Thursday, December 27, 2018

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contract
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: March 27, 2018
Pages: 394
Source/format: Hardcover // Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2

Synopsis (from

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Penny Lee just finished her senior year in high school and is off to college in Austin, TX to learn to become a writer. Her boyfriend Mark is just average and they don't know much about each other. Penny meets Sam Becker one day through her roommate at House, a coffee shop. However, there friendship didn't start until Penny ran into Sam on the side of the road when he was having a panic attack. After that incident, they become each other's emergency contacts.

Mary H.K. Choi writes a novel where the readers want to know more about the characters. Each character has their own unique history. I love how Penny is pensive and always give herself choices to act upon when she makes a decision. Choi even lists out the choices/reactions when Penny is trying to figure out what she wants to do. Her internal monologues are often comedic and are relatable. Although Penny's personality may be off-putting for some, she does have some difficulty making friends and being comfortable around people. Sam, on the other hand, is a social butterfly but harbors many demons that many don't know about. Penny is able to help pull him out of the darkness.

The formatting of the book include Penny's and Sam's POVs alternating every chapter. When Penny and Sam become emergency contacts, their text message between each other are formatted on the pages as if you are reading an electronic message back and forth. These flawed individuals end up relying on each other. Penny and Sam learn to trust one another. They become each other's life line and trusted advisor for difficult life decisions.

Choi delves into different socioeconomic and tough topics like addiction, unconventional parental upbringings, undocumentation, rape, etc. Sam is living on his own barely scrapping by to provide for himself. He doesn't have any close family to help him. Sam grew up with his mother in a trailer and his mother is an alcoholic who needed Sam to help get by each day. Sam is an inspiring documentary filmmaker who would love to go to college but due to his financial situation, he works at House as a manager and the owner lets him live there. Things get complicated when his ex-girlfriend claims she is pregnant.

Penny starts college at the University of Texas - Austin but her mother is more concerned about appearances and her mother dresses way younger than she is. Penny is unsure where she stands with her Mark since she doesn't really want to be with him because they don't truly know each other. I love how the romance between Penny and Sam starts off slow. Penny breaks it off with Mark because the relationship wasn't going anywhere and she was starting to have feelings for Sam. Penny finds that taking criticisms for her manuscripts is hard and she is learning how to hone her writing in order to please her professor but also to still stay true to herself. Penny is Korean-American and she discusses the many microaggressions she has to deal with everyday. I can definitely relate to the microagressions that Penny has to go through being an Asian American female.

Emergency Contact is a cute contemporary novel with just enough romance and a dash of comedy. If you love Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and/or Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, you will love this book!

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet and illustrated by Valeria Docampo.

Title: The Nutcracker
Author: New York City Ballet
Illustrated by: Valeria Docampo
Publisher: Little Simon
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Pages: 40
Source/format: Hardcover // Purchased

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

The New York City Ballet presents a classic ballet tale for a modern ballet lover with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, a holiday favorite.

The New York City Ballet is known for showcasing classic stories of the ballet with their trademark stylish and modern sensibility. For the first time, this beloved holiday story is told based on George Balanchine’s quintessential production. The storyline of this gorgeous picture book mimics the choreography of the famous ballet and the illustrations are inspired by the backdrops and scenery from the actual production.

The New York City Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker is considered to be “the” leading production in the world. A holiday tradition for many families, now readers who can’t travel to New York will be able to experience this colorful celebratory story. A must-have for every aspiring ballerina’s library and a holiday tradition for every family’s bookshelf.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

This wonderful picture book has stunning timeless illustrations depicting the famous The Nutcracker ballet. Not only is this story for all ages, but if you can't see the ballet live, reading this book is the perfect way to relive the magic of the Christmas holiday. This book is true to the The New York City Ballet George Balantine's version of The Nutcracker. I am hoping a book showcasing the Boston Ballet's version is written and illustrated soon because I am a huge fan of the Nutcracker bear! Everyone loves the Nutcracker bear!

Valeria Docampo's whimsy illustrations include delightful characters painted effortless and in beautiful dance positions. The main character is named Marie instead of Clara. She is gifted a nutcracker by her godfather but Fritz gets jealous and breaks the nutcracker. At night, the Christmas tree grows, the Nutcracker comes to life and a Mouse King starts a sword fight with the nutcracker. The nutcracker turns into a prince and takes Marie to the Land of Sweets. Of course, the Sugarplum Fairy makes an appearance along with the Spanish hot chocolate to the Chinese tea to the marzipan. In this version of The Nutcracker, Marie meets Herr Drosselmeier's nephew. The Prince in this version is closer to Marie's age and has an uncanny resemblance to Herr Drosselmeier's nephew.

I love the addition of fun facts in the back of the book. These facts include information from the actual ballet in New York City. Some facts include how Mother Ginger's skirt weighs 85 pounds and is 9 feet wide and how the Christmas tree grows to an ultimate height of 41 feet and weighs 1 ton.

The Nutcracker picture book conjures nostalgia. It brings back memories of my childhood and it sparks the true spirit of Christmas. Christmas is not about the presents. It's about the magical experience during the holidays that you spend with your loved ones. The traditions, the snow and the festivities is what Christmas is truly about. Relive the magic anytime of the year with this splendid book!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Title: The Love & Lies of Rukhsana
Author: Sabina Khan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC // Rachel at Rachelwrites007

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"We must be the masters of our own destinies. I did not learn that until it was too late. You have to fight to take back control of your life. Sometimes you will hurt the ones you love the most. But in the end, it will always have to be your choice."

