The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

The Dangerous Art of Blending InThe Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was gut-wrenching. I find stories of parental abuse to be very disturbing, but I also can’t stop reading them once I get started, at least not until I know whether or not the child survives and/or escapes it.

This is also a story of friendship and first love and finding your voice in the worst of circumstances. There are brief flashes of gorgeousness between all the painful moments, and those moments are so hopeful that it pulls you through the rough patches.

Pages: 336

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of SeaA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is so full of mistakes and heartache and misunderstandings and love and growth. It tugged hard at my heart and held my full attention. It’s just so raw and sincere.

The is best YA novel I have read on what it is like to be Muslim American post 9/11.

Pages: 310

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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on HighWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was delicious, well-written, and heartfelt. I’m loving all the amazing and diverse YA stories the publishing industry has to offer these days. What a great time to be a reader. It’s also nice to see a female MC with a passion for food and cooking.

Pages: 400

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Birthday by Meredith Russo

BirthdayBirthday by Meredith Russo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My god. This is absolutely stunning.

It’s an aching, haunting look at navigating true friendship, love, trauma, mental health disorders, being transgender, and unequivocally loving someone transgender, despite negative public perspectives.

It also has the most positive depiction of healthy masculinity that I’ve seen in a YA book in ages. This split journey of Morgan trying to grow into her true self and Eric trying to hold strong and be his true self, despite being surrounded by such toxic views of masculinity, is a combo that was just utterly glorious and enchanting.

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a story this much, and I read almost 450 books a year. There’s something about this one that is just so special that I’m sure I’ll read it again and again and again and again.

And I listened to the author interview at the end, and It’s just as wonderful as the book. Now I can’t quit crying and also feeling so happy that such an amazing book exists for every kid, teen, and adult who always needed and wanted a story like this and also for all of them who never wanted it or never knew they needed it but still did.

Meredith Russo is a force to be reckoned with. You never know with a debut author, when their first book is so sublime, if they’ll ever write anything again that you love that much. But I love this as much, or maybe even just a smidge more than IF I WAS YOUR GIRL, which doesn’t even seem possible.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me an arc for review. My apologies that this review is a bit late.

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, my heart! I can’t say how happy I am to see neurodiversity so well-represented, especially in the romance genre. I especially loved reading yet another great story about an MC with an autism spectrum disorder, written by an author with an autism spectrum disorder.

What is even better is how utterly charming, original, and heartfelt this story is. I could not stop reading it. It’s absolutely compelling, and I also hope it is eye opening for those who don’t have a lot of experience with or understanding of autism spectrum disorders. This is a great book for awareness, but regardless of that, it’s just a great story.

I’ll definitely read this one again, because it is so utterly satisfying.

Pages: 320

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Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for allowing me to review an advanced copy of this book. I apologize for the delay in reading and reviewing this book. I have been ill this year.

This book started out on a great note. It was fascinating, exciting, and dramatic, for those first few chapters. It showed such promise that I couldn’t wait to read what came next, and the magic system had me absolutely captivated. Unfortunately, after that, the plot faltered, the characters meandered, and it was mostly a downhill slide for me.

I think I had my heart set on a truly epic dark fantasy novel, in the vein of Leigh Bardugo, and this just couldn’t touch that level of writing or world building. Instead, I got a rather tedious story about political betrothal with completely undeveloped side characters and way too much telling and backstory, primarily delivered through the dialogue. Because the dialogue was often used as a tool for telling, that impacted the character development, especially in regards to personality.

Basically, with the exception of the start of the novel and a few moments at the end of the novel, the plot lacks intrigue, and the action scenes aren’t enough to hold it together, since the storytelling lacks suspense and emotional resonance. I probably should have stopped reading, since I became more and more frustrated and disappointed the longer that I read, but I kept on, since the magic system was of interest to me. I kept hoping that everything would arrive, all at once, but that never really happened. It had short moments of promise, and then it would lapse back into telling me what to think, feel, or know, instead of just showing me and allowing me to make my own judgments.

The world building was also a bit weak for me, but that may be because it’s hard to settle into the world building, considering the issues with the writing and storytelling. On some level, I’m very interested in this world, even though I didn’t love this novel, and I’m not sure I really understood the complexity of this world, based on the delivery.

This book might be ideal for the types of fantasy readers who care more about concept and magic system than overall storytelling. There’s a small part of me that wonders if with time, and/or future books, this could grow into something amazing. For me, it’s just not there yet.

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The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana AliThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rukhsana is an average American teen with makeup, crop tops, a girlfriend, and a desire to become a scientist, all of which must be hidden from her strict and traditional Muslim parents. When her mother catches Rukhsana kissing her girlfriend, things go from bad to worse, and her parents pack her up and sweep her away to Bangladesh for what is supposed to be a 2 week visit to her ailing grandmother but instead turns into a 2 month stay in order to force her into an arranged marriage with a proper man.

This is a fascinating and layered read, full of Bengali culture, generational family history, angst, drama, and determination. I liked it a lot.

Pages: 336

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