As much as I love books and reading, I'm a STEM girl at heart! (If you've noticed "future chemist" in my bio, this is all true!) Today, I'd like to share some recommendations for YA books featuring themes of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. If you'd like to purchase any of them, don't hesitate to visit my Bookshop, where I've created a shelf so you can shop this list! (Gentle reminder that these are affiliate links, more info in sidebar) I've got seven out-now recs for you, and a bonus upcoming release that I'm super excited for. Many of the novels on this list feature coding and technology, and that representation is super important! I also want to leave space to acknowledge that we need more books featuring bio, chem, physics, and math students too! This is why I'm so looking forward to Ann LaBar's Prom Theory, out March 30, 2021.
Hi all! Sorry for the unexpected hiatus the past couple of weeks--I really shouldn't be apologizing, because this space exists on my own terms, but I will anyways since I did promise regular content. I'm a student, so it's hard to commit to those types of things between my coursework and job. Regardless, I'm back with some bookish updates! Firstly, I finished Harrow the Ninth on Sunday and I am not okay!! Tamsyn Muir is doubtlessly one of the best SFF writers of this time on Earth, and I am so grateful that I can let her words bend my mind whenever I want to. If anyone at Tor has an Alecto ARC they'd like to drop me... I'm never going to turn that down! I need to know what happens next!
Secondly, on my TBR this month has been a reread of Furyborn before my first read of Kingsbane. I love love loved this series when it first came out, but I've slipped over the years and stopped keeping up. The last installment, Lightbringer, is out now and I am very excited to get my copy once I refamiliarize myself with the world!
Thank you to Bloomsbury for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review!
Faryn Liu thought she was the Heaven Breaker, a warrior destined to wield the all-powerful spear Fenghuang, command dragons, and defeat demons. But a conniving goddess was manipulating her all along...and her beloved younger brother, Alex, has betrayed her and taken over as the Heaven Breaker instead. Alex never forgave the people who treated him and Faryn like outcasts, and now he wants to wipe out both the demons and most of humanity.
Determined to prevent a war and bring Alex back to her side, Faryn and her half-dragon friend Ren join the New Order, a group of warriors based out of Manhattan's Chinatown. She learns that one weapon can stand against Fenghuang--the Ruyi Jingu Bang. Only problem? It belongs to an infamous trickster, the Monkey King.
Faryn sets off on a daring quest to convince the Monkey King to join forces with her, one that will take her to new places--including Diyu, otherwise known as the Underworld--where she'll run into new dangers and more than one familiar face. Can she complete her mission and save the brother she loves, no matter the cost?
The Fallen Hero is a thrilling sequel to The Dragon Warrior, Katie Zhou’s Chinese fantasy-inspired middle grade series will surely delight readers. I’m more of an occasional middle grade reader—it’s excellent light fare for in between longer YA and Adult novels—so I’m not well versed in it enough to give critique. I enjoyed reading The Fallen Hero because of Faryn’s bravery and the fun characterizations of the gods.
High stakes and a wide cast of characters adds excitement. I don’t think there was a single chapter where I wasn’t excited to turn the page and find out what happens next. Zhou also invests readers in every character, from Faryn (our main girl) to the smallest side character. They all have journeys to go on, which just goes to show that there isn’t only one hero—the best battles are won through the efforts of many.
I also liked learning about Chinese mythology through The Fallen Hero. Most of Faryn’s quests and actions are based on legends and myths that have been passed down through the ages. I love adaptations and fairytale retellings—this isn’t one of them, but it’s rather akin to the Percy Jackson novels with the personifications of gods and sense of whimsy that comes in the combination of myth and reality.
One thing I didn’t particularly enjoy is the automatic rivalries Faryn has with any other girl her age on quests. First Moli and now Ashley, I just wish there wasn’t so much girl-hate at first. It’s not great for younger readers to see that they have to work to overcome annoyances in other girls while they can have automatic friendships with everyone else.
I would definitely recommend reading The Dragon Warrior series! It’s a great read for all ages, not just middle graders.
This is... basically a mini-review in the form of me professing my love for Today Tonight Tomorrow. However, I am changing it up a bit around here and instead sharing 5 reasons to read!
