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. 

star rating

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.

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Character-Inspired Tea Pairings: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted 
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publication date: March 14, 2017
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Format: Physical ARC

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


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I wrote my review on Hunted last week (check it out HERE), and was deeply inspired to write another post, pairing characters with tea blends. In Hunted, tea plays a small role as the remedy for comfort, because it warms the soul, calms the nerves, and steadies the mind. Below I have picked my three favorite characters in Hunted and paired them with what I think are the perfect tea flavors based on their personalities and traits. Enjoy!

Yeva tea

RUBY SPICE CIDER TEA BLEND: Yeva is one of my favorite heroines in YA literature, because like this spice cider tea, Yeva’s personality is vibrant. She is a fighter and a survivor. I love how badass, daring, and determined is she throughout Hunted. And in comparison to this noted tea, Yeva is sweet and fierce. 

Beast tea

LAPSANG SOUCHONG TEA: The tea blend of Lapsang Souchong tastes rich and earthly, with a strange aroma that is wild like Beast. Just as Beast has two competing personalities (the wolf and man), this tea blend has the dual taste of sweet and smokey.  Beast’s mannerisms often hint to a helpful and playful personality, but like a majority of black teas, he is also strong and bold.  

Doe Eyes Tea

NIRVANA GREEN TEA: Yeva (“Beauty”) is a hunter, and like any hunter, she has her most loyal friend and canine companion, Doe-Eyes. Doe-Eyes is always happy to see Yeva, and with every tail-wag, she brings content to Yeva’s life. In comparison to the Nirvana Green tea blend, Doe-Eyes is also sweet, fun, and energetic. 

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I cannot wait for everyone to read Hunted. Once you have read it, please feel free to stop by and comment what tea flavors you would match to your favorite characters. I would love to see what you come up with and maybe even try out some new tea blends. 

If It’s Not a Rant, It’s a Rave: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted 
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publication date: March 14, 2017
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Format: Physical ARC

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of hunted

Hunted is the fairy tale that I want to read to my future children. It is the retelling that I want every girl to read, and realize, “when the world pushes me down, I can lift myself up.” The author, Meagan Spooner, has molded a beloved classic story, “Beauty and the Beast,” and has shaped it into a book where Beauty (Yeva), a beloved sister and a devoted daughter, sets out into a wilderness where only beasts are guaranteed to survive. And as the heroine of the tale, Beauty is a fighter: a fierce, fearless, and determined woman with a good heart and a quick reflex to persevere. 

One of my favorite aspects of Hunted is the pacing. The story does not move too quickly, with one action domino-ing into a quick reaction. But the story also does not linger with the slow steady steps to a happily ever after ending. Instead, Spooner’s “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, purposely chimes like a steady hand playing Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune.” Spooner’s words hit all the high and low notes at the precise duration and location. The book reads like a sheet of music with a steady and heart-lifting tone. 

I also enjoyed how Hunted bridges the reader between reality and the enchanted unknown. As snow hides and blankets the pawed-footprints of a predator, the wind whispers the sad melodies of cursed beasts and creatures who yearn to be saved even if the risk of death lingers in between the whirlwind of snowflakes. Spooner creates a fantastical world that is both pleasing and awe-inspiring to the senses. The world of Hunted smells of musky fur, tastes of crisp air, and crunches with the sound of dried pine needles, all while the sharp bitter frost aches your bones. And although the Beast’s forest is wild and his castle is crumbling, I loved that it is Beauty’s presence that tames his surroundings into a eyeopening world of loyalty, understanding, and compassion.  

This novel will make you believe that magic and fairy stories are real. Hunted is assorted with a dynamic cast of characters; characters who are vulnerable, feral, bewitched, haunted, or even tricksters. The world-building is lush and the characters are so sharp and primitive. I loved every aspect of Hunted, and I cannot wait for readers and dreamers to experience it. 

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

Blog Tour & Giveaway: As I Descended by Robin Talley

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Cover Art - AS I DESCENDED (1)

Title: As I Descended
By: Robin Talley
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Fiction

ABOUT AS I DESCENDED:

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

LINKS: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository


MY RANTS AND RAVES OF AS I DESCENDED

If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s notable Macbeth, like me, then you will want to read this dark, modern-day retelling of the cursed tragedy. As I Descended takes place at a boarding school in the South, which disturbingly has a past polluted with death, murders, and hauntings. Robin Talley’s retelling is attuned to the greed for power portrayed in the original play, but adds a modern touch reminiscent of Mean GirlsPretty Little Liars, and Supernatural.

Similar to the “Scottish play,” Talley incorporates the supernatural and preternatural as means to create a spine-chilling ambiance and foretell the characters’ tragic flaws. Of course, in this novel, something wicked this way comes, bringing with it flickering lights, sinister shadows, vengeful ghosts, and the clashing of thunder. Spirits haunt not only the buildings of the school, but also the students’ nightmares/dreams. These spirits are particularly vengeful, creepy, and whispering menaces. 

As I was reading, I kept interconnecting which of Talley’s characters are associated with Shakespeare’s original cast list. The author does not stray too far from the original characters’ personalities and flaws. The characters believe themselves to be controlled by the eerie unknown, but overall free will and fate are questioned. 

In As I Descended, Robin Talley adds a great spin and dark twists to Macbeth by switching the the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with the closeted couple and roommates, Maria and Lily. Duncan, Shakespeare’s beloved Scottish King, is swapped with the queen of the school, Delilah. And I love that Talley interchanges Banquo’s character with Brandon, Maria’s gay, best friend. But overall, as a personal fan of witches, folklore, and anything that goes bump in the night, I appreciated the twist that Talley creates in regards to Shakespeare’s character Hecate, the queen of the witches, who is interchanged in As I Descended with the scary, Hispanic folklore figure, La Llorono. (I dare you to Google her; she’s super creepy!)

