Reviews

Wicked Like A Wildfire by Lana Popović / Unique magical abilities, Wicked curses & Sisterly-motherly bonds

WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE  (Hibiscus Daughter #1)

Author: Lana Popović

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover, 416 pages

To-be Published: August 15th 2017

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BlurbAll the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

This book has one of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever seen. I’d go as far as to say it’s on par with Laini Taylor. It’s magic.

Wicked like a wildfire is a novel about twin sisters who have the ability to manipulate beauty. They live quiet lives with their mother, Jasmina, who has the ability to make pastry that transports people and evokes beautiful imagery of places in their minds. She is fierce, insanely protective and a bit paranoid. She forbids her daughters from ever “gleaming” in public and from ever falling in love.

  • Iris has the ability to see flowers as fractals and can turn her kaleidoscope visions into glass-work. She is as fierce as Jasmina and is quite a rebel, often fighting with her mother.

  • Malina can interpret moods as music and has the ability to entrance people with her musical abilities. She’s the sweet, cinnamon-roll twin who’d never hurt a fly.

The sisters’ sheltered life is abruptly turned upside down when their mother is attacked. To save her, the girls set off in search of answers, accompanied by two of their close friends. Slowly they start to unravel their mother’s mysterious past and discover a curse that looms over their family line.

I haven’t seen anyone point this out but I feel it’s incredibly important to mention that Wicked like a wildfire has some diversity. The book is set in Montenegro and the twins are half-Japanese. There’s also a F/F romance and it is the purest, most adorable thing ever. Also, the twins’ close friends are Romani.

This is a book that so perfectly explores the relationships between sisters and mothers and daughters. It was especially beautiful to witness the relationship between Iris and Malina; it brought me near tears several times throughout. The characters felt so real and incredibly complex. There was a lot of girl power; the women introduced in this book are all beautiful and deadly in their own ways. The magical aspects of this book are truly original and everything has an almost circus-like + witchy vibe, which I adored. The writing is absolutely gorgeous; lush, magical and out-of-this-world. One of the most unique books I’ve ever read. It did take me some time to get into the story and I wanted some of the side characters to be more fleshed-out, but aside from that, I really recommend this book!


Lana Popović

Lana Popović’s debut YA contemporary fantasy, WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE, is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in Summer 2017. Lana studied psychology and literature at Yale University, and law at Boston University. She is a graduate of the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program and works as a literary agent with Chalberg & Sussman, specializing in YA. She lives in Boston, subsisting largely on cake, gimlets, and eyeliner.

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Reviews

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzie Lee / A Grand Tour of Europe w/ Highway men & Pirates

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Blurb

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover, 528 pages

Published: June 27th 2017

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An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Trigger Warning : N-word used several times

The Gentleman’s guide to vice & virtue was one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. The characters are the best thing about this book to be honest, the story didn’t impress me much.

  • Monty is a troublemaker– a drinking, partying, and infuriating rascal. His already-tense relationship with his father is strained further when he’s expelled from his school. His father then sends him off on a Grand tour of Europe, joined by his best friend Percy (whom he has the biggest crush on) and his little sister, Felicity.
  • Percy is a curly-haired, biracial cinnamon roll. You’ll adore him instantly, I guarantee. He grew up under a noble white family but is subjected to racism and discrimination from others, worsened by the fact that he is epileptic.
  • Felicity is a 15-year-old but intelligent af and 100% snarky. I love her. She has a passion for learning but is obviously faced with an obstacle as women were not allowed education at the time. I don’t think it’s explicitly stated but I’m pretty sure she’s asexual.

Monty, being the complete (lovable) asshat he is, makes one huge mistake that leaves him naked during a fancy party of high-society men and women, and in possession of a very valuable item. Soon, he and his companions are subjects of a manhunt across all of Europe. As they slowly discover the secrets of the item, they grow increasingly reluctant to giving it back. They’re now wrapped up in a plot of sinking islands, alchemy, pirates, highway men and one pissed off Duke.

