YA LIFE & MUSE OF NIGHTMARES: Morristown Book Festival

Books and bookish events ALWAYS go hand in hand.

On Saturday I attended the Morristown Book Festival with Emily from @emily_reads_everything. This year, the festival hosted a variety of authors, including some of my favorite YA authors.

After a quick bite to eat in Morristown (one can never go wrong with Panera macaroni and cheese), Emily and I made our way to the main square. The Morristown Book Festival is a bit smaller than some other well known festivals, like YALLFest, so there aren’t any publishers’ booths. It’s mostly composed of a few book-for-sale tents, food trucks, and hand-on activities for young kids. In the “YA Loft” of a local church, we caught the end of the Rebels, Romantics and Everything In Between Panel with Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Kass Morgan, where they were discussing how long it takes them to write a book.

Soon after, the YA Life As We Know It Panel began with Emily X.R. Pan, Ibi Zoboi, and Jennifer E. Smith. Everyone can guess that this contemporary reads girl was super excited for this panel, especially since Jennifer E. Smith is one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I had also read all the books that these authors were promoting at the festival, including The Astonishing Color of After, Pride, and Windfall.

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Emily X.R. Pan, who was wearing the cutest dress with giraffes all over, kicked off the panel by discussing how color comes into play in The Astonishing Color of After. She said that her husband would associate her drafts with colors, one day saying that her story felt so orange! She also said that when she originally sold the book, it including an entire fantasy realm instead of the finished version’s touch of magical realism. When someone from the audience asked if Emily inserts herself into her characters, she comparing herself as horrocruxes in her characters.

Ibi Zoboi talked a lot about how she used the framework of Pride and Prejudice for her P&P remixing, Pride, but still made changes, such as Zuri’s first-person point of view. While discussing Windfall, Jennifer said that Leo was one of her all-time characters that she’s written. Ibi and Jennifer also both said that they like writing about characters who are in the transition stage between high school and college (hello Jennifer’s 2019 release that I NEED to get my hands on, Field Notes to Love). They laughed at how much they knew about today’s college application process from all the research they’ve done for their books!

The YA Life panel was then followed by a Fantastical Sequel panel featuring Laini Taylor and Muse of Nightmares, moderated by author Emmy Labourne. Since she didn’t want to give spoilers for both Strange the Dreamer and MoN, she described MoN as a story of reclaiming your identity and life after destruction. Laini said that Sarai has been a character that’s been with her for a while (even before writing Strange the Dreamer), but she felt that she needed to make the first installment Lazlo’s story. Emmy and the audience agreed that Lazlo was every fantasy bookworm’s crush, and Laini responded with the Strange quote, “His nose was broken by a falling volume of fairy tales his first day on the job, and that, they said, told you everything you needed to know about strange Lazlo Strange”.

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After the panel, there was an autographing session with Laini. This was my second time meeting Laini, who is seriously the most sweet and heartwarming author that I’ve ever met, and she signed my copy of Strange the Dreamer. Her and Emily discussed what an elilith looks like and even drew a quick sketch for Emily as an inspiration for a future tattoo. With my signed Strange the Dreamer and hot chocolate in my hand (it’s finally starting to feel like fall on the East Coast), that wrapped up our day at the Morristown Book Festival.

Have you attended any book festivals? If there’s one that I NEED to get to, it’s YALLFest! Have you met any of the above authors? Share in the comments!

CHOCOLATE MILK & VILLAINS: WHY YOU NEED TO READ VENGEFUL

V.E. Schwab’s sequel to Vicious,Vengeful, is officially out in the world and ready to wreck havoc on our reading lives. You better believe that I already ate my most anticipated book of the year AND YES, IT WAS DELICIOUS AS I IMAGINED IT TO BE. After loving Viciousand declaring it as one of my favorite books of all-time, I sort’ve knew that I was bound to fall in love with Vengeful. Vengeful easily met my expectations and more. Today I’m going to be walking you through why you need to be reading Vengeful NOW- and if you still haven’t read Vicious, find out why you need to here.

