Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

foul

They picked the wrong girl.

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.
Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Grade: A+

Review:

I’m not a fan of the book’s cover (something about the colours just throws me off). But that’s the only downside.

If you ever wondered what a crossover between Heathers and Kill Bill with a Macbeth edge to it would look like, then you’ll understand what sort of book Foul is Fair aims to be. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy. It’s bloody and violent in the best ways possible. It’s a feminist manifesto of a girl who wants to show the golden boys who raped her that they simply fucked with the wrong girl.

Just like I Spit on Your Grave, you can’t help but cheer Jade on her mission to destroy the boys of St. Andrews. You’ll want their blood just as much as Jade does. But beneath all the blood and gore stands a book that displays the horror of rape and exalts the strong bonds of female friendships. You don’t need a boyfriend when your friends will help you devise a plan to destroy the boys who did you wrong.

The prose is violent, aggressive, and unapologetic, as it should be. I loved every second of this bloody thrilling ride. There aren’t enough heart emojis in the world for me to properly explain how much I loved this book. It really spoke to my black vindictive heart. I’m sure Jade and I would be buds.

I know they see it –
for just a second –
–our fangs and our claws.

If you’re going to read just one book in 2020, then make sure to make this be the one. It’s raw and cuts you the bone, but you’ll be better off afterwards.

 

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: It’s My Life by Stacie Ramey

life

If she wants a future with him, she’ll have to make peace with her past.

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.
Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him―anonymously―to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?

Grade: B

Review:

I really appreciated this book in regard of enlightening teens on what it means to live with a chronic illness. The tone of the book, although it illustrates how it feels to live with cerebral palsy, is still a light one in the way any rom-com would be. In a way, this book is still a rom-com since the main focus of the book is how Jenna loves Julian (a childhood friend who moved away but has returned to town and is now in her English class). She’s trying to be a normal teen by getting to know him on a more intimate level through texting, but at the same time keeps her identity concealed because she feels that no boy could possibly fall in love with her damaged body.

I really liked Jenna, so reading the story from her perspective was fun, plus there were a lot of likable side characters as well, such as her best friend Ben and sister Rena. The flirting between Jenna and Julian was totally adorable and appropriate for their age.

I know that some of the premises in the book may seem unreasonable (such as Jenna wanting to legally emancipate herself from her family so that she could make her own decisions in regards to her health when it comes to surgeries and tests). But since the rest of the book was good I could overlook that minor lapse of judgment.

I recommend this book for anyone who’s wanting to learn more about living with a chronic illness and if you’re in the mood for a quick light romantic read.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Cover Reveal & Pre-Order for Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology

If you follow this blog or follow me on Twitter, then you may know that I’ve been busy putting together another Women in Horror Anthology. The good news is, I’ve finally sen up a pub date! Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will be coming out February 18 (I thought a February date would make the most sense since it is Women in Horror Month!). But if you wish to be uber cool and support some amazing talent, then the book is set for pre-order here (a print copy will be available to order upon publication date).

Curious about what kind of stories you may find? Below is a quick synopsis for each short story found in the anthology:

Strange Girls - High Resolution

Her Garden Grows by Maxine Kollar

I belong to Rosamund now. You can’t save her.

Revival by Madison Estes

While grieving the loss of his sister, a medical student begins to suspect his laboratory cadaver is still alive. She shows signs of life, leading him to question his reality. He must decide how far he is willing to go to save her—if she can be saved at all.

Sideshow by Jude Reid

Everyone knows Ritchie and Sylvia are the perfect couple—everyone, that is, except for Sylvia, who’s walking the narrow line between the “yes” she doesn’t feel and the “no” she can’t bring herself to say. It takes a trip to the travelling Carnival, a tin duck, a strip show and a snake with amber eyes to teach her—and Ritchie—a lesson they won’t forget.

Jenny’s Bobo by Hillary Lyon

He’s her best friend; more stealthy than a cat, more loyal than a dog. But what happens when a clever teenage girl hijacks her parents’ most demonic asset for her own ends?

