book reviews

ARC Review of 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

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27 Hours by Tristina Wright

Publication Date: October 3, 2017.

Publisher: Entangled: Teen.

Genres: Young Adult and Science Fiction.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository 

Synopsis: Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish. But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret. They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

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Thank you, Macmillan and Entangled: Teen, for my ARC of 27 Hours. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Before I read this book I was so intrigued by the world Tristina Wright has created in 27 Hours and I have now truly fallen in love with it. 27 Hours is an action-packed character driven story which will have you rooting for the main characters while you at the same time get to know this new world far away in outer space. There’s romance, friendship, family and so much more which are all explored through the four POVs of Rumor Mora, Jude Welton, Nyx Llorca, and Braeden Tennant. Through these four different teenagers, we are taken on a journey where everything they’ve ever believed will be challenged and thus they must fight for their survival and for what’s right.

The stories from Earth said the night sky there had been the color of the void and pricked with millions of stars. Only one moon had stamped a hole in the darkness. The sky above the colonized moon of Sahara was a jumble of blue-green nebula, Sahara’s host planet (which had some long number designation Rumor could never remember), and five other moons.

The characters in 27 Hours are all marginalized. Rumor is bisexual and multiracial; Jude is gay; Nyx is Latinx, deaf and pansexual; Braeden is asexual; Dahlia is transgender, bisexual and a dark-skinned Latinx; and lastly, Trick is a man of color and gay. However, despite the fact that a lot of on the page representation has been praised, there has also been criticism. The opinion on the racial representation has been divided. I would urge you to read reviews that bring up the topic of racism and colonization in 27 Hours before deciding to read the book since the issues with the representation and the potential harm the book may inflict is well described there. The criticism should not be taken lightly.

What made me like this book was the characters. I fell in love with every single one of them and was really invested in their journeys. The main characters are a strong cast of characters that a lot of ways remind me of the found family trope. Family doesn’t necessarily mean blood, but instead who you choose to love, to trust and to surround yourself with. I love the romance that we see developed throughout this story both between Rumor and Jude, and Nyx and Dahlia. Especially the last one killed me because it was slow-burn friends to lovers, which is my weak spot. I would have to say that Nyx is my favorite in the entire book, she is a badass who can use a sniper rifle. I love how she loves Dahlia and puts flowers in her hair at random moments. Moreover, I also love how sign language was such a big part of the story because of the fact that Nyx is deaf and that Dahlia and Braeden always thought about making sure Nyx understood what they and everyone around her were saying.

Nyx’s fingertips prickled, and her mouth went dry. Gods, crushes sucked so much. Especially ones on your best friend. Who had skin the color of deepest space and eyes like twin stars. Who preferred looser shirts that slipped off one shoulder and teased Nyx mercilessly with collarbone. Who wore a pair of green pants Nyx absolutely loved on her because they clung to her legs, her thighs, those hips. Hips made for grabbing.

If you want a book about marginalized teenagers saving their world, their moon, while exploring their feelings regarding love, lust, friendship, and loyalty then 27 Hours is for you. We are thrown right into the middle of the story and throughout the story, there is nothing but high stakes as the countdown towards dayside is ongoing. This book will make you laugh, cry and squeal. I cannot wait to see what the sequel will bring us, I have a mighty need for it. However, before you read 27 Hours, do proceed with caution and read other reviews that bring up the problematic aspects of this book.

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ARC Review of Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

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Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Publication Date: November 21, 2017.

Publisher: Wednesday Books.

Genres: Young Adult and Contemporary.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository 

Synopsis: Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.

1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.

What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

This summer’s going to be great.

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Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for my ARC of Not Now, Not Ever. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

I have fallen in love with Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson. This book is funny, adorable, and perfect for anyone interested in a nerdy romantic comedy. This diverse contemporary young adult story is about Ever and her summer at a competitive camp for geniuses where she has the chance to win a scholarship to her dream school. The only catch is that everyone in her family thinks she is somewhere else and no one at camp knows her real identity.

