Reviews

ARC Review of I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

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ibelieveinathingcalledlove1I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Publication Date: May 30, 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, and Romance

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Diverse story, adorable characters, and a unique twist to normal high school drama.

Purchase here: Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to 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 her answer 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 Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake 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.

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Thank you, Macmillan International, for my ARC of I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo!

My actual rating for I Believe in a Thing Called Love is 3.5 cake slices rounded up to 4 cake slices. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is an adorable young adult rom-com story about a girl named Desi Lee. Desi is Korean American and excels at school but not so much at romance. After years of flailures (flirting failures) Desi, finally, starts to watch the k dramas her dad loves so much and uncovers the secret to how the couples always get their happy ending. “The K Drama Steps to True Love” is born and Desi is sure that if she follows the steps, her crush Luca will become her boyfriend and they’ll have their happily ever after. Desi and Luca have great chemistry and banter in this book, and you’ll be rooting for them until the very end. The ship is honestly just adorable.

“K dramas bottled up swoony true love in addictive ten-to-twenty-hour packages. My reactions to chaste first kisses were akin to heart attacks. I bawled with abandon when couples had to break up when one of them was suffering. I sighed happily with glazed eyes when my characters finally got their happy ending.”

This book is hilarious, in an almost painful way, and if you’re a fan of contemporary stories then you will love I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Desi’s personality really shines through the pages and you will fall in love with her in an instant. I love how Desi has so many sides to her and people will relate to both Desi’s confidence and her insecurities. Desi is an unapologetic know-it-all, she is a hard working student and knows how to fix a car because of her dad being a mechanic. Speaking of Desi’s dad, the relationship between Desi and her dad is the most precious part of the book. It’s heartwarming and beautiful, I wish parents got more presence like this in young adult books.

I love the idea of Desi finding love through following her thought out k drama steps. However, I definitely think this book should come with a “Don’t Try This at Home” warning label. To fulfill her k drama steps Desi takes some drastic measures, a few really dangerous ones too, and I wish the severity of some of her actions had shown through some more than I felt they did in the book. Another downside to the book was the ableist language that was used throughout the book. Words like “crazy” and “insane” were thrown around a lot which was just unnecessary and could potentially upset readers.

All in all, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is definitely a young adult contemporary story to check out this season. This book had me fangirling over Desi and Luca and even got me invested in the amazing side characters as well. It will make you laugh (out loud) and it will make you swoon. At certain times my heart was racing from the tension but the end really wrapped it all up nicely.

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{#SUMMERFEELS BLOG TOUR} Review of Summer Feels: A #romanceclass Anthology + Giveaway

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Welcome to the blog tour for Summer Feels: A #romanceclass Anthology. Today I have my review for this amazing book and a giveaway where you can win a gift card and a few books. You definitely have to join in on the fun!

SUMMERFEELS-cover-ebookSummer Feels: A #romanceclass Anthology

Publication Date: April 30, 2017

Genres: Romance, Contemporary and Anthologies

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: A lot of short stories, there is something for everyone to enjoy during the summer.

Purchase here: Amazon | Print Copy (the Philippines only)

Synopsis: Summer loving happens so fast, as you’ll find with Summer Feels, an anthology of 23 stories of love under the summer sun by #romanceclass authors. Savor the candied thrill of firsts—first loves, first kisses, first solo vacations—and the bittersweet triumph of second chances. Tour the Philippines as the stories take you to mountain retreats and island paradises. Let the magic of the hot sun, clear blue skies, and lots of love take you on a roller coaster ride of feels. With stories ranging from sweet to sexy, there’s sure to be something for any fan of romance.

Featuring stories by: Elea Andrea Almazora • Erleen Alvarez • Ella Banta • Rachelle Belaro • H. Bentham • Halina Cabrera • Charlie Dio • Mina V. Esguerra • Elizabeth Galit • Georgette S. Gonzales • Ami Granada • Irene Jurado • Catherine Lo • Arlene Manocot • Bianca Mori • Eris Peñaluna • Farrah F. Polestico • Kit Salazar • Miel Salva • Fay Sebastian • Kate Sebastian • Yeyet Soriano • Marian Tee

About #romanceclass:

#romanceclass is a community of authors who attended various writing workshops organized by Mina V. Esguerra, readers of books by those authors, and readers of English-language romance books by Filipino authors. Visit romanceclassbooks.com to see the full catalog of books!

Giveaway

For this giveaway, you have the chance to win a gift card, some swag and even a copy of the book. You don’t want to miss out on the chance.

