Category Archives: Young Adult

Book Review: Night Shine by Tessa Gratton

McElderry Books
TBP Sept 8th 2020

In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.

As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart- Goodreads

I enjoyed this book but there was a major red flag for me. This book was presented to me as #ownvoices but from the summary and from reading the book it is very clear that this book is based on a form of Asian culture.  From what I know of the author she is White and living in Japan.  So being called #ownvoices through me off by a lot.

Unless its #ownvoices for LGBTQ aspect of this novel. I am not sure. This is my first novel by this author so if anyone can provide some insight to that it would be great. Now let’s talk about the book.

I really liked it. It is unlike any other fantasy I have read and it is as romantic as it is magical.  It focuses on world building and character development.  Does action scenes happen? Yes, but not as frequent as you would think in a world with magic.  I am chalking it up to writing skills because I was invested in this story-line.

However, there is a lot of back and forth in this novel. Nothing does all of it herself and although it is for good reason, going thirty chapters of her being not sure of anything is a bit much.  Did I put this book down? Yes, actually a few times and because things didn’t just slow down they almost stopped for me. The intensiveness that I felt in the first half of the book dwindled  and the lack of “action” did not help with that either.

But beyond this, I loved the romance displayed in the novel. Nothing grows to discover what love is and what is isn’t and that is comes in different times and forms. And also Nothing is fairly entertaining to read. She is quick on her feet, curious and oddly enough very objective. I liked her.

Overall, I was surprised by this book but in a good way.

3.5 Pickles

 

Book Review | These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

Inkyard Press
TBP Sept 8th, 2020
384 Pages

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?- Goodreads

There is no way in the world this book should have been this long and ended the way it did. I needed to say that first before anything.

I liked this book. I loved the concept that Ember is going in to take down the woman that destroyed her sister’s life. Its that will they become the evil they hate quest that gets me every time and the fact that it is set in high school makes it a mix of creepy and thrilling at the same. Creepy because it reminds me of politics.

The pace of novel was going really well until about 30% of the book. It was a lot of “I’m going to get the Queen” speeches she was giving herself and it was happening so often it was becoming redundant.

Ember did a lot of complaining and less trying to find information which was another thing that was getting tiring. How you going to do all those “this is what I am fighting for” speeches but then actually don’t do anything. Waiting for information to fall on your lap is boring especially with access to things that Ember had accessed to.

In regards to Ember herself. She was okay. Her focus was the court and protecting her family and that was all she did. Did I like her? My feelings for her are indifferent. She played her role of a teenager out for revenge very well and that was enough for me.

However, this book was too damn long. There was a lot of build up for an ending that was not good. Which is a shame because what I thought was going to happen didn’t. It went real left and I liked that.

But because the author decided to focus on building the tension and the thrill it took a lot a way from the book.

I liked this book but I could have liked it way more.

Overall,

2.5 Pickles

Book Review: Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera

Bloomsbury YA
TBP Sept. 1st, 2020

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.- Goodreads

This is a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus. If you don’t exactly remember here the quick snapshot is this man goes to the underworld to save the woman he loves and has to walk back above without looking back to her. If he looks back, she stays in the underworld.

I love the spin Rivera puts on this mythology. Pheus is what makes this book. He has so much life and personality. Eury is sad and depressing. She has every right to be as there is a demon trying to take her to the underworld but calling it like it is, Pheus is what brings the life, the color, the interest to this story. He as well as the plot is written very well.

The story is told through both of their point of views, which shows the difference in personality between the two. Other than my love of Pheus what I loved was the rich environment. I’m from New York, Harlem & Long Island specifically and to see the Bronx so clearly, to hear the train as Rivera describes it is freaking amazing. The writing in this book is done extremely well.

There is a low build up in the novel but it is worth it. What I would have liked to see more is the family history of Pheus and Eury. Its mentioned and pretty much brushed over at the end. I would have liked to see more of that family connection and history since he is used as a foundation towards the end of the book.

The imagery in the novel is fantastic. When it starts getting to the climax/the end of the book it is thick and rich. However, I do feel the ending was not as strong as it could have been and a bit rushed but it did give me a satisfied feeling.

The culture displayed in this novel, being Dominican/Black and Puerto Rican could have been/should have been add more beyond the music references. Again, this goes back to family history. Its mentioned but doesn’t play a whole lot of significance until the end of the novel.

Overall, this was a fantastic read. I’m a sucker for mythology and this retelling was done really well.

