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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Poppyhawke (The Blood and Ash Series): A Ship in My Fleet

A Ship in My Fleet
Poppyhawke (Poppy and Hawke)
From: Blood and Ash Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

*** Assume spoilers for From Blood and Ash and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire ***
Huge thank you to Jennifer L. Armentrout and her whole team for letting me be a part of the blog tour for AKOFAF! Giveaway at the end!!!

I know we still have four months left in the year, but this new JLA series is seriously going to be one of my favorite series of all year and all time. I can already call it. Why? So many reasons... so so so many reasons. One of which is this ship. I am going to apologize in advance for another really long post, but there are headings which should make it easier to navigate, and I'm talking about Poppyhawke, so it should be fun to reminisce with me and I couldn't cut more details out. :) (If there is a more official ship name for these two, please let me know! Poppyhawke seems like the most popular one on Tumblr from what I've seen...)

Also, I will definitely have a review for A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire up later this week, and if you think this is long... well, phew! You have no idea because my head is happily still spinning in circles from this book!

Last little side note: I will refer to him as Hawke for most of this post. I feel like we've gone through so much with the characters at this point we've earned the right to call him Hawke, right? 


When I Started Shipping:
Um, in the Red Pearl in book 1. Let's be real here, that was one hell of a way to introduce us to Poppy and I was so here for it. And that scene is sexy as hell, which is par for the course when thinking about the chemistry that Poppy and Hawke have. So that was definitely the starting point. Now, that's when we only knew Hawke as Hawke-the-Guard. Hawke as Hawke-the-Crown-Prince-of-Atlantia, I'm going to give them another ship moment.

After knowing Hawke was really Casteel, I revamped my shipping of Cas/Hawke and Poppy at the very end of From Blood and Ash when Hawke bites her. It was a rocky start to this second launching of the ship. The fact that I needed a second launching is a little concerning in and of itself, but it all worked out. I was really hesitant all of a sudden when Hawke randomly announced that the two of them were going to get married. And of course, that was the end end of the first book and I had to sit on that final scene for half a year before finding out what Hawke was actually planning. Turns out, it's all good. I was able to breathe again and feel confident in this ship when Hawke and Kieran kept evading Poppy's questions about being used as ransom. To me, that was all I needed. Hawke's explanation of how the marriage would lead to Poppy's free will and choice also sealed the deal.

Favorite Canon Moment:
Oh my God there are literally so many amazing scenes in these two books. I'm just going to pick three from each because they each draw out different aspects of the relationship that I love. And clearly the wedding scene takes the cake.

The Walk Back from the Duke's Library

After Hawke finds Poppy reading Lady Willa's Diary and is walking her back to her rooms, I don't just love that there is witty banter between them and teasing about the sexual content of the diary. That was all great, but what really made my heart give a sad smile was when Hawke shares that he was originally just going to ask Poppy if she wanted company. Because, remember, the whole lead up to that scene is that Poppy was in her room bored out of her mind and left through the secret door to go find the book. And no guards, not even Vikter, would ask her if she wanted to pass the time talking with somebody because she was supposed to be isolated from everyone. But Hawke knocked on her door anyway because he was concerned she was lonely. :)

The Blood Forest 

Yes, this is a favorite scene for the obvious reason. BUT, it is also a favorite for me because it's the first chance Poppy really gets to just be Poppy. She's not the Maiden on this trip and she gets to experience traveling as a normal girl would. And Hawke makes sure of that and I love how he would get so protective of her, not just physically, but psychologically protective of that mentality. No one was allowed to address Poppy as the Maiden, and he made sure of that, so then Poppy was able to ride along as Poppy only.

The Bite Scene (end of book 1)

 Mates. Soulmates. Heartmates. It's all the same to me. And this scene right here, where he bites her and damn near loses his mind over the taste of her blood, I was like, "ohhhhhh... there's something stronger there between them." I am absolute trash for the mate trope. Completely and totally. So this scene was a big moment for me because it was the sign that these two were mates and that the possibility of mates existing this this world could be a thing. Heartmates my dudes, heartmates. 1000% here for it.

The Hidden Cavern Oasis

Shifting into the second book now, I really liked the time Poppy and Hawke had together in the hidden cavern and pool. They're playing "pretend" because there is still a lot of contention between them about if they are actually emotionally attached to each other or if they are only using each other. To ignore all of that, it's almost like they're role playing who they knew each other as back in the start of book 1. It was lowkey painful to read because at this point, we all knew that they were completely and seriously in love with each other. But neither would outright say it. They couldn't just say it! It was like they were allergic to saying, "I LOVE YOU." ***SIGHS*** But in this scene the let themselves be completely gooey lovey with each other because they're "just pretending," (rolls eyes at them) and it makes the whole thing so sweet. 

The Marriage

ONE OF THE MOST SATISFYING MARRIAGES I'VE EVER READ.
That's it.
Perfection.
I will admit to crying tears of happiness in this moment.

