Friday, May 8, 2020

Friday Fun Post: When Meeting a TBF Author...

Hi everyone! It's May already, and although TBF has been postponed, I'm hopeful that we'll all be able to meet our favorite authors sometime in the future. And so today's post will be about just that: meeting TBF authors. Whether you're volunteering or attending, meeting the authors is usually the highlight of the day, so here's some advice from my personal experience!

1. Be an author assistant! Volunteering at TBF is always so much fun, and even more so when you get your very own author for a day. I was an author assistant for Kim Savage in 2017 and Claire Legrand/Roshani Chokshi in 2018, and both years I had an amazing experience! I loved being able to chat with the authors before the day started and during breaks, and it made the whole "talking-with-authors-you-really-love" experience a lot less intimidating and a lot more free-flowing.

2. Don't be shy! And side note: talk with other readers! I've found that standing in line during the autographing session is a great opportunity to meet new people because you already have something in common with everyone else (and books are great discussion topics). Authors are also so down to earth, so don't be afraid to ask questions, take photos, and get your books or bookplates signed!

3. Let the authors know how much their book matters to you! Or how excited you are to read their upcoming works! I guarantee that it will make them smile, and it's also a great way to start a conversation and start asking all those burning questions you might have. I personally love to ask authors about their writing process and book journeys, what they wish they had known when they started writing, and any general advice they have for others.

And of course, have fun at TBF and enjoy the experience because it really is something special :)

This may be my last post, so I would just like to say that I've had so much fun blogging this year! I've read some amazing books so far and look forward to many more!

Best wishes,

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Book Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Hello everyone! I hope you have all been doing well. This week I'll be sharing Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never understand.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

I'm a physical-book type of reader, but like many of us I suspect, I've been shifting increasingly toward e-books during this time, and even more recently, toward audiobooks. While I've never been an avid audiobook listener, I decided this week to try listening to Perfect, as it was the only format I had available. As I soon discovered, Perfect is the perfect book to listen to (haha).

Ellen Hopkins has a distinctive verse style, and there is a rhythm to her writing that made me feel at times that I was listening to spoken word poetry, not just recited lines. Each chapter was like a mini podcast episode in each of the characters' lives, and I truly felt like I was inside their minds, listening to their inner monologues, hearing their words as they were meant to be imparted. I’ve read other Ellen Hopkins’ novels before, but listening added a whole new dimension to the story and a newfound appreciation for the structure of her writing.

Onto the actual plot of the story: Perfect provides windows into the interconnected and messy lives of Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre--four ordinary yet intricate individuals. The unglamorized description of their teenage experiences--fractured families, distorted body images, complicated relationships, obstacles in expressing love and identity, tragedies, and manipulation--share struggles so often glossed over in YA fiction. Each chapter is spent in the mind of one of the four protagonists, and for that time at least, you understand on some level their motivations, rationale, and desires, whether they be right or wrong. Their experiences are certainly not universal, but there is something inextricably real about their lives, something about their imperfections that makes them relatable nevertheless.

I really enjoyed listening to Perfect, and it was the reality and humanness of the characters that made this novel stand out to me. I would highly recommend it to fans of books like Dig (A.S. King) and Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson). One last note: Perfect is the companion novel of Impulse, and while I have not read the latter, Perfect seems to stand on its own.

Happy reading!

Find Perfect in the Monroe County Library System (Overdrive here), Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Giddyup for a Great Read

