3

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen: A Snarky Reinvention of a Well-Loved Fairy Tale

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My Fairy Godmother Is a Drag Queen

Chris Bellows is just trying to get through high school and survive being the only stepchild in the social-climbing Fontaine family, whose recently diminished fortune hasn’t dimmed their desire to mingle with Upper East Side society. Chris sometimes feels more like a maid than part of the family. But when Chris’s stepsister Kimberly begins dating golden boy J. J. Kennerly, heir to a political dynasty, everything changes. Because Chris and J. J. fall in love . . . with each other.

With the help of a new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, Chris learns to be comfortable in his own skin, let himself fall in love and be loved, and discovers that maybe he was wrong about his step-family all along. All it takes is one fairy godmother dressed as Diana Ross to change the course of his life.

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen is a Cinderella retelling for the modern reader. The novel expertly balances issues like sexuality, family and financial troubles, and self-discovery with more lighthearted moments like how one rogue shoe can launch a secret, whirlwind romance and a chance meeting with a drag queen can spark magic and light in a once dark reality.

YA / Contemporary / Romance / Fairy Tale Retellings
336 Pages
Sky Pony Press
Expected Publication Date:  May 2nd, 2017
Preorder a copy here!

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: just a bit stereotypical; love the humor and personality of the voice; entertaining, endearing, wholly recreated characters; I was sucked in from start to finish; tons of delicious angst, drama, and fun; the snark is on point; LOVE how David Clawson made this retelling wholly his own

Huge thanks to David Clawson, Sky Pony Press, and Edelweiss for sending me a free digital ARC of this read in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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By now, I’m sure ALL my loyal penguins know full well that I am all about retellings. They are the bread to my readerly sandwich, after all! I am ALSO all about snarky characters, uniquely individualized reads, and reinvented story lines (especially if it’s a retelling being reinvented)! There’s nothing quite like stepping into a world you’re pretty sure you’ve seen from every angle…and being proven wrong.

 

 

David Clawson did exactly this for me with this title. I’ll be honest with you guys–when I stumbled upon this title on Edelweiss and saw it was up for instant download, I didn’t think twice. I read the title, laughed out loud like a lunatic, and promptly hit “download.” I didn’t even stop to read the blurb, which means, when I picked this book up to read…. I had no idea it was a retelling. It took only a couple of pages for me to realize that’s exactly what I was reading…and only a couple more after that to realize it was going to be entirely different from the story I thought I already knew. David Clawson took this fairy tale, and molded it into his own witty, snarky, entertaining beast–and I ADORED every second of it!

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This was a fast-paced, entertaining read with some well-written, complex, and wholly unique characters. Trust me, penguins–this is not the Cinderella cast you know, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love them to tuna fish pieces. Honestly, I feel like the relationships sewn and nurtured in this book are SO MUCH BETTER than those I’ve been reading in the recent months. They are realistic, they grow and change as the characters do, and they’re all, in some tiny way, flawed…but they’re also easy for readers to relate to. In the original Cinderella story, and the subsequent retellings I’ve had the pleasure of reading/watching… I was never quite sure WHY the stepmother and sisters hated Cinderella so much. There never seemed to be an actual reason. David Clawson approached this in a new and unique way, and managed to wrap it up in the process!

 

 

I had a ton of fun with this book, and while it leans a bit heavily on certain stereotypes, I feel the personality and uniquely individualized characters really set this apart from other Cinderella retellings. The snark was heavy-handed, the morals (being true to yourself, feeling comfortable in your own skin) are handled with sensitivity, and I just ADORED me some Coco Chanel Jones–seriously, one of the best characters EVER! I recommend this to lovers of fairy tale retellings, diverse reads, and a strong focus on the sewing and building of familial relationships. If you’re seeking YOUR Prince Charming, maybe you should wear shoes that are much too big for you…you never know whose face you’ll kick one into!

4

Saving Hamlet: With Two Worlds on Your Shoulders, You Gotta Stand Tall

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Emma Allen couldn’t be more excited to start her sophomore year. Not only is she the assistant stage manager for the drama club’s production of Hamlet, but her crush Brandon is directing, and she’s rocking a new haircut that’s sure to get his attention. But soon after school starts, everything goes haywire. Emma’s promoted to stage manager with zero experience, her best friend Lulu stops talking to her, and Josh–the adorable soccer boy who’s cast as the lead–turns out to be a disaster. It’s up to Emma to fix it all, but she has no clue where to start.

