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.

What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is such a cute series about Lara Jean, the middle of three sisters, and their struggles to navigate sibling and romantic relationships. When Lara Jean’s secret love letters to her crushes all get mailed out at the same time, she has to deal with all the boys’ questions and what this means for her current (fake) relationship with Peter. I enjoyed the second book much more than the first, (see both of my reviews here and here) but overall this is a great series and I’m looking forward to Lara Jean’s farewell!
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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

28512466by Jaye Robin Brown
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

On this day of celebrating love in all its forms, I recommend this romantic story of two small-town southern Christian girls falling in love despite doing their darndest to deny their feelings! (Seriously, wouldn’t everyone enjoy Valentine’s Day more if it was a bit more inclusive? Romantic love isn’t the only kind that matters!)

As true winter finally sets in, it was nice to read about the warmth of Georgia for a change! Jo Gordon is an out and proud pastor’s daughter, but now that her father has married wife number three who comes with an ultra-conservative family, he wants to move Jo from Atlanta to small-town Rome, and also wants her to keep her true sexuality under wraps for her senior year. Jo agrees, only if he finally gives her the green light for adding her own LGBTQ-friendly youth radio program to his booming Christian radio ministry. The bargain is struck, and Jo transforms into Joanna, the wholesome girl her new extended family will love. Ten months of passing to get her ultimate wish of running a radio show that could help hundreds of teens like her—but Joanna didn’t count on meeting the girl of her dreams.

I loved everything about this story except the weird bargain between Jo and her father (yes, I know that’s the foundational premise). Her supportive dad asking her to change herself that way feels so wrong, and what’s worse is Jo’s agreement to it. But all that aside, her continued waffling over why she can’t tell her friends (and then her secret girlfriend) the truth makes less and less sense. I don’t enjoy plots that hinge on a Secret, especially when keeping the secret seems like the least logical option.

However, everything else is so well-done that I was able to keep suspending my disbelief. We see both sides of Christianity’s viewpoint on the LGBTQ community, and we see so many characters offering flat-out rejection as well as supportive acceptance. So many misconceptions and stereotypes about lesbians and being queer are hammered out without it feeling like the author is stepping in to present her views. Jo’s relationships with her friends, her father, and her stepmother evolve in wonderfully believable ways. I also liked how the Christian community was portrayed–especially faith’s importance to Jo. Interwoven through all of it is the fierce attraction between Jo and Mary Carlson, and their chemistry is perfect!

The characters are what make this story come alive and I loved their journeys! It’s a cute romance with so many feelings! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • 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 Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – This is an adorable high school romance with one of the best girl squads I’ve ever read! See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – First Lara Jean and Peter pretended to be together, now they’re actually together, but high school rumors threaten to end their relationship for good. See my review here.
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – A rom com set in Italy (prepare to be hungry) and Lina tries to resist the charm of her estranged father, the boy next door, and Italy itself. But family secrets demand she gives everything a closer look. See my review here.

Heartless

18584855by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass many times, and I can tell Meyer has too. This is a superb, well-written origin story for a beloved/feared villain! Fairy tales have been popular for a couple of years now, but this is one of the most seamless integrations of old and new world-building I’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take the most famous nonsensical world and create rules behind the madness–this subtlety is probably the best surprise.

Cath is a marquess’ daughter who wants nothing more than to open a bakery in Hearts with her best friend, her maid Mary Ann. She knows it would be the best in the land, and she wants everyone in the kingdom to sample her delicious sweets. But her parents know the King of Hearts wants to make Cath his queen, and they will not be satisfied until that happens. The night that Cath is supposed to accept the king’s proposal, she meets Jest–the new court joker who is mysterious, charming, clever, and handsome. Cath has never been in love before, but she can’t imagine giving up her feelings for the weak and foolish king, even if it comes with a crown. And on top of all this, the fearsome Jabberwock is terrorizing the kingdom unchallenged!

