Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR 2018


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 books on their spring TBR. The following books are in no particular order and it was hard to even narrow down my selection to only ten books.

1. Legendary by Stephanie Garber is one of my most anticipated books for the spring, let alone the year. After reading Garber's entrancing debut, Caraval, I cannot wait to read the sequel in Tella's point of view. On a happy note, Ms. Garber will be visiting the Brookline Booksmith on Monday, June 4th and I cannot wait to meet her!

2. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is Albertalli's third book and boy is everyone excited about this one. With the popularity of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien's Agenda, this companion novel is in Leah's point of view. Don't worry, Simon still makes an appearance.

3. Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone is about complex relationships between two next-door neighbors who are ex-best friends with a guy caught somewhere in the middle. I loved Stone's Every Last Word and Stone's writing. I am hoping to enjoy this novel.

4. From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon is Menon's second book. I fell in love with When Dimple Met Rishi so when I heard about this book, I added it to my TBR right away. Twinkle is an aspiring filmmaker who ends who getting closer to her longtime crush but then falls for her crush's twin brother. Rom coms for the win!

5. Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch has been on my TBR for a long time. I loved Welch's novel Love & Gelato which takes place in Italy so naturally I want to read Love & Luck which takes place in Ireland. I can travel through the eyes of another :).

6. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is Chokhi's first middle grade novel. Here we follow Aru Shah in a journey involving Hindu mythology. This is also the first book being released by Rick Riordan Presents imprint and is the first book in the Pandava Quartet. I am a big fan of Chokshi's other books and I cannot wait to read this one.

7. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo is Goo's third novel. After reading I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Goo's books have been on my radar. I am excited to read about Clara's summer working on a food truck! Although Clara is forced to work on the family food truck because a joke at school went terribly wrong, the whole premise about food trucks definitely caught my attention. I love food trucks!

8. The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett is a horror novel which will not disappoint. I have fallen in love with all of Liggett's novels from her paranormal hormances to her horror novels. I'll read anything that Liggett writes and publishes!

9. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan is Pan's debut novel and its release date is today! I cannot wait to read this book and I am hoping to meet Ms. Pan in April when she visits Wellesley Books for an event with Julie C. Dao. The novel is about Leigh who is half Asian and half White. When her mother died by suicide, she believes her mother took a form of a bird. Leigh travels to Taiwan determined to find her mother. As she grieves, she also learns a lot about her maternal family.

10. Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian is the perfect summer read! This novel is about Amelia who works for The Meade Creamery stand every year for the past few years. When the founder passes away and the grandnephew takes over, Amelia is adamant for certain things to stay the same. I used to work at an ice cream shop for seven years so of course I gravitated toward this book in a heartbeat.

What books are on your spring TBR list? Do we share any similarities?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why We Need Diverse Books is Important

How is diversity portrayed in books? According to the We Need Diverse Books website, We Need Diverse Books is a non-profit and grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry. Their aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. Most of the diverse books are fiction novels. But what is fiction? Is fiction just merely composed of stories of the imagination or is it something more? Are there underlying meanings about the plot and the characters? Is our unconscious trying to tell us something? Is there something that is more than meets the eye?

Dhonielle Clayton's tweet thread about how only one person caught the core theme about The Belles being a reference to slavery has been going viral in the blogosphere. With our own identities, sometimes it is hard to fully understand someone’s experience fully because we are not in their shoes. We do not bear their pain. Yes, we may love reading diverse books but we truly cannot understand the experience that someone went through. However, diverse books sheds light and awareness about societal issues and things that we are unfamiliar about. Ignorance is the result of the lack of knowledge about something and assumptions being made.

Society has molded the way we think, the way we talk and the way we act for many years. What is right and what is wrong? Who decides this? Why is mental health looked down upon as weak? Why is being a person of color bad? Why is being gay a sin? Mental health is not a sign of weakness, being a person of color is not bad and being gay is not a sin. Society has engrained certain values and morals. However, what society deems is right and wrong depends on who has the institutional power.