Hello everyone! I hope that you are all staying safe in this difficult time. There really is no better time to escape into the pages of a book if you are longing to leave your house... no need to social distance from your favorite book character! Luckily, I have just the suggestions for you if you are looking for a great read.
Ghetto Cowboy by [G. Neri, Jesse Joshua Watson]
Picture courtesy of
Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri  and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, has everything that you could possibly want in a book. A strong and cheeky protagonist? Check. A budding father-son relationship that you will always root for? Check. A wise old man always willing to provide food? Check. A bunch of horses? You bet. Neri's tale has got something special with its narrator. Cole is strong willed, with just enough sass to breath life into his character. You root for Cole as he navigates a difficult situation and attempts to form a relationship with a parent that he never knew. The twelve year old boy, with all of the triumph and the flaws, slowly learning and maturing to wisdom beyond his years is wonderful to trace.
The setting of a horse farm in the city is unexpected, with the flare of wild west welcome in an urban area. Neri breaths life into the scene, painting a masterful picture of a stable in a city and horses in the streets. Of course, Neri doesn't have to rely solely on his words to paint a picture. There are absolutely gorgeous illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, which are a special treat to look at and bring the story to life. Personally, my favorite is the one where Cole is meeting the horse for the first time.
Neri also provided valuable social commentary in his work, using the book to show the difficulties faced by a young boy growing up with a single, working parent. Cole faces adversity with grace and grows through the opportunities provided to him.
I cannot recommend Ghetto Cowboy highly enough. It is filled to the brim and overflowing with heart. If you are looking for a book the will use words to utterly transport you and provide you with amazing characters, look no further. In fact, here is a handy amazon link if you want to go out and buy it right now (because, dear reader, have I every led you astray?).
Stay safe everyone and take some time to read a good book as you wait for summer weather and an end to quarantine.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday Fun Post: A TBF Book Close to My Heart

Hello everyone! I love the topic of today's post, because I could really go on and on about the books that have made a significant impact on my life, especially growing up.

The books that have shaped me fundamentally are very distinct in my mind from the rest. They have a special place in my heart as well as my bookshelf, and also a special title--I refer to them as the "books of my childhood" (a little dramatic but they truly are). These were the books that I owned when I started to love reading in second and third grade, the ones that made me fall in love with reading even more. These were the books I read and reread so much that they are imprinted in my mind today, and to me, they have immeasurable value.

If I had to award the title of "The Book of my Childhood," it would honestly be a tie. But one of the victors would be Song of the Wanderer (Book Two of The Unicorn Chronicles) by Bruce Coville, a TBF alum (and if you're wondering, the other is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, another fine novel).

(As a slight aside, you might be wondering: Why Book Two? To answer, I had an interesting habit when I was younger of reading book series out of order, and The Unicorn Chronicles was one of them. If you're starting this series today, Book One is Into the Land of the Unicorns.)

I remember being completely captivated by Song of the Wanderer--it was one of the first proper fantasy novels I ever read, and the rich descriptions of magic, mythical creatures, and adventures created a world I longed to be a part of. I still remember bits and pieces of the plot, but more than that, the novel evokes a strong sense of nostalgia and memories of that time. Looking at the creased cover, I remember sprawling on the basement floor, a slight chill in the air, opening to the first chapter where Cara meets with the Queen. Flipping through the now delicate pages, I remember carrying it with me everywhere I went--at home, at school--and the day the first page of the table of contents flew out after being worn through many, many page turns.

I loved Song of the Wanderer so much, I went to the Children's Book Festival sometime afterward to meet Bruce Coville myself. I remember stopping him awkwardly as he passed in the hallway, but he took the time to sign my copy and take a photo with me. "Follow the unicorn path!" he wrote, and I certainly hope I have.

This all occurred eight or nine years ago, but Song of the Wanderer still has great personal significance. Like my other "books of my childhood," I will never forget it, as I firmly believe it is imprinted somewhere in the fabric of who I am. These novels sparked my love of reading and writing, and that is truly fundamental to my identity.


