Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear MartinTitle: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Genres: YA Contemporary
Goodreads

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

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Dear Martin completely blew me away.

It’s been about a month since I’ve read Dear Martin (yes, I’m behind on my reviews again, shhh) and there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about it. About the events that took place in the book, about the characters, about the amazing way the book was written and how I wish this wasn’t a debut book and that Nic Stone had already written 20 other books that I could marathon read right now.

The thing about the characters in this book are that they completely come to life. Well, not literally, of course, -that would be terrifying,- but usually whenever I read a book I will stop thinking about the characters once I close the book. Maybe I’ll think of them when someone else mentions them, or when I see the book on my shelf. But with this book it was different. The characters really stayed with me. So much so that I sometimes think about what they’re up to now. Like they’re real people.

This kind of makes sense because Nic Stone managed to make the characters seem so real. She made everything seem so incredibly real. From the dialogue to the setting, everything was so incredibly perfect. You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and a character says something, and you just know that no one would ever say that in real life? Well, this book didn’t have that. At all. And it was great.

The book is only a little over 200 pages, and the way the author managed to tell such a complete story in so little pages is incredible. The whole book is incredible, and it really packs a punch. The way it deals with such difficult topics like racism, police brutality, racial profiling is so powerful, and I just know that it’ll stay with me for a very very long time.

Needless to say, I think this book should be required reading, and I will be reading every single thing Nic Stone writes in the future. From short stories to 700-page books; I’ll read it. Because, in my opinion, Dear Martin is for sure one of the best books of 2017.

Tw: violence, sudden death of character.

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Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Chaotic GoodTitle: Chaotic Good
Author: Whitney Gardner
Genres: YA Contemporary
Goodreads

Cosplay, comic shops, and college applications collide in this illustrated novel, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Noelle Steveson!

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

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Chaotic Good is a delightfully nerdy, feminist and cute read, and I really enjoyed it. But there are two things that really bothered me. Let’s just start with those so we can get them out of the way and then fangirl about the rest of the book.

The main character cross-dresses for most of the book. She decided to do this after she went to a comic store where she was belittled the entire time just because she was a girl, and she thought going there as a boy would make it a lot easier. This didn’t bother me perse, but what bothered me was that in the entire book, there is not one single mention of non-binary people. Nothing. Not a word. Which then also caused a few slightly problematic scenes, like when the main character came clean and this other character basically told her that he had already figured out she was a girl dressing up.

It gave me flashbacks of Noteworthy, but at least there was one scene in which the character acknowledged non-binary people in that book, in Chaotic good there wasn’t even a single sentence.

Another thing that bothered me a bit was that a guy developed a crush on the ‘guy version’ of the main character, Cameron. She was very clear towards him about the fact that she didn’t like him that way and that she wanted to be friends, but according to her twin she was still leading him on by pretending she was a guy around him. What? How? What does that even mean? You can’t lead someone on just by being a certain gender? That’s… *sigh*

What I do want to add to this is that I got the ARC of Chaotic Good back in July, and the book comes out in March. Maybe the author has made changes, I’m not sure. I’m definitely planning on checking out the final product to see, and if there are differences in the way the things I’ve addressed are treated then I will definitely let y’all know.

Now, let’s move on to the good. And luckily, there was quite a lot of it.

One of the things that I loved most was that the main character loves cosplay, and makes all of the costumes herself. There were quite a few scenes in the book where she was sowing, and it was amazing. Entrancing. I always love reading about characters who are creating something. There’s always just something absolutely magical about it.

Cameron, the main character, posts pictures of her cosplay online and the abuse she receives was incredibly heartbreaking and hard to read about. The author includes various of these comments in the book, and they’re brutal. But they’re so real. They’re so much like the abuse I’ve seen a few people in the community get, and while it’s difficult to read, I really appreciate the author discussing the topic since I’ve never seen that been discussed in a book before.

