Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: Purchase
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 384

Summary (from Goodreads):

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines. 

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

AMONG THE RED STARS has quite possibly been my #1 most anticipated book of 2017 since the second I heard about it. I probably say this a lot, but I LOVE WWII historical fiction. Even better when it's about badass women. And the Russian Night Witches were DEFINITELY badass women.

I don't even know where to start with this book. I have been let down by so many of my most anticipated books this year that I was almost scared to start it. But I shouldn't have been worried because it was just as wonderful as I imagined it to be.

When Valka hears about an all-women aviation group starting up at the beginning of the war (run by one of her heroes, no less!) she and her cousin, Iskra, hitch a ride to Moscow to sign up. They both make it into Aviation Group 122 and after training, both are assigned to the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, which became known as the Night Witches.

The story is told mostly from Valka's point of view, but is also told in letters between Valka and her sweeheart on the front lines, Pasha.

This book has so much going for it. The characters are wonderful (and a majority of them were REAL people). I can't think of a single character that I really didn't like in this book. I loved the relationship between Valka and Pasha. Pasha is so shy and sweet. I would like one Pasha for myself, please. I also loved all the friendships built between the women in Aviation Group 122.

But as this is a book about the war, there were definitely a few heartbreaking moments. Friends are lost, hard missions are assigned. It can get kinda sad.

Is it weird that my favorite part of the book might have been the Author's Note at the end? Yes, you learn a lot from reading the actual book, but I feel like the Author's Notes in historical fiction novels are where you learn the most. The fictional part of the book is fun, but knowing the parts that are real history is so amazing. Especially when it's something that's news to you!

Overall, this is SUCH an amazing book! I will never do it justice in a review. I want so badly to word vomit onto this post and tell you every little thing about this book that makes it so so amazing, but if I did that there would be no need for you to read the book and the book is infinitely better than my ramblings. So hopefully I have written just enough to peak your interest to read the book yourself. If you are like me and loooooooove WWII historical fiction, I would HIGHLY recommend this book.

Have you read AMONG THE RED STARS yet? If you haven't, you should. Stay tuned for an A Glimpse Back in Time post that may or may not contain a chance for you to win a copy of your own. ;)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mini Reviews: Liam's Story & Beyond the Night by Alexandra Bracken

Beyond the Night by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds 3.5
Part of the novella bind up, Through the Dark
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: October 6th, 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Purchase
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 183

Summary (from Goodreads):

The government-run "rehabilitation camps" have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the "cure"--a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there's more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she's out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.

Beyond the Night takes place after the events of In the Afterlight. Rehabilitation camps are a thing of the past. Many kids are reunited with their families. But while camps, PSFs, and skip tracers aren't problems anymore, this new reality has a new set of challenges for psi kids.

This novella primarily follows Sam and Mia on their journey to try to get Lucas back to himself after his traumatic Red training.

Sam is so different in this novella than she was in the rest of the series. Granted, I don't remember Sparks Rise that well, I'm pretty sure that she's a lot more reserved in this one. It's like her and Ruby switched places. She is no longer the confident, unafraid girl who stuck up for Ruby in Thurmond. It's Ruby's turn to be brave for Sam.

Mia is a new character in the series. She is Lucas's little sister. Sam and Lucas were going to find her when their Thurmond escape failed. She is fierce throughout the whole novella. In the beginning she also seems to be pretty angry. She blames Sam for what happened to Lucas in Thurmond. She eventually works through her feelings and her and Sam become friends again.

This novella gives us insight into the world of The Darkest Minds after the camps end. It has a lot of the same elements as the rest of the series. First of all, our favorite crew makes an appearance. There's road trips, running from government officials and people looking to sell psi kids for profit. There are moments that will break your little heart, but it ends on a hopeful note.

Overall, if you have read this series, but not the novellas, you really need to. They give you a lot of insight into things that happen between books. Now that I've finally finished the last Darkest Minds novella, I feel like I need to start over and reread ALL of it in order.


Liam's Story by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds 1.6
Received for preordering Passenger
I think you can still get it if you sign up for her newsletter??
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Preorder Prize
Format: eBook
Pages: 49

Liam's Story takes place right after the ending of The Darkest Minds. Liam finds himself alone and slightly confused. He has gaps in his memory and a nagging feeling that he shouldn't leave yet. He drives around kind of aimlessly until he finds another kid to look out for.

This story is 49 pages long and is basically just a look into Liam's head. Liam has always been one to look out for other kids. This story kind of shows his internal battle between looking out for others and looking out for himself for a change.

It's really not a happy story, but it gives you an idea of what Liam did after The Darkest Minds. I loved it. Liam is my favorite character and I want to know more about him!!

Have you read any/all of the Darkest Minds novellas? If you haven't, I obviously HIGHLY recommend them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

If You Like The Darkest Minds, Try...

