Sunday, May 21, 2017

[Review] Follow Me Back (#1) - A.V. Geiger: Twitter and Pop Stars

In FOLLOW ME BACK, pop star Eric Thorn sets up a fake twitter account and falls in love with one of his fans.

What intrigued me: Mixed format books are always a treat.

Romance-heavy page turner

FOLLOW ME BACK is an absolute page-turner. There is just something about this story that's captivating, especially through the mixed format with police interviews and tweets, it keeps you on your toes at all times. Even when the story gets a little too repetitive for my taste, I couldn't quit simply because I needed to find out how it all gets resolved. 

The thing is, FOLLOW ME BACK needs you to like these characters. A huge chunk of this book is spent watching protagonists Eric and Tessa fall in love through flirty DMs. I think in some way this really takes away from the premise. I would've loved a more thriller-centric story instead of a flat out romance with a side of a looming secret (that's not even that hard to guess early really)

At the end of the day, FOLLOW ME BACK has it going for it that this is every teenage girl's fantasy: the book. Your favorite celebrity is talking to you through a fake account and you'll fall in love. But FOLLOW ME BACK got a dark twist going on that really makes this story one of a kind. 


Fan fiction tropes galore

FOLLOW ME BACK's biggest problem is that the story isn't very strong. It reads like the mixed format has been slapped on (especially the police reports) after the whole thing was written to increase the lack of tension within this narrative. There is one mystery at the center of it that I don't find is explored as cleverly as you'd expect from a social media thriller. It reads like a cheap plot twist to set up the next sequel to this romance. It's a typical fan fiction trope. In general, this reads absolutely like fan fiction, which I assumed it used to be, since the author is well-known on Wattpad for her Maroon 5 fan fiction. 

This isn't a bad thing whatsoever. I like fan fiction every now and then and am familiar and quite a bit fond of these tropes and types of stories. But I think the average reader of traditionally published YA will probably be a little put off by this story. It's really a niche thing but I'd sincerely hope that it takes off. FOLLOW ME BACK is an addicting story of love and obsession that probably everyone can identify a little with. 


Rating:

★★★½☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you're a fan fiction reader or have a celebrity crush that's a musician, you'll probably love FOLLOW ME BACK. It's fresh, it's fun, it's different. The mixed media format really makes this one stand out and quite interesting.

[If you have agoraphobia and have reviewed this, please link your review. I'd love to feature it.]


Additional Info

Published: June 6th 2017
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781492645238

Synopsis:
"Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…"(Source: Goodreads)


Do you read fan fiction?

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Q&A with Hannah Moskowitz: Writing Deaf Characters, Catfishing, #Ownvoices, and Wild

After absolutely loving Hannah Moskowitz' newest April 2017 release WILD, a bisexual romance between a Filipino boy and a Jewish and Guatemalan Deaf girl, I jumped at the chance to ask Hannah a couple of questions. Hope you enjoy!


Is there anything in particular that inspired you to write WILD?

Hannah: Actually yeah, you know the TV show Catfish? There was one episode where they were talking about how a person someone met online refused to get on the phone, and why that's usually a bad sign...and they were saying "Someday it's just going to be that the person's actually mute," and I thought...what if the person was Deaf and didn't want to tell them?

That actually ended up being a very small part of the story--for obvious reasons, I didn't want it to be some big twist that Jordan was Deaf, because ew--but it is where the idea originally came from.

What was the research process like?

Hannah: I spend most of my time right now in ASL classes because I'm working towards getting my interpreter license, so most of my life functions as research at this point. Really just watching interviews with Deaf people, reading what they have to say...but also using my own perspective as a hearing person who feels outside of it, since that was my POV character. Zack was a pretty easy guy for me to get to know, though it was weird at the beginning of the story trying to get into the perspective of someone who doesn't know much about Deaf culture and who has some ableist baggage about it.

I actually asked some of my friends who don't know any ASL, "Can you just describe ASL and Deaf culture to me?" to try to remember what people think about it who aren't willfully ignorant or anything like that, but just who haven't been immersed in it for ages.

What advice would you give writers who want to write about Deaf characters?

