Turtle Under Ice | A Review

Hiya everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario. This is actually the first time I’m reviewing a book written in verse. Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive. But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone. Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

I usually read books in verse if I’m trying to get out of a slump. However, I just picked this one up spontaneously. And I’m happy that I did! Turtle Under Ice is a story full of emotion and the will to just push on. It oozes out with sisterly love, and tells us that we should always be grateful for our parents.

The story follows sisters Ariana and Rowena. It’s told through both their perspectives and is done astonishingly well. Despite disliking Ariana, I can 100% understand where she’s coming from. Ariana wants to be an older sister Rowena can look up to, but she knows she’s failing that role. I found this to be incredibly touching and relatable. Ariana is also a creative, and uses her art to cope. She actually does her summative art project on grief. Meanwhile, Rowena, or Row, uses soccer as an escape from her heartache. What really broke me is that Row sees her mother on the field when she plays. The reason behind this is that her mom was always so busy, that she could never attend any of her soccer matches. Furthermore, I ADORED the sibling dynamic. It perfectly captured the fact that no matter what happens in life, they’ll always have each other, and it was just the sweetest thing!

“Maybe hope is like a turtle under ice
breathing through its shell,
through its biochemistry, still alive. Maybe hope waits for spring to come, for the ice to thaw
for the weight of the pond that encapsulates us to melt into nothing. But maybe we are not meant to wait for springtime.
Maybe, instead, we are meant
to break the ice
and be free.”

― Juleah del Rosario, Turtle Under Ice

In addition, through the dialogue we got to see how Ariana interacts with other people. The way she talked to people with no care in the word was quite interesting. Aside from that, there wasn’t much dialogue. Instead, there were more monologues, which brings me to the writing!

“There was no right time for my mother to die,
because when someone we loves dies,
it will always be untimely”
― Juleah del Rosario, Turtle Under Ice

Juleah del Rosario’s writing is truly beautiful. Turtle Under Ice is written in verse, and is done exquisitely. The author creates such vivid yet depressing scenes that will make you want to read on! It’s absolutely stunning, and isn’t overly metaphorical or unclear.

Overall, Turtle Under Ice is a quick and emotional read perfect for those who are looking for a moving story on familial relationships and grief.

Age Rating: 14 and up

TW: Death of a parent (off page but talked about a lot), miscarriage, main character runs away from home

Final Rating: 7/10 or 3.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

What’s your favorite novel written in verse? Have a lovely day, and thank you for reading!

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March Wrap-Up

Hello beautiful people of the internet! Today I bring you my March wrap-up! Before we get into it, I just want to say that I’m so sorry for not posting as often this month. March was such a hectic month for me. Nevertheless I will still be active and try to interact with all of you as much as possible!

Novels I Read (In order)

(eARC) Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 out of 5 stars) This was such a good book! I received an ARC via Netgalley, and it was the perfect quick and emotional middle grade read. I highly recommend it! Review to come!

(eARC) In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.75 out of 5 stars) Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the first high fantasy book I’ve read! I received an ARC via Netgalley, turnthepagetours and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishings. This was such an epic and cute story! Book tour stop to come!

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman: I’m halfway through this one, and am really liking it so far! Despite being fiction, it’s quite educational!

Graphic Novels and Manga read

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 out of 5 stars) This was a mellow graphic novel about toxic relationships and discovering oneself. It was hard to get into at first, but I found myself really enjoying it towards the end. The artwork is also something I’ve never seen before, and is absolutely stunning!

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Moriarty the Patriot Volume 1 by Ryōsuke Takeuchi, Hikaru Myoshi, with ideas from Arthur Conan Doyle: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.75 out of 5 stars) This was such a great first volume! It was captivating, eccentric and incredibly fast paced. I highly recommend this series to any Sherlock Holmes fans or any British drama lovers.

Blue Flag Volume 3 by Kaito: This volume was as heart-wrenching and stunning as always. Can’t wait to read the next one!

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Shortcake Cake Volume 2 by Suu Morishita: ⭐⭐ (2 out of 5 stars) I feel like everything escalated way to quickly, which I’m not necessarily upset about. However, all of a sudden 2-3 boys just started calling Ten (the main character) “mine,” as if she was some kind of property they owned. That part of the book made me feel uncomfortable, because no one owns someone, and I honestly think that was inappropriate. Nevertheless, I hope to continue the series. Maybe it’ll get better!

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My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (3.5 out of 5 stars) My Last Summer with Cass was a heart wrenching story on how when life changes, so can relationships. It’s a lovely coming of age that beautifully depicts life’s ups and downs. You can read my author interview and blog tour stop for the book here!

