Winter 2017 Comment Challenge: March Partners

cc-banner-march-1

A huge thanks to everyone who joined us this season for the Winter 2017 Comment Challenge, hosted by Lonna @ FLYLēF and Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense. For those who’ve signed up for March, we have a couple of last minute reminders. Tomorrow is the final day to add your link to the March link-up and before March is out, be sure to enter the giveaway. Scroll down to find links for both items. We are, of course, happy to announce the official March Partners list below. Be sure to visit your partner’s blog on March 1st and let them know how ecstatic you are about the challenge. If for any reason, you signed up and are unable to participate, please inform either of your hosts asap, so we can make other arrangements. Note: Any changes made to March’s Comment Challenge partners will be reflected in this post.

heading-link-up

March Link-up: Tomorrow is the final day to add a link to your sign-up post! Note: Your sign-up post now counts toward the giveaway. If you’ve created a post or plan to, be sure to check the Rafflecopter option.

heading-giveaway

At the end of March two participants will be selected to win a book of their choice worth up to $20 (INT). Details and Rafflecopter link are below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Details:

  • Giveaway ends March 31st 2017
  • Open internationally as long as Book Depository ships to you
  • Two (2) lucky winners will win one book of their choice worth up to $20 USD
  • Winners will be emailed and will have 72 hours (3 days) to respond or another winner will be chosen
  • Prizes will be fulfilled within 2 weeks. For newer releases, prizes will be fulfilled 2 weeks from the book’s release date.

heading-comment-partners

COMMENTS (5+)

Cassidy @ Quartzfeather + Jesalin @ JBelkBooks

Maggie @ The Caramel Files + Closet Readers @ Closet Readers

Lisa @ Lisa Loves Literature + Vedika @ Poems and Poets

Lori @ Pure Imagination + Jennifer @ An Inkling Reviews

Gemma @ The Travelling Bibliophile + Dinh @ Arlene’s Book Club

Mahriya @ My Bookish Life + Lia @ Lost In A Story

COMMENTS (10+)

Ashley @ Inside My Minds + Lu @ Lu Reads

Lauren @ Always Me + Lonna @ FLYLēF

Kate @ Reading Through Infinity + Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense

Lili @ Utopia State of Mind + Anne @ My Head Is Full of Books

Mini Reviews: Nimona + Burn Baby Burn

MiniTime for another round of mini reviews. I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some really great reads this year, here are a couple that I didn’t have time to write full reviews for, but that I enjoyed a lot nonetheless. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Series: N/A
Pages: 266
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 12th 2015 

      “Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
      But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.”

swirl (2)

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is my first graphic novel and it won’t be my last. Stevenson’s characters are incredibly lovable from the impulsive Nimona to the strangely ethical supervillain Ballister Blackheart. With a fast-paced story, Nimona was a hard one to put down. Nimona and Blackheart make quite the team as they seek to bring down the Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics. With Blackheart’s archenemy Sir Goldenloin leading the fight against them, this story is full of humor and adventure with friendship and love at its center. If you enjoy superhero stories where no one is who they seem, where the line between the good guys and bad guys is blurred, be sure to check this one out.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Burn Baby Burn
Author: Meg Medina
Series: N/A
Pages: 310
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 8th 2016

      “Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous year 1977 in New York.
      After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.
      Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.
      And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?”

swirl (2)

“They were eighteen and twenty years old, more or less like us. They went to the movies and found out that the city isn’t huge at all. In fact, it can shrink down to the size of a gun barrel, just like that.”

Meg Medina’s Burn Baby Burn is an emotionally gripping novel. Nora is a protagonist that is easily relatable as she struggles with an uncertain present and an even more uncertain future. It’s 1977 and the serial killer, the Son of Sam, is on a rampage. Nora and her best friend Kathleen are on the brink of adulthood and while this should be the best time of their lives, much of their choices are predicated on the fear that anyone, including themselves, can be the serial killer’s next target. Nora’s homelife is a constant struggle, if it isn’t financial issues that make it almost impossible to make rent every month, than it’s her younger brother Hector, who is spiraling out of control. Trapped between her brother’s rage and her mother’s impotence, Nora is constantly trying keep the peace and not drown in her own despair in the process. Medina does a fantastic job of transporting the readers to 1977 New York and made it impossible to not feel for someone like Nora who has so many unreasonable burdens placed upon her shoulders. It’s the story of a young women who finds courage to stand up for herself, to take control of her own life despite the awful hand she’s been dealt.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Aesthetically Pleasing Book Tag