One night after rehearsal, Emma stays behind to think through her life’s latest crises and distractedly falls through the stage’s trap door . . . landing in the basement of the Globe Theater.

It’s London, 1601, and with her awesome new pixie cut, everyone thinks Emma’s a boy–even Will Shakespeare himself. With no clue how to get home, Emma gamely plays her role as backstage assistant to the original production of Hamlet, learning a thing or two about the theater, and meeting an incredibly hot actor named Alex who finds Emma as intriguing as she finds him. But once Emma starts traveling back and forth through time, things get really confusing. Which boy is the one for her? In which reality does she belong? Will Lulu ever forgive her? And can she possibly save two disastrous productions of Hamlet before time runs out?

LINKS: Amazon | B&N

molly-boothABOUT MOLLY BOOTH:

Molly Booth grew up homeschooled in Massachusetts with her four boisterous siblings. She stage managed for three different community theatres in high school. Her first college was Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, MA; she then went on to study writing, literature, and Elizabethan history on a very cold hill at Marlboro College in Vermont. There, she wrote the first drafts of Saving Hamlet, her debut novel, coming 11/1/16 from Disney Hyperion. Her second book, Nothing Happened, will be coming spring 2018.

Molly also writes for The Mary Sue, and sometimes other sites like HelloGigglesThe Tempest, and McSweeney’s.  She spends most of her time snuggling her adorable dog Suzie, pet rats Meg and Marigold, and Harriet the queen cat.

She’s represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group, and edited by Kieran Viola at Disney Hyperion.

 

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram

Interested in winning a finished copy of this awesome read?!  CLICK BELOW (US entrants only, please)–

Giveaway:  THREE (3) Finished Copies of Saving Hamlet!


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4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: hello, well-written diversity!; hugely entertaining; loaded with snark; love the mix of sci fi and historical fiction; complex, awesome characters; realistic “love” story; I laughed out loud–loudly!; such an entertaining, hilarious journey

Huge thanks to Molly Booth, Disney-Hyperion Publishers, Irish Banana Tours and Netgalley for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I have a confession to make, penguins. Lately, I’ve gotten into the habit of only skimming a book’s blurb once…and then going into the read basically blind. This is, in my opinion, the best decision I’ve ever made–because I never know for sure what to expect when picking up a book. It’s also, often, an exciting adventure. Take THIS book, for instance–I forgot everything about the blurb…except that there was something to do with Shakespeare/Hamlet. Imagine my surprise–and delight!–when the plot REALLY got underway and the time travel began! What I guess I’m saying is, if you’re the type of reader who lives for adventure, maybe you should think about adopting a similar habit.

Which is a round-about way of saying I ADORED this read! Particularly the diversity. There are several key characters from the LGBTQIA communities–and they are possibly the BEST and most well-written characters I’ve come across in YA fiction recently. They are complex, well-rounded, and individualized; they are in NO way the “token” diverse characters so many novels fall into the habit of employing. Lulu and Stanley (the two) were also my FAVORITE characters from this book, though only outranking the rest by just a little. I blame their fiercely independent and snarky tendencies–they were just too awesome to NOT love immediately.

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The plot is multi-layered and interesting. While not necessarily filled with a ton of action, I found myself on tenterhooks throughout the entire read–always wondering what was going to happen next. There are so many life lessons/morals floating throughout, including: self-confidence; self-love; acceptance; and tolerance. While Emma is on a journey toward confidence in and acceptance of herself, the rest of the crew face their own struggles and life lessons. There is so much going on, from page one–but Molly Booth blended everything into a seamless, cohesive, heart-wrenching, hilarious journey.

This was such a fun, awesome read–I am definitely impressed, and will be impatiently awaiting Molly Booth’s next release. I recommend this to lovers of time travel, diverse characters, and realistically-written romances. Also, a love for Shakespeare doesn’t hurt. Pick this book up, penguins–and let the giggle fest begin!

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2

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Book Review: A Mortal Song


A Mortal Song
Megan Crewe
Publication date: September 13th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Goodreads

Sora’s life was full of magic—until she discovered it was all a lie.

Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.

As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

“Megan Crewe’s A Mortal Song is engrossing from the first chapter. The world of the kami is beautifully fantastic and delicately drawn, and the switched-at-birth scenario made me instantly feel for both of these resilient, brave girls. A Mortal Song has lots of magic, lots of heart, and lots to love.” -Kendare Blake, author of Three Dark Crowns

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she can’t look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there.