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(eARC) Pixels of You by Anath Hirsh, Yuko Ota, and J.R. Doyle: ⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars) This was a futuristic sweet enemies-to-lovers graphic novel. It was definitely unique, and I’m sure people who like steampunk will find this novel enjoyable. Thank you Netgalley and ABRAMS Kids for a copy of this book!

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Total Number Of Books Read: 13

Total Number Of Posts Published: 5

Average Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 out of 5 stars

First, let’s recap! Last month, I said I would finish my eARC TBR, and I did! I also posted 2 bookstagram photos this month as well!

Some of my goals for April include…

  • Read three new novels
  • Post the tags I was tagged in by other (amazing) bloggers

And that’s a wrap! Before I sign off for today, I just wanted to announce that I have a book blogger related project in the works! It won’t be released anytime soon, but I just wanted to throw it out there. 😆 You can read last month’s wrap-up here. Also, if you could be so kind to fill in this form that would be great! Have a fabulous day everyone!

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A Song Below Water | A Review

Hiya! Today I will be reviewing the contemporary fantasy YA novel; A Song Below Water By Bethany C Morrow. Enjoy!

A Song Below Water: A Novel: Amazon.ca: Morrow, Bethany C.: Books

(Synopsis from goodreads)

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

Let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded so incredibly bone rattling and revolutionary! The execution however, let me down. The whole story was very confusing, and many of the magical creatures weren’t explained beforehand. As someone who doesn’t know much about magical realism and fantasy, I was extremely confused. I also longed for more social commentary. I felt like there was barely any, which is such a shame as it could have made this book 10 times more enjoyable.

Fortunately though, I liked the main characters. Effy and Tavia had the best relationship! It was just the sweetest. I absolutely loved the talk about black hair! I actually learnt quite a bit about black hair through A Song Below Water. Wallace was another great character. He was kind, charismatic, and charming. At times I felt as though Effy was cold towards Wallace for absolutely no reason whatsoever. For example, he’d try to help her, and she’d snap at him. The fluctuation from I-love-Wallace to I-hate-Wallace was a bit off, and didn’t transition smoothly.

“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”

― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water

Tavia’s parents were dislikeable, and their actions where discriminatory towards sirens. (Tavia is a siren by the way.) Fortunately, I was very intrigued to see the father-daughter dynamic play out, so that was cool! Moreover, the other side characters such as Naema and Priam were flat out mean. I won’t talk much about the actual actions some characters made as I don’t want to give spoilers. However, it seemed that a lot of their actions were done ‘just because,’ and didn’t have any meaning behind doing so.

The dialogue between Effy and Tavia was the best thing ever! I absolutely adored their late night talks! If you’re looking for a story about sisters, do check out A Song Below Water. I also loved how Tavia and Effy used sign language to communicate when Tavia was not able to speak. Sign language is something hard to find in YA novels, let alone fictional novels! As mentioned previously, I was hoping for more talk about the discrimination that sirens, let alone African Americans, face.

“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”

― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water

For the most part, the writing style felt choppy and hard to follow. I did however, like how I was able to distinguish between Effy and Tavia’s point of views. In many books, it’s hard to tell which character’s head the readers are in, but with A Song Below Water, I was able to distinguished perfectly between the two! They each had their own unique way of thinking, and I’m so glad the author delved into that vigorously! The best thing about the book though, was that there was barely any swearing or cursing! Isn’t that amazing? I don’t know about you, but it left me feeling very happy.

I’m sad to say that the overall enjoyment level of A Song Below Water wasn’t very high. I was way too confused to feel completely immersed in the story. It took me over 200 pages to get into the storyline. Fortunately, the plot was whimsical perfection, so that added to the overall enjoyment of the book!

A Song Below Water was an enlightening read that I recommend to whimsical fiction lovers!

Age Rating: 12 and up

TW: Police brutality, forced outing, colorism, racism, talk of murder, bullying, cyber bullying

Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars

⭐⭐⭐

Have you read A Song Below Water? If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! Have a wonderful day!

(PS: If anyone’s curious, I posted a pic of this novel on my bookstagram)

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Ten YA Novels To Read On Valentine’s Day

Hiya! I hope you’re all doing amazing. As we all know, it’s almost Valentine’s Day! So to celebrate this lovely (pun intended) holiday, I compiled 10 YA novels that focus on, but are not limited to; love! I hope you enjoy!

(PS: Press on the cover of a book to add it to goodreads!)

1. Love Is A Revolution

Love Is A Revolution by Renée Watson is a YA contemporary romance. But it’s also about self love. Self love is such an important and underestimated form of love. Therefore, I just had to include this book!

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2. Love From A To Z

If you’ve seen my review for Love From A To Z by S.K Ali, then you’ll know how much I love it! It is 100% a must read for Valentine’s Day!

