mini reviews

Mini Reviews: New Takes on Old Tales

I’m sharing some more mini reviews today as I catch up from my blogging break. The three books featured in this post all offer new takes on old classics: The Canterbury Tales, Prince Dracula, and the common tropes/themes of YA scifi. That last one will make more sense when you read my review of Nyxia. Some were certainly more successful than others, so keep reading to find out which of these I’d recommend!

Feral YouthFeral Youth by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feral Youth is a YA retelling of The Canterbury Tales, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson, so I was incredibly excited to read this. This anthology follows a group of teen delinquents at wilderness camp who are on a 3-day trek back to camp, and have a story telling competition along the way.

The stories in this collection run the gamut of genres: there is folklore, fanfic, creepy, and contemporary. Each character’s story is written by a different YA author, with Shaun David Hutchinson taking the narrator’s perspective to weave it all together. I really enjoyed this premise, and I of course liked some stories more than others, but I still enjoyed nearly every single story. Feral Youth has great representation, both in terms of race and sexual orientation, and it’s a collection fundamentally about knowing that you’re more than your mistakes. This book confronts the treatment of “at risk” kids, disproportionately those who are people of color and often poor, and exposes the ways in which our society doesn’t give them a fair shot, much less an honest second chance.

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nyxia is the first book in a new trilogy about teens traveling to a new planet who have to decide what they’re willing to risk for the fortune of a lifetime. Our main character and narrator is Emmett, and he and the other teens are competing for spots to mine the mysterious substance called Nyxia on the distant planet Eden. It must be said that Nyxia is pretty typical YA scifi – there’s an evil corporation, teens in space, and the questionable ethics of colonizing planets with a native population.

The world building in Nyxia is super basic, although there will be an entirely new world/planet that we’ll surely learn about in the next book. I thought this would be a rare YA without romance, but nope. About 80% into this book, there is a forced instalove relationship that made no sense other than to create unnecessary angst for Emmett. It was honestly so dumb that I nearly gave up reading at that point. The entire book is just the competition to win a spot on Eden, and as you can probably tell, that was so monotonous. A trilogy is absolutely unnecessary, because this first book could have easily been edited down and combined with the next book. This book was 300 pages of teens repeating the same events in a competition for 200 days, and it was ridiculous. Nyxia was admittedly enjoyable enough, but unexciting and unoriginal.

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2)Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell as they attend a forensics program in Romania, but find themselves in the midst of another investigation when murders occur in a similar fashion to Vlad the Impaler. While I enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper last year, I don’t love this series quite as much as others. That being said, I do adore Audrey Rose and Thomas, and their banter. The best thing about these books, by far, is that they’re so feminist. Audrey Rose makes a place for herself in a male dominated field (as was…every field in the 19th century), and I really enjoy seeing her assert herself in the numerous situations in which she’s discounted for being female. Audrey Rose doesn’t have time for your misogyny. There is a great running theme in this novel, in which Audrey Rose wonders if marrying Thomas will compromise her autonomy, and how she’s unwilling to have any man, including Thomas, speak for her and belittle her. Those great character moments are some of the strongest in this book.

However, the whole Dracula thing was just bonkers. It made no sense and felt very unsatisfying, and I especially didn’t like that it was tied to a certain character. Overall, the Dracula angle just seemed dumb and gimmicky. And that’s really saying something, considering the first book was about Jack the Ripper. It’ll be interesting to see what these two get up to in American for the third book.

Rating: 3.25

*I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

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If you’ve read any of the books mentioned in this post, let me know what you thought of them!

 

mini reviews

Mini Reviews: Sisterhood with a Twist

Hey everyone! I’m finally back at blogging after some much needed down time. Today, I’m sharing mini reviews of three August releases that all dealt with sisterhood. Ok, including Wonder Woman: Warbringer may be a stretch, but Diana and Alia refer to each other as “sister in battle,” so we’re just going with it. Let’s dive into the reviews!

