Starfish: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. I received this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This will be mostly spoiler free so there is no need to click away.

There are many things I loved about Starfish; it was not afraid to tackle issues such as social anxiety, biracial identity, and unstable family life. I will point out the trigger of sexual abuse as it is a prevalent theme throughout the novel.

The story follows the main protagonist Kiko who is of half-Japanese heritage and is on the verge of finishing high school. She has a plan for herself: get into a New York City art school called Prism and follow her dreams of becoming a painter. Not only that but she will be able to escape her small town life in Nebraska where being Japanese makes her “exotic” and different than those around her.

She lives with her mother and two brothers, her relationships with each of them rather complex. Kiko’s mother constantly criticizes her and puts her desires and dreams at the bottom of her priority list. Kiko and her brothers cohabitate the same space without getting to know each other beyond the surface. Her father divorced her mother and lives with his new wife and recently born twin girls.

When Kiko’s plans for art school fall through, she at the same time reconnects with her old best friend, Jamie, who moved away during childhood. He offers her an escape from her overwhelming, emotionally manipulative mother and the grief of not getting into her dream school.

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This contemporary novel is heavily focused on self-discovery and what it means to grow up, cope with plans that do not always work out, and toys with the idea that blood does not always mean family. What drew me in originally to Starfish was Kiko having social anxiety, something I struggled with for most of my life and still do. I found Kiko’s descriptions were insanely accurate, to the point I had to stop and show them to my friends. Kiko lends a voice to readers who deal with this and not in a way that undermines it. No, this book is very much about accepting social anxiety and realizing it does not make you a bad friend or a bad person. It is just a part of you that you will learn to handle and if you have good friends, they too will put in the effort. You have to do what makes you feel comfortable.

The next topic that drew me in was biracial identity, but more specifically how it impacts Kiko’s self-worth and identity. Kiko’s mother is white and has physical features associated with said identity: blonde hair, light skin, and light eyes. When Kiko looks at her mother, she doesn’t see any of those traits in herself, having taken after her dad who is Japanese. She grapples with the concept of beauty and if it is an agreed upon concept by society, or one that is subjective and ever changing. For teens who struggle with finding themselves and beauty in their features, Kiko offers the perfect narrative for it isn’t a journey that automatically happens. It takes time, tears, and breaking away from negative influences. The journey reads naturally and I found myself rooting for Kiko all throughout the story. I wanted her to radiate self-confidence and I wanted her to understand how beautiful she was. Tying into this idea was cultural identity and how Kiko didn’t have much of a Japanese culture due to her parent’s divorce and her mother’s view on not favoring an Asian lifestyle. In case you didn’t know, you’re going to hate Kiko’s mother, but unfortunately, her ignorant and narcissistic outlook on life is not unique. Other people have it too. However, it is through Kiko’s interactions with her mother that a reader is able to realize certain behaviors are not okay and should never be okay.

Starfish is beautifully written. The prose flows naturally and I love how each chapter ends with a work of art Kiko creates to reflect the events that have happened. Every character feels like a fleshed out, real person and you can’t help getting sucked into this world. I’m not going to forget about Starfish and the impact it had on me. I hugged the book to my chest after finishing it because the ending was such a heartwarming consolation that Kiko deserved. Aside from my perspective, I think this book can be an outlet for teens and offer the message that no one should tear you down or stop you from being who you need to be. If they’re doing that, chances are, you don’t need them in your life. You need to live for yourself and your dreams.

Overall, this book gets 5/5 stars from me and I would highly recommend it. I may wind up throwing it at everyone so it can be read asap!

Xx

Megan

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I got the amazing chance to not only obtain an ARC of Forest of Thousand Lanterns at Book Expo, but meet the author Julie C. Dao. I didn’t know I would read her book first out of my TBR pile, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best I’ve read this year, if not in the recent years.

There will be no major spoilers in this review, so feel free to keep reading.

The plot follows Xifeng, a girl who is stuck under her aunt’s harsh rules and cruelty. She believes, as well as her aunt, that she is destined for a greater life than being a common girl. She has beauty which others are envious of and a dark calling within her chest. When an opportunity arises to run away, Xifeng is swept up with one goal: to become the empress.

