Apr 23, 2018

ARC Review: All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor


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Title: All of This is True
Author: Lygia Day Peñaflor
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 432 Pages
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018


Summary: Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault. Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book. Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined...

I received an advanced copy of this book through TeenReads, and I'm really glad I did, because I was really excited to get my hands on this book ever since I found out that the story took place in an area I grew up in -- an area that isn't talked about much! That immediately drew me into the story (after texting my boyfriend and my other friends from home about it!), and I couldn't put the book down once I picked it up.

As the summary explains, a group of teens find themselves living in their wildest dream -- they've become best friends with a super-famous Young Adult author who wrote their favorite series. Before long, they start sharing secrets, getting closer, becoming the envy of their school...but things can't stay in paradise for long. Because Fatima Ro needs new material for a story. And it seems like she doesn't care who she hurts in the process -- exploiting the secrets that her new friends trusted her with. And when Jonah's secret is revealed in the book, something really, really terrible happens to him because of it.

What I really loved about this book was the way it was told. It definitely didn't follow the usual storytelling format! It reminded me a little bit of Illuminae, in a way. The book is told entirely through interview transcripts, pieces of Soleil's journals, and excerpts from Fatima's new book. So you learn the entire story -- what happened, what was said, and the aftermath of it all -- completely through these mediums. And sometimes reading books like this (such as Illuminae) can leave me with a lot of unanswered questions, because there is a lot that isn't always conveyed through transcripts. But this book did an excellent job of weaving a solid, captivating story -- when I finished reading, I didn't feel like anything was left out or like I was missing something!

Another thing that I really loved about this book was the references, which I mentioned a little earlier in this post! There were a lot of mentions to specific bookstores, areas, and cafes that I remembered from home, and the boarding school in the book even took some details from the boarding school that my boyfriend went to!! It was just really interesting (and exciting!) to see a book set in my hometown, since that's not something that really tends to happen. So it gave me a feeling of being an "insider," so to speak -- I caught all of the references and felt excited and familiar with the setting. I absolutely loved that part of the story, and that's part of the reason I'm officially pushing this book on all of my friends back home!

The story itself was seriously so good. It hooked me right away and kept me stuck to the pages until the very end -- for the first time since I've come to college, I managed to read 300 pages in a single day!! On top of classes and school work and other responsibilities! I seriously just could not put this book down. The book starts off by telling the reader what happened with Fatima and the group, so you know how it ends, but the book breaks it down and explains what really played out. Plus, all of the juicy details aren't really discussed in the beginning, so you do have to read all the way until the end to find out what's going to happen!

Character-wise, I really loved Penny and I really couldn't stand Miri. Miri seemed like the ringleader in a not-good way, and even throughout all of the terrible things that were happening, she didn't want to acknowledge the fact that Fatima was, in fact, freaking creepy and awful. She definitely was brainwashed in that regard. And as for Penny, my heart absolutely broke for her -- all she wanted was to feel special, important, and respected. It made me feel really bad when she would talk about how ignored and lonely she felt. Everyone in this book definitely should've treated you better, Penny!!! I'm on your side!!!

(Spoilers ahead, so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want this book ruined for you!) The only thing was that I was able to predict the ending from very early on in the book, which was just a tiny bit sad because I love being surprised. As soon as you start getting some details of what happened and Sunny finds out, I knew. I knew exactly where it was going, and maybe that was intentional, or maybe it wasn't. But yeah, I definitely predicted the ending. But there was still a heightened level of suspense, waiting to see how everything was going to play out! So I don't think that takes away from the story for me at all, really.

And as for where I stand on Fatima being guilty of exploiting these kids for their story? I absolutely believe she's guilty. I know not everyone may feel that way, but there's something really creepy and unsettling about an older author befriending these young kids with the intention of having them spill their deepest, darkest secrets, only to use them in her latest book. I really didn't like her for that -- I thought it was really shady and wrong. But what were your own thoughts about the book? Comment down below!

Overall, I absolutely loved All of This is True. This book is captivating, mysterious, thrilling, and every amazing adjective in between! I flew through this book quicker than I've read in the longest time because I just had to know what was going to happen next, and the way the book was formatted made it really easy to get through. And, like I said, I loved the references! And, in a weird way, this book inspired me to get writing in terms of my own current project again. I love books/TV shows that have writers as some of the main characters, because it really helps inspire me and get me in the mood to create!

But yes, yes. Back to the book. This incredible, 5-star book that I couldn't put down.

What are you waiting for?! This book absolutely needs to be on your TBR RIGHT. NOW. Scroll up and find that Goodreads button at the top of this post and add it!

Special thanks to TeenReads for supplying me with a copy of this ARC! There were no review expectations or anything; I was simply given a copy of the book just because my boss knew I was interested in it. And I'm so glad that I got the chance and could read this book early and tell all of you how amazing it is and how much you need it!! So what're you waiting for?

Hats off to Lygia -- I'll definitely be reading more of her books in the future! 





Apr 22, 2018

Guest Review: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie Lemore


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Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie Lemore
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Hardcover, 352 Pages
Published October 2017


Summary: For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens. The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.
Today on the blog we have a guest review from Tessa over at Crazy for YAShe stopped by to review Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie Lemore, a book that none of us Book Bratz have read before but now are so glad to see on our radar! So without further ado, let's get into the review!


