Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary from Goodreads:
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad's old costume, Elle's determined to win - unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons - before he was famous. Now they're nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake - until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.
I’m not going to lie; I’m kind of over the Cinderella story. That being said, I wasn’t super excited for this book’s release last year. What sold me on the book? The author. I heard her speak at the Boston Teen Author Festival last fall, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I bought this book. She made it sound like the book was going to be this super collage of fandoms, and she sounded so geeky cool, that I had to read it.
It sounded like a fun, easygoing vacation book, so I took it with me on vacation. And I pretty much read the whole thing on my airplane coming back home. The plane was stuck for 1 and half hours on the tarmac (something to do with a rain storm), and it was the perfect reading opportunity.
The book felt more like Cinderella and less like the super collage of fandoms than I was anticipating. However, it was a really good version of Cinderella. It was so good that I had a few tears in my eyes for the scene I knew was coming with the cosplay outfit. And again I was moved to heart-felt happiness tears at a scene with other cosplayers in the bathroom. I also am a sucker for You’ve Got Mail style romances that start with writing back and forth (this case, texting). And I’m also a sucker for YA romances that involve celebrities. So, in a way, this book was just meant to be.
Also I have to note a few other cool things about the Cinderella story. Modern day Prince Charming was a tv star. The food truck Elle (like Cinder”ella”) worked for was called the Magic Pumpkin. She left a sparkly slipper instead of a glass one for her prince to find. Her rags at the end were her dreaded country club uniform. Her fairy godmother was her newly made, awesome lesbian friend/coworker who could sew like no one’s business. And modern day Prince Charming actually had no idea what Elle looked like before falling in love with her. A+ on these changes, Ashely Poston.
I was hoping for more fandoms. Every now and then a super big fandom would be mentioned, something like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. And for a while I thought Starfield was a fictional Star Trek, but I was wrong because Star Trek was mentioned too at some point. Most of the fandom stuff seemed to be about Starfield, a fictional sci-fi show. And I guess I was hoping for more. I got a little more at the actual con, especially during the cosplay ball. But, it didn’t live up to the hype of my expectations.
However, I did love the feel of her fandom. The author did get the whole support system, tolerance, and love thing down. Again, I have to bring up a scene in the bathroom when other cosplayers come to the rescue. And that was just everything. It’s how I felt when I went to Leaky Con, and I knew everyone there got me for who I was. It’s how I feel at Comic Con and BEA and ALA. There’s just this overall feeling of acceptance and like-mindedness that’s hard to explain, but super powerful and inspiring. And I got that from reading this book. And it felt good to see someone recognize this feeling.
I read this super fast. I felt all kinds emotions I wasn’t expecting. I loved the modern day twists to the classic fairytale. It made me question my need for giving up on Cinderella. I loved the feeling the author was able to evoke about fandom culture. I was hoping for a few more fandoms to be represented. But, all in all, this was a super cute, geeky fun read. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty

Summary from Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Robert Beatty comes a spooky, thrilling new series set in the magical world of Serafina.

Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.

Willa, a young nightspirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, is her clan's best thief. She creeps into the homes of day-folk in the cover of darkness and takes what they won't miss. It's dangerous work — the day-folk kill whatever they do not understand. But when Willa's curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in a day-folk man's home, everything she thought she knew about her people — and their greatest enemy — is forever changed.
I loved this. Robert Beatty is truly proving himself to be an amazing middle grade author. I loved Serafina. And I had high hopes for Willa. I was not disappointed. I immediately got lost in this beautiful forest of the Great Smoky Mountains, again. I could not put this book down. There’s something magical about this author’s writing style. He just pulls you in and refuses to let you go.
Willa wasn’t as instantly loveable as Serafina. I came to love her over time. But, her heart is just as big and her bravery just as strong. Beatty knows how to write girls who belong in Gryffindor. That being said, my heart was always pounding. There’s always some kind of danger coming and it was never easy to stop reading.
The setting was everything. I loved that the forest became its own character. The trees were alive. The animals and creatures had their own system of respect and love. I was fascinated by the wolves who helped her and the bears with their secret healing water. There may have even been a cameo or two of a certain wildcat. And I loved that too.
I also could not help myself from making current day connections. I was reading about Willa discovering human children in cages around the same time I was getting news of immigrant children being separated from their parents and placed in cages of their own. It’s eerie how related this book is to current events.
Willa was brought up not to question her leader or her “pack.” She was brought up to fear humans because they killed whatever they did not understand, including her parents and twin sister. Yet, something bothered her about this treatment of children. Despite a lifetime of teachings, she knew this was wrong.
There’s always a little darkness to Beatty’s books. The first Serafina book involved the kidnapping and possible murders of children. This one has its own darkness. One that revolves around hurting and starving innocent children. Of course, Willa has to go against her people, her leader, and everything she was taught to believe to do what’s right. This book is loaded with kid power.
It’s also about Willa connecting with a family that is not hers by blood. She goes back to the humans she steals from in the beginning. She saw compassion in the eyes of her attacker, and grew to love an unlikely family. And that’s a powerful message too. Willa learns to see good in everyone. Not all humans are the same. Everyone has at least a little good in them.
This book is about compassion, love, family, and acceptance. It’s about doing the right thing, even though that can be incredibly difficult. It’s about grief and forgiveness too. Really, the more I talk about this book now, the more I love it. If everyone who read this can soak up even a fraction of its goodness, the world would be a better place. I give this a 10/10.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Upcoming 2018 Boston Teen Author Festival