Capture

This lovely image, which I think captures the book so well, belongs to Christine Herman. You can find her on twitter: @christineexists

For those of you who don’t know, FOTL follows The Evil Queen from Snow White. But what we get as readers is an East Asian retelling with a wonderful cast of characters, poetry, and culture. I was taken with the world Julie created, not only for its beauty, but for every story she wove into the tale. There were lines in the text that were both haunting and well written. They created an eerie, alluring mood that made me unable to put the book down. If I could highlight each one that stuck with me, most of the book would be in bright yellow highlighter.

Then we have the characters. Xifeng is an anti-hero. I think that is the best way to put it. Julie C. Dao breaks the mold of using a likeable main character. Xifeng is vain, narcissist, and has the potential to bring people to her feet. All of these traits harbor themselves in a young girl who has to choose between light and dark, forces that both rage inside of her. You understand her motivations. You want to know what she is going to do next and which side will ultimately win. Xifeng is a character, that despite her not being the traditional notion of good, you want her to win. I don’t often sympathize with characters as such, but I did here.

The other main characters are equally as alluring. You have Wei who wants Xifeng to choose the goodness in her and is ultimately a huge contrast to her character. You have her aunt, Guma, who has a history she has not yet told Xifeng, but plays on the hungry, ambitious traits of her niece. You have her friends Hideki and Shiro who openly show Xifeng what the right examples of love and affection are, but examples she cannot find within herself. You have the royal cast like Lady Sun and Empress Lihua who bring out different sides of Xifeng that show how well she is playing a game to reach her goal. There is just so much going on with the plot and the characters. It is very much like a game of chess, with constant moves being made. Who will win? The royal family? Xifeng? Or someone else? You’re not quite sure from the beginning nor are you sure until the pieces start to unravel.

When I finished the last chapter, my first thought was when is the second book coming out? My second thought was damn, because that was the only word I could find that encapsulated how much this book brought to the world and how strong this story was.

If anyone is undecided on preordering this book, or picking it up once it hits stores in October 2017, toss your doubts away. This book will capture your attention and stay with you as you read its final words.

It receives 5/5 hearts from me. You’ll understand this reference once you read.

Xx

Megan

Queens of Geek: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Last night I finished Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and all I can say is this book is both adorable and powerful.

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Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinities.

It follows three friends who go to SupaCon, which is a big gathering of movie, YouTube, and television stars. These friends are moving on to college within a couple of months and this is their way of treating themselves for making it through their education. Not to mention it has been something they wanted to do for a long time as a group. Many events happen at SupaCon, leading to self-discovery, love, and beating back some demons each of them have been holding onto.

This is a dual POV book following the characters Charlie and Taylor. Charlie is a famous YouTube star who had a terrible breakup from her co-star of a recent film, Reese. She is long since over him, but she spent the last few months piecing herself back together and finding out what it means to not be tied together with her ex in the public limelight. She has to deal with fans who want to see her back together with her ex and her entertainment company that wants her to be nice to Reese for publicity. She also identifies as bisexual and there is a fantastic scene in the book where she challenges her ex about sexuality. He asks a question bisexuals get too often: how can you be bisexual when you’re dating a guy?

The answer that Charlie gives, my dear readers, is a good one. There doesn’t need to be proof of bisexuality through dating a woman. Rather, she knew she was bisexual the same way her ex knew he was straight. What I love that the author does is she constantly reinforces there is nothing wrong with being bisexual.  She has also made Charlie a strong character, not afraid of talking about her sexuality, showing her confidence, or noting her mixed race heritage.

The second character, Taylor has anxiety. Throughout this book, I constantly found myself nodding my head in agreement with the descriptions Jen gives about anxiety. Between the fears Taylor has and how she worries how other people will read her anxiety (as her being stuck up or bossy), I too have gone through similar experiences. The portrayal was honest and real and all I wanted was for Taylor to push past her anxiety and find the happiness she deserved. Taylor, an amazing well rounded character, does not only challenge stereotypes about anxiety, but also challenges fat-shaming and misconceptions about being on the spectrum. There is so much to love and learn from Taylor’s chapters as well as so much to connect with.