Hi everybody! Today I'm going to be doing a Like, Try, Why post!

Since this is my first Like, Try, Why post, obviously I have to talk about The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I mean, it is my favorite series ever and I can't pass up an opportunity to talk about it, right?! :)

I have also recently gotten more into anime. So I am coming at you with an anime recommendation for if you liked The Darkest Minds!

So here we go!!

Like The Darkest Minds?

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

Try Charlotte!

While on the surface Yuu Otosaka appears to be just another charming and intelligent teenager, he has a secret—he has the ability to slip into people's minds and fully control their body for five seconds at a time. Yuu has been using this skill for years to gain the highest grades, which allowed him to enter a prestigious high school.

When the enigmatic Nao Tomori catches Yuu using his power, she coerces him and his sister Ayumi into transferring to Hoshinoumi Academy, a school for students with supernatural abilities. The student council of the school, led by Nao, is tasked with secretly tracking down adolescents who abuse their powers. Yuu is forced to join the student council and together, they face formidable challenges that bring him closer to the shocking truth that his own, seemingly incomplete ability, might be more powerful than he could have ever imagined.

An original story from Jun Maeda, creator of Angel Beats and ClannadCharlotte explores the supernatural lives of these teenagers and the price they must pay for being special.


Both stories have several things in common. 

-The kids in each world somehow end up with supernatural powers and they are not safe if they are discovered.

-They each focus on a small group of friends that are trying to help other kids in their own way.

I don't want to say a lot because I always say way too much. But I definitely agree with my sister that Charlotte gives off serious TDM vibes. Charlotte is such a good show and would be super easy to binge in one day. I think it was like 12 episodes.

If you read the series, watch the show, or do both, expect to have feels! You can find Charlotte on Hulu if you're interested!

Have you read The Darkest Minds? Seen Charlotte? Do you have any other recommendations for things similar to The Darkest Minds?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Orïsha #1
Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Pages: 448

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

What books are you guys looking forward to this week?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 17th, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Trade
Format: Physical ARC
Pages: 224

Summary (from Goodreads):

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

Dear Martin is a story about a black teen and his experiences with racial profiling and police brutality/violence. His run in with the police makes him deal more with things that he could previously kind of ignore because it hadn't happened to him. He starts to pay more attention to police violence in the media and racist actions by his peers. He is also inspired to study the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and start trying to be more like him.

Going into this book, I was expecting an important story on racial issues. But it's so much more than that. It's frustrating, it's heartbreaking, it's enlightening. It's amazing how much story can be packing into a mere 200 pages! It was so real. I sat down to read this book, not expecting to read the whole thing in one go (I mean I was sitting on a chair piled with laundry. It's not the comfiest reading spot in the world), but I couldn't put it down! And the ending is so hopeful.

This book is told through 3rd person narration and bits and pieces are told through news articles or Justyce's letters to Dr. King. And there are a few instances in the book where there are long conversations going on (debate class/phone calls) and it's written out in kind of a script form. I really liked that. It was super easy to follow along with and easy to tell who is saying what.

I liked the romance in this book. I kind of wish we got to know more about Melo, Justyce's on-again-off-again girlfriend in the beginning of the book. She seemed like she would have been fun beyond the context of her relationship with Justyce. But the main romance is the budding relationship between Justyce and his white, Jewish debate partner, SJ. I liked SJ. She wasn't afraid to speak up about things that were unfair and she wasn't afraid to yell at her classmates about their racism.

Seeing how their relationship grows is interesting because a combination of things get in the way. For one, it seems like everytime (okay, it was once that I remember) Justyce and SJ start talking more beyond regular friendship levels, Melo comes running back. And then Justyce is unsure (uncomfortable?) with his feelings toward SJ because his mom has always been against the idea of him getting involved with a white girl.

Overall, this book was real and needed and really good. It's eye-opening for sure and I hope that I did the book justice with this review. I have yet to read The Hate U Give (SOON!), but according to Goodreads reviewers, if you liked that book then you need to read this one. I would definitely recommend everyone to pick this book up in October when it releases!

Have you gotten the chance to read this one yet? Are you looking forward to it?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Subscription Box Review: Wick and Fable Monthly Sampler

Recently, I ordered the Wick and Fable August Monthly Sampler box. The theme was Anime Classics. I have never personally been super into anime in the past, but recently I have been watching a lot more of it. And most of the fandoms included in this box were ones that I have seen or just generally heard of.

This box is $25 and includes four 2 oz glass jar candles, a sampler of tea, and 3+ extra items.

I found a rep code online, so with shipping, I paid ~$31 for this box.

The box comes inside a large priority envelope. The box and the wrapping inside the box are really pretty and I didn't want to open that tissue paper because I didn't want to rip it! In general, this box was very pleasing to the eye.


