Five Reasons to Read: Keeping It Real by Paula Chase – Hip Hop Fashion, Family, Fitting In and Privilege Collide In This MG/YA Contemporary

Synopsis:

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees–and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.

As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced story about hip hop fashion and friendship as well as a story that explores the complex intersections of Black identity and class, then Keeping It Real by Paula Chase is a great choice, and will certainly engage young readers and will resonate with Black readers.

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Book Review: Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao – An Action-Packed and Empowering Sci-Fi Contemporary for Young Gamers and Aspiring E-Sport Players Everywhere

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Reyna Cheng is the up-and-coming junior amateur Dayhold gamer, competing in a VR battle royale against AI monsters and human players alike. But despite Reyna’s rising popularity and skills, no one know who she is. Gaming is still a boy’s club and to protect herself against trolls, she games as the mysterious TheRuiNar.

When Reyna qualifies for the Dayhold Junior Tournament sponsored by her favorite team, she knows she’s got what it takes to win the championship title and the $10,000 prize.

But when she’s blackmailed and threatened to be doxed, having her personal identity revealed, by an anonymous troll, Reyna will have to deal with a toxic gaming community, family complications, and the increasing pressure to win as the tournament gets underway. 

I have been a gamer for almost 20 years – so naturally, gaming has a very special place in my heart. Starting with single-player RPGs, then pouring way too many of my teen years into MMORPGs, to online Team Deathmatches, and then, later, a return to action RPGs, which I now play every day. I have been a gamer for almost all of my life, and as a consequence I have craved for good books about gaming. Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao is such a book. Set in the distant future, not only does Last Gamer Standing have an accurate portrayal of gaming where gaming isn’t framed as a context or setting, gaming is at the very core of its story– one that actually understands gaming and gamers.

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Book Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn – A Captivating and Terrifying Gothic Fantasy with Eldritch Horrors, Rage, and Revenge

Synopsis:

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Flowers for the Sea feels like falling into a nightmare beyond my wildest imagination; a story that makes you feel alone, struggling with a trauma etched upon your bones and grappling with a horror growing inside you. When I finished reading this novella, I felt like I was coming out of a stupor – dazed, ill at ease, yet utterly captivated by the storytelling that feels, all at once, like poetry and a tale of visceral anger.

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Five Reasons to Read: The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt – An Exciting Adventure into a Chinese-Inspired World of Dreams, Mooncakes, and Curses

Synopsis:

Since their parents’ strange disappearance several years ago, 12-year-old twins Mei and Yun have been raised by their grandfather, who makes the best mooncakes around using a secret ingredient.

On the day of the Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival, the emperor sends his son to sample Grandpa’s renowned mooncakes—but instead of tasting wonderful, they are horrible and bitter, strangely mirroring the odd, gloomy atmosphere and attitudes that have been washing over the village in the last few days. Grandpa is arrested for insulting and harming the prince, and Mei and Yun realize they are the only two people who will come to Grandpa’s aid.

The twins set out on foot for the long journey to the emperor’s palace where Grandpa’s being taken, but a surprising stop in the eerie City of Ashes, a visit with the legendary, mystical Jade Rabbit, and an encounter with a powerful poet whose enchanted words spread curses, influence just how Mei and Yun will manage to clear their grandfather’s name.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If you are looking for an action-packed, sweeping adventure that will keep you entertained and intrigued with its historical, fantasy, and even mystery elements, then look no further than The Dreamweavers, a lovely middle-grade historical fantasy releasing next month!

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Book Review: It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi – An Exes-to-Enemies Rom-Com about Flawed Desi Teens, Messy Relationships, and Protecting Those You Love

It All Comes Back to you by
Synopsis:

After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It All Comes Back to You is nothing like what I expected – and I’m glad for it. For what I thought was a fluffy and sweet romance, It All Comes Back to You is, what I’d more accurately describe, a romantic comedy with drama and coming-of-age elements centering two very flawed desi Muslim teens. It is messy at times, and delightfully so, making It All Comes Back to You such a memorable story and a wonderful addition to young adult fiction. 

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