I’ve been attending the totally amazing Boston Teen Author Festival for a couple of years now. Basically, it’s one entirely free day of YA author panels. The Cambridge Public Library charges nothing, but they do have a local bookseller sell the books of the authors in attendance. And there’s a massive author signing at the end, so well worth some book purchases.

I was contacted by someone who works for the festival in hopes that I’d promote it on my blog. Apparently, there’s a Kickstarter, and some really cool book prizes to win if you make a pledge –which I totally intend to do.  Here’s a link to the Kickstarter, if you’re interested. Some of the prizes involve artwork or YA author autographs or books of course. And I guess it’s how the library is able to afford the free festival, so it’s a good place to donate and spread the love of YA books. And it's only available until June 30.

And here’s a pic of the flyer for the day:

Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cici's Journal: The adventures of a Writer in Training by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret

Summary from Goodreads:
Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.
This is probably my favorite contemporary graphic novel of all time. I devoured this in one sitting. It’s been a personal goal of mine to read more graphic novels. And I have been. And I typically enjoy them. Never have I loved them like this though.
I love Cici. She’s sort of this intelligent combo of Hermione, Sherlock, and Harriet the Spy with the heart of Anne Shirley. I saw myself in her. Yet, she’s also flawed and has some of the same serious flaws of Sherlock –overlooking her friends in the face of a good mystery/story to write. And I loved watching her recognize her flaws, learn from them, and try to fix them. A big chunk of this book was her friendship story. And I loved that her friends didn’t put up with being used.
I also loved Cici’s relationship with her author/neighbor. I loved that she didn’t judge people by how old they were or how they looked. She found every person/character to be interesting in their own right.
And then there’s the remarkably cute and fascinating plots. The first one with the zoo made my heart melt with its cuteness. I loved the idea of a zoo, turned art museum in the middle of the woods. And then when I thought the story couldn’t possibly get any more heart-melty, I was taken to a hidden code love story in an old library. Just take my heart, book. Both stories/mysteries/writing topics were just perfect.
And then there’s the art.  It’s both juvenile and complex. The kids look like adorable anime characters, yet there’s seriousness to it too. Maybe the seriousness comes from the neutral color palettes. No bright colors here (well, for the most part). And in case there are any reluctant readers out there that need something more to keep their noses buried in the book, there’s these fun doodles, journal cut-outs, newspaper clippings, and lists through out the book –giving the whole thing a definite journal vibe.
All in all, this was amazing. The characters were wonderful (and flawed). The friendship story was great. The mysteries were heart-meltingly good. The unique format kept me even more focused. And the art was beautiful. I give this a 10/10.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Midnight Hour by C.C. Hunter

Summary from Goodreads:
Being a dyslexic witch is a curse in itself, but Miranda Kane’s time at Shadow Falls has helped her harness her magical powers. Now, just as she’s finally mastered them and is preparing to graduate with her friends, a near-death experience threatens to ruin it all.

Miranda awakens in the hospital with a mysterious tattoo that no one can explain. As she struggles to make sense of it—and questions her feelings for a certain irresistible shape-shifter and a hot new guy—the strange markings begin to spread all over her body, leaving her desperate to find answers. But before she can solve that problem, a new one arises: her sister is missing.

