Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Book: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Published February 2018 by Simon Pulse|311 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

I absolutely loved this book!  This is easily one of my favorites from this year, and I think it’s one everyone should read!

I loved Mei, and she was so easy to relate to.  I think a doctor is not the best career path for her, and I’m glad she was finally able to speak up for herself.  It can be hard going against a plan that’s been set out for you, and going against family can be hard.  But Mei knew what she wanted to do, and took a huge risk in going against what her parents thought she should do.

I particularly liked the voicemails and emails we see from her family.  They are very much involved in her life, and I do like that they want what’s best for her.  They do want her to be successful, and while I don’t necessarily agree with some of their actions & behaviors, I do think they had really good intentions.

I felt so happy when I was reading American Panda, and something about it was comforting and warm, and made me want to hug someone.

*Random side note: I feel like I’d be one of those people you see walking around holding one of those free hugs signs.  Seriously, if I weren’t so anxious and shy, I’d totally do that.

Back to American Panda, though.  Mei is such an amazing character, and while she kept secrets for quite a while, you do see the toll it takes on her, and how hard it was to keep secrets from her family.  I also loved seeing how dance was something she loved, and how happy it made her.  Even though her parents weren’t happy with the path she decided to take, it did seem like she had some support in her brother and some friends.  And it also seemed like her mom started to come around as well, which I thought was huge, considering her mom really seemed to have very strong ideas on how Mei should live her life.

We really see Mei struggle with having really strict parents (which I can sort of identify with, but obviously not completely) and how she dealt with their values and beliefs and her own.  I laughed and smiled and quite honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t start crying.  This is not a crying sort of book, but I can be sentimental.

At any rate, something about this book felt very personal, like Chao had experienced what Mei had.  There is something honest and true about this book.  It’s heartfelt, and while I haven’t experienced what Mei did in this book, I did see parts of myself in her.  I feel like we would have gotten along really well, and she is someone I want to be friends with.  She has her flaws, but we all do.  That didn’t stop her from still being completely awesome.

5 stars!  Mei is awesome, and I couldn’t help but love this book.  It’s worth reading!


Book Review: Love, Life And The List by Kasie West and PS I Like You by Kasie West

Book: Love, Life And The List by Kasie West

Published December 2017 by HarperTeen|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.

But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself. 

This book is really cute!  While I have yet to love a Kasie West book, I still enjoy her books.  They’re fun and cute and perfect if you want a quick, light read.

I liked seeing Abby challenge herself and try different things.  It’s a cool but also cliche story for an artist- the one who sets out on this journey to do these different things, just to make their art better.  She just wants to be able to show her paintings, and I get that.  It’s cool, and not at all surprising that she sees it as an opportunity to get into the art program of her dreams.  Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?

She has a lot to learn, and it seems like she has a lot of potential as an artist.  It sounds like she’s pretty good, and will continue to get better, which is what one always hopes for.  She gets in the art show (with an unexpected twist, which I have mixed feelings about), she learns a lot about herself, and she gets the guy.  All in all, it’s predictable but cute.

As for her mom, I’m glad Abby wasn’t taking on everything herself.  At least her grandpa was there, and he seems like a pretty cool grandpa.  I feel like we’d get along really well.  I did feel for Abby, because it meant her mom wasn’t there for certain things, but her mom is getting the help she needs, so that’s always good.  Hopefully, her mom was able to go to more of Abby’s things and worried less about her.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, but didn’t love it.  It’s cute, though.

Book: P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Published July 2016 by Point|330 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

P.S. I Like You is another cute Kasie West book!  I figured I’d review two of the books I’ve read by her recently in one post, especially since I’ve read them so close together.

I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t get the two books confused considering I started this one right after I finished the other one.

I figured out pretty early on who the mystery man was.  I thought it was pretty obvious, so when it turned out to be true, I wasn’t all that surprised.  I did like seeing Lily’s reaction to who it was, and how much she was hoping it would be someone else.  Considering the history between Lily and her mysterious pen pal, I can’t say it was a big surprise.  I am surprised, however, that it didn’t cause more problems with her and her best friend, but her best friend does seem pretty cool.  She was pretty understanding and relaxed about it, all things considering.

