Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (ARC Review)

4.5 Stars!!!!

Cover Reveal

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Synopsis:

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Publisher: HMH Teen

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My Thoughts:

I loved this book.

First, the world building is beautiful, especially the four seasonal rooms. The Japanese elements were new to me, and made the story that much more fascinating. The magic is alluring, yet can be deadly. The female competitors are just so strong and fierce when they enter these magical rooms. Every single female in this book is just trying to survive, and I love each and every one of them, even when they do despicable things.

Mari, the main character, is fighting societal norms, trying to do what is right, and kicking butt. She has insecurities, but she knows her strengths and uses them, which makes her that much more relatable. The other two perspectives are Taro and Akira. Prince Taro gives me so many mixed feelings, but I still kind of love him. As for Akira, talk about tugging on your heart strings. I just wanted so much more for Akira. Truly, I was invested in all of the characters, and the on-going fight between the humans and the yōkai. The underlying themes of social justice and feminism were woven in wonderfully.

The only reason this wasn’t a five-star read for me was that the ending seemed kind of abrupt, and I wanted so much more from this story (it definitely could have been a wonderful duology or trilogy). Also, there is a classic literature inspired part that I’ve never been a fan of, but I’ll let you read and figure out what it is, because maybe you’ll like it.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good fantasy, strong female leads, and the fight for equality and social justice!

Freshmen by Lucy Ivison & Tom Ellen (ARC Review)

4.5 Stars!!

I read this book in one sitting, that is how much I enjoyed it. I’ve also been in a horrific reading slump where I’ve started 5 different books, so this is saying something. I was completely invested in Phoebe and Luke, as well as their friends.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE STRONG FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS!?!?!

This is what I hope for my students, friends that have your back and accept all your quirky differences. I loved the scenes with Phoebe, Negin, and Frankie! Not to mention D Dorm just rocked. I wish I had experienced college like this group. I just really enjoyed the exploration of starting college/university, and trying to meet new friends that you actually wanted to be around.The exploration of the character’s identity was just so realistic–especially the element of trying to fit in, which can cost you and not really lead you where you want to go.

The ending. I did not see that coming, which made me enjoy it that much more. It left me wanting to know where the lives of these characters are going (Psssst. Please do a sequel). Anyway, I really enjoyed this burst of college freshmen life, and I’d definitely recommend this to YA readers!

Synopsis:

Getting in is just the beginning.

Phoebe can’t wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she’ll be free. And she’ll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.

Luke didn’t set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don’t stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.

Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke’s soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they’ll ever make it through freshman year.

Buy it here.

Add it to goodreads here.

Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family: Long distance/Away at college, Social: Meeting new people, searching for new friends, dorms, social identity, navigating social circles, peer pressure, strong female friendships, strong friendships, heavy drinking, sex, partying, marijuana,  adapting to college life, romantic relationships, casual relationships, standing up for what is right, feminism

College/Career: Responsibility, College Life, working while in college, joining on-campus clubs/sports

Academic: Studying, group projects

May Mysterious Galaxy YA Book Club

May 17, 2018

May Book Pick:

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

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This was the second official Mysterious YA Book Club Discussion. We usually break up into groups of 4-6 depending on the amount of people that show up (usually over 30). Constance does a wonderful job of providing discussion questions, but the really adorable thing that she does is make 5-6 different little pictures that we pick at random to determine our small discussion group for the night. This time she used pictures of the characters from the book! I really enjoyed discussing this book in our group, especially because I didn’t finish it. It was wonderful to get answers about how the book proceeded, and hear what people liked, and didn’t like, about this story. The general consensus within my small group was that it lacked a depth necessary to be an amazing book, but the ideas and details were appreciated by all of us!

The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger (ARC Review)

4.5 STARS!

I usually read to escape, but this is BEAUTIFUL, WITTY book deals with real issues that are so very important. I enjoyed the alternating time perspectives, and the author really did a good job at making me invested in the characters. I love that Ray and Simon are unapologetically themselves, and I love their obsessions–Simon with milk and Ray with history. As a school counselor, I believe these books are so very important. Representation matters, and we need to normalize mental health conditions to fight the stigma and raise awareness with the goal of preventing fatal outcomes. I will definitely add this book to my collection.

I received an ARC from First To Read through Penguin Random House LLC in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A poignant, deeply funny coming-of-age story about first love, first loss, and the power of history to give life meaning.

History buff Ray knows everything about the peculiar legends and lore of his rural Connecticut hometown. Burgerville’s past is riddled with green cow sightings and human groundhogs, but the most interesting thing about the present is the new girl–we’ll call her Jane Doe.

