Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi | Book Review





“It wasn’t a romance; it was too perfect for that. With texts there were only the words and none of the awkwardness. They could get to know each other completely and get comfortable before they had to do anything unnecessarily overwhelming like look at each other’s eyeballs with their eyeballs.”

Mary H.K. Choi’s debut “Emergency Contact” modernizes the idea of getting to know and falling in love with someone digitally. It illustrates that many of the modern day young adults use text messages as a safe space to express thoughts and feelings they wouldn’t necessarily say vocally. 

Penny Lee heads to college in Austin, Texas to learn how to become a writer. While she is only about an hour and a half from her hometown, she feels like she is an eternity away — and it makes her happy. Penny is finally away from her mom — whom according to Penny was never really a real mother to her — and free to be her own person without having to worry about her mom.

There she meets Sam Becker, a boy who is surviving through a “god-awful” chapter of his life. However, Penny and Sam become friends due to a series of unbearable awkwardness and surviving a panic attack. Soon after, the two swap numbers and stay in touch via texts — getting to know each and using one another as emotional support that they were unaware they needed.

Ms. Choi’s attention to detail is the real magic of the story. The characters' actions and quirks are what truly fleshes them out. Penny is very organized and is over prepared — she carries a toiletries bag with medicine, band-aids, tampons, a stain remover stick, and so much more. It showed how she had to grow up before her time, because her mom wasn’t the type of mom who was prepared or grown up enough to care for a child. 

Emergency Contact is a realistic modern day story that had emotional depth and ends on a hopeful note — that even in our lowest of lows there is a chance to climb and you don’t have to do it by yourself.


This coming of age story is for those who are passed their “teen” years and are in the struggle of truly finding themselves while at university. Because lets be honest, you don’t truly start finding yourself until you hit your twenty somethings and even then it is just the beginning of a long road of discovery.

Personal Rating: 5/5

The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night | Book Review


This book was given to me byStories Untold Press in exchange of an honest review.


The minute the words— student, magic and school — compile into a sentence the mind immediately pictures a magnificent stone castle in the middle of nowhere in England and a boy with a lightning scar. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is considered a modern classic, and anything remotely similar may be accused of having a sameness. However, the concept of a school where magic is its main curriculum and a boy with a destiny is not new. Novels such as “A Wizard of Earths” by Ursula K. Le Guin (1968) and “The Worst Witch,” by Jill Murphy (1974) both follow a similar concept — the boy who lived is not an original idea per se, but the way the story was told was what made it memorable.

“The Crowns of Croswald” by D.E. Night follows the same suit.

When Ivy Lovely is forced to leave the house she grew up in, she finds herself enrolled in the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and power the Croswald’s gems. There, Ivy starts unpacking a mystery around the school - paintings awaken, forgotten things are remembered and a dark magic brews. Through her studies and her adventures Ivy learns secrets about her past and the world she lives in.

The world of “Croswald” is rich with magic, mystery and adventure, both new and familiar. Ivy is a 16-year-old girl who thought she was nothing more than a scaldrony maid. When Ivy is exiled from her home in Surry for saving a little scaldrony dragon she is immediately pulls herself together and tries to move on— only to be swooped up by a magical cabby that takes her to a magical school. There, she begins her studies as a Scrivenist.

Lovers of YA and fantasy will swoon over Night’s magical creation. I know I did. She builds a complex fantasy world where pixie-like creatures are used as a light source, a magician’s ultimate goal is to be knowledgeable and ghosts are the executive chefs to every meal. Following common motifs and lore that come with magic school shenanigans — Ivy’s adventure is still unique and she stays true to her beliefs (which is always nice — not being swayed by the random “love interest”). 

Honestly, you will be won over by the intricate magic system and world revealed throughout the story. Unfortunately, this brilliance in the world building may sometimes be lost when common young adults tropes force themselves through the plot (*cough* random forced romance *cough*). There is also a strange blend of middle-grade and young adult in Ivy’s personality, in moments you feel that she is 12 or 13 in other she feels 16 years old.

While this blend may be strange it does not take away from Ivy’s story arc and wonderful character development. She, like any new-to-school-in-YA girl, struggles making friends and staying out of trouble. Ivy also teaches the audience that only persistence will get you what you want — even if it means getting your roommate locked in The Forgotten Room for several hours, which is a really nice message.