Rukhsana Ali is struggling to live up to her conservative and traditional Bengali parents' expectations. She listens to most of their rules for the most part but she harbors secrets such as Rukhsana being in a relationship. And not any relationship. She has a girlfriend, a non-Bengali girlfriend. Rukhsana applies to Caltech even though her parents rather have her stay close by Seattle, where she resides. Her dream is to work for NASA. When her parents finally caved in to let her go to school in Seattle, they also find out about her secret relationship which causes her parents to send Rukhsana to Bangladesh.

I love how Sabina Khan showcases Rukhsana to be opinionated and knows where her passions lie. Rukhsana stands for what she believes when it comes to whom she loves. She also is fairly smart since she is accepted to Caltech with a scholarship. Not only is she accepted to a prestigious school but Rukhsana wants to study astronomy or physics. Yes for girls in the STEM field!

Also, when reading The Love & Lies of Rukhsana, I am glad a couple people in the Bangladeshi community are open-minded about Rukhsana liking females. Her brother Aamir is supportive and even their family friend's son, Irfan, has a similar situation in which he is in a relationship with a non-Bengali girl.

Rukhsana's parents trick her to visit her grandmother saying that Nani is sick but in reality, they are trying to marry her off in an arranged marriage. In Bangladesh, Rukhsana turns to Shaila, her cousin, for support and later her Nani for comfort. Sohail, a potential suitor, ends up being good friends with Rukhsana. I enjoyed reading about the friendship between Rukhsana and Sohail. They have similar values and beliefs although they are not romantically interested in each other.

When readers have a glance at Nani's diary, you can see how much she had to go through when she was younger getting married to a man she didn't want to marry. A man who was cruel and her parents married her off at such a young age. She only tells Rukhsana the ordeal she had to go through and how it was her secret for many years. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali is a contemporary novel that incorporates pieces of historical fiction within the novel through Nani's diary entries. Nani tells Rukhsana that she must fight for her beliefs. She doesn't want Rukhsana to give into being unhappy.

And so Ruksana fights for what she believes for even though it seems like no one is on her side. Some of the actions depicted in the novel may be hard for some people to read about but some of the things do happen in the world. We need to understand why someone doesn't ask for help and how they stay strong through dark times. As a warning, the novel includes sexual assault, child marriage, hate crimes and cases of people doing things against others' will.

Khan takes readers on a roller coaster ride where you fall in love with the characters but then your heart breaks when you read about people being ridiculed for who they love. People get back together again but then tragedy happens. There is so much emotion in this novel!

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana not only talks about coming out but how friends and family view the LGBTQIA+ community, interracial relationships and keeping traditional religious and cultural beliefs. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana is emotionally charged and it's a book I recommend everyone to read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter 2018 TBR

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 winter 2018 TBR books. The following books are in no particular order. 

1. Comet Rising by MarcyKate Connolly is the sequel to Shadow Weaver. I am super excited to read this middle grade novel to find out more about Emmeline and Lucas. Some kids are blessed with special abilities due to the Cerelia Comet. Unfortunately, someone is out the exterminate all the children with these abilities. I don't want to spoil the plot of the first book but let's say I love the friendship between Emmeline and Lucas.

2. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi is my current read and I heard that if you like Fangirl, you will like this book. Penny and Sam live different lifestyles but fate aligns and their paths meet. All I know is that Sam works at a café and is financially struggling. Penny is trying to figure out her life with a boyfriend who doesn't know anything about her and she has a desire to attend college in Austin,TX while being a writer. Sounds like the perfect book for me!

3. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson is a searing poetic memoir and call to action during these #metoo and #timesup movements. It's the perfect companion to Anderson's novel, Speak. This memoir is inspired by fans and is written in free verse sharing reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from Anderson's life that she has never written about before. I am a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson and I cannot wait to read this memoir.

4. An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley is a historical fiction novel at it's finest. Mirabelle, an alchemist, helps her mother poison King Louis XIV in France where she finds out many secrets of the Shadow Society her mother belongs to. The royal bastard, Josse de Bourbon, becomes the prince he never meant to be when the Sun King and half the court are assassinated. A deadly poisoner joins a bastard prince in this adventurous story to battle against the Shadow Society.

5. Enchantée by Gita Trelease is a historical fantasy novel imbrued with magic and during French Revolution times. I am currently reading this novel and so far it's fantastic! Camille is an orphan along with her two siblings but she is trying her best to provide for herself and her sister after her brother spent all their savings. Camille ends up pretending to be a baroness in order to keep her and her sister off the streets.

6. Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato is the fifth book in the Little Elliot picture book series. I adore Elliot the elephant and I am a big fan of Curato's books. When I heard about the Christmas book coming up, I was overjoyed. I am hoping to read the book closer to Christmas.

7. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is a powerful story of feminism, girls supporting girls and standing up for yourself, your friends and those whose voices are hushed. This novel was recommended by my friend Emma and I recently received it as a #TBTBSanta gift last week. I am excited to dive into this book!

