Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Event Recap


I was fortunate enough to meet Lisa See at the Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. I have been reading See's books ever since 2005 when Snow Flower and the Secret Fan came out. See is one of the very few adult fiction authors that I love. I have always had a fascination with historical fiction and books about Chinese culture ever since I read part of the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan back in 2001.

Prior to the event, I already read an e-ARC version of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and fell in love! The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is now my favorite book written by See. This book is fantastic for all ages and for those who want to learn more about the Akha ethnic group living in Yunnan China as well as the origins of Pu-erh tea. Check out my review for The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane here.

I arrived at Brookline Booksmith around 6:30ish and not many of the chairs were filled. I would say there were about six or so people waiting for the event. Closer to 6:55 pm, many of the seats were filled. See started her talk with an introduction about her research and inspiration for the book. She went to the movie theaters with her husband one day in Santa Monica and saw a Caucasian couple with an Asian adopted daughter. See saw the love between the family.

See's books are often about the relationships and emotions of mothers and daughters, which I love reading about. See managed to do a lot of research regarding transnational adoption and China's one child policy while being able to delve into the history of tea and the Tea Horse Road of Yunnan. The process of how Pu-erh tea came to be was an accident. Tea fermented when the tea was being traded from China to Tibet. The different levels in humidity and the temperatures along with the snow added in the creation of  Pu-erh.  Pu-erh tea became highly popular in Hong Kong and Guangzhou for Dim Sum.

See had the pleasure meeting the biggest importer of Pu-erh tea in China and was able to see the tea picking in action during the prime time of tea picking season. For The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, See researched 27 ethnic minority groups in Yunnan. In China, 95% of the people are part of the Han majority while the 5% represents 55 ethnic minorities. After settling on writing about the Akha people, See was able to visit a village and learn about their culture.

See's favorite chapter of the novel is the group therapy session when Hayley is in a round table discussion with other adoptees from China. See was able to reach out to 18-year-old to 22-year-old women who are adopted from China regarding their adoption process for accurate emotions and responses for Hayley's portion of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Many of the women wrote long responses, some even up to 50 pages. Many were conflicted with their identity. Are they Chinese? American? Chinese American? Or are they something else?

See discussed a little bit of her ancestry and how her great grandfather worked on the transcontinental railroad and how you identify yourself with people around you. Charlotte, a college-aged young lady in the audience, has been corresponding with See for quite some time about her adoption experience and how she identifies herself. Charlotte's mother spoke about the adoption process and also how Charlotte was able to meet her birth parents via Skype. It was an exhilarating and overwhelming experience since it's very hard for children to reconnect with their birth parents. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is one of the deepest books written about a mother's and a daughter's love. It was mentioned during the talk that motherly love is when you "take pain and [you] carry it in the heart."

I was able to meet See and gush about how I have been reading her books since Snow Flower and the Secret Fan came out. See is one of the authors I have been wanting to meet in my life time and I relished the fact I got to meet her.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

Title: Lucky Broke Girl
Author: Ruth Behar
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date: April 11, 2017
Pages: 256
Source/format: Finished copy from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆ 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Based on the author's childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro's Cuba to New York City. Just when she's finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood's hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie's world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.


M Y  T H O U G H T S

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family moves to the United States of America for a better life after her family escaped Castro's regime in Cuba. She doesn't like being in a remedial 5th class because she people make fun of her. Ruthie's only friend in class is Ramu, a boy who moved from India and also doesn't know English that well. Ruthie doesn't give up and eventually is switched into a regular English class.

Her parents work very hard to provide a better life for Ruthie and Ruthie's brother Izzie and to live the American dream. Life is tough but they have each other. Sometimes her parents miss Cuba but Ruthie loves being in the United States. Ruthie always thought that if she works hard, she can accomplish anything until the day of the car accident.

When Ruthie ends up getting into the car accident, it was hard to read. Her family was driving on a family trip to Staten Island and everyone was so happy. Then the next thing you know, the accident occurred. Everyone is bleeding, Ruthie is stuck in the car with a missing go-go boot and her leg hurts.