Elliot Gabaroche was everywhere and nowhere. Ever Lawrence, seventeen-year-old girl and newly certified genius, was going to summer camp.

Not Now, Not Ever is inspired by The Importance of Being Earnest and that makes the story that much more interesting. The book has the best vibes and if you are interested in young adult books that actually show the characters studying, this is it. Not only those this novel gives you the best nerdy fantasy vibes, it also has a romantic plot that will make readers swoon. The relationships that exist between all of the characters, especially the deep friendships that develop, are what makes this book so great.

“We could be two people who like each other, who care about each other. I want to know you. I want to know what happens when you go home. I want to know what you think about things and what you’re reading and what you see.”

If you want a light young adult story with romantic, nerdy, hilarious and just plain heartwarming moments, Not Now, Not Ever is a great choice. Don’t hesitate to grab this book at your bookstore or at your library. The cast of characters is diverse, the main character is a black girl and there is no shortage of characters that people will relate to. There is so much about this book readers will fall in love with.

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ARC Review of peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

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peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Publication Date: September 26, 2017.

Publisher: Button Poetry.

Genres: Poetry, Hispanic American, and Family.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository 

Synopsis: One of the most original performance poets of her generation, Melissa Lozada-Oliva has captivated crowds across the country and online with her vivid narratives. Humorous and biting, personal and communal, self-deprecating and unapologetically self-loving, peluda (meaning “hairy” or “hairy beast”) is the poet at her best. The book explores the relationship between femininity and body hair as well as the intersections of family, class, the immigrant experience, Latina identity, and much more, all through Lozada-Oliva’s unique lens and striking voice. peluda is a powerful testimony on body image and the triumph over taboo.

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Thank you, Button Poetry, for my ARC of peluda. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

I have fallen in love with the poetry collection peluda and for me, what makes peluda such a unique poetry collection is how brutally honest and charismatic it is. It’s funny, deep, and a must-read for contemporary poetry lovers. peluda is feminist and about body hair, family, friendship, Latina identity, and the immigrant experience. I believe poetry collections about, and written by, women of color should be celebrated, and this collection is no exception.

jessica jones is so dark-haired she must be Latina
i pretend she is so that i am
not once again rooting for some angry white girl

so i tell myself that
all of this throwing a heater out of the window
must be chingona
all of this rude lonely girl must be bruja
all of this breaking & entering & you shoot at me,
i’ll pull the bullet out of my ruined jacket &
shove it up your ass with my pinky finger
must be mujerista

I love how Melissa Lozada-Oliva puts everything on the page and it just speaks to you. The writing in peluda is magnificent and I love the vivid imagery in Lozada-Oliva’s poems. The rhythm and overall way she portrays her experiences, it’s just my favorite. Furthermore, I also love how this book is not afraid to shy away from the speaking its truth, no matter what that is. My favorite poems in this collection are 1) Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe She Got Up Early 2) Ode To Brown Girls With Bangs 3) AKA What Would Jessica Jones Do? 4) The Women In My Family Are Bitches 5) I Shave My Sister’s Back Before Prom and 6) We Play Would You Rather at the Galentine’s Party.

on our own til infinity! bitches
the vengeful violent
pissed prissed and polished
lipstick stained on an envelope
i’ll be damned if i’m compliant! bitches

If you love contemporary poetry then you need to read peluda. It will speak to your heart and take you on a journey few other poetry collections will. This book celebrates Latina women and their experiences, it touches on what body hair and our relationship to it is and how it looks so differently for different people. This book is feminist, badass, and beautiful. I’m deeply in love with peluda and I know you won’t regret putting it in your shopping cart. It’s a must-read for all poetry lovers.

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ARC Review of Ripped Pages by M. Hollis

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Ripped Pages by M. Hollis

Publication Date: September 22, 2017.

Publisher: Independently published.

Genres: Retellings, Romance, Young Adult, LGBT, and Fantasy.