8. The Nutcracker based on the New York City Ballet's version of George Balantine's The Nutcracker and illustrated by Valeria Docampo is a book I purchased the other day at Park Street Books & Toys. Not only is the story timeless but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. It's perfect for this time of year to read this traditional story for all ages.

9. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed by an enchantress. He repeats the autumn of his 18th year of life over and over again until he is saved by someone who falls in love with him. Harper Lucy lost her father and her mother is dying. Her brother is barely holding the family together and underestimates her due to her cerebral palsy. Can Harper break the curse and save the kingdom?

10. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena is a contemporary novel about a girl named Susan and a guy named Malcolm. Susan is driven, meets her parents expectations and wants to be an artist. Malcolm is a bad boy who has a reputation and doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. Although they are opposites of each other, they fall for one another. This sounds like a cute read for sure and I am all for it!

What books are on your winter TBR? Do we share any of the same books?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pages to Tea (7)

P A G E S  to  T E A

I'm not sure if you know but I am a big tea fanatic. I have so many bags and tins of tea I probably can create a great wall of tea. I love how different teas have different properties. Some teas can be energizing and some teas can be calming. My favorite time to enjoy a cuppa is when I am reading a book. Hence why I am showcasing some fantastic book and tea pairings.

[Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series + Capital Teas Herbal Chai]

Luna Lovegood is one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series. Not only is she a Ravenclaw but she is unique and walks to the beat of her own drum. That being said, Herbal Chai it a good match for Luna. This is tea is a spicy blend that is a universal favorite among tea drinkers worldwide. Herbal Chai contains cinnamon, lemongrass, coconut chips, candied pineapple pieces, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and pink peppercorns. The peppercorns remind me of the mistletoe berries. It reminds me how Luna always talks about Nargles in the mistletoe. Luna is a bit sweet, a bit eccentric and so is this wonderful blend. It's a bit fruity and sweet yet a bit spicy. Luna can be feisty when it comes to people endangering her dear loved ones.

Feng Lu in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is based on the Silk Road and how fitting is Gold Silk for Feng Lu. With it's elegant and twisted black and gold leaves, this tea makes full-bodied, smooth, and rich. Overall there is a malty sweetness in taste with notes of chocolate and a hint of smokiness that lingers on the tongue. And if you're one for multiple infusions, you're in luck since you can get several cups from Gold Silk Black Tea. This tea is suitable for royalty.

Lei's fiery and confident personality is engulfing yet she is poised enough to be chosen to be a concubine for the Demon King. Adagio's Samurai Mate Tea blend includes yerba mate which is elegantly balanced with the spirit of chai spices and the essence of tropical fruit undertones. This mosaic of flavors delivers a graceful yet powerful kick fit for a warrior. The tea provides enough energy to power through even the toughest of days. This is just what Lei needs to gain confidence to plot her revenge against the Demon King and she gains enough courage to say enough is enough and no means no.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy/Wintry Reads

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 cozy/wintry reads. I listed eight cozy/wintry reads. Harry Potter already counts as seven, right? The following books are in no particular order. 

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is the perfect series for the holidays and during the colder months. I always love reading the series during the holidays curled up with a blanket on the couch and a mug of hot cocoa or tea. Picturing the Yule Ball or the trio wandering in Hogsmeade in the snow will cheer you up. You can never go wrong with this classic series.

2. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins is the perfect anthology for this time of year. There is a story for everyone! My favorites include "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell, "Polaris is Where You Will Find Me" by Jenny Han, "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins, "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman and "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White.

3. Winterspell by Claire Legrand is a Nutcracker retelling perfect for December! The novel is about Clara Stole living in New York. It's timeless story about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han is always a fun and cute book to read during the holidays. With decorating for Christmas and the cookie baking sessions, it definitely puts you in a festive mood to enjoy what the holidays is really about. Spend time with your loved ones and create memories just like Lara Jean does with her sisters and father.

5. American Panda by Gloria Chao has a wintery looking cover but don't let that fool you. This contemporary novel is about keeping true to yourself and finding your passion even if it means not following the path that is expected by your parents.

6. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a winter classic! With the colorful illustrations and the wonderful feeling of capturing the first snow, it's a book for all ages. Warm up nearby the fireplace while reading this!

7. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is a novel where readers see how PTSD not only affects the individual but it affects a family as a whole. We see Hayley and her father support each other through the good and difficult times.

8. Landline by Rainbow Rowell is about Georgie who believes her marriage with Neal is trouble. Right before Christmas, this magical telephone literally saves everything!  This landline reminds Georgie why she married Neal and how important her family is compared to her crazy work life.

What are some of your favorite cozy/wintry reads? Do you have a TBR list for this winter?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Typography Talk: Jessica Hische Book Talk and Signing

Typography Talk is an original feature where I discuss about book cover design and typography. Even though people always say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you know everyone does. A book's cover art needs to captivate the potential reader. There are some readers who will be more inclined to purchase a book not only based on the synopsis, but also based on how the cover looks like. Colors, typeface, medium, spacing and originality are all factors that help make up a cover.

In this post, I decided to fuse an event recap with Typography Talk since this is my first time meeting an artist who decided to pursue writing a children's picture book. Not only does this artist become an author, but she also illustrated the book she wrote.