Saw this tag on Jesalin @ JBelkBooks, one of my Comment Challenge partners for this month, and had to take part in it because if there’s anything I do love, it’s a pretty book. If you’d like to give this tag a shot, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments, I’d love to take a look! Covers are linked to Goodreads. Let’s get started…

BEST COLOR COMBO ON A BOOK COVER

The cover for These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner is stunning. I love the billowing green dress, the star-infused blue sky, and how the model’s red hair immediately draws the eye. Ah, so pretty.

BEST TYPOGRAPHY/FONT ON THE COVER

Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. These book covers are so lovely, I love how prominent the titles are and the font.

BEST SIMPLE COVER

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. A simple and meaningful cover.

BEST ENDPAGES

I adore the endpapers in my Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

BEST MAP

I love maps. I think every fantasy book should come with a map and that we should be able to remove them from the book as a convenient reference while reading. Don’t know if I have a favorite map in particular, but I did like how important maps were in Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere.

BEST NAKED HARDBACK

BEST BACK COVER

My Jane Austen Heirloom edition box set has the prettiest back covers with quotes from the books. Here is the one for Pride & Prejudice.

BEST CHAPTER HEADERS

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier has the loveliest chapter headers.

BEST ILLUSTRATIONS

My favorite illustrations hands down are Jim Kay’s in the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.

BEST SPINE

There are so many books with amazing spines, but I especially love it when a set of spines form one image like this Percy Jackson and the Olympians box set.

FAVORITE COVER ON YOUR SHELVES

Yeah, I don’t know how I could possibly choose just one, but here are a few that I particularly love: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.

 alt=  

cc-banner-march-1Final Note: Today is the final day to sign up for March for the Winter 2017 Comment Challenge. We’ll be partnering you with another book blogger and all month long you will be encouraged to comment on each other’s blogs. We’d love for you to join us. Click the image to the left for all the info. 

The Friday 56: Burn Baby Burn

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!**

“Really, Stiller’s just an activism junkie with a capital A, as in Anti-War, Anti-Imperialism, Anti-Misogyny, and so on. There’s not a cause she won’t defend if it means giving it to the establishment.”

Meg Medina blew me away with the historical novel Burn Baby Burn. The author does a phenomenal job of bringing to life 1977 New York, a year when the Son of Sam was on a rampage and a city-wide blackout threw New York into chaos. My mini review for this one will be up Sunday. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous year 1977 in New York. 
      After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.
      Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.
      And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Liked Less Than I Thought I Would

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would (recently or all time).” High expectations can really ruin a read if the book in question doesn’t live up to the hype. Sometimes it’s hype from fellow bloggers and publishers and sometimes it’s your own expectations that can work against you. Whatever the case, I know everyone has experienced picking up a book, so sure they’d be blown away, only to realize that no, you will not be sharing in all the hoopla surrounding said book. Here are ten books I read in the last year(ish) that I had high expectations for, but ultimately let me down. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

 alt=  

1. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – Everyone loves this one and being a huge fan of her book A Madness So Discreet, I went in thinking I was going to love this one too. I liked facets of it, but was kind of let down.

2. How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather – I’m still baffled by the fact that so many bloggers loved this, but it just ended up being okay for me.

3. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – I might be the only blogger who didn’t love this debut. I just really didn’t like any of the characters and thought the story itself wasn’t all that compelling.

4. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – I love love love Lara Jean. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one of my favorite contemporary books, but this sequel really let me down. The characters lacked the kind of charisma I loved about them from the first book. I was so disappointed that I’m not sure I’ll be picking up the third book.

5. The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron – I loved Rook so much, but this more recent release by Cameron did absolutely nothing for me. The story was just okay and quite honestly, I remember next to nothing about the characters.

 alt=

6. Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers – We could have been soulmates! I love assassin stories, so I jumped on this one immediately despite it being a debut. I wish I had waited.

7. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – I think I need to accept the fact that this author and I don’t mesh well. I loved her debut Brightly Woven, but nothing since then has moved me.

8. Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey – Jane Austen elements should make this one a delightful read for me, but alas, I found it pretty boring.

