wheel by. Loridee De Villa | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: How to Be the Best Third Wheel

Author: Loridee De Villa

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 5/3/22

Publisher: Wattpad Books

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Teen Readers, Romance, Enemies to Lovers, Coming of Age

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

Thank you to Wattpad Books for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

A clean teen romance comedy about figuring out where you belong when all the constants in your life begin to change.

It’s the last year of highschool, and everything has changed . . .

After spending summer vacation in the Philippines with family, Lara returns to school eager to catch up with her close knit group of girlfriends. But within minutes of reuniting with her friends, she learns that not one, not two, but all three of them are now in relationships that blossomed over the summer. And to make matters worse, Lara’s long time frenemy, James, won’t stop bugging her in class and eventually forces her into tutoring him everyday after school.

Surviving high school was never easy to begin with, but with occupied friends, a hectic Filipino family, and her annoying childhood enemy pestering her more than ever, Lara tries to juggle everything, while trying to figure out her own place in the chaos.

Content Warning:

First off, a warning – this book does not have a happily ever after. Also it’s definitely more for teen readers.

Lara is dealing with a lot of things, and most Seniors in high school do. Her best friends came back from summer break all with boyfriends, she’s tutoring her childhood crush but now enemy James, and she’s trying to decide what she wants to do after high school.

I love the diversity and how Lara is a second generation filipino immigrant that lives in Canada. She is fluent in Tagalog which is nice and we get the Tagalog translations in English as well. I’m Filipino American, but my family speaks Ilocano, not Tagalog so I needed those translations. I totally related to some of the Filipino family dynamics, and the mentions of food was fantastic. I love how she has that family bond and also the family enemy (her cousin, Eliza). Who doesn’t have family drama?

I thought Lara and James’ relationship was funny because honestly, Lara is so dramatic. But I felt that was perfect for her character, because I remember being a teenager, and how everything was a big deal in that moment of my life. As an adult reading this book, of course I had moments I was rolling my eyes and cringing but I had to remind myself how it was in high school. I feel like lots of teens will be able to relate to Lara’s worries about her path in life after high school.

Lara’s best friends in this book was always leaving her out to dry and that sucked. I get that dating also is such a big deal in high school as well but I felt bad for Lara. It did give her more time with James though but still, I felt bad when they kept flaking on her or lying. As for the ending – I am not someone into sad endings. Is it realistic? Sure, it is, but I want my romance stories to have happy endings even if it’s not realistic, so that didn’t work for me.

Why you should read it:

  • friends to enemies to lovers story
  • diversity, Filipino-Canadian rep

Why you might not want to read it:

  • cringe inducing, eye rolling moments
  • feels like it’s written for younger teens

My Thoughts:

I did enjoy the filipino representations and that’s why I requested this book. I feel like the story definitely fulfilled that part of my expectations with the Tagalog translations and familiar family dynamics I saw in Lara’s interactions. Those parts were great. I wasn’t really into her friends ghosting her all the time. The romance was funny and cute but there was no happily ever after, which left me sad – I want a romance to leave me happy. This one would appeal more to teens and younger who can relate to Lara’s coming of age challenges.

📚 ~ Yolanda

I Must Betray You by. Ruta Sepetys | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: I Must Betray You

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 321

Publication Date: 2/1/22

Publisher: Penguin

Categories: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Communism, Romania

Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?

Content Warning: Death, Violence, Torture

It’s 1989 and the Berlin Wall has come down (I remember watching that on TV), and all around Romania it seems that the Iron Curtain is coming down. As a young kid I only knew what I saw on TV but this book right here gives me an insider view that is really amazing. What I love about this author is her research – it is always so in depth. It’s one of the reasons I love adult historical fiction but as a young adult fiction, she really does such a fantastic job of capturing historical events through the eyes of young people.

Cristi or Cristian is just a 17 year old kid living in Romania. His whole community, the whole country in fact is under surveillance of the government. Say anything bad about their leader and the Securitae will come after them – just like how they were coming for Cristi’s grandfather who is very outspoken about their leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu. But the way Romania is under surveillance is the sad part – it is country men informing on one another – but they do it so they can survive the dire conditions in Romania. Can you imagine living somewhere with barely heat in freezing winters and not being to trust anyone around you? The outside world doesn’t know how they go to school six days a week, how everything they watch on tv is state run, or how they are barely surviving on scheduled rations. To get any good services or products in the community you have to barter with a pack of Kents cigarettes! And Cristi loves his grandfather, and he wants to do anything to help him out even if that means betraying someone. But Cristi finds out the truth about who is betraying who in his life.