Literally Every Time They're in Battle Together

One of the things that I love in this relationship (and any relationship tbh), is how fairly and equally Hawke treats Poppy. I think this is best seen whenever they have to fight. The fights between the two of them are hysterical and adorable, but I'm talking about the battles. When they fight the craven in the woods or the vampyrs outside the town. For example, when at the start of AKOFAF Poppy tries to run away and the craven come up on her and Hawke in the woods, here's what Hawke says (page 48):
Make me feel incompetent and kill more than me, Princess.
You gotta love when the couple kills evil zombie creatures together. And even at the end when Spessa's End is under siege, there's a brief moment when it seems like Poppy is going to be sidelined, but she ends up right in the thick of things and kills the Duchess. Hawke's big thing was just to stay near her so they could keep track of each other.

Poppy:
On a rational, empathetic level, I understand Poppy's complexity and reservations with everything surrounding Hawke. However, the irrational shipping part of me wanted to shake her and get her to open her freaking eyes to know that Hawke was legit in love with her. Poppy is so strong and stubborn, but she was also always so quick to back down from the idea that Hawke was genuinely interested in her. It takes such a long time for her to truly open herself up to the idea that their relationship is legitimate, but once she does, I was so profoundly happy for her. For Poppy to have gone through such turmoil in her life and then be on the emotional roller coaster of figuring out Hawke's feelings and her own self-doubt, it was too much. She deserved that peace so much it isn't even funny.

What's great about Poppy in the relationship is that she is completely unbending toward any of Hawke's orders or actions. She wouldn't leave Spessa's End. She questioned his thought process. She just never stopped being herself and letting herself hang onto the idea of individuality and personal freedom. And she's not afraid of Hawke either, which, why would she? But on a more serious note, everyone else is afraid of Hawke on some sort of level. Poppy however was never afraid of him, or anyone else for that matter, and it matches that intensity of Hawke so well.

Somewhat random... I am so envious that the emotional taste of Hawke's love is chocolate-covered strawberries. Take a second to truly imagine that. Poppy gets to taste chocolate-covered strawberries whenever she senses Hawke's love for her. Great taste. Zero calories.

Hawke:
From the first book I have appreciated beyond measure how much support Hawke gives Poppy. Whether it be emotional, physical, or giving her a kick in the butt to motivate her, he is always looking out for her best interests. In AKOFAF, we get to see that support so much more. It's not an obvious trait necessarily, but if you look closely enough at what exactly he's saying and how he's manipulating the group's actions, you can see how he is so careful to make sure Poppy isn't trampled by the new world around her or by her own uncertainties.

Hawke is over the top in his come-ons, which is great, but I don't really think he's over the top in getting what he wants from Poppy-- the real relationship and marriage. You can tell early on that Poppy is the world to him, but he sets up the whole arrangement so that Poppy can back out when she wants to, and that makes it all the better. And it's Poppy that calls off the "pretend" bit of their relationship. He gives her that space and lets her figure out for herself what she wants and he gives her the time to trust his love for her. He never gives up or backs down, but he doesn't barrel over her either.

Poppyhawke: 
AKA, one of the top power couples of YA fantasy of all time. The chemistry and emotional bond is off the charts and my soul would be ripped in two if anything would every happen to one of them, but I have to acknowledge the end of AKOFAF. There's no way I could cover this ship and no talk about how much of a power couple they are. First, without the end, Hawke is the next King of Atlantia and Poppy glows silver and can magically heal just about anything. Like, that alone would have been bada**. But then we get the end of AKOFAF, and Poppy is descended from the king of the gods or is his daughter or something (which is yet to be determined) and the Queen hands over her crown because Poppy then is the rightful ruler.

What.

I can't even fully wrap my mind around that. And Hawke is still this amazing Elemental Atlantian with the ability to compel people... friends, I love this ship. I love this ship so much and I really cannot wait to see Poppy and Hawke navigate their new marriage together and continue to support each other they way they do while also wanting to stab each other.

There were so many more moments I could have included in this, like the nightmare scene! And the scene in the mountains! And the way the Duke was killed! Jeez there are so many more things I could talk about!!! That just shows though how much there is to love about Poppyhawke and I am OBSESSED with how they will lead Atlantia and grow in their newlywed relationship.

Below is the Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway so you can win a copy of the AMAZING first book and get to see the ship for yourself!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks for reading!

Misc. Info:
Purchase AKOFAF!




Audio (out 12/1): https://amzn.to/2EsoMXw

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Review of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

50225678Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
3.48 out of 5 Stars



***Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!***

A cute fluffy contemporary romance, Boyfriend Material is such a sweet joy read. The characters were a little simple, the plot a little basic, but overall it was fun to read and there were moments that were truly funny! It is the perfect quick read for a lighthearted weekend.