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Purchase here: Amazon | GumRoad

Synopsis: Princess Valentina lives a reasonably comfortable life, but after her mother’s death, her father gets tired of taking care of her and locks her in a tower. She spends years on her own, talking to the birds on her windowsill, and reading books with adventures she will never experience. Her plans of running away are usually left for another day because she knows the vast forest surrounding her tower is too dangerous to cross alone.

Until one day, another girl passes by on her horse and Valentina wonders if she’s finally brave enough to seize her chance of freedom.

Ripped Pages is a Rapunzel F/F retelling in the format of a novelette.

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Thank you, Maria Hollis, for my ARC of Ripped Pages. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Ripped Pages is a beautiful story that feels fresh, unique, and absolutely perfect. This f/f fairytale feels modern and timeless at the same and is a retelling of the classic story of Rapunzel. Ripped Pages is a short and quick read with only about 60 pages and I do think a lot of people will fall in love with it.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a princess whose name was Valentina. She had long golden hair that her maids loved to take care of because of its beauty and softness. When she laughed, her plump cheeks turned a delightful shade of pink, and her bright green eyes were always lit with excitement over every little thing.

I love how this book was a retelling of Rapunzel yet it had unexpected twists that made it its own. Moreover, this fairytale retelling is diverse and just what I feel is needed in young adult literature. Ripped Pages is filled with cute and precious moments yet still deals with important and heavy topics that are in no way brushed over. These heavy topics are addressed in the beginning of the story in a clear trigger warning. Despite not being able to speak on these matters with authority, I do felt that the way they were handled were in a good way that felt appropriate for the story that was being told. However, like the author mentioned in her TW, proceed with caution since you know yourself the best.

Ripped Pages is a beautiful, soft, and romantic f/f story and is perfect for anyone looking for a book about a girl who after a long time of hardship finally gets her own chance at a happy ending. The main character Valentina is young and has found books as an escape, and throughout this story, she comes to terms with what it means to realize you are worthy of love, happiness, and freedom.

Valentina knew then what she wanted to be, more than anything in the world. A heroine; helping other women, having adventures and lifting curses from enchanted princesses.

Everyone, remember this, once upon a time in a place called earth a little novelette called Ripped Pages, written by a woman called Maria Hollis, came out and anyone who knew what is what knew that Ripped Pages was a book to get. Thus, mark your calendars for September 22, 2017, and buy this f/f fairytale as fast as you can.

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Review of Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

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Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Publication Date: August 8, 2017.

Publisher: Button Poetry.

Genres: Poetry, Nonfiction, and Mental Health.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository 

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views. Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

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Thank you, Button Poetry, for my ARC of Depression & Other Magic Tricks. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

The poetry collection Depression & Other Magic Tricks is amazing and captivated me from start to finish. It is a book about depression, anxiety, love, and heartbreak. However, I have to mention that based on the synopsis and title I expected the book to be more about mental health and less about romance and heartbreak, which took up a large part of the collection. I don’t mind poems about romance and heartbreak but I did find this collection to give another impression before I started it.

anxiety is the cousin visiting
from out of town
depression felt obligated to
bring to the party.
mom, i am the party.
only, i am a party i don’t want to be at.

My favorite poems in the collection are explaining my depression to my mother a conversation, on releasing light, so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid…, sevens small ways in which i loved myself this week, and follow-up a prayer / a spell. There is something absolutely magical about these poems and a few of these have become my all-time favorites. The poems in this collection are well written and beautiful. In comparison to a lot of other contemporary poetry collection I’ve read the poems in Depression & Other Magic Tricks are a bit longer which I thoroughly enjoyed. At times, more depth was achieved because of it.

i held hands,
with my sadness,
sang it songs in the shower,
fed it lunch,
got it drunk
& put it to bed early.

If you want a poetry collection that deals with depression, anxiety, romance, and heartbreak then this collection is a perfect fit. I felt that this book really dealt with mental health in a genuine, respectful and relatable way. Depression & Other Magic Tricks is truly a book to put on your radar if you love contemporary and diverse poetry.