Monty starts out as a self-centered scoundrel. As a white, privileged male, he is oblivious to his sister’s and his best friend’s situations. But this journey forces him to witness firsthand the racism and sexism his two companions face. He says and does ignorant stuff but is called out and put in place by Percy and Felicity. He learns, he grows. He comes to know more about his best friend and his sister, and that was truly beautiful to see.

Aside from that, the romance was just…

Monty and Percy are my OTP. Perfect amount of angst and tension, and the most swoony kissing scenes. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED BY THE ROMANCE. I started shipping them from the very first page and just thinking about them warms my heart. SO ADORABLE, I MIGHT CRY. It’s supposed to be fantasy but there are no fantasy elements so don’t go in expecting that. I admit I was about to give this 4 stars but the ending just sold me and the whole book was so fun, I just couldn’t rate it any lower.


Mackenzie Lee

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the author of the historical fantasy novels THIS MONSTROUS THING and THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE (HarperCollins), as well as the forthcoming THE LADY’S GUIDE TO PETTICOATS AND PIRACY (coming in 2018 from HarperCollins) and SEMPER AUGUSTUS (coming in 2019 from Flatiron/Macmillan). She is also the author of BYGONE BADASS BROADS (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.

She currently calls Boston home, where she manages an independent bookstore, drinks too much Diet Coke, and pets every dog she meets.

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Reviews

Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews : Nimona + Runaways Vol. 1


NIMONA

by Noelle Stevenson                                 

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I know a lot of people loved this graphic novel but I’d have to say I didn’t like this one as much. I did enjoy the characters and I did have fun reading it because there were some damn funny parts, but, overall, I felt like it was a bit under-developed. I loved Nimona and Blackheart, but I just wanted more. I wanted more depth to the world and the characters. I also wish there was more to the storyline. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters and I didn’t buy the closeness between them (although it was cute).
The story didn’t really grip me in anyway and I found myself putting it down multiple times. I should say I didn’t like the artwork either. It wasn’t bad or anything; it just wasn’t a style I like.
There are some things I enjoyed: I loved Nimona’s ruthlessness, I enjoyed the dialogues (especially the banters between Blackheart and Nimona) and the relationships were adorable. The ending was bittersweet but very fitting. I felt like it wrapped up perfectly.


RUNWAYS DELUXE, Vol. 1 (Runaways Deluxe #1)

by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa

In Pride & Joy, six young friends discover their parents are all secretly super-powered villains Finding strength in one another, the shocked teens run away from home and straight into the adventure of their lives – vowing to turn the tables on their evil legacy. In Teenage Wasteland, the Runaways find a kindred spirit in a daring young stranger and welcome him into their fold. But will this dashing young man help the teenagers defeat their villainous parents… or tear them apart? Plus: who do you send to catch a group of missing, runaway teenage super-heroes? Marvel’s original teen runaway crimefighters, Cloak and Dagger, make their first major appearance in years In The Good Die Young, the world as we know it is about to end, and the Runaways are the only hope to prevent it Our fledgling teenage heroes have learned how their parents’ criminal organization began, and now they must decide how it should end. As the Runaways’ epic battle against their evil parents reaches its shocking conclusion, the team’s mole stands revealed, and blood must be shed. Which kids will still be standing when the smoke finally clears?

In this graphic novel six teenagers who’re forced to meet once every year for their wealthy parents’ secret meetings decide to sneak in on their parents one night only to find out that they’re a secret criminal society.

This synopsis had me hooked from the very beginning and the actual novel both surprised me in a good way and also disappointed me a bit. The story follows a bunch of teens who must decide between their love for their own parents and turning in the parents for the greater good. I loved how their dilemma was handled; the kids’ reactions and thought processes felt realistic to the circumstances. I also loved the characters (some more than others) and the relationships within the crew. There is a bit of diversity in this graphic novel and that another huge plus for me as well.

What I didn’t particularly like was the art. It’s not bad artwork at all; it just wasn’t to my taste for some reason. I don’t know. And some of the dialogue had me cringing, especially the ones between romantic couples. That’s another thing; I didn’t like any of the romance storylines (except maybe one that started developing in the very last few pages. I’m all for that couple).