Luc and Oliver both need a fake boyfriend, Luc to restore his reputation and have a date for a Beetle Drive, and Oliver to bring to his parents' wedding anniversary. They had previously known each other only through their mutual friend, but said mutual friend gets them together so they can both have a "fake boyfriend." This plot concept alone is a little too Hallmark Channel for me, but nevertheless, it is still a super cute concept. Luc and Oliver begin to "date" each other, but over the course of their dates, their individual desires and insecurities gradually emerge and they tease out the possibility and then the reality of their "fake" relationship becoming a real one. Of course, there were truly groan-worthy moments along the way when I wanted to smack the characters' heads together. But then there were other moments that were so tender and sweet my heart melted a bit.

As a whole, it wasn't the most sophisticated writing. By that, I don't just mean it was easy to read, but there wasn't much depth to anything either. For example the characters were fairly flat. Different depths would be hinted at sometimes, like how Luc was destroyed by his previous relationship with Miles, but then we wouldn't really go anywhere with it. Random nuggets of background and characterization would be thrown in and promptly forgotten. Honestly, I wasn't super frustrated by this, I'm just noting it because that for me was why I didn't connect as much to the story as I think I could have. It's something that I think unfortunately happens a lot across contemporary romances because the focus is so zeroed in on the relationship, everyone forgets that the two people are the grounding tethers that need to be developed first in order for the relationship between them to hit home with the reader.

Another way that I thought the story was a bit simple was through the plot itself. It's a cute concept, but not one that is very standout-ish. It makes for truly adorable light and fun reading material, but I couldn't really pull much else out of it. I loved that the story was set in London. I'm not sure what the city setting did for the story, but I loved it anyway because it's London. I loved that Luc and Oliver had such different careers. They needed that, especially as their whole thing is how they balance each other out and work wonderfully because they are so different from each other. And I also loved how they called each other out on their crap. It needed to be in there of course, but I liked how the author handled each character's response differently from the other's. Luc just sort of freaked out and then listened to Oliver's rant. Oliver on the other hand, really freaked out and it took him a long while to accept what Luc was telling him. I liked that, how they each responded in a way fitting to their own character. 
The best thing about this book was, hands down, the humor. So funny. So so funny. This was one of those books where I was reading it in public, looking like a loon because I was trying so hard to restraint my giggles. There were great zingers, but my favorite funny moments were when there was just awkwardness between the characters. Like, the comfortable kind of awkwardness if that makes sense? I loved when Luc's group chat would be going off and riffing off each other, I loved when Luc would casually tease Oliver and Oliver didn't know how to respond, I loved whenever Luc had to explain that we worked at a dung beetle organization. It was all great. 10/10 for humor on this one. 

Again, it was a cute fluffy read. While there wasn't too much to really sink your teeth into, it was enjoyable and is the sort of book that would be perfect for a holiday, bringing to a beach, curling up with for an afternoon... something casual to pick up.
 Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review of Fable by Adrienne Young

44012880Fable by Adrienne Young
4.67 out of 5 Stars

 ***Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.***

Fable was a such a sweet little surprise joy this week. I hadn't planned on reading it quite yet, but I am so glad I picked it up! I had a high suspicion that I would really like this book because I really liked Adrienne Young's other book, A Sky in the Deep, but wow! I really had a great time reading this book and I borderline love it! This is the start of a fantasy duology involving: pirates, ocean exploration, lots of gems, and some power struggles. I know that doesn't seem like actually too many pieces in play, but just hold up for a second, I'll talk about that later.

Fable was left on an island by her father to fend for herself when she was thirteen years old. He told her that if and when she made her way back to him, he would give her what she was due. Very vague, very cryptic, but it's all that Fable has to hold on to while on the island because everyone is out for their own survival. Four years later is when the book starts and Fable finds a way (barely) off the island and constantly is facing new secrets about the people around her, trying to figure out where she can call home, and struggling to remember that the only person she can rely on is herself.

For me, I think I really enjoyed this book because it is such a fascinating environment and, consequently, character study. It isn't a basic 'no one can trust each other' setup. Truly, every character keeps everything to themselves. No one reveals what or who they care about. The only information spread around is the bare minimum needed to achieve an end goal. And the second any sort of personal or valuable information is known by an adverse party, it is exploited. So all the secrecy and isolation is validated because the communal environment really is that hostile. For the characters then, especially Fable having been abandoned, it means they can never actually have an intimate relationship. No romance. No family. No close friends. Nothing. And we get to see Fable grapple with that because all she wants is to work for her father. Not even have him recognize her as his daughter -- 'cause she knows that's never going to happen -- but just work for him. To have a job where she sees him from a distance. She wants that intimacy with someone. She wants a home, but this isn't the kind of world where you can have one.

SPOILERS BELOW

PLOT:
The way I see it, there are two main plots in this book, one right after the other. The first plot is when Fable is making her way back to her dad. This bleeds into the second plot of dredging the Lark and becoming a part of the Marigold's crew. And they're split like, 60/40 respectively, and I liked that balance.