There are very few times when the inside of a book is just as beautiful as the outside, especially with the high standards that the colorful blossoms on Wild Beauty's cover set. However, the writing and characters found inside the cover is just as beautiful as the lush cover.

Some people would assume that beautiful writing sacrifices substance for pretty words and lengthy descriptions, but that is simply not true with Wild Beauty. Yes, the writing is full of flowery prose, perceptive descriptions, and flower puns (which I greatly appreciated), but that doesn't mean that the words were empty.

In fact, Wild Beauty is one of the most diverse books I have read. Not only is there major LGBTQ+ representation through the main characters, but the entire cast of character seeps the story in their culture and ethnic history. This book taught me more about Hispanic culture than three years of Spanish classes at my high school. I loved how their traditions, especially the food, were flawlessly incorporated into the story instead of as a token element. There is no separating the Nomeolvides women and their culture, which I greatly admired throughout the story. Also, issues of race and sexuality were expertly woven throughout the story in a realistic way that avoided the didactic tone that many stories can fall into while taking on important issues. There was no lecturing or nagging, just subtle revelations about how these topics fit into real life.

The characters are the true gems, or should I say blossoms, of the story. Not many YA books have a strong focus on family (especially since half of YA features main characters with dead parents), so the strong bond between multiple generations was refreshing. The cast included grandmothers, aunts, mothers, daughters, and cousins, yet I never felt overwhelmed. Each of the cousins were thoroughly developed and I was able to tell them apart (which is truly an accomplishment for me and my mushy memory). By giving each of the cousins distinct characteristics, McLemore was able to maintain a large cast of characters that emphasized the importance of family. 

Even though I loved the characters, magic, and diversity, I will say that there was not much of a plot. This book is definitely not the going to deliver epic battles, suspenseful mysteries and all of that jazz. I did not go into the book expecting a ton of action, but there were lags toward the middle of the book with some repetitive plot lines. However, if you are just in it for the action, I would still highly recommend that you keep an open mind and try the story anyway. Although action is not the main focus of the story, the amazing Nomeolvides family and their flowery magic is. 

Due to the diverse cast of characters, heartwarming emphasis on family, and the beauty growing out of the writing, I would recommend Wild Beauty to anyone undeterred by a slower pace.


We'd like to once again thank Tessa for stopping by The Book Bratz today to post this guest review. Don't forget to check out Crazy for YA!


** Psst! Interested in guest reviewing on The Book Bratz? Shoot us an email at thebookbratz@gmail.com or DM us on Twitter (@thebookbratz) and we'd love to have you!

Apr 21, 2018

Spotlight & Excerpt: Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellison

Hi there! Today on the blog, we have something different and exciting -- a spotlight and excerpt on a book all about awesome, badass lady pirates, courtesy of author Jennifer Ellison! So without further ado, let's get into it!

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Title: Over Raging Tides
Author: Jennifer Ellison
Publisher: Kindle
eBook, 239 Pages
Published March 2018



Summary: The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board. That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her. Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew. Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this. She just isn’t sure that she won’t.

EXCERPT

“Leave him!” The captain’s voice is a hoarse shriek echoing over the waters. The crew on her longboat release startled grunts as she darts to the side of the longboat. “Grace! I said, leave him.”

My jaw hardens. I won’t. 

I’m closer to the door and the boys, and that counts for something.  Despite the Mordgris’s speed, I make it there first. 

“Help me up,” I demand. Wordlessly, the older boy complies, dark eyes wide, and I scrabble back on my hindquarters, tugging at my belt, just in time.

My pistol wavers as I level it at the Mordgris’s head. The threat is meaningless. The gunpowder is wet, rendering the gun useless, but I chance that the Mordgris know only that these objects kill. That they’d work just as well to blow away their gods-be-damned heads as mortal ones. 

I swallow hard, never having been this close to one before. It’s wholly unsettling to feel seen and held in a gaze when a creature’s eyes are consumed by the pitch black of a night sky. The Mordgris has gray skin, stretched tight over cartilage where a nose should be. Its teeth are rows upon rows of needles as it hisses at me, backing away, webbed claws raised as it sinks into the water. My hands are shaking, but I don’t dare lower my weapon until I can no longer see its silver sheen beneath the water.

Only then do I holster it.
“Thank you,” comes the voice behind me, and I start. Locked in a silent battle of wills with the Mordgris --- who would attack or withdraw first? --- I had nearly forgotten the boys that had spurred me to action in the first place.

“Don’t thank me yet,” I reply grimly. Captain Ilene’s crew rows toward us, her eyes murderous.

We have plenty of rules on the Lady Luck. But chief among them is this:

We don’t take men on-board.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Ellision was born and raised in South Florida and lives in perpetual fear of temperatures below 60F. She spent a great deal of her childhood staying up past her bedtime with a book and a flashlight. When she couldn't find the stories she wanted to read, she started writing them. 
*If you sign up for her newsletter, you get a free short story!

We'd like to thank author Jennifer Ellison for being awesome enough to reach out and allow us to do this spotlight post! This book seems super awesome and badass, so if it isn't on your TBR yet, it definitely should be!

Interested in learning more about the book? Click on the Goodreads link above!