Ruthie ends up struggling in a body cast with a fractured right leg for about a year trying to heal. People get frustrated and some don't treat Ruthie the same. Ruthie blames herself for wanting so much and should have been happy being Miss Hopscotch Queen of Queens. She thinks that is she wasn't so selfish, none of this would have happened.

Ruth Behar takes her own life experience as the inspiration for Lucky Broken Girl, which is announced in the acknowledgments of the book. Behar describes in a realistic and honest voice about what a child feels when they immigrate to a new country and how they try to assimilate. Most of the time, we read and hear stories about adults immigrating. But what about children who are naive and have the sense of innocence? Ruthie wants to enjoy her life as a kid and wants to learn to become a better person. It's hard for her to make friends when kids ridicule her for not knowing as many things. Reading an immigration experience through a child's POV provides a new perspective.

Even though Ruthie is bedridden, she has a tutor visit her a few times a week to keep her updated with her education. A new neighbor, Chicho, shows her how to use paints to create art. Not only does she share her culture and religion with us but Ruthie doesn't give up. Even though Ruthie is headstrong, she succeeds in everything she puts her heart toward.

Ruthie doesn't see the world based on people's race and ethnicity. She embraces what New York has to offer! The innocence of a child is seen in this novel and you can see how she befriends people who are Mexican, Indian and even Belgian. Her letters to people at the end of most of the chapters are inspiring and show they she has hope. She addresses them to Frida Kahlo, God and Shiva. Ruthie welcomes everyone with open arms.

Lucky Broken Girl is a wonderful book about family, immigration, culture, hope and so much more. It's a wonderful middle grade novel for all ages.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Connecting Wizarding Worlds


In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them there are many Easter eggs that can be found throughout the book that many Harry Potter fans can easily point out. Most people who have seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are Potterheads who are eager to find the connections between the beloved Harry Potter Wizarding World of mainly Europe and American based Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

WARNING: This discussion post contains spoilers for Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Read at your own risk. Image from flickeringmyth.com


From the beginning of the film, The New York Ghost is New York's version of the Daily Prophet. Many Potterheads will notice Gellert Grindelwald has been wreaking havoc. Potterheads also know that Grindelwald is the dark wizard Dumbledore beat in a legendary duel.

Hedwig's Theme Song is iconic. Everyone who hears the song will will feel at home with the sense of nostalgia. During the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them theme song, you can hear hints of Hedwig's Theme Song weaved in.

1926 is an important year. Not only does Newt arrive to New York but this is also Voldemort's birth year.

Newt's Hufflepuff Scarf, although faded, represents Newt's Hufflepuff house pride and connection with Hogwarts.

The Goldsteins living New York may have a distant relative named Anthony Goldstein, fellow Ravenclaw during Harry Potter's school years.

Right when I saw the Deathly Hallows pendant that Graves had around his neck, I knew that he had some connection to Grindelwald or the Hallows as a whole. This symbol is so well known and this symbol alone radiates with so much history. It connects the many eras of the Wizarding World.

Dumbledore saw something in Newt and was willing to back up Newt when there was a mishap at Hogwarts involving a magical creature. Sounds familiar? This also reminds me of how Dumbledore backed up Hagrid and knew that Hagrid didn't set Aragog on people in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

During the Great War, Newt worked with Ukranian Ironbelly dragons on the Eastern Front. This is the very same dragon breed that protects the vaults of Gringotts!

Obscurus Books is the Wizarding publisher who published Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander. Obscurus books was known even during the age of the Harry Potter books. I love the foreshadowing! Who knew Obscurus Books would lead to something so big for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the film.

When Mary Lou asks Newt, "Are you a seeker? A seeker after truth" Newt responds, "I am more of a Chaser." For Potterheads, we know Newt was thinking about Quidditch and maybe it's hinted that he played or prefers playing as a Chaser.

The Niffler makes an spectacular appearance but it wasn't the first appearance in the Wizarding World that we know of. Nifflers were seen during Care of Magical Creatures classes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Lee Jordan levitated Nifflers into Umbridge's office in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Pickett the Bowtruckle is one of the creatures that I absolutely adore in the film. However, we've seen Bowtruckles being taught in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix to fifth years during Care of Magical Creatures.

