Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Words have always been more than enough for Ken Z, but when he meets Ran at the mall food court, everything changes. Beautiful, mysterious Ran opens the door to a number of firsts for Ken: first kiss, first love. But as quickly as he enters Ken's life, Ran disappears, and Ken Z is left wondering: Why love at all, if this is where it leads?
Letting it end there would be tragic. So, with the help of his best friends, the comfort of his haikus and lists, and even strange, surreal appearances by his hero, Oscar Wilde, Ken will find that love is worth more than the price of heartbreak.
The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart is a quirky literary love story, centered around the story of Ken Z while he discovers love and heartbreak in his island nation.
However... I would hesitate to call it a "novel". To read this story, you have to appreciate multi-media compositions, and possess patience in spades. Ken Z's story contains so many important themes: classicism, LGBTQ+ advocacy, banned books, and heartbreak, to name a few. But they aren't consistent throughout the book, which could be serious on one page and lighthearted and quirky on the next. (If I use the word "quirky" twenty times in this review, it is only because I couldn't find a good synonym. Forgive me.) This, combined with the varied formatting, made the story feel less a novel and more a collage. All of its emotional power felt theoretical, because the characters and setting were only metaphors for the real world.
Which is why I was not surprised when Ken Z stumbles into Oscar Wilde on the sidewalk, his hero coming to life and giving him advice. I wish I could do that! Oscar comes in sometimes, telling Ken Z about the truths of the heart and sharing words of wisdom. I can't decide if this makes the novel magical realism or if it's just disconnected realistic fiction.
Nevertheless, I liked Ken Z. His love for Oscar Wilde, his tendency towards romance, his habit of bunburying. Life in South Kristol is hard--the nation is cut off from everywhere except the privileged and elite North Kristol, but Ken Z persists in his literary life. He reads and dreams and writes. He fell in love so hard it almost hurt, and he turned to Oscar for explanations, and he always believed. I like a character who has hope, and Ken Z has it in abundance. He wants to think the best of Ran, and everyone, and when he was disappointed, I felt punched.
The concept of Ran as a love interest was promising, but I could never shake the feeling that he was taking advantage of Ken Z. He's from North Kristol, and despite hearing how militaristically oriented his life is, I couldn't understand why he would spend so much time with Ken Z but not do anything meaningful. Part of me wishes there were flipped POV chapters so we could see the romance unfold from both Ran's and Ken Z's perspective, and understand how their feelings develop. Because Ken Z is such a romantic, I couldn't help but feel bad for him and his unanswered-text and missed phone call anxiety.
My favorite characters were Ken Z's best friends: CaZZ and Estelle. They're funny and sweet, and they love him so much, which made me wish all the more that they had more page time. I love reading about supportive best friends, because they really do make a character's world shine. The right friend is the difference between a happily ever after and a tragedy, and it's no different in this story. Even when CaZZ and Estelle are frustrated with Ken Z, they still want to forgive him and support him. They are really good best friends, and I am one hundred percent here for it.
Overall, I would give The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart 3/5 stars for its sweetness and its characters. I would recommend it to fans of Adam Silvera and Elizabeth Acevedo, but with the note that while the emotions drawn out are similar, the writing and characters are "wilde"-ly different.
Happy Tuesday everyone! I'm here to share a post about the first book published by Wattpad Books: The QB Bad Boy and me. TODAY is its first day out in the world as a book, and I have a great interview with Tay Marley, the author, to share in celebration of that.
The Book and its Author
Everything changed the day Drayton Lahey crashed into Dallas’s life…
Dallas Bryan is a no-nonsense cheerleader who has her sights set on a dance scholarship to CalArts. Drayton Lahey is the bad-boy quarterback from football royalty who’s completely wrong for her—at least, that's what she tells herself. The longer Dallas tells herself she doesn't need Dray, the quicker she realizes it might be time to forget what she needs and go after what she wants.