Prizes:

  • International: Amazon gift card worth $25
  • Philippines Only: Print books from some of the authors:
    • My Dutch Billionaire by Marian Tee
    • Kate, Finally by Yeyet Soriano
    • Old Enemies Make the Best Lovers by Kate Sebastian

Enter the giveaway here: a Rafflecopter giveaway, and good luck to you, I hope you win!

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Thank you to the authors and editor Kate Sebastian for my e-ARC of Summer Feels and the chance to read and review this book for the blog tour!

Summer Feels is a book that’s cute and hot, and that makes you want to go to the ocean to take a dip to cool down. I doubt any other anthology will soothe your cravings for a good summer read like this one. The anthology starts out slow with short stories that are cute and lovely, and that will make your heart flutter and then gets hotter and hotter with every story. Towards the end, you will definitely need a fan and/or a dive straight into the ocean. The best part about this anthology was that I got the chance to read short stories both from #romanceclass authors I have loved and admired since before and also new ones where I want to devour every book they have ever written.

I do believe there will be at least one short story (but probably, very likely, a lot more) for everyone. We see so many tropes that I love in this one that I know if you are a romance fan, you will want to devour Summer Feels like you devour an ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Only this anthology lasts way longer, and will probably make you warmer instead of colder. However, you will love it. While I gave this anthology 4 cake slices as a whole, I had a lot of favorites that I believe are worthy of 5 cake slices and I really want to really highlight them here. They made me fangirl, squeal, laugh and just feel as if I was in the middle of the best summer ever which is just what I love about these short stories.

The following short stories were all favorites of mine. Fall for Me by Miel Salva made me fangirl and fall in love with the characters that I cannot wait to read more about in the future. Then there was The Game of Twenty Questions by Elizabeth Galit which was second chance romance with stargazing, a soft spot for me. Moreover, Guide for a Day by H. Bentham also really stole my heart away with this m/m romance where a tour guide and the journalist that was given the tour fall in love. Secondhand Wanderlust by Erleen Alvarez was amazing with its travel vibes, a backstory of sisterhood and a girl finding love while also stepping out of her comfort zone. Four Basic Principles by Bianca Mori was really unique and had second chance romance and beautiful ocean scenes. Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra was a really hot short story that makes me want to read the full book where these characters are from, it was just the best. There is also An Overdue Adventure by Kate Sebastian which had a bit of a hate to love story with childhood frenemies together with a bittersweet backstory and beautiful nature scenes. Lastly, Butter Sunset by Halina Cabrera which was steamy and had lots of food references that made me crave seafood. These short stories were all beyond amazing, and I will definitely be checking out these author’s full books in the near future.

An issue I had with a couple of the stories was that a few slurs and harmful words were used. The words crazy, gypsy and queer were all used in inappropriate and harmful ways and were completely unnecessary for the stories. They could have easily been deleted.

All in all, this is a summer themed anthology you should definitely have on your radar. If you love reading romance and finding new authors at the same time, there is no better choice than this anthology. There are so many adorable and hot stories in Summer Feels: A #romanceclass Anthology, you will most likely fall in love with a lot of couples in it. In Summer Feels you will see enemies turned into lovers, childhood friends, romances with second chances, men with beards, female soccer players and so much more.

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{THE SEAFARER’S KISS RELEASE DAY} ARC Review of The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

HAPPY RELEASE DAY TO THE VERY ANTICIPATED THE SEAFARER’S KISS BY JULIA EMBER! 

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Today is the day, after my week long The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember Countdown the book is finally out in the world. If you haven’t pre-ordered the book before today, you can now buy the book at the purchase links I have linked below. I’m sure you guys will love this book, I know I did.

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The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Publication Date: May 4, 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT and Mermaids

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Fat bisexual MC and a unique story that is a retelling of the Little Mermaid but with a darker twist.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository | Duet Books

Synopsis: Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

About the Author

Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks was published by Harmony Ink Press.

Connect with author Julia Ember at Julia-Ember.com, on Twitter @jules_chronicle, and on Facebook at facebook.com/juliaemberwrites.

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Thank you, Julia Ember, for my advanced reader copy of The Seafarer’s Kiss. I really appreciate the opportunity to read and review it.

The Seafarer’s Kiss is a breathtaking story about a mermaid and a human with Norse mythology and unforeseen plot twists woven into their story. This book will move readers that cannot get enough of magical, beautiful worlds and characters that are relatable in the way they are flawed and the way they grow. This is a book you need on your radar, as even though it has an incredible f/f love story the book focuses heavily on personal growth. The main character, Ersel, is a fat bisexual mermaid who goes through a lot of character development throughout the book and by the end of it still isn’t perfect (like none of us are). That is what makes her such a compelling character, and a protagonist you can truly feel for.