In the first half of the book, my favorite scene is when the Marigold hits the horrible storm on its way to Ceros. Maybe that's a weird moment to pick, but I could just see it all so clearly. The waves were huge, the crew were literally clinging onto the ship and getting tossed off it. Paj has a fantastic rescue of Auster. And we get a wonderful, striking image from Fable's perspective of holding onto the mast of the ship, and suddenly it has tilted so much she is dangling over pitch black water. Part of the reason why I like this scene is because Fable begins to become part of the crew and works with them to secure the ship as much as possible. Another little plus is that there is a teeny tiny West/Fable interaction where West forces Fable to go down into the hull of the ship. I could be reading too much into that moment, but to me, it is a West/Fable ship one. :)

The entire second half of the book, I was waiting for some sort of shoe to drop. Things didn't go the way Fable wanted with her father, but she lived. She found a crew. They got the gems from the Lark. And this whole time, I was just waiting for the big oh sh-- where we knew what would happen in the next book. Because there needed to be one. The one that we got with Zola at the end was good, I'm definitely hooked, but I don't think the tension of the book was released the way it needed to be. That big oh sh-- moment could have been bigger. I wanted high drama to finish us off, not just in physical events, but emotional, larger picture, detailed connection to Isolde drama. And it would have been fine too because that's the end of the book. It's a cliffhanger anyway so a small concrete nugget of dramatic background info would have wrapped it all up perfectly.

What's the overarching plot into the second book? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. The second book has definitely been set up. I mean, that cliffhanger with Fable's kidnapping. . . **cries a tear internally**. . . that was a rough ending. But we know where we'll be picking up in Namesake. What I can't pin down right now though is what the larger issue will be. I have small hunches based on things that weren't really explained: (1) why did Isolde have to leave Bastian; (2) are the gem sages the only zing of magic in this fantasy; (3) what exactly happened between Zola and Isolde; (4) are we going to see Bastian take control of the Narrows; and (5) what the $&*# did Saint mean when he warned Fable she was making the same mistake as Isolde?

So I'm very confused as to what could be in the next book, and not necessarily in a good way. I'd be okay with not knowing for certain what could happen in the sequel, but these questions that I have were all such small fragments that I don't have anything I can build a theory on. Not a reliable one at least. The crackpot theory currently spinning in my head is that Isolde was the daughter of some Bastian merchant or political figure and she ran away. This would make Fable then hella important to the Bastian people and somehow Zola knows she's a gem sage and wants to use her for her abilities. I don't know.

What I do know is that I would love to see Saint help rescue her. Yes, it would be super romantic for West to do it and for West to confront Saint about how he treated Fable, but really, I want to see Saint put everything on the line for his daughter and pull it off with style. That'd be great.

CHARACTERS:
Fable:
Fable to me is easily the most interesting character of the book, and not just because she was the main character. Like I mentioned in the non-spoilery part above, this is a harsh and hostile world where no one can have any sort of relationship with another living person. But Fable had love from her mom, Isolde. She knew what it was like to be loved and be able to express her love in return. And then in one fell swoop, her mother dies and she is dropped off on a random scraggly island by her father. So it isn't just that Fable is looking for human connection, she is filling in an ache because she has felt it before. And there are times that we see that tug, not just in direction of her father, but in the direction of West and the Marigold crew. All she wants is a home, and that is literally the one thing that is the most dangerous to have. And this is all just her development and personality, not including her role in the trader world as Saint's daughter or the unknown connection to Bastian as Isolde's daughter. So yeah, super interesting character.

West:
Dudes, West killed me. I had a super small inkling that he would be the romantic interest in the first meeting of him, but holy cow I could not have guessed how intense he would be. I absolutely loved how he stuck to his guns of being the helmsman of the ship and keeping his crew safe and making the side profits. That was great. What was even better about his character was learning about the knife's edge he was walking on with working for Saint and taking on Fable at the same time. And then there's the romance. Holy moley, this quote killed me (from th
e ARC, may be different in published version):

"And I think I've loved you since the first time we anchored in Jeval. . . . I have thought about you every single day since that day. Maybe every hour. I've counted down the days to go back to the island, and I pushed us into storms I shouldn't have because I didn't want to not be there when you woke up. I didn't want you to wait for me. Ever. Or to think I wasn't coming back."

Willa (and crew):
I'm pulling Willa out to represent the whole Marigold crew. She's important because of her familial ties, and she's one of the stronger connections Fable has on the ship (imo), but she really embodies how the crew operates. They don' know nearly everything about each other or even what they're doing, but there's such a strong bond of trust between them. And I know the whole area is crap and untrustworthy, but seeing how small this crew is and how much they care for each other, there is a small hope in my chest that they are different from other crews and they can grow to be closer to each other and more trusting of each other.

