Book Review: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Book: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Published January 2018 by Swoon Reads|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: NA Contemporary

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

I really liked this one!  I didn’t love, and I was expecting a different story than the one described, but I still really liked it.

I was interested in this one because it features an asexual main character.  It’s rare to see that in a book, and I thought Kann did a great job at describing what it was like for Alice as she had to navigate relationships.  It rang true, and it didn’t define Alice, but it was still a big part of who she was.  It wasn’t something other people understood, particularly the people she dated, and it made me sad that it was something people didn’t understand.  I wasn’t surprised, but it still made me sad that her girlfriend thought Alice didn’t care about her because she didn’t want to have sex her.

I didn’t care for her friend Feenie, and it seemed like Alice was definitely the third wheel.  I don’t know that she necessarily intentionally left Alice out, but she didn’t seem to like that Alice had other people in her life.  And yet, there were a few times were Feenie and Ryan wanted to have a “family” night and then they ended up leaving her to do their own thing.  Feenie seemed all over the place, and it was hard to like her.  The one thing I did like, though, was that Feenie wanting to be a housewife and stay-at-home mom wasn’t seen as a bad thing, and it was the right choice for her.

I did like her friend Ryan and I liked Takumi as well.  Ryan was an awesome friend, and he was there when Feenie wasn’t.  I liked Takumi as well, though he wasn’t one of my favorites.

As for Alice, I loved her interest in interior design and pop culture.  I wasn’t expecting her to want to be an interior designer, but I hope it works out for her.  To be honest, I expected her potential career path be in the library or something with pop culture.  She definitely struggled with what her parents wanted her to do, and I liked seeing her struggle with how to pay for everything once they told her they would stop paying for college because she didn’t want to go to law school.  It felt very real, and it’s something I think a lot of people could relate to.

Characters aside, I had a hard time with Cutie Code.  It comes up a lot, especially at the beginning of the book, and then it sort of fizzles out.  It was odd to me, especially because the scale and what each color means was never clearly defined.  I was expecting a graphic or something, explaining it in more detail, and that never happened.  I would have be fine had it not been in there.

I think I was expecting a different story, and I’m not sure why.  I mean, the blurb isn’t wrong, but I was also bored, and it felt like the book was missing something.  What that is, I honestly have no idea.

That being said, this book seemed more like New Adult than YA to me.  And it was nice reading about a college-aged character that wasn’t completely focused on sex and romance.  There was romance, but there was a nice balance between dating and navigating life on your own.  It’s what I want from NA, and I feel like a book like this is pretty rare.   Or at least uncommon.

4 stars.  I didn’t love this book, obviously, but there were a lot of things I really liked.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Book Review: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi And The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Aru Shah And The End Of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Published March 2018 by Rick Riordan Presents|355 pages

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

Series: Pandava Quartet #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Mythology Re-Telling

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

I really liked Aru Shah And The End Of Time!  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini stop the Sleeper and save time.

I liked Aru and Mini, and they seem like such an unlikely duo.  I thought they worked well together, and I’m curious to see if we’ll meet the other 3 Pandava sisters in the rest of the series, or if we’ll just see Aru and Mini.

One thing I thought was interesting was how surprised people were that the legendary Pandava brothers were, in fact, sisters.  It made for a unique twist, and people seemed to underestimate these two girls.  It makes me wish that I knew more about Hindu mythology because it would have been fun (and pretty cool) to know the real stories that Chokshi drew from.

Also, I love that Rick Riordan acknowledges that this was not a story he could have written, and that he believes Chokshi can.  I think it’s cool he’s giving other writers a voice and the chance to re-tell the mythology that they’re familiar with.

Back to the story, though.  I really liked seeing Aru and Mini work together to save the world.  They’re scared and not always ready for what’s in store, but they get it down, and it’s a pretty interesting adventure for the two of them.  I also loved their pigeon sidekick, who was pretty funny.

I loved how smart Mini and how she’s obsessed with anything and everything that can make you sick.  Aru, even though she just wanted to fit in with the popular kids and ends up starting this whole adventure because of it, is funny and curious and determined to make things right.  They support each other, even when they fight, and they really do have a great friendship.  It’s nice to see in a middle grade book, though I feel like we see more of it in middle grade than YA (at least, in my experience).

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love but I still really liked it.  I’d recommend it everyone, but especially Rick Riordan fans.

Book: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2018 by Scholastic|351 pages

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

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #1

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Re-Telling

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMON SLAYER
(Only she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

I really liked The Serpent’s Secret!  It’s another mythology-inspired re-telling and this one is inspired by Indian mythology.

