Review: All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Joline Courtney

All-American Muslim GirlAll-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Allie Abraham is a regular girl. Living in the South with her close-knit family, she excels in school and participates in the general activities that most kids her age take part in.

The thing is, Allie is keeping a secret from the outside world. Her family is Muslim and she’s not sharing that fact with anyone.

This book opens up with a blatant display of discrimination against her father and it really never lets up from there.

Although this story may make some people uncomfortable, I think it is an important story and a powerful examination of identity and societal prejudices.

While it is true that this is a story that needs to be written, and more importantly read, it wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting which decreased my enjoyment level just a smidge.

I was sold on this book as a sweet romance between a Muslim girl and a boy whose father is one of America’s most notorious shock jocks. It is true that this exists in this story, however, I wanted more of Allie and Wells.

For me, the focus of the book was obviously Allie’s own exploration of her identity and owning and embracing her faith. A lot of the time we follow her with a new group of friends she discovers over the course of the book and their discussions of Islam as it relates to their lives and the larger world around them.

I did appreciate those discussions but as mentioned earlier, I picked this up with romance in mind and really wanted more of that.

As a Contemporary exploring self-identity and the Muslim faith in general, this was really well done. Courtney has a smooth and easy writing style and I would definitely pick up more books from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and am so happy this book is out in the world!

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Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear MartinDear Martin by Nic Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Impactful. Important. Immersive.

There are many different ways in which we learn about the world around us. One of the most important ways is through experience.

Our personal experiences help to shape our views, opinions and really who we are as people.

As we all know, people experience the world differently for a variety of distinct reasons. Unfortunately, one way in which this is true is based on the color of a person’s skin.

I know that as a white person, there are certain issues that I will never understand based on personal experience; I have to look outside myself and my day-to-day existence if I want to acknowledge and understand these important matters that affect so many.

That’s one of the reasons why I think books such as this are so crucial. That’s one of the many reasons why there has been such a push, and a well-received push fortunately, for more OWN voices books.

They provide windows through the eyes of the characters, so the reader can learn and gain knowledge from the life experiences of another.

Dear Martin is a wonderfully written novella about a boy struggling to understand race relations within his community and the country, the United States, at large.

I loved the format of this and although some of it seemed ‘surface level’, as I have noticed some readers comment, I think overall that was a wise choice by the author.

In my opinion, to make this story approachable to the widest audience, it was important to keep it this way. Not everyone is comfortable picking up a 400 or 500-page book like most of us are.

I think the way this story was written helps to get it into the hands of the largest number of people possible and for a story as important as this, that is what matters.

I highly recommend picking this one up if you haven’t already.

Nic Stone is a talented storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her work.

As mentioned above, this is short so if you are looking for some shorter reads to help you reach that GoodReads 2019 Reading Challenge goal, you should definitely pick this one up.

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Review: The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date #3) by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date, #3)The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Maddie Forest first meets Theo Stephens, she thinks he is an uptight, over-organized, spreadsheet-creating jerk.

When Theo Stephens first meets Maddie Forest, he thinks she is a shallow, image-obsessed prima donna with her head in the clouds and no real ambitions.

After their mutual best friend, Alexa, becomes engaged, she asks them both to be in her wedding party. Initially chagrined that they will have to spend so much time together during the course of the wedding planning and event, they both agree with good grace and vow to get through it.

But as often happens, through their mutual distaste of one another comes a spark that soon grows into a full-blown FLAME!

They know they have to keep their relationship a secret. They cannot give Alexa the satisfaction of knowing they actually like each other and so begins their secret affair.

As you are probably aware, this is the third installment in Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date companion novels. I have read all of the books in this series and this one is actually my favorite.

Although it has a similar structure to the previous novels, I enjoyed Maddie and Theo and their hidden romance the most out of all the plots. I felt I could personally relate more to this story than the others and that kept me invested.

One thing I did notice was this one seemed less steamy than the others so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed. We really focused here a lot on both Maddie and Theo’s careers and self-growth. I enjoyed following along with them as they navigated difficult situations in their lives and grew to depend on one another for support and insight.