Erumpent makes an interesting appearance in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Xenophilius Lovegood believed the horn in his house belongs to a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. Haermione claimed it was an Erumpent horn and said it is highly dangerous. Luna Lovegood ends up marrying Newt Scamander's great grandson, Rolf Scamander.

Frank the Thunderbird is the first creature we've seen represent Ilvermorny. Summer of 2016 was when Pottermore announced Ilvermorny and the four different houses. Thunderbird is one of the houses and favors adventurers. Not only am I a Thunderbird but I can proudly say that I live in the state of Massachusetts and I visited the area near Mount Greylock during the summer of 2016.

Leta Lestrange will mystify everyone. Not only is the family name Lestrange well known but everyone wants to know how Newt befriended Leta and what happened to cause Newt to get expelled.

And of course, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, the Obscurial might give hints about Ariana's past and how Grindelwald is so invested in the Obscurial and Obscurus.


What is your favorite Easter egg? Do you like how the Wizarding Worlds connect and overlap? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Looking Ahead: Meet Cute

On Monday, April 17, 2017, Entertainment Weekly released the cover and an excerpt to the upcoming anthology, Meet Cute. This anthology features short stories centered around two characters meeting. I am super excited to read Meet Cute, which will be published January 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
All images are from Entertainment Weekly.


Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

A celebration of “meet-cute” moments, this YA short story collection features when-they-first-met-stories from beloved YA authors, including Nicola Yoon, Sara Shepard, Katie Cotugno, and more.


What do you think of the Meet Cute's cover reveal? Are there certain authors' stories you look forward to reading the most?




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers post about their top ten things that will make them instantly want to read a book. I am a big fan of contemporary books but I do enjoy historical fiction, some thriller, horror and fantasy titles. However, there are certain topics that will want me to read a book even more. The following topics are in no particular order.


1. The Supernatural - It's a no brainer that I am a sucker for anything paranormal related. I love reading about vampires, witches and etc. There is something about the paranormal and the occult that intrigues me.

2. Sisterly relationships - I always like a good book with a healthy and loving sisterly relationship. Because I have a sister, I feel like I can relate to a character who has a sister and seeing how the relationship grows throughout the book.

3. Traveling - I love to travel and I love reading books about characters traveling to somewhere new and out of their comfort zone. Learning about a new culture is refreshing. Reading a book can transport me to another world without me actually traveling myself. I can experience new wonders through the eyes and thoughts of the main character(s).

4. Friendships - Friendships are super important, especially positive and healthy ones. I enjoy reading how people befriend one another and how they blossom as people through a friendship. A friendship is one of the rare things that people can cherish.

5. Coming-of-age - Every since I was a teenager, I've always been drawn to books that are coming-of-age. Maybe it's because I have always been awkward and a bit weird and I wanted to see characters find strength and to discover who they really are. I find comfort in reading books where a character discovers their likes, dislikes and what they want to do in their life. This time of a person's life is difficult and each person paves their own path differently. Sometimes they find their way quickly and others take a little bit more time.

6. Diversity - I have always been big about diversity ever since I was a child. I hardly found books that represented me. Of course I can relate to some issues in some of the books I've read but I felt like no one really understood me fully. I am glad that there has been a push for more diverse books. After all, books are not one fit alls.

8. Magic - Reading a book with magic is entrancing. Being able to immerse yourself in a world of magic is wonderful and it creates this sense of exhilaration. From books like the Harry Potter series to The Night Circus, magic wows many.

9. Food - There is no doubt that I love reading anything that has to do with food whether it's a character eating something or cooking something. Food fuels life and I love to experience what the reader goes through with all five senses.

10. Character growth and development - For me I need to read books with characters who grow. Character development is important to see in a book. The world building and/or plot can be fantastic, but without character growth, it's hard for me to connect with the characters. A good book has to have  both a good plot and good character development. Otherwise, characters end up being flat and stagnant.

Image from Pinterest.com


What topics intrigue you the most when you are looking for a new book to read?

