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Gabbing with the YA Diversity Book Club | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Greetings, friends! Estelle here. A new month and another opportunity to diversify your bookshelves! I’m so psyched to share May’s DID post with you today. I’ve been an avid reader of the YA Diversity Book Club posts — made up of Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks, Kristan @ We Heart YA, Lucy @ The Reading Date, and Kristina @ Gone Pecan — where the crew discusses one diverse read a month and talks with the book’s author too. Not only is a great example of expanding your reading but this group is an example of the book blogging community at its best — not only collaborating but thoughtfully discussing together. I’m so happy to chat with them about the book club, their definitions of diversity, and, of course, their book recommendations. (Psst. Kristina was knee deep in ACOTAR research for her moderating gig a.k.a. rereading all the sexy parts so she was unable to take part this time. Hope it went well, K!)

Happy (diverse) reading!

♥  ♥  ♥

1. Hello YA Diversity Club! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today for May’s Dive Into Diversity post. One thing I was not personally expecting were so many questions about whether specific titles were “diverse” or not when we started this reading challenge. It’s always a difficult question for me to answer so I pose it to you guys: what makes a book diverse to you?

The Reading Date: We have an author questionnaire for every book we read and I liked how Elizabeth Wein answered this question: “the world is a diverse place” and she just “writes about people!” Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in books, and reading diverse books can show how similar people are despite differences.

We Heart YA: I don’t think there’s a perfect set of rules, and our group has definitely discussed whether certain books meet our criteria. I guess sometimes you just have to evaluate case by case. For example, AN EMBER FOR ASHES was one we debated. I really enjoyed the book, but it doesn’t fall within my personal preferences for a diverse read. (Generally I want a diverse book to expand my understanding of an underrepresented culture or demographic.) Nevertheless, after a brief discussion, I agreed with the group that EMBER still fits the mission of diversifying YA literature, because it was written by a woman of color!

Teen Lit Rocks: Since I volunteer with the We Need Diverse Books organization, I have sort of adopted their stance on what makes a book diverse. I think for me the book has to pass a litmus test of either having an author or a main character who identifies as being from a non-majority group. But if it’s the latter, the author better have done his/her research to authentically represent that identity/culture.

2. Can you give a little background about how you started the YA Diversity Club up? Did you know each other beforehand? How do you make it work? How do you pick what titles you are going to read?

The Reading Date: Sandie invited me to join about a year ago and I’ll let her answer how the idea came to be. We keep up-to-date with new releases that may be a good fit for our group. We noticed that we were reading a lot of contemporary so we added some fantasy to the mix for some variety. We chat via Google Hangout or Google Docs. Sometimes it’s tricky to find a time to chat since we are in different time zones. But, I love our discussions and they give me a greater appreciation and understanding of the books we read.

We Heart YA: Ditto what Lucy (the Reading Date) said.:)

Teen Lit Rocks: I was part of a multi-blog group that read/reviewed/featured books together on a monthly basis. After a couple of years, we started to feel overwhelmed and pulled in different directions/ interests. One of those areas for me was the desire to promote diverse books, because I’d heard from other girls in the group that they weren’t interested in the movement, they just wanted to read good books, regardless of who wrote them or what they were about.

I talked a lot about this issue with Kristina from Gone Pecan (who had also been part of the other group), and she mentioned that she just needed more recommendations for diverse books/authors. She wasn’t sure where to start. I had the idea of starting an online book club with other bloggers to help other book lovers “discover” diverse books, and once Kristina said yes, I reached out to two other bloggers I respect and admire, Lucy at the Reading Date, and Kristan at We Heart YA.

3. What’s one book from your book club reading you can’t stop recommending?

We Heart YA: For me, recommendations always depend on who’s asking and what they’re looking for. But personally, BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN is probably my fave read from our book club so far.

The Reading Date: My fave so far is LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley.

Teen Lit Rocks: I have really enjoyed several of the books we’ve read; my favorites are “Black Dove White Raven” by Elizabeth Wein; “My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga; “Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Robin Talley; and our very first pick, “Like No Other” by Una LaMarche.