This isn’t a difficult or long read. It is very much fluff and friendship and feeling good after reading it. Most of the plots are predictable, but I didn’t mind. You have a solid friendship, romances to root for, and wonderful representation. From the second I picked up this book, I went yes, this is what I need to be reading.

Note: The references in the book to all things Geek are A+.

I’m giving it 5/5 SupaCon passes.

Xx

Megan

Author Sitdown with Jessika Fleck

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessika Fleck, author of The Castaways due out April 3rd, 2017 from Entangled Teen.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of The Castaways:

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Q1: Congratulations on being a debut author. It’s a great accomplishment. How does it feel?

Thank you, Megan! I’m so thrilled to be here at Written Infinities! So, how does it feel to be a debut author…? Surreal, overwhelming, exciting, chaotic, dreamy, and a lot of OMG how did I get here?! Basically, it’s a whole slew of emotions all rolled into one, but I’m mostly grateful and just trying to take it all in.

Q2: What inspired The Castaways?

The Castaways came to me in two parts. The first was about me becoming more and more aware of kids being bullied in schools, especially after a good friend’s daughter endured some serious cruelty at the hands of a group of girls and right under the noses of teachers and administrators and other students. It was heartbreaking and not right.
As I had this sort of bullying narrative playing over TheCastawaysFINAL COVERin my mind, that Halloween, we took our kids to a pumpkin patch. Of course we explored the gigantic corn maze. Now, I’ve always found corn mazes creepy-beautiful. There’s something undeniably majestic and sinister about being trapped in a field of dried out cornstalks surrounded by nothing. As I followed my daughter through the maze, encountering dead ends and turning sharp corners it hit me: what a perfect place to run away AND what if when you ran away, you ended up somewhere else? With that, an early conception of The Castaways was born.

I definitely don’t take it lightly that bullying plays a deep role in this book. I very much thought of my own daughters reading this story as I wrote it, and how they might receive it’s messages, from the more subtle just be to the more blatant finding your strength.  My hope is that kids who read Olive’s story, despite where they might fall on the bully-bullied-observer spectrum, will be inspired to stand up for what’s right and speak up for those with smaller voices.

Q3: Who’s your favorite character in the book and why?

I adore Bug. She’s that secondary character who deserves a whole, entire book for herself. I love her back story and that she’s so wise beyond her years and strong (mentally and physically) as all get out, but still a goofy, sassy kid. She’s basically my hero. I also have some serious hair envy.

Q4: What kind of reactions do you want to see from readers in regards to The Castaways?

In a perfect world, I would love readers to leave the story feeling empowered and entertained and satisfied and with a spark in their hearts to do something good for themselves and for someone else. But at the end of the day, if readers complete The Castaways content that their time reading my words was well spent and if even one person is inspired to do something kind for another, I’ll be happy.

Q5: You’re marooned on a deserted island – what are three things you would want to have on your person?

Coffee, flint (for fire to boil water for said coffee), and the complete Harry Potter collection (What? That totally counts as one thing!).

Q6: Are there any traits that you share with your main character, Olive?

I can definitely relate to the motto Just be. It’s sort of her version of You do you. I’m all for celebrating individuality and following your passions in life and respecting the inner beauty in all of us. Also, like Olive, I’m not a fan of being the center of attention… ::side-eyes calendar as my book launch event nears:: Olive and I share a love for cats. And lasagna.  Also, I’d choose the cool, spritzy Oregon coast over the heat and flatness of Texas all day long (I grew up in Texas).

Q7: What are some things (movies, books, songs etc.) that inspire you to write?

Definitely music. I’m a total sucker for lyrics. I create a playlist unique to each novel I write as well as a Pinterest board. For The Castaways I focused on a mix of music that reminded me of the beach and a sort of surfer vibe with Family of the Year, Jack Johnson, and Vance Joy, along with a folksy feel for Olive’s Texas side from artists like Noah Gundersen and Mumford and Sons, and then to youthful sounds from Alessia Cara to Ed Sheeran to Birdy. I also love finding images and quotes that apply to the story and characters. Here’s the Pin board for The Castaways: https://www.pinterest.com/jessikafleck/the-castaways/ And here’s the Spotify playlist:
https://open.spotify.com/user/1212358948/playlist/4JlRrfkbnWBwoKdoT02eI6

 Q8: Do you have plans for future books?