 

A Map for Wrecked GirlsA Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Map for Wrecked Girls tells the story of two sisters, Emma and Henri, who are stranded on a deserted island with a boy they barely know. Told in alternating timelines, the reader discovers what caused the tension that threatens to ruin Emma and Henri’s relationship and their chance of survival on the island.

This book, rather unfortunately, continues the existing trends of sister stories in terms of the unimaginative dynamics readers often see between the siblings: Sister A is vibrant and cruel, Sister B is a timid follower. B loves Boy, Boy loves A, events occur, the sisters fight. Sound familiar? Because it’s super played out and I’d like some better sister dynamics in fiction, please.

I was so much more interested in the storyline of them on the island than the flashbacks to what happened previously. Emma and Henri have a completely co-dependent, destructive relationship, the likes of which I have literally never heard of real life sisters sharing. The survival story on the island is by far the strongest part of this novel, and I really enjoyed seeing how these characters handled that experience. I also understand why there needed to be a third person on the island with them, but I hated that Alex was only there to be an unnecessary romantic interest. Personally, I would have preferred if this was only the island story without the melodramatic flashbacks.

*I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

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Wicked Like a Wildfire (Hibiscus Daughter, #1)Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I went into Wicked Like a Wildfire expecting an amazing tale about sisters in a matriarchal magic family – but that’s not quite what happened. I still think the premise at the heart of this book was good and had so much potential. Unfortunately, the author filled every page with purpose prose and so much description that it was hard to wade through it all and actually find the action. I usually like some flowery writing, but this was just too much. Every single outfit that every female character wears is described in such excruciating detail that it felt as though I was reading an early 2000s fanfic. The characters in this story felt pretty flat and one-dimensional. Everyone had his or her single defining characteristic, and that was it.

Wicked Like a Wildfire is set in Montenegro, and I’ve never read anything set in that country before. It was really interesting to get a glimpse into the culture and landscape of Montenegro, and I enjoyed how those aspects were woven into the story. Also, in terms of representation, one of the sisters is a lesbian and in a relationship.

This book was truly weird, especially towards the end when more secrets are unveiled. Unfortunately, Wicked Like a Wildfire simply wasn’t an enjoyable read, and I found the story to be all over the place. In fact, it was so underwhelming that I just had to pick up my ARC copy and remind myself of the ending. At this point, I don’t plan to read the sequel.

*I received an eARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

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Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonder Woman: Warbringer begins with 17-year-old Diana rescuing a girl from a sinking ship. Breaking the rule to never bring a human to Themyscira, Diana learns that Alia is a Warbringer: a descendant of Helen of Troy destined to bring bloodshed and usher mankind into war. Diana decides to help break the Warbringer curse, forcing her to leave Themyscira and prove herself as an Amazon.

I love Wonder Woman, but I think this book suffered a bit from being published the same summer as the movie. I couldn’t help but compare the two the entire time I read this book. Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors, but it did feel a bit weird to read a “contemporary” story written by her.

The best parts of this novel were undoubtedly the mythology woven into the action, and seeing what Themyscria is like for young Diana. Wonder Woman: Warbringer is wonderfully, unapologetically feminist, and there is great representation. Almost every character is a person of color, and there is one LGBTQIA character. The not-so-great aspects, for me, were definitely the pacing and the weird sort-of romance between Diana and a male character. There are some really great quotes and overall it’s an empowering story, but this just didn’t quite work as well as I expected. In terms of the DC Icons series, I’m intrigued to see Marie Lu’s take on teen Bruce Wayne, but I’m not interested in Superman or Catwoman (written by SJM…ugh).

Rating: 3.75

*I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

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Let me know what you think of these books if you’ve read them! Also share your favorite sister stories in the comments!

arc review

ARC Review: The Hearts We Sold

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Title: The Hearts We Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette
Format: ARC*
Goodreads

“When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a devil–her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life–she finds her trade may be more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she ever could have imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something like love grows between them amidst an otherworldly ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: can she give James her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?”

