Review: “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes

Romanov (Nadine Brandes)

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Imprint: Thomas Nelson
Publisher: HarperCollins Christian Publishing
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: PublisherIndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

A YA historical fiction with a magical spin, Nadine Brandes’ new work re-imagines the story of the youngest daughter of the family Romanov.

The history books say I died.
They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them…and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She liks him. She thinks he might even like her…

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad…and he’s on the other.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started on this book. Growing up on Disney’s Anastasia, I’ve long been fascinated with the unfortunate young Grand Duchess’ story. The thought of her escaping and surviving her family’s fate was a wishful thought, and I guess that was what I was hoping to read about.

Nadine Brandes, however, had other plans.

Romanov puts a magical spin to Anastasia’s re-imagined story. With spell masters hunted by Bolsheviks keenly intent on bringing down the Russian monarchy, this book was an interesting one that mixes fact with fiction. Brandes did an excellent job balancing history and finding just the right parts of it that she could stretch to fit the story she wanted to tell.

Research, of course, was key.Romanov quote #1Brandes did a lot of reading and digging to set a steady base for this story to stand on. This was most prominent in the first half of the story where details of the Romanov family’s lives were detailed and narrated. Some of the facts included in the story I already knew about from reading books and documentaries, but others were new to me. I didn’t know that Anastasia, or just Nastya to her family, was a mischievous girl. She loved pulling pranks on just about everyone and was even called shvibzik or imp in Russian. It was definitely a nice bonus learning more about the family and the way the author dropped the historical gems she found in her research brought them to life for me, made them feel more human than the history books could and would ever do. If you’re a history geek like me, you should definitely read Nadine’s author’s note at the end of the book. In it, she talks about what’s true and what parts of the story she played with to make this book.Romanov quote #2I loved Nastya and Alexei. Maria, too. Zash, meanwhile, grew on me as I continued reading. For me, their characters were the most formed and the most entertaining. They made me laugh and giggle with their shenanigans, made my heart ache for them as they slowly lost hope and, definitely, made me go “Tsk, don’t do that. Stop” a number of times.
Nastya, however, has a special place in my heart. She was a bright and curious girl. She loves her family and would do anything for them. I felt for her. Having been betrayed by the person you were starting to fall in love with and watching your whole family and the most loyal of your staff murdered is enough to crush anyone. But Nastya, though weighed with pain and grief, had to do what she can to help herself and Alexei escape and survive. It was her determination, not the powerful spells, that made her beat the odds set against her in the end.Romanov quote #3I loved most of Nadine Brandes’ additions and changes as they lent Nastya’s story more color. However, there were still a few things that, while I didn’t outright hated, felt unnecessary to me. Zash was an interesting character by himself with his own motives and different background and personality that sets him apart from the Romanovs. However, his and Nastya’s romance felt forced. In all honesty, these two were more pushed together rather than having chosen each other on their own accord. In all honesty, I would have been happy enough with them being friends. Their relationship felt unnatural to me.

Overall, Romanov was a wonderful re-imagining of history. Magical and intriguing, this story has family at its core. Fans of Nadine Brandes’ other YA historical fantasy Fawkes will definitely go heart eyes for this book. YA historical fiction lovers will find a lot to love in this one as well.Author Q&A (2)

 

Nadine BrandesNADINE BRANDES once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. She’s the author of Fawkes and of the award-winning The Out of Time series. Her inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When she’s not busy writing novels about bold living, she’s adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. Nadine and her Auror husband are building a  Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom

Website | Twitter | FacebookFacebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Book Spotlight + Author Q&A: “Bright Burning Stars” by A.K. Small

Today I feature a debut that promises a whole lot of drama, romance, and ballet.

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Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pre-order: Publisher | IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Would you die for the Prize?

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 woud 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 promising debut by an equally promising debut author. This book reminded me of Center Stage (go watch it if you want to see baby Zoe Saldana,) The Company and Black Swan. A.K. Small’s ballet beginnings certainly helped in the makings of this book. The drama, the highly competitive setting all felt real.

Want to get a little taste of this gorgeous book? You can read the first chapter here. This one is from Marine’s perspective, but you also get to meet Kate. The whole story revolves around these two best friends as they compete for and against each other for the Prize.

Author Q&A (1)

I was lucky enough to be invited by Algonquin Young Readers to the Bright Burning Stars blog tour. I certainly had a fun time reading all the ballet references in this one. The descriptions of all the performances in this story were gorgeous. It all made me curious about A.K. Small’s inspiration for her book, and here she talks about her writing process, inspiration and the songs she listened to while writing Kate and M’s story.