Jessica Hische is a lettering artist and author who recently published Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave. She is
an accomplished artist and author who collaborated with companies to help them with their brand identity, advertising, and more. She has worked with Wes Craven, Jeni’s Ice Cream, Tiffany & Co., Mail Chimp, the Oscars, Penguin, etc. Originally from Philadelphia, Jessica has established herself as an artist at a very young age and eventually moved to Brooklyn, New York to start a life with a rigorous work life with 90 hours per week under her belt. She eventually relocated to San Francisco for a slower paced life working 30 hours a week when she started a family a few years ago.

I was fortunate enough to hear Jessica talk at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Over 100 people were in attendance for her lecture and book signing. Unfortunately, I missed the first ten or so minutes of the talk but she is a very engaging presenter. Not only are her slides on point but she converses with her audience like they are her friends and family. She laughs with them and is able to talk about herself very easily like she knows her audience for a very long time. It was interesting to hear her speak about her life chronologically and to hear about the creative artist process. The audience got to see and hear about some of her work with well known clients as well as her own pieces that she worked on over the years of her career.

I minored in graphic design and dabbled with typography occasionally. However, my major was in communications with a concentration in advertising. I found the lecture gravitated to my liking based on my interests. Jessica described how she doesn't work with other designers, yet she works with marketing and CEOs of companies who may not understand what the artist process looks like. She goes over her creative thinking process to show companies her thinking, broken down into segments, to show them how she envisions every detail. I found her process very intriguing and it's important for marketing and CEOs to understand that artists and designers take a lot of time and effort to hone their craft.

For my bookish readers, you may know of Jessica's work without even knowing it. Jessica illustrated the Penguin Drop Caps series. She created 26 book covers for book classics such as Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice. This is a series of 26 collectible and gift-worthy hardcover editions showcasing a beautifully foil-stamped illustrated letter of the alphabet that reveals an element of the story for each edition.

Jessica read Tomorrow I'll Be Brave while showing us slides of each page of the picture book. With its gorgeous lettering and rhyming short sentences, this book is a wonderful read for all ages. Before she ended the talk, the floor was open for questions. One question that a student asked was how can an artist network with others in a new city. Jessica mentioned that you need to put yourself out there and meet other people. Sometimes it's hard to do that but even asking someone to meet over a cup of coffee can help you big time. They can suggest little things like signing up for a mailing list to inviting you to an event that can help jumpstart your career. She answered another student's question about coping with coming up with new ideas and how to deal with the frustration. She recommends sketching out all your ideas that come to mind. Nothing is perfect but you learn from your mistakes. Great ideas evolve from mistakes.

One piece of advice that Jessica constantly told herself, "I need to make work that I care about and spend less time worrying about meeting imagined people's expectations."

Yes to this! This can apply to anyone! And I love how she told a room full of artists to make work for themselves and not for others.

Jessica also made an appearance at Trident Booksellers and Cafe later that night to talk about Tomorrow I'll be Brave. Tomorrow I'll be Brave is a book that is uplifting, encouraging, and empowering. It talks about the possibilities that tomorrow can bring and encourages the best kids can be. A child can be curious, confident, brave, creative, and so much more.

You can find more information at the Tomorrow I'll Be Brave website. There is more information about the book as well as a book trailer :).

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Very Harry Potter Gift Guide

The holidays are around the corner and it's that time of year again to bring out the gift guides. Of course for those who know me, I am a huge Potterhead so of course I have to showcase some Harry Potter related gifts to get for your loved ones. If you know a Potterhead and don't know what to gift them, check out some of these magical wizarding gifts.

1. Out of Print | Harry Potter Socks - $12.00

So I decided to include Out of Print's four latest Harry Potter socks. I have to say that the Dobby mismatched ones are my favorites but they also have Hogwarts house icons, Hogwarts crest and the Gryffindor lighting bolts and stripes. Wear your favorite fandom with style everyday. They are great for casual wear, for cosplays and for even work under your trousers.

2. Out of Print | When in Doubt, Go to the Library Tote Bag - $20.00

Have a lot of books that you need to take out from the library? Need a tote bag to haul all those books home? Hermione would definitely suggest this When in doubt, go to the library tote bag. Show your love for books and the library in one go.

3. Williams Sonoma | Harry Potter Cookie Cutter Set - $24.95

Do you know a baker who happens to be a Potterhead as well? Why not get them this cute set of cookie cutters that include the iconic lighting bolt symbol to Hedwig to the golden snitch? This cookie cutter set can be used year round and the set includes 8 cookie cutters, 12 icing bags, 4 decorating tips, 1 plastic coupler and 1 storage box.

4. Alex and Ani | Deathly Hallows Charm Bangle - $28.00

For those who love jewelry, an Alex and Ani Deathly Hallows bangle is the perfect gift. The bangle comes in silver finish and a gold finish. You can even purchase a matching Deathly Hallows necklace if your choose to splurge. Alex and Ani has a bunch of other Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts jewelry available as well.

5. Society 6 | Evie Seo HP Pattern Mug - $15.99

Evie Seo designs some of the most wonderful bookish items that can be turned into almost anything on Society 6. Here is one of my favorite Harry Potter patterns that Evie Seo designed. This is perfect for coffee, tea and all beverages. Your giftee will be using this mug everyday!

6. The Melting Library | The Restricted Section 8 oz. Candle - $15.00

Candles are often a popular gift to give during the season, especially bookish ones for the book worms. The Melting Library offers wonder fragranced candles with cute library borrower card labels that adds to the aesthetic. This particular scent sounds magical! Explore the restricted library with the fragrance of leather, parchment, dust and a bit of dark magic. There are other Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts related candles on sale as well.