Overall, “The Crowns of Croswald” was a solid start to the Croswald series and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Rating: 4/5

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge | Book Review


The book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange of an honest review

Debut author-illustrator Ethan M. Aldridge will captivate readers with this full-color fantasy graphic novel that has all the makings of a classic, about a changeling and a human child who were switched at birth and must now work together to save both their worlds. Perfect for fans of Amulet.

Edmund and the Childe were swapped at birth. Now Edmund lives in secret as a changeling in the World Above, with fae powers that make him different from everyone else—even his unwitting parents and older sister, Alexis. The Childe lives among the fae in the World Below, where being human makes him an oddity at the royal palace, and where his only friend is a wax golem named Whick.

But when the cruel sorceress Hawthorne takes the throne, the Childe and Edmund realize that the fate of both worlds may be in their hands—even if they’re not sure which world they belong to.

I feel that I might be a bit biased considering I am a big fan of Ethan's art work. I actually own a few prints by him and hope to continue to grow my collection. This being said, I have had his book on pre-order since the day it was available and I was super excited when the ARC arrived on my door step.

The ARC is in black and white, which doesn’t let me see the novel in its full and magical glory - even though I've seen it on tumblr and his Patreon. 

What's nice about this middle grade graphic novel is that it teaches the importance of families. The ones we are raised in and the ones we chose. Through the story, Edmund and the Childe bring up what it means to be part of a family, and who really belongs to the human family. The Childe, who never really had that experience or relationship, learns that it means more than being born to someone - and honestly it is beautiful. 

The most majestic and unique part of this novel is that it’s 95% done with traditional water color illustrations. In a world where everything is digitized and on photoshop this little book is odd but perfect. Aldridge's art reminds me a lot of E. H. Shepard's Winnie the Pooh art style with the thick ink strokes and beautiful colors. 

It's truly modernized nostalgia filled with magic. 

I really don't want to spoil too much of the story, because it's wonderful and I want the whole world to read it. What you really need to know is that it is a fantasy story filled with changelings, golems, witches, sibling love, trolls, evil aunts, rats, fights and a DRAGON.

I look forward to reading it again in its full color glory. I also look forward to the second book - since there are so many loose ends that need solving!

Book Release: August 7th, 2018
My Rating: 5/5

Given to the Earth by Mindy McGinnis Spotlight | Penguin Blog Tour






GIVEN TO THE SEA

An expansive YA fantasy from an up-and-coming YA author, just right for Throne of Glass readers.
Loyalties collide, friendships are tested, and romance blooms in a dying world where the sea is rising - and cannot be escaped.

Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water. Her body is to prevent a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before being Given, Khosa must produce an heir.

Vincent is third in line to inherit the throne, a lesser prince in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom and a long wait. When Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows his father will ensure that she fulfill her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent must find a plan that will allow him to keep Khosa and the kingdom . . . or decide what he's willing to sacrifice.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra - fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before - are now marching from their stony shores for the twin's adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land - and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.


GIVEN TO THE EARTH

Duty, fate, desire, and destiny collide in this intricately wrought tale, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.
 Although she was born to save the kingdom by sacrificing herself to the rising sea, Khosa's marriage to King Vincent has redeemed her. As the Queen of Stille, she's untouchable. But being Queen hasn't stopped her heart from longing for the King's stepbrother, Donil. And it hasn't stopped her body from longing for the sea itself, which still calls for her.

 While Khosa is made to choose between loyalty and love, Dara is on a mission for vengeance. Years ago, the Pietra slaughtered the entire Indiri race, leaving only Dara and her twin, Donil, alive. Now, spurned by King Vincent, Dara has embarked on a mission to spill the blood of Pietra's leader, Witt, and will stop at nothing to show his people the wrath of the last Indiri.

 As the waves crash ever closer to Stille, secrets are revealed, hearts are won and lost, and allegiances change like the shifting sand.


AUTHOR BIO:

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion.