Saint:
I don't hate Saint, but I don't like him either. After seeing how awful this environment, I get his actions, but only to an extent. If he had kept a child on his crew, there would be a s**t ton of questions that would make Fable extremely vulnerable and threatened. I can buy that it really was the safest thing for Fable for him to leave her on the island to fend for herself. But at some point during the four years Fable was on the island, Saint became the most powerful trader of the Narrows. And in the back of my head, I can't help but think, really? The most powerful trader of the Narrows couldn't find a creative way to get his daughter off Jeval? And I know Saint was the one to send West and essentially pay Fable, but still. Get her off the island. And now, after Fable has found him, how far is he willing to go to keep her safe? When he finds out Zola has her, he better go after her in some way, shape, or form.

Zola:
Zola was a sleezeball I didn't really fully know the sleeziness of until he goes to set the Marigold on fire. But because he is such an awful character, I want to know more about his background because it would be strange for Adrienne to include a flat, greed-based-only character among all these other complex characters. There's definitely something there with how Zola was able to recognize Fable as Isolde's daughter, but I want to know what. I don't think we'll get any sort of sympathy for him, and I'm 100% fine with that, but I want a more complex yuck factor for him.

WRITING:
I originally gave this a higher rating, but as I went along, I lowered it because I have too much to say on the plot and the pacing to give it something higher. I think what really swayed me closer to the five star rating in this book though were the descriptions. Oh my God it was beautiful, so beautiful. I think I could smell the salt and brine while I was reading. I could see the wavy shadows of the sunlight on the ocean floor. Every action moment was perfectly described where I knew movement at the pace of the movement. It was really phenomenal descriptive work. 

File:The Beauty of Pigeon Island - Beautiful Ocean.jpg - Wikimedia CommonsBut while there was so much descriptive work, I wish there was a stronger thread of plot between this book and the next one. Fable was very sequential, but there wasn't much else getting laid as groundwork for where the characters are moving toward as a whole. The stakes could be high, but they came in quick and were resolved quick. The greater tension still hasn't really settled on one distinct focal point and that makes it hard to be urged to read the next book. If it weren't for my emotional investment in Fable's well-being, I don't know how strongly I'd be inclined to read the next one. There are a couple of other small things that make me very interested in the next book, but I can't say the plot is one of them because there is no path in front of us to be excited about entering.

There's a good chance I have a bias toward this book as well because I love the whole pirate/ship life, swimming through the ocean, living off the sea thing. Honest to God, on my bucket list, I want to take a voyage (for lack of a better word) on an old ship with no electricity or battery/gas operated equipment. It was so much fun finding images for this review and getting to imagine living at open sea and diving down to the bottom of the floor.

I want a map. I feel like I say this whenever there's any sort of fantasy novel without a map in place, but I want a map because I want to be able to chart the paths of the ships along with West and Fable. How much fun would that be??? To see the actual path the Marigold was charted for. I would love that. Maybe I'll even do that on my own just for the fun of it! I also want to know more about the relationship between the Narrows and Bastian because it was hinted at in this book that the political tensions are shifting and will be important in Namesake.


Okay, I feel like I could keep going, but I'm going to stop because I think I've hit all my main points and this review is already HUGE. In the end, I would definitely recommend this to a friend and I think I may even buy a copy for one. Personally, I want to see some of the cold barriers break down between the characters, especially between West/Fable and Saint/Fable. And I want more tension building! There's so much potential there for Isolde's history and the political tensions between Bastian and the Narrows, and I really hope those things get played up in the next one. I'm definitely going to be reading Namesake, that's for sure! 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Review of Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: Blog Tour

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
3.76 out of 5 Stars

**Thank you to Wednesday Books for an ARC and for welcoming me to be a part of the blog tour for this release!**
 
Where Dreams Descend is the first book in a new YA fantasy duology and is the author's debut novel. It follows Kallia, a magician with extraordinary magical abilities and even more extraordinary dedication and ambition. To earn her place as a magician, especially considering she's a female magician, she enters into the Spectaculore, a competition to find a new headliner for the Conquering Circus. Magic is both awe-inspiring and fear-inducing however, and with good reason. Performers in the competition are disappearing and an unknown shadowed force is sinking its grip into the city and magicians.

The beginning starts off with such a bang. Like, holey moley, this rollercoaster starts with a breakneck speed and I loved that. Right away, we get rich tones for every character, an enthralling atmosphere that sets the tone, and so many questions about the world and the magic system. And we move too. The pace dies off a little bit once Kallia actually gets to the city where the Spectaculore is, but it was still moving at a good clip. It was such an amazing beginning though. That may seem like an odd thing to highlight, but I really truly loved this beginning.

Lowkey, I was a little worried when I saw that this book was going to be about magicians and be centered around a magic show, but I had nothing to worry about at all! I guess my main concern was that it would either be too caricatured or too over the top. But while the performances certainly had a showiness to them, the rest of the story was a fantasy, and thank God for it. The world was actually much more grim than I was expecting too. I saw a comparison for this book to The Prestige (which, great movie, highly recommend), and I 100% agree with that not just because it is about magicians, but also because of the grit and the greyness of the city.

