Ramona Blue

31449227by Julie Murphy
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

There was a lot of concern with the initial description of this book but to allay any fears of this being a “lesbian-turned-straight” book, it is most definitely not! So many of the harmful stereotypes are addressed on page and dismissed. And Ramona never renounces her attraction to girls or the idea that she might date other girls in the future.

Now that that’s out of the way!

Ramona survives each day one at a time. Her family’s trailer already requires Ramona to duck in doorways and the shower, and now it is more crowded with her pregnant sister’s deadbeat boyfriend. As her friends prepare for senior year and going to college, Ramona knows she will be left behind as she helps her sister with the baby and her father with the bills. She works several jobs after school and her own dreams (what dreams?) are last priority. Then her childhood friend Freddie returns with his grandparents, and they’re able to pick right back up. Sure, at six feet she’s taller than him now, and her hair is bright blue, and she’s one of only two out lesbians at their small-town Mississippi high school. But other than that, what has changed?

But as they start swimming together in the mornings and Freddie becomes a part of Ramona’s group of friends, they start to wonder if their feelings are more than friendship.

Ramona’s voice is so down to earth and wryly lovable as she deals with issues that most of her friends don’t have to think about. As she says, she doesn’t have to worry about what to be when she grows up–she grew up years ago. Allowing herself to love something like swimming feels indulgent. Not only does Ramona have to examine her attraction to Freddie, she has to decide whether her life is permanently tied to her sister’s choices. I really enjoyed it and all the questions it posed!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Ramona Blue is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Aki has always known she is bi. At least, she’s pretty sure, even though she’s only had boyfriends. But when she develops a crush on another girl during their Mexico mission trip, she finds herself putting her theory into practice as they deepen their secret relationship. But Christa doesn’t want to keep it a secret. See my review here.
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – Another take on Christian girls who are into girls. Jo’s dad is a pastor, and for years she has wanted to add an LGBTQ-friendly radio show to his extensive radio ministry. She might finally get her wish—if she can pretend to be straight for his new wife’s extended family, until she graduates high school. Sketchy, but fine, Jo agrees. And then she meets beautiful, funny, sensitive Mary Carlson. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – This came to me highly recommended and I loved it so much! Simon is not out to everyone, but that choice might disappear thanks to another student who threatens to expose Simon’s email correspondence with a boy named Blue. With great sarcasm and poise, Simon deals with blackmail and trying to discover the identity of the boy he loves. See my review here.

The Seafarer’s Kiss

32890474by Julia Ember
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous cover caught my eye and since I love fairy tales I knew I had to check out this Little Mermaid retelling. It’s definitely the most interesting one I’ve found! I love all the Norse mythology and setting it in a completely different part of the world–and having the mermaid trying to win the heart of a fierce shield-maiden was refreshing. Fairy tales fascinate me because you can change so many components and yet still see the bones of the myth underneath.

Ersel has always wondered what adventures she could have on land, but she doesn’t meet a living human until she finds a scared girl named Ragna trapped on the ice after a shipwreck. Ragna is determined to have revenge on the men who kidnapped her and burned her village. Ersel wants to escape the oppressive rule of an isolationist king who insists that a mermaid’s value is linked to her fertility.

The two girls form a tentative friendship that hints at something more–until Ersel’s suitor catches them together and threatens to tell the king. Desperate to find Ragna and be with her on land, Ersel makes a bargain with the treacherous god of lies, Loki. Her wish threatens to destroy not only her hope of reuniting with Ragna, but her entire underwater community if she doesn’t discover a way to outwit the god.

This short book is so fast-paced! This world was so interesting to explore, especially Ersel’s life under the icebergs. The way the mermaids had to survive such intense cold was thought out! I wouldn’t have minded more time with these characters, but I still felt like they were all so fleshed out. Each of them had such intense desires and were so ruthless in going after what they wanted. Despite knowing the fairy tale, the game with the trickster god and the horrifyingly imaginative results had me wondering what would happen next.

Ersel and Ragna don’t have a lot of time to develop their relationship, yet there was a spark there that I’ve found true to life–when you find someone completely driven to achieve their dreams, it’s so attractive! That spark can grow quickly, and I wanted them to be together just to see what adventures they could have. They’re not “nice” girls but I wanted them to win!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Seafarer’s Kiss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Denna’s betrothal has stretched on for years, but it’s finally time for her to meet and marry her husband. She just has to keep her affinity for fire magic a secret–and try not to fall for her fiance’s sister. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.

