MINI REVIEWS #1 | Black History Month, Carnivals, Murders

Recently I've read a few books that I have formed some opinions on, but not enough to write an entire review. Most of these were read pretty recently and so all the thoughts are still swirling around in my head, dying to get out. Maybe in the future, if I have more to write, I'll consider doing full reviews. But for the moment, this is just my attempt at getting my thoughts out. Hope you guys enjoy!

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

I read this with my friend Belinda for our Instagram book club, Diversify the Verse. This book follows a dual POV of Rashad and Quinn, two boys who get tangled up in a historic event. One minute Rashad is buying a bag of chips and the next, he's being being pummeled to the ground all because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes, so he must have been stealing. Quinn witnesses Rashad being brutalized and someone somewhere happens to film the footage on a phone camera.

AAB is a poignant and powerful story. Our reason for choosing this book as our book of the month is similar to the authors' reason for writing the book- to start a dialogue between young adults and the world about racism and racial profiling. I think this is an incredibly important story that doesn't shy away from the topics of violence, racism and social injustice. It has an incredibly widespread message that will apply to anyone in any situation and the lessons that are taught are unprecedented. I hope you guys will check out our discussion questions on our Instagram book club!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Seeing as this book made almost everyone's top books of the year lists, I'm quite scared to share my thoughts on this one. Unpopular opinion, coming up! 

I really really wanted to love Caraval. I received an ARC and the only thing that stopped me from reading it early was the hype surrounding the book. No joke, the pre-release hype was insane with so many people already naming it as their favorite. I have a history of not liking books that receive a lot of hype so you could only imagine my fear going into it. But alas, I read it because curiosity got the best of me. 

Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate it or dislike it, I just didn't like it as much as everyone else did. I couldn't stand the writing style, and I though the ending was super anti-climatic. Garber did an excellent job at keeping the reader in the dark until the end for the big reveal. When I got to the end, I was expecting just that- a big reveal. Instead I think it just flopped for me and it was just really disappointing. Also, trigger warnings for physical abuse and attempted suicide. We see physical abuse from the main character's father straight from the beginning of the book, and it was quite unsettling to read. 

I quite enjoyed the sister relationship featured though. I would always recommend this book if you're looking for a prominent and well-written sister relationship.

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs 

I thought I was finally done with reading YA science fiction mystery books that follow the same storyline, that is, until I read this book! Nemesis is a potent combination of Orphan Black, Lord of the Flies, and The Matrix. Keep your eyes peeled for this book on March 21st.

Short synopsis: Every two years on her birthday, Min Wilder is murdered by a strange man in a black suit and silver sunglasses. But hours later, she'll find herself in a clearing just outside her Idaho home. It's been happening ever since she was eight. Meanwhile The Anvil, an enormous asteroid, is threatening all life on earth. Min vows to discover what is happening to Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders. 

Now I don't want to share too much because I'm going to be apart of the epic blog tour Penguin is planning. Let's just say that if you're tired of the same old science fiction plots in YA, read this book! It has such a unique story, one that incorporates the best of technology and a scary, corrupt government.

When I first read the synopsis, I demanded to know what the mystery behind the protagonists numerous deaths was! Every page unlocks something new and it's your job to put everything together and solve the mystery. This book is one that I'm sure to recommend over and over again to readers who love the thrill of a good mystery with a reveal that'll blow your mind.

BLOG TOUR: Empress of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza + GIVEAWAY!

Title: Empress of A Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Pages: 344 pages
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Source: ARC from Penguin Teen
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Space Opera
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he's forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Out now! 

**I received an advanced reader's copy from the publisher. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own** 

If this own voices space opera isn't on your 2017 TBR, then you must be doing something wrong. This 2017 release will make you obsessed with books that take place in space and, not to mention, make you want to reread the TLC series by Marissa Meyer. So bear with me as I try to recall my first impressions of this book that I read way back in December (shame on my procrastination)...

Empress of a Thousand Skies gave me major Lunar Chronicle Marissa Meyer vibes, and I love how much it reminded me of my favorite series. I though the plot was kind very similar in terms of TLC, as in a runaway princess who plans to take back her throne while the whole universe thinks she's dead. If you're a huge fan of TLC, I think you'd really enjoy this upcoming release.

