Always Looking Up: A Review of The Upside of Unrequited

I thought Albertali’s first novel, Simon Vs the Homo Sapien’s Agenda was sweet, adorable, and wonderful. It was light on the plot, and heavy on the mystery of who Simon’s secret online boyfriend was. It was kind of cliched, but in a good way, and it brought a few twists of its own.

Her sophomore novel, however, is anything but typical. Instead, it is real, plausible, and relatable, while still being as heartwarming as Simon Vs. The meet-cutes are more odd than cute, the teenaged characters often have no idea what (or who) they want, and they are flawed in the most normal ways. They remind me all of people who I could know from class or someone I could meet at a party. They are very real modern day teenagers.

The other thing I loved about Upside is that even though our main character has many struggles and insecurities to work through, overall it is a delightfully upbeat novel. The characters continue to care for each other, and understandings are amicable. At the end of the day, the book is about a rather “unusual” family who loves each other during any hardship, large or small.

I say the family is “unusual” because, well, they just aren’t a common nuclear family. Molly has two moms and is not related at all by blood to her brother. There is a lot of diversity in this book, and a lot of it is represented just within her home.

There was a lot of this book that felt like the cute contemporary I needed, and parts of it that had such good insight on life in general. If Simon Vs was like a fresh plate of cookies, then Upside is like a refreshing cup of tea. Yes, it’s still warm and sweet, but it also wakes you up a bit and helps you see the world in a slightly different way.

The Upside of Unrequited will be released on April 11th, 2017.

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My Favorite Books of 2016

The end of the year is upon us, so it is time for me to share my favorite books from 2016! I read quite a few less books this year than last year, so I had a bit less to choose from, but I still think I had some good picks this year.

the start of something new: favorite first in a series

One of the first books that really wow-ed me in 2016 was This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I loved the setting and the plot, and I can’t wait to see where the second book goes.

following through: favorite sequel or part of a series

Last year my very favorite book was Illuminae, and my favorite second book was Gemina. It was SO FANTASTIC. If you like science fiction and haven’t started this series… Well, you definitely should.

finest finale: favorite conclusion

A lot of my favorite series had conclusions this year, but I didn’t find myself loving any of them. Actually, even though I liked but didn’t absolutely love Six of Crows, the best conclusion I read this year was Crooked Kingdom.

single and proud: favorite standalone

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour was everything I hoped it was and more from this amazing pair of authors. I can’t even describe it… It was so good and I read it in a day.

best dressed: favorite cover

I haven’t read it yet, but The Sun Is Also A Star has one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen. The colors are wonderful, and I just love the texture of the jacket.

fantastically fantastical: favorite fantasy

I’m going to cheat and say Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, because I read it this year, and technically the edition of it I read was published this year…

super science-y: favorite sci-fi

I was super happy when I learned the author of one of my favorite trilogies, SJ Kincaid, would be writing a new science fiction book! And the book, The Diabolic, was no disappointment.

dream team: book(s) with the best friendship/squad

For this category this year I couldn’t pick just one book, as I read two with very different, but extraordinary, groups of characters.

The first one was The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. It was as sweet and heartbreaking as any other Matson book, and it also had one of the most realistic, and fun, group of teenage friends I’ve ever read about.

Another book with a great group of characters was The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. I just loved how hilarious and great this group was.

ship ship ship: book with the best romantic relationship

I only read it recently but I loved the ship in The Secret of A Heart Note. Overall, just a really cute book.

standing ovation: favorite book of the year

Unlike last year, it took me a while to decide what my very favorite book from this year was. While I really liked a lot of what I’ve read, there weren’t many that surprised me or which I was unbelievably amazed by.

However, there was one book that I think was really of the highest calibre, and I know is one I will read again and again. A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was a fresh and clever Sherlock Holmes retelling with great characters, an intriguing mystery, and a world with so many possibilities. I’m really hapy this is a book I read.

What were your favorite books from this year?

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim (SST Review)

timekeeperreview

Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Published by Sky Pony Press, ARC received through Sunday Street Team. 

“In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.”

The first thing that grabbed me about Timekeeper was the premise: instead of time running clocks, like it does in the real world, the clocks actually ran time.

That initial premise that I was so excited by in the summary led to some seriously cool worldbuilding. There’s the whole principle of the clocks, yes, but another thing we see in this book is that due to the clocks in this world, the industrial revolution happened early. So yes, Victorian gender roles are still a thing, but they’re not as much of a thing. One thing I often dislike about historical fiction is that it sometimes feels like it gets hung up on the facts of the time a little too much and that makes it boring or tedious for me. (The girls are either totally excepting of their life or are a huge “rebel.” There’s no in between. Meh) But, as a historical fantasy Timekeeper was able to make its own rules, which was fun.

One thing I didn’t like was the changing perspective in the book. I found it pretty jarring. In the first half of the book, the narrator was always Danny. Then, around the second half of the book, different perspectives start to be thrown in. We hear from different mechanics and see things that Danny certainly couldn’t have seen and it was just a little weird. I get that it was important information, but I think it could have been done a better way.

I also didn’t love the storybook bits of the mythology or “history” of the clocks. Again, important information, but the delivery was jarring. I wanted more world building, and those bits did sort of provide it, but not as much of it as I really wanted. I still have so many questions. 