Kiran, on her 12th birthday, goes on a very unexpected adventure.  Spells are broken, and she learns that the stories her parents have told her about being a princess are not just stories.  They’re real, and she’s from a place that is not the world she knows.  I definitely felt like we were on this journey with Kiran as she learns what is real and what is not.

There are a lot of stories I was not familiar with before reading this book, and I love seeing stories I’m not familiar with because it makes me want to learn more.  I really felt like these were stories that DasGupta loved growing up, and I felt these were stories she knew really well and wanted to share with everyone else.

It was silly at times but also really fun, and I felt like we knew who Kiran was.  She didn’t feel older or younger than she really was, and though the book was longer than what I expected for a middle grade, I really liked Kiran as a character.  It felt like the book was the perfect length for the story DasGupta was telling, and it didn’t feel too long or too short.

It’s also funny, and there were quite a few times when I laughed or smiled.  Mostly when TunTuni was involved, but sometimes serious things need some not-so-serious-moments.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it and I loved how fun and funny the book was.  I can’t wait to read the next book!

Book Review: Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan

Book Review: Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan

Published November 2018 by Jimmy Patterson Books|400 pages

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

Series: Girls Of Paper And Fire #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

I absolutely loved this book!  I wasn’t sure about it at first but I ended up loving it, and while it’s not my favorite book from this year, it’s definitely one of my favorites.

One thing I wanted to start off with is the trigger warning for sexual abuse and violence.  I loved that this book had one at the beginning, but I feel like it could have been slightly more obvious.  Still, I’m glad it’s there but keep that in mind if you decide to pick up this book.

I thought Ngan handled both very delicately and respectfully.  You really felt for Lei and the other girls as they were taken from their homes, and given to the king.  The world Lei lives in, particularly once she goes to the palace seems beautiful, but danger lurks beneath the beauty, and she has to do things she doesn’t want to do.  She says no, but is ultimately punished for that.  It’s haunting, and even though Lei’s world is not real, quite a bit of the book is all too real.  The way the king uses fear and power to control the Paper Girls, and they are seen as nothing but objects.  It broke my heart to see what they had to go through, but I also loved that there was hope that things would change.

I loved Wren, and though she’s not the main character, she really was my favorite character.  I just loved her story and everything about her.  It took some time to warm up to Lei, but I ended up really liking her.  And Aoki was really interesting as well.

I also loved the world.  The author drew from her life growing up in Malaysia, and everything was so vivid.  I wish we saw more of the world that Lei lives in, but we’ll have to wait until the next book, because we’re limited to just a few places in this book.

5 stars.  I loved this book, and I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you like diverse books and fantasy!

Book Review: A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Book: A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Published October 2018 by HarperTeen|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I really liked this book!  When I heard she was coming out with another book, I knew I had to read it, especially since her Shatter Me series is pretty awesome.  I was curious to see what a YA contemporary written by Mafi would like, and it didn’t disappoint!

I really liked Shirin, and I thought she was a great character.  I understood where she was coming from, and she was pretty guarded.  I don’t blame her for being so guarded, and I probably would be too if I had to deal with everything she had to deal with.  We feel her isolation and how different she feels, and we see how people make assumptions.  I also don’t think I’ve seen a character who liked break-dancing, and it’s different in a good way.

I loved the relationship she had with her brother, and with the other guys in their break-dancing club.  Shirin and her brother are very different people but I liked their bond.  He’s a great character, and while we see him quite a bit, I wish we saw more of him.  He’s definitely one of my favorite characters.

I think I would have been fine without the romance- it didn’t really do anything for me, especially since Shirin was dealing with people’s stereotypes and racism in a post-9/11 world while Ocean’s biggest concern was not wanting to be on the basketball team anymore.  I get they have very different experiences and things going on in their lives, and I do appreciate that dating Shirin was eye-opening to what other people are going through, but I felt like they were at very different points.

And while I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, I think I might have been at least somewhat okay with it had it happened.  But maybe not, considering I would have been fine without the romance.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, and wanting Shirin to be with anyone else.  Yusuf had a lot of potential as a character (not just a love interest for Shirin), and I wish we saw more of him.

4 stars.  I really liked A Very Large Expanse Of Sea, and this book is worth checking out, even if Shatter Me was not your thing.  It’s beautiful and heart-breaking, and Shirin was amazing.