4. What diverse topic would you like to see in YA that you haven’t seen yet (or seen enough of)?

The Reading Date: One way I felt isolated as a teen was from my social anxiety. It would have been helpful to read a book with a character that dealt with the same issue. (I still would like to see more books about mental illness and social anxiety!) I’m also very passionate about LGBTQIA books.

We Heart YA: I don’t think we have progressed far enough for me to identify just one weak spot… YA lit stills needs a lot more diversity of all kinds. But I’m glad we’re at least moving in the right direction!

Teen Lit Rocks: I think there’s sort of a golden age of LGBTQIA books for teens, but I think there still needs to be more progress with books about underrepresented minorities like Latinos (especially those who aren’t Mexican) and teens dealing with disabilities or size issues. And because my kids are multi-ethnic, I wish there were more books where the characters were “other” rather than just one minority.

5. Can we talk about “token” diverse characters? I saw a comment about this on Twitter recently, and while I understand and I’m sensitive to this happening, I wondering — how do you really know? What if the author doesn’t think about the character as a “token” and the reader interprets it this way? Is this up for debate or am I just thinking too much?

We Heart YA: Everything is up for debate, haha. It’s what makes conversations about diversity so hard — but so important, too.

The Reading Date: Agreed: I think it’s up for debate. I don’t think we’ve come across this in any of our books so far.

We Heart YA: For a moment I was going to disagree with Lucy (the Reading Date) but upon reflection, I agree that we haven’t seen tokenism in any of our picks. To me, tokenism is checking off a box and wanting brownie points. “Look, I put a black character in! Aren’t I great?” Whereas I think what we saw in one book was actually just an author who was enthusiastic about diversity but overly ambitious. For me, this author’s portrayals of diversity didn’t ring true enough or deep enough — but it wasn’t for lack of good intentions. And I guess that speaks to your question: How do we know? Truthfully, we don’t, really. We can only go off what’s on the page and the impression that we get. But that’s how reading works…

Teen Lit Rocks: Nothing is more disheartening than seeing your culture or identity depicted in a half-assed, phoned-in manner. It’s always obvious to me when an author didn’t get his or her facts straight or had someone “vet” her characters. For example, when an author randomly has Latino characters speaking in Spanglish or eating foods that are from a different Latino culture, I just nod my head, roll my eyes and want to throw the book against the room. Anyhow, I do think it’s up for debate, but any author attempting to write outside her experience (something I applaud) should take the extra steps necessary to make sure that voice and character is authentic and not just a stereotype.

6. Personally, what are your hopes for the emphasis on diversity in reading as of late?

The Reading Date: I want to keep the conversation going. This isn’t a fad, and there’s still a long way to go.

We Heart YA: I hope that people will understand that the emphasis on diversity isn’t some literary Affirmative Action program; it’s simply a desire to reflect the world that we already live in. A world that has always been diverse. A world that is only going to become more diverse as we progress.

Teen Lit Rocks: Ditto what Kristan said. I hope that the word doesn’t scare people away the way it seems to in certain circles. I want my friends to ask questions and be open to responses. I want my white, straight, comfortable friends (for lack of a better way to describe them) to take a chance and read about characters who aren’t anything like them, and on the flip side, I want people who don’t fit into the majority to discover books with characters that ARE like them, at least a little bit.

YA Diversity Book Club

What’s up next for the YA Diversity Book Club? This month, they’ll be reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I hope you’ll follow along! Big hugs to Sandie (Teen Lit Rocks), Lucy (The Reading Date) and Kristan (We Heart YA) for hanging out today!

May 31, 2015 - 8:01 am

It's a Wrap | MAY We Remember You Kindly, Estelle - […] Dive Into Diversity | Intro + Sign Up […]

May 13, 2015 - 10:02 pm

Rebecca @ Reading Wishes - Loved reading this interview and hearing their thoughts on diversity! I’ve got a copy of SIMON burning a hole in my bookshelf, so I will have to look into when they’ll be reading it this month.