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3. Together, Apart

Together, Apart is a collection of short stories written by numerous authors. It’s essentially about teens finding love during the pandemic that I’m sure we’re all well acquainted with by now. It is so adorable! I love how it features different authors that I wouldn’t have discovered it if weren’t for this book.

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4. The Quantum Theory Of The Almost-Kiss

The Quantum Theory Of The Almost-Kiss by Amy Parks is the perfect friends to lovers story to read on Valentine’s Day! (PS: Author Interview with Ms. Parks to come sometime next week!)

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5. Super Fake Love Song

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon is a rom-com that involves fake dating and well, music! It’s overall just a super fun and light read!

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6. Here The Whole Time

Here The Whole Time by Vitor Martens is a soft and quick read, perfect for Valentine’s Day! (Light and soft books are a reoccurring theme in this list, in case you didn’t notice. 😆)

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7. More To The Story

More To The Story by Hena Khan is a middle grade retelling of Little Women. I decided to include it because it highlights the love of family in the cutest and most wholesome way possible!

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8. A Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea And Tomorrow

As a tea enthusiast, I just knew I had to include The Cuban Girl’s Guide To Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey!

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9. I Love You So Mochi

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is filled with delicious sweet treats, and an even sweeter story!

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10. Charming As A Verb

Charming As A Verb by Ben Phillipe is a witty rom-com that’s perfect for those looking for a laugh!

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And that’s a wrap! I hope you all have a wonderful February, and an even more amazing Valentine’s Day! What is your go-to Valentine’s Day read? 💕

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A Pho Love Story | An ARC Review

Hiya! Today I’ll be reviewing ‘A Pho Love Story’ by Loan Le. It’s actually my first ever eARC/ARC, and I am so happy I was approved to read this novel! Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. (Please note that the synopsis provided is from goodreads.) Without further ado, here is the review!

A Pho Love Story: Le, Loan: 9781534441934: Books - Amazon.ca

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember. Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories? 

First let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded very promising, and the plot was executed pretty well. The readers were able to get lovely descriptions of Phở and other delicious Vietnamese foods, which made me, admittedly, very hungry. Unfortunately, I felt as though we didn’t get much time in the restaurants. It would have been so cool to see all the steps it takes to establish a restaurant.

The characters were a delight! Bao was snarky and always made me laugh. He was honestly just a really kind and caring character towards everyone really. I loved how the idea of not knowing what he wanted to do in the future was executed in the novel. Uncertainty about the future is a very real that people go through, so it was definitely cool to see! Linh on the other hand knew she wanted to be an artist. It’s wonderful to see young people pursuing the arts, and I loved how Loan Le incorporated Linh’s family into her art. Linh’s inspiration for creating art was very beautiful and I found myself liking her character. However, she wasn’t as memorable as I thought she’d be. Moreover, Linh and Bao had a very healthy relationship. They were so cute together, and made a fantastic team! There was some miscommunication, but it was worked out throughout the novel!

Since the version I read of A Pho Love Story was an ARC, there won’t be any quotes in my review. Instead, take this cute cat!

The side characters were unique as well. I loved how the cast was almost all Vietnamese. It was very refreshing to see! Linh’s friend Ally, and Bao’s friend Viet, where great supporting characters. They were both helpful, and funny. I only wish the author went more in depth into the lives of the side characters. I also absolutely adored the family dynamic. The tension between the two families felt raw and realistic. Another character I enjoyed reading about is Chef Le and his family’s hilarious cameos. It was nice to see a very wholesome relationship between the Mai sisters. Evie and Linh have a lovely sibling dynamic that I wish was explored more in the book. A Pho Love Story is gorgeously done in terms of creating a sense of community within families, and I fell in love with that. Having a loving family is something very special, so I am very happy it was explored vividly throughout the novel.

The dialogue between Linh, Bao, and their friends felt pretty average, nothing ground-breaking was said. It was the dialogue between the main characters and their parents that really intrigued me. I haven’t read many YA novels where the parents and children had intricate relationships. Furthermore, it was very interesting to see Vietnamese spoken throughout the book. I love learning about different languages and cultures, so this only added to the enjoyment of the novel!

I unfortunately struggled with the writing style. The point of view switches from Bao to Linh, and vice versa every 10-15 pages or so. I found myself struggling with trying to understand if the we were in Bao’s head, or in Linh’s. At other times, the story felt repetitive and boring. In my opinion, A Pho Love Story didn’t need to be over 400 pages long. If it was slightly shorter, I’m sure I would have loved it even more.

As mentioned previously, the book seemed to drag on at times and felt a bit repetitive. That did affect the overall enjoyment level a lot. Nevertheless, it was still an incredibly refreshing read that I totally recommend!

Age Rating: 13 and up

TW: Stories of war and death

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

So, will you read A Pho Love Story? Have a great day!