My favorite thing in this graphic novel was the unpredictability. The twists in the last half were SO MIND-BLOWING. I was literally awe-struck. I usually see twists coming immediately but this one caught me off-guard. Wow.

Reviews

Want by Cindy Pon / Futuristic Taipei, High-stakes Missions & A Family of Misfits

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Blurb

WANT (Want #1)

Author:  Cindy Pon

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

To be Published: June 13th 2017 

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From critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon comes an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, about a group of teens who risk everything to save their city.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

This novel immediately made it to my all-time favorite list. It is, no doubt, one of the best Sci-Fi novels I’ve ever read. The world-building, the characters and the overall plot was so well-done, It felt like a movie. It needs to be a movie.

Want is set in near-futuristic Taipei where the world is heavily polluted. The sky is no longer blue, the air so infested you could barely see the sky at all. Taking this into advantage, Jin Corp manufactures protective suits and sells them at extreme prices, making it one of the most powerful companies in the world. Because of these suits, the society is divided into classes: Mei – the poor who can barely afford food let alone suits and the You– sickeningly rich people who live lavish lives and own suits, sometimes several. 

Jason Zhou is a Mei and so is his found family — the silent but deadly Iris, her girlfriend, hacker and boss-extraordinaire Lingyi, the incredibly smart Arun and smartly-dressed hustler, Victor. This band of misfits conspires to take down Jin Corp. To do that, Zhou must infiltrate the people he despises the most- the You– and even worse, he’d have to befriend Daiyu, the CEO’s own daughter.

From the very first few pages you’ll fall for Jason Zhou. He just has this confidence and intensity and it’s incredibly sexy. Swoon level 150, trust me!

Cindy Pon’s writing is just amazing, especially when it comes to world-building! I was so immersed in it and I could just picture everything so perfectly. This is where I’ll repeat: it needs to be a damn movie!!

Did I mention how incredibly diverse it is?? It’s #OwnVoices. Zhou is Taiwanese-American, there are also Indian, Chinese, and Filipino characters. The characters stole my heart, especially Daiyu who is confident af and badass. The relationships between Zhou and his friends…squad goals. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. And I adored the established F/F romance in this book so much I might cry.

There are heists, kidnapping, hacking, corruption, and murder…overall an action-packed and emotional ride. It takes on important topics like prejudice, pollution, corruption and exploitation as well as social divides and extreme economic differences. I LOVED this book so much and now that Book 2 is a thing, I’ll be sitting in a corner crying and rocking back & forth until its release.


Cindy Pon

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine and Sacrifice, her second duology are out (Month9books). WANT, a near-future thriller set in Taipei releases June 13th, 2017 (Simon Pulse). She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.

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Reviews

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum – ARC Review

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Blurb

THE WICKER KING

Author: K. Ancrum

Publisher: Imprint

Format: Hardcover, 320 pages

To-be-Published: October 31st 2017

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The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

The Wicker king centers around August and his best friend, Jack. This book reeled me in quick; I couldn’t put it down and I blew through it in a few sittings. It’s written in such a poetic and unique way. Even the formatting is incredibly unique. The chapters are very short and there are few pictures and illustrations in between. The two boys you see on the cover? Yeah, you’ll see more of them. I felt like these little snippets made the characters all the more real, almost too real…

I immediately fell for these characters. August…even thinking about him makes me want to wrap him up in a warm blanket.

He has to fend for himself, taking care of his mom and selling drugs for money. He is loyal to the people he loves to a fault. Jack is infinitely less responsible. He comes from a well-off family but his parents are almost never home so August is the one who takes care of him, cooking for him, keeping him company on Christmas and basically being there for him in every way.

These two have known each other from a very young age and they have a sweet-but-kinda-weird-and-toxic relationship. It’s hard to even describe, you’d have to read it to understand. It’s almost obsessive and too-dependent but then they’d do or say something to each other and it’s the cutest thing ever. Although, it’s not mentioned on page, I believe both main characters are bisexual.

