Top Ten Tuesday: Author Events I’d Attend

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Top Ten Authors I’m Dying To Meet / Ten Authors I Can’t Believe I’ve Met  (some other “meeting authors” type spin you want to do).” I’ve never been to any kind of author event or book expo, so I’ve never met an author before. However, here are a few authors whose events I’d love to attend and who I’d love to hear talk about writing and their books. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

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1. Jane Austen

2. Neil Gaiman

3. Anna-Marie McLemore

4. Juliet Marillier

5. Heidi Heilig

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6. Meg Medina

7. Tiffany D. Jackson

8. Renée Ahdieh

9. Angie Thomas

10. Leigh Bardugo

Have you ever attended an author event? Which author would you cross the country to hear speak? Let me know in the comments and be sure leave a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

Mini Reviews: Heartstone + By Your Side

MiniHave I mentioned how nice it is to write a couple of mini reviews during the month? I love writing reviews (mostly), but sometimes I don’t have the time to write down all my thoughts and sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. It’s nice having this alternative way of sharing my thoughts on books. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 17th 2017 

      “A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.
      They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
      Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
      Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
      It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

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“My breath rattled in my ears. I stared at the creature twitching at my feet. Even deep in it death throes, its talons raked the ground, reaching for me to rend, to kill.

If there’s one kind of retelling that I find hard to resist it’s Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone reimagines the classic in a world filled with dragons, gryphons, and adorable hobgoblins. Aliza is brave and opinionated, not easily intimidated and I really liked how important her family was to her. Alastair Daired, dragon Rider and far too arrogant for his own good, is standoffish and rigid in his opinions, but still has an unmistakable charm that’s hard not to fall for. It’s hard not to compare White’s characters to their inspirations. There were several characters whose reincarnations I found a lot more enjoyable. Aliza’s sister Leyda still retained the silliness I’m used to seeing in Lydia Bennet, but unlike her counterpart, who’s obsession with marriage is both infuriating and understandable, Leyda’s ambitions lie in her desire to be a Rider. She longs for adventure, to not be the sister everyone overlooks and I really sympathized with her character. Overall, Heartstone was a fast-paced and fun retelling that I’d recommend to those looking for a different take on the classic.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 342
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
      Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?”

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      “A voice in the back of my head told me to calm down before I made it worse. Everything was fine. So I was stuck alone in a library, but I was safe. I could read and jog the stairs and stay busy. There were plenty of distractions here.
      In my new quiet state, I heard something behind me. Footsteps on wood.”

If there is one contemporary author whose books always seem to lift my spirits, it’s Kasie West. Her stories are entertaining and her characters enjoyable. Her latest novel By Your Side is fun, fast-paced contemporary that had me smiling throughout. Autumn Collins thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but when she ends up trapped in her school library for a weekend with Dax Miller, their connection throws her for a loop. Autumn is a people pleaser, her friends tend to be more outgoing than herself, and she often finds it difficult to say no to them. She also has an anxiety disorder that can sometimes interfere with her social life. In Dax, she finds someone whose personality she finds calming and who she wants more than anything to help. But By Your Side is more than just about Autumn trying to figure out what she wants for herself. She also learns how important self-care is despite outside pressure from her friends. I really liked Dax, despite the parts of his personality that can be called cliché, but once again with West’s love interests, I wish we could have learned more about him and his situation. On my wish list: a Kasie West book with dual perspectives.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: Empress of a Thousand Skies

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“The last time he’d been here he’d thought the same thing: crazy there’d been a bright, shining planet a decade ago. Now it was half a planet with a massive bombed-out crater on the north side. A lot of people thought Wraeta had it coming because they’d thrown in with Fontis instead of staying neutral. But with Fontisian missionaries running around the planet, Fontisian money infusing its economy, it didn’t seem to Aly they’d had a choice.

Rhoda Belleza’s Empress of a Thousand Skies is a book that I wish had never ended. I finished it wanting more of the story and its characters. Science fiction isn’t a genre I regularly pick up, but I thoroughly enjoyed this debut. Full review of this one can be found hereCover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.
      Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.
      With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Series: N/A
Pages: 464
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Release Date: February 28th 2017

      “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
      Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
      But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

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“An earsplitting scream emerges from my gut, explodes in my throat, and uses every inch of me to be heard.

Angie Thomas has put together a debut novel that is staggeringly honest and raw in its heartbreak. The Hate U Give is unflinching as it takes on racism, police brutality, and injustice. Starr Carter’s life in Garden Heights isn’t always easy, but it’s home. Since she started attending Williamson Prep, Starr has had to juggle two different lives. One in Garden Heights and another at school. As one of the only black students at Williamson, Starr knows she’s judged differently and more harshly. Her friends and even her boyfriend don’t know everything about her life in Garden Heights. They don’t know that she lost a close friend in a drive-by when she was younger and that she continues to be haunted by Natasha’s death. When Starr’s childhood friend Khalil is shot and killed by a white cop, Starr’s carefully constructed worlds begins to unravel. As the only witness, Starr finds herself the center of an investigation. As protesters take to the streets, Starr must find the courage to speak up for her friend as well as herself.

Starr’s family is one of the most supportive and loving families about whom I’ve read. They argue, challenge one another, and begrudgingly compromise, but at the end of the day, there’s a myriad of people who have Starr’s back. Her parents are protective and always have their children’s best interest at heart. Her Uncle Carlos, despite having issues with Starr’s father and being a detective himself, would do anything for his niece. Starr’s brothers can be a pain, but she’d never trade them for anything. The community of Garden Heights is really well-developed. I felt the connections between characters who may not be related by blood, but still share in the common interest of the whole community.