The world in The Seafarer’s Kiss is one that will mesmerize you, and how the mermaid culture and human culture is woven into the story will have you enjoying every single moment. We see the power balance between the mermaids, mermen, their leader, and the gods. Loki, the trickster god, plays a large part in the story, is genderfluid and uses they/them pronouns. Even though they are the villain in a lot of ways, you will still find yourself truly liking them for their unique personality and scheming ways. I also fell in love with the belugas, they were such a beautiful part of Ersel’s life, and I just really enjoyed reading their interactions with the other characters. This book is based on Norse mythology and is also a retelling of the Little Mermaid and the entire concept of the story makes you want it to never end in order to stay in the world forever.

The Seafarer’s Kiss is a story about breaking free, creating your own path and deciding who you want to be and what you are willing to do to get there. It explores how easy it is to make rash and irreversible decisions that can have catastrophic consequences, and how to deal with that afterward. Both Ersel, Havamal, and Ragna all made mistakes that they have to live with, at times they are selfish and mean, but that is what makes you truly remember these characters. They are flawed, and they fuck it up like the rest of us, but we see their journey of growing and dealing with their mistakes. This book and its characters show readers that making mistakes is okay, and though we cannot undo them, we can move forward and do differently next time.

The Seafarer’s Kiss is filled with strong and flawed women, who are so much more than just their love interest, and are all about personal growth and finding their own path in life. Throughout this book you will be rooting for the characters, hoping they are safe and that no harm is done to them as they fight their way through unforeseen obstacles. Reading the Seafarer’s Kiss felt a lot like being on a rollercoaster. I was screaming at some parts out of fear for the characters, and squealing out of joy at other parts where everything was just right. This is a book every reader needs on their radar this spring. Explore the world and its complexities with Ersel, Ragna, and Havamal and never look back.

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ARC Review of How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

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downloadHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, and Contemporary

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Bisexual representation, explores different kinds of grief and has an interracial relationship.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

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Thank you, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, for my e-ARC of How to Make a Wish I received through Netgalley. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review this book early!

Trigger warning for parental neglect and emotional abuse, as well as implied sexual assault (one of the characters implies they were inappropriately touched at a bar, but the scene is not on the page).

How to Make a Wish surprised me, and had a lot of the aspects I want and crave in an excellent book. All of my friends who read this book early swore it was amazing and How to Make a Wish really delivered, and then some. This book has complex and fully fleshed characters that you will instantly fall in love with. I laughed, I cried (more like bawled like a baby) and was filled with utter joy because of this book, because of Grace’s bravery and Eva’s strength, and their shared love for each other. This book really is something special and I would recommend it to everyone who loves a young adult book that doesn’t shield away from the sad and messy parts of life, the beauty that exists between all of it and the complexity of loving someone and still knowing they’re not treating you right.

What really makes you fall in love with How to Make a Wish is the characters. We have the protagonist of the story, bisexual Grace Glasser, and her relationship with her mother, a mother who is reckless and acts like a child, making Grace the adult in the relationship. It was truly heartbreaking to see Grace deal with her mother, constantly being crushed by her expectations for things being better this time. Grace dreams of becoming a pianist, but even that dream seems impossible when her mother is completely dependent on Grace. However, there is also Luca, Grace’s best friend, and his mother and their support and love for Grace is endless and beautiful. Grace is basically a part of Luca’s family. Luca knows Grace likes no one else and he loves her so much, despite their ups and downs. Their friendship was one of my favorite parts of the book.

“But it was so easy. Up there, I didn’t belong to a messed-up mother. She wasn’t the grieving daughter. We were just Grace and Eva.”

Then we have Eva, biracial, gay and the love interest of the story, who moved to live with Luca’s family after her mother died unexpectedly. Eva had a hard time dealing with life without her mother, in a new place where nothing is the same, not even her love for ballet. I fell in love with Eva immediately, she is sarcastic and strong, and a character I think many will feel for. When Grace and Eva meet, there was an instant connection. Two lonely, motherless girls found comfort in spending summer nights together at the top of a lighthouse and before they knew it, it became something so much more than just two girls finding contentment in each other. I love Grace and Eva’s relationship because it’s so soft and tender, which is something I really miss in f/f relationships. There is something so incredibly heartwarming about the connection Eva and Grace has and I love how this book shows us the insecurities and complexities that exist with it.

“Then her whole hand slides across my whole hand, and our fingers are all mixed up, pale and dark, lavender on dark purple, wrapped over and around. The tree creaks ominously, but I don’t care. I forget about everything that came before this – every [pissed off] and jealous emotion I had from earlier tonight, gone.”

