My Fall 2017 TBR List

Hello friends!Top Ten TuesdayHappy Tuesday! How is your week coming along? I’m still finding a rhythm — deciding when I study best, navigating the gym and yoga classes, attending rehearsals and club meetings — but I’m slowly getting the swing of things and, more importantly, have plenty to look forward to throughout the semester. The complete control over my schedule is certainly a shift from my high school mindset, but take no complaints from me: it’s my favorite part of college so far.

In my few free hours before class today, for example, I wanted to share my Fall TBR List! These seasonal posts have become somewhat of a tradition, at least on my end; I love scouring Goodreads for the newest releases, and it’s always fun to plan my reading, however loose of an idea, for the season ahead. This time around, I doubt I’ll get to all ten books — I’m still learning the best way to carve out personal reading time in between assignments — but when is one’s TBR list not growing?! :) What books are you hoping to read this fall?

And as always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the amazing team behind The Broke and the Bookish. Pop on over if you too would like to join in the TBR-making fun!

Race to the Bottom of the SeaFirst up, I have Lindsay Eagar’s sophomore release, Race to the Bottom of the Sea. I adored her magical realism debut The Hour of the Bees I actually consider it one of my favorite middle grade novels — but her newest book takes on a different genre: adventure! Following the protagonist Fidelia after her parents die, the story has everything from a greedy pirate’s kidnapping scheme to treks beneath the sea to find treasure. With a stellar illustrated cover and high praise to boot, this will surely serve as a lovely literary escape next month. {out October 10}

There's Someone Inside Your HouseWhile I feel as if it was just yesterday that I graduated from high school, fall is moving full steam ahead: the school year is well under way and Halloween is just around the corner! And with a creepy, glowing cover and a chilling synopsis, Stephanie Perkins’ There’s Someone Inside Your House seems fitting for the Halloween season. Though she is best known for her sweet, romantic contemporaries, in her newest release, Perkins puts her own spin on the “classic teen slasher.” I typically don’t go for such stories, but what’s October without a spooky read to keep you on your toes? {Out September 26}

Echo After EchoMystery! Theatre! Relationships! You don’t need to ask me twice to read a book with those elements. Amy Rose Capetta’s debut, Echo After Echo, had me sold from the synopsis alone, in which the protagonist Zara heads to New York for her stage debut, only to find herself following a mystery and falling in love. With early reviews praising it as “gorgeous, intense, romantic, [and] mysterious,” you can bet I’ll be reading this as soon as a copy comes in at the library. {Out October 10}

Shadow of a PugWhen I read the first book in the Howard Wallace P.I. series, I had no idea the treat for which I was in:  a wisecracking narrator, a smart schoolyard mystery, and an homage to all things noir. Since devouring it in one weekend, I’ve recommended it more times than I can count; you can then only imagine my excitement over the release of Shadow of a Pug. In this second installment, Howard and his partner Ivy are on the case for their missing school mascot, Spartacus the Pug, only to encounter complicating classmates along the way. It’s the middle-grade mystery genre at its finest. {Already out}

Dear MartinI’ve seen nothing but praise for Nic Stone’s debut, Dear Martin, but I take that it’s for good reason: the novel, due out in October, tackles and confronts the issues of police brutality and racial profiling, topics both rare, but entirely necessary, to see in YA lit. As the title suggests, the main character Justyce finds solace in writing a journal to Martin Luther King Jr., an exercise that proves all too timely when he is entangled in an unwarranted encounter with the police. It’s been recommended alongside Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, so I’ll be sure to grab both at the library next month. {Out October 17}

MoxieIf the cover of Moxie doesn’t have you running to the bookstore to purchase it, I’m not sure what will; the strong, black and white illustration of a girl in control is the only indication I need that this is the feminist title the YA world has been looking for. The story? Spurred by her mother’s “Riot Grrrl” past and a number of sexist administrative decisions, main character Vivian creates a feminist zine for her classmates. It hit shelves today, so it’ll only take a quick walk to the campus bookstore before I have a copy of my own (!). {Out today}

One Mixed-Up NightThe premise of One Mixed-Up Night, the debut from author Catherine Newman, is, simply put, just good fun: taking a cue from From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, main characters Frankie and Walter decide to run away to spend one night in IKEA. My sister and I often joke that there is no better store to get stuck in — with a bountiful supply of Swedish food and plenty of places to sleep, what more could you need? — and From the Mixed-Up Files remains one of my favorite classics, so this is already shaping up to be one of the best reads of the season. I can’t wait. {Already out}

