#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date 2

Title: The Wedding Date

Author: Jasmine Guillory

Publishing Date:  January 30th 2018

Published by:  Berkley

Genres: Adult, Romance

Pages: 224 pages

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

Goodreads | Amazon

The first half of The Wedding Date is full of cute, romantic and even some relatively steamy moments. The main character, Alexa, is smart, strong and driven and then the other main character, Drew, is really charming, at least in the first half of the book. Both characters have established careers that they are passionate about, which makes the story and the characters more compelling.

Something else that adds to the story is the fact that Alexa and Drew are an interracial couple, Alexa is black and this is #ownvoices representation, while Drew is white. Throughout the book, there are scenes where they have some interesting conversations about race, which adds depth to this story and make it more engaging. Also, this book does a very good job of showing Alexa’s insecurities and how society’s beauty standards  can affect someone body image.

The second half of this is where things go a bit south for me.  As I mentioned before,  the main character, Drew, is pretty charming thorughout the first half of this  and I even like him in the second half when he is with Alexa. Nonetheless, everytime Drew is with his best friend, Carlos, especially towards the end, he’s an asshole and a terrible friend, which takes away from the belief that he is a great guy for Alexa, because someone who is rude and inconsiderate towards their friends isn’t exactly good relationship material.

Another issue I have with this book is that the problems between Alexa and Drew in the second half are communication problems and they could have been solved easily. I think this is particulary frustrating because at the beginning of the book, Alexa and Drew are established as mature and intelligent characters, and so it was a bit unbelievable that they couldn’t have an honest and open conversation about their relationship. I understand that the fact that the relationship starts with fake dating makes them have doubts about it, but I also think that their inhability to communicate and talk drags out way too long.

Overall, this is a fun and cute read, especially at the beginning, and it deals with important subjects like race and body image in a very good way. Nonetheless, it loses some of its appeal by the end because both the main character, Drew, and the relationship between Drew and Alexa become less charming.

Rating: 3,6  stars

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Review

Book Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Frost and Starlight

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publishing Date: May 1st 2018

Published by: Bloomsbury YA

Genres: Fantasy, YA

Pages: 272

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Goodreads | Amazon 

This book was so disappointing, it was absolutely unnecesary. Most of this book revolves around characters walking around Velaris and shopping for presents. Then there’s scenes that are simply fans’ wish fulfillment. Also, there was a really weird sex scene in this that left me confused and creep out.

The chapters I thought were interesting were the ones told from Casssian’s and Nesta’s perspective, because they gave a little bit of  insight into the next books in the series. But to be honest, this book gave almost no information about the next book and that was frustrating. I feel like Mor may also play a big role in the next books because she got a POV in this book, but I think one of her chapters was a disservice to her character and the other one made no sense. Going back to Nesta, one part of the book that I actually found interesting and compelling was the portrait of Nesta’s PTSD. To me, she is the most interesting and complex character in the series and I’m looking forward to read from her POV.

There were three or four scenes from Feyre’s and Rhysand’s POV that I thought were cute or interesting or fun to read, like the christmas scene where all the characters were together. Nonetheless, I feel like Sarah J. Maas could have realesed those scenes as bonus content in her newsletter or website or anywhere, but there was no need for an entire book. Almost every scene in this was pointless. I feel like this book needed a lot more editing.

So, why did this get 3 star and not less? I actually don’t know…. I think it’s because when I first heard the name of the book, I thought SJM was going to take this in another direction. I thought she was gonna have the next books be about the Winter Court and about Mor, and as much as I love Mor, I wanted my Cassian and Nesta book. Since this book confirmed that they are gonna be main characters in the next books, it made me happy. Also, I loved their scenes together in this book, getting to read from their POV and, as I said before, the portrait of Nesta’s PTSD. Additionally, I think the teaser we got from the next book also help this in terms of rating, which I know doesn’t make sense since that’s part of another book, but it just made me enjoy the experience of reading this a lot more.

Rating: 3 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Title: The Poet X

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Publishing Date: March 6th 2018

Published by: HarperTeen

Genres: Comtemporary, YA

Pages: 368

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Goodreads | Amazon 

The Poet X is an #ownvoices story about a dominican american girl called Xiomara. It’s a story that explores Xiomara’s struggle with inhabiting her body, a body that attracs attention and because of it, it’s unwillingly subjected to the male gaze; it also deals with growing up in a conservative latinx family that it’s extremely religious and that imposes faith and leaves no room for questions. It’s a book about trying to figure who you are in an enviroment that doesn’t leave much room to do so.

