On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

otcuIn On the Come Up, Angie Thomas builds upon the vivid world of Garden Heights that she introduced to readers in her #1 New York Times bestseller debut, The Hate U Give. But this time, instead of Starr Carter narrating this story, readers are introduced to sixteen year old Bri Jackson, daughter of underground rap legend Lawless. Like her father, who was killed in a gang-related shooting when she was little, Bri dreams of becoming a legendary rapper (that is when she’s not taking ACT prep courses or geeking out over tweety bird).

You’ll never silence me and you’ll never kill my dream/just recognize when you say brilliant that you’re also/ saying Bri

I found On the Come Up even more compelling than its blockbuster predecessor, perhaps because of Bri’s similarity to Thomas, who writes in her dust jacket biography that she was once a rapper. However, instead of Bri’s musical ambitions, what stuck out most to me was the conflict between Bri’s upper-middle class arts school and her working class roots.

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Circe by Madeline Miller

circeSomeone I know described Circe as “Percy Jackson for adults.” To me, there seems to be no description more apt for this spellbinding tale. Circe is acclaimed author Madeline Miller’s take on the titular character, the ancient Greek enchantress best known for bewitching Odysseus and temporarily turning his crew into pigs in The Odyssey. After centuries of neglect, this witch finally gets her own story.

There is much to be said about reading a book and knowing exactly what is going to happen. Miller, a devout student of the classics, does not deviate much from the accepted literary canon. Circe hosts Odysseus and later Telemachus (as well as her niece Medea and a few gods). She helps her sister Pasiphaë birth the minotaur and jealously turns the nymph Scylla into a ravenous monster. Because of this set plot, there are often extended breaks in the action of the story. This was not a problem for me. I enjoyed Circe’s inner monologues and Miller’s lush descriptions of the Greek landscapes.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

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New Year, Same Blog (Kinda)

My Year in Review

2018 was crazy for me. For starters, I finished my first year of boarding school and started my second. In June I studied abroad in Chile, where I studied poets like Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Lately, I’ve just been studying hard in school, which starts back up in a few days.

yjyMy Favorite Books of 2018

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin: Zevin’s vivid female characters- a mother, a daughter, a wife illuminate her latest novel. Both timely and timeless, Young Jane Young explores marriage, affairs, and love through vibrant female perspectives, painting a hilarious, lively portrait that is not to be missed.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohaila Abdulali: Abdulali’s novel is a difficult work to read. She does not shy away from harsh realities, showing readers compelling stories and undeniable statistics, but ends her novel with a necessary glimmer of hope, which I intend to carry into the new year.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor: I cannot get enough of Taylor’s lush fantasy worlds. Last year, Strange the Dreamer, the predecessor to Muse of Nightmares made its way on to my best of list, so I delight in putting Taylor’s latest onto this list as well. Her clear gift for spinning stories so wildly imaginative and yet so fiercely human makes her one of my favorite authors to date.

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Still Need That Christmas Gift?

We’ve all been there. Christmas is just a week away and you haven’t got anything for anybody. Maybe you blew all your savings on some great Black Friday deal or you’ve just finished taking the finals that’ve occupied your mind for the past month, or maybe you just forgot. Whatever the deal is, a desperate sprint to find great gifts for people you love (or, in the case of a few, like) has begun. But, fear not, because below is a gift for every person in your life. And, if you can’t find anything here, check out my guides from 2017, 2016, and 2015 for even more inspiration.

yjyFor the cousin who just can’t resist bringing politics up at the dinner table 

If this is where you’re struggling, you’re in luck because I just could not choose between two fantastic novels for this person in your life. My first recommendation is Gabrielle Zevin’s Young Jane Young, a hilarious take on a young intern’s affair with her congressman. The second novel I chose is Tahereh Mafi’s semi-autobiographical A Very Large Expanse of Sea, which follows a Muslim-American teenager finding her place in high school (and the world) in the wake of 9/11.

For the world’s biggest fan of A Christmas Prince and The Princess Switch

There’s something irresistibly lovable about cheesy Netflix Christmas movies set in small, imaginary countries in Europe. I can only handle so much sugar-and-spice, but if you know someone who can’t get enough, I’d recommend Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Chances are they’ve seen this summer blockbuster, but Crazy Rich Asians the book is so much better. Your friend will delight in Kwan’s gossipy footnotes and swoon over protagonist Rachel Chu’s very own Cinderella story.

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

avleofIn A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Tahereh Mafi flexes her writing chops. Her newest, a blunt, politically-charged realistic fiction, is a complete departure from the dreamy fantasy work she’s written in the past. And, despite some rocky passages and awkward dialogue, Mafi succeeds in showing readers her versatility as a storyteller.

“I was stuck in another small town, trapped in another universe populated by the kind of people who’d only ever seen faces like mine on their evening news, and I hated it.”

A Very Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a sarcastic, guarded teen who’s struggling to find  her place in small-town America after 9/11. Shirin is noticeable for a variety of reasons– her love of breakdancing, her lovingly handmade clothing, her haughty attitude, but, most of all because of her hijab. We meet Shirin as she is preparing for her newest high school in a line of many, putting up walls and dealing with xenophobia in both small and large instances. But, it turns out her newest school might not be exactly the same as her others, thanks to a surprising interest from golden-boy Ocean James, who takes a sweet, sincere interest in her.