Cath is a perfect balance of admirable and awful. She is our protagonist, but she is far from perfect. Too deferential to her parents, too judgmental of others. Like so many of us, she feels caught in situations that never go as planned because she can’t challenge etiquette or her peers. She is just risk-adverse enough to aggravate herself and those around her. I loved following her journey that felt equally chosen and fated.

Cath is great, but the side characters of Hatta, Cheshire, and Jest make this impossibly magical! Hatta and Cheshire in particular capture the dark whimsy and unpredictable nature of life in Wonderland. Magic is inextricable from life in Hearts, yet there’s also the sense that it can continue evolving outside of the people’s control. This story gives you characters to love and a world that fascinates you at every turn!

Warning: will cause Emotions and hunger pains. Pick this up if you’re ready to be transported!

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


Similar reads:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – If you enjoyed this retelling, check out this quartet of sci-fi fairy tale adventures! Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing just trying to break free from her abusive stepmother’s control. A chance encounter with Prince Kai pulls her into the web of politics between Earth and Luna, and Cinder’s mysterious past might hold the key to Earth’s future. See my review here.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose awakens from her statis tube to learn that 62 years have passed, everyone she has ever known is dead, and she is the sole heir to her parents’ business empire. The current head of the company is not pleased that she was found, and will do anything to keep her from reclaiming her life.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a girl whose gifts lie with honey and the new ruler of the land, a former priest of fire whose touch can reduce anything to ash. See my review here.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – Triplet sisters with different abilities are raised in separate realms as they prepare for their 16th birthday, and the duel to the death for the throne. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina is a marked survivor of the blood fever with the ability to weave extraordinary illusions. Determined to avenge herself on those who made her life miserable, she joins other elites like her in the Dagger Society. See my review here.
  • Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes – If you want a trilogy based on this famed character, look no further! Dinah is the Princess of Hearts eagerly awaiting her crown, but violent events in her kingdom threaten to destroy her dreams.
  • Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – If you haven’t read the source material, I highly recommend it! It is utterly strange and entertaining, and despite its age the prose is easy to read. There are many more bizarre events and eccentric characters that are left out of films and re-tellings, and the wordplay is clever!

Of Fire and Stars

25164304by Audrey Coulthurst
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: November 22, 2016
**This is a review of an uncorrected proof copy

I was sold on this book the minute I read the description (princess with fire magic is betrothed to prince in a country where magic is illegal, but she falls for his sister) and when my lovely CPs Katy and Akshaya got ARCs in May I immediately began begging them (with no dignity whatsoever) for the chance to read it. Akshaya brought me an ARC at Leviosa Con in July and I devoured it immediately after! (Dreams do come true you guys).

This was everything I hoped for! Romance, adventure—did I mention romance? The best kind: friends-to-lovers slow-burn tension with cute scenes and jokes and surprising moments of daring. I loved everything about Denna and Mare’s relationship! All the things normally reserved for the “hero” to do for his girl get to happen between two women instead and it’s amazing. We also explore the different responsibilities they had to consider since they are both princesses. Everything they do ripples out into their respective kingdoms and it was interesting to see how they balanced their decisions based on that. Denna’s secret affinity for fire magic added a fascinating dimension both to her and to the plot, since magic is illegal in Mare’s country. The religion and ritual surrounding these powers is so interesting and I wanted to see more of it! It also allowed both women to be powerful and smart in different ways which I love.

The story otherwise is mostly political, with lots of meetings and spies (and assassinations!) and ideas discussed with the occasional new clue leading to more chaos. Alliances, power plays, prejudice warring with pragmatism. It could be tightened a bit but overall I was flying through the pages eager to see what would happen next!

