Raves & Craves: Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me
Title:
Ziggy, Stardust and Me
Author:  James Brandon
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, Historical
Source: Physical ARC from publisher

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Synopsis:

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.


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Hi everyone! Today I am hosting a Raves & Craves post for Penguin Teen’s Daring Debuts campaign! I hope you are ready for a yummy treat paired with a raving review of Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon.

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My heart is so content and heavy by how unbelievably earth-shattering, tear-inducing, and beautifully written this book is. Ziggy, Stardust & Me reads like a song that you want to hear for the very first time all over again. James Brandon’s words will flood your soul with tears of sorrow and intense pride.

Set in the 1970s, this novel clinches the historical realities of corrupt government scandals, blatant racism, and the treatment of homosexuality as a mental disorder. Mesh these wrongs with abstract lyrics of self-acceptance, change, hope, love, and the perceptive of humanity, and you encompass the heart and struggles found in Ziggy, Stardust & Me.

Jonathan (also known as Johnny), the main character, is going through so many life-changing experiences at once, which sets up his adolescence in a galactic spin of hardships, falling in love, and finding self-acceptance. Ziggy, Stardust & Me will immerse your heart in a coming of age story that is very relevant to today’s young generation who, like Johnny, struggle to find their own voice and find pride in who they are.

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One of my favorite parts of this book was watching the friendship and relationship develop between Johnny and his new classmate and American Indian friend, Web. They share a love for music, imagining the moon as their safe haven, and accepting ice cream as a peace offering. I was constantly highlighting and tagging scenes and quotes between these two characters. Some of my favorite quotes that inspired this blog post snack are:

“You know, Carl Sagan says we’re all made of star stuff. Everything is made of it. When stars die they fall into our atmosphere and turn into these chemical compounds that become things. Sometimes they become people.”
“Far out.”
“I know. I hope one day we’ll all see each other without these stupid labels and instead see each other for who we really are. Starfolk.”

“And remembering a quote President Kennedy once said: ‘We choose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.’
I think I finally get it now. It’s a lot like love, isn’t it? It’s hard work, but if you don’t give up and keep pushing forward, the rewards are infinite . . .”

“We can always go there, you know? To the moon. It’s safe at least . . .”

“Just us, remember? To the moon,” he whispers.

In reference to these beautifully written scenes, I was inspired to make my own bowl of comforting ice cream sundae. While Johnny’s favorite ice cream is bomb pops and Web’s are Push-up pops, I thought I would put my own “To the Moon” sundae spin with my favorite ice cream, cookies ‘n cream. 

Ingredients:

  • Ice cream (vanilla)
  • Oreo
  • Cherries
  • Sprinkles (stars and moons, if you got them)

Instructions:

Scoop up your favorite flavored ice cream and place it into a bowl. Then add all your favorite toppings. In this case, I have added large crumbles of Oreo cookies, cherries (because the flavor reminds Johnny of Web), and a sprinkle of stars to represent their friendship and being ever-loving starfolk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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James Brandon
 produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is codirector of the documentary film based on their journey, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s the cofounder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust and Me is his first novel. You can visit James Brandon at justbejb.com

TOUR SCHEDULE

Ziggy, Stardust and Me

Week One:

August 5 – The Book Bratz – Covers inspired by favorite singers
August 6 – Goblet of Fiction – Creative Instagram Picture
August 7 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Author Guest Post: What theme song would you choose for each character and why?
August 8 – Confessions of a YA Reader – Playlist
August 9 – Velarisreads – Inspired by the Book: Makeup

Week Two:

August 12 – Liv The Book Nerd – Review + Playlist
August 13 – The Nerdy Girl Express – Review
August 14 – Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Raves and Craves
August 15 – LGBT YA Catalog – Author Guest Post
August 16 – @booksandbrandy – Creative Instagram Picture

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Note: A huge thank you to the Penguin Teen for inviting me on this blog tour and for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own.

Raves & Craves: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

36511805
Title:
Serious Moonlight
Author:  Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Physical ARC from publisher

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Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.


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That’s right, you guys, it’s my third post regarding Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett. Hashtag sorry not sorry! Today I am bringing you one of my favorite blog memes I love creating, the Raves & Craves post, where I always pair a short, raving review with a snack of some kind. And today, we have PIE!

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As I gushed about in several posts before (REVIEW HERE and MOOD BOARD HERE), I adored Serious Moonlight. There’s awkward teenage angst, pie for breakfast (well, basically pie at anytime of the day), a swoony boy, real-life mystery and sleuthing, a murder-mystery dinner date, and so many diverse relationships that make my heart so happy. This book will make your heart ache in the best ways. 

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You guys, this was the first ever pie I made that wasn’t a “frozen pie in a box that you just pop in the oven.” It was so intimidating because I wanted this pie to turn out perfectly. Hopefully, below, I can simplify this pie baking the best that I can, so you don’t have to make everything from scratch.