I liked Cristi and glad he had the influence of his brave grandfather. I loved the hopeful message of first love with a girl at school Lilliana, even in such tough times. You can feel Cristi’s despair and frustration at the government and his yearning to do something impactful, even at the cost of his life. I think this story resonates so much because of current events happening between Ukraine and Russia.

The only issue I had was the ending part when the revolution started and then it ended – I thought it was too fast. The story is a build up to it with the distrust around Cristi, it’s a slow beginning but I’m glad we got a sense of how dire it was in Romania but I would have like more of the revolution part because it is so inspiring. The epilogue is fantastic as we learn about the secret files the Securitae kept on all the surveillance going on in Romania. It is truly astounding the lengths the government went through to keep people in line, keep people in fear and separated from the outside world.

As always with historical fiction we get a bit more extra information from the author in the notes. I always love seeing that in the author’s notes.

Why you should read it:

  • learn about Romania in 1989, know how they lived – it’s an important story
  • it’s inspiring and relates to current events
  • you love historical fiction and beautiful writing

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into historical fiction

My Thoughts:

Ruta Sepetys is a must read author for me because I learn something every time I read one of her books. I was so young when this moment in time happened in Romania so to look back now and read it as an adult, it makes me realize that I missed a lot of information or was too young to understand what has happening thousands of miles away from me. It’s important to hear these stories and she does a great service by telling them with her beautiful writing.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

Paradise: If communism is Paradise, why do we need barriers, walls, and laws to keep people from escaping?” 

― Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You

“Mistrust is a form of terror. The regime pits us against one another” 

― Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You

How could we expect others to feel our pain or hear our cries for help when all we could do was whisper ?” 

― Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You

Your father’s hungry, Cristian, literally and figuratively. Ration cards in the 1980s? We had more food during World War II,” complained Bunu. “Do you see the lunacy of all this? They’ve got us brainwashed, standing in lines for hours, grateful for rotten beans. But what is the cost of self-worth?” 

― Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You

The Genesis Wars by. Akemi Dawn Bowman | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: The Genesis Wars (The Infinity Courts, #2)

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: 4/19/22

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Categories: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian

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

Thank you to Simon Pulse for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Nami’s continuing adventures as she fights to free her friends.

It’s been ten months since Nami narrowly escaped the Four Courts and Ophelia’s wrath. Ten months since she was betrayed by someone she once considered a friend. Someone she poured her heart out to. And now her family here in the afterlife are gone, captured, and Nami is utterly alone.

On the run, only steps ahead of the AI forces pursuing her, and desperate to free her friends, Nami must take the allies she can find, even if she doesn’t fully trust them. And as she tests the limits of her own power, she must also reckon with the responsibility that entails.

Stakes are high as Nami navigates old enemies, unexpected allies, and an ever-changing landscape filled with dangers and twists at every turn. Along the way, she’ll learn powerful truths about who she can trust and the sacrifices that must be made in order to fight for a better, freer world for all.

Content Warning: Violence, Torture

In the sequel to The Infinity Courts, things get more dire for Nami. Book one left us with a big, shocking plot twist at the end and now Nami has to deal with the outcome of the events that occurred. She is in the Borderlands, trying to train hard enough to fight the Residents and trying to gather allies to help her get her friends. But she is at her wits end – everyone seems to be against her. Nami won’t give up trying to go back to the Courts to find her friends though, even if she has to infiltrate Caelan’s mind to do so.

Nami…what can I say about this girl? She is stubborn, rash, makes so many mistakes but she is fighting to save her friends because she carries guilt for trusting Caelan She blames herself for their capture and she’s heartbroken and angry because he betrayed her. Nami is hardened in book two, she is eaten up with guilt and anger. Her focus is only on saving her friends, and keeping the Borderlands alive so humans have a safe space to go to when they cross over. People like her sister Mei. Nami frustrated me because her plans took precedent over everyone else’s. But as it was reiterated many times in the story – she’s only been there for one lifetime whereas the others, have been fighting for many lifetimes. She’s a baby compared to everyone else there, she has a lot to learn and she does – the hard way.

