Review: The Center of the Universe

Title: The Center of the Universe
Author: Ria Voros
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: KCP Loft
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Grace Carter’s mother — the celebrity news anchor GG Carter — is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace — an aspiring astrophysicist — is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits. Then one day GG is just … gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace’s family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers. While the authorities unravel the mystery behind GG’s disappearance, Grace grows closer to her high school’s golden boy, Mylo, who has faced a black hole of his own. She also uncovers some secrets from her mother’s long-lost past. The more Grace learns, the more she wonders. Did she ever really know her mother? Was GG abducted … or did she leave? And if she left, why?

Review:

I loved this story! It had suspenseful elements, but it had a heartwarming ending.

The first half of the story was about the mystery of Grace’s missing mother. There were so many questions as to why she left or if she was taken. I enjoyed this mystery, because I couldn’t guess what would happen next. Even when that mystery was solved, there was still a lot more to the story.

Science was a major theme in this book. Grace is interested in astrophysics, and she has even been mentioned in an article as the founder of an exoplanet. There is an interview with the astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker at the end of the book, and she is featured as a character in the novel too. This is great representation for young adults who are interested in pursuing a career in science.

I also liked that this story was about more than just Grace’s missing mother. This story explored the mother/daughter relationship between Grace and her mother, as well as her mother and grandmother. I think this was actually the main point of the story. Grace had to look for a way to find her mother, both literally and figuratively.

This is a great new story!

What to read next:

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Have you read The Center of the Universe? What did you think of it?

Review: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

Title: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
Author: Tanya Boteju
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there. 

Review:

This was a great story about finding your identity.

The story was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the scenes where Nami learned about drag queens and kings. I had never heard of drag kings before reading this novel. At first, Nami was unsure of the drag show, but she ended up loving it. She also befriended a king and a queen.

Some of the story was upsetting. Nami’s mother left her and her father without warning. When her reason is finally revealed, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was a good enough reason, because she was essentially running away from her problems. Nami was dealing with her own problems, so it wasn’t fair for her to see her mom run away like that.

Nami had some embarrassing moments in the story, including vomiting in a hot tub. I felt so sympathetic for her in those moments, because they were humiliating. However, when something embarrassing happened or she made a mistake, she always got back up and kept going.

I loved this book. It’s a great story about finding your gender identity.

What to read next:

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And The Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1) by Julie Murphy

Have you read Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens? What did you think of it?

Review: Mya’s Strategy to Save The World

Title: Mya’s Strategy to Save the World
Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Mya Parsons could save the world and organize her family, if only she had her own cell phone. A Dork Diaries for today’s socially conscious young readers.

Mya Parsons runs her school’s social justice club with her best friend, Cleo. Her lifelong desire is to work for the United Nations and change the world, and then bask in all the ensuing adulation. Her more immediate desire is to get a phone, preferably one like Cleo’s, with a leopard-print case to match. When her distracted dad and her long-distance mom (temporarily in Myanmar taking care of Mya’s grandmother) both say no, no way, and possibly never, Mya launches a campaign to prove herself reliable and deserving. She advertises her babysitting services, takes on more responsibility around the house, and attempts to supervise her sister’s skateboarding lessons. Her efforts leave her ego bruised and the kitchen slightly scorched. She’s no closer to touch-screen victory, let alone the Nobel Peace Prize she deserves. But all that changes after an accident leaves Mya to take charge–an experience which helps her realize how much she’s grown, with or without access to proper communications.

Review:

I really enjoyed this book! Mya has an easygoing, simple way of narrating, which made the story a quick read.

Mya is a great character. She has a good heart, but she also has flaws. Her dream is to work in the United Nations, so she spends a lot of her time researching social justice issues throughout the world. Her mother is in Myanmar during the story, so she has a close relation to things that are happening there. At the same time, Mya doesn’t always treat everyone fairly. She could be selfish at times, such as when she didn’t want to help her dad with chores when he was swamped with work. This balance of good qualities and flaws made her a realistic character.

I loved the way that Mya was very tuned into what was happening in the world. It is important for kids to know what problems people in different parts of the world are facing in their daily lives, and how it can affect themselves. For example, she found out that children have to mine cobalt in Africa, which is then used to make cell phones. That made her rethink her priorities.