Let’s just get back to the negative for a second because while writing this I remembered another thing that I didn’t really like and that’s the fact that the main character never really gets angry. So much shit is happening to her. She’s getting harassed, she is doxxed, her twin is angry with her, her new ‘friends’ give her shit, and she doesn’t get angry once. She even apologizes to her brother and her friends. I was so angry for her and I was kind of frustrated with some of her actions because I just wanted her to stand up for herself. Yell. Scream. Etc. But there was none of that. Which in turn made me feel even more frustrated.

This review is getting a bit too long, so let me just list a couple more things I liked about this book:

  • The main character falls for a larger, very nerdy guy. Large guys are not often a LI, and it was great to see that change in this book
  • The main character’s parents are older (in their 60’s) and they’re absolutely adorable, and have a great relationship
  • There’s an elderly women in the book who is also very adorable but also badass and I loved her
  • There are scenes where the characters are playing D&D and I loved reading about that, since I’ve never played before but I’ve always been intruiged
  • The author has also drawn little comics that you can see throughout the book and I loved them!!!
  • The writing is very fast paced and easy to read, so I finished the book in a day

So, overall, this book was incredibly fun, nerdy and easy to read, but the problems that I had with it did make it a lot less enjoyable to read. Authors: non-binary people exist. Don’t erase them. Your readers (or everyone, really) deserve better.

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Review: Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

Miles MoralesTitle: Miles Morales
Author: Jason Reynolds
Goodreads

“Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins.”

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It’s time for Miles to suit up.

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When I picked up Miles Morales I expected the book to be incredibly fast paced and action packed. I had no real prior knowledge about Miles Morales other than the fact that he was spider man, so that, in combination with the fact that it’s a middle grade (or YA, I’m not actually sure..) novel, was the reason why I suspected this. In reality, however, the book was completely the opposite.

The book was pretty slow paced, and the focus lay more on his family, friends, school and neighborhood than on him being spider man. And I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. It took some time for me to adjust my expectations, sure, but I ended up really loving it.

The thing I loved most was Miles’ relationship with his parents. His parents are incredibly important and play a really big role in his life, which is very refreshing to see since this is very rare in a lot of middle grade and young adult books. Miles also wasn’t afraid to show that he adored his parents, which made me so happy to see.

The same goes for Miles’ friendship with his friend Ganke. It was so wonderful to see how real they could be with each other; how they could talk about their feelings and cry, but also joke around and get themselves in a bit of trouble. This is really the kind of friendship I want to see a lot more often in books.

Jason Reynolds’ writing was absolutely amazing. He has this way of words that’s indescribable, but absolutely blew me away. It’s that wonderful kind of writing that really packs a punch and makes you think, but isn’t difficult to understand. It’s real. Miles Morales touches on so many important issues, like racism, family, poverty and crime, and it does it in a very powerful way that will stay with you for a long time.

So while Miles Morales wasn’t what I expected at all, I ended up loving it more than I thought I would. Instead of being mindless fun, it really made me think. And it was fun.

This was my first Jason Reynolds book, and it certainly won’t be the last.

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Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)Title: Beneath the Sugar Sky
Series: Wayward Children #3
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genres: Fantasy
Goodreads

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

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The Wayward Children series is  one of my favorite series at the moment, and I felt like the series got better with every book. Because of this, and because of the synopsis and absolutely beautiful cover of the book, I was convinced that this was going to become my new favorite. Sadly, this didn’t happen.

I wasn’t even planning on picking this one up right now. I comes out in January and I have so many other ARCs that I have to finish beforehand, but I couldn’t stop myself. The cover was calling my name, and I was so sure I was going to love it, which just makes it super disappointing when you don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the book was good and I enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing a lot of characters from book one again and exploring more of the world. Or rather, worlds, plural. I also loved Seanan McGuire’s writing which was very atmospheric and read like a fairytale, like always.

Speaking of the worlds, I absolutely loved them. I loved how every single world had their own, very distinct atmosphere. I loved the way Seanan McGuire described them, and how I could picture every single detail so clearly in my mind. It was like I could almost smell the candy corn, which is a bit strange since I’ve never even seen candy corn in real life.