Tay Marley wears many hats: bibliophile, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and featured Wattpad author. Her whirlwind journey on Wattpad began in 2017 and led to one hundred thousand dedicated followers, a five-part series, and three stand-alone books, including her breakout story, The QB Bad Boy and Me, which have amassed over forty-one million reads. She resides in New Zealand with her husband. When she isn’t writing about confident women and their love interests, she’s teaching her three small children how to be the leads in their own epic tales.
Question: What inspired you to write The QB Bad Boy & Me?
Tay Marley: The book is about a quarterback, and I've always found American football culture fascinating. Being from New Zealand, it's an entirely different world. We have nothing like that here. So I wanted to write about it and learn more and put my own spin on what that excitement is like to experience. Writing about it was so much fun and I hope that one day I can see it in real life. It would be an amazing experience.
Q: The QB Bad Boy & Me has such a passionate fan following on Wattpad. In the early days of writing the story, did you ever imagine it would make such an impression?
Marley: No. I never could have imagined that it would generate such an amazing response. And what’s more is that people are so genuinely passionate about that characters and their lives. People send me these really beautiful long messages, describing what Dallas and Drayton mean to them and it’s so heartwarming. Obviously as a writer, the dream is to create characters that the audience love and can relate to but everything felt so surreal. Each milestone was mind blowing. The first 50,000 reads was something I could barely wrap my head around and even now, being close to 30 million. That’s just insane. I really just wrote something that I wanted to read and it was received with love which I am so grateful for.
Q: Dray is definitely a bad boy and Dallas is a driven and responsible girl—they don’t exactly seem like a good match on paper. Do opposites really attract?
Marley: I think for sure that opposites can attract. Not always. But I think that there can be a special sort of bond when there are opposites in the relationship. A balance almost. You might have someone that’s really reserved with someone that’s more outgoing. So the outgoing person might bring the reserved person out of their shell and encourage new experiences. Situations like that. My husband and I are very opposite. But we have a lot in common too. I think that it’s all dependant on the individuals. Sometimes it can work. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you do instead?
Marley: I’m a qualified beauty therapist. That was what I had been studying before I got heavily into my writing. And when I chose not to go ahead and work in that field, I was asked why I would choose to write over a more promising job. People would tell me, oh you know, you could get a job in a salon which is more likely than becoming an author. But I chose to follow the passion that I had and give it my all. It’s an absolute blessing that it paid off. But I think it’s a testament to how powerful believing in yourself can be. And how things don’t happen overnight, but they can happen if you apply yourself and work hard. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Q: As a YA author and a parent, what advice would you give Dallas if she were your daughter? ALTERNATE: What advice would you give teenagers in 2019?
Marley: My daughter is gorgeous. She’s a beautiful, strong willed, rough and tumble kind of girl. She loves to get outside and ride her bike and roller skate and be active. But she also loves getting her hair done and playing with her Barbies. I’ve never put a limit on what she can do. My actual advice that I tell her all the time is just to be confident in who she is as a person. To not focus on what others think but to love herself first. And I like to remind her that being humble is a beautiful quality. That yes she’s beautiful on the outside, but she needs to be beautiful on the inside too. It’s a discussion that we have often. You know, how she treats her peers and her siblings and her teachers. Having a good heart is so so important. It’s something that I’ll always do my best to demonstrate for her. And that’s advice that I’d tell all teenagers.
Hi everyone! I'm here remotely today, because my beloved computer is in the shop!! I've got a keyboard issue that should be resolved soon (fingers crossed!) and then I'll be back to work my magic. I can't write from anywhere else, so I've scheduled a few posts for this week, and it will be like I'd never left. This is what I always say I'll do when I go on vacations or intense study weeks, but it never actually panned out... but I'm here now (or am I?)! At any rate, I will be so happy when I'm reunited with my computer, but for now, here's my reading list and a little talk about public libraries.