I think Mya is a relatable character. This story was a lot of fun to read!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story by Adele Griffin, LeUyen Pham

Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

Have you read Mya’s Strategy to Save the World? What did you think of it?

Review: Love From A to Z

Title: Love From A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting. 

Review:

I knew this book would be amazing because I love S.K. Ali’s writing. It was so good that I couldn’t put it down!

I’ve read a lot of books lately with Muslim characters, and I love them. They really open my eyes to the Muslim experience. I grew up with a lot of Muslim friends, but I never witnessed anything like what happens in these stories.

Zayneb experiences Islamophobia from her teacher, but then is punished when she exposes it. She also experiences it when trying to swim in a pool. I can’t imagine why anyone would do these hurtful things to someone just because of their religion. One event that stood out to me was when she was on a plane and a white woman had her seat changed just because she didn’t want to sit beside Zayneb. The woman actually got bumped up to first class because that was the only other seat available! I couldn’t believe she was rewarded for the behaviour. Zayneb compared what she was doing, sketching on the plane and listening to music, to a white girl a few rows ahead who was doing the same thing. They were doing the same thing, yet Zayneb was called out for it because she wore a scarf on her head. It was heartbreaking to read about.

I loved the duality of Zayneb and Adam in the story. Zayneb was constantly criticized for her religion, on planes and in school because she was a woman wearing a hijab. Adam, on the other hand, was also a Muslim, but his outward appearance didn’t tell anyone that. His background was Chinese Scandinavian and he converted to Islam when he was eleven. Though they have very different experiences, they are brought together by writing in the same journal.

I loved this story! I highly recommend it!

What to read next:

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Have you read Love From A to Z? What did you think of it?

Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Title: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Author: Sabina Khan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

Review:

I loved this book! It had some of the biggest highs and lows of any book I’ve read, but it had a powerful message.

Rukhsana was a very strong character. She went through so much in this story, but it ended on a hopeful note. The story was emotionally draining at times, because there were so many difficult topics, such as abuse. There was physical and emotional abuse, including violent beatings and imprisonment. Though it was hard to read about, these are real things that happen in the world, so it’s important to recognize the dangers that some people face.

It was shocking at times to see how Rukhsana’s family reacted to her coming out as a lesbian. I didn’t take it as an insult to the whole Bangladeshi community, because there are some families that are accepting to their queen children. It was just the way that her parents handled it that was so extreme. I can’t imagine going through something like that, so it really broke my heart to see everything she had to go through once her parents found out. I was glad this story ended with hope, because many other people’s stories don’t have such happy endings.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s an important LGBT story.

What to read next:

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Have you read The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali? What did you think of it?

Review: Serious Moonlight

Title: Serious Moonlight
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Review:

This was a great story!

I loved the mystery parts of the story. Birdie is a fan of mystery books. She has a huge collection of Nancy Drew books. I loved those same books when I was a kid so I could relate to her love of mysteries. Birdie got to live a real life mystery when she investigated a person who Daniel thought was an anonymous author who lives in Seattle. I liked the idea that they could try to find the man who writes under a pseudonym. However, it didn’t end the way they thought it would.

The story had some romance as well as suspense. I was rooting for Birdie and Daniel. They both had tragic pasts, so I wanted them to find some happiness together. There was also some representation of someone who had narcolepsy. There are a lot of side effects to the disorder that I didn’t know before.

I really enjoyed this story! It’s a great romance with a bit of mystery.

What to read next:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Have you read Serious Moonlight? What did you think of it?

Review: Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Title: Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Rating: ★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

A contemporary novel about two best friends who must make tough decisions about their futures–and the TV show they host–in their senior year of high school.

Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.

Review:

This was an original story about two girls who host a TV show on public access television. I loved that they were able to get a head start on their careers by creating their own show while they were still in high school. Josie (aka Rayne) pursues her dream of having her own TV show. Delia (aka Delilah) follows her passion of horror movies to get her estranged father to notice her.

I really liked how casual the dialogue was in the story. There were many funny exchanges. They were so funny because of the ordinary circumstances. The jokes reminded me of jokes that you would have with a friend, but when you try to explain it to someone else later, they don’t understand and you have to say “you had to be there.” The comedy was situational and in the moment.

I wish the story was a little more diverse. There is some mental health discussion, because Delia and her parents all experience depression. It even gets so bad for her father that he leaves their family. It is so important to have representation of mental health issues in stories. However, I would have loved it if there was some more diversity of cultural or gender identities.