Here We Are NowThough I haven’t read the debut from author Jasmine Warga, I couldn’t resist the fun and beautifully designed cover that graces her next release, Here We Are Now. Thankfully, the synopsis is equally interesting: Taliah never thought she’d meet her rock star of a father, much less travel with him, until he one day shows up at her doorstep and requests she’d come with him to meet her grandfather. Already my interest is piqued by the complex family dynamics and road trip plot, so here’s hoping I can sneak a read of it in between preparations for finals. {Out November 7}

Bad Girls with Perfect FacesWhen reading slumps hit {and I’m expecting plenty this fall given the college schedule and lack of time}, I tend to turn to psychological mysteries, stories that are fast-paced, full of revenge, and made up of deeply flawed characters — it’s hard to put down a book with those elements! My choice of such a read this season? Lynn Weingarten’s Bad Girls with Perfect Faces, said to be “a love triangle that takes a turn for the dark” when Sasha’s best friend Xavier goes back to his ex and she takes it upon herself to end the relationship. It comes out on Halloween, so you can be sure I’ll have my own copy come November. {Out October 31}

PatinaFinally, I have yet to read a Jason Reynolds book I didn’t thoroughly enjoy; time and time again, he makes me smile, cry, and think a little more about the world around me — all in the span of one novel! I think the trend will continue to hold true when I read Patina, the second installment in Reynolds’ Track series. While the first novel focused on the sprinting accomplishments of Ghost, Patina shifts the attention to fellow runner Patty, whose home life has her turning to the track after school. In the hands of Reynolds, I expect nothing short of an excellent read. {Already out}

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Pros and Cons / Geekerella

Hello friends!

Pros and ConsHow are things? Doesn’t it feel like April has just zipped by? I return to school today after a wonderful spring break spent with friends and family, and it’s now only a month away until the last day of school, a fact that is all sorts of exciting for this graduating senior. As much as I can’t wait for the spring musical and other end-of-the-year events, I’m also looking forward to the lazy summer days that allow a bit more time for reading and blogging! We’re long overdue for a catch-up—I have a “Currently” post slated for later in the week—but in the meantime, I wanted to share a review of an adorable new release, Ashley Poston’s Geekerella. What have you been reading lately?

Geekerella

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win… unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. {Goodreads}

P R O S
+ A fun-loving plot that embraces modern fan culture Looking at conversations on social media, the latest products that fly off the shelves, or even the most recent issues of Entertainment Weekly, and it’s clear: fandom has a heavy influence on pop culture. And in this lies Geekerella‘s biggest strength: that it embraces and praises the idea of modern fandom to its full extent. For those of us who do not participate—or perhaps better said, don’t go to the extremes—in fandom, I think it is easy to write off the cults, contests, and conventions as “nerdy” and nothing more, but Poston paints a bigger {and better!} picture through the passion and love that Elle and Darien share for Starfield. It’s a love letter to fan culture, with references to fandoms that exist outside of the novel, and who could say no to that?

+ Use of a classic story as inspiration, not dictation As the name suggests, Geekerella is inspired by the beloved fairy tale, Cinderella. It’s a classic story used time and time again as inspiration for new material, but what I appreciated with Poston’s take is that she never allows it to dominate the narrative between Elle and Darien. Their relationship, in other words, is not driven by what the plot of Cinderella dictates, but rather, what feels most natural to their characters. I applaud Poston for flexing that skill, as it’s hard to come by among veteran authors and even harder to master with only two published novels under your belt.

Realistically drawn teenage protagonist and supporting cast Finally, it’s all too frequent of an occurrence in YA for the teenagers to read false, as if the author modeled their characters only after the portrayals of high school seen on television. This, fortunately, wasn’t a problem here: Elle is a sweetheart with concerns and complaints known by many an adolescent; Sage’s sharp sense of humor mirrors that of many of my peers; and even Darien, who has a job few teenagers can share, was drawn realistically, right down to his worry over whether or not he texted the right thing. Such attention to realism makes up for any moments of disbelief and furthermore, the strength in the protagonists’ character development complements the fun, fandom-loving plot.

