Summer Bird Blue: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman due to publish September 2018 from Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. As always, there will be no spoilers, but there may be a lot of screaming!

Content Warning: This book is entirely about death and how to process the loss of a loved one. Please take caution while reading. 

Summer Bird Blue follows Rumi after the tragic death of her sister Lea and a move to Hawaii to live with her aunt at the request of her mother. Having been intertwined with Lea, the loss is too much to bear for Rumi. She feels abandoned by her mother. She’s angry at the world. She can no longer play or write music without thinking she’s betraying her sister. Music to Rumi means moving on and that’s something she doesn’t want to happen. She doesn’t want to forget Lea. At the same time, Rumi also has a compulsion within her to finish the song they had started before her death. This book centers around grief, misunderstanding, and not always being a good person. It is however brutally raw and attempts to give Rumi the tools she needs to heal herself and the remainder of her family.

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I want to start off by saying this book wrecked me because I saw so many parts of myself in Rumi. I think I cried a total of eight or nine times, all at different parts because Akemi’s writing was so strong and Rumi as a narrator was incredible. Rumi is not a typical main character. She’s made mistakes that get unraveled as she remembers Lea. She blames herself for not being a better sister and comes to terms with why she did certain things – whether they be out of jealousy, a self-serving purpose, or more. She lashes out against her mother who has her own issues dealing with the death of a daughter and her aunt who is trying to both give Rumi space and push her to leave the house.

On top of this, Rumi is coming to terms with her identity as asexual. Though she hasn’t quite settled on the label yet, it is the one that best fits. Her conflict lies in feeling she has to make a decision immediately and know herself because everyone else seems to already. Akemi’s portrayal of this is spot on and offer this message to teens: it’s okay to take time to figure out who you are and who you want to be.

Rumi’s journey through death is dark and messy. It doesn’t get wrapped up in a neat package. What stood out to me about Summer Bird Blue was who Rumi finds help in – a teenage boy next door Kai and an old man George Watanabe. Akemi presents a contrast between the two and what Rumi needs from both of them: Kai is a friend who stands by her and gives her a reason to laugh; Mr. Watanabe gives her tough love and a person to see herself in. In YA, there’s rarely an elderly figure that isn’t family involved in a main character’s life so to read this was a refreshing and welcome change. Together, Kai and Mr. Watanabe give Rumi invaluable friendships and push her to find her old self and the music she’s too long been apart from.

We also get an incredible look into a complex relationship between mother and daughter. For Rumi, this is a picture of always feeling more like a parent to Lea than a sibling and having to deal with thinking that her mother had a favorite child. For Rumi’s mother, it’s about doing what needed to be done for her family. Summer Bird Blue explores what it means to be family and what’s worth fighting for.

I can go on about this book forever. Akemi packs a powerful punch that will take readers on a painful, but unflinching journey about grief, identity, and healing from trauma you never expected to have. It’s the type of book that feels like the author put a piece of their soul into. Please put it on your TBRs immediately.

This gets 5/5 songs from me.

Xx
Megan

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Blanca & Roja: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore due to publish October 9th, 2018 from Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review. As always, there will be no spoilers!

36952596Blanca & Roja is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red steeped in magical realism. It follows the del Cisne girls who have been cursed: every time their family has children, swans will always take a daughter. No matter how you try to avoid the curse, fate has a way of intervening. Blanca & Roja have for years been thinking of ways to break the curse, their main goal that by being similar enough, the swans will never be able to decide who to take. They think their plan is working until two boys who are involved with the magic of the woods come to their door and the del Cisne family curse grows bigger than anyone could have ever planned for.

As always, I feel like Anna-Marie’s writing takes the reader in and never lets you go. Her words become tangible and bring the story to life in a new way. If you’ve never read books by Anna-Marie, you need to in order to understand how she crafts her stories like poetry.