In addition to thoughtfully changing the social constructions of Shakespeare’s characters, Talley’s writing parallels the Bard’s original work on both an emotional and psychological level.  Naturally, when analyzing Macbeth, many critics analyze the gender roles of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; therefore, they try to define the “norms” of masculine and feminine behavior often blurred/inversed between these two characters. Talley steps outside this social division, and explores a f/f retelling of Macbeth. Instead, I found Talley’s words and her characters reflecting a social commentary on the competition and injustices that many current young adults, more importantly the LGBTQIA community, face in a world full of greed, hate, and judgment.

As I Descended is a well crafted retelling of Macbeth. and like Shakespeare, Tally has created characters that test the societal values and beliefs of their own time periods. Similar to the original tragedy, As I Descended is about empathy, ethics, ambition, and moral order. Overall, I enjoyed exploring the connections and differences between the original Tragedy and this modern-day retelling. Each chapter is threaded with intense scenes that left me anxious and too intrigued to turn away from the story.

4 star rating

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Robin Talley (1)

ABOUT ROBIN TALLEY:

I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby’s sleeping, I’m probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.robintalley.com, and I’m on Twitter and Tumblr.

LINKS: Website | Twitter Facebook | Tumblr

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Giveaway:

3 Finished Copies of AS I DESCENDED (US Only) 

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Book Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

15283043Title: The Distance Between Us
By: Kasie West
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 312 (Paperback)
Format: Kindle 
Source: Purchased

About On the Fence:

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of The Distance Between Us

Reading The Distance Between Us was like watching a John Hughes’ film. I must say I enjoyed the story and the gradual relationship that grew between the two main characters, Caymen and Xander. I mean, there’s even a Blaine in the story, so this book has to be Pretty in Pink – John Hughes inspired!!!

My number one love for this book was the dialogue. I thought the dialogue between Caymen and Xander was witty and funny. With each chapter I looked forward to the quick, sarcastic banter that Caymen brought in Xander’s direction. I thought a few of the scenes were over-dramatic, but overall I did like how quirky both characters were and how well they connected. More importantly, I enjoyed how they dared each other out of their own comfort zones. 

Additionally, I really liked that this book was focused on self-acceptance, instead of it being another contemporary read about a poor girl that falls in love with rich boy and vice versa. Even though I did not enjoy some of the angsty scenes, I enjoyed West’s writing, and I appreciated that The Distance Between Us encompassed a very heartfelt and slow-building story littered with love, jealousy, secrets, friendship, family, humor, and trust. If you love 80s’ films, especially if you’re a John Hughes fanatic, give this book a try. 

3 star rating

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

Book Review: On the Fence by Kasie West

Title: On the Fence
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By: Kasie West
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 296 (Paperback)
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

About On the Fence:

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of On the Fence

I read On the Fence for July’s book club pick. In all honesty, I did not enjoy reading this book; maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a contemporary (but I really thought I was at the time), but this book is my least favorite of Kasie West’s. 

One of the main reasons that I did not enjoy this book was due to the main character, Charlie. I tried to give Charlie a chance, but I found her SO ANNOYING! I realize her mother past away when she was younger, so she was raised by her father and three brothers, so she is characterized as a complete tomboy. But her love for baseball, or any sport, did not shy me away from the story; instead it was her attitude problem that had me wanting to throw the book across the room. Throughout the novel, Charlie is constantly fighting off people who are trying to help her. I could not connect to Charlie or her story, because she was constantly being stubborn and frustrating. UGH, just thinking about her actions, still gets me fired up. 

I almost gave up on this book, but in the end it was a very quick read. I did enjoy the dynamics and the unique relationships between Charlie and her brothers. They were fun, humorous, and protective. And I also liked her friend/neighbor, Braden. Braden is definitely a good guy that cares deeply about Charlie; their encounters and fence talking were honest and adorable. 

Overall, this is a classic girl crushing on the “boy next door” story; it is a quick read, but be prepared for a main character that is stubborn as hell. 

1 star rating

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

Book Review: My Lady Jane

22840421Title: My Lady Jane
By: Cynthia HandBrodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historical
Pages: 491
Format: Hardcover
Source: June’s Uppercase Box

About My Lady Jane

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N |  The Book Depository


My Rants and Raves of My Lady Jane

This review is going to be short and to the point.

I wanted to love My Lady Jane, but in the end, I just thought it was okay. Yes, it was creative and had some funny “snickering” parts, but overall the story seemed too long, too dramatic, too slow-paced, and not as funny as I thought it was going to be.

I had high expectations for My Lady Jane, because everyone was saying how hilarious it is. And friends, I was ready to read a funny book! UGH…why do overly hyped books set my standards up too high? Why?! Sadly, this historical fiction fan and lover of comedies failed to fall in love with this book. Because I thought the story dragged on in many places, I did not become invested in the storyline or with any of the characters. I honestly do not even have a favorite character, which makes me sad to even admit.

The concept of re-imagining Jane Grey’s fate is unique, and it was interesting to read the topsy-turvy conflict about humans morphing into animals, instead of focusing on the religious conflict that overpowered the monarchy at that time. But overall, even though I did not love this book, I still think My Lady Jane would be perfect for people who enjoy long drawn out romances about quirky characters. 

1 star rating

My Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Note:   I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in exchange for a review. I received this book in my June 2016 Uppercase subscription box, and reviewed it at my own discretion. All statements and opinions in this review are mine.