Check out the rest of the Penguin Blog Tour
4/3 – The Bookish Crypt 
4/5 – Bookworm Banter  
4/10 – Flyleaf Chronicles 
4/11 – Simply ally Tea 
4/12 – Rheya Reads 
4/13 – Netherreads 

Starswept by Mary Fan | Book Review


This book was provided to me in exchange of an honest review

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows

In Mary Fan’s Starswept we follow the story of 15-year-old Iris Lei, a young viola player in a prestigious arts school, who is trying to make it in order to finally meet her mom. However, this is no ordinary art school. In Papilio, artist compete to become the best in their art in order to get sponsored by an Adryil, an alien race from Adryil. Late one night, while wandering the hallways of Papilio, she meets an Adryil boy named Dámiul and soon learns that not everything is what it seems.

It only took two pages for me to be completely immersed in the world of Starswept, mostly because I was excited that Iris was a viola player. As a former viola player, it caught me off guard that an instrument that is usually cast aside or ignored, is in the key entrustment of the protagonists. It brought me warmth and glee. Even though that tiny detail was what made me want to read more, Fan’s world building and fast paced story telling resulted in me reading all 400 pages in one day. I could not put it down.

As a description heavy lover, I was throughly pleased. Fan immediately immersed me in her world with all the small details of the new alien species, language, history and what it means to be an artist (especially a musician). 

She is a solid writer.

“Imagine all the stars in the galaxy in one pair of eyes, all the sureness of home in one pair of arms, all the heroics of a thousand epic tales in one noble heart.
This is my love.”

However, Starswept does follow the traditional tropes of YA: girl meets mysterious guy - her life changes - another boy also secretly loves her - and she gets with mysterious guy who hides secrets. Despite this, Fan was able to keep me so immersed, invested, and intrigued with what was going to happen next that I was not bothered with these tropes (it was once I started this review, that I realized how tropey it was).

While the relationship between Iris and Dámiul is considered the main focus of the story, it sometimes takes a back seat as the story dives into a darker and more serious tone as Iris learns more about what the Adryil are really doing with the artists of Earth. Their relationship was kinda insta-love which usually bothers me to the end of the earth but Fan wrote their developing relationship so beautifully, that I forgave it…for now. More than the love, its a story about how we perceive ourselves and our worth, while fighting for our beliefs.

I do not want to go too much into this book and any spoilers because I really think people should read it and experience it. It is diverse, has decent character development, beautiful prose, and a handsome male protagonist who is not cocky or broody (he is a sweetheart who wants to make the world a better place).

Space, aliens, music, interesting twists, love and fantastic story telling - what else can you ask for?

My Rating: 4/5



Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer | Book Review

This book was given to me for an honest review



Winter Glass is the sequel to Spindle Fire, a retelling of the classic fairy tale: Sleeping Beauty. Book two picks off right where book one ended.

Aurora, Isbe and Prince William are back in Deluce preparing for the looming war with Malfuer, the evil faerie queen. Along with William and Aurora's wedding in order protect their kingdoms and gain a bigger military force. However things don't go as planned -- like it should honestly. 

While Spindle Fire was character driven, Winter Glass was plot driven. The war was the main focus of the plot and most of the characters decisions were based on the war. 

I feel that Hillyer really grew as a writer -- I felt that her structure flowed more and she was able to build her characters to be more dimensional. Characters like Aurora who felt really hallow in book one were more fleshed out. I guess I have to credit that to character development too, but Hillyer finally made me feel for her! Which was very nice. 

Just like in book one, Winter Glass is told through various point views, but Aurora and Isbe are the main narrators. Once again Hillyer was to bring a beautiful almost visual narrative to Isbe (who is blind) without using descriptions that depend on sight. I am was very impressed, especially when Isbe was at the Ice King's kingdom, I could picture everything so clearly by just the sounds, feelings and movement. 

However, the "plot twists" were predictable and I was a bit upset when I guessed them correctly. Nothing really made me go GASP, which is fine I suppose but I enjoy when authors can foreshadow and I miss it. One of my biggest complaints about book one was the forced relationship Aurora had with Heath. In book two Aurora again had a forced relationship that came out of nowhere and I couldn't really understand where it bloomed from...it was a bit annoying. 