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

monIt’s always a gamble to pick a book up during school breaks. There’s no time for me to pleasure read at school, however I can’t always read fast enough to finish the book at home. But, I feel there’s nothing worse than a story left unfinished. So, when I picked up Muse of Nightmares for the train back to school, I was determined to read the nearly 500 page sequel to Strange the Dreamer in six hours. Obviously, that was not possible, so I was left to sneaking in five or ten pages whenever I had the chance. Perhaps it was this reading style, but more likely it was Taylor’s masterful, slow-build writing that made Muse of Nightmares on of the best fantasy novels I read this year.

Wishes don’t just come true. They’re only the target you paint around what you want. You still have to hit the bull’s-eye yourself.”

Taylor possesses an incredible gift of dropping breadcrumbs and seemingly unrelated connections throughout the duology, holding the reader by their hand and revealing the final piece of the storyline at just the right moment. While some of her clues were more clearly connected than others, I found the overall arc of the story a mystery until after I had turned the last page.

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November Wrap Up

What I’m Up To:

 I’m writing this wrap up on my way back to school, ready for the dreaded two and a half weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break. It’s time to get some work done, but as soon as it’s over, I’ll be back in New York to celebrate Christmas with my family, where I can get some reading done.

avleof What I’m Reading Right Now:

 I’m almost finished with A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Tahereh Mafi’s realistic fiction debut (which was long-listed for the National Book Award). I was a huge fan of Mafi’s fantasy series when it came out a few years ago, but her newest is both a thematic and stylistic departure. Gone are the flowery sentences and angsty action-packed chapters, replaced by sharp wit and politically-charged narratives. A Very Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a Muslim teenager grappling with her identity in a post 9/11 world.


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What I’m Thankful For: 8 Years of Book Reviews by Ava

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which means I’m in Arkansas visiting my lovely relatives. This year, I have a lot to be thankful for, from my amazing, supportive family to the incredible education I am lucky enough to have access to thanks to a generous scholarship. But, one thing I wanted to highlight this season was how thankful I am for the wonderful book review community- everyone from my loyal readers to bookstore owners, librarians, publishers, publicists, authors, and many more.


Since my first review for Warwick’s Bookstore in San Diego, book reviewing has been an integral part of my life, one that I can’t imagine my life without. As a young reader, I am grateful for the platform to share my ideas and opinions about literature. The empowerment that comes from expressing my thoughts has been integral to my growth into a young adult who is passionate about reading.

My first review followed little Lulu, a drama-queen wishing for a brontosaurus as a pet. It was three sentences long and emphasized the cute illustrations and laughable dialogue. Back then, I had my dad edit my reviews down to the sentence and only posted a review when I loved the book.

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Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

pcAh, Scholastic book fairs. That glorious week in December when parents volunteered in a hastily constructed cardboard bookstore and kids ran wild with their five dollar gift certificates. To me, and countless other Gen-Zers, book fair week was the best week of the school year. There, I discovered my first favorite books: the Rainbow Magic series. Numbering nearly 150 volumes, the series followed besties Rachel and Kirsty as they rescued helpless fairies from evil Jack Frost.

After Rainbow Magic, I dabbled in Bailey School Kids and Magic Tree House before finding home in Cam Jansen mystery novels, which followed Cam, a quirky tween with a photographic memory and a penchant for mystery-solving. But, after Cam came the true mecca of mystery novels: my aunt’s collection of Nancy Drew novels. I was as in love as a seven year old could be (that is, until I discovered Harry Potter and Percy Jackson).

All of my favorite $4.99 paperbacks were riding the wave of immensely popular mega-hits like Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and Goosebumps, which hit peak popularity ten years before I was born. These “Young Adult” novels of the 80’s and 90’s (think: post Judy Blume, pre J. K. Rowling) are the subject of Bustle Features Editor Gabrielle Moss’ newest book, Paperback Crush.

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Why Voting this Midterm is Important

Today is the United States’ midterm elections. On this day, hundreds of candidates running for everything from county sheriff to congressman will be elected by us, citizens of the United States. Historically however midterm elections have much lower voter turnout than presidential elections. According to Nonprofit Vote, only 37% of eligible voters voted in the 2014 midterm election, the lowest amount since World War II. Especially with recent attacks against American citizens, such as Trump’s threat to change an amendment that grants citizenship to every person born in the United States, it is important to vote now more than ever! No matter who you’re voting for or what you believe in, it is important to cast your ballot for people who represent your beliefs. Here’s three reasons you should vote tomorrow. 


Antonio Delgado, a Democrat running for congress in my district, NY-19!

1. This election is historic for its diversity of candidates.

According to the New York Times, 411 candidates running for United States Senate or Congress are women, people of color, or LGBT+ –that’s more than any election ever before! This diverse group demonstrates an opportunities for a multitude of new voices, opinions, and ideas to be heard in our government. Find a voice that resonates with you and cast your vote!

2. It’s your civic duty

Millions of people across the world do not have the privilege of letting their voice be heard in their government. We American citizens are lucky. We must use our privilege to vote people into power who stand up for real American values like democracy and freedom of speech, not misogyny and racism.

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