Inscrutable, cool, and above all mysterious, Jane seems as determined to hide her past as Ray is to uncover it. As fascination turns to friendship and then to something more, Ray is certain he knows Jane’s darkest, most painful secrets and Jane herself–from past to present. But when the unthinkable happens, Ray is forced to acknowledge that perhaps history can only tell us so much.

Mixing humor with heartache, this is an unmissable coming-of-age story from an exciting new voice in YA.

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Order it here.

Add it to goodreads here.

Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family:  Supportive, Involved Social: Bullied, Navigating Social Expectations, Strong Friendship, Emotional: Depression, Suicide, Coping Mechanisms

College/Career: N/A

Academic: N/A

Stephanie Garber – Legendary Launch Party

THIS LAUNCH PARTY WAS AMAZING!!

First of all, I loved Legendary, so I was already beyond excited for this event. And then when I got to the event (two hours early), they were setting up and my excitement just flew to the next level.

The setup:

 

Then Stephanie started handing out goodies and announced the games had begun, and I was just in heaven. Not to mention that the Starbucks inside the Roseville Barnes and Noble made a Legendary inspired drink! And this was all before Stephanie even started talking about her amazing book.

The Starbucks Drink:

The Discussion Starts:

 

Stephanie was in conversation with Kristin Dwyer (an aspiring writer and Adrienne Young’s critique partner), and she did a wonderful job. She asked great questions, made a few fun jokes, and wore black for our new book boyfriend Dante.

 

They talked about the evolution of Legendary, which was scrapped multiple times, and had multiple endings. Stephanie also spoke about how her writing is really influenced by music, and that her Tella inspiration started with Taylor Swift songs, but changed to Bishop Briggs songs, which makes since after you read Legendary! Someone asked her what she would do if she could go into the world of Caraval, and she said she would find Legend. Kristin said she would find Dante. Let’s talk about that after you read the book!

While Stephanie couldn’t give details, Caraval is being optioned to become a movie! Also, there will be a third book in the series, Finale!  Which I am beyond thankful for, because the ending of Legendary almost ruined me. I need resolution NOW!

Also, Stephanie is the SWEETEST ever, and it was such a pleasure to meet her. I definitely found a new auto-buy author!

What goodies were handed out:

Red Caraval Bag

Caraval Map Coloring Poster with Colored Pencils

Legendary Chocolates and Bookmark

The Games & Prizes:

Tell the woman in the top hat that Legend sent you (it was Stephanie’s mom, how sweet is that?) and receive a sticker that is good for one mask.

Find one of the Golden Crowns hidden throughout the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, and pick a mystery foreign edition book!

YES, I did get both, and I’m not convinced I could win Caraval.

Adrienne Young signs Sky in the Deep, in Conversation with Mary E. Pearson

May 25, 2018

Mysterious Galaxy – San Diego, CA

Adrienne Young was a wonderful surprise! She spoke about her passion for feminism, and how a feminist theme is present throughout the whole book. Also, she talked about the ruthlessness of the main character (breaking our typical female gender role), which is right up my alley. Another goal was to write a ya story that didn’t feature so many of the same tropes, such as a romance as the end all, be all. I’m just overly excited for this book!

Adrienne was also in conversation with Mary E. Pearson, author of The Remnant Chronicles, and upcoming book Dance of Thieves (out August 7, 2018, Signing at Mysterious Galaxy on Release Day). Mary E. Pearson was so sweet and excited about Sky in the Deep. She said she wanted to ask questions that she would want to be asked, and I think she did a wonderful job.

Sky in the Deep Synopsis:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Author Website: http://adrienneyoungbooks.com/

Fierce Friday (Yallwest Day 1)

This was my first time attending the Fierce Friday event, and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t too crowded, and there were some amazing authors there! We waited in line to get wristbands, one author per hour, and then we could get into the back of any other line. I managed to get five books signed! Plus I played Trivia twice and hung out with and met some new bookish friends! Honestly, I LOVED the Fierce Friday event!

 

 

I brought three books to get signed (The Hate U Give, The Belles, and The X Files), I bought one at the Mysterious Galaxy table (I Believe in a Thing Called Love), and then I received four ARCs! I won Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over in a trivia game, and Aminah Mae Safi was signing her ARC of Not the Girl’s You’re Looking For. To Be Honest and The Brightsiders (review is up for this amazing LGBTQIA+ read) were included in this awesome Swoon Reads tote bag, that I received for voting on a cover at their table. It was wonderful to meet authors and be able to snag some free books. Truly, book nerd heaven!

Author Signings:

Angie Thomas – The Hate U Give

 

Maurene Goo – I Believe in a Thing Called Love

 

Dhonielle Clayton – The Belles

Kami Garcia – The X-Files: Agents of Chaos

Aminah Mae Safi  – Not The Girls You’re Looking For (ARC)

TRIVIA WIN!

