Hi y'all. It's been a rough week, especially for those of us in the US right now. George Floyd's murder by a police officer in Minneapolis was an atrocity, and I stand with every protestor across my country. Black lives matter. We need legislation against police brutality, support for Black businesses, creators, and voices, and to eradicate white supremacy. I don't have anything in particular to share right now because in my real life I'm working to be a good ally and supporter for the Black Lives Matter movement. There's a lot of information flying around, so I want to take this chance to first share some resources and links on educational readings, places to donate, and also highlight three YA books out today by Black authors.
Please add more organizations in the comments! I'd love to expand this post!
And now for the YA content you know me for!! Three amazing YA's by Black authors released today, and I want you to support them! I've included buy links for Bookshop.org (both with and w/o my affiliate link), Barnes & Noble, and libro.fm, but if you have a local indie, especially a bookstore owned by a Black business owner, it'd be great if you'd consider ordering from them instead!
Please stay safe and healthy! I love you all--feel free to email/DM on socials if you want to talk!
Something a little different today—I took a look at my archives, and here are five of the best reviews I’ve ever written. Like everyone, I have good days and bad days for writing. Sometimes I’m a little more expressive, sometimes less. This is me at my best. Buy these books and you’ll find yourself agreeing, I think! Including, of course, the gorgeous covers as well as short excerpts of the reviews (linked to the titles).
I’m a YA blogger. 100% of the books I read are YA, pure and simple. Until September 29, 2019, you could count on this. That’s when I picked up and finished Red, White & Royal Blue within a single day and became an immediate fan of adult literature. Before then, I’d always dismissed the genre out of hand, thinking it couldn’t be as entertaining or topical as YA. No, all adult books were dry stories about divorce and death, and weren’t for me.
I have never been so happy to be wrong.
I’ve stepped inside a magical world, full of grit and relatable characters. I suppose this is what “growing up” is supposed to feel like. I devoured Ninth House yet—a novel full of both fantasy horror and the mundanity of real life, from one of my favorite YA authors. That book imprinted itself upon my soul, and I am so ready for more. I thought for the longest time that these were isolated incidents, and I couldn’t possibly want to read more adult lit.
This is not to say that The Baroness of Books is going to be reinvented—I still read a majority YA books, and I don’t see that changing for a long time. They brought out a magic inside of me that I didn’t realize I had, ignited my love of writing, and connected me with a fantastic bookish community. YA will still be the heart of my content, but I hope no one would oppose some crossover content!
For starters: Being new to the genre, I have no idea what I should read first, so here are some of the first books I want to read:
The more I think about it, the more I know how right this is. Growing as a reader is inevitable, especially the books we read shape us for the ones we’re about to discover. And I’m so ready to jump into a whole new set of stories.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments how your reading taste has changed over the years!
Wow! I actually have some news to share! Today, courtesy of a wonderful Twitter mutual whose giveaway I won, I received a copy of The Betrothed in the mail. This is a new release from Kiera Cass that I'm interested in reading--we'll see if I'm into it but it seems exactly like the kinds of escapism that I need right now.
Secondly, I had a fantastic time outside today. I went on a brief bike ride and walk around town (in a stylish tie-dyed mask, of course), and got ice cream with some friends from a local shop that opened up. My favorite flavor is chocolate and caramel, because I love Milky Way bars.
So that's me! This week is off to an unproductive start, which is disappointing, but I hope to buckle down and do some work tomorrow. Blog posts don't write themselves, and I've got a few special ideas to write...
Hope you're all having good Tuesdays!
Thank you to D.E. Night and Netgalley for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret...
For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic—and her life—is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.
I’m having some complicated feelings about this book, so I’m going to split my review into Good/Bad bullet points, so I can portray everything accurately.
I’m going to give The Crowns of Croswald 3/5 stars, because while I had a few issues with it, it was still an enjoyable read for the afternoon.
Hi all! Thrilled to be here sharing a quick look at Songs of Thalassa by Dr. Brian N. Tissot, as well as a Q&A! This timely book written by a marine ecologist features pressing environmental concerns and a gripping story. Today is its second day of being out in the world, so congratulations to Dr. Tissot!
The Book and its Author
After a surfing accident claims her career and nearly takes her life, surfer Sage Thompson is at a crossroads. Still mourning her astronaut father's death on a mission to ocean planet Thalassa, a tragedy she might be able to put behind her with the help of her fans—if they still believed in her—she's not sure what to do, where to go, or how to move on. But when Milo challenges her to a contest on the ocean planet Thalassa, the asteroid- and tsunami-ravaged world that stole her father, she'll discover that she not only still has what it takes to win, but once she hears the songs of Thalassa, winning might not be the most important thing. Songs of Thalassa will appeal to fans of Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Martian, and Contact, and features a young woman on a journey of self-discovery struggling to develop a sense of place and connections between herself, her culture, and the universe on a virgin ocean planet.
DR. BRIAN TISSOT is a marine ecologist and professor living in a small coastal town in far Northern California. He is a third-generation Californian and has surfed for 40 years while living in California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii.
