March 25, 2017

Review: Geekerella

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Grade: C
Release date: April 4, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi 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's ever wanted, but the 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.

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."

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: There's been a ton of nerdy books cropping up in YA lately, and while Geekerella does little to set itself apart from the crowd, it's still a fun story.
There were strong elements to Geekerella - ExcelsiCon, the costumes, Calliope, and the Magic Pumpkin. But I felt like they were dragged down by a cliche stepmother, a cliche stepsister, and a lack of chemistry. I just didn't buy that Elle and Darien were into each other. And while Catherine and Chloe were stereotypical and nothing out of the ordinary for a Cinderella retelling, Calliope surprised me in many good ways. I could see how she tried to be a better person but was scared to break out of her shell and upset her mother. I also liked her romance sub-plot, although it was a bit unexpected. Honestly, a story with her as the protagonist might've been more fun. I enjoyed how Sage fit the fairy godmother role, and I loved how all the people at the Con came together to help Elle out.
The movie filming seemed to go awfully fast (but then, what do I know?), and I didn't like anyone in Darien's circle, especially Brian. Which, I'm sure we weren't supposed to like Brian, but he annoyed me too much. Elle wasn't an exciting protagonist. Of course I rooted for her because her life was ridiculously unfair, but at the end of the day, there are heroines I liked more.
There's a smattering of s-words, but nothing worse than that. Violence and romantic content are all super clean.

The Verdict: Nice if you want something fluffy. A bit blah otherwise.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Eh, probably not.

March 24, 2017

Random Friday: Saving It for a Rainy Day



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Do you have anything you're "saving for a rainy day"? I definitely do.

I have literary-inspired webseries that I keep saying I'll watch, but I don't. I have an inkling it's because I want to binge as much of them in one sitting as I can.

There are TV series and movies in my Netflix queue that I keep saying I'll get to, but I never start them. On a related note, I really wanted to watch Heroes because it had Milo Ventimiglia and superheroes, but Netflix removed the show before I could. (Can Netflix stop removing TV shows and movies, please???)

There are books I want to reread that I don't. I could divide those into two categories: I don't want to reread them because I'd want to read them again as soon as I finished them and that's frowned upon, and the books I don't own copies of that I keep saying I should reread so I can see if I want to own them.

I also have recipes that I think I'm saving for a rainy day. On breaks, I have plenty of time to bake stuff but I usually don't...or I make old favorites instead. I currently have 90 pins on my food board (as of writing this post in mid-February); that's 90 recipes I have yet to try. So what's stopping me?

Am I really saving these things for rainy days? Or am I just putting off watching/reading/baking something that I don't really want to watch/read/bake?


March 22, 2017

So You Like... #46

Do you love historical fiction, time travel, and tentative friend groups causing messes? Then you really should catch up on a recent TV show, Timeless. If, however, you've already binged the entire show like me, here are a truckload of book recommendations for you. I usually try to limit these posts to around eight or less, but there were too many good historical fiction YA titles for me to resist.


SO YOU LIKE...




Now you should, in general, read...

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But if you're looking for more specific historical fiction recs, here ya go.

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(Actually middle grade, but it's still perfect for this list.)


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Also, just saying, there should be more recent YA books set during the 1700s because the Timeless crew travels to both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, so I would've liked to recommend books set during those time periods.

March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read in One Day


I used to always read books in two days or less but now things are a bit busier at school so it takes me a bit longer to finish books. Still, I've had several over the last eight months that I read in about a day or less because they were just that good.

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1. The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

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2. The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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3. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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4. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

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5. Rebel Magisters by Shanna Swendson

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6. A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray

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7. Holes by Louis Sachar

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8. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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9. Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman

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10. Two Summers by Aimee Friedman


What books have you read in about a day, or even in one sitting?

