Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Everything That Burns by Gita Trelease


Title:
 Everything that Burns
Author: Gita Trelease
Publisher: 
Flatiron Books
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Magic. Betrayal. Sacrifice

Camille Durbonne gambled everything she had to keep her and her sister safe, and now the Vicomtesse de Seguin seeks a new life in Paris. But revolution roils the bloody streets and “aristocrat” is a dangerous word. Safety may no longer be possible.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Camille prints revolutionary pamphlets, sharing the stories of girls.


M Y  T H O U G H T S 


Camille Durbonne is back and fine as ever. Living a life of a well off young lady, she is a feminist and pushes for the rights of women in France. Because she couldn't sell her pamphlets at the local bookstore, the bookkeeper mentions the revolutionary pamphlets would not capture the interest of the masses since he cannot merely suggest women being true citizens.

During the first novel, All That Glitters (Enchantée), Camille was able to bring her sister and herself to safety from a life of poverty after the deaths of her parents. She was able to use magic and glamours to climb the ladder and to provide for her family. In Everything That Burns (Liberté), there is a bigger focus on feminism and equality. Camille wants to share her and her father's ideas through revolutionary pamphlets about girls whose stories need to be told. These are girls who live in outskirts of society; they are marginalized. These marginalized girls are the Lost Girls living in the Flotsam House are the ones Camille helps and seeks to have their voices to be heard.

And then there is Louis XVI who declares that magic a crime and all magicians are traitors. While Camille is very adept to magic, she must be careful while walking the dangerous path. She must hide her true self in order to stay safe. In Everything That Burns, the feminism takes the driver seat in the plot while the magic takes the backseat. The dazzling breath of magic fizzles out slowly in the novel since Camille cannot use her glamours and enchantments like before. It's less turning of coins and more printing of pamphlets. This novel shows humanity's true self and what issues the people suffer through everyday.

Everything That Burns shows what is underneath all the glitz and glamour of the royal courts. The nitty gritty truth of the revolution is rising to the surface. All though the magic isn't as charming, Everything that Burns has wonderful characters. I wish this is a more plot driven novel but I do enjoy the character development. Readers are reunited with familiar characters such as Camille, Sophie, Lazare, Chandon, Rosier, etc. but they also introduced to a variety of new faces of the Lost Girls such as Giselle, Odette, Henriette and Celiné. 

I recommend both All that Glitters and Everything That Burns for readers who are interested in a dark historical fiction duology. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Admission by Julie Buxbaum

Title:
 Admission
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Publisher: 
Delacorte Press
Publication date: December 1, 2020
Pages: 304
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes an of-the-moment novel that peeks inside the private lives of the hypercompetitive and the hyperprivileged and takes on the college admissions bribery scandal that rocked the country.

It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She's headed off to the college of her dreams. She's going to prom with the boy she's had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer--at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.

As she loses everything she's long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Chloe Berringer is your average student who is trying to obtain a high SAT score in order to get into a good college. She attends Wood Valley and is super stressed out about the SATs. Chloe's best friend, Shola, has amazing SAT scores and high GPA, which causes Chloe to freak out a bit whether Chloe will succeed in life since she struggles academically. 

Admission flips back and forth between the present (now) and past (then) of what is happening now when Chloe's mother is arrested and charged for being apart of an admissions scandal and the past of what events lead to the scandal. Readers see what it's like for being the teenager whose mother is involved in such a scandal.  Dealing with the pressure of being a teenager is already hard enough. Now Chloe must endure cyberbullying and doxing as Chloe tries to navigate her life after her mother is arrested.

What hurts even more is Levi, Chloe's boyfriend, doesn't want to talk to her anymore after learning about the scandal. She tries to tell him it's not what he thinks but he blocks her via text. Chloe is devastated so many people hate her. Even Shola refuses to return Chloe's texts. Chloe feels alone and even her lawyer tells her not to talk to anyone. This isolation affects her immensely.

Julie Buxbaum's novel touches upon college admissions bribery scandals that have happening lately involving celebrities. I love how she included text messages involving Shola/Chloe, Levi/Chloe and the encrypted chat Chloe has with other teenagers involved with the admissions scandal. This makes the story plot realistic and current. 