I'm currently reading Nocturna by Maya Motayne, a May release that I'd been wanting to pick up for a while now, and I have just finished Finale by Stephanie Garber, both of which I borrowed from my local public library, which is a blessing as always. Today's my day to expound on the wonders of public libraries, it seems.
Libraries are incredible resources, offering books, movies, and music to their patrons for free! Some also have museum and activity passes that members can rent, giving discounts to local attractions. If any of you are on Twitter, you might have seen that post about a person discovering the library for the first time, and I'd like to add that this is wonderful! I am saddened to see so many jumping on this person and mocking them, because libraries are wonderful, and a much better alternative to Amazon and its subsidiaries. They offer the same resources (aforementioned books, music, movies, as well as audiobooks, and digital content) for FREE! They are funded by your tax dollars, at little cost to you! They have your/your community's best interests in mind! Amazon does not. They are a corporation, and they make decisions based on that. Any person who uses the library is a person who making the choice not to support Amazon in that moment.
In addition, libraries also offer access to the internet, research assistance via reference desks, book recommendations, community space, kids/teens programming, and so much more! Not to forget the wonderful people who run the place: librarians are some of the best people in the world. They work so hard, and truly believe in the mission of libraries, which, at least in the US is to "enhance learning and ensure access to information for all," as stated by the ALA.
Happy Tuesday everyone! Visit a library!
The Game: Get ready for Zero Hour as 200 geniuses from around the world go head to head in a competition hand-devised by India's youngest CEO and visionary.
Rex- One of the best programmers/hackers in the world, this 16-year-old Mexican-American is determined to find his missing brother.
Tunde- This 14-year-old self-taught engineering genius has drawn the attention of a ruthless military warlord by single-handedly bringing electricity and internet to his small Nigerian village.
Painted Wolf- One of China's most respected activist bloggers, this mysterious 16-year-old is being pulled into the spotlight by her father's new deal with a corrupt Chinese official.
The Stakes: Are higher than you can imagine. Like life and death. Welcome to the revolution. And get ready to run.
I really wanted to like Genius: The Game. It had a fast-paced, adventurous plot, and characters I could root for. Unfortunately, a couple issues hindered my enjoyment, and I wasn’t able to fall in love with the story.
Let’s start with the good:
And now for the... less good:
All in all, Genius: The Game is a good competitive sci-fi novel, but it wasn’t for me. Maybe a reader interested in coding and engineering will find it engaging. 3/5 stars.
Hi everyone! This is a quick two updates for y'all today because I'm SO BUSY this week! I'm doing a complete deep-clean of my living space... which.... oof. I've got so much stuff, because I have a tendency to hoard memorabilia which never turn out to be too memorable. Anyways, yesterday I got a package in from Ulta, the lipstick I had ordered. I got several shades from Urban Decay's Vice line--cream, comfort matte, and metallized. Guys... I'm a convert. They are so comfortable, with great pigmentation and although they aren't smudge-proof, it doesn't matter because of how rich the color is.
Second, I'm so behind!! Mostly on my reviews, but also on recommendations and other post-shaped things I've promised over the past few months. March, April, and May kind of saw me backslide into an abyss of Netflix and popcorn... and I'm sorry I haven't been up to my usual standards lately. I'm going to work hard this month to master my procrastination and write reviews for the following books:
In place of a calendar, those are my goals for August posts. If I haven't met them by the end of the month, of course you can storm the gates of my castle.
Happy Tuesday from The Baroness
WOW! I've had a fantastic weekend, and I'm so happy I can share it with you. First, on Friday I traveled to the Newport Folk Festival to see one of my favorite musicians, Kacey Musgraves. This has been a long time coming: I'd been on the waitlist since February, starting somewhere in the 300's. Finally got tickets in mid-June, after watching our numbers slowly descend to the 19th spot. We woke up at 5am to prepare, and left at 6:45 for the 2 hour trip to Fort Adams. Of course, we listened to my Musgraves mix on the way, to get in the groove. Once there, we waited until 10 for the gates to open (this was agony--it was so hot outside, and so so muggy, even in the morning), and claimed a spot at the main stage with chairs and blankets.