I enjoyed meeting the characters in the Borderlands and learning about the different tribes. Kasia was a kind friend to Nami – bless her heart and Nix’s. Nami needs a friend and Kasia was gracious enough to extend that friendship to her. Caelan is back and I was wary about him as Nami was but we learn a few things about him that explains his actions in book one.

Once again this book ends in a cliffhanger. This series I will say, has some amazing plot twists and cliffhangers. The writing is wonderful, it just flows so well and the story moved fast. I like how the story tackled issues about leaders and their responsibilities to their people. Also there were questions about a person’s free will and sacrifice. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next book!

Why you should read it:

  • you read The Infinity Courts and need to find out what happens next after that cliffhanger ending
  • it has action, plot twists and a cliffhanger – writing flows so easily
  • Nami’s character growth – she suffers through guilt and anger in this sequel, she makes mistakes but she does not stop fighting to find her friends. There is a lot of room to grow for her.

Why you might not want to read it:

  • Not into sci-fi/dystopian set in the afterlife

My Thoughts:

This sequel gave us a chance to see Nami struggle with guilt, anger, making mistakes, and being rash with her decisions but sticking steadfast to her goal of finding her friends and keeping the Borderlands alive to help humans find a safe haven. She is challenged at every turn, she trusts no one and has to really keep her wits about her. Her character frustrated me a lot but I understood why she acted out the way she did. The story moves quickly and of course there is a cliffhanger that makes me eager for book three. This is a solid sequel that sets up for book three in a big way.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Ace of Spades by. Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Ace of Spades

Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 512

Publication Date: 6/1/21

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Categories: Young Adult, Racism, Prep School, Romance, Mystery, Thriller

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. 

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. 

Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. 

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 

Content Warning: Death, Violence, Racism, Suicidal Ideation

This one really surprised me!

When I started reading this, I thought, okay some prep school drama is going down. Who is spreading this malicious gossip? I was in on the mystery, trying to figure who could be the culprit and without giving major spoilers – let’s just say I was totally off. The author did such a good job dropping a bomb on me when the big reveal happens.

So obviously the beginning was slow because it’s a mystery. We meet out two main characters, Chiamaka who is half Nigerian/half Italian. Devon is a black boy who lives in a rough neighborhood, he’s there at Niveus Academy on scholarship. Chiamaka is the most popular girl in school with aspirations for Yale. Devon is a musician with hopes to get into Julliard and everything is going so well their Senior year…until they are not. Someone called Aces is spreading some details about their lives to their fellow student body and all of it is about to ruin their lives and future – unless they find out who’s doing it. That’s all I can say!

Chiamaka is bi as we find out later on in the book. Chiamaka is a strong girl because although she’s biracial, her parents have money. So she fit in more easily with everyone at the school whereas Devon kept his head down and stayed out of the limelight. Devon is gay and the boy he loves is gay too, but he’s a drug dealer and hangs out in a crowd that isn’t accepting of his sexuality. Devon suffers a lot for being gay from being beaten when he was a kid, to having his heart broken because the boy he loves can’t openly love him. I really felt for Devon and connected to him more. I was invested in his love life more than Chiamaka’s.

The reveal in the end is jaw dropping and eye opening. The story talks about institutionalized racism and it touches on so many different issues – legacy, affirmative action, Chiamaka trying to impress everyone by being what they want her to be, Devon trying to make bad choices just to sruvive. I love that Chiamaka and Devon fight back though and there is an epilogue – 16 years later! Loved that ending!

Why you should read it:

  • it’s a mystery-thriller but with an unexpected twist
  • great LGBT representation and characters (mostly Devon)
  • important book about racism

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into prep school drama – mysteries can be kinda boring in the beginning – I thought this was just going to be some mean girl drama/with kids dealing with the pressure of climbing to the top of the social/academic chain, etc (but it is MORE than that)

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this story! I like how it kept me on my toes and surprised me in the end. I really connected to Devon and was invested in his story. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

This world isn’t ideal. This world, our world, the one with houses as crooked as the people in them. Broken people, broken by the way the world works.”

― Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé , Ace of Spades

I look at him and I think about how we don’t know the people we think we know at all.”

― Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé , Ace of Spades