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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Three TBF Authors I Can't Wait to Meet

Hey all! After posting my first review last week, I am even more excited for TBF this year on May 16th at RIT! While all of the authors coming this year are so exciting, here are the top three authors I am so excited to meet and whose books I love and/or I can't wait to read.

1) Lisa McMann

Image result for the unwanteds lisa mcmann
I just posted my review of the first book of McMann's Unwanteds series last week which I loved both when I read it as a kid and when I reread it this year. This is an absolutely magical middle-grade fantasy series that is incredible and I would love to meet the author who created it. Her world-building, characters are so strong and her writing style is so captivating and meaningful, while still fun and humorous. McMann's works are so imaginative and heartwarming and I bet she is just as fun in real life as her books are!

Image result for we are the ants
2) Shaun David Hutchinson

I have been meaning to read one of Shaun David Hutchinson's books for years and after seeing that he is coming to TBF this year it was the push to actually get to one of his incredible books! First on my list is We Are the Ants, closely followed by At the Edge of the Universe, both of which I have heard wonderful things about. 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. After watching a clip of Hutchinson speak it is clear he is an incredible individual and speaker and I am very excited to have the opportunity to meet him this year!

3) Andrew Smith
Image result for grasshopper jungle
I've heard stellar things about Andrew Smith's books forever and after seeing that he is coming to Rochester this year, I added his books to my list very quickly, with my eyes set on starting with Grasshopper Jungle. A Goodreads review described this novel, saying: "You won't find a YA book out there like this one," a review that instantly intrigues me. 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 to be able to meet him and experience his ridiculous wit in person.

Overall, I know this is going to be an incredible year for TBF with so many incredible authors coming, who have written  absolutely incredible books. Stay tuned for another review next Wednesday!


Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday Fun Post: Top 3 TBF Authors I Can't Wait to Meet

Hi everyone! If you've been keeping up with the TBF website or their social media, you've probably seen the exciting author reveals for TBF 2020. Some familiar names are on the list, and so many new ones as well. Personally, I'm looking forward to meeting all of them, but my top three are Lisa McMann, Elizabeth Lim, and Stephanie MacKendrick!

Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds)

McMann's The Unwanteds was one of the most memorable series I read during middle school. It was a time when I was exploring different genres and literary styles, and it was one of those books that transitioned me from middle grade to YA. I still remember which shelf the novels were located on in the school library, and while a lot of the details of the plot escape me today, I still remember falling in love with the world of Artimé, the magic and creativity, and the characters. I look forward to picking up where I left off, and I can't wait to meet McMann in person at TBF!

Elizabeth Lim (Spin the Dawn)

Lim is a new author for me, and while I haven't read her novel, Spin the Dawn (it's on my desk right now!), it instantly caught my eye. With its incorporation of magic, myths, and allusions to Ancient China, it struck me as an intriguing fantasy read. I love when authors tie in elements of their cultures into their writing, especially stories and legends they've grown up with; not only does it add a fascinating layer of complexity, but it contributes to greater representation in fiction as well.

On top of that, Elizabeth Lim just seems like someone I would love to have a conversation with. From her author profile, she loves music and has pursued music composition professionally, and I would love to talk with her and learn more about her decision to ultimately pursue writing!

Stephanie MacKendrick (In Good Hands)
Cover may not be final

MacKendrick is the author of the upcoming novel In Good Hands, which shares the stories of several female politicians and the pathway to politics. Besides fiction, I love reading memoirs and similar novels because I love real-world, empowering stories, and I believe In Good Hands will fulfill that well. I also recently took a government course and went on a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with various agencies and Congressional staff, and In Good Hands seems like another way to connect politics with my everyday life.

Lastly, MacKendrick has an interesting perspective as a former journalist who is now focused on women's career advancement and nonprofit leadership, and I would love to hear more about her background and current work. In Good Hands comes out in April, and I can't wait to read it and meet her at TBF!

I hope you're as excited as I am for the authors coming to TBF 2020! There are so many more I haven't mentioned, so I encourage you to look at the list here! Counting down the days!


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Hey all! Another new year, and that means another year of TBF! To start off the year of book reviews and blog posts I reread a book I remember loving when I was younger, which is The Unwanteds, the first book in the hit fantasy middle grade series by Lisa McMann. Here's a summary:

Image result for the unwanteds cover"

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.

The most incredible part of this book to me, is the immensely strong, riveting, and just breathtaking world-building that fills this book. The descriptions of magic and its system, the creatures and unique world and places, all just screamed originality which I loved. This book has a strong storyline regarding creativity which is so very present in this book which despite being described as "the Hunger Games meets Harry Potter," is like nothing else I ever read as a kid. The concept itself, almost reminiscent of the dystopian books that filled the early 2010s, stands out from the typical teenagers take down the government type of story. Despite the story being aimed for younger audiences, McMann did not shy away from darkness and heavier topics, something I know attracted me as a child and that I appreciated again on my reread. And with that concept came another thing I loved: McMann's characters.
Our main group of characters were easy to quickly become attached to and root for throughout the story and the rest of the series, but each with their own unique qualities, as well as interesting, humorous, or emotional interactions between them. And despite not remembering the rest of the series as it has been several years since I read them, I do remember the wonderful character development that occurs over the series, making the characters and McMann's writing even better. Besides our young heroes, come two of the best parts of the story: Mr. Today, who plays the role of the the older wise mentor, but is also just brilliant and good intentioned, easily winning your heart over, and Simber, an alive giant winged cheetah statue who is unexpectedly a large player in the story, as well as in tying it all together, and in further showing the diverse imagination of McMann and how fun, magical, and unique this story is.
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.