Book Review: On The Edge Of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Book: On The Edge Of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Published March 2016 by Amulet Books|456 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Apocalyptic/Sci-Fi

January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

On The Edge Of Gone wasn’t what I thought it would be, and I really wished I liked it more.  I can see why people like it, but it just wasn’t for me.

The idea behind it is really interesting.  A comet is about to hit, and some people have left earth, while others have stayed behind in shelters.  I liked seeing Denise fight to get to the shelter she’s been assigned to, and then fight to stay on a ship that needs all passengers to have a skill that would allow them to stay on board.  I get her fears that she won’t be able to stay on board, especially with her mother, and I can appreciate she’d do what she could to help out and have a better chance at survival.

The story felt pretty slow and unfortunately, it felt like it took place over a really long period of time.  It felt like it took place over weeks, that’s how slow it felt.  In reality, it probably took place over the course of a few days, but it was so slowly paced that it felt longer.  It also felt like absolutely nothing happened, and I expected a lot more action, considering it was the end of the world.  I kept waiting for something more exciting to happen, and for me, it never did.

I never felt completely invested, and while I felt for Denise and what she was going through and experiencing, I also never completely cared about what happened to her.  I mean, I knew it was going to be a survival story, but I don’t think I was expecting it to be a slow-paced survival story.  I think, overall, I had a really hard time getting into it, especially since nothing excited happened during the book.

One of the best things about the book was seeing a female character who’s autistic.  We were very much in her head and what she was going through, and you felt her sense of panic and worry as she fought for a place on the ship before it took off into space.  You saw how people (particularly one of her former teachers) didn’t realize she was autistic, especially because she was a female person of color.  People don’t see her as autistic, because she doesn’t match up with their stereotype and image of who an autistic person is or should be.

The setting is pretty cool as well, and I liked seeing an apocalyptic survival set in a place that isn’t the U.S.  While I am not at all familiar with Amsterdam, I felt like we got to explore at least part of it.  The author is from Amsterdam, and it was clear that the author was drawing on her own experiences living there.  It definitely came across that she knew the city.

2 stars.  I liked Denise’s voice, and I felt for her as she tried to survive a comet hitting earth.  But the story was too slow, and it felt like nothing happened.

Book Review: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Book: A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Published September 2018 by Imprint|384 pages

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

Series: A Blade So Black #1

Genre: YA Contemporary/YA Re-Telling

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

I really liked A Blade So Black!  It’s a really cool re-telling of Alice In Wonderland, and I really liked McKinney’s take on the story.

I’m not going to lie, for a while I thought her dad (and his death) were connected to the Nightmares, and everything going on with Wonderland.  I really thought, at least for a while, there was going to be a connection between the two.  Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, and even though it didn’t go this way (and it probably won’t for the rest of the series), part of me really wants there to be more of a connection between the two.

I really liked seeing Alice struggle with having to leave to fight Nightmares, and leaving her family and friends behind.  She disappears for random periods of time, and you see how much it affects her friendships (particularly with a very high-maintenance best friend) and a mom who worries when Alice disappears and doesn’t answer her phone, it’s because she was killed.

Alice was a little bratty at times, and I don’t blame her mom for being concerned about Alice, especially when a neighborhood girl was killed.  I definitely see where her mom is coming from, and a kid like Alice would drive me crazy.  It’s hard, because I know what’s going on with Alice, and why she keeps disappearing.  But I still really felt for her mom.

It did take me a while to get into the book, and it didn’t get really interesting until the end of the book.  I’m very intrigued by this Wonderland, and I wanted more of it.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of it in the rest of the series, especially with how things ended.  It was slow and a little choppy at times, but overall, it did keep my interest until the end.

4 stars.  Even though the book didn’t get really good until the end, I’m still interested enough to continue on with the series.  I’m hoping we get to see more of Wonderland, because I did like the glimpses of it that we saw.

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Book: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Published September 2018 by Balzer + Bray|285 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary/Re-telling

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I really liked this one!  I wish I hadn’t waited so long to review it, because I am a little fuzzy on the details, but I’ll do my best.  It’s not the first time I’ve waited a few weeks to review a book, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

Anyway, onto the actual review!  I really liked it, and I knew I had to read this one.  Pride And Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and after reading American Street (also by the same author), I was really looking forward to reading this one.  It didn’t disappoint, and it was a great re-telling!

I really liked Zuri, and how much she loves her neighborhood.  It was obvious, throughout the book, that her family was important to her, as was going to college.  I really loved that, and I loved the relationships she had with her sisters.  I do wish we saw more of her relationship with her sisters, because they do seem pretty awesome, from what we see of them.  Zuri is fierce but judgmental, and she’s a character I think people will either love or hate.  I’m having a hard time seeing a middle ground with her but maybe that’s just me.  And anything is possible.

