The Avant-Guards by Usdin, Hayes, & Nalty

★★★★★

I LOVED this graphic novel! I ate it up sometime in the middle of the night, in one sitting. I love the diversity presented in this story in the ethnicities of the characters as well as the characters’ personalities.

Charlie is a transfer student to Georgia O’Keefe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she’s a former basketball star who has stepped away from the sport. Liv, a drama student with basketball aspirations coaxes Charlie to join her newly formed ragtag team as the school’s first basketball team.

The representation in this story is so important and is just one story among many more that is diversifying the shelves of readers and reviewers. It felt real. I have read other graphic novels in which the characters feel more like characters in a story rather than real people dealing with real things.

I love the connections that grow throughout the story arc. Although I would’ve loved for it to be longer, I think the length plays very well with where the story left off. It left off with the suspense and want for more issues in the future. And as always I appreciate the cover images in the back of the novel, beautiful work!

The beginnings of romance in this story make me giddy and excited. I’m so ready to read volume two. I have only positive feed back for this lovely story and I look forward to reading more work from author Carly Usdin and artist Noah Hayes in the future.

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

★★★★★

Two copies of Again, but Better lie against a blue pillow // Soleil de Zwart

One of my favorite books of the year, and in my top five contemporaries of all time. 

I started reading Again, but Better on March 26th and finished it on March 29th at 2am in the morning. 

And that was after I had been in a real reading slump, barely being able to pick up a book, much less binge reading more than 200 pages into the early hours of the morning. 

I’m wrote this review so late because I was afraid of not being able to convey how much I loved this book. But I’m going to try anyway, because the release is tomorrow and I’m going to Christine Riccio’s book signing on Wednesday. 

I read a fair amount of contemporaries and have connected with many of them, but never like this one (besides for Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, review below). The character of Shane feels so close to me, I feel enveloped in her thoughts and choices. This book feels so close and personal because it’s my worst fears and hopes and dreams and possibilities all wrapped into one story. 

I never saw “Part 2” coming. I didn’t even guess where the story was going until I got to that page and screamed in my bed, at approximately 10pm. I didn’t stop reading after that. I had to know. This was also the first time in a long time when I read a book and did not guess the twist or the ending. I enjoy guessing what happens next and being right. But also, sometimes I get annoyed that some books or movies feel so predictable to me, I wish they would surprise me more. This book did surprise me. In the best way possible. 

As I said I’m going to the signing on Wednesday, I pre-ordered the Barnes and Noble exclusive signed edition. But it won’t get here until this weekend, which means I’ll buy a second copy at the signing on Wednesday. Which I should be more annoyed about… but also I’ll be re-reading the finished copy and I’ll want to mark up my own copy. I’m so excited. 

This book is my perfect cup of lavender earl gray tea. It’s the contemporary I’ve been waiting for. Thank you Christine for writing it. I’ve been watching Christine’s booktube videos on her channel: polandbananasBOOKS for years now. And I’ve watched every one of her “Writing Vlog” videos. They’ve inspired me that one day I can also get my stories out there, her persistence has inspired me on many levels. I’m so grateful that’s she’s also very open about her struggle with anxiety. Did I mention how excited I am for the signing on Wednesday?

Check out my vlog seeing Christine at her book signing in Portland: Booktubers in Portland feat. Jaded Reader

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

★★★★★

I was so honored to be placed on the street team for this book and the following books (TWO MORE BOOKS, BECAUSE ITS A TRILOGY NOW). 

I sped through this book, the world building is so in-depth, you can feel your surroundings and know the history of it. The world building isn’t cataloged and explained through it, but is woven throughout the story, with little excerpts of history books, explanations by characters, and dialogue.

I feel for these characters and am so glad that Nicki Pau Preto is taking her time with the story development and with character arcs. These characters have a journey to go on and it’s not rushed.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the following books and to be on this journey!

Here is an excerpt of the sequel Heart of Flames!

Street Teams!

This year I have had the absolute honor of being a part of three street teams! I never expected to be chosen for the teams, I just signed up and gave it my all and got in!

If you don’t know what a street team is: Street teams are marketing campaigns between authors and their avid readers. There’s usually a group page where the author can share exclusive content with the readers in preparation for their upcoming release. The participants can receive points for sharing information on social media pages in time for marketing campaigns and can be rewarded with ARCs (advanced reader copies), bookmarks, art prints, etc relating to the book, by the author.

Street teams that I’m in: I’m currently in three active street teams!

First Riders

The First Riders Street Team is for both Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto and for her upcoming sequel Heart of Flames. Crown of Feathers is about two sisters who are trying to hatch a pheonix egg to become pheonix riders.

Sandhya’s Sweethearts

The Sandhya’s Sweethearts Street Team is for all current books by Sandhya Menon: When Dimple Met Rishi, From Twinkle with Love, and There’s Something About Sweetie. It is also for her upcoming release Of Curses and Kisses, which is a beauty and the beast retelling in a contemporary setting.

Keel Haul’s Sea Crew

Keel Haul’s Sea Crew is for the debut release All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. All the Stars and Teeth is about Amora, a princess training to be the master of souls, the most dangerous form of magic. When Amora’s training goes awry, she flees with a mysterious pirate.

How do you get on a street team? More and more authors are starting street teams, to join you usually just need to fill out a survey, describing yourself and your platform. Make sure to follow all your favorite authors and publishing companies on their social media platforms and be on the lookout for when they post about an upcoming street team. It never hurts to apply and to give it a shot. I’ve been extremely lucky to be chosen for these amazing street teams, and I definitely recommend you try one out!