You can’t discuss How to Make a Wish without mentioning the writing. Blake truly draws you in with her use of words and imagery, and the voice of Grace is one that makes it impossible to put the book down. There are funny and sarcastic moments, sad and heartbreaking scenes, and everything in between, and Blake delivers in her execution. How to Make a Wish has amazing bisexual representation and a masturbation scene that needs to be celebrated since they are so rarely featured in YA books.

All in all, How to Make a Wish is a book you need to put on your radar this spring and summer. This book is so beautiful it hurts. You will fall in love with Grace, Eva, and Luca and see their struggles, their happy moments, and most importantly of all, their happy endings despite life not being easy or fair. This story is about grief, freedom and the complexity of love. How to Make a Wish is a magical mess of beauty, sadness, love, dreams and wishes and a book that deserves all of the praise in the world.

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ARC Review of Promdi Heart (Hometown Love Stories)

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promdiheart1.jpgPromdi Heart (Hometown Love Stories) by Georgette S. Gonzales, Agay Llanera, Chris Mariano, C. P. Santi, Jay E. Tria and Ines Bautista-Yao

Publication Date: March 29, 2017

Genres: Romance

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: Take a quick tour of the Philippines with six hometown love stories.

Visit Jimenez, Misamis Occidental where a priest might just set you up with a man whose dimples are to die for. Visit Silay, Negros Occidental and get on a horse alongside hunky, hazel-eyed Negrense royalty. Visit Kalibo, Aklan and find yourself in the arms of a cute drummer boy who just happens to be your kuya’s BFF. Visit Hagonoy, Bulacan and spend All Saint’s Day next to a distracting boy who promises to write you a song. Visit Vigan, Ilocos Sur and meet the hot man you used to bully when he was a shy, chubby boy. Visit Pundaquit, Zambales and find love in a bronzed fisherman whose eyes hold depths you’ll want to explore.

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Thank you to the authors for my e-arc of Promdi Heart. I really appreciate the opportunity to read and review this book early!

Promdi Heart is a cute anthology with short stories from six different authors. There were lots of romantic moments I enjoyed. However, there were a few issues I had with a few of the stories, which is why I have a hard time deciding where between 3 and 4 stars my rating lands. I think the most accurate rating is 3.5 stars but I do think my favorite stories of the anthology were worth a very strong 4 stars. I would definitely recommend this anthology, especially if you love #romanceclass, but I would warn you that the word crazy and lunatic are used in an ableist way in two of the stories and that in one of the stories a bully falls in love with her victim, and though it’s resolved it’s still something potential readers should be aware of. I love how food and culture were woven into all of the stories, and it even made me a little hungry at times, so I think people will really appreciate that.

Only the Beginning by C. P. Santi

Only the Beginning is a cute and romantic short story. I thought it was lovely to see Andi and Martin get to know each other. We see their friendship and relationship grow through their regular meetings and through texts, which was a nice way to show time passing. The story is a typical enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story that I know many will appreciate. I enjoyed that we got to see so much about the city of Jimenez, its culture, and rich food. There were a lot of Filipino expressions and names I did not know, but that made me that much more eager to want to look it up and find out. Also, all the talk about donuts gave me a craving. I thought the whole part with “choose your own happiness” part could have been done differently since not everyone can choose their happiness due to mental illness and whatnot. I understand what the author wanted to say but it could have been expressed differently.

Letters About a Boy by Ines Bautista-Yao

I liked how Letters About a Boy was a story told in a sequence of letters throughout many years. Slowly through the letters, we get to know Tin-Tin and Nicolas and how their relationship evolves. At times, the letters felt a bit too one-sided for real life, but it worked well in this story. In this story, there was some electric moments between Tin-Tin and Nicolas, as well as some cliché scenes that I know romance lovers will squeal over. However, I thought the ending felt too rushed and that one or two extra letters between the second to last two would have made it feel more natural in the grand scheme of things. I wanted Nicolas to woo Tin-Tin a bit more before they got their happily ever after because she really deserved it. Other than that, the ending was adorable and funny and fit the story perfectly.

Drummer Boy by Chris Mariano

Drummer Boy together with One Certain Day were my favorite stories in the anthology. Drummer Boy was filled with culture and music that will make any reader fall in love. The story is sexy, cute and I loved how the characters already had a backstory, which is a lot better when you’re thrown into a short story since you don’t need to spend unnecessary time on the “getting to know each other” part of the story. The relationship had real buildup and the trope younger sister falls in love with big brother’s best friend is strong in this one. This trope is one of my favorite ones. There are a lot of moments where you will swoon over the couple and love how romantic their entire story is. I love how the characters in this ship are really there for each other through everything, which is damn lovely.