7. Wildandfreeprints on Etsy | Harry Potter I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good Flask Set - $16.57+

For those are old enough to partake in drinking alcohol, this is the perfect gift. Not only does the set come with a cute flask with one of the memorable sayings in the HP universe, but it also comes with four shot glasses to share some delicious fire whiskey or your preferred booze with your family and friends.

8. ColorfulGeekiness (The Colorful Geek) on Etsy | Books Ampersand T-shirt - $25.00

This shirt is perfection! The grey and purple look wonderful together and it's so subtle describing all seven books in seven words. Show your fandom love without being over the top. Check out this T-shirt in unisex fit as well.

What Harry Potter related items are you gifting this year to your Potterhead friends and family? I hope this list provides some inspiration. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Film Review

I finally got to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald this weekend. Let's say it didn't live up to its predecessor. Frankly I found this installment lacking in a definite plot and there were a lot of subplots that diverted the audience's attention. However, there were some small details that are worth noting which ties in with the plot from previous Harry Potter books and some details that will predict what will happen in future movies in the franchise. This review is more of a critical breakdown about some of the plot.

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

The Crimes of Grindelwald takes place a few months after events that occurred in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the year is 1927. The beginning of the film started off promising with Grindelwald being transported from New York City to another prison. However, Grindelwald, being the sneaky mastermind he is, thwarted that plan and escaped a magical flying stage coach. He gathers his followers and relocates in Paris, France.

Newt is comfortably living back in England until Dumbledore wants Newt to be the one to take Grindelwald down by finding Credence before Gridelwald does. The Ministry wants Newt to work for the Ministry to track down Credence but Newt doesn't acquiesce. Because of this, the Ministry denies him international travel privileges. The only reason Newt decides to pursue Paris is because of Tina. Still lovestruck over Tina, he goes to Paris to find her while encountering a few beasts such as the Zouwu and the Augurey.

Although the film is visually stunning and the costume design is superb, the quality of the plot is subpar. The main plot line is weak. There was no definite protagonist. We have the antagonist, no doubt about that. I don't even know when the climax of the film is. It is an ongoing film of two or so hours with the audience trying to figure out what the point of the film is besides tracking down Credence. I would like to have seen more interactions with Newt and magical creatures and with Newt explaining more about the creatures he interacts with. Many new characters are introduced in The Crimes of Grindelwald with very little backstory about them. I was very intrigued about Leta Lestrange and her history but unfortunately we only get a glimpse of her family and her past because her life is short-lived.

Many will notice that Dumbledore has another wand in his possession which makes sense because during this time period, Gridelwald has the Elder Wand. It isn't until 1945 when Dumbledore wins the wand's allegiance. Also, Newt's book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gets book launch party which is quite exciting! Newt also mentions his book to Tina when Newt and Tina are in the bank vaults looking for the Lestrange vault. Little does Newt know is that Tina already read the book.

Don't get me started about Dumbledore teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts class. In the books, we know that Dumbledore taught Transfiguration before becoming Headmaster. Either the director wanted him to mirror the scene with Lupin and the boggart or it's because they decided that hey, let's add Minerva McGonagall to the film. The problem is that McGonagall is was born around the 1930s and hence would not be old enough to teach at Hogwarts because she wasn't even born yet. I assume the director added McGonagall to give a reason why Dumbledore is teaching the DADA class. The only other theory is that the McGonagall Dumbledore is referring to is a relative to Minerva McGonagall.

Although some people may have been upset about how the director portrays Dumbledore and Grindelwald being gay but during that time period, people wouldn't outrightly tell others they are gay.  The Mirror of Erised didn't show Dumbledore's greatest desire has him pulling socks out of his pocket. Grindelwald appears in the mirror as his greatest desire but his love waned when Gridenlwald became consumed with the Dark Arts and became obsessed with pure blood. However, how can one admit that they used to be in love with a fascist leader? The blood pact showed them interlocked fingers and Dumbledore at one point mentioned that he and Gridelwald were closer than brothers.

Speaking of Dumbledore and the blood pact, he uses Newt just how he uses Harry. Dumbledore only tells Newt that Newt is the person who can take down Grindelwald. He only tells Newt this because of the blood pact. Because of the blood pact, Grindelwald determines that Credence is the only way to Dumbledore's demise.

Grindelwald talks about how Credence's brother wants to destroy him. The only other person we know that had an Obscurus that has a brother is Ariana. However, what if that Obscurus that killed Ariana was transferred in another human being when Ariana died? The Obscurus doesn't always die with the body; it can be saved. What if Grindelwald is talking to Obscurus that killed Ariana but is now currently inhabiting Credence? By telling Credence he is a Dumbledore, Gridelwald manipulates Credence to do his bidding which is ultimately killing Dumbledore since Gridelwald cannot. This will give him leverage to gather his followers to move forth with his pure-blood agenda.

Crime of Grindelwald is a long drawn prologue to movie 3. It acts as a filler from the first movie to the future movies. I am hoping the the next movie explains some of the plot holes and will convince the audience that the Fantastic Beasts franchise isn't a bust.