  1. How did you write BRIGHT BURNING STARS? All at once or did you outline the story?

I wrote it all at once but multiple times! I’m trying to learn how to outline. Man, is it hard. My brain goes to the creative before the analytical.

  1. What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why?

I think that the most surprising aspect of character building is that it took me years to understand and relate to Kate. I had to spend a long time with her before she finally clicked on the page.

I identify with Marine because M and I both believe that any artistic success comes not from talent but from sweat and grit.

  1. What gave you the idea for BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I wrote a short story titled The Art of Jealousy and then I knew I wanted to write a larger piece.

  1. Do you have a favorite scene, quote, or moment from BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I love the scene where Marine dances to Biggie Smalls and there is a Luc scene I adore but I don’t want to give it away.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?

I would tell her never to forget about the magic of process and to always trust her instincts.

  1. What is on your current TBR pile?

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robbin Brown, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox, Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I’m a sucker for books. I LOVE to read.

  1. Do you write to music? If so, what artist were you listening to while writing BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I usually don’t, but as I was trying to figure Kate out I listened to Unsteady by X Ambassadors and I put on classical piano pieces, literal ballet music, while I worked on studio scenes for atmosphere and rhythm purposes.

Author Q&A (2)

Angela Small credit _Becky Thurner Braddock.jpg

A.K. SMALL was born in Paris, France. At first years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States, where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

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Review: “You’d Be Mine” by Erin Hahn

You'd Be Mine (Erin Hahn)

Title: You’d Be Mine
Author: Erin Hahn
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Imprint: Wednesday Books
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
TW: Grief, trauma, alcoholism, drug use, parental death, mentions of suicide
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Teen country music stars find love in this sweet YA romance by debut author Erin Hahn.

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.
But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic deaths, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.
Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

I love music and I love stories. Combine those two elements together and you have me practically eating out of your hands. So you’d understand my excitement over Erin Hahn’s debut You’d Be Mine.

And it was a treat to read.

Summer, music, the sweetness of first love – You’d Be Mine has it all. I can’t remember the last time I fell in love so quickly with a YA contemporary. It completely reeled me in with its first few pages and had me swooning by chapter four. All of these was largely due to the story’s main characters, Annie and Clay.

YBM Quote #1.png

Annie and Clay were interesting characters. They were different from one another with their contrasting personalities and temperament, and yet they were still similar. Both had some serious emotional baggage – Annie with her parents and Clay with his brother. These unresolved issues and the different way they dealt and coped with them kept Annie and Clay from really acting on their obvious attraction. At the start, at least. The two young country stars, getting to know each other more and growing closer during their summer tour, eventually getting together close to the end.

YBM Quote #3.png

I really enjoyed reading this book. The sweet, satisfying ending of course factors in, but it was more than that. You’d Be Mine tackled grief and trauma, and the different ways people handle these two issues. Clay turned to alcohol to numb the pain of losing his grandfather and brother almost simultaneously. He was close to the edge, driving himself to his own destruction. Annie, meanwhile, became too careful, setting strict rules and boundaries for herself wanting to steer away from the path her parents took. These – their grief and trauma – was a big part of Annie and Clay’s story, and Erin Hahn did a great job tackling this element of their characters. It was realistic but was still handled with great care and sensitivity, something that I hugely appreciate as it opens up avenues for discussions in relation to these to very real issues.

YBM Quote #2

This was a character-driven story – Annie and Clay doing most of the labor with supporting characters adding more color and nuance – but it did not take anything away from the plot. It was still fun and sweet. The glimpses into the inner workings of the country music scene were definitely intriguing. Other readers got A Star is Born vibes from this book, and while I agree it did have that going for it, I was more reminded of two of my old time favorites – Nashville and ­Hart of Dixie – which was a nice surprise for me.

With characters you’d cheer for and a swoony romance, You’d Be Mine is the perfect summer read for YA contemporary lovers. Trust me, this book will definitely give you that funny butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling just by reading it. Erin Hahn may just be a new auto-buy author for me. I’m definitely going to look forward to any other future works of hers.

Author Q&A (2)

Erin Hahn

ERIN HAHN spent the first half of her life daydreaming in a small town in northern Illinois. She fell in love with words in college when she wrote for the campus paper, covering everything from drag shows to ice fishing and took way too much liberty with a history essay on the bubonic plague.

She started writing her own books when her little sister gave her shade about a country music-themed Twilight fanfic. By day, Erin gets to share her favorite stories with her elementary students. By night, she writes swoons. She married her own YA love interest whom she met on her first day of college and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Michigan, aka the greenest place on earth and has a cat, Gus, who plays fetch.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Love from A to Z” by S.K. Ali

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m featuring a YA romance written by an #ownvoices author and featuring diverse characters.

