A PIE AND COZY-FILLED READ: Midnight at the Blackbird Café Review

41556079Summary (from the publisher): Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

 

 

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

Everyone knows that my love for baking extends beyond the kitchen, as I absolutely love books with any type of baking or food-ish setting. Enter Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Café, following Anna Kate’s stay in small town Alabama in the wake of her grandmother’s death. Putting her medical school aspirations on hold, Grandma Zee’s will requires Anna Kate to run the Blackbird Café for two months. This time allows Anna Kate to get to know her grandmother’s quirky Southern town and solve at least two mysteries: the accident that caused her father’s death and her mother’s estrangement from the town since, and why everyone is obsessed with her grandmother’s blackbird pie.

Midnight at the Blackbird Café completely delivered for all the right reasons. While this book caught my attention for its titular café, Heather Webber’s latest release is more than just a book about a girl who is left to run a small town café. Heather Webber delves into so many heavy themes in this book, including loss, grief and trauma through multiple characters.

Although I’d argue that this book is truly Anna Kate’s story, the book is also told from Natalie, another young woman who has just returned to Wicklow a fterexperiencing loss herself. I really enjoyed the balance between these two perspectives and found that they had their own distinctive voices. While mostly narrated from Anna Kate and Natalie, readers really get pulled into small town life and get to know all of the secondary characters. Like most small towns, Anna Kate and Natalie are pulled into so many secrets and hidden pasts, especially in light of Anna Kate trying to figure out the bad blood between her mother and her father’s family. While heart-breaking at times, there’s plenty of heart-warming moments and support for Anna Kate from Wicklow (including an attractive man who knows a good fried chicken recipe).

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Top Five Wednesday: Fall TBR (& a Somewhat Life Update)

Although Top Five Wednesday is still on hiatus, I thought that I would borrow from the spirit of the group for today topic: my fall TBR!

I admit that some of the books below might have been mentioned on older TBR posts. Since the second half of August, life has been super hectic with the start of my college senior year. Between two jobs and a pretty heavy course load, this semester has easily been my most challenging and busy- but hopefully the most rewarding, because I genuinely love almost everything I am studying and doing. I wish that I had more time for the blog and reading because I hold this space very close to my heart. Blogging and reading also allows me to escape from ‘school stuff’ for a bit, which is another reason why I wish I had more time for it! On a side note, I have to commute to the city twice a week for class and being able to read for fun most of the time during my commute is THE BEST.

Anyway, I wanted to create a mini TBR for what’s left of September and October and November, so I can share my reading plans with everyone and hold myself somewhat accountable (see ignoring old monthly TBRs). I definitely foresee myself reading more than 5 books this fall, but the following five books are my absolute priority.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell- Ready for another mini life update? On top of school and life things, I am getting my wisdom teeth pulled during my fall break (which happens to be tomorrow). One of the positives in this whole situation called my life is that Wayward Son is officially out in the world! That being said, my plan for this upcoming weekend is to lay in bed and eat up this sequel to Carry On. I admit that I’ll be both happy and sad (because I always need more Rainbow Rowell books) that I’ll hopefully have read my favorite author’s two 2019 releases in the same month. Catch me also likely rereading Pumpkinheads in bed.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh(ARC)- Yes, it is very much true that this blogger is still making her way through her Book Expo 2019 haul. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn series, I am really excited to give her books another chance with The Beautiful. It’s really pulling me in for its New Orleans setting and seamstress protagonist.

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AN UNTOLD MG STORY: I Can Make This Promise Review

Summary (from the publisher):

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All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.

Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.

Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?

 

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

Christine Day’s middle grade debut, I Can Make This Promise, tells such a unique story in the genre. The book follows twelve-year old Edie, who is trying to navigate herself through friendship, her heritage, and her parents’ secrets . Edie has always known she’s half Native American and that her mother was adopted by a white family. But that’s where Edie’s mother always tends to end the conversation about their family history. When Edie finds a box full of letters and old photos of a woman who looks life her and has the same name, she starts putting together her untold heritage.

Although one trying to uncover their family’s hidden past isn’t a new trope, characters with Native American heritage is likely one of the more untold stories in middle grade and YA. I’ve read a few books about Native American culture in my college classes, but I have never encountered the culture in middle grade. I actually learned about Sacheen Littlefeather in my literature class on American imperialism, so it was really cool reading about her part in the story. That being said, I Can Make This Promise is a very educational read. This book would make for such a fantastic educational resource for young/middle grade readers who haven’t been exposed to Native American culture and their conflicts with the US government. Edie explores so many of the themes within these issues in such a relatable and simplified way.