Admission includes huge theme about what privilege means including socio-economical privilege and racial privilege. Shola tries to show Chloe what it is like not to be super rich and not to be white. Things are not handed to people on a silver platter. Shola talks about FAFSA and Chloe had know clue what Shola was talking about. Shola tells Chloe that she doesn't have any private tutors or private consultations for appointments. She even tells Chloe how her younger siblings didn't get into Wood Valley and how she didn't get into Southern California College, a college Chloe gains an acceptance letter to. Shola tries to describe what it is like in her shoes when she mentions to Chloe, "Welcome to the real world, Chlo." But instead, Chloe says, "Maybe you guys should move to a better school district." What a slap in the face! 

I found Chloe to be a bland in personality. She is always putting herself down and whining about everything. There is nothing interesting about her. Chloe is insensitive and is stuck in this super privileged bubble that she doesn't see the struggles of others. She is super naive. I don't understand how she didn't think it was strange to take a SAT test at another site who doesn't ID SAT test takers, to give her college application login to a random person or to overhear a "donation" for 250k. Chloe didn't even question these random requests. I would love to get to know Shola better in a short story or a companion novel. Reading Shola's journey to success would be a great read and it would be inspiration for many teenagers.

Overall, Admission is a novel for readers who want to read a fictionalized version of the college admissions scandals. I highly suggest readers to pick up Tell Me Three Things, also by Buxbaum, and is also set at Wood Valley. 


Monday, December 28, 2020

Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

Title:
 Love & Olives
Author: Jenna Evan Welch
Publisher: 
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 512
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.

But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato comes a Mamma Mia–inspired tale about a teen girl finding romance while trying to connect with her absent father in beautiful Santorini, Greece.


M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Liv Varanakis lives with her mother and her stepfather in Seattle. Her father left her family when she was about eight and he currently lives in Santorini, Greece. Liv has always had a good relationship with her father and when she was younger, she would always be Indiana Olive uncovering the secrets of Atlantis with her dad. One day, a postcard with her name on it beckons her to Greece. She refuses to go but her mother convinces to reunite with her father for 10 days.

So during the summer before senior year, Liv travels to Greece. At first her father is no where to be found and she has to hop on a motorbike with Theo, her father's friend's son, in order to meet her father at Oia. Liv spends time in Greece to mull over what life means to her. Her boyfriend wants her to go to Stanford but she really wants to go to RISD to pursue art. Liv tries to forgive her father and to make up for lost time. I love how Theo nicknames Liv Kalamata. Even though Theo and Liv don't warm up to each other at the beginning, their relationship slowly blossoms. And the fact that Theo wants to be an adventure filmmaker, it definitely intrigues Liv. In Love and Olives, Liv breaks out of her shell and embraces who she is not only as a person but to really hone on her artistic skills and to make long lasting relationships. 

Jenna Evans Welch not only transports her readers to another beautiful European country but she is able to tell us a wonderful story. I love how Welch starts each chapter with one of the items that Liv's father left behind...from Big Red chewing gum to pages of Plato's Timaeus and Critias. Liv is able to reconnect with her father through a documentary they are filming about finding Atlantis for National Geographic. They both rekindle their daughter/father relationship over one of their favorite things they bond over. 

I highly suggest Love & Olives for readers who are consumed by wanderlust and those who want to be transported somewhere new. I also enjoyed reading other books by Welch such as Love & Gelato and Love & Luck


Friday, November 13, 2020

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Title: Rent a Boyfriend
Author: Gloria Chao
Publisher: 
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 10, 2020
Pages: 400
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?


M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Chloe Wang hires a fake boyfriend, Drew Chan, from Rent for Your 'Rents to take home to her parents during the holidays. However, who would have known that she will fall in love with Drew. Sometimes love can be found in the most unexpected places and situations.     

Chloe wants to appease her parents and to get away from Hongbo Kuo. While her parents try to set up an arranged marriage, Chloe wants to make her own choices. Drew takes on the job as pretend boyfriend in order to earn money so he can pursue his dream being an artist. 