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This Train Is Being Held | A Review

Hiya everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams. Before I get into my review, look at this beautiful cover! I say this in every review, but I can always, ALWAYS, appreciate a stunning book cover. This was easily my most anticipated YA novel of 2020, so I’m super excited to have finally read it! Without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

First, let’s talk about the plot. The original premise of ‘This Train Is Being Held’ sounded, rather generic. We’ve all heard the story of ‘they meet one day on a train.’ However, going into the story, I knew I wouldn’t be delving into a creative plot. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I prefer contemporary, so it was nice to be met with a rather simplistic story. The plot was executed pretty well, so I had no issues with that aspect of the novel. Unfortunately though, it was a bit too insta-love for my liking.

Furthermore, with that said, the characters were complex. It was amazing to see an almost all Latinx and Hispanic cast. The diversity within the cast was so cool! The main characters; Isa and Alex weren’t bland. Alex wants to be a poet, and Isa wants to be a dancer. In many immigrant households, pursuing the arts is a rather taboo topic. So it was great to see that they were showing colored people in the arts. However, I was hoping for more communication between the characters. From the parents to the children, to Isa and Alex, there was so much miscommunication! That part of the story left me a bit frustrated. Without giving away spoilers, for a large part of the story, Alex kept on trying to talk to Isa, but she would constantly respond to him indirectly. And Alex always kept on assuming things without even trying to communicate with other people.

“Because it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard enough, you can do anything. Become anyone.”

― Ismée Amiel Williams, This Train Is Being Held

The side characters were also well crafted. First we have Isa and Alex’ parents. Their parents were complex, and I loved that. In a lot of stories, the parents literally have no personality. In This Train Is Being Held, Isa’s mom and older brother are bipolar. I can’t say for sure how accurate the illness was portrayed in the novel because it simply isn’t my place to comment on that. However, Isa’s mother has a fascinating backstory. (You’ll have to find out what is it for yourself. 😏) I also liked how Alex has a sweet relationship with his parents. He has a great relationship with his mom, and step mom; Yaritza. His dad however, not so much. I like how the family dynamic was explored throughout the book. Alex’s dad is hard on him and his little brother Robi. Robi is just such a cutie, and I love how Alex was protective over him. Alex’s friends; Danny and Bryan are great characters as well. In the story, the police constantly target Alex and his friends because of the color of their skin. They assume they’re in a gang, much like the one Danny’s brother was in. The book readily explores police brutality, and I thought it was so amazing and unique to see such topics present in contemporary novels. Another interesting side character was Kiara; a girl that likes Alex. Without giving away too much, in the beginning I didn’t like her. However, she proved to be an empathetic character in the end! Isa also has a loving relationship with her older brother Merrit. She looks up to her brother, and cares for him. It was refreshing to see a brother-sister dynamic where the dialogue isn’t just “GeT OuT oF My RoOM.”

Looking back, I realize that there wasn’t much dialogue between Alex and Isa for the last 3/4 of the book. For the dialogue that there was, I would say it was rather unrealistic. Within the first 20 pages, they kiss….um what. Nevertheless, I was very intrigued with the dialogue between Alex and his friend Danny. A portion of the narration was in Spanish. Personally, I found it to be rather refreshing. Although I don’t understand the language, it was still nice to see another language other than English spoken in a American YA novel.

“I want to be with you through the bad. Not just laugh next to you during the good.” He tells me what his mami told him. That falling in love is easy but fighting for it is hard. “You, this.” He points to the two of us. “It’s worth fighting for.”

― Ismée Amiel Williams, This Train Is Being Held

The writing style was raw, and I loved that. It was nice to see Alex and Isa’s inner thoughts. The point of view is in first person, and in present tense. Present tense writing is something I don’t encounter often within the Young Adult Genre. I enjoyed the writing because it was very ‘in the moment.’ This allowed the readers to immerse completely into the story. Unfortunately though, the pacing was incredibly awkward, and the words girlfriend and boyfriend, were only mentioned till way later. That made me extremely confused as to whether or not they were dating, or simply just liked each other. On a side note, the description of the foods present in the novel where done so well. I’ve never tried guava pastries, but I really want to now!

The overall enjoyment level of the book will be different for everyone. If you enjoy contemporary, then I recommend This Train Is Being Held! However, if romance isn’t your thing, then you might not enjoy this book as much as I did. What others would define as boring, I define as nail-biting suspense. The author had me hooked throughout the entire story!

I will admit, I was going to give this one three stars. The middle proved frustrating, but the ending was phenomenal. So I bumped it up to four stars!

Age Rating: 15 and up

TW: Police brutality, gang violence, some mature content

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

What is your favorite YA contemporary novel? Have a fabulous day everyone!

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