This book is written in verse, which allows the reader to connect with the main character, Xiomara, and her struggles so much more and it makes the story more compelling than it would have been if it was written like a normal novel. We get a direct line to the powerful emotions that she is experiencing and trying to express, which allows an intimacy that it wouldn’t have been possible any other way. Despise being written in verse, the narration is still easy to follow because all the different parts are connected and one flows into the other with ease.

One of  the strongest aspects of the book is the exploration of faith and religion; reading from Xiomara’s pespective, the reader gets to understand all her doubts around her own faith, but also her questioning of the rol that women have been assigned in catholisms as the sinners, the temptation and a lot of times the inferior gender. It also explores the tension that exists in a lot of latinx families when it comes to religion and how even when certain ceremonies like the Confirmation are meant to be a voluntary acceptance of the faith, they become this mandatory step to be a part of the family. Also, the way this books draws a parallel between prayer and poetry is absolutely sublime and it’s done in a very powerful way.

This book also explores complicated family dynamics and it’s particulary interesting to see the mother/daughter relationship; the misunderstanding, the judgement, the contrary beliefs, but also the way it develops when both mother and daughter try to understand each others truths. They don’t arrive to that point until a huge confrontation that it’s intense, raw and heartbreaking, but seeing the ups and downs of their relationships is compelling and engaging.

Throughout the story, Xiomara discovers slam poetry and it’s amazing to experience, through her perspective, the freedom and the happiness of finding a way to express all her thoughts and emotions in a time of her life when she really needs that outlet.

Rating: 4.7 stars 

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Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Summer fo Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

the summer of jordi perez

Title: The Summer of Jordi Peres (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Author: Amy Spalding

Publishing Date: April 3rd 2018

Published by:  Sky Pony Press

Genres: Contemporary, YA

Pages: 224 pages

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her? Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?

Goodreads | Amazon

The Summer of Jordi Perez starts with Abby, the main character, on her way to her first day working at her favorite boutique. I feel like the first few pages are not the best introduction to Abby as a character. Abby is very, very disperse at the beginning, she gets distracted way too easily and it’s a bit annoying because we’re reading the story from her perspective. But if you give it a few pages that distractiveness isn’t a big character trait in the rest of the book.

After that rough start, I actually got to like Abby. She is a pink-haired, fat, lesbian girl, who loves fashion and blogs about it and is always dressed in colorful clothes. Then there’s Jordi, the love interest, a talented mexican-american girl, who loves photography and dresses all in black. The amount of good representation in this book, in terms of sexuality, body-positivity and ethnicity is lovely to see.

From the start, it’s easy to tell this is the story of a first love, there’s certain innocence to the relationship and the romance that made the story sweet and put a smile on my face. There’s instant attraction between the characters, but the relationship development is organic.  They like each other, they go on dates and it doesn’t take forever for them to get together. Abby and Jordi are incredibly cute together and there’s so many sweet moments. The conflict that surges between them is very predictable, there’s a lot of not so subtle hints about it, and it’s not the biggest conflict ever, but it’s easy to understand where the characters are coming from. At the end, this is a very adorable story, so don’t expect lots of angst and drama when it comes to the conflict, which to be honest is something I really like about it.

I was expecting the whole best burgers of Los Angeles plot to be a bit more important since it’s on the title of the book. The reality is that Abby and Jax go eat burgers together in several ocasions throughout the book and they become friends because of that. They are very different people and they have very different perspectives and it is interesting to read their conversations, which  are hilarious, and the burgers are more an excuse for their friendship to develop that anythig else. Don’t go into this book expecting amazing food descriptions because that’s not what you’re gonna find. Instead, you’ll get an amazing and compelling friendship, that will keep you entertain. It is one of my favorite parts of the story.

Other interesting subjects and themes that are present in this books are: complex family dynamics, especially between Abby and her mom; then there’s female friendship, Abby has 3 friends who are not perfect, but they are supportive, encouraging and loving; and also there’s abby’s work in the boutique, which revolves around social media, it’s really great to see the real applications of social media in buisness and the importance that it has, because it’s such a big part of our world.

Overall, this is short, cute and funny story with a diverse cast of characters, that addresses important subjects and that will have you smiling the entire time. 