June Wrap-up

I haven’t done a wrap-up in a while, and therefore I am very behind on sharing what books I have recently read. Here’s just a list of what I read in June to give you an idea. I won’t be sharing a video with my thoughts and the star ratings of what I read in June, however, I will be sharing a July wrap-up soon with thoughts and star ratings.

June:

A book stack of The Lightning Thief, Radio Silence, Crown of Feathers, and Red, White & Royal Blue.
A book stack of The Lightning Thief, Radio Silence, Crown of Feathers, and Red, White & Royal Blue.

Radio Silence

Crown of Feathers

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel

Haytham, une jeunesse syrienne / A Childhood in Syria (Haytham)

Red, White, & Royal Blue

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights.
The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights. // Soleil de Zwart

★★★★★

I love these boys so much, it’s difficult to put into words. But since I have been nonstop messaging my reading friends about this comic series, I’m going to move it to my blog (so that I can still have reading friends).

I thought this graphic novel looked cute so I got a hold of it from Libby (the app that lets you borrow e-books from your state library system). I didn’t have very high expectations. First off, I know nothing about hockey — correction I knew nothing about hockey. Second, I hadn’t heard very much about this book so I wasn’t sure how to feel about it going in.

When I opened those first pages on my tablet, oh was I in for a journey. This first collection covers Bitty’s first two years in college and first two years on the hockey team. Bitty’s real name is actually Eric Bittle, but hockey nicknames function in a way that his name is Bitty for the entirety of the series.

THIS SERIES! As I said earlier, I love these boys so much, with everything in my heart and soul. Ngozi Ukazu just makes them come alive on the page and the art style just matches them all so well. I wish I had my own squad of hockey bros. The story is so simple but dynamic, these characters feel real, there are minute mundane things going on and bigger picture events and it’s just so good.

The webcomic is available online: https://checkpleasecomic.com

I recently bought the book because I want to support the author/illustrator and I immediately re-read it, in physical form. The panels are much larger on the physical page and it’s so satisfying to read it physically.

Now I’m going to go disappear to read it for a third time!

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

★ ★ ★

I’ve been reading this book on and off for a few months, and it has taken me just about as long to figure out how I feel about it.

First off, I would like to praise Nadine for all of the research she put into this book, because it definitely has a lot of historical accuracy. Aside from that, it’s good to remember that this is a historical fiction retelling with a fantasy twist of the Romanov story.

I have been studying Russian for the past year and have had a fascination with Russian culture, the Russian language, and the family of the Romanovs. But that fascination does not make me an expert in any of these topics, my review of this book is based off my own knowledge and opinions, none of which are concrete facts.

***** SPOILERS *****

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, up until the halfway point, where the fantasy elements weren’t too prevalent in the story and it was all based on the historical events. But after Nastya used the “ajnin” spell it began to unravel a bit. While I do believe this book managed to combine the history with the fantasy of spellmasters and spellink, I would have enjoyed the story without magic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept of spellmasters and the ink and how that all combined with the already existing storylines and characters. However, I think the energy spent on making the magic believable could have been better spent on character development and plot. How Nastya and Alexei managed to escape the firing squad and certain death, with a simple spell… That is reaching a little far for me. Clearly, if Nastya had used the spell sooner she might have been able to save her whole family, but she didn’t know any better — which is understandable. But the spells in this story don’t seem to have a clear set of rules in their own magic system.

While Dochkin later says that he cannot create a spell to go back in time to save their whole family, there are spells that will pause death and make them into ethereal ghosts?

I just think that the story would have been better off without the magic elements thrown into the middle of it.

Meanwhile the relationship between Zash and Nastya is a whole sticky situation. Something I will go into further depth with in my Booktube review coming soon.

On a last note, I really did appreciate the attention to Russian history and the inclusion of Russian phrases and words into this book. I did not appreciate the lack of warning to the eye trauma towards the end of the book. That would have sent me into an anxiety spiral, if I hadn’t seen it coming.

Fence Vol. #1 by C. S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

★★★★

Something you should know about me is, I absolutely love fencing. LOVE fencing! One of the reasons I chose my university is because they have a fencing team. And although I wasn’t able to dedicate to being on the team full-time, at the beginning of the year I enjoy spending time on the team.
So naturally, I loved this graphic novel! I’ve been wanting to read it for months and the other day I was in the bookstore and just thought, today is the day! I read it in one sitting, because it’s so gosh darn short!
I can’t go into depth about the characterizations or much of the plot because the story is so short and there are three more installments in the series. I really look forward to reading more about the characters and getting to know the story.
So far I’m really enjoying the art style and the way the story is being set up, but I just really wish the chapters and volumes were longer. I believe that the third volume is the last in the series, which really disappoints me because I feel like there is so much that can be told in a fencing story.
I’ll have to wait until the next installment to see!

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

★★★★★

This was a magical story, for so many fantastic reasons. I’ve been wanting to read this since my friends brought it to my attention and I’m so glad I got early access to it through NetGalley. 
The representation in this book is amazing and it adds so much depth to the story. I’m so glad we’re moving more rapidly into a time where representation is more present in our literature, we still have a long way to go, but this is start. The art and illustration is so cute and makes my heart warm, it’s a perfectly contained story but I would love to see more in this world. I love all the different characters present, the grandmas are loving and kind and parental relationships are complicated but there’s growth throughout the story. The relationships and friendships in here are a beautiful example for youth to look at, healthy relationships that may inspire them. 
I truly loved this book!