Hannah: Just get to know Deaf people, learn their language and their mannerisms, and don't think of yourself as some savior here to give them a voice or something. And really, really strongly consider staying in the perspective of a hearing person if you're not Deaf. Many Deaf people who are raised in a strong Deaf culture think visually in a way that we don't, and that's not a point of view that we can really will ourselves into.
Someone with ASL as a first language is probably not going to think in English words the same way we do. And if you try to directly translate that into English, you're falling into a lot of traps right there. 

Try to know the tropes of Deaf characters and decide how you want to proceed knowing those tropes are out there. Most Deaf people in fiction are really flawless lip readers, because it makes the story go more smoothly...and that's just not realistic.

The Disability in YA blog has a lot of great reviews and articles by Deaf and hard of hearing writers that are super helpful. Because like...why are you listening to me, a hearing person, blather about Deaf people for this long, ha.

What made you want to write a Deaf romance? 

Hannah: I'm a hearing person who signs, so I've wanted to work ASL into a book in a more comprehensive way than I did in my 2011 book, INVINCIBLE SUMMER, since...about 2011. I wanted to stay in the POV of a hearing person and kind of play with some of the same stuff i did in NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED--how it feels to be so connected to a community while still not feeling like you fit in. And writing about learning sign language from a hearing perspective was something I knew I could do well.

Cross-cultural relationships are one of my favorite tropes, and I feel like while we've gotten more Deaf/hearing relationships on TV--they did it on Switched at Birth, they did it on the L word, etc. etc.--it hasn't crossed over into YA as much yet.

What was your favorite part about writing WILD?

Hannah: My goal for WILD was really just to write a healthy relationship, because I feel like we just don't see enough of those in YA. So any time I got to a place where my natural inclination for drama was to have Jordan and Zack not be honest with each other about something, or not be willing to work through something...I subverted it and had them just TALK to each other. And that was such a thrill to write.

Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Hannah: Definitely Jordan. She's got a lot of attitude and she speaks her mind, but she's also very vulnerable and not well guarded...so her dialogue flowed the most easily.

Was the process of writing WILD any different than the process of writing your other books?

Hannah: I put this one down longer in-between drafts than I usually do, just by virtue of how my scheduling worked out. So there was about six months in-between drafts 3 and 4, I think, where I didn't touch it at all, and that's weird for me.

Are any of the elements in WILD #ownvoices? (If so, why did you choose to include them?)

Hannah: Both Zack and Jordan are bisexual, like I am, which was important to me even though I was writing a m/f love story, largely because of some of the bisexual backlash that's happening right now in the community. There's no REASON for Zack and Jordan to be bisexual. But they still are, despite being with each other, and neither of them has any crisis of identity from being in what looks to outsiders like a heterosexual relationship. 

Jordan's Jewish just because, I dunno, if I don't have at least one Jewish character I break out in hives or something.

I'm disabled, so a lot of the thoughts about ableism in WILD were very true for me, even if they don't relate to Deafness specifically in my life.


* * *
Hannah Moskowitz is a tank top-collecting, tv-obsessing, Rocky Horror-performing woman of mystery. She's a '90s kid, a mezzo-soprano, and a professional Sims-breeder. If she's not writing she's probably eating. Her cats are better than your cats. She'd choose a good haircut over a good wardrobe any day. And no matter where she's living, she's a clear-eyed, full-hearted Maryland girl with Old Bay for blood.
Website | Twitter | Blog
* * *


WILD, out on April 26th 2017 Goodreads | Amazon


"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf.

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild.

From the author of critically-acclaimed books like TEETH, BREAK, and A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD comes a story about what happens when love takes you off the beaten track...way, way off."


Have you read any books with a Deaf character?



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Recommendation: Wild - Hannah Moskowitz: Deafness and Bisexuality

In WILD, Zack wants to meet up with his online girlfriend, but has no idea that she's Deaf.
What intrigued me: Bisexual Jewish #ownvoices! Hardly any white people in the main cast! Deaf romance!

Hilarious and Authentic Romance

WILD has one of the most authentic teen voices I've ever encountered in YA. I'm super picky with contemporary romance, most of the time it's like pulling teeth for me, but not with WILD.