One Certain Day by Jay E. Tria

One Certain Day is a story that is centered on one holiday, All Saint’s Day, every year and the interaction that happens between Jose and Alice. In the story, there is banter and a growing friendship between the two. It becomes very clear that despite them not meeting each other often, they speak regularly and have a real connection. I love how All Saint’s Day and the sense of family was such a big part of the story. I love books with a focus on family and this short story really delivers in a genuine way. The attraction between the characters is subtle and adorable, to be honest. I love how the ending was not a typical “and they lived happily ever after” but more bittersweet and realistic, making you wish for more.

Once Upon a Bully by Georgette S. Gonzales

Once Upon a Bully is the story about Bridgette and Miguel. Bridgette used to bully Miguel in elementary school before his parents died and he moved out of town. Later in life after many years they are both back in town and neighbors at that as well. I’ll admit, the idea of a romance between a bully and the one who was bullied honestly set me off right away. It’s not something that should be taken lightly and I hate it felt that way at times in this story. Miguel brushed the entire thing off because he was bullied by a girl and they were just kids, which didn’t sit right with me. However, Bridgette did apologize to Miguel and they were very sweet together, with a chemistry between them that is very apparent, which is why I still found the story enjoyable. The word crazy was used in an ableist way twice in the short story so be aware of that.

Back to the Stars by Agay Llanera

Back to the Stars is an enchanting short story and had the most amazing vibes. I loved that the story mostly took place by the ocean and that open starry nights played a large role in this couple’s story. This story has everything I love about romance. Wency was Leah’s closest childhood friend, they always spent summers together growing up, and he has been in love with her for years when she finally comes back to Pundaquit. This story has a lot of lovely themes that I enjoyed. It’s about growing up, what it means to change and still hold on to the things that matter. This couple is really swoon-worthy, I love Wency and think he’s probably my favorite love interest from the entire anthology. He was that amazing. The one alarming part of the short story was when Leah called her boss Luna, as in lunatic, which is ableist.

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{The Paths We Choose Release Week} ARC Review of The Paths We Choose by Maria Hollis

The Paths We Choose Release Week: Day One – My ARC Review

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Hi, readers and welcome to day one of my The Paths We Choose Release Week. There are four days left until The Paths We Choose is released into the world and to celebrate I’m releasing a fun new post every day until the book is out. Today I have my ARC review of the book, and as you might have suspected already, I absolutely loved this book.

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The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis

Publication Date: April 6, 2017

Genres: New Adult, LGBT, Contemporary and Romance

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Strong friendships, chosen family, and girls owning their sexuality.

Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: Lily Ferrari enjoys having control over every detail of her life. Ever since she left her parents’ house to gain her freedom, she decided to fully own her autonomy. But an unexpected visit from her little brother may change the path she chooses to follow.
Add to that a casual fling with the bright architect Mayte González, and Lily’s summer is turning out more interesting than she expected. It certainly beats the routine of working extra shifts at Johnson’s Bookstore.

A few weeks before her college life begins, Lily needs to figure out if she’s wrong about the past or if she should continue to protect her heart at all costs. Sometimes moving forward is only possible if you have the right people by your side.

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Thank you, Maria Hollis, for my advanced review copy of The Paths We Choose. I really appreciate the opportunity to read and review it early.

The Paths We Choose is amazing in its simplicity and grace. It shows us the story of two very different girls, Lily and Mayte, who after a one-night stand start a causal relationship before Mayte leaves for Florida to study her masters. This story is about two women proud of their sexuality and even if their agreement to only be friends with benefits is kept somewhat a secret they are not afraid to be open with what their relationship is, to a certain degree. This book is definitely one I would recommend if you love seeing girls supporting girls and just girls being proud of their sexuality. There is a strong sense of friendship and family, in the sense that family is not blood but instead it’s who you choose to love and stand by no matter what. What I love about Maria Hollis’s books is that she makes you feel as if you are a part of the girl gangs she portrays in her books and that you’re just as awesome and supported as they are. Her books are really positive and uplifting.

The book is told from the point of view of Lily who is non-straight but not comfortable with attaching a label to herself. I think it’s important to see that not taking a label is just as valid as choosing to have one and that no matter what you’re always a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The most amazing part about Lily, though, is her personality. She is rude, feisty and the most organized out of her friendship group. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and that’s what’s so great about her. However, there is also a lot more to her than that which is why this book was a lot sadder than I expected. Not that I’d say The Paths We Choose is a sad book, but because what Lily went through is a reality for young adults all over the world. Nonetheless, the book shows us hope in the way that Lily has found herself a group of friends that are her family, her chosen family and girl gang. This book also explores what it means to be free, to be who you are and to find what it is you want to do with your life. This book is about girls who are driven and hardworking, they are badass women who survive and can do anything with the support of each other and the strength within themselves. This is something that I think should be celebrated.