May 13, 2015 - 1:00 pm

DISCUSSION: diversity in pop culture and more » twirling pages - […] the dive into diversity challenge! […]

May 12, 2015 - 2:08 pm

We Heart YA - Thanks for featuring us, and for such thoughtful, important questions! This Dive Into Diversity challenge has been so great. <3

May 12, 2015 - 11:52 am

Lucy - Thanks for having us on the blog today! I love your Dive Into Diversity feature and your thoughtful discussion posts and reviews. Thanks for all the great work you do to celebrate diversity!

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Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu | Estelle Reviews

Making Pretty by Corey Ann HayduMaking Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu ( web | tweet )
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 12, 2015
Pages: 368 | Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: beauty, father/daughter relationships, sisters, NYC, romance

Summary: It’s summer in NYC and Montana is dealing with having her college-aged sister/best friend, her plastic surgeon father and some unexpected news, and the attention of a new boy.

The day I write this is the same day I went and got my face waxed. I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details. It was for more than my eyebrows. I like the salon I go to. Most of the time. It took me three years of living in my neighborhood to find it, and even though it’s been a solid 8 months of walking through its doors, I have to get myself in the mood. Get myself in the mood to get prodded and for someone to ask “are you sure you don’t want this too?” Nothing pumps up your self-esteem like having a total stranger ask you if you want to get your lip waxed. Or telling you your eyebrows are uneven when you only frequent one place so whose fault is that really? Even though I’m paying them for a service, I also walk in with a little bit of shame. What do you think about when someone is pulling hair from your body and spending a lot of time doing so? I try to relax but in the end I’m always thinking I wish I did not have to do this.

That’s sad, isn’t it?

No one is forcing me to go. Right? When I was in sixth grade, someone made fun of my eyebrows once after picture day. They weren’t exactly a unibrow but they weren’t tiny either. I started plucking them myself. My hair has always been dark against my fair skin. I can thank those Spanish genes. My arms, my legs, you get the picture. It’s always been my move to “do something about it”. It wasn’t my mom forcing me to do any of the above. In fact, she was adamant about me not shaving for a long time and keeping my eyebrows thick. (I didn’t listen.) She’s always been incredibly accepting and did nothing to make me feel less than who I was. So in reading a book like Corey Ann Haydu’s Making Pretty I am absolutely aghast about Montana’s father behavior when it came to the looks of his daughters. Part of me thinks he thinks he’s doing “the right thing” and helping his daughters “accept themselves” but as a plastic surgeon who is constantly taking on new female projects and totally transforming them… we know the truth. It’s not as it seems.

Basically we have Montana — about to embark on another summer in New York City. Her best friend (Roxanne) and her sister (Arizona) are back from college. She’s been honored with the friendship of the older, sophisticated Karissa. The boy (Bernardo) she’s been checking out at the park is looking at her back. But nothing is totally clicking except for the last thing. She can’t relate to Roxanne and Arizona the same way since she went to college. Karissa is not what she seemed — or even close. But Bernardo — he is someone she can have for herself. He is someone who is on her side. Alongside him, Montana goes on this journey to reinvent herself but also get down to the naked truth of what she means to people. Her dad has married again and again; all the while, Montana has basically been discarded by these women. I don’t think it was any fault of these ex-wives, I don’t, but I also can’t imagine how Montana feels watching each of these people walk out of her life without turning back and wondering about her.

As much as this book is about beauty — how it is perceived and thrust upon us — Haydu unshockingly (because she always asks the tough questions) explores the complexity of sister relationships, the all-consuming impulsiveness that comes along with first love, and the desire to take control but feeling powerless to actually obtain it. Like in Life By Committee, the author has spun another suspenseful contemporary — where will all of this messy behavior lead these characters? There was no way I could have predicted what would happen.

What exactly do you do when the authority figure in your life makes poor choice after poor choice? That your dad of all people — someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally — thinks he can make you look “better” and thinks he is helpful for offering to help in that area? What do you do when your older sister — one of your best friends — deviates from what she believed in? It’s no wonder that Montana is feeling out of sorts and doesn’t know what she belongs. There is very little that has been stable in her life, and it becomes her own (heavy) responsibility to come to terms with her father and his “well-meaning” abuse and dissect the various meanings of love she’s coming in contact with.