24 Hour Diner by Charlotte Platt

A young server in a 24-hour diner wiles his life away, watching the clock and waiting for something interesting to happen. When a beautiful homeless woman brings a colourful arc of intrigue in with her, he has no intention of letting that slip through his fingers.

Campfire Tales: The Bloody Rings by Emma Johnson-Rivard

A small-town legend is remembered in brutal and sometimes extremely dry detail. It concerns a man, a woman, and a strange town up in the North Woods.

Personal Demons by Angelique Fawns

It’s not easy being a teenager who identifies as non-binary. Especially when your new crush turns out to have some very dark appetites….

My Mirror Wife by Ash Tudor

Amelia’s beauty is formidable, but Ethan is a professional and introduces himself with the deadly charm of a true hunter. As their encounter changes into something intimate it becomes unclear who is hunting who, and beneath her mask of loveliness Amelia hides a simple yet lethal truth; she loves her husband.

Tribal Influence by Erica Ruhe

A skirmish in a detention center on the Texas-Mexico border uncovers an opportunity for a unique weapon of mass destruction — an innocent asylum seeker with the power to influence the emotions of others. And the U.S. military wants dibs. For Colonel Carl Holden, harnessing Joaquina’s supernatural abilities have proven challenging and he is forced to bring in his old colleague and bitter rival, Dr. Hector Espinoza, for help. Working through his own moral reservations, Hector’s efforts will reveal Joaquina’s terrifying potential and Carl’s hidden agenda but the breakthrough will come at a heavy cost to them all…

Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

In an isolated mountain town centered around a secretive research facility, a teen girl struggles to distinguish nightmares from reality after a near-fatal accident leaves her with terrifying nightly visits by masked tormentors.

Extinguishing Fireflies by Rebecca Rowland

Lea wanted nothing more than to have a child. When her daughter Arielle was born, Lea believed, as every new parent does, that her child would be special. At nine-years-old, Arielle is athletic and precocious and curious, and sure enough, has a very special—and terrifying—gift.

The Eyes of the Dead by Danielle R. Bailey

The Eyes of The Dead is a shocking perspective of what lies ahead for us all. Fighting for survival, a young woman discovers the realm of true horror.

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding by Sam Lauren

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding is a literary charcuterie of menstruation mythology. Everyone has heard of at least one, but is there any truth to them?

Blood by Red Claire

In a racist and repressive theocracy, a princess ponders the nature of power and symbols.

Friends with Benefits by E.F. Schraeder

Linked to a powerful mother, one girl doesn’t know if memory or magic holds her family together; can she trust anyone but herself to find out?

The Doll’s House by Alyson Faye

After Sophie’s mother is imprisoned for murder, Sophie inherits the doll’s house; whose inhabitants she believes are alive. As family secrets are revealed, is it Sophie or a supernatural force committing the crimes? Is anyone safe in Sophie’s family?

Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

Leda has a problem and stares at a white wall to cope. That is until a fly decides that her precious space is its new home.

Self-Portrait with Pears by Rachel Bolton

A young man’s crush on a classmate slips into obsession when things don’t go as he expects.

A Song Only She Can Hear by Wondra Vanian

High school is hard enough when you don’t have to hide scales from your classmates. Unfortunately for Jewel, she’s about to learn that there are worse things than high school – and she might be one of them.

Angel of Death by Phoebe Jane Johnson

The mass murderess known as La Angel Muerta has been sentenced to death, the first woman to be executed under the newly restored death penalty. Although many scream for justice, a political power play proves justice is not blind. Simultaneously, a nation realms away follow the case as two worlds are destined to collide.

Cracked by Regan Moore

Gabby is about to find out that sometimes someone else’s treasure could become someone else’s curse.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

The night before his wedding day, Cillian learns a dark secret about his wife that not even she is aware of. Her ignorance could be their bliss, but if she finds out what it is, then life as they know it might very well no longer exist.