I feel like I'm come far in the review without any spoilers, so I'm just gonna finish it with no spoilers and see how that goes. :)

PLOT
Like I briefly mentioned above, I was a little worried about what the plot of this magician-circus-showy story would be like. But what I found while I was reading it was not the super dramatic, almost middle-grade, big top that I was worried about, but instead there were complexities that I really appreciated. Honestly, I think it could have been even darker and even more intense, but it was still a good story line that was fun to read.

One of the things I wish we got to see more of however was the building dark magic. I think I would have loved to see that take center stage as opposed to the Spectaculore because it was just more interesting to me. The performances were cool and interesting, but the behind the scenes disappearances were just so much more interesting to me. The Spectaculore was a very clean, clear-cut structure for us to follow along with, but I found myself always reading for the next dark magic moment, not the next performance.

CHARACTERS
Kallia, Jack, and Demarco are our three "main" characters. For the most part, it's Kallia and Demarco, but I have to mention Jack because he and Kallia had such. good. chemistry. Like, off the charts, I loved every conversation they had, it toes the line between rivalry and attraction, what's the next interaction going to be, kind of chemistry. And I think Kallia as a character, was most consistent when she was with Jack. At other times, I found her development to be a bit rocky. I'm glad she grew and developed as a character because given her background and her motivations, I would be extremely disappointed if she didn't change at all throughout this book. But that development was jumpy at times. There would be strings of dialogue when the internal tone I had for her was completely off, and it was an effort to understand how she came to be saying the things that she was.

Wow. That last sentence was so abstract. I think the simpler way for me to say it is-- Kallia's development was best when it was through her actions, not her words. Whenever there was a developmental moment for her character through what she was saying, it came across a little clunky for me. It didn't throw me out of the story, but it did throw me off the pacing.

I feel like Demarco's character had a little bit of the same issue developmentally. His best moments of growth where through his actions, not his words. His development wasn't as jolting as Kallia's could be though. If there were clunky developmental dialogue pieces, they were minor. And now, what I'm about to say may be controversial... but I didn't think he and Kallia had nearly the same amount of chemistry that Jack and Kallia had.  We'll see what happens. Who knows how things will turn out. My heart isn't set for any ships yet in this series, so I'm down for whichever.

WORLD
I want to see more of this world! And I say that, not in a snub to this book, but as a plus for the groundwork that has been laid out in this first book. I know it's only a duology, but I really hope we get to more deeply explore what this world is like and how the different governing bodies, city to city, magic to non-magic, interact with each other. I also want to return to that break neck pacing of the beginning, because clearly I'm obsessed with it. :) Hopefully, the second book just plunges us right into the thick of things and I would definitely be down with reading along that super fast pace for the entirety of the story.

It's magical, it's a little cheeky, it's both grey and colorful, and it's almost perfectly balanced. I think given the way the atmosphere is slightly mellowed out and how the characters are a little less complex, it is a younger YA fantasy. However, let us all remember that those are some of the best and I think we need those young YA books so that teens aren't intimidated by books, especially fantasies. If I were a high school teacher, I would be recommending this to my freshmen and sophomores. :) For a debut especially, I am excited to see where the second book takes us and how the story gets finished up!

Also, I was able to ask Janella some questions about the book! If you want to check it out, the link is here and it will take you to a quick Q&A I had with the author!


Thanks for reading!
(p.s. i just realized i put three smileys into this review, and i kind of want to smack myself in the head for that.)

Interview with Author Janella Angeles


The Spectacular Show that is...
Where Dreams Descend:
An Interview with Janella Angeles

Janella Angeles's debut novel Where Dreams Descend is the sizzling start to a magical duology where the magicians are both celebrated and feared. Kallia enters a competition to become the next headliner at the Conquering Circus, but magicians keep disappearing and a darkness is attacking performers behind the scenes. I'll have a review for the book out later today, but for now, I am so excited to share this interview with you all! I am so happy that I got to ask Janella some questions about this wonderful debut of hers and I hope you enjoy reading it!

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1. Which scene would you describe to someone to capture their attention and convince them to read the book?

Oooh I would definitely describe Kallia’s audition scene. It was such a fun, exciting scene for me to write, as it perfectly establishes the kind of defiant contestant Kallia is going to be in this very rigid show—and also because that’s the point where our characters converge. In many ways, it feels like the official start to the show, and the start of another story within the story.


2. Are there any themes or motifs that you are especially hopeful readers pick up on or connect to?

One thing I would especially love readers to connect with is Kallia’s relentless ambition and perseverance in pursuing dreams and making them happen, but also learning to enjoy what makes the journey worthwhile. Kallia’s story in many ways mirrors my own publishing journey, where at times I had so much tunnel-vision just to get published. It wasn’t until I really started opening myself up to the community and friends and the fun of publishing that I felt like I found success. Not because it was concrete success, but because I now suddenly had a lot more as a writer than I did before—which is exactly the journey Kallia herself goes on.

 

3. The whole book is explosive and constantly gripping, even from the very beginning (one of my favorite things about it). How were you able to achieve this and were there any inspirations to start the book so fast-paced?