If you want an Easter egg refresher from the first film connecting wizarding worlds, check out this post I wrote last year.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix Event Recap

I was fortunate to attend the Kingdom of Blazing Phoenix tour stop in Brookline, MA at the Brookline Booksmith. Julie C. Dao was in conversation with Karen McManus. Not only is Julie an amazing presenter in general, Karen was a wonderful and engaging moderator with great questions. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the companion book to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It's the second book in the Rising Empress Duology. While Forest of a Thousand Lanterns focuses on the story of the Xifeng who ultimately becomes the Evil Queen, Kingdom of a Blazing Phoenix focuses on Jade who is Snow White. This East Asian Snow White fairytale telling duology is captivating.

Karen asked Julie, "What prompted you to write the duology? What is your inspiration? Julie mentioned how Snow White is her least liked princess because Snow White continuously falls for the Evil Queen's tricks. Snow White is innocent, pure and has a good heart. These qualities don't exhibit weakness. Snow White is fierce! Julie wanted to write two books; one book in the Evil Queen's point of view and one book in Snow White's point of view. She wanted both books to fit together and present how the ultimate goal for both women is to rise to become the Empress hence the Rise of the Empress name for the duology. Xifeng and Jade achieve this goal differently however.

Karen asked about how Julie deals with different story arcs and characters in her novels. Julie mentioned how she writes a page or two for each character. Julie prefers to write with pen and paper instead of typing when she is brainstorming. These character sheets are very useful for reference. The character sheets help her create a richer story. She often will assign horoscopes and Hogwarts houses to her characters. This provides her a better feel for the characters before she writes. Karen actually does the same and creates character sheets but she types everything on her computer.

Karen talked about fairytales and asked Julie what fairytale elements had to be in the books. Julie mentions how if the reader knows what fairytale they are reading, it helps ground them. Julie started out by making a list of fairytale tropes from Snow White. The glass coffin, the poisoned apple and the mirror are three elements she definitely wanted in her books. Her books still have the flavor of Snow White. They have the fairytale feel but it was still an original story since the glass coffin becomes a pool of water, the poisoned apple is depicted as the last apple tree and the mirror is a waterfall.

Like in many book discussions, Julie was asked if she is a plotter or pantser. Julie is definitely a plotter. She knows all the destinations that she wants to end up at but she needs to figure out how to get there. Figuring out the road map to her destinations is half the fun. Julie turned the question onto Karen and asked whether Karen is a plotter or pantser. Karen mentioned that she is a reformed pantser. Her first novel, One of Us is Lying, is more character driven and less plot driven. Karen didn't plan too much about the novel's plot even though it ends up being a mystery. With her second and future books, she focuses on the plot a bit more than her debut book. Now Karen is a pantser. She talked about how her inclination is to just let everything flow.

Karen asked Julie, "Were there are characters that surprised you?" Ambassador Shiro is one of the characters Julie mentioned. He is the foil to Xifeng. He added more richness to the story but was trying to show kindness to Xifeng. Shiro makes an appearance in both novels. He is able to tell Jade how Xifeng took a different path and is not the same as the person he met before.

Speaking of characters, Wren is one of Julie's favorite secondary characters because of the comic relief that Wren provides. Even Karen agreed that Wren is quite vibrant. Wren provides levity to someone who is saving the world.

In terms of beauty, Karen asked Julie, "What are you saying overall about beauty in the worlds with characters?" Julie talks about how in a lot of fairytales, the older women are often the villains or considered evil and are ugly while the younger ones are considered pure and good. Xifeng is beautiful in every way. Her beauty is a weapon and her falling. She doesn't celebrate her other traits such as being ambitious or determined. Xifeng becomes obsessed about her beauty. On the other hand, you have Jade, who honors her other traits. She treats people as her comrades. Jade wants to live a quiet life and doesn't want to become Empress. While Xifeng is a Slytherin, Jade is more of a Hufflepuff.

Karen then asked Julie if she found a character more difficult to write about. Julie talks about Marie Lu's The Young Elites series and how Adelina becomes the anti-hero. Adelina is written in first person while Xifeng is written in third person. If Xifeng was written in first person, that darkness is very hard to get away from. Writing in third person was definitely easier to be removed from that very same darkness. Julie then talks about how she was worried what people would think about Jade compared to Xifeng. Her fear was that a lot of readers will deem Jade as boring because a lot of people love Xifeng in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Julie then decided to balance Jade to Xifeng. Jade took care about how her peers are doing. She is a leader that seeks counsel and advice from others. Jade needs help from others and she is not afraid to ask for help.

Julie talked about the cultural influences in the world building. She mentioned how her mother loves watching lush and dynamic movies about Imperial China. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is dedicated her to mother and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is dedicated to her brothers. China and Vietnam are very similar. Folktales from childhood influenced the world of Feng Lu and she wove a Western fairytale in an Eastern setting. She has this idea since she was 13 to write a story that represented someone who looks like her. Julie wanted to write a story with a game with queens. These queens will be warring over a kingdom and a throne. Eventually she decided write about Snow White and the Evil Queen with an East Asian setting. She did a lot of research on Imperial China, the hierarchy, the court, the role eunuchs play and the Silk Road since Feng Lu is inspired by it.

One of her first books was a ghost story but it didn't sell well. During that time, paranormal wasn't booming. Julie wrote the right story at the right time when she wrote Forest of a Thousand Lanterns after she pitched it.