9. When We Collided by Emery Lord – So many bloggers love this one and I expected to as well considering how much I enjoyed The Start of Me and You, but it’s another book I’m puzzled over not liking.

10. Gilded Cage by Vic James – My most recent letdown. When I picked this one up, the Goodreads rating was really high and early reviewers were raving about it. I think I might have read a different book because I’m not sure what was so impressive about it. Yikes, that’s harsh.

I hate to ask, but…did you enjoy any of these even though I didn’t? What was the last read you went into with high expectations that ended up disappointing you? Let me know in the comments and be sure leave a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

cc-banner-march-1Special Note: There are only a few days left to sign up for the Winter 2017 Comment Challenge for March. This is the final month for the winter challenge and we’d love for you to join us. We’ll be partnering you with another book blogger and all month long you will be encouraged to comment on each other’s blogs. Click the image to the left for all the info. Special thanks to all those who have participated this season. Note: the final day to sign-up will be the 25th.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-to-the-universe-by-benjamin-alire-saenzTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1
Pages: 359
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 21st 2012
*This review is based on the audio version of this book, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda*

      “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

swirl (2)

“There were so many ghosts in our house – the ghost of my brother, the ghost of my father’s war, the ghost of my sisters’ voices. And I thought that maybe there were ghosts inside of me that I hadn’t even met yet.”

Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is compelling coming-of-age story, infused with both touching and tragic moments in the life of Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza. The summer of Ari’s fifteenth year, he meets Dante and while the two could not be any more different, they quickly become friends. Over the course of two summers, both their lives are irrevocably changed by this friendship. This is the very first audio book I’ve listened to and although I was apprehensive about whether or not it would be able to hold my attention, I could not ask for a better narrator than Lin-Manuel Miranda. In fact, I might have been spoiled and need every audiobook I listen to to be narrated by him.

I loved how important family was in this book, not just for Ari but for Dante as well. Much of Ari’s resentment toward his parents comes from how closed off they are around him and this is never more apparent than with regard to his older brother, Bernardo, who is currently incarcerated. Ari wants so badly to know why, to be able to utter his brother’s name, but there’s a lot of hurt and shame that keeps both his parents tight-lipped. Ari’s father is also a veteran who continues to deal with the psychological effects of war. Ari is desperate to know his father, to have a real honest conversation, but this isn’t always possible for his dad. There is so much to love about Dante’s parents and it’s obvious right off the bat that they are meant to be a contrast to Ari’s. Dante’s father shows more affection in one interaction with his son than Ari has ever witnessed from his father. I thought it was still really important that Dante still finds it hard to open up to his parents. When he is contemplating telling them he is gay, he confesses to Ari that he doesn’t want to be a disappointment.

From the very beginning it’s clear that Dante is more sure of himself. He’s curious about the world and himself and isn’t afraid to share his feelings about both. He’s one of those people who lights up a room and his optimism is infectious. Ari’s feelings for Dante are gradual. Unlike Dante, he isn’t so sure of himself. He has a lot of internal dialogue that can be messy, contradictory, and evasive. He hides behind a lot of sardonic comments, but there’s so much happening underneath the surface, you can’t help but feel the weight he carries around. Of course, there were still times when I wanted to slap him upside the head to knock some sense into him. Ari feels more for Dante than he’s willing to admit, but still has to deal with his own internalized homophobia before being able to label what his relationship with Dante really is.

Both Ari and Dante are Mexican American and I found it really interesting and insightful how the characters deal with their ethnic identities. Dante never feels quite “Mexican” enough and is often convinced that other Mexicans don’t like him because of it. Ari makes snide remarks about what it means to be Mexican, even going so far as to say he’s more Mexican than Dante because of his darker skin. When you grow up in a society that stereotypes your culture and places less value on you because of your background, it can really do a number on how you perceive yourself, not just your place in society, but your place within that group. These stereotypes are often perpetuated within the community and I’ve known plenty of Mexican Americans that feel not quite American and not quite Mexican either and it’s a hard line to walk. That being said, I do wish the characters had come to a resolution regarding their identities or at least had a continued discussion about this part of who they are.

Sáenz does a fine job of capturing the pain and uncertainty of growing up when you’re on the brink of adulthood. Ari’s journey of self-discovery is incredibly moving and will have you rooting for him till the end.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★