They really did have a lot more in common than she thought, and who knew that some letters would really change things?  For him, as well as Lily.

And the story is predictable- I’ve read enough of her books that she does go for the quirky, charming but very adorable, cliche romance.  Maybe, if I hadn’t read so many other similar stories, I would have loved it, or even really liked it.  Don’t get me read, I did like P.S. I Like You.  It’s cute and light-hearted, and maybe I read it too close to Love, Life And The List to love it more.

I doubt it, but it was fun and cute to read.

My Rating: 3 stars.  The obvious love interest (and similarities to West’s other books) aside, it’s a cute romance.

Book Review: A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Book: A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Published January 2018 by Philomel Books|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

I liked A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes!  Not as much as A Secret Sky, but I still liked it.

There’s a lot I don’t know in terms of what it’s like to be a refugee, particularly one from the Middle East.  In this book, we see what Tareq has to go through, and how he’s treated by others simply because of where he’s from.  People seem to make assumptions about him because of that, and because of how he looks.  I can’t imagine knowing what it’s like to always say goodbye to people you know and love, or to the place that you once called home.  It’s hard to wrap my mind around seeing the place I call home because so different that you have to leave and hope that another country will take you in.

I did like seeing how people react to refugees, and while it was a familiar reaction, it still made me sad that some people are so distrusting of refugees.  While we see what led Tareq and his family to leave Syria,  I still wish we saw a little more of it.  I mean, I know it’s on the news, and what we see at the beginning of the novel is horrifying, there’s still part of me that wanted more of their life before things got so bad that they had to leave.  Abawi does show the horrors of what Tareq goes through really well, but part of me just wanted more of his life before.  I think that’s just my preference, though.

One interesting thing about this book is that the book is narrated by destiny.  It made me think of The Book Thief, and if you liked that book, you’ll like this book.

Unfortunately, destiny as a narrator didn’t work for me, and it made me feel so distant from what was going on. It’s already something that seems so far away, and the narrator didn’t particularly help.  Plus, it seemed random, and you’d be in Tareq’s world, and suddenly, you’d have a paragraph or longer section narrated by destiny.  It took me out of the story, which is unfortunate, because Tareq’s story is a really important one.

3 stars.  I liked A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes, and the title is so fitting for the story, but I also didn’t love it.  It’s an important story, and I still recommend it.

Book Review War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Book: War Of The Cards by Colleen Oakes

Published November 2017 by HarperTeen|352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Queen Of Hearts Saga #3

Genre: YA Re-telling/Fantasy

 The final book in the twisted YA trilogy re-imagining of the origin story of the Queen of Hearts.

Dinah has lost everyone she ever loved. Her brother was brutally murdered. The wicked man she believed was her father betrayed her. Her loyal subjects have been devastated by war. And the boy she gave her heart to broke it completely.

Now a dark queen has risen out of the ashes of her former life. Fury is blooming inside Dinah, poisoning her soul and twisting her mind. All she has left is Wonderland and her crown, and her obsession to fight for both. But the war rages on, and Dinah could inherit a bloodstained throne. Can a leader filled with love and rage ever be the ruler her kingdom needs? Or will her all-consuming wrath bring Wonderland to its knees?

This is not a story of happily ever after.

This is the story of the Queen of Hearts.

I’ve been with this series since the very beginning, and while I’m sad to see it end, I also thought it was a great ending to the series.  I remember reading ARC’s of the first two books on netgalley years ago, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book ever since.  I’m really glad I finally read it!

There were things I did not see coming, and I really felt for Dinah.  I have, for the entire series, and in particular, everything with Wardley and her (biological) father broke my heart.  More so with Wardley than anything else, because I was wondering how things would work out for them.

I really liked this take on the Queen Of Hearts, and while I’ve read very few Alice In Wonderland re-tellings, this one is my favorite by far.  The Queen Of Hearts is such a villain in the Alice In Wonderland story, and yet, Dinah doesn’t feel like a villain at all.  She’s a very sympathetic character, and I couldn’t help but want things to work out for her.