C O N S
The story could further improve with more depth. The area where Geekerella might benefit from improvement is in its sense of depth. I love a lighthearted story as much as the next person, but it should never lose its purpose in the fun. I don’t think this is problem unique to Geekerella, however, as I believe it frequently strikes adaptations {it’s easier to go light when using a story with such a rich history}. With that said, Geekerella remains a delight. We need more novels that explore and share in fandom, because if there is anything the young adult book industry needs to learn, it’s that readers like to see themselves reflected on the page.

Have a terrific start to your week! :)

Recent Reads / 01

Hello!recent-reads-october-2016What a long time it’s been! How are things? Keeping busy? I can’t wait to catch up; senior year has been absolutely wonderful thus far, but I do crave more time to devote to blogging. Nevertheless, I’m trying to squeeze in some Ciao Bella upkeep this morning before I dash off to my tech rehearsal for this year’s fall play – I’m so excited to see how the production comes together!

In other news, today’s post, “Recent Reads,” was born out of a sad fact: with school taking first priority, my reviewing schedule has unfortunately fallen to the back burner. I love to talk books, but I needed to be creative should I want to continue the conversations throughout the school year. Perhaps you’re in need of a book recommendation, or, perhaps, you’ve read a few of these novels yourself; either way, I hope this serves as a fun substitute for the traditional book review! What have you been reading recently?

1 / I read The Mother-Daughter Book Camp on a trip to New York City in the late summer, and I have no shame in admitting to tearing up on the bus as the book came to a close. In the seventh and final installment, author Heather Vogel Frederick sends the girls to summer camp as counselors, a heartfelt conclusion to such a powerful series. I was first introduced to these characters when I was little, and now, Cassidy’s off to Boston University, Jess and Meg are heading to New York for Julliard and Parsons, Emma’s making the trek to the University of British Colombia, and Becca has plans at the University of Minnesota – and I only have a year left until I go to college myself. Trust me, I’ll be packing all seven books to take with me, regardless of where I end up.

2 / I love me a strong historical fiction, but I’ll be the first to admit that the genre doesn’t nearly capture the spectrum of history. Case in point: when was the last time you saw a YA historical fiction novel set in the ’70s? They’re few and far between. It’s a shame, for if Meg Medina’s book, Burn Baby Burn, is any indication, the period is rich with potential stories. Using the hot and dangerous summer of 1977 in New York as the backdrop to her narrative, Medina crafts a vivid depiction of life for teenager Nora Lopez. The detail Medina infuses in the story lends a genuine voice to book, and the family storyline – Nora’s brother Hector has a violent history – is particularly interesting. It’s an ambitious work, but it pays off; I’ve been recommending it left and right as of late!

3 / If you’re ripping your hair out due to the current political scene, fiction, I believe, can provide a welcome respite. Jennifer Lynn Barne’s The Fixer is a fun, suspenseful read, reminiscent of shows like Scandal, not in the least because it features a political powerhouse much like Olivia Pope. If the premise doesn’t have you interested {Tess moves to live with her sister in D.C., but she quickly becomes entangled in secrets and mystery at her new school}, I can only hope my words of praise will. I’ve already checked out Book Two from the library!

4 / They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but when it’s as colorful and intriguing as that of True Letters from a Fictional Life, how could you not? I like a good male narrator – it’s a change of pace from my primarily female-centered reading – and I love a well-written coming-of-age story: True Letters, therefore, seemed like a match made in heaven. And that it was: I read it in one sitting, captivated by the realistic growth in the protagonist James, the character dynamics with James’ family members and friends, and the genuine voice that shines through on each page.  It may be too early to say, but I think Kenneth Logan’s debut is the hidden gem of the year. Do pick it up if you see it on the library shelves.

5 / A few months ago, The New York Magazine published an article on how to find quiet in the Big Apple {here’s the link, if you want to read it in full}. As a true-blue introvert, I was fascinated by the paradoxical situation: in a place so crowded with people, what does it mean to be alone? In The Lonely City, author Olivia Laing tackles the question head-on, tracing the pattern of loneliness within the artwork of famous city residents, Andy Warhol in New York, Henry Darger in Chicago, among others. Laing sometimes drifts into hyperbole, and other times, her snippets of memoir seem out-of-place, but as a whole, it’s a fascinating, insightful piece of work worth reading by anyone who strives to understand loneliness in the modern age.

Have the most lovely weekend!

Bella