Rating: 4 stars

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Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

the way you make me feel

Title: The Way You Make Me Feel

Author: Maurene Goo

Publishing Date: May 8th 2018

Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Genres: Comtemporary, YA

Pages: 288

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Goodreads | Amazon 

This books is a love Letter to L.A. from the very beginning. We get commentary about different neighborhoods, who primarily lives there, what type of activities are done there and what types of food are sold in them. All of that, without being info-dumpy and managing to keep it interesting. Also, there’s a lot of talk about food, not only because the main character’s dad has a food truck, but also because Clara, the main character likes to try different things. So, be prepared for amazing food descriptions that will make you hungry. 

Now, in terms of Clara, the main character, let’s start with the fact that she likes to pull pranks on people and sometimes she goes bit too far. I do have to mention the fact that there’s a scene that bothers me because Clara intentionally triggers her dad’s trypophobia and the fact that that wrong is never addressed. Clara is a bit apathetic and mean at the beginning, but then she spends the summer working and being responsable and we get to see her grow so much as a character. Also, she spends the summer surrounded with people her age that have goals and ambitions and that definitely helps her as well. Really there’s a lot of character development and it’s wonderful to see. 

From the beginning of the book,  the father/daughter relationship has a very important place in the story. Clara’s relationship with her dad is not perfect, he can be too lenient and she can be really mean, but there’s comunication, love and support. Also, the way that relationship develops throughout the book is beautiful. Seeing Clara realise how lucky she is and what an amazing dad she has and learn to appreciate that was really heartwarming.

The female friendship in this story was the most wonderful thing ever. At the start of the book, Clara and Rose hate each other, but when they are forced to work together they become friends. I love Rose and I really related to the way she talked about her anxiety. Also, I really like the ways Rose helps Clara see things in a different way and aspire to be less apatethic towars life.  Seeing them be there for each other was so beautiful.

In regard to the romance, I will say that it’s not the focus of the story.  At the beginning, I felt like there was no chemestry between Clara, the main character, and Hamlet, the  love interesting. But Hamlet is such a soft hero, he’s nice, thoughtful and respectful and he won me over the same way he did with Clara. They are so cute together and I couldn’t stop smiling when I read about them together.

Overall, this is a fun and cute story with amazing characters and tempting food descriptions. 

Rating: 4 stars 

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Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin

the queen of ieflaria

Title: The Queen of Ieflaria

Author: Effie Calvin

Publishing Date:  February 19th 2018

Published by: Nine Star Press

Genres: Fantasy, YA

Princess Esofi of Rhodia and Crown Prince Albion of Ieflaria have been betrothed since they were children but have never met. At age seventeen, Esofi’s journey to Ieflaria is not for the wedding she always expected but instead to offer condolences on the death of her would-be husband.

But Ieflaria is desperately in need of help from Rhodia for their dragon problem, so Esofi is offered a new betrothal to Prince Albion’s younger sister, the new Crown Princess Adale. But Adale has no plans of taking the throne, leaving Esofi with more to battle than fire-breathing beasts.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Queen of Ieflaria has two main characters, Eofi and Adale, who are complete opposites, but both of them manage to be complex, flawed and compelling characters. A big portion of this book is focused on developing their relationship from reluctantly liking each other to being friends to having romantic feelings. While their relationship is explored, the book maneges to show a bit of the world, how the kingdoms are divided, how things work in Ieflaria, the problems the kingdom is facing and how the magic system works. It’s not a super detailed description of these aspects, but it shows the basics.

In this book, the magic system is intimately related to gods, goddesses and the mythology that surrounds them. What we get to see a magic system that it’s interesting even if it’s similar to the magic system in other YA fantasy books. Nonetheless, there’s an elements that made this world and this magic system especial: the dragons. This is definitely not the first book in YA to have dragons, but this book does something a bit wacky  in regards to the dragons right at the end, which is gonna play a bigger role in the rest of the series.

I did have a problem with this book because there are some elements in terms of worldbuilding and magic system that are fascinaring ideas, but that are never fully developed and are left in the air. Some of those elements I will not mention because they are spoilers, but one example is a secret cult that exist around one of the goddesses, which sounded like a fascinating addition to the story but it was never really explored. Also, there were several mentions of  a tension between magic and science within this world, and it was a source of disagreement between the main characters, Eofi and Adele. That tension could have given more depth to the book and made it more thought provoking, but unfortunately it was never fully explored either. Even if we are left with these holes, I think in future books a lot of the aspects that were left unexplored are going to add very compelling elements to the story.