There’s a ton of discussion-worthy layers in Making Pretty and Haydu’s writes both succinctly and honestly, making Montana one of the freshest female voices I’ve read in awhile. She’s also put a reader like me in quite a pickle — how can I have a favorite book of hers when all of them are so wonderful and address so many relevant and pertinent issues we are so careful to hide? Her books may be categorized as young adult but I hope that’s taken as more of a suggestion than a universal rule by thirsty readers searching for unputdownable and thoughtful fiction because her work deserves a wider audience.

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Add MAKING PRETTY to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

Also by Corey Ann Haydu: OCD Love Story | RBR “Befriended” Interview

An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

May 17, 2015 - 10:37 am

Haniya - This review looks really nice! Can’t wait to read it!

May 14, 2015 - 8:01 am

Move Over Taylor || Corey Ann Haydu on NYC - […] Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu … […]

May 11, 2015 - 2:30 pm

Emma @ Miss Print - Life by Committee came out of nowhere last year and completely blew me away while also tapping into some themes that I connected with on a very personal level. So of course I was already excited to see what Haydu would do next. This review has me downright intrigued. I can’t wait to check it out.

(PS As a decidedly not fair complexioned person, I feel you with the hair stuff. In college I very foolishly decided to fix my own eyebrows and wound up removing nearly half of one eyebrow–only one mind. I had a friend in high school who essentially had no eyebrows for several months as well!)

May 11, 2015 - 11:13 am

Alexa S. - I love, love, LOVE these thoughts on Making Pretty so much, E! You’ve really captured the essence of Montana’s story so beautifully, and I love the way you managed to mention some of its elements that are so perfect for a discussion – her father’s career + how that affects their relationship, her friendships, her first love. It’s seriously a great, thought-provoking read!

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Little Kids: Vacation and Travel Galore!

Maybe because it’s been lovely here in Texas for the last few weeks. Maybe because I’m going to Hawaii in less than a week (!!!). Maybe because our neighborhood pool opened last weekend…or maybe for all of those reasons vacation, summertime and sunscreen, beach bags, and road trips are on my mind. What better way to prepare than to think of some books to discuss vacation and mishaps and silly stories with your children? I had a TON of fun picking out these books this month.

For May’s Little Kids, lets learn what happens to our houses when we go on vacation, what silly car games we might play, or what it might be like when the relatives stay with us during the summer!

• • •

The House Takes a VacationTHE HOUSE TAKES A VACATION  || Synopsis from Barnes & Noble: After the Petersons leave for vacation, their house decides it wants to take a holiday, too! But the different parts of the house can’t agree on where to go. Finally, the sunporch suggests the house go to the beach. The basement refuses “to rise to the occasion,” but the rest of the house follows the front door as it leads the way—and the house has a vacation that it will never forget!




On the Road Again

ON THE ROAD AGAIN || Synopsis from B&N: Charlie and his family are on the road again — this time to spend a year in the South of France. Unhappy at first, not wanting to leave his friends, his school and big-city life, Charlie soon finds himself caught up in the new adventures in their little village of Celeriac. He runs through the streets chased by bulls, survives an autumn flood and a winter blizzard, and discovers the pleasures of French cuisine, including snails, donkey sausage and runny cheese that smells like the boys’ locker room.

Most of all, Charlie and his little brother, Max, grow fond of their neighbors — the man who steals ducks from the local river, the neighbor’s dog who sleeps right in the middle of the street, and their new friends Rachid and Ahmed, who teach them how to play soccer in the village, where the goal is the open door of the church.
As a bonus, there’s a hilarious driving trip through Spain in their sardine-can car.
In the end, Charlie discovers the bittersweet joys of living in a new place. “Part of me wanted to stay,” he says. “Part of me wanted to go. I guess that’s the way it is with traveling . . .”


The BabySitters ClubTHE BABY-SITTERS CLUB: EUROPEAN VACATION || Synopsis from B&N: The BSC is going global! Kristy, Stacey, Abby, Jessi, and Mallory have signed up for the best school trip yet: a week in London and Paris! Stacey can’t wait to go shopping and to museums. Jessi’s excited about a special dance performance. Abby’s dying to visit the BSC’s little princess, Victoria Kent. Mal’s looking forward to meeting her distant cousins. And Kristy finds love . . . when she least expects it. This time the Baby-sitters are going to have plenty to write home about! The best friends you’ll ever have–with classic BSC covers!