Join her newsletter for book news, recommended reads, and exclusive giveaways: http://eepurl.com/btE8mH


GIVEAWAY:  CLICK HERE!

Seriously, guys, click the above–the giveaway is HUGE, and filled with media and treats from Japan!  GO ENTER!


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4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: diverse setting with an intriguing look into culture and mythologies from the region; strong-willed, resilient, endearing characters; lots of action and fight scenes; quick, entertaining read with a very large side of sass; awesome, unique story filled with well-crafted, relatable morals/lessons

Huge thanks to Megan Crewe, Another World Press, andGiselle @ Xpresso Book Tours for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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So first and foremost: I signed up to read this book PURELY because of the intrigue surrounding it. When I signed on for a review copy, I didn’t even have a cover or title. There was no blurb. What can I say–I’m the kind of person who picks up mystery grab bags because I want to know what’s in them! This is not, honestly, the first book I’ve signed up to review before knowing what it was–and I sort of have a ton of fun doing it this way. It’s like…mystery fuels my little penguin heart, or something.

That being said, this book? Took me by total surprise. For one thing–read that blurb up there. Read it again. This book? Takes “switched at birth” to a WHOLE new level. The setting is diverse…but THE FOCUS, guys! The focus of the plot here–on the cultures and mythologies of the region–is my favorite part of this entire read. Megan Crewe knows how to weave a story around what she learns of a corner of the world–and she proved that with this book. I had not, until opening this on my kindle, known anything about the kami mythology. Having read this, I’m disappointed by that fact–despite leaning more toward the fantastical (I mean…Sora DOES live with the kami in Mt. Fuji for most of her young life), Megan Crewe depicted the lore beautifully and with respect.

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The plot was fast paced and entertaining. From page one, we are thrust into Sora’s life, and all the drama that unfolds within just a matter of several days. There is a LOT of character growth happening in this book, as well–and not just in the case of Sora. Even the minor characters have some small semblance of growth, of backstory–every contributing character is fleshed out and brought to life almost seamlessly. This story evokes a lot of conflicting emotions, as well–as Sora struggles to come to grips with her newfound identity and role in the life she THOUGHT was hers, readers are taken on a roller coaster of an emotional journey.

There are also many profound, relatable morals and lessons sprinkled throughout that readers–particularly those struggling to come to terms with who they are or what their roles in life are–will appreciate and emote with. This is not necessarily, however, a “heavy” read–the sass in these characters is real, and it’s HUGE in several chapters. And you all know I love my books full of sass–snark is like hot fudge on a sundae in my world.

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Despite going into this read literally blind, I LOVED the journey, and will definitely be looking out for Megan Crewe works in the future. She blended mythology and culture with the fantasy/paranormal seamlessly–and made the roller coaster of emotions both profoundly relatable and emotive. Lovers of switched at birth tales, diverse settings/cultures, and stubbornly kick-ass characters will ADORE this (currently) stand-alone novel. If this sounds like your type of book–pick it up!

4

Stained: The Book May Be Short, But it Says SO Much!

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Stained

174 Pages
Harvard Square Editions Publishing
Expected Publication Date: October 3rd, 2016
Preorder a copy here!

Selina, a beautiful, British-born Pakistani young woman recently lost her father, and finds herself struggling to cope with life, in particular with some aspects of her studies. Matters go from bad to worse, when a trusted family friend from the mosque offers to tutor her, and rapes her instead. With the threat of dishonour to her family at her back, Selina goes to extreme lengths to avoid scandal, and prevent shame being brought to her widowed mother’s door. It will take all the strength and courage Selina can muster when her life travels down a dangerous path, from which there may be no return…

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: the prose is a bit stiff and awkward in places, but PENGUINS, this book is so important; diverse read; hard-hitting, emotionally-charged subject matter; super short, but SO SO heavy; Selina’s story is one of strength and poise in the face of adversity, of finding yourself despite the darkness threatening to swallow you; this book touched me deeply

Such a HUGE thank you goes to Abda Khan and Harvard Square Editions publishing for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: this book is SUPER short. Perhaps, in light of everything that happens within these pages, a bit too short to really do the emotions justice. The prose was a bit stiff and awkward throughout, though not enough to slow down my reading or confuse me. In spite of these things…this book is SO, SO super important.