Musgraves' performance was amazing! She performed songs from her newest album, Golden Hour, as well as a few old hits. I was happily surprised when she played my three favorite songs: "Love is a Wild Thing," "Velvet Elvis," and "High Horse." I have some pictures down below from when I squeezed my way to the crowd just downstage.
I also discovered new music: The Highwomen! They are a new group, formed by Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, and Natalie Hemby. I've listened to Morris' and Carlile's solo albums before, and I am a big fan. They sounded amazing, and I can't wait for their album (out September 6), from which they played several songs. What's more, Newport Folk Festival was their first live full set! I'm so glad I was there to listen because I have a feeling there's great things ahead for this quartet.
Second! On Saturday, I went to New York (simultaneously my favorite and least favorite place in the world), and saw Oklahoma! on Broadway! I was absolutely enchanted by Damon Daunno and Rebecca Naomi Jones, but I'll tell you that 50% of the reason I wanted to see the show was Ali Stroker. Her voice and talent as an actress are undeniable (she's a TONY WINNER, y'all!), as are her perseverance and determination to pave a path for kids with disabilities. "I Cain't Say No" has been my favorite song from the show from the very first note I heard on the Tonys.
We got lucky and had fantastic seats, and every aspect of the performance was so visceral. Some shows just make your heart stop, and this was one of them. I 100% recommend seeing it. As a bonus, Oklahoma! is gun-neutral! This means that for every gun featured in the production, a donation will be made to Gun Neutral's non-profit, which works towards destroying firearms that should not be in use. In addition to the guns used in the show, there are many on display on racks in the house, making this program impressive.
Below are some photos I'd like to share with you from this wonderful weekend, and after that, I'd love to hear about your weekend adventures, from couch to coast!
Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review. I apologize immensely for the delay in my review and thank you for your patience.
Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might have all been friends together. But this was Birchwood.
As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.
Every dress she makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.
Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.
Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration wth her captors, or is it a means of staying alive?
Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose?
One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud - a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.
I loved The Red Ribbon for its honesty, bravery, and surprisingly? Its beauty. Adlington is a talented writer, giving readers a vivid and heartbreaking insight into life at Birchwood. The novel is well-researched and executed, with the historical atrocities of the Holocaust rendered accurately with the lens of a teenage prisoner who has (and deserves) dreams bigger than Birchwood.
In the first few chapters, two main things struck me about Adlington's writing. First, the significance of colors: Ella sees Birchwood with a dressmaker's eyes, so even in the greyest and muddiest places, she sees shining colors and inspiration for her dream dress shop. I loved how each chapter was linked to a color, which would then be pointed out in thoughtful comparisons and linked thematically to the plot. Secondly, the descriptions of food were particularly striking, and I could tell that the intent was to emphasize the emptiness of Birchwood in contrast to the saturation of Ella's former life. A girl's sharp nose "could've cut cheese." Brown pattern paper, like the kind sausages came in, "plump sausages with bits of chopped onion." A green coat becomes an apple, from the tree in Ella's yard. Baked into "apple crumble flecked with caramelized sugar, flaky pastry apple turnovers, and even apple cider." I was not expecting the novel to make me hungry!
I fell in love with Ella and Rose instantly. Ella's dreams of being a designer and owning a dress shop seemed far-fetched, but I wanted so badly for her to have them. I wished with all my heart that she would find her grandparents again, and I loved her memories of sewing and designing with her grandmother in their house. Her strength and willing to do whatever it takes to survive is a testament to the horrors that went on inside Birchwood.
And Rose. Rose, with her stories and countess palace and the kindest heart in the darkest place. I cried when she went to the Hospital and smiled every time she shared her rations with someone. I loved her friendship with Ella, and how the two girls stuck up for each other even through their incredible obstacles.
Everything about this novel was stellar. I would recommend it thoroughly to every reader. 5/5 stars.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.