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!

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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.

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Book: Sing, Unburied, SIng by Jesmyn Ward

Published September 2017 by Scribner|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

I liked Sing, Unburied, Sing!  If you like Toni Morrison, this is the book for you, because Sing, Unburied, Sing is very much a story Toni Morrison would write.

I did find parts of the book confusing- notably with Richie and with Given.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, and while it didn’t feel completely out of place, it did take me out of what was going on.  It was jarring to go into their stories, and it’s integration into the book could have been better.  It is interesting, though, and Jojo’s family clearly has their demons (and ghosts), but the way it’s done in this book didn’t work for me.

I did struggle to get through this book, and I felt like I had to really work at getting through this book.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for Sing, Unburied, Sing, since I had a hard time paying attention to what was going on.  But I do think part of it is the book.  You’re jumping around between past and present and different narrators, and it was hard for me to connect with any one person or thing that was going on.  It made things seem more convoluted than they really were.

It did take away from Jojo’s story and even Leonie’s story.  I can’t imagine having one parent in prison, and one who’s addicted to drugs and not around a lot.  He did have his grandparents, who did everything they could to make sure that he and his sister were okay, and in a loving home.  I can relate to growing up and being raised by your grandparents, but I really wanted more with them and Jojo.

The book certainly sounded beautiful, and while I wasn’t too interested in the story, there is something about the way that she writes.  Basically, the way I feel about Sing, Unburied, Sing is the same way I feel about every Toni Morrison book I’ve read- not super interested in the story, but way more fascinated and in love with the writing.  Morrison is much more…minimal…when it comes to writing, as opposed to Jesmyn Ward, but maybe I’ll give this book another read one day.  And I might give her other books a try as well, but I’m not too sure about that.

3 stars.  I liked but I didn’t love it.  The magical realism/supernatural elements took me out of the story, but the writing is beautiful, which is why Sing, Unburied, Sing isn’t getting a lower rating.  I can see why people love it, but it’s just not for me.

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Book: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Published November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: MG Contemporary

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

I honestly don’t know what I think about this book!  I thought some things were confusing and strange but other things I really liked and thought were important to read about.

Let’s start with what I liked.  I liked the look at a detention center for refugees.  The conditions were horrible, and it makes me sad to think that anyone seeking asylum and fleeing their country may end up in similar conditions.  It’s horrible that they’re known by number, and not by name.  It’s sad and horrible the way they are treated, and all they want is a better life.  But they are treated horribly, all because of where they’re from or what they believe in.  People like Subhi and his family deserve so much better than that.

I felt for Subhi, but there were things that took me out of the book.  The Night Sea didn’t make sense to me, and Subhi’s talking duck didn’t make sense to me either.  It seemed like they were Subhi’s way of dealing with what was going on, and I get that, since the detention center was a horrible place.  But it took me out of what was going on, and was really distracting.  It was imaginative, but it did not work for me at all.

We really should question why they’re treated like criminals, and why they’re in detention centers for so long.  I’m not sure how old Subhi is, but it seemed like he was born in the detention center.  I’d say he’s around 10 or so, since this is a middle grade book, and I find insane and ridiculous that he’s been living there for so long.  The system is broken if refugees/those seeking asylum are living in detention centers for that long.  There has to be a better way to handle it.

I didn’t really care for Jimmie’s story.  It’s odd to me that she couldn’t read, and I found myself skimming over her mother’s book when she and Subhi would read it together.  Also, how on earth were they able to meet?  It seemed odd that she’d be able to walk up to the fence.  She sort of faded in the background (at least for me) but they did seem to have some sort of bond.  We see how she learns how horrible things are for Subhi, and all of those in the detention center, and for Subhi, he gets a connection to the outside world, and a way for people to see the horrible conditions he, and others like him, have to live in.

It was a hard book for me to get into, and it started off really slow.  It felt like things continued to move slowly, and while I knew it wasn’t going to be action-packed, I still wanted something to really capture my attention.  But nothing really did.