What I particularly enjoyed about Blanca & Roja is the complexity between the sisters. From the beginning they are pitted against each other. Their family expects one sister to make it over the other. Roja is closer to her father while Blanca is closer to her mother. Blanca is the more visually stunning sister, the one that everyone can see is as delicate as swan feathers. Roja is the more abrasive sister with stark red hair and a cut throat personality. As children, they are close, with a goal to prevent either one of them from being taken. Their love is something that grows as the curse draws nearer and fate throws a handful of challenges in their path.

I loved how honest their relationship felt – that when their lives are on the line, their childhood promises don’t hold the same weight. They both fight for life, but at the same time, they’re fighting for each other, their family, and the people they grow to love throughout the story even if they don’t always go about it the right way.  I enjoyed that there was no sugar coating or patching up Blanca and Roja’s relationship in an easy manner. They make mistakes. They deal with the consequences. Anna-Marie shows how they grow, how complex their feelings are, and ultimately, that their bond is so hard to break.

Another element I enjoy about any of Anna-Marie’s book is the sexuality component, particularly that who you love and who you are is okay. For teens, who this book is aimed at, you sometimes need to hear this and Blanca & Roja is interwoven with this message. Not only do you walk away from the book with revelations about identity, but you walk away seeing the bond between sisters, and magic that refreshes a well known fairytale.

This gets 5/5 wings from me.

Till next time,

Megan

Black Wings Beating: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Black Wings Beating by Alex London due to publish in September 2018 from Farrar Straus Giroux in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve never read anything by Alex London, I say finish this review and immediately pick up his stellar young adult sci-fi duology titles, Proxy and Guardian. I read them a few years ago and I still think about those books/offer them as recommendations.

When I found out Alex London was publishing another YA book, I squealed, and after having finished it, I can say it’s SO, SO, SOO, good. Before we dive into the review, which will be spoiler free, here’s a brief summary of the book.

BlackWingsBeatingFalconers are a group of people who call, train, and raise birds – a highly praised talent in Uztar. Brysen and Kylee are twins, Brysen who has trained for years to be a Falconer and Kylee who has a gift she doesn’t want and is ashamed of using. The book starts after the loss of their father, who was a terrible person, and a lot of the twin’s behaviors ties into their relationship with their parents.

A war, unknown but whispered about between the Uztar people, is on the rise and it’s in that environment the twins set out to capture a Ghost Eagle. For Brysen, he goes to save the boy he loves. For Kylee, she goes to protect her brother and come face to face with the mistakes of her past.

What I enjoyed about Black Wings Beating the most was the complex duality between Brysen and Kylee. While themes of this novel are power, one’s upbringing, and hard decisions, the plot centers around the relationship between the twins. Brysen and Kylee are constantly on edge with one another because they each have a trait the other is lacking. Kylee is everything Brysen wants to be and Brysen has this vulnerability and simplicity that Kylee wants. These differences have placed them in a relationship that snaps and bends more than it works together, but when it does, it tugs at your heart strings. At the end of the day, Kylee and Brysen do love each other. It merely takes time and a lot of struggle to realize it. These are not your ordinary siblings and their complexity makes them memorable.

Another aspect I loved about this book was the writing. Alex London crafts an extraordinary world that enhances the fantasy genre and brings the reader into the action early on. You get beautiful writing, a great depth of character expression, and small snapshots at the end of each section that set up for what’s to come.

You also get vivid descriptions of birds – so much so they become characters of their own. They’re also epic and monstrous and terrifying. You can see how much effort and research was put into not only building this world, but every other detail to make it as real as possible.

This book is a must read and you should not be sleeping on Alex London’s work.

Black Wings Beating gets a solid 5/5 feathers from me.

Xx

Megan

Bruja Born: A Review

Hi Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova due to publish June 2018 from Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review. After reading and falling in love with Labyrinth Lost, you couldn’t imagine how excited I was to follow another one of the Mortiz sisters.

Note: There will be no spoilers so no need to click away. 

