City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Monday, September 10, 2018
Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Released September 4, 2018 by Scholastic
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Cassidy grew up with the ability to see ghosts and talk to her ghost-best-friend, Jacob. Meanwhile, her parents are the Inspectres, a ghost-hunting duo that recently got their brand own reality tv show. Cassidy is off to Edinburgh, Ireland with her parents to film the first episode of the show, and she finds that there’s deep history and angry ghosts in Edinburgh.

This was the first middle grade novel that I have read in a while, and now I remember what I love so much about them. Middle grade novels always have a sense of humor to them that is unlike any other stories I’ve read, and City of Ghosts did not disappoint in that area. It was a fun, humorous story with the right amount of darkness to match the plot and storyline.

There was just the right amount of world building in this, considering it takes place in a very real place (Edinburgh) but it has that otherworldly sense with an alternate reality. Victoria Schwab for sure knows how to write a story that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of what is happening.

Jacob was my absolute favorite part of this novel. Every time he disappeared, I was so worried he would never come back. Not only was he Cassidy’s best friend, but he was a great person to root for in this. He was a ghost, which meant it was someone Cassidy should want to help make disappear, but her connection to him was too strong and she didn’t have the heart to let him go. The ending of the novel makes for a great set-up for a sequel with Jacob as a main player, and I’m so excited for that to happen.

City of Ghosts was the middle grade novel I needed in my life. This year, Victoria Schwab has quickly rose to be one of my top five favorite authors, and this novel helped kick it up a little more. While this wasn’t a WOW book, it was definitely an amazing book, and I recommend you pick it up. 

Stars: 4 out of 5 stars
What I Liked: Pacing, world-building, Jacob
What I Disliked: nothing!

August Wrap-Up - Books, Movies, TV Shows

Saturday, September 1, 2018
Happy birthday month to me! This month, I turned another year older, and read a lot of books. It was a great month, so check out what I read!

Books (19 books): 
A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir - 5 stars
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera - 5 stars

The Raging Ones by Krista Ritchie - 4 stars
Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno - 4 stars
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken - 4 stars
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (audiobook) - 4 stars
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo - 4 stars
Surviving Adam Meade by Shannon Klare - 4 stars
To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin - 4 stars
Frat Girl by Kiley Roache - 4 stars
How to Breathe Underwater by Vicky Skinner - 4 stars
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram - 4 stars
People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins - 4 stars
When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer - 4 stars

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart - 3 stars
Brave Enough by Kati Gardner - 3 stars
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl - 3 stars
Brave Enough by Kati Gardner - 3 stars
Toil & Trouble edited by Jessica Spotswood & Tess Sharpe - 3 stars

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (x2) - 5 stars
Mission Impossible: Fall Out - 4 stars (I haven't seen any of the others though!)

TV Show:
Finishing Season 2 of Younger

Overall: Really successful month with reading, and read a lot of great books!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Thursday, August 30, 2018
Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it's pretty overwhelming--especially when he's also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom's family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what's going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don't have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he's spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush--the original Persian version of his name--and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab. When it's time to go home to America, he'll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Released August 28, 2018 by Dial Books
Goodreads  |  Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:
Darius the Great Is Not Okay is a stunning debut about a teen boy who travels to Iran to meet his close-to-death grandfather and his loving grandmother – all while dealing with his depression, family issues, and new-found friend, Sohrab.

I had the opportunity to see Adib Khorram speak about this novel at the Young Adult Buzz Panel at Book Expo this year, and I was curious, but there was nothing super compelling to me at first glance. The moment I picked this book up, I was entranced. the other day, I was trying to explain my feelings about this book to my friend, and I compared it to Perks of Being a Wallflower. Minus the sexual assault, add in a foreign country, and it's a similar equation.

Darius is an amazing character to see the thoughts of, as he is struggling with depression and has no one to turn to with his feelings. At times when he has depressed thoughts, Darius turns to the reader for confirmation that what he was feeling is normal. Every time Darius did this, my heart broke, and it made me really feel for Darius as a reader.

I'm very interested in culture, and I knew that this was an own-voices story about Iran, so I was eager to see how this would play out in the book. Adib did a great job at putting little snippets of the culture into the book, and how Darius struggled with being a "fractional" Persian and a "fractional" American. A big struggle for Darius was not being American enough, but not being American enough. This was a big part of Darius finding his place in both aspects.

The friendship between Darius and Sohrab was so innocent and pure – it made me smile every time there was a scene between the two. There were embarrassing moments, like any new friendship, but their friendship was a joy to see blossom on the pages. There were a couple of scenes that I looked and thought "there's no way that would happen in real life", but I think that may have been a culture disparity.

Lastly, the family dynamics were the star of the show. You have Darius and his struggling relationship with his father, who only bonds with him for the 40-some minutes they watch Star Trek at night; you have Darius with his younger sister, who is much more Persian that he is; you have Darius and his dying Babou, who looks down on Darius for not being Persian enough, but Darius has no real relationship with; and lastly is Darius and Mamou, who loves him unconditionally despite his non-Persian upbringing. Each relationship in this was so well-done.

Like I said, this book is very similar to Perks in the sense of how it's written. The main character is so sad and somber, and you just want to give him a hug or a gentle push to keep moving along. The writing was absolutely beautiful, and I will definitely be picking up anything that Adib Khorram writes in the future.

Stars: 4 out of 5 stars
What I Liked: Darius as a narrator, all the family dynamics
What I Disliked: Some scenes between Darius and Sohrab, but otherwise nothing!