I think what went wrong for me with this book were my expectations. Even though I loved the first two books in the series, which were both pretty dark, I just don’t tend to like very dark books. And when I saw how cute and colorful the cover of this one was I automatically thought we were getting a bit of a lighter read, which was my mistake. Because it wasn’t light at all.

Another thing that I didn’t love was that there were quite a few attempts at explaining how the whole Wayward Children world(s) work, and this might just be me, but it ended up leaving me even more confused. Which is never a good feeling.

A thing that I really loved about the book was the fat representation. One of the characters in the book is fat, and the way she thinks is so incredibly relatable. And what I really appreciated was that the author didn’t try to sugar-coat it, but kept it realistic, which was difficult to read at times, but also meant a lot.

I honestly loved the characters in general. Like I mentioned before, we got to see a few characters from book one again, which was absolutely wonderful. But we also got to meet a few new characters, who were absolutely amazing in itself. The author really has a way of crafting characters who are very special, without making them feel too quirky. They just seem normal. But in a very special way.

Overall, I think that Beneath the Sugar Sky was a good book, and if you liked the previous books I’m pretty sure you’ll like this one too. I just wish I’d gone into it with different expectations.

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Review: Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

Dare Mighty ThingsTitle: Dare Mighty Things
Author: Heather Kaczynski
Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction
Goodreads

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

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Dare Mighty Things was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

I was completely hooked from page one. There are a lot of mystery elements in the novel that were incredibly intriguing, and I didn’t want to stop reading until I had answers to every single one of my questions. But of course, once I finished it, I ended up with probably twice as many questions as what I started with. And I have to wait a year to have them answered. Great.

What I do know for sure is that the second book is going to be incredibly different from book one, which is going to be interesting to see. I cannot tell you how or why it’ll be different because that’ll spoil the entire book, but let me just say that I didn’t see it coming. At all.

But maybe I should share a few of my thoughts on book one before I start talking about book two?

Cassie, our main character, was the thing that first hooked me to this book. She’s incredibly intelligent, strong, and very driven. She goes after what she wants, and she doesn’t let anyone stop her. Having her as a narrator, and seeing everything through her eyes, was absolutely amazing and very interesting.

One of my favorite things about the novel was seeing how all of the contestants reacted to each other. I felt like putting so many kids who are competing with each other together could go two ways: 1) they all end up hating each other and do everything in their power to win themselves, 2) they become friends and support each other. This book had a little bit of both, but I’m so happy it focused more on the second. Seeing Cassandra make friends for (possibly) the first time in her life, and seeing how amazing and supportive those friendships were absolutely warmed my heart.

I loved the author’s approach to the technology in the book. It didn’t feel like it was super dumbed down, but it was approachable and understandable, which I really appreciated, and which really added a lot of depth to the book. I also loved how she ‘designed’ the contest, with all of these tests that made you sit on the edge of your seat while reading about them.

However, while I did love the book I do feel like the story didn’t reach it’s full potential. The author could’ve done so much more with the entire contest and the relationships between the contestants, and all of the tests. It sometimes felt like the author was rushing through all of this to get to the next part of the book, and that made it a bit less enjoyable. I just really wanted more.

I also think it’s important to mention that the main character identifies as asexual. I’m not ace myself, so I can’t say anything about the representation.

So overall, I loved a lot of things about the book, but I just don’t think it lived up to it’s full potential. I definitely cannot wait for the next book to come out though, because I’m sure that’s going to be great.

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Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild BeautyTitle: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Goodreads

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

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I’ve never read an Anna-Marie McLemore book before this (well, I did read 60 pages of When the Moon Was Ours but I wasn’t in the mood for it so I put it down, but that doesn’t  really count…) but I had incredibly high expectations. Everyone I know adores her books, and she’s basically everyone’s favorite author, and I expected that to be the same for me once I finished this.

Needless to say, I can now officially say that I’m apart of the Anna-Marie McLemore fanclub, and that I’m planning on reading every single thing that she writes. Ever.