The combination of a great voice, teens who truly feel like teens, great humor, and diverse, non-white protagonists (Guatemalan/Jewish Deaf bisexual love interest and Filipino bisexual protagonist), make this one an absolute success for me. I couldn't get enough of WILD and read it super quickly. Despite being short, I feel like Moskowitz made the most out of this story and wrote a fast-paced, compelling, and adorable romance that will make you laugh out loud.
I can't emphasize enough how funny this is, I seriously had to pause sometimes, because I couldn't breathe. I can confidently say that I have never ever seen any author write believable chat convos between teens until I read WILD. Honestly, you guys, it's so good. Moskowitz writes teens a little dorky, a little dirty-minded, and 100% authentically. I'm so in awe. It hasn't been that long since I was a teen, but this is the first time I'm not painfully aware that this is an adult writing teens while reading chat convos and texts. Bless.

Deaf Culture and Organic Romance

While WILD is a romance at heart, it really shines more with the protagonist and side characters instead of being a straight-up romance. I didn't really feel like it's about Zack and Jordan getting to know each other or falling in love, because this is an established relationship and they've sort-of been dating since long before the events of the novel start. Zack and Jordan truly feel like people who genuinely enjoy each other as friends first and foremost, which is very rare to find in YA, and I'm all about this. This is as far from instant love and tropey romance as it gets. 

My favorite element and the one that you have to definitely prepare for when you're picking this up, is Deafness. It plays a really big role in WILD. I am not D/deaf, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it does feel like to me that Moskowitz put a lot of research into this: There are bit of bobs you'll learn about Deaf culture while reading and all signed conversations are written in <<>>. Zack and Jordan communicate either through sign language or texts. 

Signing plays a big role, too, because Zack starts learning ASL for her (and is terrible at it, which is just hilarious to read). A lot of the characters are either Deaf and/or signing, which is super refreshing and interesting. Again, can't speak for the accuracy of the rep, but I did learn a lot about Deaf culture that I didn't know before. WILD is unlike anything I've ever read, and an absolutely refreshing and fun delightful Deaf romance.




Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WILD is probably my favorite romance of 2017. Even if you don't like contemporary romances, give this one a shot, I beg you! Who can say no to a hilarious and adorable romance between a Deaf Guatemalan/Jewish bisexual girl and Filipino bisexual boy?

[If you're D/deaf and have reviewed this, I'd be happy to link your review! Let me know.]


Additional Info

Published: April 26th 2017
Pages: 228
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: B06ZZMBMVS

Synopsis:
"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf. 

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild."(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any books by Hannah Moskowitz?



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Monday, May 15, 2017

10 Overhyped Books I Disliked in the First Half of 2017 feat. Caraval, Firstlife & more




Sometimes you're really looking forward to reading certain books because all your friends love them. Sometimes I genuinely question my friendship with these people after reading these books. Hm.



THE GRACES - Laure Eve
I've never read a book so racist and homophobic and biphobic in my life. It's beyond me how anyone can recommend this with a good conscience. And beyond that, it's TWILIGHT just with witches instead of vampires.

THE KISS OF DECEPTION - Mary E. Pearson
The hype absolutely killed this one for me. I was expecting excellence, looking at how much bloggers hyped this! I really don't know what to do with books that have no plot. Not my cup of tea.

ARMADA - Ernest Cline
Welp. This was hyped way too much and my expectations were way too high. I love READY PLAYER ONE, but not so much that I'd enjoy the same thing all over again minus world building plus homophobia and ableism.



STATION ELEVEN - Emily St. John Mandel
Not sure what happenened here - I had no idea this was going to be so literary and so much more talk than actual gritty dystopia. Not my cup of tea.

SHUTTER - Courtney Alameda
This has been hyped for years and I actually was really excited for a super scary read. Unfortunately I didn't like this for very arbitrary reasons and it went more into the gore than scare direction, which I just really, deeply dislike.

FIRSTLIFE - Gena Showalter
At some point, this book was everywhere! I really love afterlife setting, but this one was really awkward, poorly written, and just reads like every other dystopian book from the last 5 years or so. Super uncreative. No thanks.



THE MERCILESS - Danielle Vega
I just couldn't. Gore and racist micro aggressions and a non-existent plot were way too many things to complain about for me - I really really didn't enjoy this.

CARAVAL - Stephanie Garber
This is the disappointment of 2017. Nothing has been hyped more than this book, and I'm genuinely shocked with all the things that I found in this that are downright dangerous for readers.

THE DEAD HOUSE - Dawn Kurtagich
Sigh... another horror book whose scariest feature is the insensitivity. If you are picking this up looking for DID representation, don't.