I do enjoy this series a lot. I’ll admit that it isn’t perfect but it’s addicting and it keeps me coming back. I will definitely continue to pick them up for as long as Ms. Guillory chooses to write them!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Now…who do I speak to about an early copy of Royal Holiday???

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Review: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Anger Is a GiftAnger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an absolutely engrossing story.

I don’t think I will ever ‘review’ this.
I don’t think it is my place to review this.

This is a hard story to read but one that needed to be told and heard.

This one will be going on my ‘books everyone should read in a lifetime’ list.

Taken from the synopsis on Goodreads: “A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.”

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Review: We Set the Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on FireWe Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At The Medio School for Girls, young women are trained for one of two roles: Primera or Segunda. Before you get too excited, these are not highly challenging professions these girls aspire too. No, they are societally designed ‘womanly roles’ within a man’s household. A Primera essentially runs the business aspects of a household, while the Segunda takes care of the more emotional sides, raising children, providing humor and relaxation for the husband.

This makes school a harsh competition, as your performance there affects your future placement within a household. At graduation you are basically selected by an upper class family to marry their son and so goes the rest of you life.

Daniela Vargas has sacrificed a lot to be a student at Medio. Her parents faked documents in order for her to attend. She comes from one of the poorest neighborhoods and her lineage definitely would not make her a desired match for any up-and-coming males.

Dani graduates top of her class and is chosen as Primera for a young man who is slated to soon be running Medio, she knows she has made it. As a member of the Garcia family, the whole world will now be open to her but Dani quickly discovers this assignment isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Segunda of the Garcia household, Carmen, is a young lady who was very unkind to Dani at school but with no one else around, the two girls start to develop a relationship. Dani finds herself developing real feelings for Carmen but she isn’t sure if she can trust her. In her new life, she really isn’t sure if there is anyone she should trust.

Set in a wonderfully imagined LatinX dystopian world, providing timely commentary on societal roles, structure and function, this book was everything I wanted it to be. In fact, this book is everything I wanted other books to be that disappointed me.

I’m looking at you: The Belles.

I meshed really well with Mejia’s writing and upon reaching the end figured out, hey, this isn’t a standalone! Very excited for the next in the series.

With secrets and lies, rebellions and undercover agents, a female-female relationship, and so much more, I would definitely recommend this book to other YA Readers!

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Review: Nyxia Unleased by Scott Reintgen

Publication Date: July 17, 2018    |    Rating: 5-stars!!!!

Nyxia Unleashed is the second book in The Nyxia Triad. Just like the first book, I absolutely loved this and gave it FIVE well-deserved stars. This is a YA science-fiction novel that is incredibly inclusive and has a strong undercurrent of social commentary which I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

In this book, our MC, Emmett Atwater and the rest of the kids from Book One have now arrived on the planet they have previously known as Eden. Throughout their training, Babel, the corporation they work for, had taught and prepared them for meeting the ‘aliens’, who they called Adamites, of this planet. Once on Eden, the kids are assigned local emissaries that ultimately end up teaching them in the true ways of their planet, which they call Magnia and refer to themselves as the Imago people. They travel through the various communities of this planet meeting with the peoples and learning their history, political structure and immediate societal issues. The kids, disenchanted with Babel Corporation, after their excruciating training period, begin to realize that Babel’s goals are much more sinister than they had previously expressed. Without giving too much away, they must ultimately decide who and what they are willing to fight for.

What happens next will change the fate of worlds. We are genesis.

This novel is much darker than the first as the subject matter settles down and becomes more serious. Throughout the book I had an incredible feeling of something ominous just at the edge of the horizon. As the storyline began to unfold, I had no clue as to where it was leading. I loved learning about the Imago and experiencing the wonder of learning about their society, past and future. This story is an excellent examination of colonizing powers, indigenous populations and how people choose to treat other people.

Do we treat others with the dignity they deserve, regardless of where they come from?

There are some things a person should never stand by and watch…Pops taught me that much.

The above are thoughts of Emmett Atwater, our protagonist. Emmett is such a sweet, precious little cupcake. He is a great kid, raised but loving parents in the city of Detroit, where although poor, he never lacked for love or a strong kick in the backside, whichever he needed more. Seeing Emmett grapple with good versus evil, standing up for what he believes is right, overcoming adversity, is such an enjoyable thing to read. I loved watching him gaining strength and confidence throughout these two books and I am so excited to see where the third book takes him. He could lead a revolution, this one!