Friday, April 10, 2020

TBF Book that Holds My Heart

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)
Book cover courtesy of Goodreads
Hi TBF readers! I hope that you are all staying healthy and reading some fantastic books! I have a suggestion that is particularly close to my heart today. 
    I have been going to Teen Book Fest for years now. Unfortunately, I had not read this author’s books when he attended in both 2014 and 2015 (I am still crying over this). It took me a couple of years after to read Neal Shusterman’s incredible work. The book that I keep coming back to, years after I read it is Shusterman’s Scythe, which I will forever assert to be one of the most creative and all around incredible books that I have read. The concept itself is chilling and fascinating. A society where death has been conquered but there is a group employed in controlling the population by taking life. A society ruled by a computer and controlled by a computer. The world building is phenomenal and Shusterman has this fantastic grasp on human psychology so he is able to sell this horrifying idea as realistic. The characters that Shusterman creates are neither sinners nor saints, but incredibly vibrant, sympathetic, and three dimensional. 
    I think that Shusterman’s story was one of the things that prompted me to become interested in psychology and philosophy, philosophy being one of my intended majors in college. It asked questions about what it meant to be human, what it meant to be alive, and what it meant to struggle with ethical questions. Citra and Rowan did not come up with perfect answers. Neither did Scythe Faraday. They all had different approaches, different ideas of right and wrong, different things that they placed importance on that colored their decisions. The third book of the trilogy was recently published and I loved that Shusterman did not decide to conduct an easy ending, where everything falls into place perfectly. Shusterman has never failed to make this incredibly alien world have a toll of truth. One of the more powerful treasures of this book is this: “My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” These are the types of questions that Shusterman struggles with. In a world where death has been conquered, what makes these people human? In a world where killing is a venerated profession, how can a sense of morality remain in society? 
    Shusterman’s story has never failed to make me think, question, consider. It is my favorite thing about his writing. I love that he forces the reader to grapple with these questions of life. Shusterman doesn’t offer easy answers, but he does ask fascinating questions. I think that the questions of human society and dilemmas of life and death perhaps are resonating even more during this pandemic. Because, despite all of the horror that Shusterman invented in society, he always gave a message of hope: “Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator.” The powerful message of hope in the stories of Shusterman make them so compelling. This book series has been absolutely life changing for me and was one of experiences that helped me to realize my love of philosophy and psychology. 
    TBF authors are all incredible! Neal Shusterman has had a special impact on my life, and it is so amazing that he was in Rochester just five short years ago. I only hope that he decided to return to TBF sometime in the near future and I will get a chance to meet him in person.
    Stay safe and healthy in this trying time! Read a couple of wonderful TBF books and take heart-- just as story heroes and heroines are able to get through anything, as a society, we will get through this and TBF will eventually happen!
    Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Book Review: Saving Marty by Paul Griffin

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. Although I've been home for the past few weeks, I've definitely taken advantage of Overdrive to read some amazing books lately. This week, I will be sharing with you Saving Marty by Paul Griffin.

Eleven-year-old Lorenzo Ventura knows heroes are rare--like his father, who died in the war, or his friend Paloma Lee, who fearlessly pursues her dream of being a famous musician. Renzo would never describe himself as a hero, but his chance comes when he adopts Marty, a runt piglet.

Marty is extraordinary--he thinks he's a dog and acts like one too--and his bond with Renzo is truly one of a kind. At first, the family farm seems like the perfect home for Marty, but as he approaches 350 pounds, it becomes harder for Renzo to convince his mom that a giant pig makes a good pet. So when Marty causes a dangerous (and expensive) accident, Renzo knows Marty's time is up. He'd do anything and everything for his best friend, but will everything be enough to save Marty?

Paul Griffin masterfully melds the heartrending and the hopeful in this unforgettable story about the power of friendship . . . and the unsung heroes all around us.

Reading Saving Marty (and also Greenglass House from my last review) reminded me what I've always loved about middle-grade novels--how the complexity of life is portrayed through relative simplicity. The plotline, characters, and writing are easy to follow, but the world they collectively create and the messages they impart are full of meaning. The friendship between Lorenzo and Marty, the lovable housepig, is central to the story, and Marty's presence helps Lorenzo work through obstacles in his life, specifically, trying to understand a father that he never knew. 

I especially love the characters--Lorenzo, Lorenzo's mom, Double Pop, Paloma, and of course, Marty--who each possess distinctive personalities, as well as the dynamic among them as they experience triumphs and hardships together. All of the secondary characters are multidimensional as well--there are no archetypes; each person, whether overall "good" or "bad," has a heart, and motivations behind their actions that bring humanity into their characters. 