Everything else, however, was solidly great. The characters were different and fun, and the plot was really engaging. The romance was pretty cool too, and I’m glad it wasn’t part of every aspect of the plot. Overall: a great steampunky read.

4stars

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Mini-Reviews: Quick Middle Grade Reads (Isabella for Real + The Bronze Key)

Isabella for Real by Margie Palatini, Published by HMH Books, ARC received from the publisher through Red Ballon’s Teen Book Club in exchange for an honest review. Buy this Book: Indiebound // The Book Depository.

This was cute! A nice little middle-grade romp intensely focused on one huge Italian-American family in New Jersey. It all starts with a ridiculous case of mistaken identity, and you meet a lot of interesting characters. It’s also written somewhat like a script, with takes and scene changes, and has a couple of scenes in a comic book form.

What I Liked:

  • Isabella’s eccentric relatives.
  • The food talk. Mmm. I want to eat it all.
  • Interesting concept with unexpected internet stardom being the thing to actually cause the problems.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Changing from the comic book parts to the written parts felt very abrupt. I enjoyed the illustrated parts the most, so I almost wanted the entire thing to be a graphic novel?
  • It was very confusing at the beginning. It was a while before anything was actually explained.
    Not very exciting. The conflict was there but didn’t feel like a big deal.
  • It ended up being a sort of full circle situation with not much resolution.

On the plus side, Isabella for Real was very short. But it was also not very exciting and not as unique as I thought it would be.

Isabella for Real will be released on October 11th, 2016.

3stars

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Published by Scholastic, ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Buy this Book: Indiebound // The Book Depository.

I am going to go ahead and say that this was the best book in the Magisterium series so far. It was more unexpected than The Copper Gauntlet, more exciting than The Iron Trial, and it made me more emotional than either of them. After reading The Bronze Key I want to both scream and cry. In a good way… But also in a very bad way. I am in PAIN. And shock… because I still can’t quite believe it.

I guess you’ll just have to read it.

What I Liked:

  • A fair bit of character development.
  • TONS of plot development.
  • Unexpected and exciting.
  • Seriously I don’t know where they’re going to go from here because this is the kind of stuff I’d expect happening in the last book.
  • Strong third book to lead to the second half of this series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The romance stuff was so unneeded; I don’t get why that was in there. Ugh.
  • Why?
  • Why?
  • Why?!

I can’t wait (in a mean way) for everyone else to read this book, so people can share my pain. Also, I don’t know how I’m going to wait more than a year for the fourth book. 😭😭😭

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3) will be released on August 30th, 2016.

fivestars

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How to Choose What Books to Bring to College

Next Tuesday I leave home to move to college. I have many worries about moving in, and a few of those have to do with my books. I’m not necessarily worried about having enough reading material: I’ll be bringing my kindle and I can always check out ebooks from my home library. I am somewhat worried about having the right reading material. What if I want to re-read that one favorite book that I can’t easily get from the library where I am?

I also am worried about having enough material for my bookstagram. Probably the silliest sounding of my worries… But it’s a pretty big part of my life.

While I don’t yet know 100% whether I’ve made the right choices in the books I’m taking with me, today I’m going to be talking a little bit about my thought process in choosing books. Hopefully I can help out a fellow book blogging college freshman!

How many books do I really read in a semester?

On average, I read about 4-8 books per month. In my first semester of college I will be away from home for about four months: half of August, September, October, November, and half of December. By that count I should be bring about 20-40 books with me.

Okay, that number is ridiculous, and I know it’s ridiculous. I won’t be bringing 40, or even 20 books. For one, I can bring less because ebooks. Secondly, with my classes and extracurriculars I will probably be reading on the low end of my average.

Will I be acquiring any books while I’m there?

Short answer for me: No. There are really no bookstores where I’m going, and there is only one book being released soon that I know I will be buying.

Think about the space:

College dorm rooms are notoriously small. For me this is really not an issue. My dorm room is huge, (huge!) comes with a small bookshelf, and books are actually really easy to store. But if you have a really small room with little storage space it’s something to consider.

Which books do I bring? What will I want to read?

This is hardest for me because I am a huge mood reader. I’ve decided to bring a mix of my usually genres: middle grade scifi / fantasy, ya scifi / fantasy and contemporary, and one or two adult books.

I have also decided to bring pretty much all paperbacks and ARCs. They’re lighter, easier to carry, and easier to store.

Other things:

  • Most of the ARCs I’m bringing are upcoming fall releases. I have a lot of released ARCs but most of those will be staying at home. That way I’ll have books for review, and I can stay on top of new releases without buying any new books.
  • I have absolutely no idea what kind of books the university library or the local library there will have.
  • I’m planning on not exchanging books until the end of the semester, but I do have a long fall break where I’ll probably do some bookish reshuffling.

There you have it! My entire (not so) foolproof plan for choosing what books to bring to college. I’m not going to show you exactly what books I’m bringing because frankly, I’m not entirely decided yet, and I probably won’t be until the day I leave. It’s going to be weird not to have my bookshelves in my room… They might actually be one of the things I’m going to miss most about home.

What about you: Are you a college student? Do you bring books with you to school? How many? Do you have any tips on how to choose what to bring?

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