Thank you so much!! Weirdly enough, this book is the first one I’ve written with such a quick beginning. Usually I slog through beginnings, trying to get to know my main character and the world they live in because I don’t really understand them that well, yet. However, I just remember drafting in Kallia’s POV and she was demanding we get her where she wanted to be. You’d think the author has full control of the story, but sometimes a character will take the lead and you just hope you’re quick enough to follow!

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Where Dreams Descend is currently out and available!! Keep an eye out later today for my full review of the book! I have to give a HUGE thank you to Wednesday Books and Janella Angeles for letting me be a part of this blog tour and giving me this opportunity to ask questions about the book! I am so excited that everyone can now go read this book and become enthralled in this magical fantasy. :)

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 24, 2020

My First Giveaway!!!

My First Giveaway!
Celebrating hitting 100+ subscribers!

Okay, I am SO excited for this... I'm hosting a giveaway!!!

I actually wanted to do this months ago, but my summer was so crazy that it just fell off my radar for awhile. But I wanted to celebrate hitting 100 subscribers on Bloglovin' and give back a little bit with a giveaway! I'm well past 100 subscribers now (HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU), but I still think I can celebrate. :)

Here is what I'm giving away:
 ONE person will get 6 BOOKS, listed below.

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Illusionarium by Heather Dixon
Belleweather by Susanna Kearsley
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

FILL OUT THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM TO ENTER :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for reading! (Fingers crossed this works!)

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Excerpt from Lobizona by Romina Garber: Blog Tour

 
Excerpt from  
Lobizona by Romina Garber

Blog Tour
COMING AUGUST 4


I am so so so freakishly excited to be a part of this blog tour and share with you all today an excerpt from Romina Garber's Lobizona!!!! Using Argentinian folklore, Lobizona tells a fantastical story set in Miami where the main character finds herself uncovering truths about "myth" like lobizónes and brujas. This book comes out next week and I cannot wait for everyone to get the chance to read it! Without further ado. . .


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2
 
I awaken with a jolt.

It takes me a moment to register that I’ve been out for three days. I can tell by the well-rested feeling in my bones—I don’t sleep this well any other time of the month.

The first thing I’m aware of as I sit up  is an urgent need  to use the bathroom. My muscles are heavy from lack of use, and it takes some concentration to keep my steps light so I won’t wake Ma or Perla. I leave the lights off to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror, and after tossing out my heavy-duty period pad and replacing it with a tampon, I tiptoe back to Ma’s and my room.

I’m always disoriented after lunaritis, so I feel separate from my waking life as I survey my teetering stacks of journals and used books, Ma’s yoga mat and collection of weights, and the posters on the wall of the planets and constellations I hope to visit one day.

After a moment, my shoulders slump in disappointment.This month has officially peaked.

I yank the bleach-stained blue sheets off the mattress and slide out the pillows from their cases, balling up the bedding to wash later. My body feels like a crumpled piece of paper that needs to be stretched, so I plant my feet together in the tiny area between the bed and the door, and I raise my hands and arch my back, lengthening my spine disc by disc. The pull on my tendons releases stored tension, and I exhale in relief.

Something tugs at my consciousness, an unresolved riddle that must have timed out when I surfaced . . . but the harder I focus, the quicker I forget. Swinging my head forward, I reach down to touch my toes and stretch my spine the other way—

My ears pop so hard, I gasp.

I stumble back to the mattress, and I cradle my head in my hands as a rush of noise invades my mind. The buzzing of a fly in the window blinds, the gunning of a car engine on the street below, the groaning of our building’s prehistoric elevator. Each sound is so crisp, it’s like a filter was just peeled back from my hearing.

My pulse picks up as I slide my hands away from my temples to trace the outlines of my ears. I think the top parts feel a little . . . pointier.

I ignore the tingling in my eardrums as I cut through the living room to the kitchen, and I fill a stained green bowl with cold water. Ma’s asleep on the turquoise couch because we don’t share our bed this time of the month. She says I thrash around too much in my drugged dreams.

I carefully shut the apartment door behind me as I step out into the building’s hallway, and I crack open our neighbor’s window to slide the bowl through. A black cat leaps over to lap up the drink.

“Hola, Mimitos,” I say, stroking his velvety head. Since we’re both confined to this building, I hear him meowing any time his owner, Fanny, forgets to feed him. I think she’s going senile.

“I’ll take you up with me later, after lunch. And I’ll bring you some turkey,” I add, shutting the window again quickly. I usually let him come with me, but I prefer to spend the mornings after lunaritis alone. Even if I’m no longer dreaming, I’m not awake either.

My heart is still beating unusually fast as I clamber up six flights of stairs. But I savor the burn of my sedentary muscles, and when at last I reach the highest point, I swing open the door to the rooftop.