(Disclaimer: I know this is too mature for my 15 month old right now, but one day, this will be in her summer arsenal!)



Junie B Jones Aloha-ha-haJUNIE B. JONES ALOHA-HA-HA! || Synopsis from B&N: Junie B. and her family are going on a vacation to Hawaii! And ha! Mr. Scary is giving Junie a real, actual camera to keep a photo journal of her trip! But taking good vacation pictures is not always easy. ’Cause what if there is an unfortunate inner tube incident at the swimming pool? (And, oh my! Let’s not evenmention what happens if a tropical bird gets tangled in your hair!) Will Junie B.’s vacation end up picture perfect? Or will her trip to Hawaii be aloha-horrible?




Too Much VacationTHE BERENSTAIN BEARS AND TOO MUCH VACATION || Synopsis from B&N: The family getaway is a disaster: the cabin’s roof leaks, the lake is muddy, and the mosquitoes are ravenous. But when the bears return home and develop their snapshots, they laugh and laugh, fully enjoying the worst vacation they’ve ever had!  The Bear family experiences one mishap after another when they vacation in the Great Grizzly Mountains.



The Relatives CameTHE RELATIVES CAME || Synopsis from GoodreadsIn a rainbow-colored station wagon that smelled like a real car, the relatives came. When they arrived, they hugged and hugged from the kitchen to the front room. All summer they tended the garden and ate up all the strawberries and melons. They plucked banjos and strummed guitars. When they finally had to leave, they were sad, but not for long. They all knew they would be together next summer.



Travels with my FamilyTRAVELS WITH MY FAMILY || Synopsis from B&N: Instead of dream vacations to Disney World and motels with swimming pools and water slides, the parents in Travels with My Family insist on obscure destinations — even if it means driving for hours to get to the middle of nowhere, countless back-seat games of Twenty Questions that end badly, and reading aloud the “How to Change a Tire” chapter from the Owner’s Manual. To say nothing of what happens when they arrive: eating grasshoppers in Mexico, forgetting the tide schedule while collecting sand dollars off the coast of Georgia, and mistaking alligators for logs in the middle of Okefenokee Swamp.





A photo posted by Magan (@magan) on


My little beach bum last year at ~ 6 months old.

• • •

(In researching this, I realized this subject needs more titles.)

May 8, 2015 - 1:50 pm

Magan - Thanks, Alexa! I really liked these picks too! I feel like this topic is pretty rare in children’s books so it was more difficult pulling it together. :-/

May 8, 2015 - 10:43 am

Alexa S. - That photo is so adorable <3 And I love the collection of vacation reads for your little ones (and not-so-little ones, as far as the BSC is concerned – one of my favorite books in that series, by the way)!

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Mothers of Book Lovers: Meet Pam & Ramona

Hello, pals! For both of us, a love of reading is a bit of a family tradition. With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, we wanted the special ladies in our lives to take centerstage and stop by the blog to talk about their top reading picks and (unselfishly — we swear!) a little bit about us. Out of the two of us, Estelle is the one to have met both moms and perhaps unsurprisingly, she’s convinced they would totally hit it off if they were ever in the same time zone. Maybe someday. Until then… come say hi to the original “two busy ladies who always have time for a book”!

Meet Magan’s Mom

MaganPam: Mom to 3, former teacher, loving grandmother, shoe addict, romance book fanatic

Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson) is one of my all-time favorite books. I first read this book as a young mom. Mainly because I wanted to screen the books my daughter wanted to read. I was that kind of mom. Unbeknownst to me was that I would fall in love with the story itself. It’s a real tearjerker! When the book was later made into a movie, I already knew I would not watch it because the best movie was the one created in my mind when I read the book. I’m a firm believer that books are always better than the movie.

Okay….I’m a romantic…Cannot help it! Diana Palmer could not write a book fast enough for me. I’m hooked on her kind of stories. She is a history major and a fabulous writer. I also think she is a closet comedian. All three of these characteristics are right up my alley! Picking just one of her books would be a disgrace and an injustice. Although her Long Tall Texans series really makes this Texas girl’s heart pitter-patter a little faster than normal.