“She has the freedom to be who she wants to be. Freedom to love herself without worrying whether other people accept her as she is.”

All in all, The Paths We Choose is a book with lots of hot scenes as well as amazing friendship and family moments that will make your heart squeal out of delight. There are even a few cheesy ship moments that had me fangirling a lot. I’m very weak for those. Maria Hollis knows exactly what to do to make you fall in love with a couple and make your heart sing. The ending was beautiful and realistic, and I love how we see that there is no instant “I love you” moment. Maria Hollis just keeps on impressing me with her work, and I can’t wait to see the rest of this series and her other future work. The Paths We Choose is a book I know many will come to love and enjoy just as I have.

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ARC Review of Speak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco

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speakofmeasiam1.jpgSpeak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Genres: Young Adult and Contemporary

Rating: sliceofcake5

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art—the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

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Thank you, Philomel Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy of Speak of Me as I Am!

Be aware that Speak of Me as I Am deals with death, cancer, suicide and has some offensive language. All of this is discussed down below in my review. There will be spoilers in this review so consider yourself warned.

Speak of Me as I Am is a story about two teenagers, Melanie and Damon, who have both dealt with an immense loss but in different ways. The story made me cry and there were several scenes I enjoyed in the moment, however, there is a lot about this book that bothered me. I see what this story is trying to do. It wants to show us how grief is something we just have to live with and how there are so many different ways we experience it and are faced with it. I really wanted to love this book, but it fell short in so many ways and was even hurtful at times instead.

The story is about Melanie who lost her mother to cancer and Damon who lost his best friend to suicide. Damon is a black teen who we see throughout the book dealing with the loss of Carlos, who is Salvadoran and his best friend. Carlos was a photographer and left all of his photos and his camera behind, and with those Damon clings to his memory and the feelings he carries around with him regarding Carlos’ suicide. Throughout the book, we find out about Carlos’ hard home life but despite this, the reader gets a feeling there is something we don’t know about Carlos’ death yet. What we towards the end of the book find out is something Damon himself first releases after Carlos’ death. Carlos was in love with Damon, which was very clear in the photographs Carlos left behind.

“He was a master at that, at avoiding getting too deep. He could be evasive as hell. But it was all so clear in those photos, all these pictures he took of me but never showed me.”

I wait, but he doesn’t say anything. His hands are shaking. “What, Damon?” I ask. “What was so clear?”

Damon takes in a deep breath and lets it go all at once. “The way he looked at me,” he says.

To me, the story reads as if Carlos killed himself because he was in love with a man, his best friend Damon, and it very much falls into the bury your gays trope. The fact that Carlos was gay (or bisexual, his sexuality was never defined) felt very much like a plot device and like it only existed to make the main character Damon feel ashamed that he didn’t know and support his best friend sooner, despite him not feeling the same way. The way Carlos’ sexuality was used felt cheap because it only served as a way to give the main character meaning to his suicide and I think it could have been dealt with in a lot of other better ways and still convey the story’s main message.

However, we have another character in the story that also plays a large part and that is Tristan. Tristan has been Melanie’s best friend since they were kids, and he is gay. In the beginning of the story I was scared he would fall into the gay best friend trope, however, I did feel that his character got its own subplot and his character was fleshed out which is why I think he becomes much more than just the best friend. Nonetheless, I had issues with his subplot. During the course of the book Tristan’s rich and political parents find out he’s gay and their reaction is to send him to a therapist that is a family friend in the hopes to “cure” him. They force him to go by forbidding him to be a part of the school play unless he meets with this therapist. This is not okay, you cannot cure homosexuality and to even see it suggested in YA book is saddening.

A few other things I had a problem with in Speak of Me as I Am was the fact that the black characters’ skin was described using food comparisons, for example, in the book we see one character described as he “has his mother’s dark, almond-shaped eyes and father’s espresso skin” and our main character Damon is described by the other main character Melanie like “His skin’s the color of latte, with dark, wiry hair and eyes so green they’d make Kermit jealous.

Another instant that bothers me was how the main character Damon was supposed to be understanding and accepting, yet used the fa-word (a homophobic slur) in a conversation with his cousin who thinks theater is gay. Down below are two quotes that I thought were offensive and that involve this homophobic slur (trigger warning for the fa-word).

First quote,

“Really? You don’t think that’s kind of—”

“—fucking gay?” Jackson finishes. It’s the first thing he’s contributed to the conversation.

“No, actually,” I say. “I don’t think it’s particularly homosexual that I’m participating in the play.”

