In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens Book Review

Author Information


F.T. Lukens is an award-winning author of Young Adult fiction. A sci fi enthusiast, F.T. loves Star Wars and Star Trek and is a longtime member of their college’s science-fiction club. F.T. holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature and has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

F.T.’s urban fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations For Mediating Myths & Magic won several awards including the 2017 Foreword INDIES Gold Award for Young Adult Fiction, the 2017 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best Teen Fiction and the 2017 Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. It was also named to the 2019 ALA Rainbow Book List.

Book Description

A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

Review

I won this book in a giveaway from Turn the Page Tours so thanks to them and Netgalley I am able to provide a review for you all.

Thoughts and Themes: It took me quite a long time to be invested in this book as I kept going back and forth in my interest in it. The book starts off quite slowly which is the main reason as to why I wasn’t drawn in immediately to this story.

I really loved how this story is so much adventure and so much different layers kept getting added to this as I read more. I liked reading along as different things happen to Tal and trying to see what he would do next just to survive. I liked that this was a story about survival and the things that one is willing to do in order to survive.

I really enjoyed the world-building in this book and how that was part of the adventure in this story. I liked how there were things that Tal was figuring out about alongside the reader and liked how his family’s past played into the present times. I really enjoyed learning about the different types of magic that was in this book, not just the magic that Tal had but the mystical creatures that were involved and the powers that some of his family members possessed.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to quite a few characters through their interactions with Tal and each of them is unique in their own way. I loved all of the relationships that Tal has with each person who is important to him and I even liked the villains in this story.

I liked the way Tal and Athlen’s relationship develops and how it changes over time. I like how not only is Tal second guessing Athlen’s feelings throughout the whole story but as a reader you are questioning Athlen’s motives. This part was the best thing for me because I loved trying to figure out who was trustworthy in this story and who wasn’t. I felt like Tal who was also trying to figure this out for himself.

I also really enjoyed the relationships that Tal had with each of his family members and especially his siblings. I liked how supportive they are of Tal and how protective they are of him as their youngest sibling. I really liked the scenes in which we get to see all of them talking to him and getting upset with themselves for “allowing” him to have been harmed.

Writing Style: The story is told in third person point of view and follows Tal. I really liked the story being told in this way because it doesn’t seem to be an all knowing narrator. We still get Tal’s feelings and confusion even if he isn’t the one telling the story to us.

Fresh by Margot Wood Book Review

Author Information

Margot Wood is the founder of Epic Reads and has worked in marketing for more than a decade at publishing houses both big and small. Born and raised in Cincinnati, and a graduate of Emerson College, Wood now lives in Portland, Oregon and works in comic book publishing. She once appeared as an extra in the Love, Simon movie.

You can find her online at margotwood.com.

Book Description

A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Review

Thank you to Amulet Books for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: From the first look at the cover and the description this isn’t the typical book that I would pick up, but I am so glad that I gave it a try since I winded up loving this story. This was a book that I just couldn’t put down once I picked it up.

This book instantly transported me back to my first year of college and while I was nothing like Elliot, I could still relate to the characters in this story. It was fun returning to this time in my life and also remembering what student’s lives are like when they are in college now that I work as an academic advisor. I thought that this story really captured the feeling of going away to college really well and all that comes along with being alone for the first time.

Something else that I really liked about this book was how sex positive it was. As an a-spec person, I tend to stray away from books that feature sex as I can find it overwhelming but I found this book wasn’t too much. I liked that we got a range of different opinions on sex in this book and how no one was shamed for their thoughts on it.

I really love the ending of this story and just screamed so much in the last 50ish pages of this book. I can’t say much more about this without ruining it but it was just too cute for my heart to handle.

Characters: In this story you get to meet Elliot, and several of the people she interacts with on a regular basis and her family members. I really enjoyed getting to read the pieces between Elliot and her younger sister. I loved the way their relationship was easy but you can feel how much she cares about Elliot.