I feel that Hillyer did a good job with Winter Glass. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than Spindle Fire. If you enjoy classic fairy tale re-telling I think you'd enjoy this little duology! It has romance, magic, friendship, adventure, self discovery and most importantly self-love.

Pre-Order Now!
Out on April 10th, 2018
My rating: 4/5

Ready Player One | Book vs Movie Review


Copyright - Steven Spielberg

Ready Player One is a story about a young boy named Wade Watts and his search for an easter egg in a worldwide virtual reality game called the OASIS. Whoever discovers the easter egg, wins the game creator’s fortune and control over the OASIS.

When I first learned that Ready Player One was going to be a movie I cheered, and then I panicked. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of my top 10 favorite books, mainly because it is an ode to all things nerdy and geeky.

After the first trailer was released a few months back, I saw there were going to be changes, and I was scared. However, it did not stop me from watching it on it's release date. 

The movie does a pretty swell job of keeping the general feel and gist of the book and its story. It is an ode to geekdom and all things nerdy - this being said…if you are not well versed in video games, comics, old cult movies or anything of that sort…you might be lost and might not enjoy the movie. Mostly because all the references will be lost to you (the same goes for the book).  

The movie was modernized in its geekdom - featuring games from the 2000s such as Overwatch. This was one of its major changes, and I was okay with it, because it had to appeal to a large modern audience. 

Overall I enjoyed the movie and liked catching all the references (even if I am pretty sure I did not catch them all).

Recently, this story has received a lot of backlash for being unrealistic or not being great literature or having shitty female characters or bad diversity or whatever - I feel that the movie did the book justice (even with the changes that I will go into later on). It told the story of a teenage boy (probably 17 - 20), who believes the Oasis is all that matters and that is why he wants to protect it, only to learn that there is more to life than living in that virtual reality. While fighting an evil corporation who wants to ruin the OASIS for everyone else (because greedy companies want to profit off free things, like always).

And the female character I saw people complain about in the book for being poorly written, actually was given a major plot point in the movie that was originally part of Wade’s arc. She also had a bigger role in the film other than being Wade’s love interest. That was pretty rad.

Now to the real book vs movie comparison. So if you have not read or seen Ready Player One…BEWARE OF SPOILERS THAT ARE COMING.

First major change is that we don’t know Wade’s age and we don’t know if he is in school. In the book he is stuck on the planet where all the schools are present and kids receive their education. This was important because Wade is poor, and could not afford paying the teleportation fee to go to various parts of the same planet let alone other planets. By being stuck in this planet he was able to figure out the first clue and find the first dungeon in the school planet. The dungeon was from the first edition Dungeons & Dragons.

The first two challenges were completely different book to movie, not a big deal. I guess racing and being in a horror movie is more exciting for the audience rather than going through a dungeon and playing an arcade game.

Another major change was how Wade got the extra life coin - which saved him when the big baddy decided to destroy the whole planet and zero everyone out. In the book, Wade completes a Pacman game with a perfect score (thinking it is the second clue) only to receive a quarter. In the movie it is given to him by a mechanical butler when Wade outsmarts it. (My brother told me that no one would want to watch anyone try to get a perfect score in Pacman…which is a fair point)

Also, the High Five (Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto) all lived in Columbus, Ohio rather than across the world. Which was convenient for the story I suppose. Daito never got murdered by the IOI which is great because he is pretty great during his on screen time. Also in the movie, Shoto is an 11-year-old Chinese boy - which was the cutest thing ever.

There were other changes done in the movie such as meeting Og Morrow at the very end after they won the game, but honestly that wasn’t a big deal…since they all lived in Columbus, Ohio and didn’t need any private jets to be united.

Even with all the changes, I was not angry or upset. I really enjoyed the movie and accepted the changes (unlike the Percy Jackson movies). It was visually pleasing movie celebrating all the things my dad, my brother, and I enjoy. It was a massive mash up done in a creative way - kinda like Who Framed Rodger Rabbit.

If you are well versed in video games, comics, cult movies or anything of that sort I think you’d enjoy the movie (and the book - even though it is more 70s oriented ). If you are not…well you probably won’t enjoy it as much. 

And if you are looking for something similar to Ready Player One (at least in book form) I recommend Warcross by Marie Lu.