1.PNGWhereas Labyrinth Lost followed Alex Mortiz, Bruja Born follows her eldest sister Lula who is still adjusting to the fact her sister is an Encantrix and sent her along with the rest of her family to another world. Lula’s relationship with her sister is a complicated one and often met with tension. She prefers to dive into any other part of her life including school and her boyfriend Maks. When their relationship goes south, Lula is devastated, but has little time to process it when their school bus crashes leaving all of her classmates, including Maks, dead. Given the power to heal, Lula believes she can fix the damage she’s done – unprepared for the consequences.

If anyone knows my reading preferences, they’ll know I love a dark novel and Bruja Born was crafted out of shadows and darkness. I mean, it’s kind of about death (you’ve been warned in advance). Not only did it have fantastic prose, but you were able to see the desperation of Lula as she tried to save her boyfriend, the complexity between her and her family, the strength of her magic, but most importantly, her humanity. Love is a powerful emotion and when you combine that with the ability to heal, you can see where lines cross. Lula doesn’t always make the best choices, but you understand where she’s coming from.

I felt as if Bruja Born had an entirely different atmosphere than Labyrinth Lost, but it makes sense because so much has happened to this family since the first book. Though not exactly a sequel, it happens after the events of Los Lagos. You see the trauma of what Alex did ripple through the family, but also problems the family had yet to resolve in the beginning. These come out as Lula creates an even bigger conflict that throws her family, the magical community, and the world in danger.

I found Bruja Born tugging at my heart strings more often than once and it put Lula in front of beyond difficult situations. How do you fix what you’ve broken? How do you get over someone you love? How do you get past what hurt you? The world is never black and white and Zoraida does an amazing job crafting that for the reader. I devoured this book and was thrown on a roller-coaster of twists, turns, and emotions I hadn’t expected. You even get to revisit some old characters like Nova, but also learn a lot about other characters like Rose.

If you were hesitant about picking up this book, put that fear aside. You’re going to dive into a whole new story, but one that is well crafted and heartfelt.

Xx
Megan

Relative Strangers: A Review

I was super fortunate to receive a copy of Relative Strangers from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This book is due out April 10th, 2018 and I highly recommend picking up your copy or doing the author a favor and preordering it.

No spoilers below!

Paula Garner left an impact on me after I read her debut, Phantom Limbs. She had a unique way of tugging at my heart strings. I devoured her book in one sitting and had to not cry in a car ride. It was a fun time. Relative Strangers had this same kind of emotional tug.

1This book is vastly different than Phantom Limbs as it explores a relationship between Jules, her mother, and a life she had never known about – particularly that she was in foster care for some time as a toddler. The plot not only centers around finding out what happened to her, but delves into her connection to her foster family, a complicated bond between mother and daughter, and how this shapes Jules as a person.

What I liked about Jules is the conflict within her, how things didn’t just settle into place, but was something she needed to explore in order to move on and craft a bridge between her past, present, and future. She makes some horrible decisions, but this demonstrates her conflict, her humanity, and her youth. I thought Garner did a great job with drawing on how emotionally taxing the revelation was to Jules and the people involved. Though this book may be short, it packs quite a punch to the heart. 

Also, I want to give a shout out to one of the secondary characters, Eli, because we need to protect him forever and his cuteness. When you read this book, you’ll understand what I mean.

Overall, this was a great read and Garner is definitely on my list of authors to watch.

Xx

Megan

Ace of Shades: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody which is due to release April 10th 2018 from Harlequin Teen. I was beyond excited to have received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Note: There will be no spoilers so no need to close the tab.

Haven’t heard of this book? Well, it better be on your radar because it will blow you away. The story follows two characters, Enne Salta and Levi Glaisyer. Enne enters The City of Sin, a.k.a. New Reynes, searching for her mother who should have been home two months ago.  Immediately, the mystery and reputation of the city take her by surprise and she is forced to quickly learn the ropes or fall to its prey. Levi on the other hand, is the leader of the Irons, known for cheats and the sly of hand. A scam too far has put him in over his head and he will do anything to clear his name. Levi and Enne cross paths – both trying to fix their problems, but also growing closer the longer they stay together.