From the first page, I fell in love with Gloria Chao's writing. It reads effortless and smoothly. I love Chloe from the start and understood exactly how she feels when she has those internal monologues. Rent a Boyfriend is written in two POVs with Chloe and Drew alternating chapters. Chloe and Drew both are hilarious. Their reactions to what Chloe's parents have to say are priceless. I couldn't stop chuckling when reading the novel.

I can understand how Chloe feels about the expectations her parents pave for her. Although my parents let me choose my own path in life, I can relate to typical Chinese expectations and wants for their children. Chao's incorporates humor within the novel and showcases cultural differences between Chinese culture and the western culture. I appreciate her subtext regarding certain Chinese traditions and concepts. Things like mentioning mooncake points instead of brownie points makes the characters more believable. 

Rent a Boyfriend is a heartfelt contemporary novel where family expectations, finding yourself and cultural identity collide. Join Chloe and Drew on a love adventure they didn't know existed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Non-Bookish Hobbies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten non-bookish hobbies. The following bookish hobbies are in no particular order. 


1. Baking and cooking - I love baking but I am starting to like cooking much more lately. I love stumbling upon recipes and trying to create scrumptious dishes. Not only is baking and cooking fun, but you save so much money eating at home and you can tweak the recipe to your liking. Also, it's always fun to cook and bake with loved ones.

2. Needle Felting - I stated needle felting when I attended a workshop at a Harry Potter Convention. I was hooked! There is something satisfying stabbing wool to create an ornament or a little figure. It's a create way to relieve stress and to create something new!

3. Playing Animal Crossing - I am a new fan to Animal Crossing and can I say that I am obsessed with Animal Crossing New Horizons! It's so much fun and I am enjoying being able to visit friends virtually since we cannot visit people during the pandemic. The game has been a life saver and has helped me greatly during these unprecedented times. Also, I love the seasonal events! So much fun!

4. Drinking tea - I love drinking tea during the colder months. I am very fond of loose leaf tea. I like to relax with a steaming mug of delicious tea whether it be a strong black tea to a soothing green tea. Tea invokes memories for me. It brings out the emotion and it's pauses time. I love meeting up with friends for afternoon tea during non-pandemic times. Nowadays, I love to curl up with a book while drinking tea.

5. Walking outside - I love walking outside especially during autumn. The crunch of the leaves, the brisk autumn air, the eye-catching foliage and the sweater weather is everything that I can wish for in a perfect walk.

6. Listening to music - Music definitely makes me feel better. I feel more at peace when I can open Spotify and play a song I want to hear or when I discover a new artist. I have been enjoying K-Pop lately and have been obsessed with groups like (G)I-dle, Blackpink and Dreamcatcher. I am also a huge fan of The Harp Twins. Camille and Kennerly are so talented! They cover metal/rock music and they also do covers of fandom related songs as well with harps! Lately, they have been creating their own music which features their Nordic heritage. 

7. Traveling - I do miss traveling and I hope to travel more once the pandemic is over. There is something intriguing and inviting when you visit a new place. There is so much to explore and to take in. I love learning about the history and the culture of new places I visit. 

8. Trying new restaurants - Speaking of traveling, one of my favorite things to do is to try out all the yummy food and drinks at restaurants. My husband and I love eating the local fare. However, we also love trying new restaurants near where we live too. Yum! Food is life and makes me happy!

9. Craft beer - My husband and I love going to brewery tours and trying out craft beers. We even got married at a brewery and had our reception at a biergarten! I do like a good pint! Cheers!

10. Sleeping - I have to admit that I love sleeping in and on days that I can, I will sleep in pretty late. I am not much of an early bird but I can say I am more of a night owl. 


What are some of your favorite non-bookish hobbies? Do we share any hobbies?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Publication date: October 27, 2020
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

From the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes a new blockbuster series…

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.


Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…


M Y  T H O U G H T S


Nonna Maria has warned Emilia and Vittoria about the seven ruling princes of Hell and how they must stay away from the Malvagi's followers. Descended from a Goddess, through the di Carlos maternal line, Emilia and Vittoria are witches. They are known as the Daughters of the Moon. Their family is one out of 13 witch families in Palermo.