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Title: Love from A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Imprint: Salaam Reads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb.

Love from A to Z sounds like the perfect summer read and I’m really excited to get my hands on it. Good thing then that it’s coming out next week. If you want to read a bit of this book, Bustle featured its first chapter on their site. You can check it out from this link.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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What book/s are you excited for this week?

Music Mondays: “Death Dream” by Frightened Rabbit

Music Mondays

Music Mondays is a book meme where you share a song you really like. It is hosted by The Tattoed Book Geek.


Happy Monday!

I hope you all are having a better Monday than me. I have been sidelined by a migraine headache for two days in a row now and it’s not fun AT ALL. I’ve done nothing but sleep on and off. Tried reading and catching up with the multitude of TV series and movies I’ve been keeping on my drive but the only thing I succeeded at is making my head hurt more.

Thank God there are audiobooks!

Right now, I’m listening to Camille Págan’s I’m Fine and Neither Are You. It’s on Kindle Unlimited both the e-book and audiobook. The story so far is okay, not that engaging yet but I’ve only started it this afternoon when the pain eased a little so I’m giving it a shot.

Anyway, let me share a song to you because, after all, it’s Music Monday today.

Frightened Rabbit is a recent discovery for me. I was writing my review for The Fever King when I stumbled upon Victoria Lee’s character playlists. This song, Death Dream, is included on her playlist for Noam. Sadly, when I searched for the band’s discography, I found out that the band’s frontman Scott Hutchinson died last year.

Still, I highly recommend their most recent album Painting of a Panic Attack. I have yet to listen to the rest of their songs, but I practically have this on repeat for days now. Also, if you want to check out more of Victoria Lee’s playlists for TFK, she has it all on her website. She has deleted scene written from Dara’s, Noam’s and Carter’s POV, playlists and other stuff under her Extras page. Give it a visit for TFK and Victoria’s great taste in music because, of course, she has good tastes.

Alright, that’s it for me today. I’ll go back and hide in my cave and listen some more to my audiobook.

Here’s me wishing all of you a great week ahead.

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What are you listening to today?

Review: “The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls” by Anissa Gray

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry GirlsTitle: The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
Author: Anissa Gray
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ ½
TW: Eating disorders, body hatred, child abuse, neglect
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Debut author Anissa Gray presents a startling oftentimes harsh picture of a family in The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls.

The Butler family has had their share of trials – as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lilian can attest – but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.

Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.

As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.

If you follow my blog then you’ll know how I feel about family dramas. They either work for me, like in the case of Tara Conklin’s The Last Romantics (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) or, well, lull me to sleep. But even with the genre’s track record I still, somehow, picked up another family drama to read hoping that I’ll once again hit the jackpot like I did with The Last Romantics.

It didn’t quite work out the way I wanted to.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was a well-written story about the complex entity that is family. It dug deep into the core, dragging secrets, betrayals and shifting alliances into the surface.  Anissa Gray created a deeply flawed, utterly believable set of characters. There’s Althea, the eldest of the Butler siblings. She takes on the matriarch role when her mother dies at a young age, taking care and raising her siblings almost on her own. Then there’s intelligent Viola, the middle child who harbors a deep secret of her own. Last is Lilian, the baby of the family. Nervy, flummoxed, and unsure of herself, Lilian seemed to be the opposite of her formidable older sisters.

I greatly appreciated the way Gray wrote these three characters, these sisters who are so connected to one another. They are her narrators and movers both. These three women – Althea, Viola, and Lilian – were so effectively written, their voices and personalities so distinct that a reader would be able to easily tell who is who. Together, these three women carry the whole story on their shoulders, moving and dictating its flow, pace and direction with their every choice and decision.

This is one powerful story about family and all its complexities, and I appreciate that. I love that Anissa Gray tackled the topic of incarceration, giving us readers a glimpse into what the families of felons go through with the use of the Butler family. It’s something that you don’t see so much of.

That said, even with how amazingly well-crafted this story was, I still couldn’t connect with the characters. They felt far away. Reading this story was like watching from a distance as things happen to strangers. There isn’t much emotion involved.

Another part that could have used more work were Althea’s daughters Kim and Baby Vi. I felt like they were underutilized and only partly explored, a missed opportunity for the author. I honestly think these two characters could have added so much more to the story, maybe provide a contrasting image to their mother and aunts. Gray’s portrayal of bulimia though was particularly jarring and so realistic.