March 20, 2017

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion

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Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Grade: C
Release date: March 28, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My biggest problem with Blood Rose Rebellion is that it couldn't hold my attention. By about halfway through my e-galley, I found myself wanting to read any book but this one. It started well enough, with conflict and magic and tension. But I definitely skimmed the second half, just so I could say I finished the book and didn't DNF it. I've had too many of those lately. 
I really loved that it was a time and place in history rarely touched on YA historical fiction. However, I couldn't connect with Anna, and secondary characters, like her cousins and Gabor, were hardly fleshed out. They felt like props moved to advance the plot, not fully-fledged characters around which the plot revolved (and considering that Gabor was the love interest, you'd think he'd have a little more depth). In addition, Anna started to make really stupid choices that seemed out of character. 
I had read some comments on Twitter about the use of Romani vs. gypsy, and so I approached my ARC cautiously. From what I saw in the first half, it seemed pretty accurate that Anna and others would use the slur until they knew better. I cannot speak to if it should've been used at all or not, but as a student of history, I believe we shouldn't try to erase the sins of the past. In historical writing (even fiction), if we pretend that people wouldn't have used certain terms, we are erasing our mistakes and not learning from them. Obviously, writers should not overuse any slurs, but I think they can use it (through POC or ally characters) as a gentle teaching moment to be like, "Hey, no, this is wrong; don't use that word." Anyways, Anna, once she's told by Gabor to use Romani, makes an effort to be respectful and even corrects others. However, one moment I did feel was inaccurate was that Gabor then used the slur on a couple occasions, and Anna did too at times in her narration. After reading the author's note, I can see why the author made these choices, though, and I can see she was trying to respect both history and a marginalized people group.

The Verdict: Could've been so good, but it lacked that extra oomph to make me continue to care.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

March 18, 2017

Review: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones

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The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Grade: B
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Wing Jones, like everyone else in her town, has worshipped her older brother, Marcus, for as long as she can remember. Good-looking, popular, and the star of the football team, Marcus is everything his sister is not.

Until the night everything changes when Marcus, drunk at the wheel after a party, kills two people and barely survives himself. With Marcus now in a coma, Wing is crushed, confused, and angry. She is tormented at school for Marcus’s mistake, haunted at home by her mother and grandmothers’ grief. In addition to all this, Wing is scared that the bank is going to repossess her home because her family can’t afford Marcus’s mounting medical bills.

Every night, unable to sleep, Wing finds herself sneaking out to go to the school’s empty track. When Aaron, Marcus’s best friend, sees her running one night, he recognizes that her speed, skill, and agility could get her spot on the track team. And better still, an opportunity at a coveted sponsorship from a major athletic gear company. Wing can’t pass up the opportunity to train with her longtime crush and to help her struggling family, but can she handle being thrust out of Marcus’s shadow and into the spotlight?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Upon finishing The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, my first thought was how lovely it was. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking about Wing Jones, but it is simple and thoughtful. There are plenty of characters you'll want to root for and plenty of natural beautiful diversity to boot.
I appreciated how actions weren't excused but also how everything was more light gray than anything else. I also loved Wing's growth and her fantasy of the dragon and the lioness (I definitely saw her grandmothers in her imagination's companions). I appreciated how they were rooted in her culture. 
I liked Wing running. It showed her strength and individuality and determination in so many ways. I loved how all of the supporting characters - Marcus, Aaron, Monica, Eliza, Wing's mother, and Wing's grandmother - had distinct personalities and they had different opinions and roles, all of which came across nicely. And I really liked Aaron and Wing together. I would've liked to see her support him a little more, but he builds her up in such a good way and she doesn't need him, but they work well together.
I caught maybe a dozen s-words. Teen pregnancy and an abortion are referenced in conjunction with a (very) minor character.

The Verdict: Really good. I know my review is a bit vague, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The only reason it gets four stars, and not five, is because I didn't get that feeling in my gut that solidified it as an all-time favorite.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Probably at some point.