See you next time,

check the book out here!amazon   barnes and noble (or your local library!)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Three TBF Authors That I Can’t Wait to Meet

Hey, everyone! It’s so exciting to be back and so exciting to be talking about one of my favorite subjects once again! This year’s TBF has a bunch of powerhouse guest authors and let me tell you, I am already dreaming about getting to meet them. However, there are three authors that I am particularly thrilled to meet…
Without further ado, here are the top three authors that I am counting down the days to meet:

  1. Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi
Okay, so let me give a full confession. I read When Dimple Met Rishi on my phone in a day (I usually go for paper books, it takes a great book to hold my attention on the small screen of my phone). And that book caused me to fall in love. The romance between Dimple and Rishi is just so adorable. Their initial dislike, made so much more awkward by the fact that they are matched by their parents to be married, makes the story thrilling. And the melting of their initial dislike… it’s so adorable. I can’t wait to meet the author behind this genius book. And not only is she an incredible author, she's "mom" to an adorable dog and cat! I’m so excited to ask her how she breathed life into such a wonderful relationship as that of Dimple and Rishi and if her pets are ever going to make a cameo!

  1. Claire Legrand, author of Furyborn
So… I already met Claire Legrand back in the olden days of 2018. It might be cheating slightly to include her on this list, but I do it for good reason. I can personally attest that Clarie Legrand is an incredibly cool and incredibly kind person. I got to be the author assistant for Roshani Chokshi that year (best job ever, absolutely life changing, by the way) and she was partnered with Clarie Legrand. I can honestly say that Claire Legrand has a phenomenal sense of humor. And, since 2018, I have gotten a chance to read Furyborn, which is such an entrancing book. In fact, I might have to beg her to tell me the ending of that series because I have been on the edge of my seat with the wait. The way that the stories of Eliana and Rielle are woven together is truly amazing. The time travel and the romance and the magic make the book shine. I’ve also had the pleasure of reading Sawkill Girls (stay tuned for my thoughts on that) and, while it is completely different from Furyborn, it is bone chilling and phenomenal. Speaking as someone who generally avoids horror books like the plague, Clarie Legrand truly has the perfect dose of spooky threaded in the plot. I am so excited to get to see Claire Legrand again and, this time, beg her to let me in on what happens to Rielle and Eliana.

  1. Ryan La Sala, author of Reverie
I have not gotten the chance to read Reverie yet but I am looking forward to it. The dreamlike writing sounds fantastic. And the different places and times that the plot moves into seems quite riveting. Ryan La Sala himself says that the book is about what happens when a person gets lost in their head. As a compulsive dreamer, I can’t wait to see how he handles the peculiar world of the mind. One of my favorite classics is The Sound and The Fury because of its stream of consciousness narration, and it seems that this book might (in an incredibly different way) take a look at the consciousness. I'm so excited! And I have to say, he seems like a cool author. I certainly enjoyed reading his interview about Reverie

I can’t wait for May! TBF 2020 is coming quickly!

Stay warm this February (if possible in snowy Rochester)!
Until next time!


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book Review: Dig by A.S. King

Hi everyone! I hope the new year has been treating you well. I’m so excited to start off the blogging season for TBF 2020! I recently read Dig, A.S. King’s latest novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

The Shoveler, The Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a million-dollar bank account--wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grandchildren. "Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says. What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling weed at the Arby's Drive-Thru window. Like first-class tickets to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a trailer park. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings' suburban respectability begins to spread, the estranged grandchildren gradually find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

Dig is an inquiring, thought-provoking novel, uncomfortable but important. Through the raw, unfiltered lives of the grandchildren, Dig tells the story of decay spreading across a family tree, of senseless injustices disguised as love and good intentions, and of racism and prejudice seeping into lives and relationships. It confronts us with the price of success and survival, and questions our values and the tunnels we ourselves are running through. It is the story of five teenagers, told in each of their distinct voices, as they try to piece together fragmented worlds and questions without clear answers.

This is definitely a novel in which the plotlines are cast out early on and reeled in slowly as the story progresses. It can be confusing at first, but I promise that the pieces will fit together and the tangled yet disconnected relationships will begin to make sense. What ultimately drew me to Dig the most was the storytelling. The writing is incredible--sharp, humorous yet profound, marked with offhand comments packed with meaning. This novel explores the bitter side of generational divide--the repercussions of older generations' attempts to mold those younger into their idea of respectability--and the systems of wealth, race, privilege, and indifference that run concurrently with mainstream society. It shows us how each person is haunted, albeit by different things, how familiar people can be strangers, physically and ideologically, and how we have the capability to be different--be better--than those who came before us. 

I would strongly recommend Dig to anyone, and moreover, I would encourage you to read it twice. It is a story full of twists, layers, and hard truths, and I hope you take the time to check it out!

- Amy