I'm such a tech nerd, so you could imagine how I devoured the mention of this world's technology. Spaceships, cubes, programmers, hackers. Basically each person has a 'cube' implanted behind their right ear, and it has the ability to record memories, experiences, translate languages, communicate with other people and most importantly, let the government know what you're up to. The cubes play a major role in our characters' story as they mean the difference between getting caught and staying alive. Another reason for Marissa Meyer fans to reach for this book sooner rather than later.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the dual POV. Similar to the TLC series, the different characters' storylines don't converge until the very end. And I liked that, I really did. All this buildup, all this anticipation, is setting a foundation for a hell of a meetup when the two characters Rhee and Aly finally come together.

From the back of the book, I kind of predicted there to be a romance between Rhee and Aly. But there wasn't, in fact, each character met someone along the way and started their own romances. When I started realizing that, I appreciated the story more because I didn't have to expect any budding romances to come out of their meeting. It was finally going to be more about saving the throne than falling in love!

While we're on the topic of romance, there is very little romance in this book, which I quite enjoyed. It was refreshing to see in a YA debut. Because the author was able to focus less on romance, she was able to build some really great family and friend relationships that sealed the deal for me. One of my favorite characters was Vin, Aly's best friend, and I thought their relationship was by far the best in the book.

This book includes the best of a diverse cast, beautiful scenery, character relationships and space politics! Yes folks, you heard me right. Space politics! We learned a great deal about how this world functioned and the importance of their hierarchal system. It's nothing too confusing, especially because she breaks it down so nicely and it blends well into this fast-paced story.

One of my initial reasons for being so excited for this book was the promise of a diverse cast and an own voices story. And while we did see an amazingly diverse set of characters, I didn't quite grasp the own voices concept at first until I read other reviews. A group of people in the story, Wraetans, are frowned upon because of their past clashes with the Kalusians (the reigning power). We're told that the Kalusians are more fair-skinned while Wraetans are much more tan. I liked how the two characters originated from these two different groups, Rhee as a high profile Kalusian and Aly, as a high profile Wraethan. Through Rhee we were enlightened of her political view of the Wraetans and her desperate longing for the Kalusians and Wraetans to join as one force. Through Aly we are shown what he goes through living as a Wraethan in Kalusian society. Through Aly's story, we see a strong oppressed main character who proves that his people aren't only capable of war and violence.

The writing style was very unique and whenever an author takes the time to develop their own phrases, I'm immediately impressed. You know how we have our typical slang? Yeah, well this book creates some new sci-fi space slang that I was all for.

I get butterflies just thinking about what an awesome debut this is going to be. With complex characters, surprising twists and turns and an awesome world to jump into, Empress of A Thousand Skies sets the groundwork for a new sci-fi space opera series to emerge. With very little that irked me, I have to mention that this book didn't blow me away as much as I thought it would. Might come as a shocker considering all the good that I've said about it. Don't get me wrong, it was a good book, fantastic even. I just didn't feel any feeling of 'OMG I'M GOING TO DIE WITHOUT THE SEQUEL' after reading it, you know?

And although the synopsis is a poor summary for what the book is actually about, you do get quite the mix of surprises and twists that you won't see coming. Frankly, I think the synopsis is misleading! But it's all fine and well because I enjoyed the book!

Author Bio

Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing X-Files fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. She's a children's editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed with far too many bikes and far too many shoes. When she's not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung fu movies, and sews together crooked things together that pass for clothes. Empress of a Thousand Skies is her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter @rhodabee. 


Enter for a chance to win one (1) of three (3) signed copies of Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (ARV: $17.99 each). 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 6, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 20, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 22, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void when prohibited or restircted by law.  

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Blogging & School | my thoughts + tips

We've gotta chat because there's been something I've wanted to get off my chest for a while. Remember the good old days when Alex posted 2 times a week? Yeah, I don't remember either because it was so long ago. As I'm entering my junior year of high school, I'm realizing that school isn't what I thought it was. I'll try my best not to complain too much about school in this post but no promises. 