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Review of When We Wonder by Fatima AlSuwaidi

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When We Wonder by Fatima AlSuwaidi

Publication Date: November 11, 2016.

Publisher: Blurb.

Genres: Poetry.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository 

Synopsis: When We Wonder is a journey through
love and pain,
hurt and healing.
This collection of poetry and prose explore the different aspects of self-struggle and self-discovery,
and all the things that make us wonder.

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Thank you, Fatima AlSuwaidi, for my review copy of When We Wonder. I received this review copy in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion.

When We Wonder has become one of my favorite poetry collections. This book manages to say so much with so little words and there is no doubt in my mind about the fact that When We Wonder deserves endless success and a spot among the more well-known poetry authors currently sporting their names on the bestseller lists. What I love about this poetry collection is that the poems are relatable, beautiful, and will sweep you away.

I fall in love with the idea of people
The ones I created in my head
I create them
With all the things I want them to be
And all the things I want them to tell me
And I fall in and out of love with the idea of them

When We Wonder is easy to read, draws you and it’s just what I look for in poetry. The writing is concise and to the point, and that’s what makes it so good. The book is about love, pain, struggling, and self-discovery while it at the same time also takes you on a journey. I think anyone will be able to find multiple poems in the collection that speaks to them. Moreover, I love how When We Wonder incorporate space and nature into a few of the poems through vivid and beautiful metaphors that feel modern and on point.

Sunsets;
is the universe showing it’s talents
It’s the way it holds the brush
The way it chooses the colors
And the way it paints

I recommend When We Wonder to all contemporary poetry lovers out there. This is a collection by an author of color is one you don’t want to miss out on or overlook. It’s without a doubt a perfect collection that shows you the best and the worst of love, sadness, and self-growth.

I am an ocean
A whole universe is in my head

I am more than the bruises on my skin
I’m more than the bags under my eyes

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ARC Review of East in Paradise by Tif Marcelo

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East in Paradise by Tif Marcelo

Publication Date: September 4, 2017.

Publisher: Pocket Star.

Genres: Contemporary and Romance.

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Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: When an entrepreneur and an Army reservist end up in their own reality show fauxmance, they have to decide whether their love exists just for the cameras…or if it’s for real in this warmhearted romance, perfect for foodies and wine lovers!

Bryn Aquino, the former manager of a Filipino restaurant, knows the value of hard work. With a shiny new MBA in tow and an investor, she’s ready to start her own business: a culinary retreat where visitors can relax, cook, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Dubbed Paraiso Retreats, she leases the childhood home of army reservist Mitchell Dunford—who returned from Afghanistan to revive his family’s vineyard—but finds herself in a bind when her investor pulls out of the business.

When the retreat catches an internet live stream producer’s eye through social media channels, Bryn is offered the opportunity of a lifetime—to document her journey in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Excited, Bryn happily agrees to the arrangement…only to find out that she’s going to have to fake an onscreen romance with her indifferent landlord in order to keep her audience interested.

As Mitchell and Bryn put on a show for the cameras, they find their romance isn’t hard to fake. They’ve got more in common under their bluster, banter, and doubts. As their relationship heats up and the cameras keep rolling, the line between show and reality blurs. And when the pressures of family, business, and the audience stack against them, will their romance survive internet stardom? Or was it just for show?

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Thank you, Tif Marcelo and Pocket Star, for my ARC of East in Paradise. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

East in Paradise is the standalone sequel to North to You. The book follows Bryn Aquino, a Filipino business woman, and Mitchell Dunford, army hero, and an expert in all things agriculture and vineyards. East in Paradise takes you on a journey where you are swept away by reality TV, fake dating, delicious food and wine, raw emotions and lots of laughs. If foodie romances, as well as strong and vulnerable heroes and heroines, are your thing, then your next book purchase should be none other than East in Paradise by Tif Marcelo.

This attraction is a conflict of interest, and all wrong. But the electricity between us–it’s palpable. It has both a negative and a positive charge that draws me to him and pushes me away, though equally powerful. And I know he feels it, too.