I also liked seeing Zuri realize that the Darcy family isn’t as bad as she thought.  She changes her mind about Darius, and even Ainsley is different by the end of the book.

I thought it was a great re-telling, and though it’s been quite a while since I read the original, it was fun seeing how it matched up with the original.  From the characters, to how the story was told, it was overall a great story.  I loved seeing it set it New York, and in a more current time.  We see how gentrification affected her neighborhood, and it’s woven throughout the novel so well.

It does stand on its own really well, and even if you haven’t read Pride And Prejudice, Pride is definitely worth reading.

4 stars.  I didn’t love, but I really enjoyed this modern update for one of my favorite books.

Book Review: Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Book: Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Published September 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|330 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Based on interviews with young women who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, this poignant novel by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani tells the timely story of one girl who was taken from her home in Nigeria and her harrowing fight for survival. Includes an afterword by award-winning journalist Viviana Mazza.

A new pair of shoes, a university degree, a husband—these are the things that a girl dreams of in a Nigerian village. And with a government scholarship right around the corner, everyone—her mother, her five brothers, her best friend, her teachers—can see that these dreams aren’t too far out of reach.

But the girl’s dreams turn to nightmares when her village is attacked by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, in the middle of the night. Kidnapped, she is taken with other girls and women into the forest where she is forced to follow her captors’ radical beliefs and watch as her best friend slowly accepts everything she’s been told. Still, the girl defends her existence. As impossible as escape may seem, her life—her future—is hers to fight for.

I thought Buried Beneath The Baobab Tree was okay. I really wanted to like it more, and even though I liked the overall story, how it was told didn’t work for me at all.

I thought the chapters were really short, and I felt like I was reading snapshots of what was going on. The feeling of reading snapshots felt particularly true for this story because each chapter tended to be anywhere from 1-4 paragraphs. I had a hard time connecting to what was going on because I felt like I didn’t have enough time to get into everything that was happening to our unnamed narrator. I felt like I didn’t have time to really process what was going on, even though I knew our narrator, and the girls she lived with, were dealing with a lot of things. Maybe it was meant to show that they didn’t have time to process what was going on. In the case of our unnamed narrator, she knew what was going on was horrible, and she wanted to get out, while the girls around didn’t. Of course, I can’t say for sure if that’s what the author was going for, but I am wondering if maybe that was the case.

I don’t recall our narrator ever being named, and even though what she went through was horrible, I felt really distanced from what was going on. What she went through was horrifying, and it’s even worse because we see her hopes and dreams and her relationships, and you see how what the Boko Haram did changed all of that. Sadly, this was something I didn’t know happened and that it was something that happened recently.

The headlines and news stories you see, particularly at the beginning of the book, worked really well for me. It really highlighted how we might not pay attention to global news. I know I don’t, and it’s sad that it takes books like these to show how little I know of the world around me. It was also sad to see that the world went on like normal while these girls were dealing with being held hostage by these ruthless, cruel men.

It doesn’t shy away from how these girls are brainwashed and indoctrinated into this group and what they believe. There’s violence and sexual abuse (please keep that in mind if those are triggers for you) and you do experience the loss that our narrator does, because you do see everything through her eyes. She, and the men in Boko Haram, are unnamed, which worked pretty well. I did find it frustrating at times, particularly because I had a hard time connecting with our narrator. But it did work because in not naming her, she could be anyone.

I did like the author’s note at the end, though. It explained what happened to the real-life girls that inspired this book, and you get a lot more in depth about what’s been going on with the Boko Haram. It was clear, even before reading the afterword, that Nwaubani did her research. It shows in what all of these girls went through. Even though the book ends not too long after our narrator gets rescued, there was part of me that wanted to see what her life was like after that point. I thought it was open-ended, which is fine, but I wanted a little more closure. Thinking about it now, it seems a little silly, since there probably wasn’t a lot of closure in real life for these girls.

2 stars. I wanted to like this more than I did. The short chapter length didn’t work for me at all, but I thought the author did a great job at showing the horrors these girls went through, and how this group took away so much from countless women and girls.

Book Review: The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Book: The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2015 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|272 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

I liked The Boy In The Black Suit.  Like with all of Reynold’s other books, I wanted to like it more than I actually did.