Monday, April 17, 2017

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

Thank you to Penguin for allowing me to participate in the #ReadADessen countdown tour for Sarah Dessen. I am super excited to have been assigned two amazing books. I am kicking off the tour with This Summer which is Sarah Dessen's debut novel and I will be showcasing What Happened to Goodbye next month. Don't forget to check out the other blogs that are participating during the tour and be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

What is your first Sarah Dessen book that you've read?


Title: That Summer
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Speak
Publication date: June 2012 (first published January 1996)
Pages: 198
Source/format: Paperback from publisher. This is #PRHPartner.

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

The more things change...

As far as Haven is concerned, there's just too much going on.

Everything is changing, and she's not sure where she fits in.

Then her sister's old boyfriend shows up, sparking memories of the summer when they were all happy and everything was perfect...

But along the way, Haven realizes that sometimes change is a good thing.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Sarah Dessen's debut novel is the perfect way to start my spring. Not only is this my first time reading That Summer, but now I can see where Dessen's writing emerged from. Readers can see the growth from That Summer to current Dessen books. What I love is how Dessen's debut novel is centered around weddings and how her upcoming novel, Once and For All, is also wedding centric. It brings her career, as an author, full circle.

Haven's parents are divorced and her father is remarrying. Although it is hard for Haven, her sister and her mother to digest the new marriage, Haven's sister has been planning a wedding herself. Haven's sister, Ashley, starts to go full on panic the closer it gets to the wedding date.

Through Ashley's ex-boyfriend, Sumner, Haven reminisces about her life back in the day where her parents were together and Ashley was still with Sumner. This is pretty accurate about how teens feel when their parents split. Haven wants everything to revert back to the good old days when her family was together. Divorce is something that is hard for teens to take in. Teens blame themselves for the divorce and they think their parents split because of them. However, that is not the case. Sometimes people fall out of love and fall in love with someone else.

Haven's mom breaks the news about possibly downsizing the house and moving into an apartment after Ashley gets married. Again, moving is something some teens can associate with. Moving is hard for anyone but it's harder to relocate especially during high school. It's easier to make friends at a younger age but making friends during high school is quite difficult when everyone has their group of friends that they've grown up with for many years.

Overall, That Summer is a quick read that lightly touches upon current teen issues. However, I felt the novel was a bit short and I would love to see more of the relationship between Haven and Ashley. Getting a glimpse of the sisters past would have made the ending more potent and meaningful.

ABOUT SARAH DESSEN

Sarah Dessen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels: Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye. Her newest novel, Once and for All, will be released in June 2017. An NC native, she currently lives in Chapel Hill with her family.


SARAH DESSEN'S UPCOMING NOVEL

Title: Once and For All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication date: June 6, 2017
Pages: 400
Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.


TOUR SCHEDULE

THAT SUMMER

Great Imaginations - April 17 
Peace Love Books April 19


SOMEONE LIKE YOU

Picture Books to YA - April 17
Don’t Fold the Page - April 20
Pink Polka Dot Books April 20


GIVEAWAY

Enter for a chance to win one (1) set of Sarah Dessen’s books in paperback (ARV: $132.00). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on April 17, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 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 June 1, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Books will be sent by publisher. Nicole's Novel Reads is not responsible for books lost or damaged in the mail. Good Luck!




Friday, April 14, 2017

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Title: The Wingsnatchers
Author: Sarah Jean Horwitz
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date: April 25, 2017
Pages: 352
Source/format: ARC from Emma of Missprint as part of the ARC adoption feature

Rating: ☆☆☆ 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

In this story perfect for readers of the Lockwood & Co and Wildwood series, Sarah Jean Horwitz takes readers on a thrilling journey through a magical wooded fairyland and steampunk streets where terrifying automata cats lurk in the shadows and a mad scientist’s newest mechanical invention might be more menace than miracle.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Thirteen-year-old Felix Cassius Tiberius Carmer III is the apprentice to magician Antoine the Amazifier. Carmer is also an inventor and he enters an Seminal Symposium of Magickal Arts, an engineering exhibition, in Skemantis after seeing a flyer advertising the exhibition. Carmer has always been fascinated about tinkering and creating ever since he was a young boy.