 

BUT. The subject matter is very heavy. Relevant as it is–especially for other women who have, or are, or will in the future experienced such trauma–it is not a read I would recommend to just anyone. There are triggering topics brought up: rape, miscarriage, emotional abuse, self-defense, and murder are just a few of the bigger ones. If you are a sensitive reader, or are easily triggered by such heavy topics, I recommend seriously thinking on picking this book up. It’s important…but so is your safety as a reader.

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That being said, I fully appreciated–and was deeply touched by–Selina’s story. Throughout this read, she remained strong and poised in the face of adversity and trauma. She picked herself up; she tried her best to move on. Even when the world was at its darkest, she brushed the dust off and kept moving forward. There’s a lot to be said for a character who can stand so tall despite the things life throws at her; there’s a lot to be learned from such characters as Selina. More, though–her story was of finding herself DESPITE the path life set her on.

 

The prose throughout was melodic and, though dark at points, maintained a poetic beauty I admire. Though this is first person narrative from Selina’s perspective, I feel Abda Khan painted the rest of the characters in ways that made them live and breathe from the pages. The “uncle”–the villain–in particular both chilled and absolutely disgusted me, the testament of a well-written and effectively portrayed character. These characters are SO real…and it only helped to drive home the fact that there are, in the world today, people just like this walking around. That we, on a daily basis sometimes, come into contact with them without ever realizing.

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This is an important, emotionally-heavy read, and I am so honored to have been given the chance to pick it up. It is obvious Abda Khan knows and studies people–her characters were realistically portrayed and effectively written. Human nature, and the ways we deal with trauma and adversity, are two of the largest resounding topics, though I say again: this read is NOT for everyone, given the sensitive subject matter. I recommend this to readers of hard-hitting, intense, emotionally-charged stories. This book is short…but it says so, so much.

4

Blog Tour (Review) and Giveaway: How to Keep Rolling After a Fall

 

How to Keep Rolling After a Fall KeepRolling
Karole
Cozzo

(Swoon Reads)
Publication date: August 2nd 2016
Genres:
Contemporary, Young Adult

After a cyber bullying incident turns
her life upside down, a handsome wheelchair rugby player shows a former mean girl
that everyone deserves a second chance in this swoonworthy new novel from the
author of How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account.
That’s all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying
incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl’s suicide. Now Nikki’s
been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own
parents can’t look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki
resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates – almost as much as she hates herself.
But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it’s like
when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her
past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance… and everyone deserves
to be loved.

Goodreads /
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iTunes

 

 

KaroleAuthor Bio:

KAROLE COZZO is a school psychologist by day, a wife and mother of two by
night, and a writer of YA romance in the wee hours of the morning. She loves camping
out at Starbucks, breakfast cereal at all hours, and watching every movie made from her
favorite YA books. How to Say I Love You Out Loud is her debut novel.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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4Penguins
Quick Reasons: realistic, natural, human relationships; a very deep, strong focus on forgiveness…both of others, and of ourselves; an emotional, touching journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance; a haunting glimpse into human nature, and the ways we make decisions; great focus on familial relationships/the rebuilding of them after the loss of trust

Huge thanks to Karole Cozzo, Swoon Reads Publishing, Netgalley, and Xpresso Book Tours for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I guess I’ve been in sort of a “quiet reads” mood lately, guys–and this one fulfilled this mood. Also, it’s cutesy contemporary gooey romance mush, which my cold penguin heart has been craving lately as well–so, two birds!

Seriously, though–this book? Super quiet. And super adorable. And all the mushy gooey marshmallow fluff you could ever POSSIBLY want in a contemporary romance. Of course, that isn’t the MAIN focus or point of this read–I just wanted to harp on about it a while because the two characters are so freaking adorably heart-melty. But let me move on, yes?

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The focus on forgiveness in this book–both of those who’ve hurt us, and of ourselves–is astounding. The situation is so heartbreaking and realistic; every day, there are girls being bullied, boys being teased, people being hurt by other people. Every day, things like the backstory of this book happen…but we don’t often see the impact. We don’t often see how far-reaching the pain goes. And we don’t hardly ever see the struggle to overcome, the struggle to move on, the struggle to forgive. So being put into the mindset of a former mean-girl trying to find self-love and self-acceptance after such a situation…and seeing the world around her react to and treat her differently in light of the past–was both heart-wrenching and enlightening, at least for me personally.