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Book Review: What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel

whatkind

Girl in Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of all the hurts young women endure.

Release Date: February 4, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

Grade: B

Review

Full disclosure: I was ready to DNF this book at 25%, mostly due to the fact that it seemed to jump around a lot and that it was slow-moving. But since I enjoyed this author’s other book, A Danger To Herself and Others, at the beginning of the year, I decided to give it another try. I am SO GLAD I DID. Because Maya and Junie’s tale is a memorable one.

I think this book is important for teens because it explores a very timely topic: abuse within a relationship. Maya’s boyfriend Mike hits her, but she remains silent, like so many women do, because he’s the golden boy and somehow she feels like people would think she’s lying about the abuse or that she deserves it in some way. Apart from that, she also struggles with bulimia. I think the author explores these issues without glorifying or romanticizing them, but rather showing how someone truly struggles in those situations.

I also think this book sends out a very positive message for young readers as it shows the power of friendship and the importance of standing up for oneself even when you feel like the rest of the world would be against you. I recommend this book for all those that want to broach these difficult topics with their children but don’t know how. This could be a way to start the conversation.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Almost Home by Madisen Kuhn

almost home

A gorgeous poetry and prose collection that explores the meaning of “home” and the profound discovery of finding it within oneself.

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Gallery Books

Price: $14.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

In this stunning third collection from Madisen Kuhn, Madisen eloquently analyzes some of life’s universal themes within the framework of a house. Whether it’s the garden, the bedroom, or the front porch, Madisen takes you into her own “home,” sharing some of the most intimate parts of her life so that you might also, someday, feel free to share some of yours.

Filled with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations from Melody Hansen, this boldly intimate, preternaturally wise, and emotionally candid collection encourages you to consider what home means to you—whether it’s in the lush, green-lawned suburbs or a city apartment—and, more importantly, explores how you can find it even when home feels like it’s on the far-off horizon.

Grade: B+

Review:

For someone like me who has been on the move since I was born, reading a book that explores the meaning of home was very relatable. What’s the difference between a house and a home? And how do you know when one feels just like a house and what makes a home a home? The poetry is very heartfelt and emotional. For some home is a physical place or location, while for others the meaning of home is a person. What makes us feel at home? Ultimately, it’s the place where we feel safe.

One of the most poignant lines was, “I am jealous of what you have but not of who you are. Regardless it withers me.” I’m sure many people have often felt this way, feeling envious of what someone may have but not being particularly keen on the person in question.

Many of the poems explore the meaning of finding a home within a person. I think that we all yearn to feel at home with someone, although oftentimes that is merely a mirage and we’re far lonelier together than when we are alone.

This poetry collection really hits a nerve for me because of my incessant search to feel at home. If you’re a fan of Rupi Kaur or Amanda Lovelace, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Life of the Party: Poems by Olivia Gatwood

life

I’m a good girl, bad girl, dream girl, sad girl

Release Date: August 20, 2019

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Publisher: Dial Press

Price: $11.90 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Lauded for the power of her writing and having attracted an online fan base of millions for her extraordinary spoken-word performances, Olivia Gatwood now weaves together her own coming-of-age with an investigation into our culture’s romanticization of violence against women. At times blistering and riotous, at times soulful and exuberant, Life of the Party explores the boundary between what is real and what is imagined in a life saturated with fear. Gatwood asks, How does a girl grow into a woman in a world racked by violence? Where is the line between perpetrator and victim? In precise, searing language, she illustrates how what happens to our bodies can make us who we are.

Grade: A

Review:

Gatewood’s poetry collection is part memoir and partly inspired by True Crime. In each poem, she explores the meaning of becoming a woman and how men react to this sudden change from girlhood to womanhood. She also has an obsession with mistrusting men and believing that a man is going to kill her. Although, to be honest, what woman hasn’t thought about being killed by a man before? With the way True Crime depicts young girls and women always being victims of rape and murder, it’s no wonder that we grow up with this incessant paranoia. Her fear is very relatable if you’re a woman living pretty much anywhere in the world. Men abusing and killing women is a worldwide crisis and one that has only worsened over the years.