I also really like the friendship between Elliot and her roommate, Lucy. I love the different challenges that they face through their friendship and how they navigate those challenges. I really like how we get to see the reality of several students at a private school through Lucy when she points out the privileges’ that Elliot has. I also like how different they are from each other especially when it comes to relationship and sex. What I really appreciated was how Elliot and Lucy respected each others perspective on things and supported each other’s decisions.

Writing Style: The story is told in first person point of view through the main character, Elliot, and it includes footnotes throughout. I really enjoy the footnotes that are included because it makes the book feel like I’m reading Elliot’s diary. The footnotes allow you to get her innermost thoughts and it also gives a chance to explain things outside of the main story. I also like how we only get the story through Elliot’s perspective because it reads like a college freshman trying to figure out her life.

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass Book Review

Author Information

Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wood wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.

Book Description

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader’s copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I had only seen negative reviews on this book so I went into this one suspecting bad and I wish I had’t. I actually really enjoyed this book and the multiple things that were happening in the story. I usually don’t like for there to be many side plot lines because I worry that they will be left unresolved but I liked the side things happening in this story. I felt that the side things happening helped move the story forward and also allowed you to learn about the characters.

I liked how this book brought up the intersection of being Black and Gay and how that was very different than being just one or the other. I thought this was a important piece that was brought up. I can’t speak on the intersection of holding both of those identities so I suggest that you all read own voices reviews as well.

Something else that I enjoyed about this book was that there were moments in which I felt the characters were coming off the screen. I loved the scenes in which there are supernatural elements involved since I felt these features brought the book to life. It was like this book was a ghost in my own living room.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to quite a few characters through their interactions with Jake and through the journal entries that are provided from Sawyer. I liked the way that we get to meet the people who were in Sawyer’s life and get to understand Sawyer through the journal entries and not just his haunting of Jake.

Something that I really enjoyed about this book is that both Sawyer and Jake are gay males. I thought it was great to see how that identity played into their daily lives and also their interactions with each other. I thought that them both being gay added depth to the story and added more to the reason Sawyer was haunting Jake. I felt that this fact made Sawyer feel like he could relate with Jake, and slowly it felt like Jake was able to relate with Sawyer.

I also really enjoyed the brief romance that we got through this book between Jake and Allister. While the romance wasn’t front and center in this story, I liked the glimpses that we get of their relationship and how it develops.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person point of view through Jake’s perspective and it also includes some of the entries from Sawyer’s journal. I like that this book goes back and forth between Jake’s life and Sawyer’s journal entries. I liked getting to know who Sawyer was prior to the shooting and try to see why that event occurred. I also thought it was great to see that this journal was being read by Jake and it was informing him of why this ghost was now haunting him.

Books to Beat the Heat

As summer has once again come around and it isn’t getting any cooler, I wanted to give you all some recommendations that you can read right now. These are great books to take with you to the beach, your backyard, or to sit inside enjoying the cool air conditioner. In my case, these are books that I will read sitting in front of my fan trying to ignore how hot it is.

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons 

Love, Simon meets Friday Night Lights in this feelgood LGBTQ+ romance about a trans teen torn between standing up for his rights and staying stealth.

‘A sharply observant and vividly drawn debut. I loved every minute I spent in this story’ – Becky Albertalli

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks…

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time. 

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together? 

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado 

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp 

I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community. 

The Half Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith 

For fans of John Green and Emily X.R. Pan, The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith is a coming-of-age story and an empathetic, authentic exploration of grief with a sharp sense of humor and a big heart.

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan Book Review

Author Information

Rachel grew up in the D.C. area and graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in Political Science. She has written many YA novels, including three that she cowrote with her friend and colleague David Levithan. She lives and writes (when she’s not reading other people’s books, organizing her music library or looking for the best cappuccino) in New York City. 

David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children’s book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

Book Description

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: So I had this book sitting on my shelves but decided not to read it since it didn’t look like something I would be interested in. I then watched the tv series and loved it so I decided to return back to the book. I decided to listen to it on audio and this book was so similar to the TV show that I loved it.