When August finds out that Jack has degenerative hallucinatory disorder his immediate reaction is to try and get help, but Jack insists that they must go on a quest in this alternate world and August, being the loyal friend he is, agrees. Jack leads them deeper and deeper into the elaborate fantasy world only he can see and soon, they’re both unsure as to what’s real and what’s fantasy. Things spiral down fast and their relationship strains as they both try to figure out the connection between them. August already has too much to carry and Jack’s worsening condition leaves him unraveled. The growing tension and confusion is even alluded to by the color of the pages; they get darker and darker as you go till they become all-black near the conclusion.

Although I enjoyed this book, I found myself confused a few times and the ending kind of disappointed me a bit. I really wanted more from the ending. I want more of August and Jack in general. I can’t vouch for the quality of representation of bisexuality and degenerative hallucinatory disorder so I’m interested in hearing from others. This is a very unique book and quite an odd one as well, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I put it down. I look forward to seeing more from this author.

Note: I received this ARC as part of Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Program. So, special thanks to Emma!


K. Ancrum

K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago Illinois. She attended Dominican University to study Fashion Merchandizing, but was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. Currently, she lives in Andersonville and writes books at work when no one is looking.

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Reviews

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen / Space Sci-Fi with High-stakes Competitions & Multinational Cast of Characters

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Blurb

NYXIA (The Nyxia Triad #1)

Author:  Scott Reintgen

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Published: September 12th 2017

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Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Nyxia is an action-packed, intense YA Sci-fi novel that will hook you from the very beginning and pull you in deeper with every page. It has one of the most ethnically-diverse set of characters I’ve seen in YA. The complexity of each character and the depth in which the book explores emotional conflict is truly amazing. From the beginning I was like : 

Emmett, an African-American teen from Brooklyn, is recruited by a powerful corporation to compete for a position on a secret mission in another planet. Eight teens chosen out of ten competitors will travel to a foreign planet to retrieve a newly-discovered, highly-sought substance – Nyxia. Earning a position on this mission will guarantee a mind-boggling amount of money and advantages for family. Emmett finds himself signing a contract and soon he’s pitted against nine other teens from all over the world who must compete for one of the eight available spots.

Hi-tech-based competitions await them on their journey in space, each designed to challenge their mental capacities, physical abilities and, most of all, their moral values and limits. Emmett is a genuine person and his sharp-wit and combat strength help him in many of the competitions, but he’s faced with dilemma after dilemma – what is he willing to do to win? We follow as he constantly battles with himself over who to trust and where to draw the line as to how far he’ll go.

As Emmett navigates his new life, he also can’t help question Babel corporation’s motive. Why were these ten kids chosen? And most importantly: What will ultimately be required of them for the final prize?

Despite coming from different countries and backgrounds, all these competitors have one thing common that makes them equally desperate and conflicted. Narrated from Emmett’s first person point of view, the book had me especially attached to him, but I found myself rooting for the others as well. You might be thinking that the side characters are too many to keep up with, but everything is balanced in a way that you get insight into all of them without feeling overwhelmed. Each of these characters have strengths & flaws, and well fleshed-out personalities.

I absolutely loved Emmett as our main character. His competitiveness and focused determination was refreshing. Of course, I also loved the side characters. The writing, the pacing and overall high-stakes feel really worked for me. I enjoyed the non-stop action and all the cool technology. The twists and turns in this book had me panicking one too many times.

I can’t believe how long I’ll have to wait for Book 2! I NEED IT NOW.


Scott Reintgen

Scott Reintgen grew up in North Carolina, and took full advantage of the fact that he lived on the same street as fourteen of his cousins. It could be a little crowded, but he threw a few elbows and carved out a space for himself as the family storyteller. He enjoyed the role so much that he decided to spend most of college and graduate school investing in the world of literature. This led to a career teaching English and Creative Writing in the great state of North Carolina, where he currently lives with his wife and family. To his great delight, the demand for stories and storytellers is alive and well. As such, he can often be found at local coffee shops laboring over stories that he hopes his family, and fans, will love.