I also love the role of music in this novel as something that ties Paloma and Lorenzo together and also provides Lorenzo a link to his father, and there are pages of sheet music shattered throughout the novel of the songs they play. All of these elements create a story that is more than just the friendship between a boy and his pig, but a larger series of events and personal growth catalyzed by Marty's presence as Lorenzo learns lessons about acceptance, heroism, and selflessness. Life is imperfect and endings can be bittersweet, and Saving Marty portrays all of these ups and downs. 


Find Saving Marty in the Monroe County Library System (Overdrive here), Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Your Next Favorite Social Distancing Read

Hi everyone! 

It's been a crazy past couple of weeks in Rochester and around the globe. Social distancing and staying home has become the theme of the month. Libraries have closed (truly a terrifying development). It is in times like this that we all need a good book to transport us to another world for a couple of hours. Well, I've got the perfect suggestion of a book that accomplishes just that.

Book jacket summary: 
"Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can't shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending."

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy Book 1) by [Menon, Sandhya]
Cover courtesy of Amazon
Of Curses and Kisses, by Sandhya Menon (the brilliant author of When Dimple Met Rishi) is exactly the sort of comforting book that we've been craving right now. It evokes the sensation of being wrapped in a warm blanket and offers a portal into another world, full of romance and mystery. If you are a student missing being in school, this is the perfect story set at a boarding school to give you the vicarious learning experience. Although, this school has archery taught by an Olympic athlete and is populated by students from the nobility, so it's not quite the run of the mill high school experience. 

In all seriousness though, this book is so much fun to read. Princess Jaya is a strong willed, clever, and determined female protagonist. Menon makes her incredibly three dimensional, as she struggles with her own desires and the rules that her family has laid out for her. Grey is an absolute delight of a character, taciturn and morose, but with the perfect amount of gruff kindness. You really just want to give him a hug. The dynamic between Jaya and Grey is fantastic, with Jaya's plot to make Grey fall in love with her transforming into a genuine spark. You know what they say about best laid plans... 

The secondary cast of characters is just as strong, with Daphne Elizabeth in particular standing out as someone that you just really would want to be friends with. Menon's plot is fresh and inspired, a unique take on a classic fairy tale. I can assure you, you've never heard a beauty and the beast story like this before. The importance of myth as an old curse plays out is intriguing: you really want to know how the curse can finally be broken. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you'd like Of Curses and Kisses, as Jaya has Elizabeth Bennet's indomitable spark and Grey is quite like the standoffish Mr. Darcy. Their love story unfolds, shaken by past assumptions and a family rivalry, but it is something that you can't help but root for.

I would highly suggest that you get this book immediately and dedicate a couple of at home hours to it. This books is guaranteed to make you smile in these trying times. In fact, here's the link to Amazon if you want to buy it now:

Also, check out if Overdrive has it if you wanted to read an excerpt before you decide that you need a forever copy. 

Stay healthy and stay cheery: reading books is the best cure for social distancing blues. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Fun Post: Dear Netflix...

Dear Netflix,

I have a proposition for you :)

After reading Claire Legrand’s fantasy novel, Furyborn, two years ago and hearing her describe it at TBF 2018 as being Game-of-Thrones-esque “but without the gratuitous violence against women,” I knew that Furyborn would be perfect as a TV series.

First of all, the pacing and structure of Furyborn would translate beautifully on screen. It’s action-packed, not conversation-heavy, and filled with details that bring the world to life even from the page. I would especially love to see Rielle’s trials depicted--the magic, the dresses--because I know the emotions and tension would be even more visceral and captivating. And I would be equally excited to see Eliana's riveting journey and discoveries.

Furyborn also has such a unique premise and timeline. Rielle and Eliana’s stories take place 1,000 years apart, and there are so many possibilities surrounding the depiction of these two perspectives. Alternating episodes between Rielle and Eliana’s worlds is one such possibility, and another (the one I prefer) would be combining both perspectives into each episode with breaks in between. I loved Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Little Women and her use of a fluid timeline, and I definitely think something similar would work for Furyborn.