4 Pickles 

 

Blog Tour | Book Review & Interview | Cherrington Academy by Rebecca J Caffery

As mentioned in the subject this post will contact both a book review and an interview :)

Book Review

SRL Publishing
Published August 25th, 2020
272 Pages

Logan’s the new boy at Cherrington Academy, a boarding school that’s promised to provide him with a safe haven away from homophobic bullies and neglectful parents. He’s left all that 2000 miles away.

What he doesn’t expect Cherrington to provide is; a bunch of friends who want to adopt him, a mysterious roommate who’s never home and a gorgeous guy with a secret crush on him.

His perfect new life begins to unravel when he discovers a web of secrets amongst his friends. Plus his roommate? Partial to blackmail. That gorgeous guy? Well, he’s taken by one of Logan’s now closest friends.

Can Logan shut off his feelings to protect his new friendships and the happiness he’s found at Cherrington Academy? Or is love really just all-consuming?- Goodreads

What can I say about this book other than how great it was. What I enjoyed the most about this book was the characters. They were well written and most importantly they had depth, they added to not just Logan’s (MC) story but to the world building and they had some development.

There is a lot that goes on within the novel, however, it does feel over-complicated nor does it feel as if the author threw in a lot of fluff to keep the book going. Everything connected and made sense (including the blackmail) and I am glad it did because when I read the summary I was a bit concerned about that.

I liked the pace of the novel. For most contemporaries, things tend to be drawn out due to the drama. And although there is drama in the novel, it moves very well. The romance was not bad either. But the characters, all of them, were fantastically written.

Overall,

3.5 Pickles

Quick Five Interview

Firstly, congratulations on your first published novel!

Image Taken via Goodreads

How was the process leading up to this moment? What positives, what difficulties did you face either writing, promoting, or publishing your book?

I think I have genuinely been so lucky with publishing that it has pretty much been an absolute ball of a time for me. I was incredibly blessed to be signed with SRL Publishing who have been the most amazing publishers to work with. They’ve listened to every idea that I’ve had for my story from the actual writing and editing of it, to the front cover and to letting me have a ridiculously long acknowledgements page. In terms of actually writing the story,

I loved it so much. The main difficulties that I faced were during the first stage of writing. I had all the ideas and an outline and character profiles ready to go, but I had no clue where to start.

Turns out the starting of it was definitely the hardest thing for me. I started writing in third person POV and about 45k words in I realised it wasn’t the right fit for my book, but I had no clue how to rectify it or change it. So instead I abandoned the book for around 7-8 months until I had a new plan and realized that I needed to move over to first person POV.

Some of the positives that I’ve faced were the absolute joy in working with my cover designer for Cherrington, Hayley is an angel and I’m always going to be so impressed with it and grateful for her! In terms of writing, damn I enjoyed every bit I can’t lie, I am so crazy that I absolutely just loved writing the book as it was my very first book baby and I just fell in love with the characters and the story.

 It is noted in your bio that it was not until you moved to Canada that you were inspired to write Cherrington Academy. What exactly in that change of environment or in general inspired you?

My study abroad year in Canada in 2017/18 was exactly what I needed, without actually knowing it was what I needed. I was incredibly anxious about moving to another country for a whole year with no family and friends close by, but it was the best thing I ever did. It bought me completely out of my comfort zone which led me to feel like I could pretty much do anything. That included the book that I’d been longing to write forever.

I also thinking living in a North American style dormitory with a roommate and a dining plan and everything else that comes with that environment also really inspired the boarding school element of Cherrington Academy as it helped me to feel like I have a decent experience of living in one.

I was also just surrounded by amazing people that I became incredibly good friends with and still am even though I no longer live there. The whole environment of Canada just inspired me to be creative and really get stuck into writing Cherrington Academy.

How do you separate being a writer and a reader when you are writing your book?

This is such a good question. I feel like I have two answers for it. Sometimes I definitely think that you need to separate yourself from being a reader and a writer, especially during the editing stages as I want to be focused a lot on format, spelling, grammar, whether the story actually makes any sense.

However, when writing the story and especially when planning the story, I really do feel like being a reader and a writer is important.

As I want to be writing a book that is readable, that an audience is going to love and is actually a proper story, so I do feel like being a writer and a reader is necessary during these stages of writing my book.

Where do you see yourself as a writer in the next five years?

In the next five years I would love to have three or four books out. With Cherrington and the sequel Coming Home both coming out within the next year I definitely think that this is a good start towards this goal of at least three, maybe even four books being published.

I would also really like to have my writer website up and running, as I have dramatically failed at getting that going again this year. Another thing I’d really like to be doing more of as a writer, is writing short stories! I wrote my first one this year and submitted it to a competition and although I didn’t win, I had such a ball writing it that I’d love to write some more.