The information card included in the box was designed and hand drawn by @AKoreanSeoul.

I love the card. I love that even though I didn't know all the fandoms teased for this box, I knew all of the ones on the card. I love love love the adorable little soot sprites!

My Neighbor Totoro Mini Sketchbook.

This little sketchbook is cute, but I don't think that I would probably ever use it? Maybe I'll take it to work with me to write myself notes in? I think Totoro is so cute, but at the same time, My Neighbor Totoro was my least favorite Ghibli film that I've seen so far.

A Pokemon sticker featuring Seadra.

I am all about the Pokemon. Finally got one of these not too long ago in Pokemon Go!

A Naruto sticker featuring Sakura.

I have seen a few episodes here and there of Naruto because my sister watched it, but I don't really know it that well. So I gave this item to my sister.

A Cardcaptor Sakura Pin.

I haven't seen this anime either. But the pin is cute, I might pin it to my purse strap or pin it to the ceiling in my car.

"PikaPika Electricitea" Tea
Organic black tea blended with osmanthus flowers.

I have never really been big on tea, but my sister is a fan and she also really wanted the tin it came in, so I gave it to her.

Sailor Moon "Sailor Stars" Candle
Grapefruit, fresh lemon, and violet petals with subtle hints of sandalwood.

I have always been a Sailor Moon fan and just recently started rewatching the series. So I'd be lying if I said I didn't want this box mainly because it teased Sailor Moon items.

I'm also currently burning this candle and when you look in it, there's glitter! But I have burned two of the others already and I don't really smell anything with this one going.

Spirited Away "River Spirit" Candle
Sea salt, fresh breeze, jasmine, citrus, and white musk.

LOVE Spirited Away. When I burned this candle, it kind of smelled like a clean laundry scent to me. It also had some sparkle to it.

One Piece "Nakama" Candle
Citrus, lavender, salty breezes, and honey blossoms.

This is another anime that I have not seen. My sister was excited about this one though, so I gave it to her. Therefore, I didn't burn it and can't give an opinion on the scent.

KiKi's Delivery Service "Witch Delivery" Candle
Honey, bakery tones, hints of ginger and cinnamon.

KiKi's Delivery Service is one of my ALL TIME favorite movies. When I would go visit my mom on her weekends, she'd always take us to rent movies and for a long time, I ALWAYS picked out this one. My sister just got this one for me for my birthday last year too and now I really want to watch it again!

As for the scent, I thought this one mostly just smelled strongly like cinnamon. Not a bad thing, but was kind of expecting it to smell more subtle one the cinnamon with more of a bread-ish smell.

Overall, I am happy with this box. Coming from a candle company, I was obviously ordering mostly for the candles. I confess that I was expecting a bit... more from the extra goodies. Not anything big, but more than this, I guess. I think the coolest goodie in this box was the pin, but I'm not sure what it is because I haven't seen the show.

I would recommend this box if you like the theme and want to sample the candles. I don't know if I would order again just because after burning 3 of the 4 candles, I just don't like the tiny size!

However, this shop does have a lot of other cool bookish candles. I am personally eyeballing the Thomas Cresswell and Audrey Rose ones.

Have you tried the Wick and Fable monthly sampler? Or just Wick and Fable candles in general? Would this be a box you would consider getting?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Royal Bastards #2
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

While war rages in her Western homeland, Tilla of House Kent is far away, safely cloistered as a ward of the King in Lightspire. She's best friends with the Princess, treated like nobility, and is even given a spot at the prestigious University, where only the Kingdom's finest are educated. And yet, she finds herself unhappy, haunted by memories of her beloved brother, Jax, and plagued by a deeper sense of uncertainty, of not fitting in.

Her boyfriend, Zell, who is now a recruit for the City Watch, puts on a brave face to hide the pain of leaving behind his Zitochi identity, while Princess Lyriana, stripped of her role as Mage, has begun rebelling against her conservative upbringing: drinking, partying, and hooking up with random boys.

Then, Tilla returns to her quarters one night to find the cold body of her roommate. The girl was the daughter of an Eastern diplomat, well-known to be troubled, so the school has no trouble ruling it a suicide and sweeping it under the rug. Tilla doesn't buy it. And despite the urging of just about everyone in her life, she can't let it go. She digs deeper, along with Zell, Lyriana, and the Archmagus-to-be Ellarion, unearthing a conspiracy that goes from the highest of the nobility to the most dangerous depths of its criminal underbelly...and whose sinister mastermind is a face all too familiar.

I didn't love Royal Bastards. It was entertaining and action-packed, but I feel like the characters left a little bit to be desired. But all the same, I am looking forward to this sequel! I want to see what the remaining crew is up to and also I really love the purple cover! :)

What books are you looking forward to this week?