Fiction has provided an avenue for some of society’s issues to be read by the masses. It’s a less controversial way of presenting issues that someone can relate to. However, people are more aware of what is going on in the world and are taking the stand to speak up about the inequalities. People try to reach a fair playing field for equity, diversity and inclusion but will humanity ever reach justice?

Unfortunately, no! It sounds great to have an utopia like world where everyone will accept one another no matter who they are but society’s values will take awhile to even change. Look at history. There are many instances where history repeats itself. Mistakes aren’t being learned from. Microaggressions from words to actions are hurtful, yet we see them every day since the existence of humanity. Why aren’t we making progress?

Tolerance needs to be taught and needs to be accepted in order for us to move forward. Something has to change. Marginalized groups need their voices to be heard. Their experiences are needed to create awareness of what prejudice society has regarding certain people.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Title: Twelve Steps to Normal
Author: Farrah Penn
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson Presents
Publication date: March 13, 2018
Pages: 384
Source/format: Publisher provided finished copy

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

James Patterson presents this emotionally resonant novel that shows that while some broken things can't be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired and made even stronger.

Kira's Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend...

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent's an alcoholic, there's no such thing as "normal."
When Kira's father enters rehab, she's forced to leave everything behind--her home, her best friends, her boyfriend...everything she loves. Now her father's sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal...exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"Sometimes you have to take a step back. Let someone else help out." "You always have to forgive your own mistakes. Otherwise they'll eat you alive."- Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Kira Seneca moved from Cedarville, TX to Portland, OR to live with her Aunt June when her father was at the Sober Living Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center. However, her father is being released from the rehab center and her aunt thinks it's best to return back home. Kira didn't expect her father to invite three of his recovering alcoholic friends to stay with them until they got back on their feet.

Kira has had a complex life ever since she was born. Her parents had her during or after senior year of college. Her mother served jail time for selling drugs and wasn't in Kira's life. However, Kira had her father and her Grams in her life until Grams passed away. Kira didn't expect her father to let Nonnie, Peach and Saylor to live with them after being released from rehab and it took awhile for Kira to accept her dad's friends in her life. I guess it's because Kira wanted everything to return to normal. 

Farrah Penn tackles difficult situations that some teens have to deal with on a daily basis from mourning the loss of a love one to a parent battling alcoholism to a friend dating their ex to even rekindling a friendship. Kira copes with her life by creating Kira's 12 Steps to a Normal Life list. Each step involves a certain significant person in Kira's life. The character growth in this novel is fantastic considering that Penn doesn't focus on the character growth only for the main character, Kira. Penn expands the character growth exponentially for many of the characters in Twelve Steps to Normal. I am one for character growth and how each character learns to grow and becomes a better person because of the positive influences of each other.

Whitney, Raegan and Lin are Kira's best friends. At first Kira was super excited to see them again but she noticed Lin acting a bit strange. This is when Kira finds out that one of her best friends is now dating her ex-boyfriend, Jay. The friendships have been different with each lady but they are unique in their own way. What I loved was when Kira rekindles her friendship with Alex. That alone throughout the book was something that Kira can find solace in when she was dealing with what life has to throw at her. From nostalgic starburst wrapper notes to sharing slurpees at the 7 Eleven, Kira and Alex need each other. Even though Kira didn't know it at first, she slowly falls for Alex. The romance isn't overdone and it doesn't overpower the main premise of the plot.

Twelve Steps to Normal is a multi-layered novel with authentic, flawed and relatable characters. Kira's emotional yet significant journey is a journey where she grows, learns to forgive and learns to become a better person.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bygone Badass Broads Launch Party Recap

Happy International Women's Day! In celebration of this wonderful day, I am going to chat about my experience at the Bygone Badass Broads Launch Party from Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World was created because of Mackenzi Lee's well known twitter tag #BygoneBadassBroads, which delved into information about badass women whose contributions aren't well known or publicized. This twitter tag became so popular that Abrams books contacted Mackenzi to write a book about some badass women!

