Book Review: Crier’s War by Nina Varela

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Title:
Crier’s War
Author:  Nina Varela
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT
Rating: ★★★★★

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Synopsis:

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


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Alright, I am saying this right now, but this might be my favorite book of 2019. I’ve only  had one book this year that I gave 5 stars, and Crier’s War is definitely my second 5-star worthy read of 2019. As a constant-page turner, I often found myself lost in the themes of rebellion, political power, humanity, and elaborate world-building.

Varela’s writing is so engaging, rich, and lush; the characters are so vibrant and dynamic; and the mix of alchemy and machination allows this novel to effortlessly mesh fantasy and science into a world of Automa (artificial intelligence) overruling humans. The author masterfully molds all these complex elements into the most beautiful and enthralling story.

As Varela’s debut novel, and the first book in a duology, do yourself a favor and add Crier’s War to your TBR asap. As an own voices novel with a slow-burn queer love story that had me swooning, Crier’s War flawlessly and emotionally drives her two main characters, Crier and Ayla, into conflict and determination to seek out their own motives–motives and narratives immersed in rage, revenge, vulnerability, epiphanies, an enemies to lovers romance, and surprising betrayals. 

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of Crier’s War to read and review. 

Book Review & Mood Board: Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

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Title:
Butterfly Yellow
Author:  Thanhha Lai
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction

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Synopsis:

In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country.

Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her.

Hằng is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Việt Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hằng has come so far that she will do anything to bridge the gap. 


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Butterfly Yellow is an emotionally driven novel told in multiple POVs; more specifically in the points of view of Hằng and LeeRoy. Hằng is a Vietnamese refugee traveling to Texas in search of her younger brother, Linh, who was taken to America during the Vietnam War. And LeeRoy is an eighteen-year-old whose main aspiration is to be a cowboy. The interactions between this unlikely pair allows the novel to flow so beautifully. 

Determined to find her brother, Hằng internally struggles with her own PTSD and her hard journey from Vietnam to Texas. Not only is she physically exhausted and vulnerable, but she is also conflicted with coping with emotional distress, survival, hunger, and language boundaries.

On his way to meet his rodeo idol, LeeRoy is unwillingly pushed to drive Hằng on her quest to find her brother. LeeRoy’s quirkiness and straightforward attitude provide a comedic relief to Hằng’s feisty stubbornness and her heartbreaking journey. Although the dialogue between the characters is often stilted, it becomes a learning process and a great facilitator that instills the friendship between these two characters.

Overall, the pacing of this novel is wonderfully steady. Each chapter is short and to the point, while the words flow like a beautiful poem. I quickly connected with the characters within a few pages of meeting them, and from there on, I enjoyed their paths that often unfolded into mosaic of heartbreak, love, determination, and the idea of accepting your mistakes and moving forward.

Mood Board Butterfly Yellow

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of Butterfly Yellow to read and review. 

Book Review: A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo

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Title:
A Constellation of Roses
Author:  Miranda Asebedo
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magic Realism
Rating: ★★★

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Synopsis:

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

With lovable and flawed characters, an evocative setting, and friendships to treasure, A Constellation of Roses is the perfect companion to Miranda Asebedo’s debut novel The Deepest Roots.


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A Constellation of Roses is a well-developed contemporary novel that hints at magic, but provides a serious outlet and tone for realistic, young adult situations. After her mom fails to come back home one day, Trix takes the matter of survival into her own hands. Trix relies heavily on her gift as a undetected thief to take what she needs to survive. Without giving too many spoilers, Trix’s antics are not unseen and she is sent to live with some unknown relatives. 

Now surrounded by three generations of women who also have their own talents and gifts, Trix puts up a hard shell that’s not easy to crack. As Trix adapts to her new surroundings, makes new friends, and slowly starts trusting her newfound family, she begins to explore the truth about herself and her familial past. More importantly, she begins defining and understanding what family truly means. And as the story unfolds, Trix also begins acknowledging that everyone, no matter how happy they seem on the outside, are also going through their own personal struggles. 