Orange: The Complete Collection

25667474by Ichigo Takano
Graphic Novel
4 of 5 stars
(This is a review for all 5 volumes of Orange)

My lovely friend and CP Meg rec’d these to me and they are so cute! Coming off the utter story hangover that is the film “Your Name” this was perfect!

This story arc is about a group of high school friends who befriend the new guy at school. But Naho receives a letter from herself ten years in the future, warning her that tragedy strikes, and she must do everything the letter recommends if she wants to save Kakeru’s life. Skeptical at first, Naho quickly realizes everything in the letter comes true, and if she doesn’t act quickly, Kakeru will be lost to them again.

26247042The friendships are fantastic and the slow-burn, awkward romance between Naho and Kakeru is so adorable! It’s a story about how the seemingly mundane moments in everyday life can matter so much, and that it’s important to be there for your friends and not entirely wrapped up in yourself. It hits the heavier moments with grace and provides plenty of humor too. I had so much fun speeding through these! The first three volumes are bound in one book, and the remaining two are in the second volume.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Orange is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This cute, nostalgic story features children dealing with serious situations regarding addiction and how they can learn to cope with them. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s boyfriend drowned in a freak accident the previous summer, and now she’s facing junior year as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned, with a side of anxiety. Her attempt to make a better year for herself doesn’t go as planned, but that’s kind of a good thing. The friendships in this story are wonderful! See my review here.
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – When Sloane falls in with a new group of friends she finds herself on a quest to save a painting by their deceased mother that has gone missing. Another story about how it’s the in-between moments that build a life. See my review here.

Wayfarer

20983366by Alexandra Bracken
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Yet another immensely satisfying end to a series! The 500-page factor had me a little hesitant to dive in—I knew I would need TIME—but once I did I found this even faster-paced with more adventure than Passenger.

Etta and Nicholas are separated across centuries and continents and their fight to find each other and destroy the astrolabe jumps us to every imaginable period and region (though regrettably, no dinosaurs). Etta finds herself in the care of the Thorns, with surprisingly not-dead people intent on helping her. Nicholas and Sofia struggle not to kill each other as they track the astrolabe, with the mysterious assistance and resistance of traveler Li Min. Surprises and twists keep the pages flying by!

Once again, the attention to detail and research blew me away. It just feels like you are there, no matter where they go. There’s more magic this time, and definitely more secrets to expose, so without spoilers, anything you loved in the first book is doubled in this installment! It made me want to plan a bunch of trips by the time I finished it.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Wayfarer is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Not technically time-travel, but this is a beautiful story about a girl with a cursed horoscope that finds herself caught between the human and the Otherworld in a mystery that involves lifetimes. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, U.S.A. is bored to death until a wave carries her from our world to the world of the Abarat, where every island is an hour of the day and a dark power is threatening to destroy it all. Weird but interesting portal fantasy with incredible artwork!
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – When Kate and Jerrod meet there’s an actual lightning storm—in their classroom. Kate must convince the skeptical Jerrod that he has magical powers, and that the curse that has dogged his family is something they will need to travel to the past to fix. This is a fun read you’ll breeze through in a few hours.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones – One of the best fantasy writers of our time tackles time-travel in a unique way. Time City is built on a patch of space outside of time, and its residents are charged with overseeing the cycle of history. But when the timeline begins to crumble, two boys pluck Vivian Smith from Twenty Century to help them save it. Except they got the wrong Vivian, and now they have to save the timeline anyway! So good and will squeeze your brain.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One

32334098by Amanda Lovelace
Poetry
4 of 5 stars
Debut: March 23, 2017

My nonfiction entry of the month! There aren’t exactly any surprises in this volume but it was a satisfying read nonetheless.

This was originally self-published via CreateSpace and much like Milk and Honey, it garnered such a response that the same publisher grabbed it and put out a hard copy. This deeply personal collection explores the arduous healing process after abusive relationships and has an uplifting ending. Broken up into four sections (The Princess, The Damsel, The Queen, You) it’s only after reading the darkest parts of the earlier sections that the final one can provide universal inspiration.