Has her sister been kidnapped? Miranda will risk her life to find out. Will she live to share the day she’s worked so hard for with her friends? When the clock strikes midnight, will Miranda make it to her graduation at Shadow Falls?
So, I might have had a lot of confusion about when and where this series actually ended. It seems I have now really finished the whole series. I stopped paying attention to these books for a bit, and all of a sudden there was a spin-off series. And then, beyond that Miranda gets her own book too! I’m so glad I discovered this last one because I loved it. And I’m going to be honest; I’ll most likely read anything C.C. Hunter writes at this point.
Miranda was never my favorite character. Normally, I love witches. I guess she just was never as interesting to me as Kylie. And she’s nowhere near as fierce and strong as Della. That being said, she’s pretty amazing in this book and I’m glad to have finally gotten a little story form her perspective. And she’s definitely more interesting than what I previously gave her credit for.
I love her love story. I loved watching her realize who was right for her. And I really did ship her with the boy she ended up with. I also love how strong she is in this book. She comes to a new set of powers she didn’t know she had. And unlike her besties, she doesn’t really complain about being more powerful. Maybe witches inherently know how cool more power can be?
The mystery with her sister was super interesting too. The book actually got a little darker than I was expecting it to. When I learned why the kidnappers have her sister and why they want Miranda, my jaw dropped. But, also, I guess I always found Miranda to be the most na├»ve and innocent. And she does a lot of growing up here. She’s like the little sister character in the girl friendship story. And she does a lot of growing up and learning in this book.
Was this the best book to end everything on? I’m not so sure. It didn’t feel like it wrapped it all up. Maybe Hunter will come back to this series again some time? I wouldn’t mind a book or two from the heads of camp. But, was I glad to have gotten into Miranda’s head for a bit? Absolutely. I loved it. I give this a 9/10.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Good Week in Books (183)

I just got back from a little mini vacation in Chicago. My boyfriend and I went to my cousin’s wedding. It was nice being able to see so much of my family. And we got super fancy too. My mom does not have tv, so I tend to read a lot when visiting. Weirdly, I was so busy the whole time, I didn’t get a ton of reading done. I did read one whole middle grade novel on an airplane. And then I read a whole YA contemporary coming back. I also finished a paranormal romance and a graphic novel before going on vacation. I bought 3 books while in Chicago. I also received 2 for review when I was gone. Thanks, Disney and Macmillan.
The new pretties:

Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel
by A.W. Jantha
Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
How was your week in books?

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

Summary from Goodreads:
A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde's quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

The story/plot is nothing special, but....this is the most gender diverse book I’ve ever read. The main character is bi. Her bff is non binary. Her bandmate/character I shipped her with is genderqueer. Another character is gay. What a perfect book to read for pride month! I’m so excited this book exists!
I’m not going to lie; I had to Google some things to understand the pronouns used for all the characters. But, as I’m sure is true to life, I got used to it. And by the end of the book, had such big respect for the author for maintaining this and never messing up on what each character deserved and would expect. I’m also happy to learn more about what I don’t know, so this book was just awesome overall for representation, for education, and for it’s ability to make all people relatable.
In regards to diversity, this book gets an A+. I also really enjoyed getting to know the characters. They were believable teen rock stars. I found the scenes both with the paparazzi and the fans to be completely believable. It’s really a shame that they are fictional. How cool would such a diverse band be? They’re kind of the band my generation desperately needs. Best case scenario: the book will inspire groups like this to start?
Also, the romance was sizzling. All the secret moments on the boat were so good, I had to stop reading it when people entered the lunchroom I was sitting in. I love that Ryan was having his own romance too.
I read a ton of YA, and while I’m used to the “awful parents” trope, I was not prepared for my strong hatred of Emmy’s parents. They took the trope to a whole new level. And the author took this book to an even deeper level when dealing with Emmy’s relationship with them and her ex. The book did a good job juxtaposing a healthy relationship with an emotionally abusive one. And Emmy’s character just seemed so much more real for her need to please everyone.
All in all, the rock star story is nothing new. However, almost everything else about this book was totally new (at least for me). I loved the representation of different communities. I loved the characters. I loved the emotional dramas and the romance. I loved the songs written in between the plot. I really loved this. I give it a 9/10. I can’t wait to read more by this author.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Good Week in Books (182)