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WHY YOU NEED TO READ ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVES NOW: 

Reunited with our Vicious main cast – A bit of an obvious reason, but how can you not be excited to be reunited with Victor Vale and co.?

It’s even darker than Vicious All of our characters from Vicious are in even more high stakes places in this installment. Unfortunately, Victor just doesn’t seem to be feeling like he used to. A maturing, but not exactly aging Sydney questions why she feels like she has to stay with Victor. Mitch is stuck between his loyalty to Victor and creating a life for Sydney. Dol is just waiting for Sydney to drop her bacon. And let’s not forget our favorite antagonist, Eli, who’s spending time behind bars.

Besides our cast facing darkness themselves, Vengeful‘s mood is quite dark– is anyone surprised?? Led by our beloved Detective Stell, there’s an even bigger crackdown on EOs, and there’s a new villain ready to bring the city of Merit to its knees.

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Two new badass female characters- Vengeful introduces us to two new prominent EOs, Marcella and June. While she definitely creeped me out, I loved Marcella as our big antagonist and I loved getting to know her backstory. I thought June’s own power was interesting as well, and I liked seeing her relationship with another character. I’m also going to need Marcella’s wardrobe ASAP.

Storytelling between the super past, the past and present- One of the reasons why I enjoyed Vicious so much was for its unique format. Vengeful is told in the same style, flipping from the past to the present. The past can be anything from weeks prior to years ago, such as getting certain character’s backstories or what they’ve been up to since the events of Vicious.

We get Eli’s backstory- Speaking of characters’ backstories, while we get a few in Vengeful, my favorite had to be Eli’s. I honestly wasn’t expecting to get Eli’s, since we do spend quite a bit of time with him in Vicious. While reading Vengeful, I realized that we didn’t get too in-depth with Eli in Vicious, for the most part going off of Victor’s perceptions of him. Eli’s backstory demonstrates why Eli is the person he came to be and the reasoning behind his EO power. Do I have sympathy for Victor’s biggest rival now??

COVER LOVE FOR THE BEST COVER GAME- Obviously including this point near the bottom because of course the cover of a book doesn’t influence how we feel about said book…. I’m SO in love with Vengeful’s cover! I love how it coinsides with the new Vicious covers, and I love how the color scheme matches V.E. Schwab’s other adult books and her middle grade novel, City of Ghosts.

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Vengeful will leave you screaming at ALL the plot twists– I constantly had my hand flying to my mouth as I gasped throughout Vengeful. Once again, I am so impressed by V.E. Schwa’s storytelling. The ending perfectly fit the story.

The most important drink of all-No worries readers, there’s still plenty of chocolate milk, courtesy of Mitch, to go around.

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Have you read Vicious or Vengeful? Are they on your TBR? Share in the comments below!

Dear Evan Hansen & Fandom Love: What If It’s Us Review

Summary: Arthur is only in New York City for the summer, but if he’s learned one thing from Broadway, it’s that the universe can deliver an unexpected romance anytime, any day. Meanwhile, Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its own business. Besides, he needs to worry about getting the box of his ex-boyfriend’s things to the post office. But when Ben and Arthur meet-cute at the post office, they learn that the universe has more in store for the two of them than they could have ever imagined.

My Rating: 4.5/ 5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

You had me at Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. But a book written by a YA queen and king with many nods to Dear Evan Hansen (and Hamilton and Harry Potter) sounds even better! Before getting really started, in short, Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s upcoming release, What If It’s Us, is the YA contemporary that is worthy of your TBR PRIORITY.

I admit that it took this DEH fan about a month to figure out the title of the book’s relationship to Dear Evan Hansen. I had a sudden epiphany while hearing Becky and Adam at Epic Reads Day this July, where they said that the title was taken from one of my favorite DEH songs. DOES THIS MEAN WE’RE GOING TO GET A TWEET OR INSTAGRAM WITH BEN PLATT READING THIS GEM?? From Arthur’s love for the musical to the different sections’ titles (STILL freaking out about it), there’s much DHE love in this book, along with one of my other favorite musicals, Hamilton. I highly recommend listening to DEHbefore, during, or after reading What If It’s Us to get the full experience. OR JUST LISTEN TO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN NOW.