I must first state that I knew about T3 loooong before I bought it, having seen booktwt collectively freak out about it upon release. I, a fool, waited months before buying it, not knowing that I was about to fall in love twenty million times. Y'all, you need to read this book.
Before I explain why, here's the cover and synopsis.
The Hating Game meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.
Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.
"Oookayy…." you're saying. "So what's the big deal?" Well. I can answer that with five reasons to read Today Tonight Tomorrow!!
**Disclaimer: that bookshop link is an affiliate link, which means I’ll earn a commission from your purchase. More info in my sidebar!
Hi all! Back today with a fun post that I've been working on for a few weeks now, books as outfits! This video was so much fun to create, and I'm happy to finally be able to share with you all.
Thank you to Wednesday Books for inviting me to the A Golden Fury blog tour! Can't wait to share this shining new dark fantasy.
The Book and its Author
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.
First off, I just have to say the premise is fascinating. I’m a future chemist, and as many of you might know, alchemy is the historical predecessor of chemistry. Lead into gold and all that. So to see it used as the premise for a YA fantasy… sign me up! A Golden Fury is more of a lower-stakes, higher tension read in terms of expectations, and it has a good reason to be a standalone: I simply don’t see the plot having anywhere else to go from here. Heading in, that’s two things in this book’s favor: one, we need more STEM YA! (This is *barely* STEM, but I’m hoping we can make an exception) and two, standalone fantasy! We love it!
I won’t say too much about plot for fear of spoiling this book, but let’s just say that although slow at times, A Golden Fury’s storyline really gives readers a chance to sink into the science and embrace the atmosphere in France and England. There are lots of fun political sidebars for you history nerds to dissect as well, if you’re into late 18th century England. I also liked the inclusion of Oxford—any fantasy nerds will recognize it as a popular setting for books (His Dark Materials, The Bone Season) as well as the schooling-place of fantasy’s 20th century greats (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis).
Thea, our lead character in A Golden Fury, is driven by her love for alchemy and also a desire to succeed on her own after a lifetime of hearing her flaws picked apart by an accomplished mother. She has the knowledge to complete the Philosopher’s Stone, but is put off by the curse that surrounds it. Nevertheless, as we can tell from the synopsis, circumstances intervene and she is forced to try regardless. Thea’s narration is easily my favorite thing about this book. Her desire for support and admiration is so understandable—I totally get why she opens up to so many people, and it hurt every time to see her rebuffed. Further, many of those people end up depending on her help later, so Thea becomes even more fascinating when you watch her making decisions about balancing her own life with those of her friends and family. Lots of readers might say this is a plot book, but no. It’s a character study, and you can’t tell me I’m wrong.
A Golden Fury is also a study of madness. What happens when making the Stone pushes Thea past her brink? How can she save her friends and family from their own minds? Are some of them even worthy of salvation? Again, another thing that makes Thea’s narration a true gift to this world. She teeters on the edge of unreliability because of this induced insanity. Sometimes, I was quite sure what she’s imagined and what’s real, but other times, Cohoe pulls a big reveal and totally tricked me!
My main problem with the novel is a significant issue, but didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I just didn’t feel emotionally attached to anything in the world. Everything was going perfectly, and I really could have loved this novel and 5-starred it, but it just didn’t make me want to tear my heart out in that delicious way some books have. I’m still recommending it, of course, given how fascinating it is, but I personally wasn’t struck with lightning after reading. 4/5 stars for everything else—plot, characters, alchemy!
Hi readers! Literary and historical fiction fans will enjoy this Q&A with author Florence Reiss Kraut on her novel How to Make a Life! My review will be out later this week/month, so I'll share the cover and description below as well. Thank you to Smith Publicity for partnering with me on this post and sharing a copy of How to Make a Life.
Question: How did the idea for How to Make a Life take shape?
Florence Reiss Kraut: I have always wanted to write a novel about a big ethnic – in my case Jewish – family like my own, but not my own. Over my career when I was mostly writing short stories, a family began to take shape and the same characters began to emerge at different stages of their lives. All of a sudden, I was linking the short stories and building four generations of a family. I worked on that concept over 6 years, writing and re-writing until I actually had a novel, How to Make a Life.
Q: Why was writing about a large, diverse family important to you?