The ending is a nice balance of closure and potential openings for a sequel (please oh please let there be a sequel). Read this and swoon!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Another story of falling in love with someone you shouldn’t. Kestrel and Arin’s kingdoms are at war, and her impulsive decision to buy a prince disguised as a slave could be the downfall of them both. See my review here.
  • Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge – A retelling of Romeo and Juliet where you never know who will live and who will die—and come back to life. Strange magic and death rule these re-imagined star-crossed lovers in a world that pays homage to Shakespeare while still having a life of its own.
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo – Kaede and Taisin (one magical, one ordinary) are chosen to lead a group on a quest to the faery kingdom to restore sunlight to the world. Falling in love was not part of the plan.  A subtle story perfect for a cozy night.
  • Tides by Betsy Cornwell – Brother and sister Noah and Lo spend the summer on the coast with their grandmother. Their plans change dramatically when Noah pulls a girl from the water, and they begin to suspect she—and someone else they know—may be selkies. See my review here.
  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat – For those seeking mature romance, this trilogy is fantastic! Damen’s brother seizes the throne, murders their father, and sends Damen to their rival kingdom as a pleasure slave to Prince Laurent. Damen is determined to escape and reclaim his kingdom, but he can’t reveal his true identity to Laurent because he killed Laurent’s older brother. Tension, plotting, betrayal, more tension—enjoy! See my review here.

Empire of Storms

28260587by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

Get ready for an unpopular opinion – I did not enjoy this book. I think I have good reasons for this, but I’ll lay them out and you be the judge. I rate this 2 stars for overall experience, an extra star for Manon because she has the only chapters I liked.

I did read the whole thing, so these are the reasons I kept pushing through:

The witches! I love the witch covens. I love Manon.  I love the witch lore and mythology and history. I would read an entire spinoff series with Manon, prequel or sequel, I don’t care! She is all the fun and sass and savvy that Aelin used to be when she was Celaena.

The cameos! We aren’t done with characters from previous books reappearing and without spoilers I’ll just say that I always enjoy this. It really makes the world and the saga feel more well-rounded and complete.

Lysandra! Officially part of Team Aelin, she gets a lot more page time and a lot more agency. Love her! Plus she and Aelin seem to have an actual friendship.

What made this installment drag for me?

It’s just too long (like 200-300 pages too long). There are large swaths of wandering through forests with nothing much happening. Or wandering over the sea with nothing much happening. Or wondering about where to wander next with nothing much happening. This is a slow book. I know the best writers can get caught in the woods of losing the plot (the camping scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, anyone?) but these chapters should have been trimmed or cut.

For being a slow-moving plot, the character changes seem to leap out of nowhere constantly! There are sudden romantic pairings that made no sense to me. There are also several characters that come out as gay or bi but those relationships are all in the past–the only relationships given page-time in this tome are very hetero. Within that, I take issue with the sex scenes leaning toward erotica more than YA. I don’t mind sex in YA but there’s a difference in presentation (or there should be) from YA romance and hardcore erotica. And there’s a lot of biting and blood and male-dominance that makes me uncomfortable–but maybe that’s just not my cup of tea…

And not that this is a departure from the series but there are still only cishet white characters. Where are Nehemia’s people, at least??

Finally, almost moreso than in Queen of Shadows, Aelin plays everything so close to the vest that the big reveals almost feel like author ex machina to me. There’s not much sense of buildup–we muddle along on mysterious quests until the last 100 pages or so. And although I recognized the few hints throughout, the payoff just wasn’t there for me.

I’m pretty sure I’ll stick around for one more book to finish the series. I just wish this series could reach its potential.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski – The final book in this trilogy that will give you the emotional roller coaster of your life! Kestrel and Arin are separated once again, as Kestrel works to escape from the labor camp in the north, and Arin struggles to forget everything about the girl he thought he knew. See my review here.
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – The immensely satisfying end to this trilogy brings the war between seraphim and chimaera to a spell-binding conclusion. The stage and stakes are bigger than ever for Karou and Akiva as they work to dispel darkness and rekindle their relationship. See my review here.
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer – The end of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress’ stories brings them to Luna and Princess Winter, the forgotten royal slowly losing her mind because she refuses to use her gift against others. They have to work together to defeat Queen Levana’s plans to conquer Earth, and they have little time to do it. See my review here.