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What If It’s Us is filled with vibrant writing, a heartfelt plot, and plenty of great characters. As a reader of Adam and Becky’s books, I really felt both of their writing styles come to life in their (hopefully first of many) collaboration. Becky takes on Georgia-raised, musical-loving Arthur, while Adam writes fantasy-author-in-progress Ben. I really enjoyed both perspectives, but I think I did enjoy Ben’s a teensy bit more thanks to his best friend, Dylan. Dylan was such a HILARIOUS sidekick for Ben and I wouldn’t mind some sort of spinoff following him! This is just one of many gems about  Dylan from Ben:

“We keep playing as Dylan goes on and on about which hot beverage he and Samantha should name their firstborn after, and I refuse to be Uncle Ben to any child named Cider” (29).

Ben and Arthur’s summer romance found the perfect home in New York City. It was really fun (although a bit heartbreaking when it came to going to a certain show) to see them take on NYC together and while they don’t have the longest of times together, I think their relationship progressed at the right pace. I also enjoyed spending time getting to know their friends (see Dylan) and families, providing such a wholesome cast that fans of Becky’s books will especially enjoy. While I know many readers have speculated if we’re going to have a Becky ending or Adam ending (see title, They Both Die at the End), you’ll have to read the book yourself to see what a Becky and Adam ending looks like.  I will say that I did enjoy the ending.

Overall, What If It’s Us is sure to please any YA reader looking for a sweet, diverse contemporary with NYC adventures, well-developed characters, and love.

This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions.

Is What If It’s Us on your TBR? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera or Becky Albertalli book? Share in the comments!

EMOTION-FILLED GRAPHIC NOVEL: Hey Kiddo Review

Summary: In elementary school, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asked his to draw a picture of his mom and dad. But Jarrett’s family was much more complicated than that. His mother was an addict, in and out of rehab and in and out of Jarett’s life. His father was a mystery. Jarrett was living with his grandparents- very brash, very loving, very opinionated people who thought they were done raising kids until Jarrett was born. From his early childhood through his teenager years, Hey Kiddo portrays Jarrett’s journey growing up in a family that grapples with addiction, finding the people who help you along the way, and creating the art that helps you survive.

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

While I wish I read them more frequently, I’ve discovered some great graphic novels in 2018.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey Kiddo is no exception.

Hey Kiddo is the first graphic memoir that I’ve read outside of school. I absolutely ate this book up and stayed up way too late past my bedtime to finish—it’s not like I had class in the morning or 74 homework assignments waiting for me. I recommend reading Hey Kiddo in one sitting to fully experience Jarrett’s story. It won’t be too hard to do so because you won’t be able to put this book down.

While I loved this book, I need to preface my thoughts by saying that Hey Kiddo is a heavy and dark read. It’s definitely heavier than most YA graphic novels, but it’s a very important read. From his early childhood through his teenage years, Jarrett is forced to deal with family addiction problems, between his mother, father and grandmother.

I absolutely loved Jarrett’s relationship with his grandparents, especially Joe. I loved how Joe encouraged Jarrett to be an artist, especially since Jarrett’s artwork was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. His sketches provided a lot of contrast to the graphic novel’s style and were overall amazing. While his grandparents and their relationship isn’t perfect, their love for Jarrett was evident from the moment they meet him. I also enjoyed Jarrett’s relationship with his aunts. On the other hand, it was difficult and utterly heart breaking to see his relationship with his mother. While his family’s past wasn’t easy either, Krosoczka skillfully interweaves their past and Jarrett’s present.