“Maybe I am tired
of hearing people talk about the murder
of girls like it is both beautiful
and out of the ordinary.”
-My Grandmother Asks Why I Don’t Trust Men

Gatewood explores the dark realms of her fears and tries to give voice to them through her poignant poetry. These poems are honest, raw, and sometimes quite dark. I recommend this book for all you that prefer your poetry to have a certain edge to is, but if you’re easily triggered then this collection won’t be for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Dial Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

olivia

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Book Review: Love, Heather by Laurie Petrou

love heather

What you see isn’t always what you get.

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Price: 18.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Stevie never meant for things to go this far. When she and Dee–defiant, bold, indestructible Dee–started all this, there was a purpose to their acts of vengeance: to put the bullies of Woepine High School back in their place. And three months ago, Stevie believed they deserved it. Once her best friend turned on her, the rest of the school followed. Stevie was alone and unprotected with a target on her back. Online, it was worse.

It was Dee’s idea to get them all back with a few clever pranks, signing each act Love, Heather–an homage to her favorite 80’s revenge flick. Despite herself, Stevie can’t help getting caught up in the payback, reveling in every minute of suffering. And for a while, it works: it seems the meek have inherited the school.

But when anonymous students begin joining in, punishing perceived slights with increasingly violent ferocity, the line between villain and vigilante begins to blur. As friends turn on each other and the administration scrambles to regain control, it becomes clear: whatever Dee and Stevie started has gained a mind–and teeth–of its own. And when it finally swallows them whole, one will reemerge changed, with a plan for one final, terrifying act of revenge.

Grade: C+

Review:

I really enjoyed the first 85% of this book so very much as it detailed the school life of Stevie who is on the verge of entering one of the popular cliques at school with her best friend Lottie when she makes a faux pas, and even her best friend of many years disowns her. That’s when the bullying begins. This is a very timely book as it discusses trans, transphobia, bullying, and school shootings. The book excelled in making teens sound like teens and having Stevie deal with bullying in a very realistic way for teens today (both in school and online).

But everything changes for Stevie when she befriends the loner, Dee who encourages her to rise up against the bullies and exact revenge. Soon, other kids are taking notice and the popular clique is getting what they deserve, although the author does explore the premise of the grey area where sometimes revenge becomes another form of bullying.

For anyone who has watched teen revenge movies ala Mean Girls, Heathers, and Carrie, you’ll love this book and cheer for our cinephile protagonist Stevie and Dee as they defy the high school hierarchy. My only issue with the book was that it got way too preachy towards the end of it. The message it was trying to convey was an important one, but it somehow sounded more like an after school special and so it took me out of the story.

I’m also confused by the fact that everyone keeps referring to this book as a thriller. First of all, we all know who started the Love, Heather revenge and nobody dies (I’m pretty sure there should be murder for a book to be considered a thriller, or at least a threat of murder, but that’s just me). Secondly, I’m getting really fed up with the plot twists for all books lately seem to be some form of mental illness. Mental illness shouldn’t be a plot twist, that’s just lazy writing! And lastly, Stevie never takes revenge on the one person that totally deserved it the whole time! Sure, they try to embarrass said person, but they never truly pay for their wrongdoings and that pisses me off when it’s a book about revenge.