There are some very deep and hard-hitting moments of wisdom happening throughout this book–both inside and outside our main character. Relationships are broken and repaired…or broken and left hurting. The amount of growth that Nikki goes through–from the very beginning, at that!–is enough to touch even the coldest stone hearts. This is a book that is important, though perhaps not in the way people want it to be. There is no “solution” presented. There is no moment that puts in perspective why people do the things we do. We’re all people, and that’s the point–we make mistakes. We are cruel to others, both intentionally and unintentionally. Sometimes, we do things and don’t know WHY. What matters is what we do after we screw up. What matters is that we learn something from it. This is the biggest lesson highlighted in this read–or, at least, in opinion.

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This was a quiet, emotionally-driven read…but so important, in my mind. The focus on forgiveness and human nature both surprised and pleased me; the romance is realistic and squishably-adorable. No, squishably is not actually a word–but I’m using it anyway. This was, overall, a cute and enlightening read! I definitely recommend to lovers of contemporary romance, heart-wrenching plots, and quiet but powerful prose. I will definitely be checking out more of Karole Cozzo’s writing in the future!

2

The Masterpiecers: A Tapestry of Action, Diversity, and Beautiful Prose

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The Masterpiecers

Goodreads Rating: 4.17 Stars
352 Pages
Get a copy here!

Nineteen-year-old Ivy Redd’s talent with a needle and thread has earned her a spot on a coveted reality TV art competition set in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The prize: a significant amount of money and instant acceptance into the Masterpiecers, the school that ensures new artists fame and fortune. Her talent has also thrust her and her twin sister, Aster, into the spotlight.

Not that Aster needed help with becoming a media favorite. She managed that on her own by running over a wanted mobster. She told the police it was self-defense, because she couldn’t tell them the truth—the truth would make her sister look bad.

Locked in an Indiana jail to await her trial, Aster watches Ivy on the small TV hanging in the dayroom. It’s the highlight of her day, until she finds out what her sister truly thinks of her. Then, observing her sister becomes a punishment far crueler than imprisonment.

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: sensitively written diversity (and lots of it!); awesome, complex, wholly individualized characters; lots of tension, mystery, and secrets to be uncovered; beautiful, melodic prose; fast-paced, action-packed plot

Huge thanks to Olivia Wildenstein and YA Bound Book Tours for sending me an egalley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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I want to start with the most obvious thing first: PENGUINS, that cover is gorgeous! I admit, when I first looked this book up on goodreads, I was only about 80% sure I wanted to read it. I will admit further….the cover? Absolutely swayed me. Something about the red against the dark background is just so subtly beautiful and creepy at the same time. I just ADORE how the cover artist designed this one, too—it’s so perfect and fitting for the story within.

 

Secondly, this book? SO. MUCH. DIVERSITY. There are POC characters; characters with mental illness (schizophrenia and PTSD); LGBTQ+ characters… Diversity SEEPS from the pages, and it’s done so, so beautifully. None of it feels contrived. The mental illnesses are maturely and sensitively written. It all comes together in a beautifully captivating tapestry of humanity—my hats off to Olivia Wildenstein, she wrote this SO gorgeously I can’t even.

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The main characters, while twins, are written in such distinctive, unique voices, I never had trouble telling which was narrating at any given moment (though chapter headings DO specify which twin that section follows, which was helpful at the beginning) The rest of the characters also captured my attention and proved themselves to be individualized, separate cohabitants of this story.

 

There are, of course, secrets—this is a mystery/thriller, after all. Secrets are sort of the main point. So while at the end, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I’d learned and how much I only THOUGHT I knew…there’s a second book set to release in the near future that will, hopefully, help to clear up the few confusing things floating around in my head having closed this book. The plot is fast-paced. The ending, especially for one of our sisters, is a tiny bit confusing on certain details…but given her health decline at this point, that’s to be expected.

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Overall, this was an entertaining, perplexing, and gorgeous read. The prose is melodic and atmospheric. The plot is full of action and beautifully detailed. The characters are vibrant and wholly individualized. I am now DROOLING for book two, and whatever adventure awaits our sister duo. I recommend this read to lovers of mystery/thrillers, sensitively-written diversity, and rag-tag motley crews. I cannot wait to find out what happens next!

3

Grey: This World-Building is Anything But Dull

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Grey (The Romany Outcasts #1)

Goodreads Rating: 4.24 Stars
344 Pages
Harper Voyager Publishing
Get a copy here!