Now  into the romance, which was my favorite part of this book. The romance in this book is a slow burn and a fantastic one at that, they have a bit of a rough start but it becomes obvious pretty fast that they good for each other and they complement each other really well. There were a lot of sweet moments between the main characters, Eofi and Adale, and the reader gets to see how they slowly build a friendship. Both characters had things to learn from the other and they managed to do that. Even when there’s some miscommunication between them, it’s resolved quickly.

Even if the exploration of the world, the characters and the relationships between them is really interesting, the set up for the story and the build up of the relationship between the two main characters lasted way too long. Around 70% of the book is set up and then all of the sudden, in the last part of the book, it feels like everything happens, all the action takes places and it does feel a bit rush. Nonetheless, the last 20% of this book hints at a very fascinating and unique story in the rest of the series. 

Overall, this books has complex and compelling characters, an amazing romance and an interesting magic system. Nonetheless, it very much feels like a set up book for the rest of the series. There’s ideas and plot elements that are mentioned but left for later. Hopefully, all the set up pays off in the future books.

Rating: 3,8 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth (Blog Tour)

Superhero Origins tour banner (large)

Hi guys! I’m lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for this amazing book called Secondhand Origin Stories, which is a diverse book that involves sensitive issues, such as systemic racism and ableism.  I loved the book, here’s my review:

Secondhand Origin Stories cover.png

Title: Secondhand Origin Stories

Author: Lee Blauersouth

Publishing Date: 15 March 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, YA

Pages: 364

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

Goodreads | Amazon 

This book drops you right in the middle of a world where superheroes, villains and people with habilities exist, there’s especial goverment agencies and police units that regulate them and there’s corruption and injustice surrounding them. You have to learn about this world as you read, you see how everything works through the chracters’ perspectives and that’s how you learn about it. For me this worked really well, it didn’t take me too long to feel like I understood at least the basics of how the world worked and, after a little bit, I was able to keep up with the story without problem.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book was that it was intriguing from the start, there were secrets and mysteries around the four main characters and they didn’t know the answers either and they were trying to figure things out and that sucked me into the story inmediately, because I wanted to know what was going on.

As I said before, there’s four main characters, which were my favorite aspect of this book. I fell in love very quickly with three of those characters: Isaac, Yael and Jamie. They were the children of the superheroes and they were really complex characters,  a genius scientist, an non-binary aspiring superhero and a character that is both vulnerable and so strong. From the pov of these three characters, the reader gets to see the dynamics of the superhero team and how it is not only a team but a family. That element is crucial to the story, because the complicated family dynamics, which I found fascinating to read about, promt a lot of the events that move the plot along.

Then there’s the fourth main character, Opal, which took me a little longer to love. Opal is an outsider to the team, to the family and she very much felt like an outsider to the story for at least the first half of the book. During that first half, I prefered to read from the other 3 perspectives, because from them I could learn more about all the secrets that were being kept. Later on, when the circumstances made it so that all four characters have to be together in a more full time basis, that’s when I fell in love with Opal as well. She is a nice, smart, compasionate, down to earth character with a strong moral sense.

Secondhand Origin Stories is definitely a character driven book much more than a plot driven one. The main problems that the characters are trying to solve are corruption and injustice in such a large scale that one book is not enough to confront all the different characters that  play a part in that. This book, as the first in the series, manages to: make the characters aware of the problems, makes them decide to do something about it and makes sure that the team is as strong as it can be. It’s defintely a book that’s setting things up, but it’s not boring or slow, there’s so many things happening all the time. There’s one main storyline, that’s really interesting,  about technology and the ethical use of it, that’s one of the first issues that the characters have to confront and it has a direct relation to the corruption and injustice that they are trying to change.

I think it’s important to mention that this is a really diverse book. The main characters are all queer, including a non binary main character.  Also, one of the main characters is a black girl and there’s conversations throughout the book about systematic racism and especially about racial profiling and incarceration of black people. Additionally, there are deaf characters and there are characters that use ASL to communicate, and while there’s ableism portrait in this book, it’s called out and talked about on page.

Rating: 4,5 stars 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Blauersouth

After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.

If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.

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