It’s not quite morning yet, and the sky looks like blue- tinged steel. Surrounding me are balconies festooned with colorful clotheslines, broken-down properties with boarded- up windows, fuzzy-leaved palm trees reaching up from the pitted streets . . . and in the distance, the ground and sky blur where the Atlantic swallows the horizon.

El Retiro is a rundown apartment complex with all elderly residents—mostly Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Argentine immigrants. There’s just one slow, loud elevator in the building, and since I’m the youngest person here, I never use it in case someone else needs it.

I came up here hoping for a breath of fresh air, but since it’s summertime, there’s no caress of a breeze to greet me. Just the suffocating embrace of Miami’s humidity.

Smothering me.

I close my eyes and take in deep gulps of musty oxygen, trying to push the dread down to where it can’t touch me. The way Perla taught me to do whenever I get anxious.

My metamorphosis started this year. I first felt something was different four full moons ago, when I no longer needed to squint to study the ground from up here. I simply opened my eyes to perfect vision.

The following month, my hair thickened so much that I had to buy bigger clips to pin it back. Next menstrual cycle came the growth spurt that left my jeans three inches too short, and last lunaritis I awoke with such a heightened sense of smell that I could sniff out what Ma and Perla had for dinner all three nights I was out.

It’s bad enough to feel the outside world pressing in on me, but now even my insides are spinning out of my control.

As Perla’s breathing exercises relax my thoughts, I begin  to feel the stirrings of my dreamworld calling me back. I slide onto the rooftop’s ledge and lie back along the warm cement, my body as stagnant as the stale air. A dragon-shaped cloud comes apart like cotton, and I let my gaze drift with Miami’s hypnotic sky, trying to call up the dream’s details before they fade . . .

What Ma and Perla don’t know about the Septis is they don’t simply sedate me for sixty hours—they transport me.

Every lunaritis, I visit the same nameless land of magic and mist and monsters. There’s the golden grass that ticks off time by turning silver as the day ages; the black-leafed trees that can cry up storms, their dewdrop tears rolling down their bark to form rivers; the colorful waterfalls that warn onlookers of oncoming danger; the hope-sucking Sombras that dwell in darkness and attach like parasitic shadows . . .

And the Citadel.

It’s a place I instinctively know I’m not allowed to go, yet I’m always trying to get to. Whenever I think I’m going to make it inside, I wake up with a start.

Picturing the black stone wall, I see the thorny ivy that twines across its surface like a nest of guardian snakes, slithering and bunching up wherever it senses a threat.

The sharper the image, the sleepier I feel, like I’m slowly sliding back into my dream, until I reach my hand out tentatively. If I could just move faster than the ivy, I could finally grip the opal doorknob before the thorns—

Howling breaks my reverie.

I blink, and the dream disappears as I spring to sitting and scour the battered buildings. For a moment, I’m sure I heard a wolf.

My spine locks at the sight of a far more dangerous threat: A cop car is careening in the distance, its lights flashing and siren wailing. Even though the black-and-white is still too far away to see me, I leap down from the ledge and take cover behind it, the old mantra running through my mind.

Don’t come here, don’t come here, don’t come here.

A familiar claustrophobia claws at my skin, an affliction forged of rage and shame and powerlessness that’s been my companion as long as I’ve been in this country. Ma tells me I should let her worry about this stuff and only concern myself with studying, so when our papers come through, I can take my GED and one day make it to NASA—but it’s impossible not to worry when I’m constantly having to hide.

My muscles don’t uncoil until the siren’s howling fades and the police are gone, but the morning’s spell of stillness has broken. A door slams, and I instinctively turn toward the pink building across the street that’s tattooed with territorial graffiti. Where the alternate version of me lives.

I call her Other Manu.

The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fútbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and realized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and it occurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.

But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.

The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.

I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it.

Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open.

The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.

“Creo que encontré algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”

Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translating her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something detached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.

As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic translation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.

The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar.

My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.

“Si tengo razón, me harán la capitana más joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”

If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.

In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another person on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.

“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrías cubrir?”

Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?

The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?

The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.

“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.

I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—

And see the door swinging shut.

I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.

All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud.
 

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In case you haven't heard enough to sway you to pick up the book yet, here's some more praise that this book has gotten!

“With vivid characters that take on a life of their own, beautiful details that peel back the curtain on Romina's Argentinian heritage, and cutting prose that shines a light on the difficulties of being the ‘other’ in America today, Romina Garber crafts a timely tale of identity and adventure that every teenager should read.”–Tomi Adeyemi New York Times bestselling author of Children of Blood and Bone

“Romina Garber has created an enthralling young adult fantasy led by an unforgettable Latinx character Manu. In Manu we find a young girl who not only must contend with the injustice of being undocumented she also discovers a hidden world that may explain her very existence. I fell in love with this world where wolves, witches and magic thrives, all in a rich Latinx setting!” –Lilliam Rivera, author of Dealing in Dreams and The Education of Margot Sanchez

Huge thank you to Wednesday Books for letting me be a part of this and to Romina Garber for writing such a wonderful story!

Thanks for reading!