THE AMATEURS - Sara Shepard
I've never read any of her PRETTY LITTLE LIARS books and was very curious to find out what the fuss is all about. But this one hit me hard with racism and sexism. Hard pass.


What books disappointed you in 2017?

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

[Review] Never Never - Brianna R. Shrum: Captain Hook goes to Neverland



In NEVER NEVER, James Hook decides to follow Peter Pan into Neverland and leave his family behind.

What intrigued me: I always found Hook more interesting than Pan!

Chapter book writing?

NEVER NEVER tells the story of James Hook. And when I say that, I mean legitimately all of it.

Shrum decided to show us everything from his childhood to going to Neverland to becoming a captain. The novel spans many years and is separated into different parts that each span a different time of his life. This leads to the novel really not reading like a regular YA book. Shrum's writing is very juvenile, reads like an actual fairytale, but in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a children's chapter book. While I do think that Shrum is a fantastic writer whose work is very easy to get lost in, I just wasn't looking for a Middle Grade novel.

This is exactly what NEVER NEVER appears to be for the first 80 pages. There are many other parts of the book that all deal with more mature themes, but if you start your novel like that, it's very likely that most readers who don't like Middle Grade won't even get to the more mature stuff.

I find the mix a little awkward, to span from Middle Grade to Mature/Upper YA and expect the reader to just roll with it. The story isn't engaging enough to even make me interested in all of James' life. I didn't like anything about James' childhood, since everything Shrum tells us about could've just been left out. It's all implied knowledge, a boy choosing to leave for Neverland because he feels neglected, Pan slowly starting to act shady - I felt like I genuinely wasted my time with the first 80 pages. 

Lacks creativity - where's the retelling part?

Huge time gaps are always a gamble, and it absolutely disconnected me from the narrative to have James go from 13 to 18 all of a sudden. I believe the novel would've been better off without all the childhood shenanigans if it's marketed as YA. Shrum's writing definitely fits the MG range and I think she's be marvelous at writing MG.

I just think that NEVER NEVER fundamentally lacks in creativity to the story. Yes, it's told from the a different perspective, the anti-hero/villain if you will, but it might as well could've been any other lost boy. The story Shrum is trying to sell isn't very innovative, captivating, or even well-crafted enough to make this a noteworthy read that I'd recommend. It could've been a gloomy and sad story about a boy who wanted to escape into a dreamland, but instead it's just a very awkward story that's rehashed for the thousandth time with about zero creativity and originality.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I expected something different. I didn't want to read half of a Middle Grade novel, I wanted to see a new spin on the so often retold story - I didn't get any of that.



Additional Info

Published: September 22nd 2015
Pages: 356
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781633920392

Synopsis:
"James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one."
(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like Peter Pan retellings?

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

When Blogging Gets Hard: Motivation When You Feel Like Giving Up | Book Blogging Tips (#57)


I tried to check up on a few people that started around the same time I did and shockingly realized that most of them stopped blogging.

So I thought to myself, why did these people stop?


What makes people give up their blogs?

It's not like I haven't thought about quitting multiple times. Mostly, it's the pressure. As a blogger you feel like you:
  • have to keep up with what other people are reading
  • provide constant, regular content
  • queue content!
  • constantly comment/promote yourself if you don't want your views to dwindle
  • also balance review copies on top of that
It's hard. It's basically like a second job. Some bloggers make me feel like I'm doing to little, from those genius hard-working people who always comment back, to those that seem to be either tweeting 24/7 or always taking beautiful pictures. I salute to you guys, I don't know how you do it, but you can be proud of yourselves. Give me the number of your fairy godmother please

What you miss out on if you quit

That all does sound very discouraging, I know. However, I would never dare to say that I regret starting this blog. You know why? Because there are so, so many rewarding things I love about blogging. Here's what I love. Here's what you'll be missing out on when you quit:
  • Being able to show your blog off in a couple of years time and being able to say, hey, I've been doing this for years. You can be proud for sticking around, for being an absolute badass.
  • Socializing. Online friendships. Meeting people you wouldn't have met otherwise.
  • Free books (duh)
  • A loving, truly kind community that will forgive you even if you need to take a break for a couple of months. We'll welcome you with open arms no matter what and do you want to leave that behind?
Of course we've probably all at some point asked ourselves whether it's all worth it. The truth is, blogging isn't for everyone and that is absolutely okay. If you don't want to do this anymore for what reason ever, don't feel bad. But do know that there is nothing stopping you from taking a hiatus whenever you feel like you need it, for what reason ever that may be.