Again I can’t choose just one book, but a series. Janet Dailey wrote an Americana series: “Every novel in this collection is your passport to a romantic tour of the United States”. I love to travel. When I was young and didn’t have the means to travel, I hopped aboard a book. Janet Dailey gave me everything I was looking for as I traveled the entire USA! Her ability to create a good romance on top of it all was perfect. She also has a flare for a bit of mystery. This little pop of solving a case and the brewing romance from state to state was just what I needed. I cried when I knew the journey was coming to an end. Recently, I’ve become hooked on her series: The Bannon Brothers.

Zimmerhanzel Ladies Mother

On Magan & reading: “Magan…gets her interest in reading HONESTLY. I may not have been able to afford a lot when she was young, but books were always welcome in our home. She was a book nerd as soon as she could pick up a book. Many nights I would find her snuggled in bed with a flashlight reading a book. Who was I to fuss at her because most likely, I was still up reading myself! I admire that Magan does not limited herself as I have done. She can pick up any genre of book and read it as long as it is well written. She also likes to read anywhere. Luckily for her a good book is always within reach nowadays because of the great devices such as a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad, etc.”

Meet Estelle’s Mom

Ramona: Mom of 2; chatterbox/go-getter who loves everything Disney and white zinfandel

Been working like crazy, so here’s a list:

  • Prodigal Son by Danielle Steele: About the relationship of twin boys, one good and one evil, and how they come together back in their hometown as adults. (Estelle note: would not be my mom if there wasn’t a Steele recommendation!)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Loved it… how they meet, fell in love and how he traveled through time and always came back to her. (Estelle note: I loved this one too. Definitely need to reread it one of these days.)
  • P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern: Another tearjerker… Her love dies and leaves her monthly letters and how she goes on.
  • Riding the Wave by Lorelie Brown: Surfer returns back to his hometown after his father’s death and reconnect with his best friend’s sister. (Estelle note: I’m seeing where I got my book tastes from here…)

Can you tell I love, love, love LOVE STORIES?


On Estelle & reading: “Estelle is a chip off the old block. I was an insatiable reader as soon as I learned and she did the same. By kindergarten she feel in love with Brown Bear Brown Bear and never stopped reading. Our Home & School Association would be waiting for Estelle to come to the book fair where she would give them a huge profit every year. Crazy me, I would give her a blank check! Thank God for the local library. When she read through all her “bought” books, we had the library to get her through. It could have been worse; my daughter was a bookaholic and still is! I wish I could read as often as I used to, I read 5 books in a week during my vacation. I was in my glory! Nothing like sunshine, a pool and a good book. I cannot remember when Estelle started carrying pocketbooks, but when she did… there was always a “spare” book in her bag.”

 Wasn’t that fun? Thanks, Moms! A lesson learned while putting this post together? Take pictures with your moms and maybe another… never hesitate when it comes to sharing a dear-to-you read with dear old mom.

Happy (early) Mother’s Day, friends!

May 31, 2015 - 8:01 am

It's a Wrap | MAY We Remember You Kindly, Estelle - […] Mothers of Book Lovers: Meet Ramona & Pam […]

May 8, 2015 - 11:06 am

Alexa S. - This post is utterly adorable, ladies! I loved getting to know our moms a wee bit better, and I ADORE their preference for romance in their novels 😉 It’s lovely to see how much they encouraged you to read, and how it really took off in both your lives. Thanks for sharing!

May 7, 2015 - 11:01 pm

Pam - I think we are friends already….hello!

This was fun. When Magan asked me to do this, I said that I better do it then, that day! It was a very quickly written! I felt like I’ve done this before in a dream…weird, and I can’t seem to shake this feeling.

May 7, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Ramona - Love it….yes, Pam and I can and should be friends……

May 7, 2015 - 10:32 am

Emma @ Miss Print - I love this post idea! It’s so cool that both of your mothers were on board to guest post. And what great recs from both of your moms!