Still, I think it’s a book that EVERYONE should read.  It’s an important book, and the world does need more books like this one.

3 stars.  I liked it, but there were some things that took away from what Subhi experienced in the detention center.

Book Review: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Book: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2014 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

When I read All-American Boys a few years ago, I really liked it.  Enough to want to read his other books, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

One of the biggest reasons why it was just okay was the writing.  The writing style is perfect for middle grade, and I really did think I was reading a middle grade novel, but the writing style itself didn’t match up with what happened in the story.  I was surprised that Ali was in high school because I (wrongly) assumed he was 12/13, and not the 15/16 that is actually mentioned in the book.

It’s also pretty short, and you could easily read it in a couple of hours.  I did want it to be longer, because it felt like things weren’t developed enough.  In particular, the big moment of the book really felt like a let down.  I expected something bigger, and something that wasn’t so easily resolved.  It was resolved a lot faster than I thought, and even then, it felt like Ali got very lucky that his father was there to take care of it.

However, it really did feel like I was sitting next to Ali on the stoop as he told me this story.  There is something about his voice that’s very honest and raw, and I did want to hear more of Ali’s story.  It felt really personal, like we were there with Ali, instead of feeling distanced from what was going on.

I also liked seeing the relationship Ali had with his family, his friends, and his neighbors.  In particular, I liked seeing how Needles dealt with Tourette’s.  While I don’t knit, I do crochet, and crafting as therapy is pretty accurate.  It’s different, but I also thought it was really cool.

2 stars.  I thought it could have been longer, in order to develop the characters and flesh out some of the events a little more.  But I also thought that Ali was pretty easy to relate to, and I think a lot of readers will really like him.

Book Review: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Book: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Published March 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|309 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself. 

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

I have mixed feelings about this book!  This is a book about a girl with scoliosis, and it’s not something that comes up a lot in books.

I did like that we see how much it changed her life, and how she had to adjust to pretty much everything because she wore a brace.  The author herself wore a brace for scoliosis, and that really came through when you’re reading it, because there was something very real about Rachel’s experience.  I could picture everything so clearly, particularly her resistance to wearing the brace but also her acceptance of it.  She learned to stand up for herself, and to tell her parents- especially her mother- how she felt.

I certainly don’t blame Rachel for not wanting to wear the brace at first, but she does realize how important it is over time.  One of her friends really didn’t get why she had to wear it, and I wasn’t a big fan of that particular friend.  She seemed to drop both Rachel and their other friend once they all went to middle school, but at least that other friend was really supportive and understanding.  And it was great that the one friend would help her practice soccer.  Rachel was so determined to make it work, and I loved her dedication to soccer.

As much as I loved seeing how Rachel dealt with her scoliosis, there were a few things I didn’t like.  Her mom was one of them.  I know Rachel’s mom had scoliosis as well, and it seemed like her mom’s scoliosis was a lot more severe than Rachel’s was.  But I got really irritated with all of the stuff about how lucky Rachel is that all she has to do is wear a brace, and how much easier Rachel has it because she doesn’t need surgery.  But it didn’t seem to help Rachel, and it really seemed like her mom’s behavior made Rachel want to do the complete opposite.  I’m glad Rachel talked to her mom, and that they worked things out, but seeing her mom constantly talk about how lucky Rachel was did get frustrating.

I’m glad the book was very much about Rachel in middle school, and that scoliosis was a big part of her life (but not her whole life), I still wanted more about her scoliosis.  It seemed like a pretty short amount of time to have to wear a back brace, and for some reason, I had pictured her treatment as being longer.

I was surprised by some of the romantic relationships in the book- I would get having a crush, but it seems like dating was somewhat common.  I certainly wasn’t thinking about dating anyone in middle school (or high school), but is that a thing now?  I honestly have no idea, but it did surprise me, and there are a couple of things that come up that really should push this book into YA, and not middle grade.  But overall, it’s more middle grade than YA.