Overall, there's so much material to work with in Furyborn, and also so much potential to expand on the novel as well. And while I don't have too many suggestions for the characters, I would love to see a diverse and inclusive cast, and if we could support lesser-known actors and actresses, that would be amazing too!

Best regards,

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Book Review: Love & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Hey all! While you're stuck inside these next few months there are plenty of great TBF books you should check out, and I'd recommend starting with Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves. Here's a little summary:

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny's life. She's failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

I did not know I would love this book as much as I did in the end. Firstly, the characters were really enjoyable to read about and I was rooting for them all throughout. Danny felt authentic and real, and that isn't just from the great queer and mental health representation in this novel. If I was to describe her in one word it would absolutely be a "mess," which is much better then it sounds. Her sometimes stupid decisions and self hatred make her feel even more real, and create an even better character as you watch her go on the journey to becoming the best version of herself. The love interest is also wonderful to read and the whole romantic subplot added a bit of lightness to this darker novel.

Another thing I loved about this book is the setting - not as many YA novels are set at colleges and I always am so excited to find those that are. As I head to college in the coming years I find stories about them extremely interesting, and with this one being set at Harvard I loved reading those little elements of it. The writing of this book is also incredible, Gonsalves finds the perfect balance between beautiful prose and young dialoge, with lines that feel lyrical and that deeply resonated with me, while not compromising realistic dialogue and having a nineteen year old narrator actually sound nineteen years old.

But the real reason you should read it is just for it's incredible authentic story, with characters that felt like real people one could know, and a story that is all to real and is told in such a beautiful and incredible way. To me, this book reminded me of two past books I've read and loved, American Panda and Girl in Pieces, yet it is also so different than anything I've ever read. I will say - this isn't really a light fluffy novel, but through the characters and their explorations of their selves and the world around them - I guarantee you'll love it.


goodreads  amazon  barnes and noble

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Book Review: Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. This week I read Greenglass House, a middle-grade novel by Kate Milford, and I can't wait to share it with you!

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.

Greenglass House is a whimsical, heartwarming, and altogether enthralling novel. It's a story about mysterious guests, shared and unknown history, personal growth, and a house that draws people together--acquaintances and strangers alike.

I have to start by pulling some quotes from the novel: “The flashlight’s beam pierced the pool of shadow, which flickered and melted into butter-gold,” “Milo turned and saw only the stained-glass window and the snowy night beyond, tinged in shades of pale, pale greens: celery and celadon and tones like old bottle glass.”...Isn't it just beautiful? Milford’s writing is so melodic and descriptive it's almost poetic, and at the same time it's sharp, creating a cozy yet mysterious atmosphere. This novel as a whole is full of detail, from the storytelling revealing the backgrounds of each of the guests to the game Milo and Meddy play that guides them through their investigations and brings Milo self-acceptance as he reflects upon his identity.

And I love this novel especially for its unconventional elements and unexpected plot twists. There’s so much more than meets the eye in the Greenglass House, and that goes for its people too. An adventure of sleuthing, secrets, and storytelling unfolds as Milo and Meddy inch closer and closer to the underlying "wrongness."

I absolutely adore the writing, characters, and stories in Greenglass House, and I highly recommend it to fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Until next time, 

Find Greenglass House in the Monroe County Library System (Overdrive here), GoodreadsBarnes & Noble, or Amazon

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday Fun Post: If You Like This...Read That!

Hey all, here for another Friday post; this week I'll be recommending a few TBF books based off of some of my favorite books (and a movie!) to try and find your perfect new read!

Image result for the unwanteds cover"if you like the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, read the Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds is an absolutely magical middle-grade fantasy series that is incredible. The world-building and characters are so strong and her writing style is so captivating and meaningful, while still fun and humorous. This novel emphasizes the need for creativity in life, an incredible message of celebrating individual talents, interests and difference: a great thing for younger readers to grow up with. And right alongside that is a fun, yet dark and compelling fantasy tale. Alongside Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, this was another one of my favorites when I was younger and I bet it would be yours too! 