May 7, 2015 - 9:25 am

Christina - This is adorable! Happy Mothers’ Day!!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas • Magan Reviews

book cover for A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas [twitterwebsite]
First Book in the Series
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Pages: 416
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: Faeries, Magic, Fantasy, Beauty and the Beast Retelling
Reading Challenge: Flights of Fantasy with Alexa + Rachel

Summary: After Feyre unknowingly breaks the treaty between humans and Faeries, she’s faced with the choice of living in Prythian away from her family for the rest of her life with the Faeries or dying to pay penance for the wolf she killed. She doesn’t know that her choice will lead her to love, luxury, danger, and longing.

• • •

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Gardens. Woods. MasksMeadowDanger.

This is what Sarah J. Maas’ work does to me: It makes my imagination burst and absolutely come alive. My goal was to find a few images that would maybe scratch the surface of what types of scenes were cinematically running through my mind, but Sarah’s writing is just so, so much more. There’s depth and detail and emotion and clarity. But best and most of all, there’s passion that courses through Sarah’s writing. It’s obvious she doesn’t rush a story for publication purposes; she mulls over all the details and intricacies until everything is so beautifully, wonderfully balanced.

I have a confession though. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t love A Court of Thorns and Roses as much as I love her Throne of Glass series. Well, false. The way this Beauty and the Beast retelling made my inner child resurface and blossom into something new and amazing as an adult (because let’s be honest, the connection between Feyre and Tamlin is …phew, steamy) was incredible. It gave me so much to relate to, even as a person who doesn’t read a ton of fantasy and often has a hard time getting absorbed in the world.

Feyre is a poor, young impoverished woman. Since her family’s fortune disappeared and her mother passed away, Feyre’s been solely responsible for making sure her disabled father and two heads-in-the-clouds sisters have food to eat and clothes on their back. She daily puts herself in danger’s way, but is extremely under-appreciated and often overlooked. One day as she’s hunting in the woods, freezing and exhausted, she has to make the decision to kill a wolf that’s threatening to hunt the deer she’s had her eye on. She’s hunted down by another giant beast because she’s broken a treaty between the humans and the Faeries. Her choice is either to live with the beast in Prythian on the other side of the wall that will forever separate her from her family, or die. She chooses to go.

In Prythian she takes up residence with Tamlin, the beast who claimed her from her home. He’s a shape-shifter, but mostly lives in his Faerie form, not all that unlike humans, but with curved ears, and a very attractive physique. Tamlin’s home (i.e. mansion) is a luxurious, spacious, and peaceful haven from the life Feyre knows back home. She’s torn between leaving her family behind (How will they survive?) and embracing the luxury of Prythian’s Spring Court.

Tamlin is frequently protecting the land, easily disturbed by Feyre’s abrasive attitude, and is extraordinarily giving even though he doesn’t have to be (and often, Feyre doesn’t seem to deserve his generosity). Lucien is Tamlin’s right hand man with a lot of gumption, a hot temper, a crazy sense of humor, and is very protective of Tamlin, leaving him very cautious around Feyre.

Feyre and Tamlin are essentially enemies. They’ve been brought up to hate one another. For nearly 500 years, it’s been Faeries versus humans.

Sarah J. Maas made me love everything about this childhood fairy tale all over again. I loved Feyre’s story — the escape from her depravity and meeting Tamlin, who pulls her out of her miserable fate to something so much more. Knowing what to expect, but with added elements of the scenery, haunting Attor and other creatures, and the brutal separation that leads the two lovebirds back together really gave A Court of Thorns and Roses its own identity.

And plus, how much more fun is it to read a grownup Beauty and the Beast retelling with super hot, steamy, sexy scenes? Sign me up for more of Tamlin and Feyre’s story, please.

• • •

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Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge

An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

May 8, 2015 - 1:49 pm

Magan - Me too, Alexa! I was so pleasantly surprised that it was another HUGE hit for me. It’s got me in a fantasy mood now, craving SO MUCH MORE!

May 8, 2015 - 11:55 am

Alexa S. - I’m seriously SO thrilled that you enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, M. Isn’t it so, so lovely? I think Sarah has done a brilliant job writing something different from her Throne of Glass series, and I certainly need MORE.