I really liked how close the television show was to this book. The book was such a cute and easy read that I could listen to this one more than once. I want to read more of the books in this series to see if the tv show continues with those or what direction it goes in.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to Dash and Lily who are our main characters, and you briefly get to meet other people who are in their lives. I liked each of the characters that you meet in this book and thought it was great to see the people in Lily’s life support her.

I liked reading all the different interactions that both Dash and Lily have with the people who hold the notebook. I really liked the moment that Dash meets Lily’s aunt since that was really funny. There are so many moments in this book that are filled with humor and also moments that are just cute.

Writing Style: The story is told in two point of views, Dash and Lily, and in first person. I really enjoy how the story goes back and forth between these two characters so you can read as they chase one another. I liked reading as these two chase each other and reading both of their perspectives on what is happening.

Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson Book Review

Author Information

Laura Brooke Robson writes books about snarky girls and climate peril. She’s from Bend, Oregon, which means she’s contractually obligated to talk about the fact she’s from Bend, Oregon. As a college student, she did English shenanigans at Stanford, which some were known to describe as “a feat of daring” and “probably not going to make you as much money as CS.”

Her debut novel, GIRLS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, will come out on June 8, 2021 with Dial Books/Penguin Teen. Laura is represented by Danielle “Superhero” “Cheerleader” “I would literally be crying without her” Burby at Nelson Literary Agency.

Book Description

In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the Flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if “anything” means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.

As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: The minute that I see a book is LGBT+, I know that I have to read it. I was so pleased with so many aspects of this book and really hope that there’s more to this story. I like that this story leaves me wanting more, wanting to know what happens next but also that it does close nicely for the reader.

I really liked how this book talks about Sirens and the original meaning for the term and how that term has shifted in their world. I liked the world-building that occurs throughout this story and how that world-building just was integrated into the plot.

I also really liked how we don’t know who the villain is throughout the story. You get glimpses at who it might be and the reason that Ella believes that they are the villain but never a confirmed answer. You don’t even get that answer at the end of the book which left me with so many questions. Like who was I supposed to believe, do we go with Ella’s point of view, or what Natasha knows?

Characters: This book introduces you to several people through their interactions with Natasha and Ella. You also get to meet both of these characters not only through each of their chapters but also in the moments in which they interact with each other.

Something that I really liked about the characters in this story was the friendships/relationships between each of the flyers. I loved how connected they were with each other and how we see this through the addition of Ella. I really liked seeing how even if they were skeptical of who she was, they still accepted her as one of them and made her feel like she had a family.

I really liked the slow burn romance that happens between Natasha and Ella. I liked that they tip toed around each other for the majority of the book and kept their feelings for each other to themselves. I liked how you know that the feelings are there and its going to happen but we don’t get the on page revelation of these feelings till near the end of the story.

Writing Style: This book goes back and forth between our two main characters, Natasha and Ella. I liked being able to see both of their perspectives on the events going on. I think that being able to see how they both felt allows us to understand their feelings and also feel sympathy for both of them.

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith Book Review

Author Information

Joan F. Smith is author of The Half-Orphan’s Handbook and the forthcoming It Ends with December. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and has written articles for The Washington Post and The Mary Sue on destigmatizing discussions around mental health and suicide prevention. Joan works in higher education and is a dance instructor. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Joan is represented by Kerry D’Agostino at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Book Description

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again. 

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

TW: suicide mention, suicide, death, addiction

Thoughts and Themes: I knew this book would be heavy as I went into reading it just because of the subject matter that it tackles. Its hard for me to talk about this book without revealing too much personal information but this book hit close to home for a lot of reasons.

I liked how the book went through a lot of the feelings that come along with grief and how it explores guilt along with loss. I thought that this book really showed how guilt factors into grief quite well and did it in a way that was still sensitive to the manner.

This book felt healing for me and made me feel a lot less alone than I have felt in a while. I liked how the story points out that healing isn’t linear and how much work goes into it. I liked that we got to see each person deal with grief differently, and all ages deal with grief as well. I liked that we even have adults in this book that are dealing with grief and it is all different forms of grief.