Ingredients:

  • Pie crust – I highly recommend using a pre-made pie crust that is already inserted in a pan. Or you can even buy the pre-made roll out pie crusts to save time.
  •  Strawberries (I used one pint)
  • Frozen cherries
  • Half a cup of sugar
  • 2/3 cups of flour
  • A lemon
  • 1 beaten egg

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut up your strawberries into bite size pieces.
  3. Place the strawberries and frozen cherries in a sauce pan and cook at medium heat.
  4. Squeeze a whole lemon into the pan with the fruit and stir.
  5. Once the fruit cooks down, add the sugar, and stir.
  6. Once the fruit starts boiling, I added a 1/3 cup of flour to help thicken the juices. After 5 minutes turn off the burner and let the fruit cool down.
  7. Use the left over flour to help roll out and flatten your pie crust. Don’t make the crust too thin. You do you!
  8. Make sure that you line a pie pan with the crust, if you don’t already have a pre-made pie crust already in a pie pan.
  9. Add the fruit as the filling to the pie.
  10. Then add the top layer of pie crust over the fruit. Be sure to cut slits in the pie for the fruit/pie to vent. Note: When I was rolling out the pie crust, I went ahead and cut out stars in my top layer of crust.
  11. Brush the beaten egg over the top of the crust.
  12. Place the pie in the oven and cook it for 25 minutes or until golden brown at the top.

I call this tasty beauty, the “Best GD Cherry ‘Star’berry Pie”

serious moonlight raves and craves

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Note: A huge thank you to the Simon Pulse/Simon Teen for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own.

Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

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Title:
In the Neighborhood of True
Author:  Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Historical
Source: e-ARC from publisher
Rating: ★★★★

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Synopsis:

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.


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“If you want to fly, you have to ruffle some feathers.”

Set in the late 1950s, In the Neighborhood of True is an emotional novel that reawakens the reality of segregation and racism that darkened USA’s past and even haunts today’s America. As a very character-driven story, sixteen-year-old Ruth carries the reader through the heartbreak of losing her father and moving from New York to a Southern state where etiquette is inculcated through a pink book, her classmates fit the debutante mold, the boys are swoony, but her revelation of being Jewish is a dangled secret that puts her at risk from being part of the popular crowd. 

“Be strong when everything is going wrong.”

Ruth is a very quirky girl. She’s smart and straightforward, and the entire book is filled with her determination to be accepted by her pre-debutante-obsessed peers but also finding that strength and balance to honor herself, her family, and her religion. Ruth’s inner and outer dialogue is one of the most captivating mouthpieces I have a read in a long time. Her engaging voice and character development allows the novel to steadily unfold into a story of maturity, first love, and a teenage girl’s bravery to fight for social justice. 

“Imagine it and you can be it.”

In the Neighborhood of True was a constant page-turner of heartfelt characters and a main character that is not afraid to shake up her Southern town. The historical and fist-gripping hatred that is portrayed in this novel is heartbreaking, but like one of the characters points out to Ruth, “when hatred shows its face, you need to make a little ruckus. And you, dear Ruthie, made a very important little ruckus.”

Susan Carlton Credit Sharona Jacobs_HR
About the Author:

Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

 susankaplancarlton.com | Twitter | Instagram

 

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Note: Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me on the blog tour and providing me an e-ARC to read and review All statements and opinions are my own.  Please note that all quoted material is not final and may change in the final publication of the book.

Mood Board: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

36511805
Title:
Serious Moonlight
Author:  Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Physical ARC from publisher

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Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.


Mood Board banner Serious Moonlight

I’m back! And it is my second week in a row to gush and RAVE about Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett. 

While reading Jenn’s amazing book (you check out my full review HERE), I jotted down a few images, words, and passages that stuck out to me, and voilà: a mood board that conveys my love for Serious Moonlight.

MOOD BOARD -SERIOUS MOONLIGHT
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Note: A huge thank you to the Simon Pulse/Simon Teen for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own.

Blog Tour: Review of Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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Title:
Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: E-arc from publisher
Rating: ★★★★

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Synopsis:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy . . . 

RAVING BLURBS:

“Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval


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Oh, Wicked Saints, you were just a whirlwind to read, and I was so happy be caught up in your storm. As a fantasy novel, Wicked Saints started off with a bang . . . but a very confusing bang: chaos and war proceeded throughout the pages and I was desperately scrambling to understand the magic system and who was who. In all honesty, it took me about 15% of the book to finally familiarize myself with all the characters, who had what powers, and understanding the political and religious powers that fueled the war littered throughout the pages. But once I started to understand the holy mess and revolutions that ensued, I could not put this book down. 