Have you ever felt like quitting?

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

[Review] Someone Else's Summer - Rachel Bateman: Bucket Lists and Losing a Family Member

In SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER, Anna finds her late sister Storm's bucket list and decides to go on a road trip to check off all the things Storm didn't get to.

What intrigued me: I totally didn't read the blurb and went off the gorgeous cover.

Fantastic Characters

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER is an unexpected gut punch. I immediately grew very attached to the characters, from protagonist Anna to her ex-boyfriend Jovani to her neighbor Cameron - I loved them all! 

This is very much a character-driven story that takes its time to get to the actual premise and get the plot started, so it's always fantastic to connect with the characters. Bateman excels at conveying the emotions of her characters and portraying their grief and sorrow over Storm's passing realistically and beautifully. 

It truly feels like Bateman took her time creating realistic and fleshed-out characters with intricate and sometimes complicated relationships to each other.

Quite unoriginal and following tropes

However, there just isn't that much to this story after all. This is your typical bucket list / road trip story with absolutely no spin to the topic, no originality, and nothing memorable about it aside from the nice characters. Every twist and turn the plot takes is extremely predictable if you've read a handful of novels with similar themes. 

As soon as everything is settled introduction-wise the story just starts to become really dull and boring. Anna and her sidekick Cameron embark on a journey to tick off all the bullet points on the list and that's it. You have to be a fan of those types of novels to enjoy this and specifically enjoy bucket list narratives. Because this personally isn't really my thing, I found the narration and plot to end up feeling very stoic and boring. 

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER really has its peak within the first 80 pages, which are just brilliant, but then simply recedes to boring bucket-list-novel tropes. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I really enjoyed the first third of SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER but quickly grew uninterested when I realized that this is quite unoriginal with little to no variation to other novels that feature bucket list storylines. If you enjoy these types of contemporaries, SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER surely is among the better of these books, if you don't and like me enjoy variation, original plot, and surprises, you might want to skip this one.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780762462193

Synopsis:
"Anna's always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm's summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm's list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm's dream summer would eventually lead to Anna's own self-discovery?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite road trip read?

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

11 Exciting 2017 YA Releases that Almost Flew Under My Radar feat. Lydia Kang, Malinda Lo & more



Sometimes books that you REALLY want to read almost slip past you. Fortunately I caught all of these before the release date.





LUCKY IN LOVE - Kasie West
This cover makes me so happy. It's unfortunately still so rare to see non-white love interests in YA, even less so on the cover! Ah! (July 25th 2017, Scholastic) Goodreads

YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR - Mitali Perkins
I only read #ownvoices Indian, sign me up for this pretty looking contemporary! (September 12th 2017, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Goodreads

GRACE AND THE FEVER - Zan Romanoff 
Everybody loves a good fandom book. In this one, Grace meets the singer of her favorite boy band and they fall in love. (May 16th 2017, Knopf) Goodreads



WE COME APART - Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
From my new favorite contemporary writer, a book about a Romanian emigrant. Yes. (February 9th, 2017, Bloomsbury Children's) Goodreads

THE NOVEMBER GIRL - Lydia Kang
Magical realism! Violence! Isolated island! Yes! (November 7th 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS - Melissa Bashadourst
A feminist retelling of Snow White! Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! (September 5th 2017, Flatiron) Goodreads



A LINE IN THE DARK - Malinda Lo
An f/f Chinese-American #ownvoices mystery by the savior of sapphic readers, Malinda Lo. Anything she writes, please. (October 17th 2017, Dutton) Goodreads

THE OTHER F WORD - Natasha Friend
Two teens conceived via in-vitro fertilization try to find their biological parents. (March 7th 2017, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) Goodreads

DARE MIGHTY THINGS - Heather Kaczynski
Teens going to space! Sign me up! (October 10th 2017, HarperTeen) Goodreads

THE UNCROSSING - Melissa Eastlake
An m/m fantasy pitched as SHADOWSHARPER meets THE RAVEN BOYS? Oh my god? (October 2nd 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

SECRETS OF SKIN AND STONE - Wendy Laine
Okay but I'm already obsessed with this one. True Blood meets BEAUTIFUL CREATURES in a southern gothic with a protagonist with OCD? Come to me! (June 5th 2017, Entangled Teen) Goodreads

Which 2017 releases did you almost miss?