Although Emilia and Vittoria love listening to the stories of Nonna Maria, they don't take her seriously when she tells them not to go out or to be careful. The clashing of two cornicello necklaces long ago has been kept a secret between the twins for about ten years and Nonna tells the girls they must keep the amulets separate at all costs. 

Most of the novel occurs when the twins are 18-years-old. The prologue occurs when they are eight. As the Gates of Hell weaken over time, a prince of Hell emerges when he is summoned through a spell. The seven sins become the seven princes of Hell, each able to travel through different realms. It happens that Wrath travels to Palermo and Emilia becomes bond to him via a crescent moon/snake tattoo. Readers also learn more of the other princes of Hell has Emilia encounters them. 

The Kingdom of the Wicked is written in first person through Emilia's point-of-view. As Nonna tells Emilia to find forgiveness and acceptance into her her heart, Emilia wants to avenge what happened to her sister. Extroverted Vittoria has been hiding secrets from introverted Emilia and Emilia does whatever it takes to find out the truth. 

Kerri Maniscalco transports readers to an enchanting world in Palermo, Italy where witches hide in secret and dangerous demons roam. Maniscalco's intriguing and atmospheric descriptions tantalizes all the senses. Not only is there mystery in the air but I enjoy reading about Emilia's love for food and the family's trattoria, Sea and Vine. If you love fantasy books with descriptions of food, this is the one to pick up. Not only is Kingdom of the Wicked full of magic, witches, demons and food, but a strong family bond is vital.

I find the notion of turning each of the seven sins into a prince of Hell fascinating and creative. The way Maniscalco describes each prince physical descriptions and their actions is perfect! She captured each sin within an entity. However, the dialogue between Wrath and Emilia seems forced at times and sometimes unrealistic.

Although Kingdom of the Wicked is a fantasy novel, Maniscalco infused her Italian heritage and a family restaurant into this novel. It's great to see how her family lives within the pages of the Kingdom of the Wicked and how her family is an inspiration for the creation of the book. I cannot wait to pick up the next book in the series. I highly suggest this novel to readers who enjoy the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber and All that Glitters (Enchantée) by Gita Trelease.
 


"Magic is a living, breathing entity; it thrives on the energy you give it. Like all forces of nature, it is neither good nor bad - it simply becomes based on the user's intent. Feed it love and it blossoms and grows. Nourish it with hate and it will deliver hate back to you tenfold." - Notes from the di Carlo grimoire

"Nightmares didn't last forever. I just had to make it through the night."

Monday, October 5, 2020

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Title:
 Magic Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Pages: 416
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Magic Lessons is the prequel we have all been waiting for! Readers finally get a glimpse of Maria Owens's story and how the Owens's curse began. For those who are familiar with Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, you are in for a treat.

Maria Owens was abandoned as a baby in front of Hannah Owens's home. Hannah is gifted at the Nameless Art and acted as a mentor for Maria as Maria grew during childhood. However, Maria did have a chance to find out who her birth mother and birth father are. Unfortunately, they were not all about raising Maria as a family unit due to a complex situation back in the 1600's. Maria eventually sees the harrowing death of someone she looks up to, gets sold in servitude on a boat to Curaçao, works hard to pay off her debt for freedom as a child, falls in love with a man who lives in Salem, gives birth to a child from said man, tries to locate this man in Salem, only to find out he was using her.

What Maria didn't know was that her daughter's father is actually a well-known man in Salem, MA who is married and has a child. Her heartbreak grows while a curse is a-brewing, as readers are immersed in the world of chaos. When I was reading this novel, I was silently rooting for Maria and Samuel Dias even though I know Maria steadfast in finding Faith's father.

Alice Hoffman has a gift in storytelling. She is able to narrate such a wonderful novel. Hoffman weaves historical fiction and magical realism within Magic Lessons. The pacing is steady and spans many years from when Maria was a baby to her adult years. I did enjoy reading sections where we see Faith's perspective when she flourishes helping others with the Nameless Art. Through hard work, love, regret, revenge and heartbreak, Maria lived a difficult life but she always tried to find the light beneath the darkness. She has escaped death several times. Unfortunately, her curse lives among the Owens's women for centuries to come.