Review | Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, some of us all at once. Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America–“Dear White America”–where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

With current events I’ve been hearing more and more about this poetry collection, so I knew I had to check it out. Be forewarned, this collection is not for the faint of heart. Smith’s use of language and the raw imagery created is amazing, heart wrenching and very in your face real. The collections takes on a lot of current and continuing issues in society regarding racism and prejudices. The collection in and of itself is beautiful, but at times hard to read emotionally – which I think it should be. This is the type of writing where you should slow down and actually absorb what is being said. All in all it’s an amazing collection of poems that definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Happy reading!

Review | The Mall by Megan McCafferty

The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I first heard about this book, I was beyond excited – set in the 90s, in a mall? Sign me up. As someone who grew up in the 90s, I was all about the nostalgia I hoped this would make me feel. It was all that and more, I found myself frequently having bouts of full on laughter as I read this book. Yes, it’s absolutely cheesy and over the top at times, but let’s be honest – so were the 90s. The mystery/treasure hunt aspect was a surprise and so fun to read – it was like The Goonies set in a mall.

Hilarity aside, it was also a story about Cassie and her journey through this last summer in her hometown. She went through a transformation, which was not always through good decisions, but in the end she learned so much about who she really wanted to be.

Thanks so much to Wednesday Books for sending me an ARC of this one! The Mall is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Happy reading!

Review | With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After loving the Poet X, I was super eager to get to this book, but was hesitant because I didn’t know if I would enjoy Elizabeth Acevedo’s prose as much as I loved her verse. I needn’t have worried because honestly, I loved it just as much. She paints the imagery of her characters and their lives so beautifully, the format of the writing doesn’t matter. My heart hurt for so many of the characters in this book, not just Emoni, and I also rejoiced in their victories and achievements. Everyone went through different growth and setbacks, everyone had their own secrets and history, and I just loved it. Plus her descriptions of all the food featured in the book made me wish I could taste all of the dishes and experience them the same way Emoni did.

This book has really cemented Acevedo as an auto buy author, no matter what format she writes in. I love the raw truth and heart she brings to her characters and the overall story and absolutely can’t wait to read more.

Happy reading!

Review | Moonstruck Vol. 2 – Some Enchanted Evening

Werewolf barista Julie and her supernatural friends try to unwind at a party, but a conniving fraternity of fairy bros has other plans for our heroes. With one of their friends trapped in the frat house and the winter solstice (a notable night of magical mischief) looming ever-closer, it’s up to the amorous werewolves and gregarious centaur to save the day.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was hoping to love this volume as much as I loved the first volume, but couldn’t quite get there. The constant fighting between Julie and Selena. I did appreciate that Selena got called out on her behavior, but there was just a little too much. I still loved the characters (let’s be honest, Chet is the most precious being) and the art style, but overall the story just didn’t gel for me.

Obviously Julie and Selena have a lot of things to work out, but some of the constant misunderstandings and arguments just really dampened the story for me. The fairies and their storylines were cool, but felt a little disjointed and incomplete.

I’m still interested to see what comes next, but a little worried that I won’t like it if it continues in the same vein.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Lost City by Amanda Hocking | Review

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

Buy Links | Macmillan | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

I’ve never read any of Amanda Hocking’s previous works, but I have heard of them, so when I got the chance to give this one a read I was really excited. While I know this is in the same world as some of her other books, this book definitely gave enough world building that I feel you don’t have to read the other books first. I’m sure if you read the other books first you will benefit from them, but I feel you don’t have to.

The pacing of the story was pretty good, though there were sections that certainly slowed a bit because of the info dumps that occasionally happened, but other than that it was really well paced and enjoyable. I really liked the characters as we got to know them and felt that they were well rounded. I’m definitely excited to see where this story goes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Happy reading!

Review | My Riot by Rick Spears and Emmett Helen

Set in the early ’90s, My Riot is about a trio of teen girls team up to form a rock band and shake off society’s expectations of what it means to be a young woman coming of age in the modern world.

1991—Val, a teenager from a conservative family, has grown up dreaming of becoming a ballerina, but recently something has changed. She’s begun feeling pressure to conform to a specific idea of beauty, body type, and a personality that just doesn’t fit.

Val meets Kat, a smart, witty girl that doesn’t take any crap off anyone. Kat introduces Val to punk rock. Along with Rudie, another new friend, the three form an all-girl punk band they ironically name The Proper Ladies.

Soon Val and her friends find themselves caught up in a movement with other girls also starting bands—also finding their voice. Collectively, these “riot grrrls” discover that their songs ring out loud and powerful, and for Val, there’s no going back.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this one, and if I had to use one word to sum it up I would say it was very raw. It really tackles a lot of things mirrored in today’s society and does not shy away from it. We follow Val who isn’t quite sure what she wants in life, she just knows that something is missing and she transforms as she goes on her journey to find out who she really wants to be. It’s something everyone goes through, but in their own way and it was great to see her victories, missteps and heartbreaks along the way.