Capture

Taken from my Instagram: Written Infinities

I am always a sucker for a gritty, get your hands dirty kind of novel and Ace of Shades proved to be beyond satisfying. Amanda crafted a unique and lifelike world that I felt I was a part of. Her small touches, descriptions, and character reactions made New Reynes a character of its own. I got similar vibes from her debut novel, Daughter of the Burning City, and after reading her second novel, I have no doubt this is where Amanda’s strengths are. Despite this connection between her two books, Ace of Shades was vastly different and I fell in love with it all the same.

You feel for Enne and Levi throughout the entirety of the story. You want them to succeed, but you also understand how they got into the messes they did. Enne is a thought provoking character as she slips deeper and deeper into the ways of her new environment. Just when you think the world may break her, she rises above it.

Then we have Levi who has a heart of gold, who is pushing to keep the Irons afloat despite knowing the group is not where it should be. We see the development of Levi’s character and the open and honest account of his sexuality. One of my favorite parts about Levi’s sexuality is there is no bat of an eye towards it. It just is. Together, these two become an unforgettable duo, but what I also love are the companions they meet along the way – both new and old. Where these characters begin and end are very different and this journey not only felt organic, but necessary.

There are great quotes and contemplations about fighting against evil, fighting for those you love, and fighting against men whose only goal in life is to take advantage of those weaker than them.  Ace of Shades sucks you in and doesn’t let go. It is a dark YA novel, but one that has a lot of lessons to take from it and characters who force themselves into your heart.

I am so excited for the next installment of this series.

It gets 5/5 cards from me.

Xx

Megan

Time Bomb: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau which is due out March 13th, 2018 from HMH Books for Young Readers. I was sent a galley in exchange for an honest review.

It is important for readers to know that this book contains mentions of: terrorism, Islamophobia, death, cancer, suicide along with suicide ideation, and blood.

This book has been circulating around my twitter for quite some time and I was immediately drawn in by the promise of a multi-faceted, thrilling young adult novel. After having devoured this in a day, I can say that Joelle does not disappoint. Time Bomb is fast paced and doesn’t leave you waiting long to launch into the story. We are given six points of views, each a different character who we wind up following as a bomb rips through their school. Joelle gives everyone a questionable motive to be at the school and while I figured out who caused the destruction early on, it is not an easy task. There are a lot of curve-balls and distractions that are meant to push the blame onto someone else and distract you from looking at the real culprit.

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However, this book is more than just a guessing game as to who set off a bomb. Time Bomb forces a reader to confront stereotypes, racism, and the political dialogue behind these kinds of attacks. For example, Rashid, despite having conflicts with his faith, is a practicing Muslim and a lot of his story arc is dealing with Islamophobia and how he wishes people would separate him from his religion. On the other hand, he also wishes more people would take the time to understand what his religion teaches. He pushes back against harmful accusations and ridicule and is one of the more compelling characters. We also have Diana, the daughter of a senator, who brutally points out that rescuers and the media will be talking about her and the group she’s with because of her relation to politics.

Joelle does her best to examine the framework of the media with these kinds of attacks and does not handle the material lightly. This is a book that will stick with you because of the honesty that is unraveled at your feet. She forces not only the reader, but her characters to confront what they may know about people and what comes from society’s expectation of people: what they should be like, how they should present themselves, and how we need to untangle our discourse from our prejudices and in some cases, blatant racism.

My only main critique of this book was I felt as if some of the points of view were not as developed as others and some motives may not have been as clear as they could have been, but overall, Time Bomb is a book that will stick with me. It could open up some important conversations that need to be had.

This gets 4/5 stars from me!

Till Next Time,

Xx

Megan