I love how sweet the romance between Bryn and Mitchell is, their banter is A+ and they really have to work to get their happily ever after. They both have walls that need to be torn down and I loved to see that happen little by little. The end result was that much sweeter because of the hard work and ups and downs Bryn and Mitchell had to get through to get their happy ending. This book has both fake dating and reality TV and I love these tropes so much. Moreover, I love how the story is about more than just the romance between Bryn and Mitchell. Both of them are also trying to start businesses and that’s a whole process, and I like how we get to see that. There is a lot riding on the success of their businesses and we get to see them on every step of the way: the good and the bad, the rewards and the setbacks.

Damn, the woman won’t stop. Her attitude won’t quit; she refuses to submit.
And it fucking turns me on.

Bryn is a remarkable heroine, I love her so much. She is energetic, and always wants to fight and have the last word in discussions and arguments. I’m so glad she was portrayed the way she was because I think it’s rare to see headstrong and opinionated women get celebrated. I relate to her so much, so definitely give me more gutsy, vulnerable and stubborn women in romance. I love it when we see women going after what they want and not being afraid to do it. Furthermore, what I love about Mitchell is the fact that he’s kind, is in love with all things nature, and totally has a green thumb. There is also the fact that he’s a soldier, a captain. Mitchell has PTSD and I loved the way that was shown and handled. We see how he deals with both his anxiety and insomnia and how he gets treatment for his PTSD as his symptoms begin to worsen. I love how this book called out a lot of the stigma that exists surrounding soldiers with PTSD and I’m glad something so significant was brought up in a skillful way that in no way diminishes its importance. Mitchell and Bryn are both fully fleshed out characters that I think many will enjoy reading about and getting to know them.

Another aspect of East in Paradise I loved was the family vibes. We get to see both Bryn’s and Mitchell’s family, and despite none of them being perfect, I love how authentic it feels to see them come with their two cents about the entire ordeal of the plot. It’s also very clear how much Bryn and Mitchell care about their families and thus also care about what the other’s family thinks of them. Another plus was the main characters Camille and Drew from North to You made multiple cameo appearances (which was not surprising considering we were introduced to Bryn in North to You since she’s Drew’s cousin). As for future installments, the information about who the third book is about is still unknown. However, I’d really like to see the next book be about Victoria (Bryn’s sister) or Cody (Mitchell’s brother) since I fell in love with them both from what we saw in East in Paradise.

All in all, I love how Tif Marcelo has brought us two amazing foodie romances that will make you swoon. East in Paradise has the best romance and an amazing cast of characters to get invested in. I love how this book is both light and funny yet still manages to tackle important topics that I can imagine are often just brushed over. If you’re a lover of romance, food, wine and that classic “and they lived happily ever after” then you need East in Paradise on your TBR. Nothing beats a really good romance read and this book is definitely it.

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Review of Now You Can See by Jessica L. Tate

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Review of Now You Can See by Jessica L. Tate

Publication Date: April 25, 2017.

Publisher: Independently published.

Genres: Poetry, Nonfiction, and Themes & Styles.

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Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: Author Jessica Sankiewicz makes her poetry debut with a compilation of poems from her twentieth year. Now You Can See tells the story of a young woman caught between two worlds and her journey to reach some sort of clarity.

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Thank you, Jessica L. Tate, for my review copy of Now You Can See. I received this review copy in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion.

Now You Can See is a poetry collection about love, heartbreak, conflicted feelings, realization, and moving on from it all. This book is a good collection of poetry and I recommend it for readers who enjoy both contemporary poetry and the themes this collection explores. However, Now You Can See didn’t work as well for me. When I read the synopsis for this poetry collection I expected something completely different from what I got. I expected a book about self-discovery, growth, an emotional and/or physical journey with a focus on the protagonist of the story and not a relationship. I thought as a 21-year-old I would learn something (or at least relate to) from the protagonist and the journey she supposedly went through during her twentieth year. That was not the case.