 

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Reviews

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – Review

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Blurb

QUEENS OF GEEK

Author: Jen Wilde

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Format: Paperback, 288 pages

Published: March 14th 2017

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When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

After an onslaught of several complex fantasy worlds, this book was a quick and fun read that gave me all the fluff and all the feels needed.

The story is told from the POVs of two best friends: Charlie, who is an up and coming Chinese-Australian movie star and Youtuber. Also a bisexual. And Taylor, a pro-fangirl/blogger who has autism spectrum disorder and is dealing with social anxiety. And then there’s the adorable Jamie, supportive sunshine and too-good-to-be-true third best friend.

Everything takes place in a huge comic con called “Supa-Con”, and let me tell you: it is geekdom galore. I loved it. I think it’s so creative how the author utilized this one setting and made it fun, immersive and not at all repetitive. I’ve never been to any type of comic-con event but I can imagine how much of a magical haven it could be for fangirls/fanboys and all ‘geeks’, and the author perfectly captured the feeling of acceptance and contentment that comes with a community that shares your enthusiasm and passion for similar things. As a fangirl myself, I was basically drooling over Supa-Con; I even felt nostalgic and emotional several times while reading.

The romances were so cute!! The f/f romance featured in this book was the adorablest thing ever!! I loved the characters and I loved the diversity. Taylor’s struggle with anxiety resonated with me so much. Social anxiety is something I struggle with myself and this is the closest I’ve ever felt to being understood in a book. Queens of geek takes on a lot of important topic. Too many to count. Among them are harmful fandom behavior, sexism in the movie industry, supportive friendships, body-positivity, healthy relationships and so much more.

The only problem I have with it is that I wanted a bit more of a story. It felt too simple, story-wise. Also, I found some things implausible and unrealistic.

Overall, this book is the perfect summer read. Light and cute. Diverse and relatable. And it takes on several important topics.


Jen Wilde

Jen Wilde is a writer, geek and fangirl. Her debut into fiction, THE EVA SERIES, reached over three million reads on Wattpad and became an Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing, she loves binge-watching Netflix, eating pizza, and going to pop culture conventions cosplaying as Marty McFly.

Jen lives in a beachside town in Australia with her husband and their troublesome pug, aptly named Heisenberg.

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Reviews

Graphic Novel Mini-Reviews : Monstress Vol. 1 + Archie #1

I wasn’t planning on reviewing these because I already have so many books to review, but I decided to do a mash-up of mini-reviews in this one post. I don’t really read many graphic novels and they’re not my favorite things to read, but there are the occasional graphic novels that I find enjoyable. anyway, here are four of the graphic novels I’ve read in 2017:

(Click on covers to add on Goodreads)


MONSTRESS, Vol. 1: Awakening (Collected Editions #1)

by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

                            
In this graphic novel we follow Maika, a girl who is bound to an ancient demon and becomes a target in a war-torn world.

Monstress was a creepy, truly terrifying delight. I was really surprised at how gory and bloody it was. And though I flinched through many of the scenes, I actually loved the horror aspect of it. And the artwork is GORGEOUS! One hundred percent the most beautiful graphic novel I’ve read so far. Also, it’s set in a steam punk world of an alternate matriarchal Asia. How amazing does that sound?

I loved Maika. She’s fierce and intense (and downright scary sometimes). The side characters- even the villains- were intriguing. The storyline had me confused for the first half because you kinda get thrown in into this complex world without explanation, which can be a bit jarring. But as I went along, I got more and more of the whole picture. I recommend this to anyone who loves complex fantasy worlds, beautiful art and bad-ass women.


ARCHIE #1 (Archie (2015-) (Single Issues) #1)

     by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples

Change is coming to Riverdale in this can’t-miss kick-off to Archie’s new ongoing series! Familiar faces return in new and unexpected ways in this must-read #1 issue! As the new school year approaches, you’d think Archie Andrews would be looking forward to classes and fun — but nothing is as it seems in the little town of Riverdale. But is this a one-off or a sign of bigger changes awaiting for America’s favorite teens — and the entire town? Find out in this exciting and remarkable first issue!