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

If You Loved That, You'll Love This - F/F Edition with Julia Ember + GIVEAWAY Win The Seafarer's Kiss + $25

I’ve seen a few Twitter threads over the last few days asking for f/f YA in certain genres. I also hear from straight readers who are new to LGBTQ lit, that they’re not sure which books would be the best gateway for them. I love recommending books and hooking readers up with a book that will speak to them, whether the book is mine or not. 

In this post, I’m going to cover f/f YA that has been released in the last couple of years, paired with heterosexual or m/m YA books that I also enjoyed. Most of these books are #ownvoices representation. 



IF YOU LOVED: ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer
YOU'LL LOVE: NOT YOUR SIDEKICK by C.B. Lee

Why? I read Artemis Fowl when I was 12, and it still holds a place in my heart. It’s witty, fast-paced, laugh out loud funny, with a teen villain as the main character. NOT YOUR SIDEKICK is on the MG end of the YA spectrum, so I think it’s a perfect step up for readers who loved ARTEMIS. Like ARTEMIS FOWL, NOT YOUR SIDEKICK has an endearingly funny protagonist, who is trying to carve out a place for herself. Although Jess isn’t a villain, she does come into contact with a whole host of them. When I first read NOT YOUR SIDEKICK last year, I described it as queer Despicable Me meets ARTEMIS FOWL. I still believe that to be true. If you want an adorable, clean YA story about heroes and villains, that will make you laugh, this book is for you. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: THE ASSASSIN'S HEART by Sarah Ahiers
YOU'LL LOVE: ASSASSINS: DISCORD by Erica Cameron

Why? Okay, I am embarrassingly obsessed with assassin novels. If it’s a YA book published in the last five years, and it features a female assassin, there’s a good chance that I’ve read it and loved it. I had a lot of options for comparison titles for this book. As far as I know, ASSASSINS: DISCORD is the only f/f assassins book out there. 

I chose ASSASSIN'S HEART as the comparison for several reasons. The first, is that both books feature crime families locked in epic rivalries. There’s a little bit of a murderous Romeo and Juliet feel to both novels. The other reason, is as much as I love some of the other assassins books out there, many of them are ‘problematic favs’ of mine that I know feature some terrible representation. I can’t use those books in post with a clear conscience. ASSASSIN'S HEART was a great book that I did not find to be problematic. I can recommend both of these books without reservations. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi
YOU'LL LOVE: OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst

Why? Both of these books are lyrically written, diverse, sweeping fantasies that centre the romance as a prominent part of the plot. I loved Roshani Chokshi’s world-building. It was rich and textured. The romance she developed between Maya and Amar was also swoon-worthy. I felt the same way about OF FIRE AND STARS. The writing in this book was truly beautiful. The world felt sumptuous, decadent and full. The romance progressed slowly and tenderly. If you want a true fantasy romance, this one is for you. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
YOU'LL LOVE: GRRRLS ON THE SIDE by Carrie Pack

Why? GRRRLS ON THE SIDE has a very distinctly late 80s/early 90s feel to it. It focuses on the Riot Grrrl feminist movement in the early 90s that spurred on a lot of feminist developments. The reason I liken it to ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE is first for the era, but also the focus of the story for both main characters is on coming to understand themselves. Both novels have a strong narrative voice, slow burn queer romances, and focus on self-discovery. Grrrls on the Side will be released in June 2017. Goodreads | Amazon


IF YOU LOVED: ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE by Tamora Pierce or CROWN DUEL by Sherwood Smith
YOU'LL LOVE: MARIAN by Ella Lyons

Why? MARIAN has a very classic, adventure fantasy feel. Like both ALANNA and CROWN DUEL, it centres a badass female character who learns to defy the gender norms in her society. It’s written in a similar, fast-paced 3rd person style, and the story is very plot-driven. There also isn’t a heavy focus on magic or mythical creatures. The romance in the story is on-page, and there is enough content to fuel the shippers, but romance is not the focus of this story. We’re here for Marian's story and her development. It is also the start of a series. Goodreads | Amazon



* * *

Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks was published by Harmony Ink Press.
Website | Twitter | Facebook

* * *


THE SEAFARER’S KISS, out on May 4th 2017 with Interlude Press

"Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, ninet
een-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies."
Interlude | Amazon | B&N

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What's a f/f version of a popular m/f book you enjoyed and would recommend?