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The Hearts We Sold has a truly unique and fascinating premise, and I was so excited to pick up what promised to be a Faustian tale of epic proportions. Demons have made themselves know to the world, and offer to trade a person’s desire in exchange for a piece of that person. Prosthetic limbs mark those who have made deals for all to see, and our protagonist Dee finds herself in need of a deal. While her motivations (and ultimately what she makes a deal for) seemed a bit underwhelming, the real excitement begins once Dee leases her heart away for two years. Dee becomes a “heartless” and becomes involved with a troop of others with a world-saving task assigned by their Daemon.

Dee comes from a home that shows a more nuanced side to abusive families, and I liked the way that was portrayed. On the whole, however, Dee was a likable enough but fairly vanilla protagonist who didn’t leave a lasting impression. I did love the heartless gang and their missions, and would have preferred to see even more of that explored.

The Hearts We Sold, rather unfortunately, falls into the trappings of most paranormal romance stories, and that made everything else that was great about this book suffer. The love interest (because of course there’s a love interest, these teenagers have given up their HEARTS WE MUST HAVE ANGST) felt like an amalgamation of standard boy tropes, and I ultimately didn’t buy this romance. I would have enjoyed this book so much more without a forced romantic subplot. That being said, there’s a relationship between two female side characters, one of whom is trans, and that coupling worked much better in my opinion.

I definitely wanted more world building from this story – again, that tantalizing premise! This book needed more backstory, more information about the demons and the people who make deals with them. Generally, I just wanted a bit more foundation than is provided. This book is marketed for fans of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo, but in my opinion The Hearts We Sold doesn’t quite go far enough to earn that comparison. It did, however, make me think about whether I’d ever make a deal with a demon, and what I’d trade.

Rating: 3.25 stars (yeah it’s a silly rating I know but that’s what we’re going with)

 

*I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

dnf diaries

DNF Diaries: When I Am Through With You

Today I’m sharing another installment of the DNF Diaries! In this series, I discuss why I chose to DNF a book, because life is too short to read bad books. The book I’m chatting about for this DNF Diaries entry is When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn, out on August 1, 2017 from Dutton/Penguin Random House.*

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“’This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.’

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.“

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The Good: Ben narrates this book, and it’s clear at the very beginning that he’s recounting his story from prison. I liked that we get thrown into the action, and that Ben is working backward in telling this tale. The fact that Ben is so upfront at the beginning – he killed Rose, he’s not sorry, he’s going to take his time – made me think that he would be a great, unreliable narrator with a lot of twists along the way. If nothing else, this book has a great start.

The Bad: This book is essentially about a bunch of kids who suffer through a series of events on a camping trip, and presumably most of them don’t survive. I don’t like camping/things go to shit while outdoors stories. I knew that going in, but I thought the mystery/thriller aspect would draw me in enough to compensate for that. It didn’t. Also the sheer amount of stupidity committed by these kids in the first 80 pages already convinced me that I 1) didn’t care about any of them, 2) knew they probably caused whatever bad stuff happened, and 3) was already so bored that I honestly didn’t even want to know how/why Ben killed his girlfriend.

The Ugly: The worst offenders when it comes to this book are the writing and the characters. Stephanie Kuehn’s writing somehow managed to make me simultaneously bored and offended. I can’t even describe how badly the writing style irritated me. Then we have the characters, primarily Ben and his girlfriend Rose. To describe them as “unlikable” would be too kind. Ben is a spineless loser (who still manages to have sex at least 4 times in 80 pages – including cheating on his girlfriend in the bushes of a wilderness trail!), and Rose is a controlling manic pixie dream girl who makes Ben feel like shit just because she can. Combine awful characters with awful writing, and their conversations had me banging my head against the wall. Just…so bad.

I DNF’ed this book at 85 pages, and I probably shouldn’t have even made it that far. There’s no beating around the bush – I hated pretty much everything about this book, and would not recommend it. My friend Karen told me that she personally DNF’ed two of Stephanie Kuehn’s previous novels, so I’m now convinced that I’ll never attempt to read another book by this author. Sometimes certain authors just don’t work for certain readers, and this is clearly one of those cases.

Do you DNF books? Tell me about the last book that you DNF’ed!