At five inches tall, Princess Grettifrida Lonewing but prefers to be called Grit, is a fire faerie with one wing living in the Oldtown Arboretum. However, she doesn't let her one wing stop her from doing what she wants. All though others laugh or pity Grit, it only makes her stronger. Grit just wants to fit in with everyone. Trying to fit in and finding a sense of belonging is difficult for many children and teens, especially if one has a disability or are seen as an outcast. The Wingsnatchers will reassure children and teens that even though they don't fit it, they are unique and they can make a difference.

Free Folk, faeries who do not belong to a court or kingdom, have gone missing for a few months and someone or something has been harming faeries while snatching their wings. Grit meets Carmer when she mistaken him as a Friend of the Fae. With a fate on their side, Grit and Carmer make a deal, one where Grit will help Carmer win the exhibition if Carmer helps Grit find out who is attacking the faeries. Two contrasting entities are able to work together to each other utilizing their strengths. This is good for children and teens to read about. Sometimes you befriend people in ways you don't expect and sometimes you have to work together in order to reach a goal.

The Wingsnatchers is a whimsical book and introduces a fresh take on magic. Sarah Jean Horwitz infuses steampunk in this lively adventurous fantasy. I am not usually found of stories about faeries but Horwitz has captured my attention with Grit. Despite missing a wing, Grit is a strong female who knows what she wants and she doesn't give up.

The Wingsnatchers is a dark fantasy novel with a touch of steampunk and magic that is engaging for all ages. This middle grade novel is definitely one to check out if you're looking for a unique fantasy read.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cosplaying: What is It?

Whether it be characters from books, movies, cartoons, video games, comics, TV shows, anime or manga, many people around the world choose to cosplay as their favorite characters. Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character. This costume play also involves becoming the character through costumed role-playing. Cosplay definitely goes beyond your average Halloween costume that you throw on for a party or for trick or treating.

Cosplaying is it's own subculture and is growing in popularity. Originally very popular at anime conventions, cosplaying is continually showing up at comic cons, sci-fi cons, multi-genre cons and even at niche cons such as Harry Potter cons. The great thing about cosplay is that it creates a platform for interpretation of a character. There are no rights or wrongs of how you interpret a character. Cosplayers adopt the mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray. Some cosplayers will take this more seriously than others and will hardly break out of character.

Cosplayers often create their own outfits and accessories and style their own wigs. With technology these days, YouTube is a great place to check out how to DIY videos. There are many forums where you can find patterns and tips and advice to create an outfit or how to create accessories such as a staff or sword. However, sometimes it's all about trial and error. You can always use a pre-made pattern from the fabric store as a base and build to it. Depending on the outfit, you can scout out pieces at thrift or consignment shops and alter them. Craft stores and even hardware stores are great places to start at if you are creating accessories.

Many conventions will offer cosplaying workshops from wig styling to sewing techniques. Photo ops are very popular at conventions whether it be meet ups for a certain universe or just a stylized posed photo.

Some cosplays I have done in the past include Kotoko from Chobits, Mizore from Rosario + Vampire, Cho Chang from Harry Potter, Sailor Saturn from Sailor Moon and Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Me as Homura before wearing the heels.


Have you cosplayed before? If so, what characters did you cosplay as? If not, would you want to cosplay in the future and what characters would you like to cosplay as?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Publication date: April 11, 2017
Pages: 352
Source/format: e-ARC from publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

With twenty-six crushes and zero kisses in her life, Molly Peskin-Suso wonders if she needs to step outside of her comfort zone. Her twin sister, Cassie, is the the totally opposite. Cassie is an extrovert and she can get a girl's number super easily. The problem for Molly is finding the right person at the exact right moment which is hard to come by.

Becky Albertalli opens up The Upside of Requited with humor. Molly is introduced and she is very likable from the start to the point where you can relate to Molly wholeheartedly. She is the type of person you want to befriend. Molly ends up befriending Middle Earth Reid at her new job. Who would have known that love can blossom from a friendship? With Reid, Molly can be herself and she doesn't have to pretend to be someone she is not. The anticipation, the disappointment, the jealousy and even the butterflies in the stomach are all rolled into one depicting accurate emotions attached to crushing on someone and falling in love.

