Monthly Recommendations: Own Voices


Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group hosted by Trina from Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. March’s theme is Own Voices which is an important and prominent topic among readers and reviewers right now. As an extension of the diversity movement, Own Voices refers to a book not only having a diverse main character, but the author being part of the same diverse group – diversity includes ethnicity, race, gender (e.g., transgender), sexuality, disability, chronic somatic or mental illness, religion, socioeconomic status, body type, and many others. With regard to striving for more accuracy of diversity representation, Own Voices has become incredibly relevant. Nina and I have been trying to focus more on reading own voices books. However, our recommendations aren’t as extensive as we would like. We are always looking to learn and grow, to hear from different voices and experience the world from a different point of view, so please please leave any recommendations you have for us in the comments! We would really appreciate it! We really hope you enjoy all of these wonderful books listed below! As always, they are sorted alphabetically and clicking on the title will lead you to our reviews (if we have one). We also included a long list of resources at the bottom of the post, so please check these for further information and recommendations of Own Voices!

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

3 Stars

I know, this is a disaster. The Upside of Unrequited – a novel I’ve been looking forward to for months – only received 3 stars from me. I’ll need some Oreos to get over this. Overall, I liked it fine but I’m so disappointed I didn’t like it more. This is Becky Albertalli, after all. I feel like she wanted too many things with this book. The Upside of Unrequited and I just didn’t click. That spark I had with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Inexistent. There was no chemistry between me and this book. That’s a real case of unrequited love right there.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out an squeeze it.
Unless he happens to like you back.

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The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea by Sherry ThomasThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 16th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Goodreads

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

3.5 Stars

Sequels are often compared to their predecessor(s), especially when with regard to deciding on a fitting rating, but I can tell you that this did me absolutely no good at all. Because The Perilous Sea seems so fundamentally different from The Burning Sky in many aspects.

The Perilous Sea was an exciting, gripping read and a worthy sequel for this series. The book excelled in taking the tension, the danger, and the action to the next level. Some of the plot twists in this book had me practically gaping.  But I also felt like the overall drama factor was turned up a notch as well, and I don’t know how I feel about that, especially where that puts me with the rating. 

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The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana FrenchThe Likeness by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #2
Published by Viking on July 17th 2008
Genres: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 466
Goodreads

The haunting follow up to the Edgar Award-winning debut In the Woods.

Tana French astonished critics and readers alike with her mesmerizing debut novel, In the Woods. Now both French and Detective Cassie Maddox return to unravel a case even more sinister and enigmatic than the first. Six months after the events of In the Woods, an urgent telephone call beckons Cassie to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who is this girl?

5 Stars

I found out early that you can throw yourself away, missing what you’ve lost.

This settles it. Tana French is now one of my new favourite authors. I read and loved In The Woods and immediately had the desire to pick up the sequel (though I forced myself to wait a little). I devoured The Likeness in a couple of days and I can now officially say that while In the Woods is a very good book, The Likeness is absolutely brilliant and one of favourites of the year so far.

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. SchwabA Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
Series: Darker Shade of Magic #3
Published by Tor Books on February 21st, 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 624
Goodreads

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

5 Stars

Writing reviews for your favourite books is difficult, which is why I have a hard time accurately expressing my feelings for A Conjuring of Light. One one hand, A Conjuring of Light was a masterpiece of action, magic, and romance. On the other hand, I feel incredibly biased towards this book, because I justify my 5 stars largely due to 1) feels and 2) having liked A Conjuring of Light better than A Gathering of Shadows which I awared 4.5 stars. Do you see my problem? Technically, A Conjuring of Light would’ve been a 4.5-star read, but by giving it 5 stars, I’d like to acknowledge that the issues I had with A Gathering of Shadows have disappeared into thin air in the final instalment. So now, let me introduce you to my feels.

Magic ran between them like a current, a cord, and he wondered who she would have been if she’d stayed in Grey London. If she’d never picked his pocket, never held the contents ransom for adventure.
Maybe she would never have discovered magic.
Or maybe she would have simply changed her world instead of his.

Well, I can tell you something for sure: I’d have missed out on a unique, epic, and swoon-worthy adventure if I hadn’t picked up A Darker Shade of Magic a couple of years ago. And it all started with my fascination for Kell’s coat. I enjoyed the first book, but was missing some more character depth and background. I enjoyed the second book, which improved in character-building, but at the expense of the plot. I enjoyed the third book, which got both of those right.

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The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
on July 8th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

3.5 Stars

Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.

The Queen of the Tearling was one of the first books I ever put on my TBR list when I discovered Goodreads. Adult fantasies with young (19-year-old) protagonist? Sounded right up my alley. Then I discovered that Kelsea, our main character, was considered by others to be average-looking / unattractive which was a major selling point for me. But when I started reading reviews and saw that some of my most trusted GR friends gave it one and two stars, I wasn’t so sure whether I wanted to read it anymore. A couple weeks ago however, my curiosity won over and I decided to pick it up. And I’m glad I did!

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Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Naondel by Maria TurtschaninoffNaondel by Maria Turtschaninoff
Series: The Red Abbey Chronicles #2
Published by Pushkin Press on April 6th, 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 480
Goodreads

In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose - to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.

3.5 Stars

Naondel reads like a mesh-up of A Thousand Nights and Memoirs of a Geisha. Like the former, it is a feminist testimony to the outward weakness but inward strength of women. Like the latter, it is filled with hardship, and struggles, and pain, which – balanced by the beautiful setting and writing – made this a bittersweet kind of read, both beautiful and dreadful.

Whilst marketed in the Teens & YA section on NetGalley, the content is brutal and devastating in both a psychological and physical way, and therefore unfit for a teen audience, in my opinion. Furthermore, this is a founding story, but in my estimation, the predecessor does not need to be read in order to understand the plot in this book.

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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 7th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 321
Goodreads

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

4 Stars

Though published prior to her bestselling Darker Shade of Magic series, I picked up The Archived a lot later. It stands in the shadow of Schwab’s more popular releases, and though it is far less hyped, The Archived has no reason to hide. The Archived is – as are all of Schwab’s novels – an imaginative, surprisingly moving urban fantasy which builds on the concept of the dead, their histories, and their memories being shelved in an archive. Schwab has quickly become one of my auto-buy authors. And save for This Savage Song, which was a little out of her familiar comfort zone, her works have never failed to impress me.

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Anticipated Releases of Spring 2017

Greetings, everyone! Spring is almost upon us, which means it’s time to clean out our rooms, dust off our shelves, and put some shiny new books on them. There are so many exciting releases to look forward to in the coming season. For this purpose, we’ve put together a list of our most anticipated releases of spring 2017 (spring being March, April, and May where we live). The books are listed in order of publication date (as stated on Goodreads) and clicking on the titles will direct you to the respective Goodreads page. We hope you find some intriguing books to keep you entertained as we watch the snow melt away and the first flowers start to bloom – and if you were born in May, like the both of us, you might find some releases to put on your birthday wishlists!

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage by Victoria AveyardKing's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #3
Published by HarperTeen on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Goodreads

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

3 Stars

In comparison to Glass Sword, the third instalment King’s Cage is an improvement. The atmosphere of this book is darker, more twisted, and far more electrifying than that of the previous two instalments, which sat well with me. Though far from being an amazing read, credit shall be given where credit is due.

The infamous, hitherto insufferable Mare Barrow has somehow re-entered my life, even though I had sworn to myself that I had written this series off for the eternity of time. Well, damn.

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