Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Waiting On Wednesday ... My Dark Vanessa


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
I have been intrigued by this since I read the deal announcement. I've seen it called a feminist Lolita which is certainly going to create some buzz. Also, Stephen King called it a 'well constructed package of dynamite' which has me really hopeful. I am hoping that this is a another Tampa for me - a book that tackles difficult topics in such a well executed way.

This is one of my 'desperate to get my hands on' books of Book Expo! It doesn't come out until January but I anticipate it'll be the book to read with your book club and discuss for hours.

Expected release date - January 28, 2020

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg


The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg
Release Date - May 28, 2019
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  352 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Welcome to the Kingdom... where 'Happily Ever After' isn't just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom(TM) is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species--formerly extinct--roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful "princesses" engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time... love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana's memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty--and what it truly means to be human. 
If you took Westworld, mixed it with a true crime podcast, and added in some Disney theme park elements you would get The Kingdom. A story about a place that has a darkness under the happily ever afters it promises. Jess Rothenberg has written a unique story that not only entertains but causes the reader to think and ask questions of themselves.

Ana's voice, for me, was so distinct it made her a really strong character. It felt like the author had a very clear sense of who this character was, her motivations, and it translated off the page easily. She is one of those characters who just resonates with you and lingers long after you've finished the book.

The romance it tentative, and sweet. Seeing Ana experience emotions for the first time and grapple with what it means was part of what made this story feel so unique. Ana is aware that she shouldn't be dreaming, or feeling what she is feeling, but her reaction to it happening felt so authentic. It made the romance feel a touch more believable for me in a lot of ways. Ana's joy, sorrow, and everything in between adds to her relationship with Owen. Their moments are subtle, but so important to Ana's journey.

The Kingdom is basically Disney World dialed up. It's bright, magical, and the place where dreams come true. We, however, quickly see that not everything is as it seems. There is a darkness, particularly what happens to Ana and her fellow 'Fantasists', that pulses under the surface. The nods to the abuse that they suffer under the hands of wealthy men may only be delicately woven into the story but it is more than enough to repulse and turn your stomach. The lavish parties, the leering looks, the crass comments, the unwanted touches.  They all serve to paint a terrible, rage inducing picture. The anger that coursed through me as I read this made me realize how well crafted this book is. I cared about Ana and the others almost from the beginning and it was quite evident as this part of the story came into sharper focus.

The sexual harassment and abuse Ana and her 'sisters' face is, obviously, quite timely. This book is a product of the #metoo movement. There is female anger here and commentary on the right to feel it. There are questions and exploration of rape culture and the effect it has on women. It isn't overt but that makes it all the more impressive how it was woven in along with a strong mystery. The Fantasists to many men are things to be used with zero thought of consequences and that feels extra relevant right now.

The murder of Owen is the central mystery to the story. It is told in flashes of different story telling techniques. You have regular prose mixed with transcripts, photos, articles, and interviews. This allows for the twists and reveals to be perfectly paced. The mystery is important to the story but it really feeds into the overall narrative of humanity and what it means to be human. The use of all these narration devices is part of what makes this story as strong as it is and it shows what a clever choices it was in the set up of the mystery. The premise rests on whether Ana could be convicted for murder if what she experienced was a technical glitch of a piece of artificial intelligence. Who would ultimately be responsible if that were the case. The idea of agency and self awareness is the heart of this story and it threads into all the other elements.

Feeling for Ana is the entire point of this story. It asks us to question what we consider human. It also asks us to consider what we would owe to a creation like Ana if we do consider her human. It is fascinating, smart, and well written. It's the type of book you'll want to discuss with your book club or friends. I highly recommend this one for those who want a little something extra with their mystery read. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Weekly Obsessions


The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.

Sunday posting once again! I am busy preparing for my trip to New York City to go to Book Expo so I was a little late getting this ready. I hope everyone is having a great weekend though!

TV/MOVIE

Always Be My Maybe Trailer

Netflix has been on fire lately with their rom-coms and this latest one seems to be no exception. Please watch this trailer until the very end and join me in desperately wanting to watch it.




The Keanu Reeves part at the end? I laughed so hard. It's going to be amazing. I premieres on Netflix later this month so I'll be watching as soon as I get back from Book Expo.

OTHER

Book Expo America

We are almost a week away from when I'll be headed to NYC for Book Expo. The autographing schedule was just released and I am so excited about some of the authors that will be signing. I am mostly just excited to be at the event and eat Shake Shack again if I am being honest though.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, May 17, 2019

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn


You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn
Release Date - April 2, 2019
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  304 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.
You'd Be Mine is part A Star Is Born (the Bradley Copper/Lady Gaga edition), part Walk The Line, and part perfect summer read. Erin Hahn had crafted a story that offers an addicting blend of romance, angst, and hope.

Music is the heartbeat to this story. The way it influences and drives the characters makes it feel like a character itself. It is the central force that pushes every other element of the story in some way. It, therefore, is a good thing that it feels so natural to the characters.