I also wrote a really random poem this year, it was very heartfelt and somewhat emotional, but again I also really loved dabbling in poetry so maybe I’ll even write some more poetry in the next five years.

Finally, what do you want readers to take with them when they finish your book?

I really hope they take my book as a little slice of life into a mid-late teen’s life. When writing this book, I really wanted it to be real and gritty and not a book that just portrayed teens lives to be fun and easy and just all about love being simple. Because it isn’t. I hope that came across; I really did. I wanted to portray LGBT characters in real situations, rather than Cherrington just being a coming out story.

I also wanted to deal with some of the stigma around male mental health and emotions and showing that there is support out there and that you should not be afraid to cry as a man or reach out for therapy.

Twitter Goodreads

Book Tour | Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest | Recommendations

 

Roaring Brook Press
TBP August 25th 2020
336 Pages

Black Love . .  be it between family, friends or strangers is a beautiful thing.  Kristina Forest’s latest book Now That I’ve Found You is a reminder that love comes in all forms, can be renewed and embraced at the hardest of times.

Now That I’ve Found You is about 18 year old Evie Jones , the blow she took on her career, the journey she takes to get it back and a boy who is there along the way.  This story is about love renewed but not only between people (family, friends and stranger) but for a craft/career.

There were three books that (are currently available for purchase or rent)I instantly thought of once I finished reading this one. Three books that display love on different levels between family, friends and strangers.

These books compliment Now That I’ve Found You extremely well and I highly recommend as your next read.  As I mentioned, the three books shown above are currently released and are available to read. HOWEVER, there are two other reads that appear to be just as a good compliment to Now That I’ve Found You .

It is important to understand that Black love is not just a complicated relationship due to the systematic racism that Black people face. Black Love is joy despite that constant heartache and Now That I’ve Found You as well as all of these books displays that.

Now That I’ve Found You releases on August 25th at major and independent bookstores as well as any store that sells ebooks. You can also request it at your local library (if they don’t have it tell them to get it)

:)

Book Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
TBP Sept 1. 2020

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?- Goodreads

TW: Suicide, Violence

This book packs a punch. There are so many different layers in this book that I would love to see it part of a book club or a school curriculum., dissected and discussed.

The first part that stood out to me is the fact that I never see stories from a wealthy Black perspective. Ashley is basically looking from the outside in. Between only having white friends, her sister fighting the power (and probably experiencing mental health issues), her parents fighting her sister, the beating of Rodney King as well as her own experiences with police brutality AND racism, it was an experience to read the point of view of someone who wasn’t directly involved; from someone who isn’t poor and from someone whose family did everything in their power to be able to say “we’re not like them.”

Reading from this perspective was the best part of reading this book.

Ashley is an interesting character, who has her life planned out on the surface but is needing change. I wouldn’t say that the Rodney King beating is what caused the change but it accelerated it. Think of it as reading a novel that gets you captivated by a battle but that really isn’t the purpose of the novel. The Rodney King beating was the backdrop as well as the LA Riots, the killing of Latasha Harlins,  the Tulsa Massacre and other points . All of these were important because they shaped Ashley’s changing view of the world but if you are looking for Ashley to become an activist, this isn’t for you.

There were things about Ashley that I didn’t like. Things that she allowed to fit in/stay under the radar but everyone has to learn right?

The pace of the novel was slow but it was worth it. The tone was somber even when things started to look up a bit, it doesn’t exactly change. This could be due to the fact that the environment didn’t change . . . it just got quiet (sounds familiar?).

Overall, I enjoyed this book. As I mentioned in the beginning, this should be in a book club or part of a school curriculum.

3.5 Pickles

Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Wednesday Books
TBP July 14th 2020
304 Pages

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self.

There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.- Goodreads

TW | Suicide, Rape, Domestic violence, Drugs, Murder, Abuse

Before I begin my review, I would like to note that the author addresses the difficult topics within this book in a letter to the reader. When I began reading this book, I wasn’t expecting the topics, I listed, to be so prominent in this book. I honestly didn’t know there would be these many trigger warnings.  I hope that if you do decide to read this book, understand that the magic within this book does not cover, hide or brush aside these traumas. 

Now my review. This book was drawn out to oblivion. I struggled with connecting with Mayhem because although she is in a time of her life where everything changes, she doesn’t exactly practice what she preaches. What I mean by that is she wanted family. So being back at the family home was the opportunity to do so but she didn’t dig deep into the family history, ask the right questions or even push for the information she needed to know. Yes, she did find out what she needed but to know but that was it. Even at the end of the book there was still so many things that could have been said about her family history. There was so many things that Mayhem could have known but she was solely focused on what was in her face.  I mean she is from a list of women who can use magic to save the day. There was so much to learn.