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ARCs I’m Never Unhauling

ARCs, or advance reader copies, are often a hot topic of conversations here in the book community.

Before getting further into this post, let’s have a refresh on ARCs. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, ARCs (pronounced either like ‘ark’ or ‘A-R-C’) refer to early copies of upcoming books that have not yet been published. They have zero monetary value, but are often provided to bloggers and other people in the publishing industry mostly for review purposes and to build hype for said book. ARCs have no monetary value, but many readers (including myself) like to collect and keep ARCs of their favorite books, even after they have already been published. Unicorn ARCs can include books that may have been available in a limited amount, written by a very popular author, are very anticipated titles, or may have been only available at certain bookish events.

Thanks to Twitter and even Instagram (#arcsfortrade), trading ARCs has been an ever-growing and accessible process. People will share their ARCs available for trade in photos on these platforms and will often share wishlists of specific ARCs or finished copies they want in exchange. I myself have traded ARCs. I often trade ARCs that I have already read and don’t necessarily want to keep for my personal collection or have somehow managed to have more than one copy of. If I decide not put ARCs up for trade and still want to unhaul them, I’ll give them to my bookish friends IRL or donate to my local library.

However, there are certain ARCs on my bookshelves that will never leave my bookshelf for a variety of reasons that I will be discussing today.

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The Wicked King by Holly Black- Given this trilogy and author’s popularity, The Wicked King appears on so many #arcsfortrade wishlists. I was discussing this with friends at Book Expo this year, but I want to keep The Wicked King as a reminder of surviving the mosh pit that was caused by TWK ARC drop at Book Expo 2018. In addition, this book really made me fall in love with The Folk of the Air series.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys- Since Ruta Sepetys is my favorite historical fiction author, I knew I needed the ARC of Salt to the Sea when I found it a used book sale back  in 2017. While I haven’t found any other ARCs, people have found some great ARC finds at used bookstores, library sales, and charity shops.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett- I will forever hold on to this ARC from one of my all-time favorite contemporary authors. Getting sent this ARC for review was a book blogger dream come true. Besides absolutely loving the book itself, I have such positive memories surrounding Serious Moonlight, aka Jenn Bennett seriously loving my chocolate chip cookie pie recipe inspired by her book.

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott- While I had a few ARCs already from Book Con and a blogger friend, I, Eliza Hamilton is the first ARC I have ever been sent from a publisher. This book is also my favorite Hamilton-inspired and Eliza Hamilton-takes-fiction read.

Warcross by Marie Lu- Warcross was the ARC to be had at Book Con 2017. I’ve told this story a few times on the blog, but basically I was unable to grab an ARC during Penguin’s drop at Book Con that Saturday afternoon. However, the next day I went to Marie Lu’s general signing where we talked about the book and she gave me a copy from her bag! Besides this memory surrounding the physical book, I just love Marie Lu as an author and Warcross as a book so much that I won’t part from it.

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart- As many of you know, Grace and Fury has stolen my YA feminist fantasy heart. I have the finished Owlcrate edition- I actually asked for the August 2018 Owlcrate box as a birthday present, knowing Grace and Fury was the book- but I still want to keep the ARC because it has the original hardback cover and it matches my recently acquired Queen of Ruin ARC.

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- Little Fires Everywhere may just be my best unicorn ARC, given its massive success and upcoming Hulu adaptation. This originally wasn’t in my Book Con 2017 haul- I didn’t even know it was available at the convention- but I traded my Goodreads giveaway copy of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (which I didn’t enjoy) for it. Little Fires Everywhere is one my all-time favorite, if not my #1 favorite, adult books and I’m so excited for the adaptation.

Lovely War by Julie Berry- Your girl loves her historical fiction, including Julie Berry’s incredible Lovely War, and floppy paperbacks, including the ARC of Lovely War. This book has been well-deservingly getting more and more hype since its release.

The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord- The amount of sleep I lost stressing out over if I would get this book at Book Expo 2019 is enough reason to keep it. Besides, it’s the sequel to the book featuring one of my favorite fictional boyfriends, Max Watson.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQustion- I won this one in a giveaway from Macmillan and I would never have imagined how much I (and the rest of the world) freaking love this one.

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky- Mammoth was such a standout read for me in 2018. If I were to part from this ARC, it would only be momentarily so I can lend it and share the goodness that is this book!

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Have you read any of the above books? Do you collect ARCs? Share in the comments!