At the Edge of the Universe If you like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, read At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

When I first read Aristotle and Dante I immediately fell in love with it and its characters, and after reading it I fell in love with this novel too. Similar to Saenz, Hutchinson's books are beautiful and meaningful while still realistic with characters and stories that stick with you, as well as having incredible own voices for LGBTQ representation. There are deep human connections, realistic stories and characters, and writing that captivates you. I 100% would reccomend this (or any of Hutchinson's novels) to just about anyone.
Reality Boy

If you like the movie the Truman Show read Reality Boy by A.S. King or Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos                                          There are two books this year with premises similar to the classic film about a boy trapped in a reality tv show about his life, and both are incredible! Both explore the characters extremely well leaving you rooting for the protagonist and captivated by the incredible writing. Reality Boy does feel a bit darker to me in some areas, but I guarantee you'll like either if this premise interests you at all! Or if you just want an incredible read unlike most other books out there.

Have a great rest of March!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday Book Review: Sawkill Girls

Hello TBF enthusiasts! Spring is coming… I can feel it in the air. However, while we eagerly wait for the last vestiges of winter to leave us,  there is no better activity to pass the time than to read a couple fantastic books. Lucky for you, I have just the suggestion.

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Sawkill Girls
Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Imagine a world where girls are disappearing and there is a horrible legend haunting the town. Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand, invents this creative and creepy world, where the reader is kept on the edge of their seat, wondering what exactly is happening to the girls that go missing. I should confess right here: I am not usually a fan of the horror genre. No IT for me. However, Sawkill Girls was the perfect dash of creepy without being too horrifying. The mystery that permeates the plot is really quite enjoyable to read, as it offers crumbs of clues to the reader, but holds out on the big reveal. I loved the characters that Legrand crafted in this novel-- they really made the story. All three main characters are deep and face their struggles in a remarkably human way. Zoey’s biting wit, Marion’s resilient personality, and Val’s conflicted nature really shine throughout the story. The dynamic that these three girls create is incredibly memorable. 
Really, though, the true mark of brilliance in Sawkill Girls was its social commentary. Sawkill Girls took on a lot of the sexism that permeates society, pointing out the lack of power that women have felt throughout the ages, and challenging the idea that women are powerless with three incredibly powerful main characters that do not need a man to come and save them. Legrand includes multiple moments where the girls reflect on how their gender has affected the way that society treats them and the decide to stand up for themselves. There is an interesting element in the book as well of girls being ordered what to do by men separated from the situation: Legrand take this on with grace and wit. 
Sawkill Girls is an excellent feminist read, particularly with Friday the 13th coming up. I highly suggest that you grab a couple from your local library and then talk with Legrand about it at Tenn Book Fest. I remember her from a couple of years back (back when she was promoting Sawkill Girls before it came out) and she is incredibly nice!

Happy reading!


Friday, March 6, 2020

Friday Fun Post: If You Like This...Read That!

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe it's already March, and TBF is only a little more than two months away! There are a ton of books to read until then, and today I've included a few of my top suggestions.

If you liked An Ember in the Ashes, read Furyborn!

I will admit, I read and reviewed Furyborn last year when the author, Claire Legrand, first came to TBF, but I still remember thinking how it seemed to mesh together all my favorite YA fantasy novels. Furyborn is the story of Rielle and Eliana, two women inextricably linked despite the millennium separating them. Rielle's story of magic and trials reminds me of Red Queen and Shadow and Bone, but it is Eliana's story that I want to highlight today. Hers especially is full of grit and sacrifice, and reminded me so much of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Both include once-glorious empires that have since been corrupted, an underworld of insurgents, and a fight for survival. Both have bold, gritty female leads who fight for their families and then for something greater…a fight against forces more sinister than they ever imagined…

If you liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, read Dig!