I did love how the original version of Alice In Wonderland was tied in to this story, and I thought it was very original and different.  I’ve read quite a few re-tellings over the years, and this one is the most connected to the original story that I’ve ever seen.  It was unexpected but also really cool, especially since I did have fun trying to figure out who was who from the original story.  Now I feel like re-reading Alice In Wonderland…

It’s definitely the strongest in the series, and Dinah has changed a lot.  You’d want (and hope) that the last book of a series would be the strongest, and this book delivered on that.  I could picture the battle so clearly, and yet, it was pretty gory, so keep that in mind if you decide to pick this up.

And the epilogue…I have mixed feelings about it.  I don’t understand why Wardley did what he did, considering how things went between him and Dinah, but there was something very hopeful about the epilogue as well.  Like things are okay, and will continue to be okay.  I’m glad there’s hope for Wonderland, and that the series ended with some hope that things would get better.

5 stars.  War Of The Cards is a great ending to a great series, and I absolutely loved the book and Dinah.

Book Review: ACID by Emma Pass

Book: ACID by Emma Pass

Published April 2015 by Ember|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Fans of Matched and Divergent will be hooked by this fast-paced, nail-biting survival story, featuring an unforgettable heroine reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander.

The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna’s violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary. When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They’ve taken her life, her freedom, and her memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn’t know who to trust?

I liked ACID!  I think, had I read this book a few years ago, I would have loved it.  I don’t know if I’d read a lot of dystopia over the years, and so I didn’t love it the way I might have a few years ago.  But I did like it.

The police force in this novel is horrible.  No bad deed is unpunished in this world, and what makes this book so terrifying is that they will do anything to keep dissent squashed down.  While we get the basic idea of how they took over, we don’t get a clear grasp of this world and what it’s like.  We know people are told who to marry, where to work and where to live, and everything get reported.  It seems like the rest of the world is okay, but that’s not too clear, since it seems like the UK is pretty isolated.

It’s a nice change from the US being the one in this type of world.  In other dystopias, I always wonder what’s going on in the rest of the world while craziness happens in the U.S.  This time, the tables are turned, and I’m left wondering what’s happening in the rest of the world, while things are god awful in the U.K.

I did like the news articles and letters and transcripts of conversations between ACID agents.  It’s a different and cool way of giving us information about this world and what’s going on.  It would have been a lot cooler had the events of the book felt less random.

It started off really strong, and somewhere along the way, it lost that special something that initially drew me in.  Certain things were underdeveloped, and it felt like the book had wandered off-course before righting itself.  I don’t know that Divergent is an accurate comparison, because I didn’t really get that vibe from the book at all.  I feel like Matched is pretty spot on, and I’d even say that Delirium is another good read-alike.  Those two series are probably the most similar to this one.

It was still a fun read, even though though some things are far-fetched, and not really explained.  It would make a great movie though, I will admit that.

3 stars.  I liked ACID, and it was entertaining to read, but it started off strong and then tapered off as the book went on.

Book Review: It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, Narrated by Cecil Baldwin

Book: It Devours! by Joseph Fink And Jeffrey Cranor, Narrated by Cecil Baldwin

Published October 2017 by Harper Audio|9 hours and 38 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Welcome To Night Vale #2

Genre: Adult Fiction

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.

Night Vale is such a delightful place.  Weird, but delightful.  And I am glad that I got to revisit Night Vale in It Devours!

The nice thing about It Devours (and the Welcome To Night Vale novel) is that you don’t need to listen to the podcast in order to read this book.  It’s completely separate (but does reference the podcast), and while I loved the first book, I think I loved this book even more.  It’s very different than what I expected, but I really liked the story.  Carlos and his time in the Otherworld is very different in this book, and it’s a big change from the podcast.  He was more excited about the possibilities in the podcast, and more tortured in the book.

Cranor and Fink don’t like to keep things neat and tidy, that’s for sure.  But maybe it affected Carlos more than we thought.  It’s a very different Carlos that we see in this book, but maybe…I mean, it’s not like we see a lot of Carlos in the podcast.  I mean, we do, but not like this, and it’s a very different side of him.

As for the main story, I liked Nilanjana and Darryl’s story.  It’s more focused than the first book, and while it meanders, it’s not meandering the way the first book is.  We see the Joyous Congregation, which has been mentioned on the podcast, but this is a much closer look at the Joyous Congregation and the Smiling God.  And science!  And how they can be good or bad, depending on how you use it.  Darryl and Nilanjana work together to save Night Vale, and they each have their own unique perspective.