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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to Rate Books: 6 Things You Should Be Doing | Book Blogging Tips (#56)

Every reviewer needs to find a way to rate their books. A rating scale is absolutely essential, whether you just review on goodreads or library thing or your blog. 

Here are some tips on how to get started rating books.






1. Establish a scale
Most bloggers go for 1-5 or 1-10. Some bloggers also make use of the 0 rating. It's a matter of personal preference, I think, if you have a bigger scale you have more room for individual ratings. 

A huge part of your rating scale is also what you're rating in. It might seem trivial, but especially if you have a themed blog, you might want to consider a very unique rating scale. Instead of rating in plain stars, you could make little graphics and rate in strawberries, books, top hats, whatever you fancy. It's by no means a must and the good old star rating scale works as well.

2. Think of criteria
To some people it may just come naturally how they're rating a book, but I guarantee you, if you're just starting out reviewing things you will not be able to rate something ~naturally~. It's a skill that's built over time, so as a newbie you have to think of certain things that a book needs to have if you want to give it a certain rating. This may sound more difficult than it actually is; let me illustrate:
  • 5 star books: Nothing to complain, you loved everything, the characters are great, the plot is fantastic
  • 4 star books: A little to complain, you still loved everything, the characters are mediocre, the plot is mediocre
  • 1 star books: You hated everything, the characters are terrible and so is the plot.

3. If you're unsure, compare
In my early blogging days I used to always go back to my older reviews and compare the book I had just read and wanted to review to them. Example:
  • You gave BOOK 1 4 stars
  • You gave BOOK 2 2 stars
  • You like book you've just read not as much as BOOK 1, but more than BOOK 2. Therefore BOOK 3 gets three stars

4. Stop being so harsh/generous
Yes, before I've even seen a single review you've written, I can already tell you that you're either giving everything 5 stars or nothing 5 stars. This is a very common thing with new bloggers, and there is really nothing that can fix that aside from experience. I'm one of those people that tend to always be too harsh and very very cautious with their 5 star ratings, which is actually the worse option. 

If you're like me, you're doing more harm with your reviewing than you're helping. Authors and publishers don't want to see negative review and neither do your readers. This doesn't mean you should rate everything great or not review at all, this just means that you have to be REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY sure about your ratings. Are you very confident in the ratings you give out?


5. Look at other bloggers
This is essential. Every book blogger MUST read other book blogs or in the very least other reviews. You have to look at other people to get a feel of what you're doing. If you're always giving everything better or worse ratings than eveeryone you'ree following, you very likely have a rating problem. 


6. Always go back to your older reviews
Even after almost three years of blogging I still go back to older reviews and check with the older review you've written. Either to rework or to compare the way you're rating now to the way you used to rate. You can always learn from your old mistakes, make use of that opportunity!

But always remember: These are only suggestions, at the end of the day it is your blog and you should and have to review the way you want to.


How do you rate your books?




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Monday, May 1, 2017

[Review] The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black: Vampire Segregation and An Actually Quite Fun Love Triangle


In THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN, Tana is among the sole survivors of a vampire attack. Supported by a vampire and her infected ex-boyfriend she now has to find a way to save her ex from fully turning.

What intrigued me: I'm attempting to read every vampire novel ever published.




Fresh concept, but a very, very frustrating read

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN definitely brings a fresh concept to the table and surprised me with it. I love the idea of Coldtowns and the way Black treats vampires in this new world. 

However, the execution of it all couldn't really grip me as much as I would have liked. The writing is very difficult - it reads like you're trying wade through mud and the reading flow is often broken by narrative passages.

There are flashback-like narrative info dump passages at the beginning of every chapter that annoyed me immensely. The story is very interesting and getting thrown off the main storyline by having to read through these flashbacks is a little irritating. All of these do serve a purpose, but I think they could've been implemented into the story more elegantly. Because of all this narration the concept is basically trampled down and it took me ages to read even a couple of pages of this. I never really got really into the story, couldn't possibly because of all those flashbacks, and it's really sad because I love the basic idea.