What's the haps?

"School" doesn't actually start for you until you get to high school. Now, again, this could all totally be wrong based on what level of schooling you are in now. In short, high school has been the bane of my existence. Every morning I wake up and think to myself: "Today I get to go through another day of learning things I most likely won't need in the future, passing out fake smiles, trying to be someone I'm not." It's true, I am my worst self when I am at school. To some of my real life school friends reading this, it might not seem so. But when I'm at school, I'm not who I want to be but who my classmates want me to be. 

I'd like to disclaim this entire post by saying I am so blessed and lucky enough to attend a school that cares about my learning. Everyone (well, most people) hates school at one point, and this is just that point in my life. I know that a lot of people can't afford education or don't have the same resources and opportunities I've had, and I am beyond grateful. I am. In fact, this post is going to be a lot more than me just talking about the effect school has had on my life but more of how to handle the workload and continue doing what you love :D 

So school... where does that leave time for blogging?

The short answer to the above question is... it doesn't. School doesn't leave time for blogging, that's just the sad truth. I have to squeeze in time before I go to sleep and on the weekends just to get these posts out and flowing. And nobody's kidding themselves, I haven't been posting consistently for the past 6 months. I'm not even going to lie about it lol. It's one thing if I didn't post for months on end but it's a totally different thing when I just don't post consistently. I tried doing a once-a-week kind of thing, but then 7 days turned to 8 days and 8 days turned to 10 days. I couldn't keep up with my own set schedule, and that was the most disappointing thing to acknowledge. Then I noticed that the quality of my posts were going down. It went from long discussion posts to short lists just rambling on and off about a certain book. That's just not the content I want to be creating. I started this blog in an effort to share my passion and personality. How are a few sentences and a list going to do that? 

I really don't want to keep talking about the many ways in which school has ruined my blogging life but instead, I want to impart some beneficial advice to many of you struggling bloggers and readers out there. I've seen one too many bloggers stop blogging all because school got in the way. It really hurt to think that one day that could be me because school just keeps getting harder and harder. I don't want that to happen to anybody. Go through with your passion, write blog posts, share your favorite reads, but don't ever let school get in the way of any of it. If school is taking you away from doing what you love, that's a problem (in my opinion). Sure school is important and it's what you should be focusing on, but don't feel miserable at it. 

A lot of people always ask me how I handle being a book blogger, booktuber and bookstagrammer, while being a busy high school student. I never really thought of it but hell yeah I do do all that! I thought to myself: "maybe I really do have some things to share." Although these tips may not be anything unique or ground-breaking, they are few simple things I do in order to stay sane while creating content. From fellow student to student, here are my tips for blogging through the school year! 

1. Leave those weekends open!

Like I stated above, I mostly blog on the weekends. That also goes for booktubing and bookstagramming. I write blog posts, edit and film videos and take pictures for Bookstagram all on the weekends. Considering that my weekends aren't all that laid back and chill, I think this is something anyone can do. On the weekends, you are also a little bit more flexible with your sleeping times. Because you can stay up later, you can also just sit on your bed and write those blog posts for an hour or two straight (like me right now hehe). Weekends are imperative, so even if you want to be lazy and do it on Sunday take the initiative and tell yourself that it must be done NOW. 

2. Take notes in class. 

I never said I was a good influence. Whenever I'm in any of my boring classes (APUSH *coughs* APUSH), I like to take out my little moleskin and jot down any video ideas or blog posts ideas. That way, by the time I'm ready to draft a post or film a video, I already have everything I need to say drafted out on a piece of paper. Trust me, it's going to work okay! I'll attach a little snippet of some of the things that I write in my notebook for videos. 

3. Watch other creators and constantly read other's content. 

Most, if not all, of my content ideas are obtained from other blogs and other booktube channels. I get inspired by the people around me and, of course, I give credit where credit is due. Sometimes when I watch something that my favorite blogger has come up with, I am inspired to create something similar. It's really easy to be inspired by the thousands of blog posts that are published every day by creators just like yourself, so don't hesitate to use the resources at your disposal. 