Overall, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was an excellent literary work. Anissa Gray is a promising new author. Her writing was beautiful and she created complex and very human characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her. However, I’ll be an outlier and say that while I enjoyed this book it didn’t quite stir my emotions. It could simply be a matter of personal preference, but this is my honest opinion of the book. I would still definitely recommend this to other readers, especially those who appreciate reading about complex family relationships.

Author Q&A (2)

Anissa GrayANISSA GRAY was born and raised in western Michigan. She graduated from Western Michigan University and received her Masters in English from New York University. After graduate school, Anissa went on to work as a print reporter at Reuters in Manhattan, covering global financial news. That was followed by a move to Atlanta and the initiation of her career in broadcast journalism at CNN, where she has held roles as writer, editor, and producer, receiving Emmy and DuPont awards for contributions to the network’ coverage of major stories.

After more than 20 years as a journalist, Anissa, a lifelong book lover and voracious reader, pursued fiction writing, applying her love of storytelling from the realm of real-life, newsworthy happenings to the events and encounters that shape our lives.

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First Line Fridays: “You’d Be Mine” by Erin Hahn

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hoarding Books.


Happy Friday!

My featured book for FLF this week is a title I recently finished.

You'd Be Mine (Erin Hahn)

 

Clay

April

Nashville, Tennessee

If I die, it’s Trina Hamilton’s fault. She’s hard to miss; statuesque blonde with angry eyes and tiny nostrils wearing top-of-the-line Tony Lamas so she can kick my ass at a moment’s notice. When the early-morning sun finally burns through my irises and kills me dead, she’s the one you want.

 

I finished You’d Be Mine earlier this week and let me tell you, I ain’t over it yet. I fell in love with Annie and Clay’s story. I mean, who wouldn’t when you combine country music, a summer tour, and two teen-aged superstars?!? Erin Hahn is definitely a new auto-buy author for me.

You’d Be Mine is already out. I highly recommend this book and urge you to grab a copy and please fangirl with me. I’m still not over this story!

💗💗💗

Rachel

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Come and join in the fun. Visit Hoarding Books to see what other FLF bloggers has to share.

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “The Tiger at Midnight” by Swati Teerdhala

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday everyone! This year it is truly raining great debuts and, today, I’m going to be featuring one of the titles that I’m most looking forward to.

38205303Title: The Tiger at Midnight
Series: The Tiger at Midnight #1
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and their game transforms into a breathless chase of impossible attraction, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more?

The Tiger at Midnight promised to be an epic read and I’m looking forward to get to know Esha and Kunal more. If you’re on the same page as I am, pre-order this book. Swati Teerdhala has a wonderful pre-order campaign for her baby, and the best part *queue drumroll* it’s open INTERNATIONAL. Pre-order The Tiger at Midnight until April 29 and enter the pre-order giveaway to get a signed bookplate, a bookmark and two exclusive illustrated character cards of Esha and Kunal. Here’s the link if you’ll be pre-ordering.

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What book/s are you excited for this week?

 

 

Music Mondays: “Stop” by Spice Girls & “Pure Shores” by All Saints

Music Mondays

Music Mondays is a book meme where you share a song you really like. It is hosted by The Tattoed Book Geek.


Hey there! Happy Monday, y’all!

It’s been awhile since the last time I did this Music Mondays. Work has been, for the last handful of months, been getting in the way and sapping all my energy out of me. Granted there were a couple of times when I felt like it’s all going to be over, but…I don’t know. Maybe I jinx them every time I say something about it, so I might as well not say anything at all and just do my best to get back on my blog and write.

It’s kind of working.

I’ve had a productive blogging last month, writing up four book reviews total. It might be a small number to some but to a grown woman working 12-hr sometimes 16-hr shifts a day, that’s a triumph. It sure does feel it for me, at least. I’m hoping to keep that rate up this month and maybe work on getting back on a regular posting schedule. It’ll be tough, I know but I’ve had tougher and I’m tough so I know I’ll eventually manage it. I just have to keep in mind that I’m doing this, book blogging, because I love books and I want to share that love with whoever stumbles on my blog. That’s kind of my north star right now, you could say, my goal and direction.

As is, I’ve been working on revamping my Pinterest page and working on a couple of book reviews and writing up ARC requests. It’s good, busy work that needs music in the background and, girl who did her growing half in the late 90s that I am, I queued up some girl power tunes.

Alright, I know All Saints’ Pure Shores came out in 2000, but it was between this and Never Ever, which is also a great track. I like this one better though. I went with Stop for it peppiness because I can’t quite pick my most fave Spice Girls song.