The writing in this book is gorgeous. Seriously, absolutely breathtaking. I know that I’ve said that I don’t like flowery language, and to be quite honest, I still don’t. I found myself skipping over a few of the descriptions because of it, but that’s 100% on me, not the book. Sometimes you can recognize things as beautiful even though you don’t love them as much yourself.

Anna-Marie McLemore has this way with words that’s indescribable. It’s pure magic. It’s like the words wrap themselves around you and transport you to another world. There’s honestly nothing like it, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the most gorgeous writing I’ve ever encountered.

I also loved how this book is so unapologetically queer from page one. I mean, the book starts off with 5 cousins fawning over the same girl, and honestly? It’s great. And it made me so happy.

While there are two incredibly wonderful romantic relationships in the book, the main focus is on the family relationships. In the Nomeolvides family there are 5 women per generation, and they live together in the same house. Seeing the way they interact and care for each other is absolutely wonderful, and I also loved how, while there are a lot of women in the book, they don’t all become some sort of blur. Every single person is different, and you can keep them apart pretty easily.

(I do have to admit that while reading I had to make some sort of family tree because I started to get a little confused, but that’s just because I’m absolutely terrible with names. So if you are too, I would definitely recommend making one because it really helped me.)

I just loved everything about this book. The bi rep, the writing, the plot, the setting, the relationships, just everything. This book is pure magic and I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough.

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Review: Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1)Title: The Black Tides of Heaven
Author: JY Yang
Series: Tensorate #1
Genres: Fantasy
Goodreads

The Black Tides of Heaven is one of a pair of unique, standalone introductions to JY Yang’s Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls “effortlessly fascinating.” For more of the story you can read its twin novella The Red Threads of Fortune, available now.

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

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Let’s just get right to it: I didn’t like this book as much as I hoped I would.

I had quite high expectations going into this book. I love novella’s, the synopsis sounded amazing, and I’d never read twin novella’s before so I was incredibly curious about that. But while I ended up loving some of the aspects of the book, I ended up being disappointed by others.

One of the aspects of the book that I loved a lot were the characters, and most especially the relationships between the characters. The novella’s focus on a pair of twins, and I was very scared that I wasn’t going to be able to keep them apart while reading because I’m notoriously bad at keeping characters apart in general, but that didn’t happen. (Okay, I admit, I was confused during the first 10% of the book but that’s so much better than I expected!) Both of the characters were very distinct, and seeing their relationship transform was fascinating, but also a bit heartbreaking at the same time.

I loved being able to follow Akeha’s life and seeing him make his own decisions and be independent. The story has quite a few time-jumps and I would’ve loved to see what happened to him during that time, because we really only get to see small glimpses of his life, but it was also kind of refreshing because I’ve never read something like this before. And it was also very interesting to be able to see the changes in him after every time-jump.

I have some very mixed feelings about the world building. On the one hand, the descriptions of the world were absolutely amazing. Every time the author showed us a certain landscape or city, it was described in that kind of way that causes you to be able to picture everything very clearly. This made for a story that felt very real, and very immersive.

On the other hand, however, I was very confused by everything else in relation to the world building; the magic system, the political system and the culture. Because the book is so short you’re not really introduced to these things, but you’re kind of thrown into it without knowing what’s going on. There were certain terms for political positions (I think) stated without actually saying what this meant, nothing was explained in regards to the magic system, there were certain political conflicts which you got no information about other than the fact that they were there, and all this just left me feeling very confused. Which, in turn, made it very hard to understand and connect with the whole story.

Something that I did love a lot about this story was the way that it approached gender. When children are born, their pronouns are ‘they/them’ until they decide otherwise, or don’t. The entire ‘system’ (for lack of a better word) for this was very well thought out and incredibly interesting, and I really appreciated it.

While I didn’t end up liking this novella as much as I thought I would, I’m still very excited to jump into the other novella, The Red Threads of Fortune. I think the author is incredibly talented and the story has a lot of potential. And who knows, maybe I just needed some time to get used to the world and I’ll end up not having a problem with it at all in the second book. I have high hopes.

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