A short, powerful read and one that bravely lets you step into someone else’s soul. It’s impossible to ignore the emotion and courage poured into each piece, and it’s lovely reminder that no matter the grief and loss you suffer, there are bright spaces ahead of you.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Princess Saves Herself in This One is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – This emotional journey is tragic, beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. I’ll be reading this many, many times.  Highly recommend – these simplistic and raw verses can speak to anyone! See my review here.
  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson – Dickinson’s unique style is often well-remembered from English classes. This collection is unaltered (many collections change her punctuation or wording to “clarify” the poems), presented in chronological order, and even includes several drafts of some of her work. She explores all kinds of themes (life, death, loneliness), but the ones that hint at her unconventional life as an unmarried woman were the ones I found most interesting.
  • Classic Haiku edited by Tom Lowenstein – This collection of four haiku masters’ poems (Basho, Buson, Issa, and Shiki) is poignant, reflective, and at times surprisingly funny!
  • Moon in the Pines translated by Jonathan Clements – This has a really good intro that helps you understand and enjoy the poetry. Beautiful artwork is interspersed and there’s some brief interpretations of the poems in the back. I loved it!

The Edge of the Abyss

26219455by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I have been waiting for this since I read the first book last year and it did not disappoint! More pirates, more adventure, more mayhem, more kissing!

Cas has had a tough three weeks since she pledged her loyalty to the pirate queen Santa Elena. But keeping busy with training lets her avoid Swift as much as possible, which is perfect. Then the crew of the Minnow discovers that Bao isn’t the only unregistered Reckoner in the NeoPacific—sightings of the untrained sea monsters, dubbed Hellbeasts, start popping up everywhere, threatening the entire ocean’s ecosystem (not to mention all the ships). Cas must find Bao and train him to fight the Hellbeasts if they want to restore balance to the ocean.

This book is filled with manipulative mind games from Santa Elena and the broken pieces of a relationship between Cas and Swift and I loved every page of it. All three women are ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, selfish, and constantly abrasive to each other. The power dynamics here are just addictive as Swift and Cas try to see if equal footing is even possible, and as Santa Elena challenges them to see who will be her successor. It’s a satisfying character study of pushing people to the brink of their conscience to see what they’ll do.

I felt like I could smell the sea the entire time, this story feels that real! I’m still impressed by how much the writing crams into such a short space. Every sentence is working hard and yet it’s easy to read. This short duology is a swashbuckling adventure you shouldn’t pass up!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Edge of the Abyss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina chose to embrace her powers and it is leading to a rift between her and her sister Violetta, and her allies. It’s also opening a darkness within her that she must face before it destroys her. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel and Arin engage in games of deception that affect the war between their nations and the warning desires in their own hearts. For power plays and mind games there’s no better book than this! See my review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – A fun romp of a graphic novel about shape-shifter Nimona’s goal to become a villain’s sidekick. The usual themes of good vs evil, what makes a monster, does your past define you, what is justice, with plenty of good jokes thrown in the mix! See my review here.

Serafina and the Black Cloak

23507745by Robert Beatty
Children’s Fiction
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: July 14, 2015

I bought a bunch of MG books last year and this one has sat on my shelf the longest. I wasn’t sure what to expect (especially given my limited experience with the Disney imprint) but it was not the “safe” adventure I expected!

Serafina and her father secretly live in the basement of the Biltmore mansion. Her father is the estate’s head engineer, and Serafina does not exist, as far as the Biltmores are concerned. But when children start disappearing from the estate, Serafina reveals herself to the Biltmore’s nephew, Braeden, and they try to save the children before it’s too late.

What surprised me is just how dark this story got when it came to tracking down the Man in the Black Cloak! Not only is the Cloak super sinister, the things Serafina encounters as she hunts him down made me squirm with the creeps. (I read it on a plane and actually squirmed, several times). Encounters with various bloody remains and dark places in the Forest had me cringing in the best way! Serafina is a tougher girl than I am, and could grit her teeth and keep going.

It’s not the subtlest in terms of Serafina’s mysterious past and such, but it was fun and pretty satisfying. Gothic vibes made for middle-grade readers!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Serafina and the Black Cloak is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – The other gruesome MG book I have read. Coraline’s family moves to a new house, and she has fun exploring it. Then she finds the Other Mother, who is determined to keep Coraline forever if Coraline can’t outsmart her trap.
  • Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi – A girl’s quest to locate her father in a neighboring magical realm goes horribly wrong. This is an interesting blend of total lighthearted whimsy and the darker depths of human nature. Enjoy this journey through two realms who use magic very differently! See my review here.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – Definitely YA, but with that same creepy, country vibe. Three unreliable narrators tell you what they think happened one dark night at the haunted house. See my review here.

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