I did enjoy the book a lot up to the plot twist and ending. The book is a page-turner because you do want to find out what is going to happen next, but all that climax for such a poor plot twist that was NEVER referenced in the conclusion since the protagonist conveniently decided not to mention it to anyone is what turned me off at the end. Which is sad, because I would’ve ranked this book higher had the last portion of the novel been better or more satisfying.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Cover Reveal: Betty Bites Back – Stories to Scare The Patriarchy

When I first saw the call for submissions last year for Betty Bites Back, I somehow saw it late (as in I had only ONE week to come up with an idea and write a short story). And I knew that it was almost impossible (especially to come up with a story worth publishing). Since I had time against me, I didn’t even have the time to send it to my friend Erica (who acts as a beta-reader for some of my stuff) for any feedback, nor did I have the time to send it to my go-to editor for any missed typos or grammar mistakes.

Essentially, I thought I had an awesome story (who wouldn’t love to read a story about a kickass Muslim gal who also ends up becoming a shapeshifter?), and prayed that that would be enough for me to be considered. Because, honestly, I wasn’t expecting to be published (I was going to be up against veteran YA authors who had agents and publishing deals! How could I possibly be on the same level?!).

betty

But the writing muses were kind to me that day as my story, Good Sister, Bad Sister was indeed considered, if only I was willing to make some edits. I can’t even begin to count how many edits have been made to this short story. There were moments where I thought, UGH IF I’M GETTING ALL THESE EDITING NOTES I MUST SUCK! Good thing my inner cheerleader was like, “Come on, these amazing authors wouldn’t be wasting their time GIVING YOU EDITING NOTES if they didn’t think the story was worth being published!” So thanks to my inner cheerleader, and my close Muslim friend, Derya (who have me invaluable advice on how to portray Dilay as authentically as possible.

What’s the point of this whole sweat and tears post my friends? WELL, to announce that you can now pre-order Betty Bites Back: Stories to Scare the Patriarchy (the book will officially be released September 16, 2019). And I’m not telling you to pick up this book just cause I’m in it (although my story is one of the best I’ve personally written so far) but it includes short stories from these amazing authors:

Liz Cole
Shannon Green
Elaine Griffin
Lindsey Klingele
Kamerhe Lane
Jenna Lehne
Demitria Lunetta
Emilee Martell
Tracie Martin
Cori McCarthy
Kyrie McCauley
Mindy McGinnis
Kate Karyus Quinn
Melody Simpson
Amanda Sun

Also, you should check out Mindy’s blog for a chance to win some fantastic swag!

Let me know which of these authors you’re looking forward to seeing some new stories from!

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Top Six Books To Read During Pride Month

pride

It’s Pride Month & what better way to celebrate Pride than to read some queer books? Here are six books that I enjoyed that I think are some of the best in celebrating LGBTQ.

cameron

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone, and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Talor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship, one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

wasgirl

If I Was Your Girl

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

ashbook

Ash

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Their friendship, as delicate as a new bloom, reawakens Ash’s capacity for love–and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

noneoftheabove

None of the Above 

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

bemine

If You Could Be Mine 

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love–Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed. So they carry on in secret until Nasrin’s parents suddenly announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution: homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. Sahar will never be able to love Nasrin in the body she wants to be loved in without risking their lives, but is saving their love worth sacrificing her true self?

luna

Luna 

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female name, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change: Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives?

Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

What queer books have you read that you enjoyed?

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Book Review & Author Interview: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

bright

Would you die for the Prize?

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $12.29 (hardcover)

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Plot Summary:

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where they’ve forged an inseparable bond through shared stories of family tragedies and a powerful love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves how far they would go for the ultimate prize: to be named the one girl who will join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic will make them shine, too? Would they risk death for it? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the Prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

Bright Burning Stars is a stunning, propulsive story about girls at their physical and emotional extremes, the gutting power of first love, and what it means to fight for your dreams.

Grade: A

Review:

For some reason I find books or films about ballet to be utterly fascinating and alluring. Maybe because I took ballet classes for a year as a kid (before realizing that I should give up cause there was no way I’d ever be a ballerina with my lack of grace). I’m so obsessed with ballet that I even made my protagonist in CUT HERE, Lena one. This is to confirm that I was absolutely excited when I was finally given the ARC for Bright Burning Stars (I had requested it months ago and had only been given it a few weeks prior to publication date).