The artwork, color scheme, and overall aesthetic detail throughout Hey Kiddo is extremely impressive. I found myself lingering upon so many passages, and I loved the pineapple chapter openers. I liked learning in the author’s notes that the color scheme had a lot to do with Krosoczka’s grandparents. If Hey Kiddo surprisingly doesn’t make you cry during its story, Krosoczka’s notes at the end surely will. I also enjoyed learning that the majority of Jarrett’s drawings and other different pictures were real.

Overall, Hey Kiddo is a hard-hitting, emotion-filled read that I of course highly recommend. I think this book is a greater starter for those who want to adventure into graphic novels. I’m definitely interested in reading more of Jarrett’s work.

This review is based on an uncorrected proof. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions.

Is Hey, Kiddo on your TBR? What are some of your favorite graphic novels? Share in the comments!

Thrills & Homework: Fall Reading Recommendations

Autumn calls for plenty of sweaters, pumpkin-spice treats, and ALL the books, as always. As many of you know, I’m a huge mood reader. However, when it comes my reading choices this season, I especially look for books that fall under three “categories”- thriller, mystery, and school. Today I’m going to be sharing my fall reading recs based on these categories, as well as some books that fall vibes on my TBR.

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The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – A book that I read last fall, Mindy McGinnis’ The Female of the Species is an important YA read with dark, mystery vibes. The book provides much discussion on rape culture between its three teenage protagonists, especially Alex, who has revenge on her mind.

Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade – Readers who have just started school again themselves will appreciate this contemporary about college freshman Caroline and her love for the ‘90s TV show, Felicity. Finding Felicity honestly captures what it can be like adjusting to college and may inspire you to join a club or two at your own school.

Sadie by Courtney Summers –  The most talked about thriller of the season, Sadie deserves all the hype and more. Courtney Summers’ latest release is full of suspense and darkness, as title character Sadie will stop at nothing to avenge her sister’s death. I think readers who love Sadie or The Female of the Species and haven’t read the other will love both books.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo – Jill Santopolo’s was a huge adult contemporary hit last year. Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Cecelia Ahern will really enjoy this book following college sweethearts Gabe and Lucy and their lives with and without each other. This book is a cozy read that will have you reaching for your favorite blanket and some hot chocolate (or pumpkin-spice drink of your choice).

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire was an unexpected favorite of 2017, but oh was I so obsessed with this mystery. Its story is complex and fast-paced, the perfect read for a rainy day.

The Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle– Again following my back to school vibes (not to mention that the cover’s color scheme screams fall aesthetic to me), The Thing with Feathers begins at the start of a school year. This is the first book that I’ve read with an epileptic protagonist, and while it wasn’t my favorite, I enjoyed The Thing With Feathers for its focus on family and yes, Emilie’s dog is included in that.

Fall-ish TBR Books

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White – Everyone needs a good Halloween read. I’ve seen really positive reviews about this new, dark historical fiction read, and I’m excited to read my first book written by Kiersten White.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden – After loving Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, I am more than ready for her eerie middle grade tale.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas- I am determined to read a Kara Thomas book SOON, and while this author is known for all of her thrillers, I’m most intrigued by The Cheerleaders. I think this might be a book that keeps me up well into the night.

What are some of your fall reading recs? Any of the above? Share in the comments!

Review: Dry by Neal & Jarrod Shusterman

Summary: The drought- or the Tap-Out- in California has been going on for a while now. Don’t water the lawn, no filling the pool, no long showers. But  when the taps run dry, Alyssa’s quiet suburban neighborhood becomes a war zone of desperation. Neighbors and families turn against one another in the hunt for water. When her parents don’t return from their own search and Alyssa and her brother’s lives are threatened, Alyssa must make impossible choices, including trusting her geeky, survival-guide expert of a neighbor Kelton, if they want to survive.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:  

Since Neal Shusterman’s Scythe and Thunderhead are easily two of my favorite 2018 reads, I was highly anticipating Neal and Jarrod Shusterman’s Dry. Before jumping into some longer thoughts, I’m happy to say that Dry met my expectations and more. I absolutely loved the world-building and characters.