It definitely adds to the world, and it really shows how big Night Vale is.  There are a lot of stories to tell, and while I love Cecil, it’s also nice to see some of the other characters and people of Night Vale.  I also feel like they’ve gotten the hang of the novel format, and I’m sure any future Night Vale books will continue to get better.

With the first Night Vale book, I both listened to the audio book and read the book in print format.  Having been an avid listener of the podcast for years, I knew I would love it as an audio book.  It turned out that I didn’t love it in print, which is why I only listened to It Devours.  I love Cecil, and I can’t imagine experiencing Night Vale in any other format.  I’ve listened to Night Vale for years, and Night Vale in print is a very strange concept for me.

I would definitely recommend It Devours as an audio book, though it could be interesting in print as well.  It didn’t translate well the first time around, but maybe this time it well.

It Devours is a lot more philosophical as well.  It really examines science and religion, but they do it well.  There’s a very Night Vale take on both science and religion in this book, and it’s not science vs religion.  Which is nice.  It’s very kind towards both.  Weird, but kind.  We are talking about Night Vale here.

By the way…It Devours!  Yeah, I’ve totally read that book.  In case you didn’t pick up on that.

5 stars.  I loved It Devours! and it was a great book to listen to while I cleaned the heck out of my room.  I found myself paying more attention to the book than the cleaning, and it’s a big improvement on the first book (which I also loved).

Book Review: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Book: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Published March 2009 by Margaret K McElderry|256 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Samar — a.k.a. Sam — has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn’t sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn’t Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, “Go back home, Osama!” and Sam realizes she could be in danger — and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.

I liked Shine, Coconut Moon!  I really liked Sam, and I liked seeing her decide to learn more about her family. 9/11 really changed things for a lot of people and I thought Shine, Coconut Moon really showed how much people changed.

Like Sam’s boyfriend.  I hated him, I really did.  How he treated Sam because of her uncle was absolutely horrible, and you’d think he’d give her a chance and try to see things from her perspective.  But he had no interest in doing that, and refused to leave her alone, even when she wanted to have nothing to do with him.  It’s hard to believe that she was ever interested in him, and I was relieved when they were no longer together.

And how things changed with her best friend.  Her best friend is the stereotypical character who doesn’t understand how hard things are for Sam after 9/11.  Her friend does come around, and I wonder if maybe she noticed things but didn’t want to admit it.

This book is very much Sam learning about her heritage.  I thought the summary was confusing- it made it seem like her uncle showing up and him being would be a huge part of the book, but it wasn’t.  His appearance does change things for Sam, and she does meet both him and her grandparents because of it, but it wasn’t as important as the summary would have you believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the way he was treated by people he didn’t even know was horrible, and he doesn’t deserve it.  It’s sad that people saw him a certain way because of how he looked, and that people make assumptions and stereotype.  I wish we didn’t live in a world like that, but unfortunately, we do.

Something I thought was odd was when the book took place.  There were times where it seemed like it happened right after 9/11 and we’re in the months right after.  But towards the end of the book, it seemed like more time had passed.  Maybe I missed something, but the timeline seemed really strange and confusing to me, and it took me out of things a little bit.

I did like seeing Sam expand her worldview, and how she started talking to people that she previously ignored.  It’s too bad some of the other people in her life couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do the same.  It made me angry that people started treating her differently because of her uncle, and that even though they’ve known her for years, they started looking at her with suspicion.

I’m really not sure what else to say about Shine, Coconut Moon.  It’s definitely worth checking out and reading.

3 stars.  Even though I liked Shine, Coconut Moon, I didn’t love it.  I really felt for Samar, and I felt so angry on her behalf.  I definitely recommend it!

Book Review: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Published January 2009 by Delacorte Books For Young Readers|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha’s promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and after reading You Bring The Distant Near last year, I finally decided to read Secret Keeper.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t like it as much as You Bring The Distant Near.

I did feel for Asha and Reet, and I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a marriage arranged for you, or to know that your decisions are not your own to make.  Asha has her own path, and while it differed from the traditional path her family wanted her to take, she knew what she wanted.  It’s very different than the path that her sister took.