The other kids working with him are from all over the world – we really have everyone represented here – there are kids from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Europe, we have LGBTQ+ characters and we get to learn a bit about all of their perspectives; it’s a great thing to see in a YA book. We learn the most about them in Book One but I thought it was important to bring up again here for people searching for diverse representation in their books.

I’m an angel without wings. I’m a demon without fire.

The ending of this book was INCREDIBLE! I have no idea how I am going to make it until next April waiting for the last book in the series. (cue letter writing to publisher begging for early copy…) We are on the edge of a major precipice here – a battle of good versus evil – a battle where fates and worlds will indeed be changed. Are the kids on the right track? Have they made the right choices? Are they siding with the right people? I DON’T KNOW!!!! But I am incredibly ready to find out! If you like sci-fi, if you like diverse books, if you like books with a point, please, please, please pick up this series! It deserves all the love it can get!

Thank you so much to Crown Books for Young Readers for giving me the opportunity to read this book early. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year so I am very grateful!!!

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Yesterday I finished up listening to the audiobook of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.  This book is the first of The Wayward Children series – the 3rd book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, was just released on January 9th so there has been a lot of buzz on bookish media outlets regarding this series. After listening to a few different booktubers proclaim their love of these books, and their excitement for the final book, I knew I needed to check it out for myself! (and I’m glad I did)

I decided to give this 3.5-stars but rounded up to 4 on Goodreads because for me it was closer to a 4-star than a 3-star read. My favorite aspect of the book was the incredibly bizarre cast of well-drawn characters. This is definitely a character piece. The setting for the book is Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.  Magical and dark, I loved hearing the different stories of each character’s times and travels prior to moving to the Home. There is a lot of great rep in this book and it just seems like a fun and comforting story for any young person who has ever felt misunderstood (which is probably all of us!).

I will continue with the series, as from what I have read, the books get better and better. I definitely enjoyed the author’s style, there just wasn’t as much action as I normally enjoy.

Cheers to the weekend everyone – this week has been exhausting! So ready for a book-filled next few days. What’s everyone reading this weekend?

Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Expected Publication: January 23, 2018

Oh my goodness did I love this book! I just finished my e-ARC this morning and am so excited about the fact that I have already completed one book this year that is an early contender for ‘my favorite book of 2018’! Reign follows the story of a strong, independent female protagonist named Odessa who is a master necromancer in the kingdom of Karthia.

This books starts out quickly and in my opinion really never lets up. I read it so fast, racing to the conclusion – throughout the course of the story my pulse was raised many times, my heart crushed and my spirits soared over a full range of emotions. The magic system is very cool – I loved the necromancers, healers, beast masters, royals, etc. – and the world creation was vivid and believable. The characters were very likable (I have a few different faves) and the Shades (the monsters of our tale) scary enough to keep you glued to the pages. I would recommend this book all day long to anyone who loves YA fantasy and look forward to seeing what new horizons will await us in Book 2!!! A big thank you to the publisher, Razorbill, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early!

Has anyone else finished any fabulous new books this year? I have a strong feeling 2018 will be a great year in all things book!

Happy reading friends  : )

*Please note, I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Status Update: Reign of the Fallen

Expected Publication Date: January 23, 2018

I started reading my e-ARC copy of Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh on Sunday….I am already 40% through it and that is while reading 6 other books and working full time!  I am loving this one – I want to be reading it all the time, I cannot put it down! Firstly, a big thank you to the publisher, Razorbill (Penguin Group – Penguin Young Readers Group) for providing me with an early copy. This could be up there in the running as one of my top books of 2018!

Reign of the Fallen is a YA Fantasy book with a female protagonist who is a master necromancer in her city. I am totally engrossed in the magic system of this book – I love the necromancers, the healers, the royalty, the shades, the deadlands…..I could go on and on. The characters are very likable – I have had my pulse raised, my heart crushed, my spirits soaring in anticipation….do yourself a favor, if you like YA, get yourself a copy of this book.  I know I will be buying a hard copy once it is released….I mean, look at the cover and with a story this intriguing, I will definitely want to read it again!

Happy Reading Lovies!