I really enjoyed the reading experience of this one, especially watching Val grow and define herself, while battling her own internal demons. The art style perfectly fit the feel of the story and changed to fit the mood perfectly.

Happy reading!

Review | The Secrets of Love Story Bridge

It’s summer in the city and passions are soaring along with the temperature—for everyone but Mitchell Fisher, who hates all things romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to the famous “love story” bridge. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother.

Then one hot day, everything changes when Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but she disappears before he can ask her name. Desperate to find out her identity, Mitchell is shocked to learn she’s been missing for almost a year. He teams up with her spirited sister, Liza, on a quest to find her again. However, she’s left only one clue behind—a message on the padlock she hung on the bridge.

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

This book was a read that will definitely tug at the heartstrings. We follow Mitchell, who is still grieving after losing the woman he loved. He’s cut himself off from really feeling emotions and his whole world is his job and his daughter. At the beginning of the book he’s a bit cynical towards anything romance and can come off as a bit cold, but seeing his growth and transformation was really a wonderful journey.

I expected the plot with the mystery woman to be a bit different and while I still fully enjoyed the story it surprised me when it was taking different turns. If you’re looking for a story of warmth and learning to deal with grief and let go of self imposed guilt, then this is a good one for it.

If you want to check out an excerpt from this book, make sure to check out my blog tour stop for it – The Secrets of Love Story Bridge | Excerpt.

Happy reading!

Review | St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk

I’ve really been enjoying the Tor.com originals that I picked up recently as they are fun, quick reads that are great palette cleansers. Plus – these types of short stories are a great way to get exposed to author’s you may not have read works from yet.

All magical requests come with a price. A girl with witchcraft, no friends, and only her mother’s bees to confide in will pay whatever’s necessary to keep the girl she loves safe.

I enjoyed the fact that this story had a very short blurb, which served a dual purpose – not a ton was revealed about the story and it’s just enough to intrigue you and get you to read it.

This is the first thing I have read from C.L. Polk and I LOVED the writing style. At first it’s like you’re entering the middle of the story, but Polk very quickly weaves the world and characters into a fully shaped story. This story has a ton of magic and mysticism, and looks at the lengths people may go to protect those they love, without realizing the consequences.

Happy reading!

Review | The Hidden Witch

Aster and his family are adjusting to his unconventional talent for witchery; unlike the other boys in his family, he isn’t a shapeshifter. He’s taking classes with his grandmother and helping to keep an eye on his great-uncle whose corrupted magic wreaked havoc on the family.

Meanwhile, Aster’s friend from the non-magical part of town, Charlie, is having problems of her own — a curse has tried to attach itself to her. She runs to Aster and escapes it, but now the friends must find the source of the curse before more people — normal and magical alike — get hurt.

I was a little worried that this volume would be like a bridge between the first volume and the third, and while it did have some bridge elements it still stood really well on its own. There was a lot of character growth and transformation in this one and anyone who doesn’t love Aster and Charlie even more after reading this obviously will have read something different than I did.

I really loved the progression of some of the other characters that we met in the first volume, as well as introduction of new characters. Sedge’s sub plot in this one really hit me in the feels, and seeing him and Aster interacting and communicating more was great.

I’m kinda mad I slept on reading this one for so long, but so glad I did finally get to it. I can’t wait to pick up the next one!

Happy reading!

Review | Everything You Wanted to Know about the Afterlife by Hollister Rand

From the world class spiritual medium and author of the “compassionate yet educational” (John Edward, author of Infinite Quest) I’m Not Dead, I’m Different comes an insightful exploration into what it’s like on the other side.

Is there really an afterlife? Do spirits still feel love for us? What is it like when we cross over?

After more than twenty-five years of bringing comfort to tens of thousands of people, Hollister Rand brings her incredible knowledge and experience to this accessible and comprehensive book that takes you on an eye-opening journey into the afterlife.

With warm-hearted sincerity, Rand offers you a clear-eyed and uplifting view into an unknown universe and teaches you how to navigate your life on this earthly plane with eternity in mind. In an increasingly uncertain world, there is only one guarantee: we all face the same outcome. Featuring her signature humor and infused with authenticity regarding her own spiritual journey, Rand provides comfort, clarity, and laughs along the way.

As soon as I heard about this book my interest was piqued and I wanted to give it a read. I’ve always been interested in the afterlife or what could possibly happen after death, so I was very eager to read this one.

I loved the question and answer format that Rand uses in this book, and really appreciated how a lot of her answers included personal stories and anecdotes. The information she provides is very informational and in a lot of ways very heartwarming or comforting. This is a great book for anyone who might have questions or be wondering about what may happen after death, or if there is anything beyond death. It could also in some ways be a good read for people who may be grappling with the loss of loved ones and have questions about the afterlife.

Thank you again to Beyond Words Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Happy reading!