Albertalli succeeds at writing genuine characters. She represents teenagers of all sizes, sexuality, faiths, ethnicity and even teens with mental health issues. People can relate to this novel because Albertalli is honest and sincere. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. I love how the novel focuses on Molly as a whole. Although Albertalli's novel is bursting with diversity, she doesn't shine the spotlight on diversity directly which is a good thing. The Upside of Requited flows seamlessly.

The family dynamics in Molly's household is fantastic. Molly has two moms. One of Molly's moms conceived Cassie and Molly via a sperm donor. Her other mom conceived another child with the same sperm donor. I love how Molly's family can still be connected via DNA despite having two moms. Her mothers are very open-minded and care about their children very much. They want to be involved in their children's life and they are super supportive of their children's decisions. Also, Molly and Cassie have a wonderful sisterly relationship which I enjoyed reading about. Molly's shows growth in character development throughout the novel. She breaks out of her shell and overcomes many of her fears.

Like Albertalli's debut novel, Simon Vs. and the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Upside of Requited will have readers craving for something chocolatey and cookie like. Instead of Oreos, readers find themselves yearning for Cadbury Mini Eggs or Cookie Dough. 

The Upside of Unrequited is a coming-of-age novel about first loves, sisterly relationships, family dynamics and trying new things. If you loved reading Simon Vs. and the Homo Sapiens Agenda or if you are on the lookout for a cute contemporary read, definitely pick up The Upside of Unrequited. All teens need to read this book!

Monday, April 3, 2017

North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

Title: North of Happy
Author: Adi Alsaid
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: April 25, 2017
Pages: 368
Source/format: e-ARC from publisher and author as part of the North of Happy ARC Hop

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

New from critically acclaimed author of LET'S GET LOST and NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES. In the wake of his brother's untimely death, a teen chef runs away from home to find his true path in life.

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family where he attends an elite international school. His friends and peers-fellow rich kids-have plans to attend college somewhere in the US or Europe and someday take over their parents' businesses. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix--who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel--is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother's voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father's plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the US and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss's daughter--a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what's most important to him and where his true path really lies.

M Y  T H O U G H T S
 
"The world is a much bigger place than you realize," he said with a smile. "We're going to explore it." - ARC of North of Happy

Carlos Portillo lives in Mexico and has a close relationship with his brother, Felix. One of the things the brothers bonded over was finding the perfect taco. Over the course of a night, they would visit restaurants to find the perfect taco. However, things go astray and it ends up in Felix's death. Felix is the one who told Carlos to live life to its fullest and to explore the world. Don't just settle for what's in front of you but to get up and run with what you have to take it to the next level.

Carlos follows Felix's words and travels to the United States to visit Provecho, a restaurant in Washington State that he's seen on TV prior him leaving Mexico. Felix is always with him giving him advice to follow his dreams. Carlos meets Emma who works at Provecho and she is his helping hand to introduce him to Provecho as well as Washington.

The family dynamics is quite interesting in this book. Carlos follows the steps of his brother to explore to world. His mother tries to get him to come back home. Both parents are upset Carlos decided to get up and leave. But of course when family health is involve, Carlos will relocate back to his family

I have been following Adi Alsaid's books since Let's Get Lost. By far North of Happy is my favorite novel written by Alsaid. With careful research about working on the line, he incorporated his love for food in the best way possible.

Each chapter is titled after a recipe and includes the ingredients to make the recipe. I found this to be a very unique way to title and to introduce each chapter. Because the book is heavy on Carlos working his way up the line, food has an importance in the novel. Each recipe is significant to the plot of each chapter. Each chapter is a recipe of life.

Reading North of Happy is like sampling the cuisine with Anthony Bourdain and Chef Ramsey. Maybe it might not be as intense but food is an essential to life. Food is the essence of what it means to be living and it's the substance that keeps us going. Many cultures bond over food during many events and gatherings. It fuels us. As Felix mentions, "You will feel full to your soul." "A taco that makes you hungry for life and that makes you feel like you have never been more alive. Nothing short of that will do."

North of Happy will satisfy readers who love food, traveling and new beginnings. I can guarantee you that your mouth will be watering after reading this novel and your taste buds will be wanting to savor every chapter.