“All the theater kids are straight-up fags,” Jackson states.

“Yeah, D, he’s not lying,” Prague says.

“Oh, really,” I say, leaning forward in my seat. “How do you know this, Jackson? You spend a lot of time hanging with the theater kids?”

Second quote,

Prague looks down at his shoes, shoulders slumping. “It ain’t like that, D, we were just being—”

“Ignorant, right,” I say. “Because that makes it better. What’re you afraid of, Prague? That you’re gonna catch the faggot bug?”

First of all, when you call someone out on the page for their homophobic and ignorant statements you don’t actually imply or insinuate that they are gay too and if you are so accepting yourself you should never use the fa-word to describe a gay person even if you say it with sarcasm. You cannot show how offensive a word is by using it yourself.

The book also showed ableism which is seen in the following quote,

“I give him this pathetic little half wave in return, a scrunching of my fingers that probably makes me look like I’m physically disabled.”

Verdict: This book is offensive in more ways than one, and I would seriously advise you to read it with caution, if at all. This book has a lot of elements that can be hurtful to marginalized readers and I hope my review has shed some light on why that is. All of my quotes and conclusions comes from the ARC provided to me. There may be differences between the ARC and the final version.

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ARC Review of A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

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acrownofwishes1.jpgA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genres: Fantasy and Young Adult

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Lyrical writing, amazing and fleshed out characters and magical world.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

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Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin and Netgalley, for my advanced review copy of A Crown of Wishes!

A Crown of Wishes is a magical story that follows the Fox Prince and the Jewel of Bharata through a Tournament of Wishes with them seeking and fighting for their dreams and hopes. Roshani Chokshi with her lyrical writing has a way of pulling you in and making you feel every word on the page, every smell, touch, and feeling as if it were your own. If you love fantasy you are guaranteed to love this book, but even if fantasy is not what you usually read I know the writing and the characters in A Crown of Wishes will sweep you away like the wind.

“This was a fight. I would fight to win and fight to return. And that hope, to have something to fight for once more, grew wings inside me.”

Except for the writing, the characters are really what made me love A Crown of Wishes as much as I did. Vikram and Gauri are from enemy kingdoms and together have to fight in a Tournament of Wishes where everything is at stake: their dreams, hopes, and fears. Their journey will push them to their limits and take them to places they never saw coming, both in this magical new world, they are discovering and within themselves.

First of all, we have Vikram, a prince about to be king in name only in his kingdom Ujijain. He’s courageous, witty and charming, with lots of hope and faith in himself and his abilities. Gauri on the other hand, the Jewel of Bharata and the exiled princess, whom Vikram calls Beastly Girl is a mixture of sweet and vicious. You could say she is a series of contradictions but her flaws are so genuine and relatable you can do nothing but love her. She has grit in every bone of her body, but her heart and soul have a soft and tender side that comes out in painfully human moments. They are both forced to work together, having been mere enemies a few moments earlier, and through their journey, they get to know each other and learn to trust one another in ways they never saw coming. There is undeniable chemistry between Vikram and Gauri which is seen both in their most dangerous moments and the discreet moments just between the two of them. Another character I really fell in love with is Aasha, though she plays a much smaller part in the book than both Vikram and Gauri she truly captures your attention and makes you want to see more of her. She is curious and kind, and will always lend you a helping hand.

All in all, this amazing fantasy book deserves all of the praise in the world. I’m still awestruck by the writing and doubt anything I write in my review will ever do it justice. The lyrical writing we see in A Crown of Wishes is breathtaking and rare and will make you fall in love with every word you read. If you are looking for a book with a detailed and interesting plot with well-developed characters and beautiful writing then look no further. A Crown of Wishes is filled with culture and lush descriptions and is a must read Young Adult Fantasy book this spring.

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Review of My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

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1361263_large.jpgMy Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Music, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Selling points: Amazing allergy rep, a cute gang of kids who all play in a band together, and calling out mean girls.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: If Life Was Like a Song.

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

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“Bringing my EpiPen with me everywhere I went was like having a stupid pimple that never went away! Besides, like I was going to have the guts to stab myself with a giant needle in the leg if I ate something I was allergic to anyway. Wouldn’t I bet too busy barfing or fainting or something else awful to be my own doctor?”

I’ve had severe allergies since the day I was born, and it hasn’t really been easy or fun most of the time. Having allergies can be extremely lonely, and pretty scary too, especially when your allergies can kill you in a matter of minutes. This book is a book I wish I had when I was younger. We all know that representation matters, and as I read My Year of Epic Rock it was as for the first time someone else had all the same fears and quirks as I did about my allergies.