As a college professor he has taught and mentored thousands of students at the University of Hawaii, Washington State University, and Humboldt State University over the last 30 years. He has taught over a dozen courses in marine biology, ecology, environmental ethics, and environmental policy.
As a scientist and explorer, Tissot has completed thousands of SCUBA dives and hundreds of submersible excursions across the coral reefs and deep seas of the Pacific. Through his research he has advocated for the conservation of marine resources through testimony and law creation. He has published 80 scientific papers and his research has been featured in major media including Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, the Washington Post and several films. In addition to his scientific endeavors, Tissot (aka “Dr. Abalone”) also produces surfing videos on YouTube and blogs about surfing, marine biology, and environmental issues on BrianTissot.com.
Songs of Thalassa is his first science fiction book and the first of three books in the Songs of the Universe series.
Q & A
Question: As a career marine biologist focused on the conservation of coral reefs, kelp forests, and the deep-sea, one of the natural themes in Songs of Thalassa is the global warming effects on marine life. Why did you write Songs of Thalassa?
Brian Tissot: Wanting to draw attention to Earth’s plight, I thought the best way was to place someone who didn’t care about the environment on a virgin planet and see what happens. I believe they would see what Earth was like before we began to destroy its ecosystems, connect to its indigenous life and appreciate its beauty, and ultimately want to defend it. This is Sage’s journey on Thalassa.
Q: Songs of Thalassa chronicles Sage Thompson – a young Hawaiian surfer. Why is the book dedicated to your daughter and the young women of the world?
BT: As a professor I have observed thousands of women in my classes graduate from college and move on with their lives without a mission in life, despite possessing many remarkable gifts. Because we desperately need young women as leaders in today’s society, I created Sage’s journey to inspire those looking for a path to purpose. We know what the world looks like with men as leaders; I believe it is now time for women to lead us, with love, compassion, and aloha.
Although Sage’s character is not based on my daughter, as a young marine biologist and surfer with a beautiful aloha spirit, her love for the ocean inspired a lot of my writing about Sage’s early life and her relationship with her father.
Q: Why does Songs of Thalassa focus on big wave surfing and Hawaiian culture?
BT: Big wave surfing was both a hook to young audiences and a metaphor for Sage’s struggles with reconciling her emotions about her dead father. The setting on Thalassa is what scientists predict on a low-gravity planet, such as Mars on which it is based, and creates some really cool scenarios for surfing. Because surfing and my love for fhe ocean led to my career in marine biology, I also felt it was natural lead-in to what the early explorers of ocean planets would want to do.
Hawaiian culture has much to offer to the world, particularly as it relates to love, family, and environmental stewardship, or malama‘āina (nurture the land). Like many indigenous cultures, Hawaiian practices were almost exterminated by western culture. A resurgence of these traditions in the 1970s, and up to today, have been instrumental in reviving many practices, such the Hawaiian language and voyaging traditions, to name a few. I viewed Sage’s journey to Thalassa as an extension of Polynesian’s fantastic voyages and discoveries across the Pacific. Her reengagement with her culture and beliefs in the old ways was symbolic of Hawaiians discovering the power of their own culture and remembering their ancestors. I also hope my book will inspire readers to listen to authentic native Hawaiian voices and seek their wisdom, as I am not Hawaiian.
Q: Explain why music plays a big role in the book.
BT: Music plays a significant role in the book and as it helped tie the major themes of the book together and is at the cutting edge of scientific research. Whale songs and their sonar abilities are well known, which is why they were included in the book. But sound in nature is not as well known, and we are discovering it is prevalent among a wide variety of organisms and not well understood. As Bernie Krause has written in the Great Animal Orchestra, sounds in nature are as carefully orchestrated as the most beautiful classical score and were the inspiration for human music. Music was the motivation for the title of the book, Songs of Thalassa, and will be explored more deeply in the next two books as part of the Songs of the Universe series. Sadly, with the destruction of our environment, we are silencing these beautiful sounds and communications in nature before we even understand what they mean. It’s a huge loss and one we need to stop.
Q: Tell us more about the next book in the series.
BT: The next book in series, Songs of Hina, takes place in the future when a team returns to Thalassa to learn more about the inhabitants. Many of the mysteries in SOT will be explored more deeply, including the songs, and Thalassa’s moon, named Hina by Sage, will play a prominent role.
Hi all! Thrilled to be coming to you today with my post on the Kingdom Above the Cloud blog tour, organized by the Fantastic Flying Book Club. Find the tour schedule here to read more posts by other bloggers, and be sure to enter the giveaway down below! Thank you to the FFBC and the publisher for sharing a copy in exchange for my review.
The Book and its Author
What if the nine Fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Deadly Sins were locked in a battle for control?
Abandoned as infants, Tovi and her twin brother were raised by an eclectic tribe of warm, kind people in a treehouse village in the valley. After her brother’s sudden disappearance Tovi questions her life and her faith in an invisible King. Ignoring her best friend Silas’ advice, she decides to search for her brother in the kingdom on top of the mountain.
