Review | 21 Questions by Alexandria Rizik

In Laguna Beach, California, sixteen-year-old Kendra Dimes is preparing for the 2010 USA Surfing Prime West. She’ll be competing this year in honor of her brother, who was a surfer too, but who died from a drug overdose. Kendra has suffered anxiety attacks ever since her brother’s death, and surfing is what’s been helping her heal.

Brock Parker is the new bad boy at school; he deals drugs to the high school clientele for his parents, who work for a Mexican drug lord. Though Brock and Kendra come from two different worlds, sparks fly when they meet at the homecoming dance—their attraction is magnetic. When they start a game of 21 Questions one night, they begin to learn more about each other—and, surprisingly, about themselves too. But some questions aren’t answered with the whole truth; after all, Brock can’t tell Kendra what his parents do for a living.

As Kendra and Brock experience all of life’s most exciting firsts, they prove that even when life throws you the perfect storm, you can make it through and come out stronger than before. 21 Questions is a coming-of-age journey packed with passion and heartbreak, risk and romance.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was not expecting this one to hit me in the feels the way it did, but it did. Don’t let the summery beach cover fool you, this is a book containing some very real and heavy issues, mostly in the realm of drug use and selling. While the romance between Kendra and Brock is very much at the forefront, it is not the only focus. We get to see both of their points of view, which I felt really added to the story and all the different aspects of subjects that were included. Being someone who actually lost their older brother to drugs Kendra’s story hit especially hard – including her coping mechanisms, internal dialogue and specific memories of her brother. So much of the events and actions of people based on past experiences (especially Kendra’s) were so spot on in those situations.

Rizik’s writing flowed really well in both viewpoints and I really enjoyed the characters she crafted. There were a couple characters that I didn’t enjoy, but even they had some redeeming factors (and all teenagers can have moments of cringiness…so realistic). There were also characters who I really felt for and wanted to know more about, which is a sure sign that they are well crafted. Keep in mind that there are definite trigger warnings for death of a loved one, drug use, drug dealing, grief and more.

Alexandria Rizik is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of two books, the poetry collection Words Written in the Dark and the children’s book Chocolate Milk. She was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she was brought up by a large Armenian family. She received her bachelor of arts in English literature from Arizona State University. Alexandria’s love for writing began when she was a young child: her aunt bought her a journal and told her to write her a story, and the rest is history. Her favorite part about writing is being able to write the happily ever after that doesn’t always happen in real life. Besides writing, Alexandria loves yoga, wine, and family time. She lives in Scottsdale, AZ. Learn more at https://www.alexandriarizik.com.

A huge thank you to SparkPress for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it! Come back on release day (8/3) for a Q&A that I was able to have with Alexandria!

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Blog Tour | The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison | Review

When a bad boy in need of a second chance meets a good girl who is off limits, sparks fly and forbidden friendship forms in this edgy own-voices romance, perfect for fans of Katie McGarry and Kristina Forest.

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him in the path of the one girl who is off limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Google Play | Kobo | Apple Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Having read Whitney D. Grandison’s previous book and enjoying it, I was excited to pick up this one. I did really enjoy it and found it to be a complex read that tackled a lot of very present and modern issues. I really enjoyed Guillermo’s character and felt that out of everyone he was the most three dimensional character. While this book had a little bit of a slow start, once you get invested in the story it really moves along. Not only do the characters pull you in, but the fact that things such as consent, hard past events and more. There were certainly some moments that perhaps were a little frustrating, but they didn’t impact the story in a negative way. All in all I really enjoyed this one and found it to be a great read!

Whitney is dedicated to telling stories about teens of color and teens in difficult but relatable situations. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers. Outside of writing, she is a lover of Korean dramas, all things John Hughes, and horror films. Whitney currently lives in Akron, Ohio. She is the author of A Love Hate Thing and The Right Side of Reckless. Visit Whitney’s website http://www.whitneydgrandison.com and follow her on Twitter @whitney_dg and Instagram @wheadee.

Social Links | Author website: www.whitneydgrandison.com | Twitter: @whitney_dg |
Instagram: @wheadee

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Review | The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

To cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.

In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.

But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this mother/daughter story that featured locations in New Delhi and a great relationship between them. I loved the travel aspect and the descriptions of different locations as well as the touches of culture that were included. The writing style was easy to read and flowed well, though I did find that there were some things that were maybe left as loose ends or mentioned and then not returned too. The story did involve a lot of current topics and the situations associated to those felt very real and well written, which I appreciated. I could see some people wanting more depth to the story, or wanting some refinement but I found it to be a really enjoyable and fun read.

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Review | Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is the story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance with epistolary elements. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s debut I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets, leap-off-the-page sexual tension and the enemy-to-lover romantic arc.

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who to this day carries notebooks around with them (and would be in a panic if I lost any of them) the premise of this one really intrigued me from the start. Quinn’s notebook comes across more as a journal, so that would make losing it all the worse. It’s apparent pretty quickly that Quinn has lots of areas where she could grow, her notebook contains a lot of things she’s scared about, dreams about and more and without it she has to learn how to gain courage and sometimes take chances to face her fears.

There are definite themes of racism, blackmailing, general high school pressures (including those from parents) and more. With everything that was packed into this book I almost felt like the romance wasn’t needed since there was so much more to unpack, but it was still a nice addition. All in all I really enjoyed this debut and would look forward to reading more from Joya Goffney in the future. The writing style flowed really well and made it a fast paced read for me.

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Review | Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Seventeen-year-old Mia, an American girl at an elite summer ballet program, has six weeks to achieve her dreams: to snag an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. But there’s more to Paris than ballet—especially when a charming French boy, Louis, wants to be her tour guide—and the pair discover the city has a few mysteries up its sleeve.