When We Collided

collidedby Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I had a 5-star read! I loved this book from page 1 (but I waited til chapter 3 to commit) and I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I’ve long admired the author from afar, on Twitter (I think that’s literally the only time this has happened to me) and I finally got around to reading this book that I bought weeks ago. So glad my best friend referred me to her a year ago! (I told you, reading more recs from friends was a goal this year–because yes, I have this kind of painfully slow track record).

The story itself? A teenage summer love story set in a tiny Californian beach town called Verona Cove. Vivi and her artist mother are there for the summer, and Vivi quickly meets Jonah (a townie) and decides he’s cute enough for a summer date. Ordinarily, this would bother me, BUT. I think this is realistic for some teens (and adults). Also both of them are clearly looking for a distraction and a summer fling will work just fine for that.

Vivi is hiding her bipolar disorder from everyone because she is determined to be better now. Jonah is surviving by a thread in the wake of his father’s death after months of taking care of his 3 younger siblings and his depressed mother. Naturally, their relationship is a mix of light fun and bitter arguments. And the best part is–they are both right, and they are both wrong. They are both broken in different ways, and their relationship isn’t going to fix that.

So much to love here: 2 distinct POV voices, present parents, sibling relationships, issues not related to the romantic relationship like money and the Future, mental health and illness, and a definite streak of feminism (which is why I love Emery Lord of course). Also you can’t help but love the symbolism behind the names–Vivi is vivacious and lively, Jonah is drowning in an ocean of pain and responsibility he doesn’t want (similar to the biblical prophet in the whale).

I love that this story includes the silly and the sucky moments of family life. Some days you’re laughing outside with the sprinkler on, sometimes you’re screaming because you can’t stand them another minute. I love that the parents have their own problems (whether it’s depression or the struggle of when to trust your kid-who-is-almost-18-but-they’ll-always-be-your-kid).

This story made me laugh and tear up and it’s just the right length. No, these characters aren’t always “likeable” (I saw that mentioned in a lot of reviews) and that is the point. They are just regular people trying their best. It would be better if we could see everyone with mental health problems that way.

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


Similar reads:

  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is bad luck–terrible things happen to people when she’s around. Her new therapist suggests some challenges that will help her overcome her “curse” with cognitive behavioral therapy, but Maguire isn’t convinced it will work. Her biggest challenge becomes a fellow tennis player who has a crush on her. Will she be able to take back the life the Universe stole from her?
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and Wren are twin sisters who have done everything together-including obsess over the Simon Snow series and its fanfiction. But then Wren drops the bombshell that she’s not rooming with Cath for their first year of college, and she doesn’t care about Simon Snow anymore either. Cath isn’t sure how to cope, especially when her roommate’s cute friend keeps hanging around her dorm room trying to talk to her.
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – Mim is not thrilled with her stepdad’s new family or their new home. When she learns her mother is ill, she takes a secret road trip hundreds of miles back to see her, and maybe learn about herself along the way. See my review here.
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Lia and Cassie make a pact to be the thinnest girls in school. But when Cassie dies from bulimia, Lia feels haunted by her best friend’s spirit and the conviction that if she can just be thin enough, she and all her problems can disappear for good. See my review here.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Charlie is starting high school with no friends and no clue how to survive. When two seniors adopt him into their group, he has a lot to learn about life and how to deal with the secrets of his past. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – Cassie leaves the psychiatric hospital her mother forced her into two years previously, determined to start college and put the past of their toxic relationship behind her. But then her mother shows up promising all the love and attention Cassie always wanted, and she wonders if they can start over. See my review here.
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – This is a relatively short novel about Pat and his quest to become the perfect man so that God will restore his estranged wife Nikki to him. His neighbor Tiffany has her own issues, but it takes him awhile to realize they might be good friends. The writing is great, both book and movie are excellent.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Although not the most accurate in terms of symptoms / diagnosis, this is such a good story I couldn’t resist including it. Alex suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is never sure what’s real and what isn’t. When a cute boy takes an interest in her, she begins to wonder whether he’s real, or if she made him up. See my review here.

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