FRK: A large, diverse family describes the one I was born into. I had 27 first cousins and 20 aunts and uncles. That was 11 families, including mine, all of whom lived in NYC where I was born, raised and educated. We visited each other on weekends and holidays, and entire summers were spent together in bungalow colonies. Some of my cousins were as close as brothers and sisters. No matter where family members moved, who they married, how they lived, we somehow all kept our connections to one another. I wanted to celebrate that kind of family bond that can span generations.
Q: The book tackles some mental health topics as well. Why was that important for you to include?
FRK: I spent my professional life as a clinical social worker, working with many people and families who lived with and suffered from mental illness. In such a large family, like the one in which I grew up, we also had members who experienced mental illness. I wanted to show how this illness affects not only the ones who suffer from the disease, but also the ones who love them, live with them and try to help them.
Q: Do you have a favorite character in the book and why?
FRK: I feel like choosing one character as a favorite is a little like choosing a favorite child. Impossible. I like all the characters, some because of their strengths, some because of their weaknesses. I feel empathy for all of them. That said, I do have more chapters from Jenny’s point of view because she is the one who always works to keep the family together, the one to whom family members turn for help. I guess all families have one or two people like that.
Q: How did your faith inform the novel?
FRK: I grew up in this large rowdy and very Jewish family. My grandparents who were immigrants at the turn of the century—although they did not come from Ukraine or flee pogroms—were Orthodox Jews. Their 11 surviving children mostly remained in the faith. At least they all married within it and, when I was growing up, our religious practices were part of my everyday life, from celebrating holidays to the Sabbath with Jewish foods, books, culture, and humor. I think that our family was very much like the families of other immigrant ethnicities. In my generation, the religious connections got looser. Some of my cousins inter-married with other religions and races, some stopped practicing any form of religion, and some moved to Israel so they could live a more integrated Jewish life. My background makes me intensely Jewish, totally connected to Jewish history and culture, and very proud of it. But I am not a religious person.
When Ida and her daughter Bessie flee a catastrophic program in Ukraine for America in 1905, they believe their emigration will ensure that their children and grandchildren will be safe from harm. But choices and decisions made by one generation have ripple effects on those who come later—and in the decades that follow, family secrets, betrayals, and mistakes made in the name of love threaten the survival of the family.
A sweeping saga that follows three generations from the tenements of Brooklyn through WWII, from Woodstock to India, and from Spain to Israel, How to Make a Life is the story of a family who must learn to accept each other’s differences—or risk cutting ties with the very people who anchor their place in the world.
A native New Yorker, Florence Reiss Kraut was raised and educated in four of the five boroughs of New York City. With a BA in English and a Masters in Social Work she worked for over thirty years as a clinician, a family therapist and eventually CEO of a family service agency before retiring to write and travel. Her own close family of 26 aunts and uncles and 27 first cousins and listening to stories around the kitchen table, coffee klatches and family parties inspired her to write her fictional, multi-generational family drama, How to Make a Life.
She has published stories for children and teens, romance stories for national magazines, literary stories, and personal essays for the Westchester section of the New York Times. Her fiction has appeared in publications such as The Evening Street Press and SNReview.
Connect with Florence Reiss Kraut at FlorenceReissKraut.com, Facebook (@FlorenceReissKrautAuthor) and Goodreads.
Hi readers, I know I've been gone this past week--turns out classwork is important! But I'm back today with my blog tour post for Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf. Check out the Tour Schedule here, and thank you to Penguin Teen and TBR & Beyond Tours for sharing a copy!
The Book and its Author
Ali Greenleaf and Blythe Jensen couldn't be more different. Ali is sweet, bitingly funny, and just a little naive. Blythe is beautiful, terrifying, and the most popular girl in school. They've never even talked to each other, until a party when Ali decides she'll finally make her move on Sean Nessel, her longtime crush, and the soccer team's superstar. But Sean pushes Ali farther than she wants to go. When she resists--he rapes her.
Blythe sees Ali when she runs from the party, everyone sees her. And Blythe knows something happened with Sean, she knows how he treats girls. Even so, she's his best friend, his confidant. When he begs her to help him, she can't resist.