Yes! Amazing publishing shenanigans are afoot. My YA fantasy, THE OFFERING, is being published by Swoon Reads/Macmillan fall 2018. You can find more on that here: https://swoonreads.com/m/the-offering/ I also recently signed with literary agent Victoria Marini and we have several plans in the works. All in all, it’s a ridiculously exciting time and my writing career is in some very capable hands.

Q9: Summarize The Castaways in three words.

Oh man, this is like asking an artist to paint a picture in three strokes, lol! But, here goes… Self, Strength, and Family. ::wipes sweat from brow::

Author Bio:

Author Pic3_FleckJessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), releases 4/3/17. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. Jessika is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

To keep in touch with Jessika and to learn more about her debut book, see below:
Twitter: @jessikafleck
Instagram: @jessikafleckwriter

Once again, a big thank you to Jessika for joining me today. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan

Defy The Stars: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was lucky to win an ARC of Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray and my goodness is this book a juicy, mind-tingling sci-fi novel. This will mainly be a spoiler free review so you don’t need to click away.

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Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinites

Defy The Stars is a dual POV book following Noemi, a warrior from the planet Genesis who has signed up for a suicide mission in order to buy her planet time in a war with Earth, and Abel, a one of a kind prototype mech who has started to develop a consciousness beyond its programming. The book opens up with a battle scene, giving an introduction to who Noemi is not only as a fighter but a person. The second chapter moves to Abel who has been trapped for thirty years in an abandoned spaceship. The reader is immediately aware of Abel’s internal changes, stemming from its isolation.

Note: I’m going to refer to Abel as it for now, mainly to indicate Abel is not technically human despite its growing consciousness and also to highlight Noemi’s struggle with classifying what Abel is.

A variety of mechs exists in this story, but they are programmed only to have one job: heal, fight, work, etc. Abel is a unique experiment by the creator of mechs, Burton Mansfield. There are several flashbacks in the story that indicate Abel’s difference from the other mechs – particularly how it learns new information, registers human emotion, and is favored by Mansfield.

When Abel first runs in to Noemi, I won’t say how, its initial orders are overturned by its main programming: protect the nearest human with authority. But just because Abel has its orders doesn’t mean Noemi trusts Abel or vice versa. Claudia Gray plays with the idea of if it’s possible to trust a mech and what it means for Noemi who has been fighting them in the war. There are also several questions raised about what consciousness means, where the line between human and robot is, and what happens when a robot becomes self-aware? After studying philosophy for many years in school, these questions are delightful and ones that are challenged throughout the entirety of the book.

Abel and Noemi go on an interplanetary journey, where Noemi hopes to find a way to stop the Genesis army from sacrificing their lives. While doing so, the pair of them learns about a revolutionary group that has arisen, the nature of Burton Mansfield, how complicated friendship and love are, the extent of mortality, and what can be defined as humanity.

From Abel’s POV, this is extremely interesting for it begins to understand human emotions. It recognizes the development of its neural patterns to if not mimic, feel these emotions. As much as the story is about Noemi’s quest to save her planet, it is also about her reconciling her initial judgments about Abel and the worlds she learned about through Genesis schooling. She sees the universe for what it is and gains information more valuable than any classroom could have taught her. Most importantly, she finds her faith, ironically with the help of a mech.

By the end of Defy The Stars, it’s hard to classify who or what exactly Abel is. From my perspective, I would agree with Noemi’s analysis of a soul being in Abel’s body or at least having a conscious to be more than its programming. The best thing about this book is you experience the growth of both Noemi and Abel – development that is both natural and enticing. You are rooting for them, while at the same time getting taken on a sci-fi adventure with both details and a plot that will keep you interested.

If you haven’t already considered reading this book, do it. It won’t disappoint.

Xx

Megan

 

Cover Reveal for 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

Hello Everyone!

*Whispers* Man, Megan has really been on top of this blogging thing, hasn’t she?

Why, yes, I have. 2017 apparently awoke some kind of crazy social media beast in me that wants to throw every book related thing out into the world. So today, I have some awesome news and that is, I will be revealing the cover for Tristina Wright’s Book, 27 Hours!