March 16, 2017

Review: P.S. I Like You

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P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Grade: A+
Summary: Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: In case my review for By Your Side had you fooled, I love Kasie West's books (just not her most recent one). P.S. I Like You, which I read the day it released, was an absolute delight.
In a lot of ways Lily reminded me of Anne Shirley. They're both imperfect, opinionated, and have dreams. P.S. I Like You is also in the crop of YA titles that have recently been appearing that are basically YA versions of You've Got Mail.
I really enjoyed that Lily and her guy didn't get together in the last chapter, that they found each other a little sooner so we got to see them beginning a romantic relationship. I also liked that we knew about halfway through who her pen pal was.
P.S. I Like You has got great family dynamics going on, between Lily's mom and dad, who are a bit embarrassing (as parents of teenagers can be) but also very supportive and who act like parents. There's also her older sister and then her little brothers, who add comedy and awkwardness. The one relationship not fleshed out as I wanted was Lily's friendship with Isabel. It felt surface level at times and like Isabel was just there to further the plot and be a sounding board for Lily, not like she was her own person who happened to play a supporting role in this story.
Super clean, both language and romance-wise. 

The Verdict: Such a fun, swoonworthy read that I want to reread over and over again.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did.

March 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring 2017 Reads


On Friday, I listed a few spring releases I'm looking forward to, but here's ten more!

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1. Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond

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3. First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

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4. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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5. The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

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7. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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8. Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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9. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

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10. That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim


I'm also really looking forward to the Word Cloud Classic editions releasing in mid-April: Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Shakespeare's Sonnets, but I figured those didn't count since they've technically existed for hundreds of years - just not with the new lovely covers.

What spring releases are you highly anticipating?

March 13, 2017

The Chapter Sampler Test Part 5

Here's part five in the series, and the sequel to the post from a few weeks ago. Seven books this time, and five of them are middle grade. I added a ton from a potential Newbery list to my TBR last fall, and since none of them won the Newbery, I think they might be on the chopping block. But these samplers will help me decide.

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The beginning was not auspicious in the slightest. It didn't even feature the main character mentioned in the synopsis on Goodreads. I culled this one.
The Blazing Star by Imani Josey
Definitely still interested. I like the protagonist's voice and the narration is good so far.


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Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
As important as this story is, I couldn't connect with the narrator's voice.
This is one of the MGs I thought looked interesting from the Newbery list, but the sampler isn't that appealing.


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The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
Wasn't feeling it.
Wish by Barbara O'Connor
Strong voice, interesting main character. It's staying.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
The tone is a bit too straightforward and narrator-y to me, if that makes sense.


Well. I'm just cutting books left and right. At least my TBR list is looking a little shorter.

March 12, 2017

Rewind & Review #81


~I caught a bad cold or the flu right before spring break, which totally ruined all the plans I had. :(
~I didn't get to go to the NoVA Teen Book Fest, like I had been planning to, but the bookstore got my books signed for me and Ibi Zoboi and Jessica Spotswood even made get better videos for me.
~I was feeling a bit better by last night so my mom and I went to see Cinderella! The tour came through Richmond this weekend, and it was really good. The actress playing Ella wasn't as good as Laura Osnes, but I loved Marie, Gabrielle, Topher, Lord Pinkleton, and Jean-Michel.

Books I Received for Review
Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser (from Bloomsbury)
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (from Bloomsbury)
Geekerella by Ashley Poston (from Quirk Books via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (traded with Stephanie)
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (traded with Raisa)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (gifted by my mom)

Books I Bought
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Books I Read
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor (DNF)
Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig (4 stars)
Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos (2.5 stars)
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby (reread)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reread)
You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche (3 stars)
Heist Society by Ally Carter (reread)
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (3 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 2/27-3/4)
   (from 3/5-3/11)

March 11, 2017

So You Like... #45

I paired books with Disney Princesses a long time ago, but it's been fun doing more individualized series. This time it's...


SO YOU LIKE...


RAPUNZEL.
(As always, book covers link to Goodreads.)
Artists



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Dreaming of something more



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Is Rapunzel your favorite princess? Which other Disney princess would you like to see me feature? (I've already done Belle, Tiana, and Mulan, in case you haven't been keeping up with these posts.)