So Blythe befriends Ali in her attempt to make things right with Sean, bringing Ali into a circle of ruthless popular girls, and sharing her own dark secrets. Despite the betrayal at the heart of their relationship, they see each other, in a way no one ever has before.
In her searing, empowering debut novel, Hayley Krischer tells the story of what happened that night, and how it shaped Ali and Blythe forever. Both girls are survivors in their own ways, and while their experiences are different, and their friendship might not be built to last, it's one that helps each of them find a way forward on their own terms.
Goodreads || Barnes & Noble || Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
Hayley Krischer has been an award-winning journalist for over 20+ years. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times, where she has covered feminist roller skaters, Instagram obsessed moms, profiled Gabrielle Union, Tatum O’Neal, and S.E. Hinton. She has also written for many publications about women and teenage girls including Marie Claire, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Lenny Letter, and the Hairpin. Her YA debut, SOMETHING HAPPENED TO ALI GREENLEAF will be released in fall 2020 from Razorbill. Hayley received her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. Her first newspaper job was as an editorial assistant at the Boston Globe. She reads tarot cards.
Review & Playlist
Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf is dark and crushing, exactly how I like my YA contemporary! It is about fundamental rage, twisted friendships, and misplaced loyalties.
I’ll be upfront and say there are very few likable characters in here. If you told me you thought a single one of them (except perhaps Ali) was admirable or good, I’d give you a side eye. Blythe in particular is interesting to me because she is a terrible friend, a bad person, and for most of the book she’s not even trying to be good. I’m a firm believer in morally grey characters, especially ones with complex motives who wouldn’t usually be allowed to exist in YA. This novel is a necessary departure from the complete forgiveness narrative, the one with little tied up bows on the ending. It simply exists for readers, exists to tell Blythe and Ali’s stories, and that can be enough.
Another thing Krischer did well was addressing sexual assault and rape. Now, there are some aspects of the content that would probably never happen at a high school, and for that I make allowances (I wouldn’t expect the novel to sacrifice good storytelling for moral realism, because frankly I’m not interested in every book having a lesson to teach) but rape is absolutely an issue young adults should address. Krischer’s sensitive response to victim blaming, shame, fear, and all the powerful emotions that Ali experiences after her rape made this an absolute 5 star read for me. It wasn’t just her hurt that bled off the page, it was her absolute uncertainty as to a path forward. I won’t spoil anything for you, but I’ll say that this novel had an incredibly satisfying emotional resolution and I think Hayley Krischer is a debut voice to keep an eye on.
As part of my blog tour post, I’ve also created a little playlist evoking some of the themes of the book! Here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6DZILpBvUjVaVQC4bniWaG?si=axINCZE-Sp62yhltASJ9Zw or you can visit https://open.spotify.com/user/bookbaroness to browse my Spotify.
I think I say this every Tuesday, but once more: it's been a heck of a week so far. The main reason I got through today was a frantic reread of All for the Game, the only sports books I'll ever love. I have the first book on my Kindle, and I burned through that before borrowing the sequels again from Libby. These books have a heart and soul that could pull me out of any bad mood. I'll probably end up finishing The King's Men sometime tonight or tomorrow at this rate--the fastest series reread I've ever done.
Also, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is out today! V.E. Schwab's newest adult novel, which I have heard amazing things about, is sure to dazzle. I'm attending her virtual tour stop at The Brookline Booksmith this weekend, and I can't wait to go pick up my copy! This includes an adorable signed bookplate and art print for my growing art wall. I might need to go pick out some frames soon for all the amazing art I'm getting...
Thank you to SimonTeen for sharing an eARC in exchange for my honest review!
Teenage master of Cuban cuisine, Lila Reyes, is eager to inherit her family’s Miami bakery along with her sister, Pilar. But between spring and graduation, Lila’s abuela dies, her best friend abandons her, and her long-time boyfriend dumps her. Fearing Lila’s emotional health, her parents defy her wishes and entrust her summer to family and their Winchester, England inn. Even though she’s given a space to cook at the inn, she longs for Miami, the seat of her Cuban roots. Being a Miami Cuban baker is her glorified past and destined future, forged by years of training by her loving abuela.
Days into her stay, Orion Maxwell barges into Lila’s inn kitchen with a delivery from his family’s tea shop. A nuisance at first, opposite ingredients soon learn to blend. Orion befriends Lila, introducing her to his mates and devouring her food––comida Cubana.