However, I loved how flawlessly the author was able to blend the magical aspects of this book with everyday life.  It was written extremely well and she made it made sense. But when I talk about the magic, I have to also talk about how there was not enough detail. Yes, you know how the family came to retrieve that magic, you know what it does to you but it is mentioned in the book that Mayhem’s aunt did a lot of research and looked up as much information as she could to collect for the next generation. This was not focused enough in the novel. This should have peaked Mayhem’s interest but it didn’t.

But overall, the book was slow and drawn out. There wasn’t enough care for details, creativity in creating this magic world or depth within the surrounding characters. Also the romantic interest had no chemistry. It just happened.

I would read this author again because I love to growth.

2 Pickles

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Knopf Children’s
TBP June 2nd, 2020
464 Pages

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) T years ohénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.- Goodreads

I dnf this book at 53%. I tried. I really did but this book is all over the place and I am surprised (I shouldn’t be) that an editor allowed the book to go to the presses in its current state.

Nina (Black Cat) joins the Thieves Guild after her father sells her sister.  But before she joins she is set to steal an item that no one. . . I mean no one has been able to steal. From that moment one she is considered the best thief there is. Here is the first red flag. How? All the author mentions is that her father took her out of assignments. She is nine. She is accepted into the guild with no information no story-line of any form of training. This is crazy because the author makes mention to Nina’s nine year old self on more than one occasion.  The author completely skips any form of build up with Nina’s career as a thief.

The second red flag is that she is able to pull off another big heist to save her adopted sister. At this point in the book, she has pretty much forgotten how to save her biological sister. She did attempt once to save her and almost got her behind handed to her but shockingly enough in the hard streets of Paris a random stranger takes pity on her and saves her from getting beat down.

The third red flag is the pace of the novel and the transitions. One moment Nina is 9 years old next she is 16 (I think. The author doesn’t exactly specify). I almost thought I was reading a different pov. The transition into older Nina aren’t good. The book moved too fast and due to that there was a lot of key details missing in the first half of the book.

I wanted to like this book, which is why I read to 53% because I was going to stop at 20%. There is good foundation but there are too many questions the author chooses not to answer. And also that whole troupe of a character just being amazing without any work is a lot of crap.

1 Pickle

Blog Tour: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Brown Books Publishing Group
TBP June 2nd 2020
248 Pages

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archaeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting. – Goodreads

Welcome to my stop on the Catalyst Book Tour!!!!

This was an interesting read because I felt like I should have read the first book. There were a few references to what happened previously but nothing specific in there that threw up a flag. However, the way the book was written it was as if the events from the first book was the elephant in the room that was only occasionally looked at from the side eye.

Beyond this the events of this book was not what I was expecting. It is science fiction but VERY science fiction and it was unexpected, which is a good thing. Predictability drops book ratings.

But the story. . .  not my cup of tea. Marcie is extremely honest and open. It not even her being naive, its her willing to be this way after the events from the previous book. She is young and she tries to come off older and wiser than what she is and it doesn’t exactly flow well.

What I liked about the book was the archaeological dig and the history that surrounds it.  I would have liked to have seen actual Natives discussing this history with the students and professors, it would have added much more depth to the novel. 

The pace of the novel moves pretty fast but there is a clear direction with some surprising turns.

Overall, the foundation of this novel  (because it is read as a standalone) is a good start to a series that can be detailed, historical and just genuinely cool.  I wanted more, especially seeing the science fiction aspect of it.

 

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Candlewick Press
TBP May 5th, 2020
368 Pages

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.- Goodreads

There is a lot going on in this novel but happily enough the author broke down this book into different POC and sections. I loved that because it shows skills as a writer.

There is a lot of character building in this novel and it stresses the fact that not everyone is who/what they seem. I liked Flora. For everything that she had to do in order to live, to help her brother and Evelyn, she was honest with herself and that is oddly hard to fine in Young Adult books.  Flora was realistic with her environment and what she needed to do but she open minded and I liked that.

Evelyn, however, was alright. She was the typical I am not your average rich person. She played her role really well but there was nothing ground breaking about her. The aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the mermaid/the sea. I love magical stories even with realistic situations to them. I would have loved to see more history and details in this particular part of the story but I was entertained.

The pace of the novel was good. There were painstakingly slow moments, where nothing at all was going on but it was worth it. This is my first read by this author and I am looking forward to see what else she has in store.

Overall,

3 Pickles