Above the cloud, the Council of Masters receives their orders. Tovi and her brother are the objectives. King Damien has a plan and Tovi is the key. The Council of Masters want her, but will she remain unscathed?
Amidst the glamour of the kingdom above the cloud Tovi is torn between her own dark desires and unanswered questions. It starts with a snake and a crown. When the ring is complete, will her life be over?
Maggie Platt is a writer, traveler, cancer survivor, and dreamer. Her greatest joys are being Auntie M to her amazing nieces and nephew and sitting with students and friends over cups of coffee and deep conversations. She works at her alma mater, Anderson University in Indiana, and she lives in a cozy little cottage nearby where students come to sit on her couch just to laugh, cry, and talk about life.
This was an adventurous book full of spirit and lessons to be had. I had a great time reading about Tovi’s journey and watching her reconnect with her family. In many ways, self-actualization is at the heart of YA, and this story is all about Tovi exploring her beliefs and learning who and what to put faith in. Her sense of self and vision of her place in society was very specific, and I was unable to resonate with the questions she struggled with.
I also liked the significance of the hair and eye colors! That was a fun way to add a fantasy element to the story and still connect to character development. I love societies where the people have interesting traits that don’t mark them as “different” or “other.” Here everyone could have individual colors, and it had a unique meaning (which I can’t share because of spoilers! Go read this book!).
Overall, Kingdom Above the Cloud was a solid read. I do wish there had been a more complex storyline, and some more world-building beyond the history of Adia would have been nice, but otherwise a fun adventure. 3/5 stars.
Time does not exist anymore. The hours on the clock tick by, and all I can do is sit here and kind of just wonder... what day is it?
Luckily for you, I've remembered that it's Tuesday! That means it's time for Tuesday's Two, my weekly journal! I hope you all have gotten to know me a bit better since I started this. I actually have three fun things to share this week!
Firstly, I have discovered the joys of online escape rooms. Libraries and other folks have created these inventive puzzles in Google Forms, and I've had fun solving a couple. My next step is going to be finding slightly more complex games, because I'm ready for a challenge.
Secondly, I started reading The Wicked King! Finally, after literally a year, I'm picking up this sequel to The Cruel Prince--which I rated five stars but can't recall what I liked so much about it.
Third. I finished the sixth season of Madam Secretary, a show I absolutely devoured back in December, and it was everything! I had some issues with the writing, but overall I consider it a satisfying ending to the McCords' journey. If you're in need of something witty to watch and you love The West Wing, you should check it out.
Thank you to Candlewick Press via Netgalley for sharing an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.
Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.
Queer pirate story??? YES PLEASE! The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea has been one of my highly anticipated reads for a while now, and is on my list of 2020’s hottest queer YA as well. This magical tale of adventure on the high seas is not one to be missed. Without further ado, let’s jump into the review! While reading this book, I found myself breaking it down into three parts: writing, plot, and character, so I’m going to review like that as well.
Writing: Tokuda-Hall has great prose, that’s for sure. The chapters each generally follow the perspective of one character, but my favorite parts were the short passages written about the Sea. The power and beauty encompassed in those paragraphs certainly impacted my experience of the novel and the world within. The flow was perfect as well—I appreciated the relativelyy fast pacing; it was both appropriate for the fantasy setting and also exactly what I needed right now. It is also clear that this book has cutting commentary on misogyny and the effects of colonialism and imperialism. I did appreciate this and the role it had within the context of the story. Would 10/10 read another book in this style.
Plot: It was a fairly standard, quickly-paced fantasy read, which I appreciated, but some things were predictable. I genuinely wish we could have spent more time with the magic—partway through, the “Witch” piece of the title makes a stunning appearance and I was so fascinated! I wanted to see a thousand more spells and really get a full understanding of this part of the world, but unfortunately it’s only used a couple more times. I also wasn’t a fan of the insta-love. It was sort of… “Lady teaches sailor to read… BAM they’re in love” which I just found jarring. I was able to keep reading though, and Evelyn and Flora do go on some fantastic adventures. There are definitely interesting side-plots, and the twists kept me on my toes! I’m a big fan of stories set at sea, so I loved the various pirate adventures and I think I learned some new things about boating along the way.
Character: This is where I had the most issues. I liked Flora—her arc was really well-written and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of her life. She was by far my favorite character and I think she had the most interesting position in the story. However, I didn’t feel very much empathy for Evelyn, especially given how she treats everyone around her. She doesn’t seem to care very much for anyone—even Keiko, her maid with whom she is purportedly in love is tossed aside without a second thought when Evelyn has to leave at the beginning of the story. This really didn’t win her any points with me. Aside from Flora, I felt generally apathetic towards the entire cast. Creating compelling fantasy characters is difficult, but I think part of it needs to be *not* deliberately emphasizing the negative traits of every single person. That just made it harder for readers, I think.
Regardless, I would encourage you to give The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea a try! It’s an entertaining novel and a quick read for anyone looking towards fantasy for a distraction. 3/5 stars.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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