It's sad that I could only come up with three tips, but when used in tandem, I promise you're going to be the sharpest blogger on the block. I would love to know some of your tips in the comments 😉

BLOG TOUR: The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu + MOOD BOARD & GIVEAWAY!

Title: The Careful Undressing of Love  
Author: Corey Ann Haydu 
Pages: 288 pages 
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Source: ARC from Penguin Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Rating: 4.5/5 stars 

Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path.

Buy it now! 
**I received an advanced copy for the purpose of writing a review. All thoughts and opinions stated in this review are all my own** 

Magical realism set in a beautiful reimagined New York City? Hell to the freaking yes. For fans of American Horror Story: Coven and Romeo and Juliet, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu tells the story of four girls apart of a cult-like group who are forbidden to love. AND IT WAS EPIC!

The girls of Devonairre Street are told time and time again that if they fall in love with a boy, whether or not he loves them back, that boy will die. And so the girls do their best to follow the rules and obey the curses' demands, until they can't help falling in love. Lorna Ryder has seen her father die at the hands of the curse. All her life, she's been taught that this curse exists. Even though her mother refuses to believe otherwise even though her own father died, Lorna knows some part of her believes it even though she doesn't want to. This is not a book about falling in love. This is a book about how far one will go for love and as the title suggests, the careful dissection and "undressing" of love. It discovers the story of a girl who is not supposed to fall in love, but does without realizing. And when being in love means the difference between life and death, one must be tread carefully.

"If you love someone and they vanish, you are left nodding like a zombie and throwing teacups at a wall." 

-- quoted from an uncorrected proof of the book 

The juxtaposition of love and death, two opposing forces, is beautifully demonstrated in this book. Finally. FINALLY a book where love doesn't always win. No doubt I'm a huge sucker for romance, but this was absolutely refreshing and wonderful. We learn how love makes us superstitious and even dangerous. Love is beautiful, but it is also a prickly rose with thorns. Love will make you believe. Love is also terrifying, enough to drive people away.

The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse. Coming in at less than 300 pages, I was scared that the author wasn't going to be able to drag out the entire story, but I was wrong. Although not filled to the brim with great character development, I think the focus of the book was the character's realization and the emphasis and symbolism of love. You see the lemons on the cover? You're probably like "hey why the heck are there lemons on the cover?" They play an extremely huge role in the story and in the characters' development, and I was so satisfied when I finally found out what the lemons meant.

I was also curious as to why the author decided to center her book around the aftermath of a Time's Square bombing in 2001. History reimagined, eh? Little did I know, that the loved ones of many characters in the book were taken too soon in the terrorist attack. And this specific event, similarly to the lemons, plays a huge role in the story and the characters' developments.

This book was magical without getting too witch-y and playful. I think the story kept a very mature vibe, while constantly talking about love and a cult-like group of teenagers. The writing style was just everything from the dozens of quotes I was able to pick out of the book to the eloquently worded phrases of dialogue that gave the characters power. I don't know if this makes sense but there were a lot of things that would have been hard to conceptualize had it not been for Haydu's clear and concise way of writing. This book definitely reads like a contemporary but with fantastical elements of the supernatural, dealing with death and cult-like rituals.

"Love is a fever, and I was feverish. Love is a certainty, and I was certain."

-- quoted from an uncorrected proof of the book. 

The ending was a bit anticlimactic as things were happening so fast that I couldn't even believe what was happening when IT happened. Don't worry, you'll know when you read it. As much as I would like to tell you, I don't want to spoil everything for you!

Although it may read and look like a contemporary, this book is not one to be taken lightly. Filled with incredibly immersive writing style, entertaining characters and the inclusion of the culture of this one cult-like group on Devonairre Street, readers will be sure to read this book in one go. You have been warned.

Author Bio

Corey Ann Haydu is the critically acclaimed author of several novels for young readers novels, including OCD Love Story, which earned her a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. Her books have been Junior Library Guild, Indie Next, and BCCB Blue Ribbon selections. Corey lives in Brooklyn with her dog, her fiance, and a wide selection of cheese. 


Enter for a chance to win one (1) of three (3) signed copies of A Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu (ARV: $17.99 each) 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on January 30, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 13th, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 14, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. 

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