After work, I met up with Ellie to head to Trident Booksellers and Cafe for Mackenzi Lee's event for Bygone Badass Broads. We got there a bit early in order to get seats and to eat dinner. We met up with Kim and Molly right before the event started. Mackenzi had a fabulous dress, her display of books was perfect and the cupcakes were delicious!

One of the biggest questions is why did Mackenzi write this book? Mackenzi mentioned how history usually doesn't include female narratives. However, women have a place in history. The are kickass! 

Mackenzi once thought women were represented in history because she self selected what she read when she was younger. It wasn't until she was around 14 to 16-years-old when she working at a civil war park as a blacksmith that is discovered women were't represented for their accomplishments. Management told Mackenzi that she was being moved to the pioneer laundry. They also told her that it's not accurate for her to be a blacksmith mainly because she is a woman. Although, Mackenzi brought in historical evidence showing how some women held jobs like blacksmiths, she was denied. Even when Mackenzi was pursing her undergraduate degree, she realized that male centric history courses were requirements. Women were not included in the educational curriculum.

For those who don't know, Mackenzi is a big fan of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein. Mackenzi talks about how there as a contest to write a ghost story and how Mary won the contest when Mary was only 19-years-old back in the early 1800's. Mackenzi also raves about how Mary kicked off the science fiction genre.

Mackenzi mentions that the way she writes is the way she talks; it's conversational. She never thought she would pursue writing a non-fiction book. However, with her every so popular #BygoneBadassBroads twitter hashtag, she took twitter by storm. Mackenzi used her lunch breaks at her old job to tweet out threads. Abrams was interested in her writing a book and the rest is history! A new book is born! As Mackenzi mentions, "These are not stories I made up. These are stories I retell." And she sure retells them in a way that grabs your attention!

Mackenzi took recommendations on twitter for #BygoneBadassBroads. She actually has lists of hundred of women. Someone in the audience asked if there is going to be a Bygone Badass Broads 2. Mackenzi hopes she has a chance to write another Bygone Badass Broads book. She did, however, mention about how cool it would to write Bygone Badass Barks, a book with a bunch of badass dogs. One person asked if she has a favorite Bygone Badass Broad woman. Mackenzi said it was impossible to pick her favorite but Irena Sendler has always been on her mind often. Mackenzi talks about how Bygone Badass Broads is like a historical girl squad.

Another person asked what is the difference writing fiction vs. non-fiction. Mackenzi claims, "I need to get it [non-fiction] right. I can't fudge anything and say well it's fiction." It's more fun to write but more stressful. While researching for the book, she didn't have a lot of information about some women and the women that had the least information didn't make the cut for the book. Another question that was asked was what was the most interesting thing you found during researching? Mackenzi found a lot of men only spaces. Also, she found it interesting that people were more concerned and upset about Anne Lister being a business owner than a lesbian. This was back in the early 1800's.

What I loved during the event was when Mackenzi was chatting about how there are a lot of awesome outfits that the Bygone Badass Broads wore. Someone asked Mackenzi to choose her favorite outfit. Mackenzi said she loved many of the outfits but ultimately selected King Christina's of Sweden. If someone can make a Modcloth manufacturing like line of all the Bygone Badass Broads outfits, I am pretty sure Mackenzi would love it!

Bygone Badass Broads is a non-fiction book is chockfull of strong women with exceptional accomplishments. Fifty two women to be exact. Pretty much one woman per week of the year. Ranging from fifth century BC to almost present day, Mackenzi includes women of different cultures, faiths, nationalities, sexuality, etc. These empowering women prove to society that they can do what men can do and even more.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Pages: 320
Source/format: e-ARC//publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"Love is an enchantress--devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat." - ARC of The Wicked Deep

The Swan sisters arrived at Sparrow, Oregon in 1822 abroad the Lady Astor. Marguerite, Aurora and Hazel eventually were outcasted as witches and were tied with rocks on their ankles, drowning to their deaths. A curse is placed on Sparrow and every year start on June 1st during Swan Season, the sisters take their revenge as they inhabit three girls while enticing men to a deadly fate.