A.S. King's Dig is truly unlike any other novel I've read, but there are definitely elements that I can identity in other novels like The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Both portray teenage life in an unapologetic light--stripping away the rose-tinted lens over our experiences and sharing the unfiltered difficulties, the moments of happiness, and the hard realities. While each focuses on their respective protagonists, there is an emphasis in both novels on the flaws of society and the circumstances that can determine the advantages/disadvantages one has in the world. If you want to read about the raw experiences of teenagers with an underlying twist, I would strongly recommend Dig.

And if you liked The Wrath and the Dawn, read Spin the Dawn!

These books share more than just a key word in their titles! Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim, and The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh (a TBF alum!), both incorporate vivid imagery of sights and sounds, legends and myths, and journeys that test their protagonists' wills and determination. Both stories' protagonists find themselves willingly in an endeavor that could mean life or death, and both discover so much more about themselves, the land, and the people around them. Maia's journey to become a master tailor and Shahrzad's journey to seek retribution are full of twists and turns, secrets and unimaginable truths. Spin the Dawn is truly a magical read, and I hope you decide to check it out!

There are so many amazing authors coming this year, and I encourage you to look through their novels even if you don't recognize many of them. Read some synopses, check out some books...I am positive there is something that you'll love.

Until next time!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Hey all, happy March! This month I read a book I have had on my list for a long long time, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Teen Book Fest is only two and a half months away and if you're looking for some great reads by TBF authors, this is a good one to start with! However I would say this book is meant for slightly older teens, and might not be the best fit for younger middle-grade
Grasshopper Jungle
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

A Goodreads review described this novel, saying: "You won't find a YA book out there like this one," a review that instantly intrigued me. And after reading it I am happy to confirm I have never read a book like this.

This book is the perfect mix between contemporary YA fiction and horror, which is not a sentence I think I've ever said. Grasshopper Jungle is, to put it simply weird - and thats exactly why I loved it. The humor in the relationships between characters and in Smith's writing is very strong, and honestly who is not at least a little intrigued by a story about saving the world from six-foot grasshoppers. But at the same time, the contemporary element is what keeps you invested. The main character, Austin, is hilarious and despite making many dumb decisions, was extremely relatable and his internal struggle that carries the book just felt so real, and I loved it. I have never seen a love triangle with a boy choosing between his girlfriend and his best friend and that made this book stand out even more. In reality this is a book is about growing up and feeling lost, which really made it hit hard for me. Not everyone can relate to saving the world from horrific insects, but as humans we all spend our lives trying to feel a little less alone, which Smith captures perfectly.

Smith's books are funny and weird, yet heartbreaking and real, with remarkable characters often with LGBTQ representation. Smith's writing style, just like his books, is unique and quirky in its own way, and I can not wait for Rochester to be able to meet him and experience his ridiculous wit in person. But before May comes around I would definitely recommend checking out Grasshopper Jungle for yourself.


find the book here!
or check it out at your local library!

Friday, February 28, 2020

If You Like This... Book Suggestions!

Hello everyone! February is winding down and we get a bonus leap day, which doesn’t happen too often. Perhaps you are looking to spend that day curled up by a roaring fire reading a great new book. Let me offer some suggestions:

  1. If you are a fan of Harry Potter (and who isn’t?) then you should try The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
I fell in love with The Unwanteds series from the first couple of sentences. It has fantastic characters that have the same three dimensional qualities that define the Harry Potter crew. I mean, Hermione is the perfect fictional best friend. Alex, from the Unwanteds, is crafted with the same type of masterful strokes. What really makes The Unwanteds such a phenomenal series is the incredible world building that permeates every nook and cranny of Quill and Artime. The bleak grey of Quill is juxtaposed delightfully with the creative energy of Artime. And the book is positively filled with magic! The different types of magic displayed by the people of Artime kept me on the edge of my seat. Harry Potter, for me, was an instant favorite of mine because it offered such a vivid world to inhabit and it filled me with wonder. The Unwanteds is filled with the same type of wonder and I absolutely would recommend it.
Image result for the unwanteds
Picture Courtesy of
  1. If you loved To All The Boys I Loved Before, then you should try When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
To All The Boys I Loved Before was such a cute read! It had everything, with Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship growing from standoffish to sweet. They really gave you a relationship to root for. When Dimple Met Rishi was very similar in this, giving the reader a relationship that they will always cheer for. Dimple and Rishi immediately disliked each other. Their parents had arranged their marriage without their input, causing some serious tension between Dimple and Rishi when they first met. They are forced to put aside their differences because they are partners in a computer science camp competition, which they want to win. It is so much fun watching their romance blossom. Dimple is very serious, while Rishi is a definite romantic, causing the cute dynamic of opposites attract. The result? Multiple sparks fly when their personalities clash but they bring out different sides in each other. Trust me: if you like cute romances, you will love When Dimple Met Rishi.
When Dimple Met Rishi (Dimple and Rishi, #1)
Picture Courtesy of Goodreads
  1. If you loved The Lunar Chronicles, then you should give Furyborn by Claire Legrand a try
Furyborn is quite the wild ride and it certainly is a wonderful journey. The story follows two women trying to fulfill their destinies as either the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen. Rielle’s journey to learn to accept her role as queen is reminiscent of Cinder’s own struggle with leadership. Eliana’s fiery personality recall’s Cinder’s compelling spunk. Like later books in The Lunar Chronicle, Furyborn is told by multiple characters’ perspectives. This is hard to pull off, but wonderful when successfully done. I can assure you, Legrand uses the two narrators beautifully. Both books are set in beautifully crafted worlds, although Furyborn is more of another universe than a dystopian. Don’t worry, though-- Legrand is an absolute master at crafting this universe, both the past and the future version. Like Cinder, Furyborn also has a dash of romance that keeps the reader entranced, hoping that their favorite pairings will work out. Personally, I am a big fan of Audric. Trust me-- Furyborn is worth a read! If you love spunky heroines, mesmerizing world building, and an entrancing plot, then Furyborn is the book for you! 
Furyborn (Empirium, #1)
Picture Courtesy of Goodreads

I hope that one of these books has piqued your interest-- they are all worthy reads! There are only two and a half months until TBF (it’s so exciting) so it's time to start reading all of these fantastic TBF books. Have a great leap day and happy reading!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Hi everyone! Last week I was on February break, which meant I had the chance to start a book that's been on my TBR list for a while--Elizabeth Lim's Spin the Dawn. What was intended to be 15 minutes of reading quickly turned into the rest of the day, and so I can't wait to share with you this spellbinding novel!

On the fringes of the Great Spice Road, Maia Tamarin works as a seamstress in her father's shop. She dreams of becoming the best tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well.

When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as his son and travels to the Summer Palace in his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to save her family and achieve her dream of becoming the imperial tailor. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the unwelcome attention of the court enchanter, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be: from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Spin the Dawn manages to fit so much into its 387 pages. From the very beginning, we are swept into Maia's life at her father's shop, into a world that suddenly expands in possibilities with the arrival of an imperial official. Maia soon finds herself in a competition of skill...and guile, and then another, even more thrilling quest spanning the entire continent.

I love the world and atmosphere created by this novel. It's an adventure told from Maia’s perspective as she experiences it, but at the same time there's also a sense that she is recounting the events as well, bringing a fairy-tale-esque quality to the story. Descriptions of the magic, the dressmaking, and journey are rich in detail, and the world--the land, culture, and institutions--incorporates elements of real history while having its own. Lim seamlessly weaves in bits and pieces of various legends and fables (some of which you might be able to tell from the synopsis, others more subtle) while creating her own unique plotline.

I especially loved reading Maia's quest for the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars, and how each task tested her will and changed her. And the novel is set up perfectly for its sequel, Unravel the Dusk, which is coming out this July. I can’t wait to read the next stage of Maia's journey, and crossing my fingers that we learn more about some of the secondary characters...Lady Sarnai, Emperor Khanujin, even Edan. And I have a feeling that there is a lot more history to unravel...

Happy reading!

P.S. Isn't the cover stunning?

Find Spin the Dawn in the Monroe County Library System, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Goodreads