I grew up with these two girl groups and  still listen to their songs every time I get a bit nostalgic. I am totally in the band of fans who blamed Geri Halliwell for the Spice Girls’ break up. 11-year old me was devastated when I heard the band was calling it quit. Talk about me being dramatic, but that’s me as a pre-teen for you. She was a moody kid and I love her.

Anyway, enough for now. I just wonder though, did you ever listen to any of these girl groups? And how old were you when you first listened to their songs?

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What are you listening to today?

Review: “In the Neighborhood of True” by Susan Kaplan Carlton

In the Neighborhood of TrueTitle: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algoquin Young Readers
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion. Thank you goes out to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to be part of the In the Neighborhood of True blog tour.

 

Thought-provoking and relevant, Susan Kaplan Carlton tells the story of one girl caught between two worlds in her newest release In the Neighborhood of True.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York to Atlanta – the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple, Ruth meets Max , who is serious and intense about the fight for socia justice, and now he is caught in between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

61 years – that is the amount of time in between 2019 and 1958. But even with six decades separating then and now the events of 1958 still resonate, ripple down our today.

I don’t know what that says about us as human beings, about our ineptitude and willful ignorance, repeating all our past mistakes over and over again.

Loosely inspired by the October 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, Susan Kaplan Carlton tackles racism, discrimination and identity in In the Neighborhood of True.

The story follows 16-year old Ruth Robb, who moves to Atlanta from New York after her father’s untimely death. Ruth quickly acculturates to her new home, embracing tea and etiquette lessons, pre-debutante balls and accepting inclusion into the “pastel posse” – a group of popular girls all from well-pedigreed, all-white, all-Christian families. Knowing that she wouldn’t be welcomed otherwise, Ruth hides her religion, her Sundays at the temple with her mother and younger sister in exchange for her new life, and for a while this works for her. But a violent hate crime smash together the two halves of her life and forces Ruth to choose between what she wants and what she believes is right.

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In the Neighborhood of True was such as simple story of a young girl coming of age in a period of great change. This simplicity and uncomplicatedness, however, only made this book standout, giving me a snapshot of history and highlighting the message it wants to impart. Racism and discrimination are still topics very relevant to our lives in this day and age. These are topics, hurtful as they may, that we need to talk about.

Ruth, the focus of much of this story, was a well-developed character. Being once a teen myself, I understood her position and why she chose to hide part of herself to fit in with her new friends. She was a young girl still dealing with the pain and grief of losing her beloved father. I think she found comfort (and maybe some distraction) in being part of something that was so different from her old life in New York – a life where she had a living father and a complete family. Atlanta and its pre-debutante/debutante balls must have felt like a fresh start for her. In Ruth I saw bits of my younger sisters, and I felt for her, wanted her to be happy even as I cringe and roll me eyes at all the frippery she seem to genuinely love.

Ruth was believable – like a real-life teenage girl with flaws, someone who still have a lot of learning and growing up to do, and she lends the story a great amount of realism. The thing I appreciated the most, though, in the way Susan Kaplan Carlton wrote her was how she didn’t make out Ruth as a white savior. Instead, she had her called out several times like in that part when she told the pastel posse about Birdie’s, her grandparents’ black maid, daughters being in college the housekeeper took her aside and told her to not use her children to impress her friends.

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Susan Kaplan Carlton’s writing was, like the story she wanted to tell, simple, straightforward and on point. No fripperies for her at all, as opposed to her main character, and it made her story flow easily.

Still, there were a couple things that could have been done better. The secondary characters come to mind immediately. With the exception of Alice, Ruth’s mother, and Nattie, her younger sister, Carlton’s supporting cast felt one dimensional. They were there to play parts in relation to Ruth. I couldn’t imagine what their lives are, what they do when they are not with Ruth – and these are all signs that they aren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

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The blurb was also a bit misleading. Going in, I anticipated some sort of love triangle between Davis, Max and Ruth. Sure, there was a Davis and Ruth pairing and something with Max was alluded to, but other than that? Nil.

Overall, In the Neighborhood of True was a thoughtful read. I enjoyed it a whole lot, its flaws aside, and honestly feel like this should be a book that should be read by everyone. YA historical fiction fans, as well as YA contemporary lovers certainly will find something for themselves in this book.

Check out the link below to read the first chapter of In the Neighborhood of True.

In the Neighborhood of True – Chapter 1 | Susan Kaplan Carlton

Author Q&A (2)

Susan Carlton Credit Sharona Jacobs_HR

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer point of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

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