During present day, the novel focuses on seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot who lives in Sparrow, a small seaside town with a population of 2,014. Penny, as well as other residents, knows about the local legend and accepts the fate. Swan Season becomes a morbid version of tourism in June. However, this year is different, Penny befriends a new guy named Bo Carter and she does everything she can to prevent Bo to be grasped by the curse.

Rose is Penny's best friend and they always got each other's backs. Penny's mom started losing her mind after Penny's dad vanished one day three years ago and never came back. There is something enigmatic about Penny's mom who reads tea leaves and can sense strangers around her. She tells Penny, "Your fate lies at the bottom of a teacup." Shea Ernshaw tantalizes all senses. From delicious cakes to the wonderful fragrances of the perfumery, Ernshaw has created a world where you can see, hear, taste, smell and feel Sparrow.

The romance in this novel can come off as instalove due to the short period of time covered in the book. I am very particular when it comes to romances within novels and I am often put off when there is instalove prevalent. However, I wasn't bothered too much with the instalove in this novel. At first, Penny was trying to push Bo away but later offers him food, shelter and a job. They get to know each other before they discuss their feelings. However, both Bo and Penny have their own secrets. I am smitten with Bo! Not only does he tells Lon to stop forcing Penny to do things she does not want to do but he is a likable and relatable character. Penny and Bo are such a cute couple and I was rooting for them during the whole novel.

From alluring siren singing to the eeriness of a pirate shipwreck, The Wicked Deep is a beautifully written, enchanting, character-driven novel with lots of twists and turns. The novel weaves magic with romance with a dash of revenge. I highly suggest this novel for those who love Hocus Pocus, How to Hang a Witch, Practical Magic and for anyone who likes to novels about witches and magical realism.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Nothing Left to Burn by Heather Ezell

Title: Nothing Left to Burn
Author: Heather Ezell
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: March 13, 2018
Pages: 320
Source/format: ARC//publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆ 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

A dark, riveting YA contemporary novel that follows sixteen-year-old Audrey as she navigates a tumultuous and all-consuming relationship, while reckoning with her family's evacuation from the path of a deadly wildfire.

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she's been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it's time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey--and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks's dark past come to light, Audrey can't help but wonder if there's danger in the pull she feels--both toward this boy and toward the fire burning in the distance.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Nothing Left to Burn is a touching and moving novel about Audrey Harper who needs to pack her belongings and evacuate her home. A fire is engulfing Orange County California at a rapid rate and Audrey has no choice but to abandon her home all by herself without the physical support of her family.

The novel spans within 24 hours alternating between present time and back to before the fire even started. Just like the fire, Audrey's life is unpredictable and a lot happens within a day. Nothing Left to Burn delves into Audrey's life with her friends and the volunteer firefighter who she is smitten with.

Heather Ezell writes with an honest voice. Ezell compares and contrasts three types of relationships within the novel. Audrey has a complex relationship with her sister. She talks about how she used to dance but became bored with it. The only reason why Audrey stuck with ballet until she was fourteen is to keep her sister's dream alive. Maya had cancer at a young age and then Maya relapsed. Audrey was living Maya's dream but not her own because Maya was in and out of hospitals for a long time. It wasn't until Maya became cancer free that she was able to pursue dancing. That is dedication for Audrey to pursue dance for Maya. Audrey pushed herself because she wanted to see Maya happy.

Grace is Audrey's best friend. She is true to herself, is resilient and is very supportive. Grace always has Audrey's best interests and is there to give Audrey advice when needed. The last relationship is quite a toxic one but it's a spoiler to the end of the plot line. Because Ezell has experienced first hand of evacuating due to a fire in Southern California at a young age, Audrey's POV is authentic. I also enjoyed reading Audrey's internal monologues.

Although the journey is unpredictable and can be volatile like a burning fire, Nothing Left to Burn is compelling and is a heart racing read. Pick up this debut contemporary novel when you have a chance.