19. Obviously the End of the Line

We feed off each other’s insecurities
We don’t even like each other
Have no reason to like each other
Except for the fact that no one else
Really cares about us anymore
We have nobody but each other
So let’s attach ourselves, never let go
There’s no other security left

Now You Can See is about a complex relationship that has ended. At times, it seems sweet and at times I felt alarmed over how co-dependent the people in the relationship seemed to be and how I just wanted the protagonist to realize she deserved so much better. In that aspect, I definitely think the poetry collection comes back full circle and delivers a satisfying ending. If you have ever been through a brutal breakup, then Now You Can See will probably speak to you a lot.

Because all I feel for you now is pity
Because you proved your lie of love
You showed who you really were
I’m glad to know because it releases me
From guilt when I move on
To someone better than you

I felt that the writing shifted, some poems were definitely stronger and better written the others but all in all it worked and will satisfy readers looking for a quick read that will still make them think a little extra. I recommend Now You Can See to poetry readers looking for a collection that is about heartbreak and unsuccessful relationships. It’s a quick read with simple language, and I can see a lot of people enjoying it.

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ARC Review of The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember

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The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember

Publication Date: August 22, 2017.

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press.

Genres: Fantasy and Young Adult.

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Purchase here: Amazon Book Depository | Harmony Ink Press

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.

Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.

When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.

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Thank you, Julia Ember and Harmony Ink Press, for my ARC of The Tiger’s Watch. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

As Julia Ember’s third published book, The Tiger’s Watch manages to still contain all the things I love about Ember’s work and continue to surprise me with new stories and concepts. The Tiger’s Watch is about Tashi, who is nonbinary, genderfluid, and uses they/them pronouns. Throughout the book, Tashi’s pronouns are respected and the few times someone uses the wrong pronouns for them, it’s immediately called out and corrected. The world we see in The Tiger’s Watch is filled with magic and culture, and Tashi among other selected are inhabitors: “As inhabitors, we all bonded with one animal at the age of eight, and our life force linked to theirs.” At first, the connection between Tashi and their golden tiger Katala reminded me of Sense8 with how they can enter each other’s minds and take over each other’s bodies. In their country, Tashi learned to become an inhabitor at an academy specifically meant for children, poor or orphaned, to be trained to become inhabitors and spies, with the ability to wield their unique magic.

“It was something we all were conditioned to understand, even if most of us never fully accepted it. Once you became an inhabitor and said the words of the binding spell, your soul literally fused with another creature’s. I could access Katala’s memories, feel her emotions, and see what she saw. When she or I died, the one who lived would slip away as Kalx was doing. For me, bonded as I was to a mountain tiger with a projected lifespan of more than thirty years, things didn’t seem so bleak. I could live to be forty or maybe older.”

I think what really makes you connect with The Tiger’s Watch and draws you is the characters, even if your feelings towards them are torn. Tashi really evolved in this book. They still doubt themselves at times, but they also come to the realization that they can be brave despite not always having been so in the past and Katala, their golden tiger and other half, balanced them out in the perfect way. However, it should be mentioned that all characters in this book, including Tashi, can be seen as morally ambiguous. There is no one that is 100 % good or evil, there is both in all of them and that makes the entire story that much more complex and intriguing. It’s a lot harder to know who to root for when you’re on the fence about everyone and their true intentions. I cannot wait to see where the sequel takes us because there is unfinished business, and questions I’m eager to get answers to.

The romance in the book is complex and for me, it was very unexpected. At first, I thought it was going in one direction and then it went into another. I’m still uncertain how I feel about any of the possible pairings that have been explored in this book. Despite this, I do lean more towards one of the pairings and hope it will be further developed in the future (or that maybe a new pairing pops up).

One thing I’d like to point out is that I do not share the marginalizations the main character, Tashi, and a few other the other main characters have. Therefore I cannot speak on the representation in the book. If I find any ownvoices reviews that discuss the representation I will make sure to update my review and include these reviews here.