Orion entertains her with his mental collection of superstitions and sweeps her onto his vintage motorbike. He wraps cold, underdressed Lila in his wool cardigan and becomes her personal tour guide. His mum’s early-onset (FTD) Dementia gives Orion a unique outlook––he never asks too much of the world, accepting what he can’t control. Lila soon discovers this British boy brings empathy to her loss because he’s living his own.
Before long, Lila can’t control the route of her own heart as she begins to fall for more than a new love. England has charmed her. And a special opportunity in London tempts her. As her return ticket looms, Lila feels impossibly caught between two flags. Hearts aren’t supposed to split like this––between a beautiful boy and a beautiful family. Between exploring an uncharted future in a rich new place, and honoring Abuela’s treasured legacy.
Move over, any other romance, I think I’ve found my new favorite! I’ve been excited for this story since I saw the PW deal announcement last year (back when it had a different title, even!), and all of my expectations were far exceeded. I’m having a hard time putting into words exactly what I feel about this book, but suffice it to say that I loved everything.
Let’s start with the food. I’m not typically one of those readers who feels hungry when reading foodie books, but that changed here. Lila’s Cuban pastries gave me such strong cravings for baked goods. If there isn’t a recipe book in the back of my finished copy, I will be so sad. I love reading books about chefs because they all have such strong memories attached to their cooking, Lila included. Her Abuela teaching her how to bake, running La Paloma with her sister Pilar, sharing a kitchen with her family, all laid out with Namey’s signature beautiful writing, constantly brought smiles to my face.
Lila, of course, is a strong character outside her baking as well. She suffered three immense losses one right after another and didn’t cope all that well, but time and again she learned to get up and heal. I want to be her. I seriously want to have that capacity for resilience and growth, not to mention the enthusiasm she brings to every new morning in her kitchen. Always looking to brighten others’ days with a precious baked good, always seeking to improve on old recipes and mix up new ones. I would read a thousand books starring Lila as long as every one of them was written like this. Again, I have to come back to Namey’s character building. The pace of her prose, and the moments which she chooses for the reader so that we may learn Lila’s story fluidly are perfect.
Of course, I couldn’t review a YA romance without actually discussing the romance. Let me speak for many, many readers when I say… I think we all wish we had an Orion in our lives. English love interests can do some serious damage to American readers’ hearts, y’all. He was a perfect tour guide for Lila—showing her around Winchester with a mix of his own favorite haunts and spots he knew she’d love. Orion is compassionate and smart and thoughtful, and also happens to be a perfect complement for Lila because they share an understanding of loss and grief. Not in the same ways as each other, but as mentioned in the synopsis I really believe this helped spark their chemistry. I prefer relationships between characters who understand each others’ worlds on some level to ones who are totally “opposites attract,” so that contributed to my adoration of their romance. Now, this doesn’t mean they didn’t have challenges. Their relationship came with a ticking clock on it, since Lila was only in England for the summer, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it, and no spoilers, but Namey totally brought me joy with the ending she chose.
We ALSO got some amazing side characters. In England, Lila hangs out with a circle of friends made up of Orion, her cousin Gordon, and their friends Jules (a fabulous singer), Remy (Jules’ boyfriend), and Flora (Orion’s sister). I’m a main character person, but I still appreciated that each of them had a story arc and an important role to play in the novel. This definitely helped set the scene and it was fun to see Lila romp around Winchester with a new group of friends.
Most of all, though, what I loved about A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is the message that dreams can change. Lila had her life all planned out, but she truly grew as a character throughout the novel (I know I say this so much, but I REALLY mean it this time). Whoever said romance novels couldn’t be deep and sob-inducing was totally wrong. Her rigidity was challenged by her new circumstances, which (spoiler alert!) actually brought her some happiness. I’m a sucker for that moment in a novel where a character who’s faced unimaginable loss gets to be happy and have moments of peace, and ACGGTTAT was filled with those.
I can’t recommend this beautiful novel enough. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to read it over and over and over again. I know I do! I beg of you, get a copy. A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is original and wonderful and all of the good things about YA romance combined. 5/5 stars (and thank you for reading my treatise).
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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