Filled with emotionally-curing pie, a dash of magic, and teenage antics, A Constellation of Roses will have you swimming in emotions of heartache, laughter, tears, and swoons. This novel explores some very heavy issues, which makes these characters so realistic and so easy to connect and fall in love with.

Some favorite quotes:

“Fortune-telling isn’t a science. It’s an art. And sometimes art is messy.”

“Scars tell a story, even when we don’t want them to.”

“You know, there’s an old story that back when they founded Rocksaw, the McCabes were one of the first families here. And their daughters were so beautiful and so strangely gifted that people in Buffalo Hills thought they were witches and wanted to run them out of the area.”

“Love is promising Persian kittens. Love is American slang dictionaries for Scrabble. Love is Coke-and-cherry slushes as midnight. Love is watching the lights come on in town from law chairs on Cedar Mountain. Love is lemon-meringue pie on porch steps.”

“Yes, I have gotten what I always wanted. My deepest secrets. Not a perfect family, after all. But a constellation of women, connected by pie and fortunes and roses. And love.”

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of A Cosntellation of Roses to read and review. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Don’t Call the Wolf by Aleksandra Ross

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights pre-publication/upcoming releases that readers cannot wait to get their hands on. It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Title: Don’t Call the Wolf
Author: Aleksandra Ross
Publication date: April 28, 2020 
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis

A forest, besieged. A queen, unyielding. Fans of Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black will devour this deliciously dark Eastern European–inspired YA fantasy debut.

When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.

Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Review & Favorite Quotes of Hello Girls

 

HELLO GIRLS TOUR BANNER

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Title: Hello Girls
Authors: Brittany Cavallaro & Emily Henry
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: August 6th 2019
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

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Synopsis:

Best friends are forged by fire. For Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, that fire happened the night they met outside the police station—both deciding whether to turn their families in.

Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.

Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and generations of barely getting by.

One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible to take them from Michigan to Las Vegas can’t hurt.


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“Am I hallucinating?” Lucille asked. “Are we even on earth or, like, on Tatooine? Is this . . . suburban Tatooine?”
“No,” Winona said in a hushed voice. “It’s a truck stop.”—Hello Girls

WHOA! You guys, Hello Girls threw me through so many loops and unexpected turns. I cannot even count how many times my eyes went wide, my mouth awed, and I kept thinking, “this is so dark.” The two main characters, Lucille and Winona, are total opposites to any outsider, but their friendship is the only thing that is firm and good in their lives. Both characters have faced some traumatic abuse from the men in their families, which, at one point, becomes too much and they both plan an escape from their cruel worlds.

“You absolutely amaze me, Winona Olsen,” Lucille said. “You terrify me, but you amaze me too.”—Hello Girls

As a heavily action-packed story, these fierce girls literally and figuratively drive on unknown roads to escape their pasts; they naively create plans that often end in disappointment, but damn, they never stop trying. The pages of Hello Girls are salted with dark humor which provides the most refreshing opportunity for the characters to be themselves. Their road trip doesn’t hold the best laid out plans, but I love how their minds are constantly in sync and in survival mode.

“Why did people lie? With their words, with their voices, with their bodies, with their beautiful houses and beautiful clothes and sometimes even their faces? Why couldn’t everyone just be what they were?”—Hello Girls

In the end, Hello Girls is a testament to survival, self-acceptance, and the incredible strength found in female friendships. Lucille and Winona are trailblazers writing their own stories, finding their own freedom, and hopefully just a smidge of a happy ending.

“How do I make myself cry?”
“I don’t know!” Lucille said. “How does Jennifer Lawrence do it?”
“Probably just thinks about Hollywood pay discrepancies?” Winona said.—Hello Girls
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WIN a 1 of 5 copies of Hello Girls (USA only)

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brittany
Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE, THE LAST OF AUGUST, and THE CASE FOR JAMIE. She’s also the author of the poetry collection GIRL-KING (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Michigan with her husband, cat, dog, and collection of deerstalker caps.

 

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Emily Henry
Emily Henry is the author of The Love That Split the World and A Million Junes. She is a full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. She tweets @EmilyHenryWrite.
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Note: Thank you to the The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour. And a huge thank you to Harper Teen for providing me an e-ARC to read and review for free in exchange for an honest 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.