The Tiger’s Watch is perfect for readers who love unique and diverse fantasy books, especially if you love ones you’ll get through quickly. There are characters you won’t be sure whether you hate or love, and there will probably even be some tears (there was for me). However, The Tiger’s Watch is a great read and I really recommend it.

P.S. A personal side note. I’m so happy, surprised, and grateful that a dream came through with this book; I was mentioned in the acknowledgments of the book. If you’ve read my blog post, Bookish Bucket List Goals, you already knew this was something I’ve always wanted to happen since I honestly think it’s the coolest thing ever. Anywho, I’m so glad to be a reader and supporter of Julia Ember’s books.

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ARC Review of Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

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illegalcontact1Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Publication Date: August 15, 2017.

Publisher: InterMix.

Genres: Romance, Sports, LGBT, and Contemporary.

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Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel. 

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

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Thank you, InterMix, for my e-ARC of Illegal Contact. I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell has become one of my favorite romance reads of the year and has shown me how romance is done right. This dislike to love story between Gavin and Noah will surprise you and draw you in like you never saw coming. If you want a sports romance between two men that manages to be both cute, sexy and has that little extra look no further. Illegal Contact is it for you. As my first Santino Hassell book, Illegal Contact has cemented me as a fan and I need to read the rest of Hassell’s work as soon as I can.

“If you think my image is shitty now, just wait until a housekeeper or a PA finds out I like fucking guys. Gavin Brawley, the Barons’ alpha asshole, being bisexual will be a lot more sensational than golden boy Simeon experimenting at the club while wasted.”

My favorite part about Illegal Contact is definitely the characters. We have Gavin Brawley who is an American football player who is under house arrest because of an aggressive encounter. However, despite the first impression the world has of Gavin we soon learn there is so much more to him. First of all, he’s bisexual, something he has kept a secret because of how homophobic the football world is. Moreover, what the world doesn’t see is that Gavin is loyal and would do anything to protect his friends and teammates, his chosen family. Not to mention, despite being a very angry and blunt person Gavin has a soft side that you get to see more and more of as the story progresses. My friends and I have unofficially dubbed Gavin as a bisexual king. He’s just, you know, so majestic. There is also Noah Monroe, the other main character, a gay man, who only wants to do good in this world and help LGBT youth. He’s also not afraid to call it like it is and is a total badass at times. However, after an awful incident, he’s without a job, in need of money, and decides to apply for the job as Gavin’s personal assistant. Noah who knows nothing about football is nerdy and loves to read books. In a lot of ways, Gavin and Noah are such different people but as they grow closer and closer they find that there is a lot of common ground between them.

“The warmth in my chest and butterflies in my gut made it plain as day that my miserable ass really fucking liked him. In the hand-holding kind of way, not just the ass-pounding way.”

This leads me to the romance between Gavin and Noah, and let me tell you, it’s simply amazing. I mean they have such amazing banter, which is heightened because of the whole ordeal of them disliking each other in the beginning. Everything just progresses from that. You can slowly see them falling in love with each other and the readers know this is real love even before the characters themselves do. It’s so precious, they’re so precious, this is everything I could ever want from a good romance. I love how these men become all soft for each other, they just want to be there for each other and love one another. It’s so beautiful. At first sight, they look like they could never be a match but towards the end you know there is no better pair than Gavin and Noah.

Moreover, there is also a lot about sports in this book (since you know it’s a sports romance) and I love how Illegal Contact really called out how homophobic and toxic the football community is but also showed us how being a team is about teamwork, commitment, and family. The book also discusses how white sports media is and how in sports calendars the majority of players shown are white and how that does not represent what teams actually look like. Illegal Contact shows you both the good and the bad about the sports world and does so in a way I think many will appreciate.

All in all, if you want a quality romance novel about two men falling in love then look no further. Illegal Contact is funny, sweet and hot and is a perfect blend of everything you could wish for in a sports romance. This m/m story will knock you off your feet and have you singing your praises before you hit the halfway mark. You deserve this content in your life, make sure you put Illegal Contact on your radar.

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