Can you still love with a heart of stone?

Sebastian Grey always thought he was a fairly normal teenager – good friends, decent grades and a pretty sweet job in his foster brother’s tattoo shop.

But when Romany gypsies arrive in town, Sebastian discovers that his world is not what it seems. There is an age-old feud between his family and the gypsies – and this isn’t the only secret his brother has been keeping from him. His life is not his own. The girl he’s been dreaming about has just turned up at school, and he feels compelled to protect her at all costs.

Even if that means life might never be normal again.

4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: awesome characters; unique world-building; intriguing, complex plot; engaging story-telling; fantastical, magical characters; I haven’t read anything quite like this; CIRCUS! (because you all know the circus holds a special place in my heart); insta-love…but for a reason; I did not see that ending coming

Huge thanks to Christi J. Whitney, Harper Voyager Publishing, and Xpresso Book Tours for sending me an egalley of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Penguins, this book is fantastic! No, really—I can’t even right now.

Christi J. Whitney pulled on Roma culture and folk lore to weave a beautiful, captivating tale—and create some unique, awe-inspiring characters at the same time. I have never read anything quite like this—it enthralled and ensnared, it crept across my skin like mist and stuck there like glue… This book, for lack of a better word, was magical for me. And that? That doesn’t happen very often.

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The plot is fast-paced and unique. I had NO IDEA where this story were headed, when I stepped into this read—and I’m going to leave it that way for you all, as well. The less you know about this book, the better. Trust me. There aren’t plot twists, necessarily…but there’s no way to know what’s coming next. This book took the path NEVER traveled by, and leads readers into wild and unknown territory. Christi J. Whitney started this book with huge secrets, and reveals them just a little at a time. No, scratch that—she dangles readers on a hook of mystery and bewilderment, and only reels them in enough to keep them tantilized. I was enticed throughout…and am now drooling to dive into book two. It’s a good thing I have a copy of it waiting for me.

There IS insta-love. There are TWO special snowflake characters. But. BUT. These tropes are so warped and twisted to fit this story, I think you’ll forgive their use. The insta-love? Has a much deeper, farther-reaching momentum…and doesn’t lead quite the place you’ll expect it to. And the special snowflakes? Well…this book IS magical, and part of the magic is that this trope is muted. Watered-down. I’m sure book two will at least help to clear a few things up, in regards to this specific trope.

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I just…GAAAAH! I will be immediately jumping into book two—I can’t wait to see what the future has waiting these awesome characters! I definitely recommend this to lovers of fantasy/magical realism, unique and engaging story-telling, and well-written literary tropes. This book reeled me in like a penguin on a hook; maybe you should bite, too!

5

The Art of Being Normal: A Discovery of Self You shouldn’t Miss

 

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

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4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: fantastic, realistic, well-written diversity; a sensitive and mature handling of an important subject; lovable, quirky characters; a great glimpse into various different familial relationships; not insta-love, but insta-friendship

Huge thanks to Lisa Williamson, David Fickling Books publishers, and Netgalley for access to this digital galley in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or perceived this book.

When I discovered this book while browsing Netgalley, I knew immediately I needed to read it. Needless to say, I was super excited when, just a day later, I was approved for access. I’ve just finished reading…and WOW. Wow. I was so not disappointed!

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A sort of modern coming-of-age story, this focuses on a lot of mature, weighted subjects—the biggest and most important of which being self-acceptance, and self-love. Like many books I’ve read recently, this is written in dual points of view. But these journeys are so separate, so individualized for the character—Leo, with learning it’s okay to let others see who he is, and Kate, with figuring out how to accept herself and be honest with those she loves—that it isn’t difficult to keep the stories straight and find yourself rooting for the both of them. These characters are so strong, their voices so clear and heart-wrenching, you’ll find yourself flying (much like I did!) through the pages, pleading to know what happens next, begging the bookish powers that be for an ending that doesn’t shatter you.

Of course, I feel like there are some characters we don’t get to know as well as the main. Kate’s best friends, Essie and Felix, for instance fall a bit flat for me. At the end, I adored them and how awesome they were about setting up their alternative Ball…but for most of the book, we don’t see enough of them to really comprehend their validity/existence as characters (does that make sense? it’s almost like they’re not REALLY there, even though they are.) Leo’s siblings—especially his twin, Amber—also fall a bit flat for me. We are told that Leo is super close to Amber, but…we aren’t really shown that, as for most of the book she’s not at home or not around.