Julie discussed about her favorite writing advice. She mentioned how one should immerse themselves in the world of the book through music, candles, food and dish representation, trying something new, visiting a museum exhibit similar to the book being written about and creating a sensory experience.

Julie and Karen talked about their experience writing book #2. Julie claims how you can't make stuff up in the second book. There are rules to follow since a world is already created. Karen found the second book harder to write and she hated it. She doesn't read reviews anymore because she found them to be conducive and not helpful. The reviews start getting into her head. When she writes, she has a lot of false starts and there is a lot of rewriting involved. The first book flowed so easily. Her third book is actually the sequel to One of Us Is Lying. Two Can Keep a Secret, Karen's second book, is a standalone novel that up-levels secondary characters.

Julie was asked what are her favorite current and/or upcoming fantasy novels of the year. She raved about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi and Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh. In fact Renée just sold another series called The Beautiful which is about vampires in New Orleans. The first book comes out October 2019. Paranormal must be coming back. Julie was even joking around that maybe her ghost story might sell.

Julie switches gears and asks Karen if she would ever write about another genre. Karen reads a lot of contemporary and is interested in possibly writing fantasy but she admits that she is not strong in world building. Julie mentions that fantasy is her bread and butter and she loves to make things up. Her gothic paranormal ghost story has a Parisian music school. Julie said she would love to try something new or maybe even writing a Middle Grade novel. Karen talks about all her books end up being mystery thrillers. Her fourth book is also a mystery thriller. Karen talked about how she did research at a similar setting for her book but she cannot share anything else about the book.

Was there anything our authors fought to keep or cut from their books? In Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, Julie just had to polish it up but with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, she admits that Xifeng killed more people. She had to cut some of the deaths because she had to have a reason why Xifeng killed each person. Karen mentioned that in One of Us is Lying there was a side plot that had to be cut since it was distracting and it slowed the whole novel down. Karen needed to make sure that the characters become fleshed out more and are able to support the main plot better.

Julie talks about her third book which is standalone fantasy set in Vietnam. There will be cameos from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. The publication date is October 2019. The novel has a title and a cover already but readers will have to wait until Julie gets the okay to release them to us.

Someone in the audience asked Julie and Karen about their average writing day. Julie talked about how when she drafted, she doesn't have a word count for the day. Instead, she has a word count for the week. It's easier to do a weekly word count instead of a daily one since it's less stressful. Julie writes in 30 minute segments with a timer. This occurs 9-10 times per day and she takes breaks. She is most productive in the mornings and afternoons. Karen, on the other hand, is a night writer. Her best work happens late at night.

Julie also figures out time when she can read other authors' books in order to write blurbs for the books. Authors often read to promote and support other authors. Blurbing is one way they show support. Julie usually reads at night since she writes during the day. Julie mentioned that she gets to chose what books she wants to read and blurb. She loves diverse fantasy books. She has blurbed 7-8 books since October 2017. Karen is currently closed to blurbing books. She already blurbed 12 books last year.

Julie and Karen were asked a question regarding when they started to write. Julie started writing since she was 8-years-old but her writing didn't increase until she started writing Harry Potter fan fictions. Although she studied biology and pre-med in college, her heart belongs to writing; it's her passion. Around 9-years-old, Julie wrote a book about how there is slumber party with a few friends and they wanted to get a midnight snack. When they went to the kitchen to get a snack, they saw the TV act strangely. This TV was actually a portal to a hidden kingdom where they had a waterfall, orange soda and unicorns. When Karen was younger, she wrote a series starring a witch that can't do spells but loves cats. Grizelda was the witch's name and she had 12 books in the series.

I have to say that the event was definitely an entertaining one. Both authors are terrific speakers and Karen had good questions to ask Julie. The conversation flowed well and it was a very immersive experience. The event was followed by a signing. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Title: Kindom of the Blazing Phoenix
Author: Julie C. Dao
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication date: November 6, 2018
Pages: 384
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as Empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn't want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the Empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won't soon forget.

Fans of Stealing Snow, Red Queen, and The Wrath and the Dawn will hungrily devour this page-turning read.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the second book in the Rise of the Express duology. Readers don’t necessarily have to read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns prior to Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is a companion novel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. While Forest of a Thousand Lanterns centers around Xifeng’s journey to becoming Empress, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix focuses on Jade, Xifeng’s step daughter, who is the only one that can take back the throne of Feng Lu.

Julie C. Dao does it again with an entrancing retelling. Although the novel is not as dark and wicked as its predecessor, it still carries the charm of a twisted fairy tale. Of course the world building is fantastic! It's chock full of descriptive details and readers are sucked into the story. Dao's writing provides an immersive ride for her readers.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix delves into the power struggle that Xifeng is trying to hold on for dear life while Jade tries to pry away the throne from Xifeng. Jade has been sent to a monastery for most of her life living humbly and as an equal. The novel begins at the monastery where Jade is summoned by the Empress.

Jade is on a quest to locate relics ala Harry finding the Deathly Hallows or Horcruxes. These Dragon Lord artifacts are the key to help bring Xifeng down. The one who finds all five relics, one for each kingdom, will bring peace back to Feng Lu. Just like how Harry Potter finds the Hallows because he does not seek to use the power to escape death, Jade finds the relics because she does not seek power of the throne. Dao weaves folklore such as The Crane Maiden within the retrieval of each relic. Each folktale teaches Jade important morales to stay alive and to succeed.