I did like how Matt and his dad were grieving, and also the community that they have.  Matt definitely wasn’t alone, and losing a parent can be hard.  Matt’s fascination was funerals was one of the more unique elements of the book, and while I thought it was slightly weird, it also seemed to help him feel less alone.  It’s different, but it seemed to work, especially when he met Lovey.

I’ll admit, I had a hard time believing that it would be totally okay for a teen to be working at a funeral home.  Granted, he’s helping set things up, and isn’t actually doing anything with the bodies, but still.  It was something I had a hard time believing, and I couldn’t quite get over that.  It did seem to be good for him, and he’s lucky to have a great boss.

And it’s how he really met and got to know Lovey, who’s a great character.  I liked her, and I liked seeing how she wanted to continue with some of the things her grandma did, like Thanksgiving dinner at the shelter.  The connection between Lovey and Matt was unexpected, and I expected it to cause some issues with them, but it really didn’t.

It did end abruptly, in my opinion, but…sometimes life is abrupt and weird, and it somehow seemed to fit the book. Still, I wanted a little more closure than what we got with the ending.  It’s a perfectly fine ending, and it does go with the book, but I think I just wanted something a little more from the ending.

3 stars.  I liked Matt, and he definitely deals with the death of his mother in an interesting way.  It made the book stand out, because you don’t usually see teens who are fascinated with funerals.  Even though I only liked it, I think it’s a good read, particularly if you like Jason Reynolds.

Book Review: Binti: Home And Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Published January 2017 by Tor.com|164 pages

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

Series: Binti #2

Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

I liked this one!  Not as much as Binti, and I didn’t love it.  I wanted to love it, but it didn’t capture my attention the way Binti did.

I liked seeing what was going on with Binti, and the journey she took with her grandmother.  I did like seeing how much things had changed for her, and how differently people saw her because of everything that happened in the previous book.

Still, I felt like what actually happened in the book does not match up with how the book is described in the blurb.  I thought we’d be seeing more of Okwu on earth and working with humans for peace.  Instead, we get a completely different story involving Binti realizing that’s more special and different than we could ever imagine.  She’s great at math, and has alien DNA, and this novella added another element to how special Binti was.  I don’t mind when characters are super-special, but in Binti: Home, it really bothered me for some reason.

So, I felt like this one was more of an afterthought.  Binti (the first novella) felt like a pretty complete story and was pretty contained.  This one, not so much.  It somehow seemed more rushed and much more of a rough outline than the previous novella.  Even though it’s longer than Binti, I wanted more development with the characters and the world.  Particularly with this book.  It kind of makes me wonder what Okorafor would do with the idea if it had been a novel from the very beginning.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I like the character and the world she lives in.  It has a lot of potential, but I think the novella format is working against the story, because it could definitely be expanded into something a lot longer.

Book: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Published January 2018 by Tor.com|208 pages

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

Series: Binti #3

Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

The concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning BINTI.

Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.

Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.

Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene–though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives–and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.

Don’t miss this essential concluding volume in the Binti trilogy.

I thought The Night Masquerade was okay.  I’ve liked this series to varying degrees, and even though I liked seeing how Binti tried to make peace between the Meduse and the Khoush, I still didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

One of my issues with this trilogy is how short each volume is.  I know they’re meant to be novellas, but I just wanted something longer.  There’s a lot that could be expanded on and developed, and Night Masquerade is no exception.

There was something towards the end that seemed randomly introduced, and I don’t know that it worked.  The series has been fine with no romance- I really liked that there was no romance and I liked seeing how much the events of the first novella changed Binti’s life.  I liked seeing her go back home and try to get things resolved between the Meduse and the Khoush.  I liked seeing how people saw her differently because she not only went away to school but because she was Meduse as well.

I didn’t care for the romance at all.  It felt sudden, and though it sort of makes sense, I also was fine without it.

I know people love this series, and Okorafor is pretty amazing.  She creates these amazing worlds, but with this book in particular, I kind of feel like novellas are too short of a format for her.  It’s nice to see her do something slightly different, but part of me wishes I had just read Binti and not continued on with the series.  I don’t regret seeing it through to the end, but I had a hard time with the length.

It’s not the book at all- I really do think it’s just me.  Maybe I’m just too used to reading her novels and that’s why I had a hard with the novella.  It would be interesting to read a full-length version of these stories, because there’s a lot she could explore in Binti’s world.

My Rating: 2 stars.  I wanted to like this one more but the length didn’t work for me.  I don’t know that I’m necessarily the right audience for this book, and even though there were things I didn’t like, I do really like the world she created.