This was a cute original story.

What to read next:

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Have you read Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee? What did you think of it?

Review: Love and Other Curses

Title: Love and Other Curses
Author: Michael Thomas Ford
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Indigo Summer Preview
Format: Paperback
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Weyward family has been haunted by a curse for generations—if a Weyward falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies. Sam doesn’t plan to fall for anyone in the nine weeks before his birthday. He’ll spend his time working at the Eezy-Freeze with his dad; cooking up some midsummer magic with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (the Grands); and experimenting with drag with the help of the queens at the Shangri-La, the local gay club. But when a new guy comes to town, Sam finds himself in trouble when they strike up a friendship that might be way more than that.

As Sam’s birthday approaches and he still hasn’t quite fallen in love, the curse seems to get more powerful and less specific about who it targets. A mysterious girl Sam talks to on the phone late at night and a woman he’s only seen in a dream might have the answers he’s been looking for—but time is running out to save the people he cares about. 

Review:

This book was so much fun to read. It was fast paced so I read it in two sittings. I read most of it in just a couple of hours. The ending of the first few chapters gave hints of what was to come, but kept me guessing. It was difficult to find a good place to stop reading!

The story reminded me so much of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved that there was even a reference to the series near the end of the book. In that series, Blue’s family is also cursed. Blue is told that if she sees a ghost it’s either because she is his true love, or she will kill him. Sam has a similar situation in this story. He is told that if he falls in love before his seventeenth birthday, that person will leave him forever. It’s not easy to prevent yourself from falling in love, so that’s a problem for Sam.

There were so many layers to the story. I loved the diverse representation. Sam is gay and his new friend, Tom Swift, is trans. Tom’s family doesn’t accept him, so they continuously refer to him as “Jennifer” because that is the name they gave him. It was so heartbreaking to read about that. They were cruel to him, forcing him to dress as a girl and wear makeup. There was also some representation of older people in the story. Sam’s grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother live with him. They keep his family history alive with magic. He is friends with some older drag queens as well, which added some entertainment to the story. One of those men was in a similar situation to his friend Tom, in terms of his family not accepting him. It shows how the same themes keep returning throughout different generations.

I loved this story! It’s going to be a great summer read!

What to read next:

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Have you read Love and Other Curses? What did you think of it?

Review: A Girl Like That

Title: A Girl Like That
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved. 

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

Review:

This tragic love story begins at the end. Zarin and Porus are killed in a car accident right at the beginning. The rest of the book looks back on their relationship and how they ended up in the car together.

I loved the way that Zarin’s character reflected the society she lived in. She would break the rules because she was so restricted, but her punishments meant she was given more restrictions. She didn’t have much control over her life, but she did extreme things when she could decide for herself. For example, she snuck around with the wrong type of boys. When she found one who was good, she didn’t love him. She smoked cigarettes, which made her an outcast in her classes. She didn’t have many on her side, even at home.

This story was set in Saudi Arabia. I’ve never read a book set there, so this was a new experience for me. One thing that stood out to me was the religious police. They would go and question any boy and girl found together and they would have to prove they were siblings. Right at the beginning, when the car accident happens, the first thing the police comment on is why Zarin and Porus were in the car together. It’s more important for them to learn why they were together, rather than the fact that they died. In those situations, even innocent encounters become dangerous.

I really enjoyed this story. I’m looking forward to reading Tanaz’s next book, The Beauty of the Moment.

What to read next:

The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Have you read A Girl Like That? What did you think of it?

Review: You’d Be Mine

Title: You’d Be Mine
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

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

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

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk. 

Review:

I loved this book!

I loved the characters in this story. Both Annie and Clay have tragic histories. Annie’s mother was a famous country singer, but her parents died suddenly when she was a young teenager. Clay lost his mother, grandfather, and older brother who helped raise him. They both have these common experiences of losing their families, but their grief comes out in different ways.

This story shows a lot of what happens behind-the-scenes in the music world. Annie and Clay go on tour together. They have to write songs and adjust to last minute changes all the time. I really enjoyed this side of the story because I don’t know much about the music industry. It was all very new to me, and I liked reading about it.

This story really broke my heart, but it was mended by the end. This book will be the perfect summer read!

Thank you Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington

Have you read You’d Be Mine? What did you think of it?