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Monday, August 27, 2018
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Released August 28, 2018 by Flatiron Books
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts: 
Amani is forced to live the part of the Vathek queen, Maram, simply because they look identical and there are many people who would love to see Maram suffer. Amani is taken out of her life with her family and thrust into the palace where she is forced to look, act, and carry out duties as the "queen."

Mirage is a riveting sci-fi/fantasy novel with great world-building, action, and romance. It's something that was very unexpected, as I didn't expect so much of the political aspects that came along with this book.

While Amani was a great character, I felt that Maram had a much stronger development as a character. This book is set from the perspective of Amani, but we learn a lot about Maram and why she is the way that she is. As Amani slowly uncovered Maram's story and true personality, I started to really love Maram as a character, even though she had a stroke of darkness in her. She may seem like a ruthless queen who doesn't care for the thoughts or feelings of others, but Maram is deeply insecure and just doing her best to claim the position of the throne. I'm very curious to see how the relationship with Amani and Maram develops, as it was one of my favorite parts of the story.

Then, of course, there's the romance between Amani and Idris. It's one of those romances that you're not supposed to want to happen (because Idris is the fiance to Maram), but you can't help but love the two of them together. For some reason, I felt as though there was something lacking with them. They had a great storyline, but I feel as though there was something missing in their story.

The plot was slower paced, but it was the perfect pace for this type of book. Now that we understand the characters and the world, I'm excited to see what the upcoming books in this series are. I hope they're a little faster paced, because this setting could really work well with it. The political aspects intertwined with the romance and friendships makes a great set-up for future books.

Stars: 4 out of 5 star
What I Liked: Maram, pacing of the book
What I Disliked: the romance was just okay

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

Released on August 21, 2018 by Swoon Reads
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:
To Be Honest tells the story of Savannah, who is accepted her weight for what it is, and does her best to act confident about it. Meanwhile, her mother is the recent success story from a popular weight-loss show, which causes difficulty for Savannah to be confident in herself with her overbearing mother. It does a great job of showing eating issues, family dynamics, friendship, and a great touch of romance for an overall great novel.

Savannah was an amazing main character, because she wasn't overly dramatic about her weight and how she thought everyone was thinking about it as much as she was. To me, she seemed like a girl who just wanted to do her best and live the life she hoped it would be, and if she was overweight, that wasn't a problem. I loved the way that Maggie Ann Martin wrote her character – her personality was great!

The relationship between Savannah and her family was done really well. You have her mother who is trying to keep off the weight that she lost on the tv show she was on, her older sister who has just left for college, and her father who is no longer in the picture but makes a couple appearances. Savannah is the equal balance of being independent enough that she doesn't need her parents there for her every move, but dependent enough on her sister that she will drive hours to see her after a bad day. All of it was executed well, and the parts with her mother's eating habits brought a really powerful aspect to the story.

Next, of course, is Savannah and George. I love how their friendship started and gradually turned into a relationship. Their banter was adorable, and it was a great aspect that weight was never a factor to their relationship. Savannah was nervous about George liking her, but she never once mentioned that she thought he wouldn't because she was "fat" or "overweight". She just said "a girl like me," and I really liked that touch. Also, George was a kind of weird kid, and that made the story seem so believable. Too often am I seeing stories of a super gorgeous kid getting any girl, and I liked that he had a lot of quirks.

Overall, I really enjoyed To Be Honest. It was a great contemporary that had deeper meaning. I think the cover could have been better, because it makes it seem like a light and fluffy book, but it has a lot of great quotes and deeper context to it than what you would expect.

Stars: 4 out of 5 stars
What I Liked: Savannah's personality, family dynamics, easygoing relationship
What I Disliked: Nothing, besides the cover

The Raging Ones by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Monday, August 13, 2018
From New York Times bestselling authors Krista and Becca Ritchie, comes The Raging Ones, an edge of your seat sci-fi romance with twists and turns that you will never see coming!

In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds. 

Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday. 

Until the day she does. 

Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him. 

Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny. 

With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.

Released on August 14, 2018 by Wednesday Books
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

My Thoughts:
The Raging Ones covers a very interesting topic of every person finding out their deathday right after their birth. Based on the age they will die, the residents of this planet are classified based on how much of an impact on society they can have. Franny, Court, and Mykal have all miraculously survived past their deathday, and they have an odd connection with each other. 

I was SO excited going into this book, because it was a concept I had thought of before. What if you knew the day you were going to die? How would you live life differently? This book really dove into the whole idea and created a class system out of it, which I thought was so interesting. 

Franny has just evaded her deathday, and she builds a odd physical connection with both Court and Mykal. She was my favorite character, because she was scared about what life meant for her now that she didn't know when it ended, but she also realized that she would have to be strong. Mykal was a great character, and honestly reminded me of a caveman half the time. He was a great comic relief, and I loved his relationship with Franny. Then there's Court – not sure what I thought of him. He was such a complicated character, and I couldn't tell if he was hapy, sad, worried, whatever. 

While I really enjoyed reading this book because of the plot, Court's character caused a lot of issues for me. I really loved him, but he confused me (if that makes any sense). Also, for some reason, this book took me forever to read. It's not a bad thing at all, but it was only about 300-some pages, and I feel like it really took a lot while reading it. I was so invested, and usually I read quicker when I'm invested, so that was slightly surprising!

If you're looking for a great sci-fi with a fun character group (not much romance!) then this is definitely the book for you! 

Stars: 4 out of 5 stars
What I Liked: The plot, Franny, Mykal
What I Disliked: Court's complicated personality

GIVEAWAY: To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Friday, August 10, 2018
My birthday is coming up soon (August 23!), so I thought I would celebrate by giving away an ARC of To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin! Stay tuned for my review coming next week. 

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

Published August 21, 2018 by Swoon Reads
Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

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