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There are some emotional, heavy moments of bullying detailed in certain parts of this, so if you’re triggered by that sort of thing, you might not want to pick this up unless you know you can handle those scenes. They aren’t triggering in the way of violence, necessarily, but are pretty tough to read regardless.

The multiple journeys toward self-discovery/self-acceptance and, more importantly, closure or support in familial relationships are realistic and so well-written. I found myself holding my breath for the characters, rooting them on and trying to pick them up when they fell. Because the book is written in first-person perspective, I felt as if these characters were speaking directly TO me, instead of at me, which only heightened the sense of protectiveness I felt toward them.

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This was an illuminating, emotional read, and I am so glad I picked it up! I’d definitely recommend to readers of contemporary, coming-of-age journeys, and diverse characters. If you let it, this book is bound to touch your heart—and stay there.

15

The Star-Touched Queen, by Roshani Chokshi

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Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.

Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

This book comes out THIS YEAR…and I’ve only heard a LITTLE about it, from the wonderful Eve Messenger.  WHY?!  Why isn’t this book everywhere?!  I don’t understand.

One way or another…I’m reading this book this year!  Who’s with me?!

6

A Review of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow

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This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

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5 Stars
Quick Reasons: unique, poetic language that helps put us into the characters’ heads; well-written, non-linear plot; not a journey in way of plot, but a journey toward self-discovery and truth; there’s a lot of character growth (and some character regression)

This book tore my heart from my chest, twisted it into about a thousand knots, ate it like licorice…..and then spat it back out for me to retrieve! Not even an exaggeration. 2016, you’ve thrown some pretty spectacular reads my way so far! It’s only been three days, here’s hoping you don’t peter out anytime soon!

This is the third diverse read of the year for me. So far, I haven’t been let down yet, though I think this one’s my top favorite of the three. SHHH! Don’t tell the others; they’ll be upset.

My children are one half of black. They are also one half of me. I want them to be anything. They are not just a color that people see.

The language is absolutely beautiful. It’s got a quiet sort of poetry, a flair for individuality… throughout, no matter which section or point of view, I felt as if the narrator was speaking directly to me. Each of these voices—Rachel’s, Nella’s, Laronne’s, Brick’s—rings true to their personality and their journeys. Above all, they each get to tell their stories to the reader. While some, like Nella’s, are more distanced, they’re all sort of guiding the reader where Heidi W. Durrow wants them to end up.

The journey, while heartbreaking and at times tough to stomach, is so gorgeously done. This book is not for lovers of action stories or fast-paced plots; there’s a subtler, quieter discovery going on. Instead of a race to find a killer, or some complicated fight between good and evil…this is ALL about the discovery of self. Mostly Rachel’s—hers touches on so many hard-hitting, wise and important epiphanies. This is the sort of book I feel many people might relate to—the schism of morals discovered throughout are bound to teach readers about themselves along the way.

Heredity isn’t supposed to work backward. I think about these things: the way that science or math tells us certain things. Math can explain the reason there’s a one out of four chance that I’d have blue eyes. But it doesn’t explain why me. And science or math can’t explain what makes one person lucky, or what makes a person lucky enough to survive.

If you’re searching for a fluffy, light read…this is not it. It starts immediately on the deep, emotionally-charged feel train and it doesn’t let off the petal once. If you’re seeking a fast-paced, filled to the brim with action book…again, this is not it. There’s a type of drama happening, but it’s more focused on the characters and their journeys than on the plot. And I LOVED that about this book, the artful blend of humanity and growth Heidi W. Durrow wrote. The poetic beauty of the language, as well, helped to craft and mire these characters in my mind.

I would advise readers to take care: there are some heavy, triggering subjects broached in these pages. If you’re at all bothered by abuse, suicide, molestation, or bullying, you shouldn’t read this unless you know you can handle it. While the plot isn’t focused on action, a LOT happens in this read—it’s all done with sensitivity and maturity, but it’s not all easy to read through.

“Hey,” Brick says finally. “What did you wish?”

“I can’t tell you,” I say. But I think, If only Robbie had been a bird. If only we had been a family that could fly.

This book is the epitome of a life-ruiner. It will change how you look at the world, if you let it—and you should! I definitely recommend to lovers of diverse characters, journeys of self-discovery, and reads with an emotional punch. I will be thinking about this book for a LONG time to come; maybe you should give it a chance to break you, too!