2 stars.  Braced was an okay read.  I wanted more with her scoliosis, but at the same time, I’m glad that it’s only a part of her life, and not her entire life.

Book Review: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Book: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Published August 2016 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

I’m your protagonist-Reshma Kapoor-and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

In this wholly unique, wickedly funny debut novel, Rahul Kanakia consciously uses the rules of storytelling-and then breaks them to pieces.

When I first heard about this book, I was pretty intrigued.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and while it is a cool idea, it didn’t work for me.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it does feel like Reshma’s story isn’t a new one.  It definitely falls into the “I must do all of the things I never did before in order to truly live” trope.  Which is fine, but it really didn’t work for me, and it felt really fake.  I mean, I know Reshma is doing it so she can have an easier time writing a book people will want to read, and maybe Reshma herself is why it didn’t work for me.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Reshma, and I feel like a lot of people would see her as unlikeable.  She is ambitious, and will do anything to get into college.  I was really surprised by the lengths she went to in order to get into college, and I kind of wish the book had gone more into that.  What she did isn’t okay, and she really is ruthless and cruel.  There is no redemptive arc for Reshma, and even at the end of the book, she still believes she did the right thing.

I do wonder if her parents business deal played a part in why she did what she did.  Maybe she didn’t want what happened to their business happen to her, and I get that.  But it doesn’t change the fact that she is cold and willing to do to others what someone did to her parents.  She didn’t learn from that at all, and I felt like, even though there were some very real consequences for her actions, she was still determined to lie, cheat and sue in order to get her way.

And as terrible as Reshma was, I kind of liked that she didn’t really learn her lesson or change because of what she did.  Would it have been easy for her to change and learn something?  Of course, but I feel like that would be the predictable thing.  Her not changing was a little bit refreshing, and sometimes, we don’t learn or change, even though we should.

2 stars.  I didn’t like Enter Title Here as much as I thought, and it fell flat.  I didn’t mind Reshma’s ruthlessness, though I think she went overboard in what she did in order to get into college.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

In an effort to talk about a lot of the books I’ve read, I’ve decided that it was a good idea for me to do some sort of post where I briefly talk about some of what I’ve been reading.  All links to Goodreads if you want to check out the book!