In the vein of romances like Love and Gelato, this is the perfect summer adventure for anyone looking to get swept away in the City of Love.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was kind of teetering between 3.5 stars and 4 stars for this one, but I bumped it up to a 4 because there were so many things I really did enjoy. First off, I felt we got a really good picture of Mia right from the beginning which was great. I think one of the best aspects of this books was the way it explored more than just her romantic relationship, but also her parental relationship and a friendship. I also really enjoyed all the details that were woven into the different places she went as they really did a good job of painting a picture of the ever romantic Paris. Personally I think me at a younger age would have probably given this book a higher rating, so I think it is perfect for it’s target audience. Overall I really enjoyed it and would definitely pick up more of the author’s books as I did enjoy her writing style and pacing.

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Review | Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First and foremost, this book is not some light and happy story. It’s very heavy and impactful and like me, you will likely have to sit with it a bit after reading it. This is set in a futuristic world where all of the ‘monsters’ have been eliminated, and those who are now technically in power are known as the ‘angels.’

There was so much packed into this book. There was talk about what monsters looked like and how you may not be able to recognize them, talk about race, a ton of diversity and more. It’s really hard to put into words just all this book discusses because of how deep it is. We follow Jam as she meets Pet and the moral conflict that comes from their discussions.

The inclusion and diversity of the book was wonderful to read as such things should become more normalized. These weren’t things added in just to be there, they were integral facets and parts of different characters.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were the conversations Jam would have with Pet and the want they would work through those conversations. Those talks were full of metaphor and morality and really propelled the story towards the end.

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Blog Tour | The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa | Review

Wicked faeries and fantastic danger… Welcome to book one of the new trilogy in New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey fantasy series, as infamous prankster Puck finally has a chance to tell his story and stand with allies new and old to save Faery and the world. 

“YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF ME…”

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten. Filled with myths and faery lore, romance and unfathomable dangers, The Iron Raven is book one of a new epic fantasy trilogy set in the world of The Iron Fey.

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | Google Play

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have not read the other books set in this world, but having loved some of Julie Kagawa’s other books I definitely wanted to pick this one up. It can definitely be read without reading the past books, but I’m sure having them as a foundation would give more oomph to it.

I really enjoyed how fast paced this was, I didn’t really feel like there were any sections that dragged. It was easy to get immersed in the quest that the characters went on and no one really felt superfluous to me. I will definitely be going back and reading the previous books in this world and look forward to any future installments that are coming in the future!

JULIE KAGAWA is the New York Times, USA TODAY and internationally bestselling author of The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, The Talon Saga and the Shadow of the Fox series. Born in Sacramento, she has been a bookseller and an animal trainer and enjoys reading, painting, playing in her garden and training in martial arts. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a plethora of pets. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour | This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria | Review

An Ember in the Ashes meets Mask of Shadows in Emily Victoria’s #ownvoices debut YA fantasy, This Golden Flame, in which asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant automaton Alix, initiating an epic adventure full of magic, rebellion, and finding where you truly belong.

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible – she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father – their nation’s greatest traitor – once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

BUY LINKS | Bookshop.org | Powell’s | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Amazon | Chapters | Kobo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was not expecting this book to suck me in from the beginning, but it did. The beginning definitely gives a good introduction to Karis and her motivations and it hits the ground running so to speak. I did enjoy the setting and aspects of Ancient Greek that were woven into the world/story. The duel perspectives of Karis and Alix were well played off of each other and it was nice to have a perspective that wasn’t just another human character. I loved the inclusion and diversity of the characters and their orientations without it being a huge thing. Those are my favorite types of inclusive stories, when it’s just normalized within the world. There were definitely aspects where the story could have gone a little farther, but overall I really enjoyed the story and the characters. Even minor characters were given fleshed out identities that were wonderful to read and breathed life to them even as the main characters worked through their adventure. I could see this having a sequel or companion, but I think it’s meant to be a standalone – still, the potential is there.

Emily Victoria lives on the Canadian prairies with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, works at her public library, and has just finished her Masters of Library and Information Studies.

SOCIAL LINKS |
Author website: https://www.avictoriantale.com/

Twitter: @avictoriantale

Instagram: @avictoriantale

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Review | I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have been wanting to pick this one up for a long time, so it’s another instance of kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. I really enjoyed one of Maurene Goo’s other books, so am glad I finally got to this one since it was just a wonderful read. Sure there were parts of it where it was a tad predictable but I absolutely loved all the K-drama references and the nods to Korean culture. I can’t say the route Desi took was appropriate and it was pretty out there – but it made the read fun and hilarious. This was great for a light and fun read and I’m so happy I finally got to it.

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Blog Tour | The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor | Review

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

BUY LINKS | Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |
Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Full disclaimer – of all of Jane Austen’s books, Emma is my least favorite. I don’t dislike it, but I have a weakness for being drawn to retellings of it to see if I like a reworking of the story itself. I really enjoyed this take on it and in some ways can completely empathize with Emma’s opinion that math can be easier to understand and communicate with than people. The idea of Emma having to kind of figure out herself after the one person she felt comfortable with, her sister, decided to move away for college was a great starting point. Not only does she not know anything about love, but she doesn’t know how to be by herself and be ok in her own skin by herself. It was a touch predictable who would be end game, but that didn’t effect the reading experience. The romance was slow burn as they moved through the story and the pace of writing made for a quick read. This was definitely a re-working of Emma that I really enjoyed and suited the modern setting.

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

SOCIAL LINKS | Author Website: https://www.jilliancantor.com/ | TWITTER: @JillianCantor | Facebook: @AuthorJillianCantor |
Insta: @JillianCantor |
Goodreads: ttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1651861.Jillian_Cantor

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