                                                                              

This book was so hard to rate. The artwork is gorgeous, the characters are fun and lovable, and the story is kinda interesting. But it just wasn’t for me. It’s set in a high school, with dating drama and rich kids. It’s just not something I’m into. I don’t even know why I picked it up.

 I didn’t care a single bit for any of the characters (Ok, maybe I like Jughead & Betty) and I was bored through the most part. I put this one down too many times because I wasn’t invested in any aspect of the story. I was also a bit put off by the way the story unfolds. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a bit all over the place.

Reviews

Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray / Fast-paced Sci-Fi With A Sassy Robot And A Badass Soldier

Beryl(1)

Blurb

DEFY THE STARS (Constellation #1)

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, 503 pages

Published: April 4th 2017 

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She’s a soldier.
Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.
Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination. 

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

I LOVED THIS BOOKS SO MUCH! It feels like it was written specifically for me. I’ve been getting into Sci-Fi lately and Claudia Gray made me fall in love with the genre even more. The writing, the characters, everything…I adored it all. Defy the stars has definitely made it to my 2017 favorites. I don’t think I can write a coherent review but I’ll try anyway.

Let’s start with the writing because that was my most favorite thing. It worked so well with setting; it’s like Claudia Gray was born to write Sci-Fi. The characterization of a robot boy and a fierce soldier was so well done that it’s now my favorite trope (BRING ME MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS). The story is well-paced, has the right amount of action and is filled with unforgettable characters. Also, the romance never gets in the way of the story. If you read the synopsis and got a tropey-romance-centered-YA-book vibe, you’ve got it wrong. This book is so much more.

Abel and Naomi… I love these characters so much. I can’t even.

Abel is the definition of sassy. A sassy robot, that is. And Naomi is a head-strong, loyal soldier. Their banters give me so much life. I would read a whole book of just them trying to one-up each other passive-aggressively.

Another thing this book has going for it is the world-building. I absolutely loved learning about all the planets and technology. The tension and conflict between the different planets is complex and intriguing. Each planet has different rules and values; as well as moral conflicts that come with their way of life.

Overall an entertaining and gripping novel (that I believe might be the best ever YA novel set in space) that revolves around the question: What does it mean to be human? I recommend it to everyone! Read it then come and suffer with me while we wait for Book 2. 


Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn’t choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn’t), because I’d always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven’t) or even because I’m hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I live in New Orleans. So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing.

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Reviews

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson / Thieves, Gangs & A Mystery set in Kenya+Congo

Beryl(1)

Blurb

CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES

Author: Natalie C. Anderson

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, 401 pages

Published: January 24th 2017

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother–and why–keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

This book was a big surprise. I knew I’d like it after reading the synopsis, but it was far more enjoyable than I expected. The writing is pretty darn good for a debut author and Tina is a protagonist that you’ll immediately fall in love with. She just felt so real and to top it all of: she’s badass. She has a quite intensity and she’s smart. Also, she’s a very talented thief of one of Sangui City’s gangs.

Tina is Congolese, but she and her mother came to Kenya as refugees. Her mother never mentions their past life and Tina has no idea who her mother really is. Because of that their relationship is a bit strained. When her mother is murdered, Tina sets out to find the killer and exact revenge. I would say that this book has two parts. The first half is set in Kenya where Tina is working for the Goondas (thief gang) while setting her plan of revenge in motion.  The second half mostly takes place in Congo, Tina’s home country, where she delves into her mother’s past in hopes of finding the killer and their motive. The author did a good job with the setting; the cities and villages were depicted in rich detail and the perfect amount of tension is invoked when needed, which made her writing almost atmospheric. 

I liked all the side characters are interesting; they’re all complex and intriguing. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. The synopsis doesn’t even begin to describe what this book is about. Things go unexpectedly dark later on. It goes deep into crime and corruption that is the reality of many African countries, and the harsh lives of women caught in the midst. 

Overall, an intense and fast-paced read that kept me on edge throughout. The fact that it was set in Kenya and the amazing set of POC characters won me over from the beginning, and the mystery kept me latched on to the pages till the very end. An easy 5-star for me.

Trigger warning: Mentions of rape and kidnap


Natalie C. Anderson

Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

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