Thank you, Andrea Pyros for giving a peanut allergic girl like me a book where I got to laugh, cry and just enjoy a whole gang of kids with different allergies just being themselves. No one dies in this book, the squad is all supportive of each other and to be honest having a band called The EpiPens is the most genius idea ever. I honestly hate my Epipen but I can’t go anywhere without it, and Nina just totally gets that, among other things like kissing and eating at a friend’s house. Nina’s mom also reminds me of my mom, which honestly makes me cry all over again. Because yes this book made me cry multiple times. I’ve never had anyone truly understand what I go through on a daily basis, and this book just hits right where it hurts.

All in all, what I wanted to say is this, if you are looking for a cute book about friendship and a group of kids starting a rock band together then pick this book. There are middle school crushes, lots of fun parts with all of the gang, and characters that feel completely genuine. The book community needs more books with main characters that have allergies, and if nothing else will convince you, I hope you might pick this book up to spread awareness about allergies. I know I will recommend this book to anyone that listens as I scream into the void. I want allergic teens to have what I didn’t.

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ARC Review of Bluff by Julie Dill

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31748403Bluff by Julie Dill

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: sliceofcake5sliceofcake5

Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis:  Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Knowles is surrounded by the privileged. Michael Kors gym bags and designer shoes are part of her daily scene, but the talented cheerleader has a secret: she and her dad can barely pay the bills. Broken by his wife walking out on their family, Chelsea’s father ignores his responsibilities. Between cheer costs, grocery bills, electricity, and other regular financial burdens, it’s no surprise when a cut-off notice arrives in the mail. Chelsea knows it’ll be up to her to keep the lights on.

With the deck stacked against her, Chelsea decides to bet their future on the dubious poker knowledge she learned from her father before he gave up on parenting. Nervous but determined, Chelsea heads to a casino with very little security and wins big. Thrilled by her win, she’s quickly drawn to the casino again and again. She risks it all, especially when the attractive, young pit boss takes an interest in her.

Chelsea’s life, no longer filled with cheerleading, school, and hanging out with her friends, is now consumed by smoky casino floors and the ups and downs of a gambler’s life. True gamblers know when to fold, but Chelsea keeps betting long after her needs are met. The complicated web of lies soon begins to spin out of control, threatening to expose everything. Will someone see through her bluff?

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Thank you Amberjack Publishing and Netgalley for my copy of Bluff by Julie Dill!

Bluff by Julie Dill tells the story of 17-year-old Chelsea who lives with her irresponsible dad. Every month they can barely pay their bills, and in a moment of desperation, Chelsea goes to a casino in the hopes of making some cash. There she lies about her name and age and starts playing poker. Bluff had a lot of potential, potential to do amazing things. When I first saw the book, and read its synopsis, I thought, finally a book about teenage addiction, specifically gambling addiction. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.

As someone who knows how poker works, at least well enough to understand the majority of the lingo, I really liked that we got to see so many scenes in great detail of how Chelsea plays poker. However, the book falls short in its execution of the fact that Chelsea actually has an addiction, which is clear in her actions but is never actually addressed. Two parts that really signal that Chelsea has a problem with her gambling can be seen in the following quotes,

“It’s almost by default that I end up where I do. My car just goes there. I need to see Nate. But even more, I need to play poker.”

&

“A perfect life would be just hang around here and play poker. Forever.”

What the book fails to do is acknowledge, on the page, that Chelsea has an addiction, and that the gambling needs to stop. Another problem I had with the book was the love interest, who worked at the casino. Even though he didn’t know Chelsea was underage, and he did break up with her when he found out her age towards the end, it really irked me that the romance was even a part of this book at all, at least with someone older. There were some amazing friendships in this book, and I would have loved to have them developed further instead.

Julie Dill managed to create a main character that the reader easily relates to and feels for, but failed in story and plot for me. Towards the end, the story really seemed to be turning around. The romantic relationship ended, and both the father and Chelsea got stable jobs. What completely ruined the book was the last scene. Everything had started to turn for the better for Chelsea, she got a second chance, and the reader gets the impression that she is ending her gambling. Then this happens at the very end,

“And some time later, at two o’clock in the morning, I find myself walking into a new, different casino.

Looking for something.”

I understand that addiction is complex, and doesn’t just go away because you are met with obstacles that are impossible to overcome. However, that’s why I feel this book should have taken a different route. There was room to do so much good with this book, to show how addiction works and how to get help. Instead, this book basically romanticized addiction in the way it didn’t really take it seriously, and teens that read Bluff need to know that Chelsea’s behavior is not okay. I feel that Bluff really needs a sequel to address and sort out everything it missed in the first book.