Going into the book, I thought we would just get Alyssa’s perspective. But how could I forget Scythe and Thunderhead’s storytelling? Dry features Alyssa, Kelton, and their company’s perspectives- I don’t want to name them all for the sake of spoilers. The variety of different perspectives was especially interesting when it came to their pasts, their survival strategies, and figuring out  who could be trusted. There are also snapshots of outside characters who may or may not come into play throughout the story. I just loved the interconnectedness of it all.

It’s crazy to think that Dry simply takes place over a few days because of how quickly things turn upside down. Let’s hope I never have to go to Costco and get a pack of bottled water ripped out of my hands. Action fans will definitely love Dry, as Alyssa and Kelton must act on their instincts quickly in order to survive.

And yes, I know that I’ve become a bit of a fast reader, but Dry is truly a fast-paced, page-turning read. Genre-wise, I would classify Dry as a thriller or near-dystopian, but the more and more I read, the more it felt almost contemporary-like. The fictional California drought set within the book felt real, as Alyssa and company describe the human and environmental factors that led to water becoming an even more sacred resource. It made me think about the action we could all take to ensure that a situation like Dry doesn’t happen.

Overall, Dry is a thrilling fall release that’s more than important to read. Even if it made me incredibly thirsty while reading.

This review is based on an advance reader’s copy. Receiving this copy did not affect my thoughts or opinion.

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I am highly anticipating The Toll, the final book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, and would love to see Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman co-author more together.

 Is Dry on your TBR? What are some of your favorite Neal Shusterman books? Share in the comments!

KoA and Reading Plans: October TBR

To your disbelief and mine, I’m back with another TBR! While I think I’ll always be a mood reader, there are a few books that I know I want to get to before the end of 2018- and there’s no way my homework is stopping me from doing so. With Halloween approaching,  I’m craving some must-read fantasy (dark or light vibes welcome) and I wouldn’t be Fangirl Fury with at least 1 contemporary read.

My biggest debate that I’ve had while creating my October TBR is thinking about when I’m going to read Sarah J. Maas’s Kingdom of Ash, which comes out on October 23rd. Not only is KoA the final book in the Throne of Glass series, but it’s the longest SJM book at 992 PAGES. And yes, I’m already trying to figure out how I’m going to fit it on my bookshelf. I would of course love to read KoA as seen as it comes out, and while I do set aside time to read at school, I want to give it my undivided attention during my Thanksgiving or winter break…. Except I need to know what happens and I REFUSE to be spoiled. Any advice is much appreciated.

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Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich- One of my favorite Broadway shows, I’m really looking forward to YA book adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen. I admit that I am nervous to see how much the story is changed. However, I’ve seen really positive early reviews.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff- I promised my roommate that I would read one of her all-time favorite books, Nevernight, before the end of the fall semester. She said that the book  has some dark vibes that will perfectly fit October’s spooky season.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden- After loving The Girl in the Tower in September (sidenote: it was supposed to be on my October TBR, but I unexpectedly finished it over the last weekend in September), I’m in need of more Katherine Arden. Her first middle grade, Small Spaces, sounds like the perfect book for Halloween, following a young girl’s experience with creepy stories and ghosts.

 

Sawkill Girls by Clare Legrand- After seeing a lot of love for Clare Legrand’s Furyborn this summer, I cannot wait to read Sawkill Girls. I’ve seen so many reviewers describe it as the perfect read for Halloween.

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black– I’ve been meaning to get to The Wicked King ASAP, and I feel like The Lost Sisters, the first novella in The Folk of Air series, will motivate me to do so.

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Adam Siegemund-Broka- Being back at school means for at least school-related read right? Always Never Yours is definitely one of the 2018 releases I want to read before the end of year, and I’m already anticipating this husband-and-wife writing duo’s next novel, If I’m Being Honest.

What books are on your October TBR? Any Kingdom of Ash advice? Share in the comments!