May 7, 2015 - 1:36 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - YES! So excited to read your thoughts. I just loved this one too. I was so scared it wouldn’t live up to my expectations having recently fallen in love with ToG.
I loved how it really was its own story but you could easily spot BatB too!

May 6, 2015 - 8:18 pm

Faith - So glad you liked it! Can’t wait to read it because its more Sarah J Maas :)

May 6, 2015 - 4:41 pm

Julia Anne @ Peach Print - I’m so happy to hear this book doesn’t disappoint!! I actually have yet to read Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series (I know, I’m terrible), but once I do, I’m definitely going to get cracking on this newest release. A grownup Beauty and the Beast retelling? Count me in!

May 6, 2015 - 2:31 pm

Magan - Yani! It was released yesterday! RUN TO YOUR BOOKSTORES TO BUY IT! RUN! 😉 I hope you enjoy!

May 6, 2015 - 10:16 am

Yani - I cannot wait for this to be in our local bookstore’s shelves. I want to read it now. I can’t bear the hype anymore. It’s torture.

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Black Iris by Leah Raeder | Estelle Reviews

Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder ( web |  tweet )
Published April 28, 2015 by Atria
Pages: 368
Target audience: New adult
Keywords: homophobia, bullying, revenge, sex, family, mental illness

Summary: Pain and betrayal chased with emotionless sex and drugs take centerstage in this tale of revenge against her old life — as Laney finds her caught between the illuminating and out of control Blythe, and the understanding and steady Armin. Feelings blur with devastating highs and lows as loyalties are questioned, family secrets are uncovered, and tangled webs becomes unraveled.

This review is going to be the equivalent of me sticking my tongue out at you, and saying nah nah nah nahhh nah I can’t tell you a freaking thing. I apologize in advance. I really do. Believe me when I say I haven’t read such an electrifying mystery crackling with so much tension since Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. But since Dangerous Girls was a young adult book, picture all of that deliciousness and debauchery turned up a notch… or ten.

I was unbelievably riveted by the story of Laney, struggling with who she is in such a public forum because of a total jerk. It’s more complicated than Laney feeling comfortable to be loud and proud about her sexuality; she wants to love who she wants to love. She wants to kiss who she wants to kiss. Of course, there are the people that don’t approve of this “behavior” and Leah Raeder has sprinkled them throughout Black Iris. Laney isn’t a character who has a ton of support and isn’t exactly forthcoming with all the feelings swirling around her because the judgement so far has been real and painful and soul crushing.

So when she meets Blythe and Armin — it’s like FINALLY. Two people who love her and accept her except she’s into Armin and she thinks he’s into her and she can’t deny she isn’t Blythe and she’s pretty sure she’s into her right back and well, a complex story is dished even more layers. Friendship and trust and loyalty are constantly being tested, especially as Laney becomes fixated on righting the wrongs from high school.

It was more than the tension and the need to know the endgame that kept me reading Black Iris late into my Friday night (the same evening I started it). Raeder’s writing is smart and layered; I loved how Laney and Blythe are literature snobs and geekily trade quotes all the time. In the midst of Laney shifting into this calculated vengeful mastermind, there’s also her difficult relationship with her mom and the exact opposite kind of closeness she has with her younger brother. The details are meaty, and Raeder put as much as work into these of this story as she did with the combustible energy between Blythe, Armin, and Laney.

This is the thing: Laney admits to not being on the straight and narrow. And even though she’s choreographing some horrific situations, I felt empowered on her behalf. She was wrongfully targeted because of who she was and she did something about it. She made people pay. For that, she was pretty kick ass — just like this entire book. For a thoroughly sexy and suspenseful mystery that sucks you in and spits you out, look no further than Black Iris.

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Thanks to Atria for supplying an early copy of this book.

May 5, 2015 - 6:48 am

Kimmy - I preordered this one and was super excited when it showed up! I was already looking forward to reading this, but your review has me even more intrigued!!

May 4, 2015 - 11:17 am

Alexa S. - I’ve seen Black Iris mentioned quite a few times, and I’m definitely curious! It sounds so intriguing. While I’m not usually a reader of thrillers, this one sounds really good. And really different, which is why I’m leaning towards giving it a shot. So glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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