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.

book review

Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy

I have recently, to my shock and horror, gotten back into the world of Shadowhunters. I read Lady Midnight and felt as though I had somehow missed out on certain bits of information between City of Heavenly Fire and this new series. The internet told me that information was provided in Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy, a short story collection chronicling Simon’s time at the Academy. I decided to read this, and give a short review of each of the stories below. To be completely honest, the characters from TMI have always been my least favorite (to the point of actually low key hating certain people), so I wasn’t terribly excited about spending more time with them. However, I told myself it was worth it to get more backstories on the Herondales and Blackthorns and others. I was…well, I was wrong.

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tales from shadhowhunter“Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. The events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. At least Simon’s trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. Written by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, these moving and hilarious short stories are perfect for the fan who just can’t get enough of the Shadowhunters.”

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Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Clare & Brennan): Simon’s arrival at Shadowhunter Academy is less than impressive, both for Simon and myself. The point of this is world building and creating a foundation for this whole overall story, and it was a rather unexciting way to kick off the collection. While I quickly fell in love with George Lovelace, the rest of this was just fine. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

The Lost Herondale (Clare & Wasserman): This story really represented how messed up The Clave is, and how ridiculous Shadowhunter law can be. Sed lex, dura lex indeed. Like pretty much everyone else, I have a soft spot for the Herondales, and this story broke my heart a bit. I loved Catarina’s part in this most of all. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Whitechapel Fiend (Clare & Johnson): WILL AND TESSA AT IT AGAIN Y’ALL. I’ll probably never get over the fact that Will uses any excuse possible to get Brother Zachariah/Uncle Jem to the London Institute. But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed this story about Tessa, Will, and co. as adults doing their Shadowhunter thing to defeat “Jack the Ripper.” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Nothing But Shadows (Clare & Brennan): Easily my favorite story in this collection, in which we follow James Herondale during his time at the Academy. I honestly had no interest in the upcoming The Last Hours trilogy, which chronicles Tessa and Will’s kids’ adventures. This story, however, changed that completely. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Evil We Love (Clare & Wasserman): I was so intrigued by this one, because it’s about Robert Lightwood being in The Circle with Valentine, Jocelyn, and the others. However, it was by far my least favorite story in this collection. The combination of Izzy/Simon angst and Robert being a total asshole both as a person and to his parabatai completely put me off this story. I swear to god, these Lightwoods y’all. ⭐️⭐️ stars.

Pale Kings and Princes (Clare & Wasserman): This should have been an amazing story about the injustice done to Helen Blackthorn, and her father’s time in Faerie. Instead, this was nearly ruined by the unending Izzy/Simon angst. Look, I have never really shipped these two because their relationship dynamic has always driven me up a freaking wall. This story, and the previous one, reminded my why I literally do not give a shit about them. I know this collection is about Simon, but AT WHAT COST. My sanity, clearly. ⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

Bitter of Tongue (Clare & Brennan): Ok, this one was about Mark Blackthorn and how the Clave abandoned him, and I loved that aspect. Hearing Mark talk about his experiences with the Wild Hunt and his family was heartbreaking. The Academy portion of this story was, as expected, underwhelming and thus dragged down the overall reading experience. ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars.

The Fiery Trial (Clare & Johnson): I did not understand this story. I understood the point, but not why the authors chose to go about it this way. I’m always up for more Blackthorns, but wasn’t into the Lake Lyn-induced “are we drift compatible?” acid trip that Simon and Clary went on (against their will, I have to point out). This was just kind of dumb and underwhelming. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Born to Endless Night (Clare & Brennan): Look, was this abandoned warlock baby story completely out of nowhere and absurd and out of place within the overall collection? Yep. Did I love it anyway because of Malec being happy? YES.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Angels Twice Descending (Clare & Wasserman): The final story in this collection was predictable and underwhelming. I wasn’t surprised by what happened, because the entire collection had pretty blatantly been leading up to this. It was still heartbreaking, but didn’t really resonate. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Overall, I have to rate Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy between 3 and 3.5 stars (I guess 3.25, but quarter stars are just silly). This entire collection was a bit underwhelming, even though it provided some great backstories and information that will surely be important in future novels. I don’t think you have to read this before Lady Midnight, but it certainly provides context for the characters and conflicts in The Dark Artifices trilogy.