Shani Petroff – Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

5 STARS!!!!

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!

I didn’t want to finish it, because I was enjoying it so much, but I couldn’t stop reading it. There were twists and turns, magic and mayhem, and so much love. Crimson, oh, I’m sorry, I mean Scarlett, was a wonderful character to follow throughout this story, as her growth unraveled nicely. I loved the side stories that played into the main story line, and all the different ways the characters were connected. I was really invested in the what happened to the characters, and I loved the world Stephanie Garber built. At the end, I felt closure to the story, but I also wanted more of this would. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about the elusive Legend. I’m beyond excited for Legendary!!

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Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family: Physically and Emotionally Abusive Father, Murder, Mother Disappeared, Strong Sister Connection, Running Away, Taking Care of Sibling, Social: Fear of Future, Trust, Romance with Kissing and Sleeping in the Same Bed, Personal Growth, Standing up for Oneself

College/Career: Responsibility, Planning for Future

Academic: N/A

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde (ARC REVIEW)

5 STARS!

THIS BOOK! The LGBTQIA+ representation is real. This was the first time I’ve read about a character that uses They/Them/Theirs pronouns. Jen Wilde did a wonderful job at normalizing terms, feelings, and the range of sexual orientation and gender fluidity. There wasn’t just one gay friend like most books. This is a true LGBTQIA+ read. Genderqueer, pansexual, bisexual, gender nonconforming, the list goes on. I was also very impressed that there was some intersectionality and ethnicity was actually addressed for some characters. Intersectionality is so important, because it adds layers to the characters and illustrates the many difference between people that share one culture. I absolutely loved that not wanting to label was put out as an option, and that the story actually illustrated that coming out is process that is different for everyone. Okay, I could go on and on about this, but long story short, a BIG THUMBS UP for more representation of the LGBTQIA+ community without totally leaving out the very important intersectionality of these characters.

As for the plot line, this a pretty typical story: lots of drama, hurtful people, finding love right in from of you. And I loved it. This why I read romances, and I was enamored with how “normal” all the LGBTQIA+ characters felt to me as I was reading. Another element of the story that I fell in love with was that the main character was building her own support system and family, making it of friends that repeatedly showed they actually cared about her, and were present when they were needed. Not everyone can rely on their family to unconditionally love and accept them. Not everyone has parents that should be or want to be parents. Also, the reality of how your parents can negatively impact you, and how people pleasing can have drastic effects is so relevant in the age of social media. This story also touches on gaslighting (emotional abuse), and how it isn’t always easy to see it when it’s happening to you. Not to mention the ease with which teenagers can develop alcohol abuse issues, because of the partying they may be doing with their friends. There are so many deep and relevant issues addressed in this book, and I think Jen Wilde did a good job at showing the range of emotions and confusion people can feel when in these types of situations, and how friends can show up and make a world of difference. She even got a mental health condition in the story, and brought up how the stigma can cause people to not even share what they are going through with their closest friends. To some people this all may seem over the top and unrealistic, but just because someone hasn’t personally experienced it, or seen someone else experience it, doesn’t mean these situations don’t happen, because they do. Please keep that in mind, and try not to minimize the struggles of others.

Obviously I loved this book, so I would DEFINITELY recommend it.

It comes out May 22nd, so get ready! 

Order it here.

Add it to goodreads here.

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Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional:Family: Emotionally Abusive Family, Gaslighting, Unsupportive Family, Building Family out of Friends, Parental Alcohol Abuse, Social: Labels, LBGTQIA+, They/Them/Theirs Pronoun Use, Gender-Nonconforming Characters, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Biracial, Intersectionality, Empathy, Mental Health Condition, Underaged Drinking, Alcohol Abuse, Unhealthy Relationships, Emotional Abuse from a Significant Other, People Pleasing, Childhood Trauma, Slut Shaming, Double Standards, Building your own Support System, Friends as Family, Reality of Social Media

College/Career: Navigating Career with Fame, Personal Life Impacts Career, Responsibility,

Academic: N/A

 

 

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

This book was the Mysterious Galaxy YA Book Club pick for May #mgyabc

I didn’t finish this book, but I have a lot of thoughts about it. I didn’t want to give it one star, because I don’t feel it was a bad book, just not a book for me. Personally, it was slow going, but the details were really interesting. It didn’t remind me of any book I’ve read before, which is always a pleasant surprise. Also, I love the LGBTQIA+ representation in this book (lesbian, bisexual, asexual). Overall, what made it a DNF for me was that I wanted more depth to the story. I wanted to know more about the world, the legend behind it, and the different jinx work. I just couldn’t get into it, but I think that this may be a great read for some people, so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it!