The first love triangle I tolerate, but an annoying cliche vampire

The characters are interesting, If you're going to do a love triangle, please do it like Black. I loved how her annoying ex-boyfriend tried to compete for her attention while vampire Gavriel wasn't even trying. I absolutely loved the relationship Tana and Aiden have and it's super amusing to read - I almost wish there was a contemporary novel about the two. 

However, it doesn't get more vampire cliche than Gavriel. Strangely talking in a weird accent, extremely aware of every phrase he speaks. 
I have a huge problem with characters who speaks in awkward, archaic lingo and it almost never works. The entire time Gavriel was on screen I pictured the author trying to come up with a witty, deep line rather than the character. He seemed utterly one-dimensional and pretty unappealing to me. It's kinda sad that this otherwise so fresh and promising read plays into the typical vampire stereotype personality-wise with him. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Ugh, difficult. I think it's not a must-read. I like that it's a stand-alone, but the writing made this terribly difficult for me to read and I just am not a fan. Probably not. 



Additional Info

Published: September 3rd 2013
Pages: 419
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Genre: YA / Paranormal / Vampires
ISBN: 9780316213103

Synopsis:
"Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite vampire novel?

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

So You Just Received Your First Review Copy... | Book Blogging Tips (#55)


... and you probably think that you've made it. People are sending you free stuff! That's amazing! You've made it this far already but there are quite a couple of things I'd like to tell you. 

While you can be very proud of this accomplishment, you have to realize that by deciding to start accepting review copies, you're also accepting responsibility. 

Here are some things I wish someone had told me when I accepted my first copy.


1. Don't go overboard
I know it's super exciting to realize that you've been blogging long enough to be considered to receive review copies, but please please don't see this as a sign to start requesting everything. 

2. Don't request backlist titles
That's a thing many newbie bloggers don't know about - backlist titles are books that have been out for a while. Typically publishers have a set amount of review copies that are sent out at a certain time before or shortly after a book's release. Backlist titles are usually not available for review, so only request review copies of books that aren't out yet to avoid wasting someone's time.

3. Don't accept any and every review copy sent to you
It won't take long until lots of people will reach out to you. Usually it will be indie authors and small publishers first who will ask you to review their books. Don't say yes to every single book just because it's free. Keep in mind what kind of blog you run. Is this book something that you'd even pick up in a bookstore? If it's not, don't accept the copy. Just because it's free, you shouldn't say yes to everything because -

4. People expect you to actually read the book
Sure, this is the old drama, some people think review copies don't have to be read, it's only an agreement to consider - yada yada, let's not have this argument right now, this isn't the point of this post. You're getting the copy because something is expected in return, whatever that may be. Don't request a billion books with no intention of reading them, that's just not a nice thing to do. 

5. Don't be afraid to publish a negative review
Just because you got something for free it doesn't mean that you can't dislike it. Don't be afraid to publish a negative review for a review copy! Nobody will be mad at you for that. You're asked for your honest opinion in 99.5% of the cases, and that also covers the possibility that you might dislike it. 

6. - but don't be a jerk about disliking the book
Especially with ARC for indie and small-published books you have to realize that your review might be the first review that people see when they go look for the book. 

Sure, disliking and publishing really negative reviews is absolutely 100% fine, but pay attention to the tone. Reviewing is a skill, it's an art in itself to be able to express your negative opinion without being a complete douchebag about it. Meaning no insults.

7. Consider that you might receive backlash
If you read an early copy and are one of the first people to review a book, of course more people will see the review. Be prepared to have people disagree. Consider this while writing the review. Again, don't be a jerk. If you're going to be a jerk regardless, know that you might receive backlash.

8. Don't send negative reviews to the author or publisher!
You may have seen on twitter for example that many reviewer tag authors in reviews. This is a great way to get your review out there, but please, please, please only do this if you rated the book 4 stars and abover and/or hardly said anything negative about it. 

Many authors are very vocal about not wanting to be tagged in negative reviews unsoliticedly. Publishers won't reshare your negative reviews either and it's basically just wasting everyone's time / ruining somebody's day. So please don't do that. 

What are some things you wish someone had told you after you received your first review copy?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien Abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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