  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert.  I honestly don’t know if her books are for me, because  this book was okay, and I wasn’t a big fan of Pointe when I read that.  Suzette was a frustrating character, and she seemed really self-absorbed. She cared more about herself than her brother and what he was going through.  I get that she needed to have her own life, and considering everything that her brother had going on, it makes sense she’d try to have her own life and do her own thing.  But…it just bothered me that she didn’t really seem to care about anyone but herself and what she wanted.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and it was a little unclear what direction Colbert wanted to take.  Everything felt messy and unresolved, and while it’s really cool that the story is about a Jewish black bi girl, it felt like there was too much going on for anything to really have an impact.  It was very surface level (at least for me), and nothing got the attention it really deserved.  Little & Lion gets 2 stars.
  • The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi.  I really liked this one!  If you liked Jumanji, you will definitely like this book.  Picture Jumanji, but with a steampunk, Middle Eastern twist to it, and you have The Gauntlet.  It’s definitely fun and cool and it’s perfect for all ages, not just middle grade readers.  I loved seeing the relationship Farah had with her friends and her brother, and how willing she was to go get her brother out of this game.  It’s fast-paced and you really feel like you’re playing the game with Farah and her friends.  The Gauntlet gets 4 stars.
  • The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  This is another book I really liked.  I really liked Sal and the relationship he had with his dad and his grandma.  This book really is about family and belonging and how we all fit together.  In particular, Sal has his friend Sam, and they are better off as friends than as a couple.  I’m definitely glad that there was no (romantic) relationship between Sam and Sal, because it wouldn’t have fit with everything going on.  And the more we see them, the more you realize they are stronger as friends.  I didn’t understand Sal’s anger issues.  It seemed a little out of place, and it didn’t seem like Sal.  Sal, Sam, and Sal’s other friend were remarkably similar in that their mothers died, and their biological fathers weren’t around.  Sal’s adoptive father was great, though, and Sal (and his friends) were really lucky to have him in their lives.  It does make me want to read Aristotle And Dante Discover The Universe but I’m nervous to read it because I know everyone really likes it, and what if I don’t like it as much as this book?  I did really like it, and I’d rate The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life gets 4 stars.
  • By Your Side by Kasie West.  This book was really cute!  I wish I liked it more, because it seems like the type of book I’d absolutely love.  I did like the trapped in the library aspect of the book, and I was slightly disappointed that the entire book wasn’t set in the library, because that would have been awesome.  But at the same time, I liked seeing how her weekend in the library changed her.  My big question is, how did the library staff not double check the bathrooms before closing?  I mean, maybe they closed the bathrooms early- I know my local library closes the bathroom 10 minutes before closing, but still, why not double check.  I know it would ruin the whole book, but it is a little strange to me.  I liked seeing Autumn and Dax’s relationship after their library lock-in, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about Autumn’s anxiety.  She seemed pretty calm throughout the whole thing.  I don’t doubt that’s a real thing for her, and anxiety is one of those things that seems to be different for everyone.  Or maybe what we saw is different than what she was really experiencing?  At any rate, I did really like By Your Side, and it gets 4 stars. 
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  This book was a weird one, but like most of the other books I’ve talked about, I really liked it.  I heard about it on the Book Riot podcast, and it was creepy as hell.  There were a couple of moments that were truly terrifying.  I am curious about what it is that drives people to violence, and how it even came to be.  On the one hand, growing up in the world could be a good thing, because it’s the only world you’ve ever known, and you’re better able to handle it because you don’t know what it was like before.  But on the other hand, you’ll never know what the world was like before it happened.  I can’t imagine having to go outside blindfolded.  At least with the zombie apocalypse, you can see.  Not with this one.  I ended up getting the audio book (which I haven’t listened to yet), because in a world narrated by someone who’s blindfolded, and trying to get to a safe community, you wonder what the book would be liked if you listened to it.  I’m assuming you’d really be immersed in the world, and one of these days, I’ll have to listen it.  I really don’t want to give it away, so it’s probably good this review is really short.  Bird Box gets 4 stars.

Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Book: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Published September 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|368 pages

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

Series: Shadowshaper Series

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The extraordinary sequel to the New York Times bestseller Shadowshaper is daring, dazzling, defiant.

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds …or risk losing them all.

 

I really liked Shadowhouse Fall!  I do wish I had re-read Shadowshaper first, because I didn’t remember anything from it, but I still managed to follow what had happened.  There were times where I was slightly confused about what was going on, and that was mainly with keeping up with the characters and the Deck Of Worlds.  I’m not sure if it was not remembering anything from the first book, or if maybe it had to do with the series.  A little bit of both, I think, thought it seems to be more of not remembering much of anything from Shadowshaper.

I did like the relationships Sierra had with her friends and her family, and she really worried about their safety.  Her relationships really gave her strength, and I liked seeing how much they relied on each other.  It really is about the group, and how they’re stronger together than they are apart, and I think that’s a really nice change from a lot of other characters who might try to handle things themselves.  And characters who seem to accept help but would rather not have it.

Some of the moments that really stand out to me, however, have nothing to do with shadowshaping and the Deck Of Worlds.  The interactions Sierra and her friends have with the police are all too real, and it didn’t take away from the novel at all.  In fact, it added to it, because while Sierra and her friends are a part of this world that honors their culture and heritage, they also have to deal with people who don’t, and who would do everything in their ability to take their power and voice away.

The magic really is expanded in this world, and I liked seeing that there’s more to it than we thought.  It really added to the book, because it makes the world come alive in a way I didn’t think was possible.  We see how music and art really come alive, and there’s something about it that really drew me in.  Shadowshaping is so unique, but I love how the characters are able to use art in a really cool way.

4 stars.  Even though I didn’t completely fall in love with this book, I still think this series is amazing and a must-read.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.