I had a nice, light book week. I finished one book, and am half way through another. I made headway in my audio book: Order of the Phoenix. And I received two new books for review (Thank you, Macmillan and Disney Hyperion). I’m doing some blogging early because I have work things to do on my normal blog day. And I’m going to be MIA for a bit again as I go on vacation to Chicago. I can’t stop looking at how pretty and green these covers are!
The new books:

Willa of the Wood
by Robert Beatty
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale

Summary from Goodreads:
Squirrel Girl is BACK in an all-new adventure and things are about to get . . . hairy. Thanks to Squirrel Girl, Ana Sofia, and the Squirrel Scouts, the crime rate in New Jersey is at an all time low. It makes for safer streets but also bored-er squirrels. That's why it's super exciting when Doreen's school announces a new mall is being built right next to their town. Mmmm . . . Doreen can smell the soft pretzels now. The corporation building mall has also announced that there will be a competition to choose the mall's mascot.
Because malls need mascots? Anyway, Doreen's school will be voting for a cat and the neighboring school will be voting for a dog. As the relationship starts to unravel between the two towns, Squirrel Girl and her friends suspect something more sinister is at work. With the help of old friends like Ana Sofia, Tippy Toe, and The Mighty Thor as well as some surprising new ones, Squirrel Girl will squash a villainous plot and save everyone. The unbeatable Squirrel Girl is ready for more nuts AND more butts! Are you?
Sadly, I did not find this one as good as the first one. The plot was just not that interesting to me and because of that it was way too easy to keep putting this short book down. And it took me a lot longer to read than I thought it would. The plot revolved around a mall opening and big cats versus dog rivalry. I get that these books are marketed at middle grade, but come on…this was overkill.
That being said, what this book did excel at was humor. Even though, I did not love the main plot of it, I loved the jokes. I loved Squirrel Girl’s upbeat personality shining through again. I feel like she’s the superhero version of Kimmy Schmidt. Or maybe Kimmy is the Netflix comedy version of Doreen. Any way, I laughed out loud while reading this several times.
There’s this one group text message chat between Squirrel Girl and other superheroes, and the whole thing about Black Widow not wanting group texts just had me tearing up from laughter. Oh, and what Doreen calls Ironman on her phone is just priceless. The book is worth reading, if you are looking for something light and humorous.
Bad plot aside, this was a hilarious read, with great characters. I loved all the cameos from other famous heroes. And I loved Doreen’s personality more than ever. All in all, I give it a 7/10. I’ll keep reading these for the humor, for sure.

Monday, June 4, 2018

From Twinkle, with love by Sandhya Menon

Summary from Goodreads:
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.
I loved When Dimple Met Rishi, and I was beyond excited to read more from this author. And normally, when I’m this excited for a new book, I’m a little disappointed in the results. This time, though, I was not disappointed at all. I loved it. I so loved the setup of the book and how each chapter is a letter to a different female director…I found myself looking these ladies up, and wanting to watch their movies.
I think what I love most about this author is that her main characters are not perfect. They don’t always do the right thing. And they sometimes don’t even know what the right thing is until the end of the book. This makes them seem so much more real to me. I loved Twinkle. I loved her dreams and her drive. Even with no experience, she knew she was mean to direct movies. And I loved her for this.
I also loved that she was flawed. Sometimes she was so focused on her own problems, family dramas, and lack of money that she didn’t notice the problems that her peers were facing. And this felt so true to the teenage mindset. This just felt so authentic. And despite Twinkle’s ignorance of other things happening around her, I loved her. I wanted her to make the right choices, to fall for the right guy, to make inspiring female-empowered movies.
There’s this one part where Twinkle owns up to not watching a very famous movie, and I’m so glad she had the courage to own up to this. I loved that she then goes and watches the movie. She wants to watch, to learn, to grow. And I loved this about her.
I loved all the parts where she was working on the gender swapped movie too. Everything from costume decisions, to filming, to getting interviews for a special part at the end, were all so fascinating to read about. You don’t get a lot of YA books about movie-making.
The one part that felt too far-stretched to me though was the end. I get that good things were finally coming her way, but I felt like it was a little overkill for so many letters of good things to come. That was the one not-so authentic part for me. However, I loved this whole book. I read it super quickly. It’s witty, smart, dramatic in all the right places, filled with crushes and first dates, and just plain fluffy fun. I give it a 9/10.