Review of Beyond a Darkened Shore

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Title:
 Beyond A Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology

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Synopsis:

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores. 

The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world. 

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world. 

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.


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This year has been the year for Viking books, and I was so excited to finally sit down and read Beyond A Darkened Shore. I love the cover because I am a sucker for anything with birds on it, and the synopsis kept screaming, “Cassie, you need to read this!” Sadly, after struggling and forcing myself to finish, I did not end up loving the book. Beyond A Darkened Shore had some good twists, turns, and “whoa” moments, but in the end, the story and the characters did not win me over. 

Ciara, the main character, is a fierce warrior and holds a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. Throughout Beyond A Darkened Shore, she has to be physically and mentally strong for her little sisters. But as she starts learning more and more about her past and the people that she believed to be her “enemy,” she starts opening her eyes to a new world and embracing her magic that is frowned upon by her community. However, throughout the book, I always felt like Ciara was holding herself back. In many chapters, Ciara seemed to be pulling herself away from moving in a positive direction in many aspects of her life. Her hindrance and actions often left the story stagnant, which left me debating on if I should actually finish the book.

One of my favorite parts of Beyond A Darkened was the high potential of a enemies-to-lovers relationship (one of my favorite tropes to read). I did enjoy reading the scenes where Ciara interacts with her nemesis, Leif. Their friendship and relationship is great to watch blossom throughout the chapters, but they also have this playful banter that’s hard to ignore. However, even though I was a fan of the potential romantic aspects of the Beyond A Darkened Shore, the book fell short for me. Beyond A Darkened Shore didn’t blow me away, but the unraveled truths and twists at the end of the book did make me hopeful that if there was ever a second book, Ciara’s character will be developed more, and we can get more Leif and Ciara scenes. 

1-star-rating

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Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds, and I reviewed the book at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine. 

If It’s Not A Rant, It’s A Rave: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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Title:
The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli

Publication date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

About the Book:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  The Book Depository


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Not very often I will find a book that makes me think, “I wish this book existed when I was in high school.” And The Upside of Unrequited is one of those books I wish I had read during my teenage years. This is the first book I have read by Becky Albertalli (sorry Simon fans), and I loved it! I could really relate to Molly, an introvert with dreams and hopes but is apprehensive and unsure about her life, her weight, talking to boys, and everything in between.

Molly is now one of my favorite young adult characters. She has fire in her soul, but like many introverts that are unsure how to break out of their shell or push against their natural routine, Molly bottles this flame. But what makes Molly different and unique is that she slowly allows her flame to burn and shine. I liked Molly because she is cautious but also daring in the most surprising ways. Molly is a teenager that realistically portrays inner monologues, crushes, and jealousy. She over-analyzes everything, because what teenager doesn’t. Molly is realistic and smart and kind and just the type of person I would want as a friend.

What I also loved about The Upside of Unrequited is Becky Albertalli’s ability to bring to light less talked about subjects that need to be littered in young adult literature. It is 2017, and there are still girls out there who do not see themselves in modern-day stories because they are told they are too big, not the right size, not the right color, pray to a different god, etc. But what I loved about The Upside of Unrequited is that Albertalli’s storytelling challenges the traditional sense of literature, and says: Here world. Here is an introverted girl who is insecure about her weight and talking to boys. Here is a family that has lesbian mothers raising an interracial family. Here are two twins sisters both with unique personalities. Two teenage sisters, one who loves to flirt and date girls, and one who collects crushes and daydreams about kissing boys. This is definitely a positive and eye-opening book for adolescents. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Upside of Unrequited because the story is smart, realistic, swoony, and funny. I loved that all of the characters are so unique and different. These are the characters and stories that need to be whispered between shy friends. This is the book that needs to be handed out in the classroom. The Upside of Unrequited is the book that needs to be on every girl’s nightstand, pulled off a library shelf by an overanalyzing teenager, and bought by the person who wants to spend their $20.00 allowance on a book that will not only make them laugh but also make them think. 

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

NOTE:  I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I bought this book with my own funds and reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.