Annie is the daughter of music royalty and that crown is a heavy one to wear. Particularly when that legacy is steeped in tragedy. Annie is struggling with doing things on her own terms and accepting the complicated feelings the death of her parents and entering the music scene bring out in her. She is doing her best to move forward and exhibits strength is some pretty tough situations.

Clay is the bad boy musician who drowns his sorrows with alcohol, women, and generally not caring about anything. He has a tragic backstory of his own but is, obviously, handling it different than Annie. He also happens to be incredibly charming and irresistible to Annie (thanks in large part to the way his butt looks in his jeans). He is exactly the kind of boy Annie knows to stay away from thanks to her up close and personal view of the darker side of what fame can do to someone.

The push and pull of Annie and Clay's relationship is electric. It pulsates like the beat of one of their songs. They tease, aggravate, and try to outdo each other. It is a romance meant to appeal to those who love the slow burn. They convincingly go from people who don't really like or trust one another to becoming friends and finally something more.

Obviously, both Clay and Annie have baggage to spare. These are not healthy individuals who should be entering into a relationship. Their own personal demons are something they have to face on their own and the writing never alludes to any kind of magic fix (and this includes love). Everything from Annie's grief to Clay's addiction issues is so raw and authentic that it adds some gritty texture to a story I thought was going to be lighter than it was.

The tour element provides the perfect backdrop to this story. It combined the rush of performing with the decidedly not glamorous reality of life on the road. Travel is not the focus of the novel, it instead feeds into the larger story being told. It, much like the music, just felt true to the story being told. Some of the elements of touring are used to highlight both Annie and Clay's personalities which helped flesh out their characters more.

I immediately wanted to watch Walk The Line upon finishing the final page of this book. Annie and Clay's story may not be June and Johnny's but there is inspiration to be found there. This book is a love letter to music, complicated relationships, and finding your own voice. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves the young adult contemporary genre. Erin Hahn is definitely an author you'll want to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting On Wednesday ... Into The Crooked Place


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is Into The Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other. 
I really enjoyed Alexandra Christo's wickedly dangerous take on sirens (and a little bit of a retelling of The Little Mermaid) in To Kill A Kingdom so I was eager to see what she would write next.

Her follow up seems to be diving into criminals and magic which is always intriguing. It sounds like it could be a fun, fast paced read so I am excited to get my hands on it in October when it releases.

Expected release date - October 8, 2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins


Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
Release Date - May 7, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  304 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can't believe her luck when she's accepted into one of the world's most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille's roommate Flora is a total princess.

She's also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other--Flora is both high-class and high-key--but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn't a fairy tale . . . or is it? 
Royal themed novels are a weakness of mine. It immediately gets me to add a book to my ever growing reading pile. It is always a nice bonus when they turn out to be a thoroughly enjoyable read that is everything a young adult contemporary fan could want.

Fans of the hate-to-love trope will delight in the dynamic between Millie and Flora. The sparks are there even when it seems like they would rather fight with each other than make out. Those hoping for a super romantic, light, and all around fun relationship between two female characters will absolutely find that within these pages.

The Scotland boarding school setting is the perfect backdrop to this story. Forcing Millie and Flora to be roommates makes great use of that classic trope and gives a wanderlust vibe to the story as we see the school (and Scotland) through Millie's eyes.  I loved everything about the school but especially the fun inclusion of it being the first group of female students to attend.

Millie is super smart and unapologetically into her interests. She is fascinated by geology and that fact is present throughout the entire book. Millie embraces who she is so fiercely that it is inspiring. I predict many readers will love her and Fiora quite a bit by the end of the novel.

The fun part of companion style novels is the cameos it allows and this book is no except. It has got some great cameos for those who have read Royals (retitled Prince Charming). It is, however, a better example of my other favourite thing about companion novels - they allow us to get to know characters we already know better. My opinion of Flora, and who she is as a character, changed so much as a result of reading this book. She is more layered and less frivolous than I expected. She also has a much bigger heart than I anticipated. Seeing this other side of her made me want a book about Seb because I can only imagine what is underneath that hot mess of a Prince.

This is a true rom-com with all of the cliche moments and required happy ending. Any reader who sees themselves reflected in Millie and Flora's story will be thrilled that they are finally getting a story usually told about a girl falling for a Prince. I highly urge you to seek out reviews from those people because this book is going to speak to them in a completely different way than it did me.

Her Royal Highness is a pure delight of a book. A romance filled with grand gestures, just enough angst, and plenty of swoon worthy moments. It will leave you with more than a dash of royal fever and wondering when you'll be able to watch the, hopefully, inevitable Netflix movie.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Weekly Obsessions


The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.

TV/MOVIE

Judy Official Trailer

Renee Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in this upcoming bio pic and if the first trailer is any indication she'll be included in this year's Oscar talks.



It looks great and Renee's transformation is certainly impressive. I am looking forward to seeing more as the release date comes closer.

OTHER

Stranger Things Season 3 Funkos

Funko has released their first wave of Pops for season three and they are amazing!


I am going to need the Steve and Will ones for my collection! I love them both. These are just some of the ones in the new collection and you can see the rest over on the Funko blog.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

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