As a rarity among society, Nadezhda can speak to gods. With this commodity, the gods grant her divine powers, but the power-granting gods hope for something in return. As Nadezhda tries to break the veil for the gods to finally return and stop a war, she is thrown into political intrigue and religious turmoil. The country and kingdom are crumbling, while her path interweaves with a drunken prince who has seen nothing but war and blood throughout his young adulthood and she also joins ranks with a band of misfits (and an often-smiling, monstrous boy) who seem too trusting and all too good to be true to accept as allies. 

You guys, you need to prepare yourself for the dark character agencies and merciless blood magic that saturates Wicked Saints. There are jaw-dropping moments of lies, deception, bloody kisses, and utter betrayal. And you know what, I am so here for the next book to knock me off my feet. 

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“The future was magic, it was power, it was mankind stepping out of the shadows and finding out the world had been kept in the dark by these gods.”

“We’re all monsters . . . some of us just hide it better than others.”

“You must make a choice, little bird. Do you continue on with your wings clipped or do you fly?”

“I don’t think love is such a force that it will stop you. I’m not sure you’re even capable of it.”

“He was a liar and she wanted his truths.”

“A witch is just a girl who has realized her power is her own.”

Emily A. Duncan
About the Emily A. Duncan

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

 


SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

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Note: Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me an early copy of this book. I received this book as a #partner with St. Martin’s/Wednesday Books. All statements and opinions are my own. Please note that all quoted material are not final and may change in the final publication of the book.

 

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

36511805
Title:
Serious Moonlight
Author:  Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Physical ARC from publisher

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Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.


Serious Moonlight banner

Hi, my name is Cassie and I am a Jenn Bennett book addict . . . I mean fanatic.

If Jenn Bennett writes it. I will read it.

And I’m going to be completely honest with you right now, in the next few weeks, I will probably have multiple posts about Serious Moonlight on my blog. Yes, this post here serves as my official review, but do not fret, I will definitely be posting my favorite quotes and a possible “Raves & Craves” post, which will involve pie . . . yummy, yummy pie.


So what did I love about this book, you ask?


1. Birdie and Daniel’s awkward, sweet, cute, and witty banter. There is an undeniable connection between these two characters, and I really enjoyed how naturally their friendship grew from a “missed connection,” being co-workers, detective work, and their reserved ability to confess their insecurities and establish trust between each other.

2. I adored the most heartwarming relationship between Birdie and her late-mom’s best friend who Birdie calls Aunt Mona. Birdie and Aunt Mona are so enjoyable to read on the page. They are so hilarious and flipping fantastic. You know how in Pretty in Pink, Andie discusses so much of her life’s troubles with her amazing manager, Iona, and their banter is so grown up and funny? That is Birdie and Aunt Mona in a nutshell. I freakin’ love it.

3. There is a date that involves a murder mystery dinner, and GD it it’s so thoughtful and cheesy. This chapter is truly worth the muscle-aching cheeks from all the happy grinning and swooning.

4. Pie. Cherry pie. Breakfast pie. All the pie. 

5. Jenn Bennett’s approach to teen issues is always so gut-wrenching, realistic, and truthful. She handles and approaches issues like teen sex, insecurities, familial problems, mental illness, anxiety, suicide, grief, and depression in Serious Moonlight so well. Jenn’s characters and stories are so honest and relatable, and I look forward to gifting a finished copy of this book to my 16-year-old niece.
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Note: The HUGEST thank you to the Simon Pulse/Simon Teen for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own.

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Review of When the Sky Fell On Splendor by Emily Henry

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Title:
 When the Sky Fell on Splendor
Author:  Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.

In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.

Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.

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You guys, where do I even start. Emily Henry wrote one of my favorite books in the world, A Million Junes, and I could not wait until her next book to knock me off my feet. And here it is–When the Sky Fell on Splendor–another Henry book that takes the strong elements of the contemporary genre and splashes in frames of science fiction and fantasy. As supernatural elements are spread throughout the pages, the characters are thrown into strange phenomenons as they are dealing with cracked remnants of grief etched by loss.

When the Sky Fell on Splendor is a constant page-turner illuminated with small-town, Midwestern vibes, the disarray of a tragic event, and a group of teenage misfits. About five years ago a local steel mill explosion failed to spare well-loved neighbors, family members, and local heroes. Each character is internally processing the events that rattled their lives, and as summer unfolds their lives are suddenly changed again when they witness the crash of an unidentified flying object.

I really enjoyed When the Sky Fell on Splendor because the book focuses a lot on friendships and love. The book has the atmosphere and nostalgia of 1980’s movies, bringing in a close-knit group of friends (and a cute dog) who often engage in the exploring legends and unexplained events. Each of these teens are going through the motions of grief, loss, growing up, and self-acceptance. Overall, I loved getting lost in this story of amazing weirdos who one night are tossed into an eerie, unexplained event of bright lights, a glowing humanoid, special powers, and “what the hell is going on with the cows?”  

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Note: Thank you to good friend Emma at Miss Print for gifting me an early copy of this book.