Have you read Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy? Let me know your thoughts!

Uncategorized

ALA Annual 2017 Recap

I attended the ALA Annual Conference this June in Chicago with my friend Amanda, and thought I’d recap our trip for anyone potentially interested in attending in the future. Every year, ALA hosts two conferences – Midwinter in February, and Annual in June.

Since neither of us are members of the ALA, we chose to purchase “Exhibit Only” passes, which allowed us access only to the exhibit hall from Friday – Monday. This badge cost $75, and was also the cheapest badge option available (comparatively, our BEA badges last year cost $188 and were increased to $300 this year). We went into ALA prepared: a schedule, a list of top priority ARCs, and a spreadsheet of author signings. More importantly, we were determined to have a good time.

We arrived in Chicago on Thursday morning, and spent that day exploring the city and preparing for the exhibit hall. We also traveled down to McCormick Place to finish registration and get our badges, so there was one less thing to do on Friday. This was a great choice, because we got a peak at the hall and how the booths were set up – which was very different than BEA! That’s something I won’t keep repeating, but stays true: this was so completely different from BEA, but I think for the better.

Friday morning, bright and early, we got to McCormick Place and waited for the exhibit hall to open. When we entered at 9am, a quick walk around the booths had me doubting our decision to attend ALA. There were no daily ARC drop schedules. No stacks of books to be grabbed in a mad dash. I honestly thought I’d made a huge mistake, and that we were going to leave Chicago empty handed. But then I noticed a small crowd over at a booth, and the publisher rep was pulling books out of a closet and handing them out. That’s right, at ALA you simply ask for the books you want. My momentary panic was forgotten as I stood in front of the Harper Collins booth and received five ARCs from the wonderfully helpful rep. Once we understood how the exhibit hall worked, we got down to business.

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Day One included some of my most anticipated ARCs: Meet Cute, Warcross (signed by Marie Lu!), Moxie, The Nowhere Girls (signed by Amy Reed!), and They Both Die at the End. My two highlights of the day were definitely being first in line for Maggie’s All the Crooked Saints signing, and meeting Megan Whalen Turner to get a signed copy of Thick as Thieves!

Day Two, Saturday, was one of the most anxiety-inducing mornings of my life. I am not a patient person. Waiting triggers my anxiety like nothing else. So when we arrived at McCormick Place at 7:30am to be the first people in the hall at 9am to pick up LITERALLY EVERYTHING WE WANTED, I was a mess. At 9am on Saturday, we had to make it to three different publisher booths for three extremely important drops. Penguin Random House was giving out Wonder Woman: Warbringer; Little, Brown was dropping Invictus and The Cruel Prince; and Macmillian was giving out The Language of Thorns samplers…and exclusive enamel pins to the first 25 people in line. No pressure. Amanda and I devised a strategy, and I was relieved when we actually pulled it off. First we gunned it to the Macmillan booth, where we got the enamel pins and sampler (!!!!), then next door to Little, Brown for Invictus and The Cruel Prince (there were only 5 left and I nearly had a heart attack diving for that pile), and then we arrived at Penguin, waited in line, and got the very last ARC of Wonder Woman: Warbringer. That’s right, WE got the last ONE. Amanda and I are sharing it – I’ll read and review it, then send it to her to keep. That way we both get to read it, and I had already preordered a copy anyway. Works for everyone!

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Needless to say, it was a stressful 30 minutes first thing in the morning, and then we pretty much chilled until a couple events that afternoon. We got signed copies of Jane, Unlimited, and Kristin Cashore laughed when she saw my name badge – apparently I was her first Jane while promoting this book! Saturday afternoon, we basically lived at the Macmillan booth because there were two signings and an ARC drop we were very excited about. I have to say that the women at the Macmillan booth were amazing! I had a great chat with one of them and ended up with seven books by the end of it.