Things I loved about this novel:

Friendships: The two protagonists, Marine and Kate have a very strong friendship. It actually is the core of the novel and despite the fact that they’re both aiming for “The Prize” aka becoming the exclusive etoile at the Opera National de Paris. “Rats” as the studying ballerinas are referred to in the novel, are so focused on the prize that they’d do anything to obtain it, and Kate is even willing to die for it. Slowly, bestfriends Marine and Kate begin to grow apart as things get more competitive and each wanting to snag the prize title for their own.

Relationships: I love how the author explores various types of relationships, such as showing one romantic relationship as gradually growing into something much more passionate than it initially was, and another romantic relationship that becomes tragically toxic fast.

Setting: Ever since I was little (maybe because I was obsessed with Marie Antoinette & Versailles) I’ve been in love with Paris. So, I’ll automatically favor any novel that takes place in the City of Lights. I was just a bit sad that we, the readers never get a chance to experience the city because we’re always stuck in the dance studios with the two protagonists.

Minor gripe: I wasn’t a fan of how abortion was handled in this book. Not because one of the protagonists decides to go over and beyond to terminate an unexpected pregnancy, but because of how simplistic it was written out to be. Sure, maybe drinking odd toxic herbal teas *can* induce an abortion, but I don’t like how easy it all was for the character. Since this is a YA and intended for teens, I don’t want teens thinking that if you’re pregnant that you can just forego a normal abortion AT A CLINIC and just drink herbal tea and wish everything will get taken care of, because in most cases that won’t work. Just putting that out there for the kids.

The Ending: There were only two ways the book could’ve ended and I assumed both possible endings. Ultimately, the author aimed for the safest one. Which is not to say that is was bad, but probably tragic loving me would’ve opted for the other much more unsettling ending. But seeing that it’s YA I can see why the novel would end on a much more hopeful note than not.

Overall, the novel had very lush and alluring elements to it and I was completely consumed by the story. If you love Paris, ballet, and strong friendships, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Short Q & A With The Author:

I read that you were a ballet dancer. Did you study ballet in Paris, as the characters in Bright Burning Stars did or did you study it elsewhere?

When I was five-years-old, I began dancing in Paris with a famous teacher named Max Bozzoni who taught and danced at the Paris Opera. Then I danced with L’Académie Chaptal where the teachers also danced and taught at the Paris Opera. And in my teens, I danced with the Richmond Ballet Student Company and did a summer at Pacific Northwest Ballet on full scholarship.

Why did you decide to set the story in Paris? Is it because it’s where ballet first began or because Paris is the perfect setting for a book about passion (both for ballet and love)?

I chose Paris because I began my dance adventure there and because I grew up obsessed and in love with the Parisian rats who became principal dancers. I knew I wanted to render homage to them specifically.

Do you think that female friendships are very important to girls in their teenage years and that’s why it’s particularly devastating when they end?

I think female friendships are always important, but when you are a teen you experience love with a particular type of intensity. I feel like those friendships are almost always tattooed in your heart somehow, which do make them hard to reckon with when they unravel.

The ballet world can be very cutthroat and dealing with physical pain is an every day occurrence for a ballerina. Do you think that’s why it’s hard for dancers to relate to others who don’t dance or don’t have a similar passion as their own?

To me, the dance world is like a monastery. You give yourself over to that vocation physically and mentally. Dancers are artists, but also athletes. Imagine a painter who wrestles, or a cellist who plays basketball, or a sculptor who sprints. The complexity of fusing art and sport. Very few people, I believe, know the rigor of ballet and, yes, that keeps the dancers separate from others for sure.

What actresses can you see in the role of Kate & Marine if anyone ever decides to bring Bright Burning Stars on the big or TV screen?

If I had it my way I’d want to see real dancers portray my girls, like Ava Arbuckle and Audrey Freeman whom I follow on IG!

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