The Hate U Give explores different forms of racism from microaggressions exhibited by Starr’s classmates to the institutional racism that contributed to the shooting death of an unarmed black teen. Starr’s once-close friend Hailey makes a lot of offhanded, racist comments. Instead of acknowledging her hurtful remarks and apologizing, Hailey is much more concerned about being called racist than being racist. This is the kind of racist behavior that goes largely unchallenged, so I was glad to see Starr and her friend Maya recognize that silence means you’re being complicit. The criminalization of black and brown people in our society, and especially of young black men, is one of the reasons why stories like Khalil’s occur. All too often we see the media reflect these biases by dehumanizing the victim and rationalizing the actions of the perpetrator. When the news of Khalil’s death first hits the airwaves, the coverage is more like a smear campaign. Khalil is portrayed as nothing more than a drug dealer while the media is all too eager to show a more sympathetic side of police officer. His father is interviewed on national television, telling his son’s story and garnering sympathy from the public while the pain of Khalil’s family and community is little more than an afterthought.

I went through a whole range of emotions while reading Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. I felt Starr’s devastation at losing a friend, the community’s anger at seeing another young person’s life ended too soon, the powerlessness of those wanting justice in such an unjust society, and the pain of realizing this probably won’t be the last time something like this happens. The Hate U Give is a call to give heed to the voices of those largely ignored in our society and a reminder of how necessary a movement like Black Lives Matter is. Everything about this book demands more attention than I could possibly give it in a review, but I’m hoping it sparks a lot of discussion that extends far beyond the book blogging community.

5/5

★★★★★

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of the Shortest Books I’ve Read & Loved

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Read In One Sitting Theme: ten of the shortest books I’ve read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.” I really wanted to do ten books you can read in one sitting, but I don’t often read books this way. I need breaks (I get hungry, people), even if the book is short. I was actually surprised by the number of short books I’ve pick up when I looked at my Goodreads shelf. It turns out though, I didn’t love most of them. I was hoping to stay under 200 pages, but couldn’t quite find ten books to include that way. Anyway, here are ten of the shortest books I’ve read and happen to love.  Covers are linked to Goodreads.

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1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Page count: 216

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Page count: 180

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Page count: 179

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Page count: 211

5. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Page count: 224

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6. Night by Elie Wiesel

Page count: 109

7. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Page count: 126

8. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Page count: 220

9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Page count: 178

10. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Page count: 212

Do you read books in one sitting? What was the last book you did? Favorite short book you wish more people read? Let me know in the comments and be sure leave a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

The Education of Margot Sanchez

Title: The Education of Margot Sanchez
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 21st 2017

      “After ‘borrowing’ her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.
      With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…
      Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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“Everyone in this house hides behind closed doors. We build fortresses to bar people from scaling the walls and getting in. But even with the amount of time we spend sheltering ourselves there’s no way of concealing our problems.”

Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez is story about a girl finding her voice even amongst the chaos that surrounds her. Rivera has written a multi-faceted debut that tackles topics like family, gentrification, and identity. Margot knows that a lot has been invested in her in order for her to succeed. She’s spent months trying to fit in at her new school Somerset Prep, but in order to do so, she’s had to reinvent herself. She’s desperate for her new friends Serena and Camille to accept her, so impulsively takes her father’s credit card and runs up a $600 bill. Her plans to spend the summer at the Hamptoms all but fall apart, as she’s forced to work at her family-owned supermarket in the South Bronx. Now she feels out of place again. She doesn’t fit in the other cashieristas, her family is driving her crazy, and she finds herself attracted to a boy she has no business being interested in. Margot is desperate for a way out, but she may discover that the world she’s so desperate to leave behind is the one she belongs in after all.

When the book opens, Margot’s understanding of her situation is very narrow. She doesn’t quite get how her actions have such harsh consequences and blames her parents for her missing out on a great summer. While Somerset does offer her more opportunities, Margot has also lost sight of who she is. Her mind is in constant overdrive: how can she impress her friends, what can she change about herself in order to feel more accepted, how does she spin the fact that she’s being forced to work at Sanchez & Sons in a neighborhood her friends would never be caught dead in. She sees herself through other people’s eyes and finds it easier to blame other people than accept her own culpability. Her friendship with her childhood best friend Elizabeth is a great example of this. They’ve been growing apart ever since Margot started Somerset and Elizabeth, a new art school. Margot resents the fact that her best friend found it really easy to fit in and the more they grow apart, the more Margot begins to realize that Elizabeth has found a way to be happy without her. It takes Margot time to see things from her friend’s perspective, to see that it was Margot who changed and many of the things that defined their friendship got thrown out the window as Margot took on a new persona.

One of the first people to challenge this new Margot is Moises. A community activist working for the South Bronx Family Mission, they meet while he’s collecting signatures to stop the building of a new high-rise which will force residents from a local apartment building out. I fell in love with Moises during their first interaction. He’s both a playful and serious character who helps Margot broaden her perspective, though at the beginning she’d rather stay in her tiny, safe world. We only get small glimpses of Moises’s past and while I’d like to know more, I thought his present actions were more telling than the mistakes of his past. Family plays a huge role in this novel. Part of Margot growing up is seeing her family for who they are and not what they pretend to be. There’s a lot of hurt in the Sanchez household and they all cope differently with their problems. This all comes crumbling down when secrets get out and there’s no easy solution for any of them.

The Education of Margot Sanchez has a very messy ending. Much like life, the storylines in this novel aren’t wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. There are hard times ahead for several characters, but I still found it to be a hopeful ending for Margot, who is taking the first steps to rectify her wrongdoings and reclaim who she is.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★