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Sandy from SandyReadsaLot and me!

As the day came to a close, we left McCormick Place and returned to our hotel to begin the arduous task of packing all 55 (55!!!) books that we acquired at ALA. Amanda and I didn’t attend on Monday, even though our badges allowed it, because we had an early flight and honestly didn’t need any more books. But on Mondays, the publishers apparently give away all of the remaining copies they have – something to keep in mind for future reference!

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ALA was such an amazing experience. We aren’t librarians and therefore didn’t attend any of the library-related events or booths, but my friend Andrew (an actual librarian who attended) really enjoyed those aspects. I think this is such a worthwhile event, especially if you’re a librarian. Every single person we spoke to over the course of ALA, whether a fellow attendee or publisher rep, was so nice and genuinely excited to talk about books. That was not my experience at BEA, to put it kindly.

Would I recommend attending an ALA convention? Absolutely. Will I ever attend BEA again? I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I got a media pass, but even then I think this trip has converted me to the ALA life. Especially as someone who has never been interested in BookCon, and refuses to pay $300+ to attend BookExpo, I see myself attending ALA moving forward. Next year’s Midwinter conference is in Denver, Colorado from February 9-13, 2018. ALA Annual 2018 is in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 21-26. I’ll definitely be at ALA Annual since it’s in New Orleans, but I’m interested in attending Midwinter as well! I’ve heard it’s even chiller than Annual, which could be really nice.

I have a vlog of our Chicago trip on my channel, which you can watch here:

I also have a haul video in which I show all of the books and exciting swag that I picked up at the conference:

Have you attended any book conferences before? If you have any questions about ALA or BEA, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!

5 reasons to read

Eliza & Her Monsters | 5 Reasons to Read

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“In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.”

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Eliza and Her Monsters came out on May 30, and I’ve been thinking about this book ever since I finished my eARC copy in April. Today I wanted to share five reasons why you need to read this book.

1) The fandom experience. The online fandom community represented in this novel is amazing. It felt so realistic to my own experiences of being a part of fandoms, and I loved that the forums and posts are incorporated throughout the story.

2) Eliza’s webcomic. There are pieces of Eliza’s comic, sketches, and other Monstrous Sea related art and stories interspersed throughout this book, and that added touch really elevated the reading experience for me. It allows the reader to really see what Eliza is doing, and better envision her characters and world. When characters like Wallace and his friends discuss their favorite Monstrous Sea bits, it was great to have a visual reference.

3) The online vs IRL debate. Eliza has to deal with a family who is unsupportive of the fact that she spends so much time online. They’re skeptical of her online friends, and want her to spend more time in the “real world.” Eliza has to continually defend her choices and friendships. Anyone who has found a community online knows this situation all too well. This is one of many aspects about fandom that I think Eliza and Her Monsters does better than similar books on the market (I am notoriously unhappy with 95% of “fandom“ books).

4) Eliza + Wallace. The romance at the heart of this story was so, so cute. Wallace has Selective Mutism, so most of their conversations are written. I really loved their dynamic, and that Wallace isn’t quite the “traditional” love interest. He’s the most popular Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, and he has such a great, quieter personality than we often see with guys in YA. The fact that Eliza knows who he is, but he has no idea she’s LadyConstellation, adds another level of tension to their relationship that was really interesting to see play out. The unavoidable reveal was done so well!

5) Mental health representation. This book does have trigger warnings for anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation. But as someone who has struggled with all of those things, I can honestly say the portrayal of Eliza’s mental health was phenomenal. There were so many scenes where I could see myself in Eliza in this regard. Francesca Zappia does an amazing job with this aspect of both Eliza’s character and the overall story, and it was one of my favorite things about this book.

Those are my five reasons why I think you should read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia! I hope you’re now intrigued enough to give it a try – I honestly think this book will speak to a lot of people in one way or another. If you’ve already read Eliza, let me know what you thought of it in the comments! What are some of your favorite books about fandom?

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.