LIVE LOVE PLOT TWISTS: The Tenth Girl Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

the tenth girl-MECH.inddAt the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

img_7638-e1568395309152.jpgSara Faring’s The Tenth Girl is definitely not the type of YA novel I usually pick up. I usually stray away from books with supernatural elements, but the hype for this gothic thriller set in 1970s South America had me hooked. After escaping from Buenos Aires, school teacher Mavi arrives at an isolated finishing school, where the teachers and students increasingly start to show signs that they are possessed. As Mavi learns about “the Others” that inhabit the school, she learns that one particular spirit, Angel, may have information more than she bargained for.

I’m really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read The Tenth Girl. It was definitely creepy, but I was really invested in its mystery. Mavi and the book’s second perspective, Angel, try to discover the mystery and secrets within the Vaccaro School. I was hooked from the get-go and right after finishing it, I wanted to shove this book in all of my bookish friends’ hands so we could discuss its entirety!

One of the reasons why The Tenth Girl has received so much hype is its haunting plot twist that most readers won’t see coming. The twist makes The Tenth Girl the type of book readers are either going to love or hate. I’m usually someone who hates it when someone mentions that a book has a twist because I’ll know to watch put. However, even with all the hints and Easter eggs in The Tenth Girl, it is so unpredictable! Looking back, I did find myself questioning some of the smallest details, but I would have never guessed the ending.

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Taylor Swift Lover Book Tag

“I love shiny things but I’d marry you with paper BOOKS”

Those might not be the exact lyrics to “Paper Rings,” but if there’s two things that I love right now it’s books and Lover. As a T-Swift fan, I had of course been highly anticipating Lover as soon as it was it announced. I totally admit that I was very hesitant about this album ,since her sound has changed so much over the past three albums. While I love Reputation, I didn’t loveeeeeee it the way I love Red (which still remains as my favorite Taylor Swift album).

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However, I love Lover so much! It stands on its own while still incorporating elements from her other albums. The bridges in each song are amazing and I love its uniqueness (I live for the “He looks up, grinning like a devil” in “Cruel Summer”). Although the entire album isn’t cheery- I need at least one box of Kleenex next to me when “Soon You’ll Get Better” comes on- I love its overall upbeatness. My answer changes everything and the following are in no order, but as today my top 5 songs from the album are:

I Think He Knows

Cruel Summer

Lover

Soon You’ll Get Better

Cornelia Street

The Taylor Swift Lover Book Tag was created by Nish and Ngoc of Nish and Ngoc’s Book Nook. When I first saw this tag done by Alexandra of Reading by Starlight, the Swifite in me ran to my keyboard to start this tag!

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I Forgot That You Existed: A book that you want to forget you ever read

I’m going with the most recent book I read that made me feel this way, but Again, but Better by Christine Riccio. Again, I WANTED to like this book so badly but it was so cringe all around.

Cruel Summer: A book you turn to when the going gets rough

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lover : Your book OTP

Lysandra and Aedion from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

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The Man: Your fave kick-ass female protagonist

Astrid from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

The Archer: A book with good mental health representation

The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey

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FEMINIST YA FANTASY: The Grace Year Review

Summary (from the publisher):gracey

Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other

 

My Rating: 4.25/ 5 Stars

My Thoughts:

The slightest whisper of “The Handmaid’s Tale meets YA” leaves me no choice but to add said book to my TBR. Enter Kim Liggett’s upcoming release, The Grace Year, which has been hyped up as The Power  meets The Handmaid’s Tale. Lately, I have been reaching more and more for dystopian and fantasy, with The Grace Year falling into the first category.

As they enter their sixteenth year, the girls of Garner County are banished from the community  in order to rid of their magic that has the power to lure men and more. As someone who dreams of a life that doesn’t involve having a husband or pits women against women, Tierney is not looking forward to the grace year. While away in the woods with the other girls, Tierney realizes that she should not fear her future or the poachers who lurk in the woods, but rather the girls themselves.

The Grace Year’s beginning and ending grabbed my attention. While disturbing at times, I loved getting to learn about this slightly-dystopian/slightly & creepily-close-to-our-world setting. I particularly enjoyed the dynamics between Tierney and her family members and her best friend, Michael. Tierney also develops interesting relationships during the grace year. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with Gertie, carrying the message that the girls should stick together rather than break apart in order to survive.

This book definitely has some messed up moments that will leave you angry at this society’ power dynamics, all in the interest in showing how women are oppressed and through Tierney, how they can resist.

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