Dao pens two strong women who have different motives and desires. Xifeng has worked her way up from a nobody to someone who holds the power and who is feared. She learned the ways to work her way up to Empress, however, at a dark price. Jade, who is royal by blood, doesn't want the crown but she is the sole person who can defeat Xifeng. She takes charge and stands up to her stepmother. While Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is toxic, poignant and power-hungry, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is lighter, full of love and friendship and is emotionally charged. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is the Yang to Forest of a Thousand Lantern's Yin. The two make a whole and make a wonderful balance.

Jade has won over many friends like Amah, Wren, Shiro and Koichi. Her humble life has lead her to become the princess that everyone hopes will be Empress one day. She sees everyone as her equal unlike Xifeng. As Xifeng relies on destiny, Jade relies on the power of choice. This is very similar of how Voldemort and Harry's relationship lines up. Their destinies are entwined and one must destroy the other.

If you love fairytale retellings with a twist and a twinge of darkness, I highly recommend reading Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Dao has created a phenomenal fantasy world where Snow White and the Evil Queen collide with East Asian setting, creating a unique storyline.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Jimmy Paterson Books
Publication date: November 6, 2018
Pages: 336
Source/format: ARC//Emma from Miss Print

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel.

But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Chosen to be the ninth Paper Girl to serve the Demon Bull King of Ikhara, Lei wants to keep Baba and Tien safe. While questioning her own identity, Lei learns more about what what happened to her mother and she develops feelings for someone at the Court. However, she must be careful of her actions since it will lead herself to be killed and/or her family will be endangered.

Natasha Ngan weaves Asian elements within an engaging fantasy.  Ngan's world building is impressive. The map provided in the front of the novel is very helpful to picture the many areas of The Hidden Palace. Humans and demons make up Ikhara with the demon Moon caste at the top, the hybrid Steel caste in the middle and the human Paper caste at the bottom. Ngan was inspired to create these casts due to her mixed ethnicity. She wanted to write a novel that incorporated different cultures.

The forbidden love between Lei and another female is a secret that only the couple and the reader knows about. If their relationship is known to others at the palace, their lives will be at stake since Paper Girls are concubines who only to serve the Demon King. Friendships are made at the palace and each girl has her own unique personality and is set apart from each other. Usually with so many characters in a book, it's very hard to keep up with who is who but Ngan mastered incorporating an abundance of characters but making sure each person is memorable.

Lei's fiery and confident personality is engulfing. With her golden eyes, she is a ravishing beautiful young lady as she is smart. She advocates for what is right. Lei grows from when she steps foot into the palace to the end of the book. She tries to appease others at first but soon realizes that she cannot deny that fact things are not okay. Lei gains the courage to stand up to the Demon King and to say no to his advances. Although she is heavily punished for her actions, she inspires others to take a stand to say no to things they are being forced to do. Instead of normalizing the dominating and sexual advances, Lei single action shows how people can be strong and to say no. There is much power in saying no.

Girls of Paper and Fire is a mesmerizing novel that will sweep you off your feet. The novel is the first in a series. Warning: there are instances of oppressive violence, death, and sexual abuse that may be triggers for some readers.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Title: What If It's Us
Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: October 9, 2018
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Arthur Seuss is interning at a law office in NYC for the summer. Originally from Milton, GA, he is already having a difficult time adjusting to his new surroundings. He misses his home, his friends, his car and even Waffle House. He still keeps in contact with his best friends Ethan and Jessie and he cannot wait to go home until he meets Ben at the post office.

Ben Alejo is recovering from a breakup and intended to mail Hudson's belongings back. However, instead, he meets Arthur at the post office. A flash mob comes forth and Ben leaves the post office with the breakup box still in hand. He has nothing to do but hop on a train to visit his best friend Dylan. However, Ben left behind a shipping label that acts like Cinderella's glass slipper. Arthur is determined to find Ben in the populous Big Apple.

What If It's Us is written by the dynamic duo Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. With their style of writing merging together, What If It's Us is a book that opens new doors. From it's pop culture references to humorous situations like being caught in a flash mob wedding proposal to the fate being on their side, Albertalli and Silvera know how to write a book to induce major feels. Also, not only is the writing fantastic and there is great character development, but the diversity within the novel is perfect. From religion to ethnicity to identity to ability, this novel covers a lot of bases without feeling forced; it's natural. It represents life in modern day.

Within the novel, fans of Albertalli and Silvera can tell right from the get go who wrote each character. Arthur's and Ben's voices are distinguishable from one another and they have their own personalities. We have musical loving Arthur who has dreams of going to Yale. And then we have Ben who is currently writing a fantasy novel, currently in summer school and he is trying to get over his breakup with his ex-boyfriend. The concept of the plot is a subtle but genius one. It just works so well.

What If It's Us is apologetically honest. The characters can be blunt but they channel their true feelings and thoughts to the readers. Readers can connect with what the characters are going through. Nothing is sugarcoated. Everything is real and raw. Albertalli and Silvera have a way of connecting with their audience where the readers understand the characters in their books. I highly suggest readers of YA contemporary to read this book! If you want to read an uplighting, cute novel with a dash of humor, definitely check out What If It's Us.