I cried for a good while after reading this book and the author’s note, I also messaged the author to say thanks for this book which is something I never do because I’m too scared to do that. There are books that I relate to, books that make me feel seen, books that help me heal from things, but rarely does a book do all of those things. This book felt like it was sent to me to say “hey I got you” much like Lila gets these people at camp to make her feel that way.

Characters: Through this story we are introduced to multiple characters as they interact with our main character, Lila. We meet Lila’s brother, Sammy, Madison, Winnie, Noah, Deese and Jeff. I really liked all of the characters that we get to meet and loved all the relationships that are shown throughout this book.

While we do get a romance between Lila and Noah, I thought that was a side of the book and not the main portion of it. I liked how their romance developed and the emotions that LIla has to face to allow someone to be with her. I thought it was good to see her grapple with those feelings and struggle to let herself have feelings for someone. I think this really showed how much she was holding onto the past and not letting herself move forward with her life since her dad wasn’t there anymore.

I like how we get to see each character’s backstory and the reason for the way that they act towards others. I thought it was good to finally get Madison’s feelings out and the truth about Noah out as well. I liked how this was handled and how Lila is forced to see that she isn’t the only one dealing with a loss. There were times where Lila was annoying because of her attitude and the way she treated others but there was an understanding that each of them had their reasons.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person point of view through Lila’s perspective. I really enjoyed having the story be told by Lila as a narrator because you find things out just as she does. I thought it was great to be there with her as we find out details about her father and then find out things about Noah. I think that made the story a lot more impactful because you for a minute are Lila.

The Forest of Stolen Girls Book by June Hur Review

Author Information

June Hur was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. When she’s not writing, she can be found journaling at a coffee shop. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020 (Indies Introduce).

She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.

Book Description

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: This book has a very slow pace to it and it never really does pick up, that being said the pacing doesn’t take away from the story. I really enjoy the slow pacing of this story because it gives you time to think about all the revelations that occur as you read. This isn’t one that I would’ve picked up normally because of the fact that it is classified as historical but I am so glad that I read it. I really enjoyed a lot about this story.

I really enjoyed the way that the story was built and how you are right there with both of the sisters as they go on this search for the truth. I thought the way that this book was written allowed you to feel the suspense building up and also try and solve the case with them.

As I was reading this I kept forgetting that this was historical and written in a different time period. I thought that the time period was captured well in all the small aspects that were included as well as the back story of different people. I really liked learning about the different people involved in the case and the people that the two girls were interrogating.

I think it is very important to read the Historical note portion of this book because that lets you know that the story is based in real events. I thought it was interesting to learn about things that had happened in Korea in the past as I didn’t know about any of this. I really thought this book was a good way to learn about those things and liked the way facts were introduced to this novel.

Characters: This story is a lot more plot driven than character driven so I feel that we don’t get to know much about our characters. What I did like about this book is the relationships that we see between Maewol and Hwani, along with the relationship they each had with their father. I really liked watching as they learned about each other and reading as Hwani learned about her father. I thought it was good to see those relationships change and also watch the relationships that Maewol has developed with others as a result of the absence of her family.

Writing Style: This story is told through the perspective of Hwani which I thought was great. I think if the story had included any other perspectives things may have been muddied. I liked that we were watching everything unfold through Hwani’s viewpoint as she was a visitor to this place. I thought it was good that she didn’t have close ties to anyone there besides her father, and even her relationship with her sister was estranged.

What’s Not To Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka Book Review

Author Information

mily Wibberley grew up in Southern California, but instead of working on her nonexistent tan at the beach, she spent her time reading, making music and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Shortly after falling for her best friend, Austin Siegemund-Broka, she attended Princeton University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2014 with a degree in Psychology. She and Austin now live and write YA contemporary together. Their debut, Always Never Yours, will be published by Penguin Books in Summer 2018.

Visit her website at www.emilywibberley.com and sign up for her mailing list to hear about exclusive giveaways and YA book news.

Also check out Emily’s and Austin’s new website at www.emilyandaustinwrite.com.

Austin Siegemund-Broka cowrites YA contemporary with Emily Wibberley. His debut with Wibberley, ALWAYS NEVER YOURS, publishes from Puffin/Speak in 2018.