I found it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that their uncle could make decisions- such as their future spouse- for them since their father was trying to find a job in the U.S.  It’s a very different life than the one I know, and it’s not bad.  It’s just very different and hard for me to picture.

I did like Asha, and how much she wanted to help people.  Wanting to be a psychologist really opened doors for her, and it really seemed like a way for her to take care of her mom and her sister, especially after her dad died.  I also liked that she considered her diaries from her father her secret keeper, but I didn’t particularly care for actually reading the diary entries.  I also liked how Reet wanted to take care of her mother and sister as well, and how getting married allowed her to help them.  It’s strange how one event can change everything, and how we all need to make sacrifices.

2 stars.  Even though there were things I liked about Secret Keeper, it was just okay for me.  I had a hard time getting into it, and I wish I liked it more than I actually did.

Book Review: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Book: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Published December 2012 by Knopf|243 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. 

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream, Mathis’s first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

I wasn’t as into this book as I thought I would be.  It seemed like it would be interesting, but I found the book to be cold and distant.

Considering the book is about Hattie’s children, you’d think she would have more of a role.  But she didn’t.  I got the impression that her kids didn’t have a lot of contact with her once they were adults, and that she was a cold, uncaring woman.

It felt more like a collection of short stories of people than a cohesive story told over decades.  Maybe even a series of stories connected by one or two characters.  There are a lot of time jumps and narrators, and while it worked for Homegoing and You Bring The Distant Near, it didn’t work for The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie.  I felt like her children were introduced and then abandoned- we were lucky if they were even mentioned again, and while we see Hattie throughout the book, it is from a distance.

And while you see the heartache and struggles each character goes through, it felt flat and one-dimensional.  There wasn’t anything to make me really care or feel invested in their stories.  She did do well with painting a picture of how oppressed Hattie’s family felt, and how she really seems to understand people who had limited options, and how much those limited options changed them.  I don’t necessarily need to like or relate to a character in order to like a book, but I found that I didn’t care about these characters or what happened to them.

1 star.  I couldn’t get into the book at all, and the structure didn’t work well for this story.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Resolutions For The Year

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.  Every Tuesday, bloggers share their own bookish top ten list based on the topic of the week.  Check out the upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics here.

Top 5 Bookish Resolutions For The Year

It’s strange to think that TTT is no longer hosted the lovely bloggers over at The Broke And The Bookish, but I’m glad that one of their contributors is keeping the meme going!  I really love these lists, and it’s a lot of fun to be doing them again!  To be honest, I haven’t really thought about resolutions (bookish or otherwise), since I’ve had a lot going on for the last 2-3 months.  However, I do have a few bookish things I want to do this year!

1- Continue to read diversely! 

I still haven’t done bookish stats for last year, but I’m pretty sure that around half of the books I read last year fall into the diverse category.  I want to keep that going, and as long as I’m in the ballpark of 50%, I’ll be happy.

2- Purge my print books as much as I can. 

Sometime in the very near future, I will be moving…and while I would love to take all of my books with me, there is not going to be enough room for all of them.  I’ve gone through a few shelves, and dropped some off at the library, but I still have a lot more to go.  Including the stack of books sitting next to me as I write this.  That’s not counting the cookbooks and the crochet books, but I suppose I’ll get to those eventually.

3- Reading the print books I own.

This is going off of the my second goal, but there are some books I still swear I’m going to read.  Those are definitely going to the top of my TBR pile because the sooner I read them, the sooner I can decide if they’re worth keeping, or donating to the library.  (Who will hopefully enjoy and can use the donations I’m randomly dropping off).  This goes for audio books and e-books as well, but I’m much more focused on print.

4- Being more selective with the print books I buy.

There’s a definite theme emerging in the goals/resolutions I have for this year- to really limit the physical books I own, and this goes along with that.  While I haven’t moved yet, I am going to have to think carefully about what I buy- while I do audio books and e-books, I may turn to that more to save on space.  And of course, keep using the library, because those have to go eventually.

5- Take the time to read my library books sooner.

And also to not check out three more books when I have at least 5 sitting on my desk.  I renew and renew, and take way too long to read them.  I clearly need to get this under control.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with at least some of them, and that they’ll work out pretty well!