*cue screaming and fangirling because this cover is gorgeous

If you haven’t heard of this book, here is all you need to know. It will be released on October 3rd, 2017 and be the first installment of The Nightshade Saga.

Plot:

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Where To Buy:

About the Author: 

Tristina Wright is a blue-haired bisexual with anxiety and opinions. She’s also possibly a mermaid, but no one can get confirmation. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age and frequently got caught writing in class instead of paying attention. She enjoys worlds with monsters and kissing and monsters kissing. She married a nerd who can build computers and make the sun shine with his smile. Most days, she can be found drinking coffee from her favorite chipped mug and making up more stories for her wombfruit, who keep life exciting and unpredictable.

Still trying to figure out the mermaid thing.

Website: http://tristinawright.com/

Snapchat: @tristinawright
Okay, so without further ado… HERE IS THE COVER!
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Isn’t it beautiful? Seriously, I can’t stop looking at it.
This is one of the books I’m most excited to read for 2017. Give me conflict and space and diversity! Definitely consider getting your hands on it because from what I heard, it does not disappoint.
Xx
Megan

History Is All You Left Me: A Review

Hello Reader & Writers,

Before I start, I want to say that this book deals with a lot of heavy themes, death being the major one. Aside from that, there are questions revolving around self-identity, guilt, love, and healing. Like the last review I did, this one will be spoiler free.

The book follows a boy named Griffin who is dealing with the loss of his ex-boyfriend, but

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Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinities

first love, Theo. It alternates between history (the past), and today (the present). In the history snapshots, the reader learns about how Theo and Griffin got together, their relationship, and the bumps they encounter along the way. The present focuses on Griffin trying to deal with death and not always in the best way. The only person Griffin finds who truly understands what he is going through is Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death, Jackson.

I read More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera at the end of last year and it was an emotional trip. Having heard about Adam’s new book, I expected the same, but was surprised to find out this book was much worse. I will admit I needed to take breaks while reading, because emotions were displayed so vividly that I required time to gather myself. I’ve seen a lot of reviews and responses to Adam’s book, most of them mentioning the undesirable need to cry. I didn’t cry, but I felt every emotion as if it were my own. I felt numbness and desperation and an ache in my chest.

Despite all of these emotions swirling around inside of me, I finished the book in one day. I haven’t done that in quite some time. I wasn’t able to pull away from the strength of Adam’s prose, how every sentence felt as if it belonged there, how every sentence made me feel for Griffin and the other characters involved. Adam treated the theme of death with respect; he didn’t sugarcoat it or romanticize it. Death hurts and it’s not the same journey for everyone, especially for those who are young. It is not always about “getting over it” or “moving on.”

I’m also going to award praise to the portrayal of Griffin’s OCD and compulsions. The reader learns early on that Griffin has these characteristics about him, things that even Griffin questions, especially as the book progresses. He prefers even numbers and has to stand on someone’s left whenever he is walking or sitting beside them. The uniqueness of the tale is Adam doesn’t portray OCD the way it is commonly seen – a need to be clean at all times or hyper-organization. Adam shows that OCD can manifest in other ways.

Another component of the book I enjoyed was Adam’s portrayal of sexuality. Theo defines his sexuality as liking “good people, period.” This pleased me as a reader because it opened up the conversation that sexuality doesn’t always follow a strict guideline. It isn’t always about liking just men or just women. It could come down to whoever makes you feel good, whoever you can relate to, whoever has your best interest at heart. Love is simply love and everyone experiences it differently.

This book has easily found its way onto my favorites list. It was brutally gut-wrenching, but it does not warrant an apology. Youth tends to be idolized – they cannot die or when they do it is a great tragedy. Theo’s death is a tragedy and History Is All You Left Me challenges this stereotype. It also brings up the question of how would you live your life if you knew you didn’t have much time? I found myself thinking about these questions as I read. I found myself thinking about those I loved. I found myself missing Theo, despite him being a fictional character.

Adam Silvera, I want to thank you for writing this book, for making me laugh and grieve and find hope in your story. I can only imagine what this drew out of you as a writer, being one myself. But trust me when I say, this book is everything it needs to be and more.

5/5 Puzzle Pieces for me.
(You’ll understand the reference once you read this book).

Xx

Megan