A former journalist in the entertainment industry, where he covered the courts and, yes, met a couple celebrities, he graduated from Harvard in 2014 with a degree in English and a focus on Shakespeare. When he’s not writing (or reading) YA, he enjoys combing every corner of contemporary music and watching Buffy with Emily.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Book Description

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thoughts and Themes: I was actually pretty surprised with how much I enjoyed reading this one. I was a little concerned going in to this book because from the look at the cover it isn’t something that I typically read. I’m glad that I gave it a try though because I enjoyed remembering what it is like to be in high school.

Right from the start of this book you get the enemies to lovers story of our two main characters which is great. I really liked the competition between these two characters and how realistic it was. I liked how there was no outside pressure on these two students to be exceptional so it was was their own choice to do this.

I also liked how things didn’t quickly progress into these two characters being in love with each other. I liked how this was complicated for them to navigate and they struggled with these new feelings. I liked watching them not know how to interact with each other when it wasn’t something they were used to.

There were so many moments that I thought were hilarious and it really reminded me of watching people in my high school courses. I remember being in the school for advanced studies and watching everything be a competition for people. I remember the teachers fueling this competition so I really liked how this story made it so that the teachers and other students were frustrated by the competition.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to a few characters through the perspective of Alison. You get to meet Dylan, who is Alison’s best friend, and Ethan, who is Alison’s rival. I really liked the friendship that you see between Dylan and Alison and also liked how Dylan’s relationship with Olivia affects this. When I was reading this book it really made me want to hand it to my best friend as a like I’m sorry for the person I became when I was dating in high school. I liked how we see Dylan on her own and then Dylan with Olivia to point out the big difference there is.

I also liked watching the relationship that Alison and Ethan have with each other and how it affects those around them. I really thought it was hilarious to watch Alison’s parents mock her about Ethan and insist that something was there between them. I liked watching how those around them such as teachers and class mates got frustrated with the constant feuding.

Something that I wasn’t really a fan of though is how these characters weren’t too developed. I wanted to know more about them beyond their feud. I did wonder if that was intentional though so that we could see that there wasn’t much to them besides that. I really wanted to know if there was more to them than this fighting.

The only thing that I was a bit ehh about was the lack of diversity with out cast of characters. I loved reading them but they did seem like cookie cutter copies of each other.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Alison which I really enjoyed. I like that this story is told through her perspective and we don’t get to see anyone else’s feelings. The fact that the story is told in her perspective keeps it in high school and makes the story feel right for the age it is written. I thought it being in her perspective made it funny when adults would get involved since she insisted she knew better than them. I liked how often people had to remind her to just be a teenager.

April 2021 TBR

My reading list this month is a little bit ambitious but some of these I’m already halfway through so hopefully I can complete them this month. I’m also hoping to take a few days off work to read as a break for my birthday, you know before I start school again this fall.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago. 

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley , Austin Siegemund-Broka 

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko 

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? 

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam 

This inspirational memoir serves as a call to action from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam, of the Exonerated Five, that will inspire us all to turn our stories into tools for change in the pursuit of racial justice.

They didn’t know who they had.

So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one’s life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam’s seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we’re all “born on purpose, with a purpose.” Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being “run over by the spiked wheels of injustice,” Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities.

Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the ’80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life’s experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change.

This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation’s inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam’s message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action.

The Half Orphan’s Handbook by Joan F. Smith 

It’s been three months since Lila lost her father to suicide. Since then, she’s learned to protect herself from pain by following two unbreakable rules:

1. The only people who can truly hurt you are the ones you love. Therefore, love no one.

2. Stay away from liars. Liars are the worst.

But when Lila’s mother sends her to a summer-long grief camp, it’s suddenly harder for Lila to follow these rules. Potential new friends and an unexpected crush threaten to drag her back into life for the first time since her dad’s death.

On top of everything, there’s more about what happened that Lila doesn’t know, and facing the truth about her family will be the hardest part of learning how a broken heart can love again.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi 

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.