Book Review: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Book: Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Published October 2018 by Starscape Books|288 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

I liked Everlasting Nora!  I really felt for Nora, and she has a lot to deal with.  There’s something very hopeful about this book, and I definitely finished the book feeling like everything was going to work out for Nora and her mom.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a shany town set up in a cemetery.  Even though everyone seems to be living where they have family members buried, I wonder if that’s the case for everyone, and how it works if it’s not a family member and their family comes to visit?

We do see in one or two scenes where they have to move so that they’re not seen at a funeral service.  Granted, it was at a different cemetery than the one Nora lives at but it still highlighted things that Nora possibly had to deal with.  That was an interesting detail, and it made the book seem more real somehow.

She has to rely on others when her mom disappears in order to pay off her gambling debts.  Nora has to help out too, and I felt so sad that she had to leave school when her father died, and they ran out of the money they had after his death.

We see the difference between having money and having nothing and needing to help out by working in order to survive.  It’s not a new concept for middle grade or YA, but I liked the setting of living in a graveyard.  It showed that life is different in other countries, and that everyone is going through something.

I’m glad things got better for Nora, and I hope things continue to work out for Nora and her mom.

3 stars.  I wish I had more to say about Everlasting Nora, but it don’t.  It’s pretty hopeful, and I definitely recommend it.

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Book Review: The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Book: The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Published January 2019 by Scholastic Press|336 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life? 

I really liked The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali!  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really liked Rukhsana’s story, and how supportive some of her family and friends were.

Her parents weren’t the most supportive, at least initially, and I think it’s important to note that not of all her family thinks the way they do.  They do come around, though I was sad it took a really big event for them to see things differently.  I felt so much for Rukhsana, and everything she went through.  I hated what her parents did- I know they thought they were helping, and they were definitely more worried about what other people thought.  And even though I am not a fan of what brought them around, it was a wake-up call that they could have lost Rukhsana.

Her friends and her girlfriend were pretty frustrating at times.  They didn’t seem to get how hard it would be for Rukhsana to come out to her parents, and what would happen if they did.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have supportive, caring parents, and it seemed like her friends brushed off what she was telling them.  I don”t think they realized the gravity of what would happen when she came out, and we definitely see what happens when her mom finds out.

I really loved her grandma, her brother, and her cousin.  She had a couple of other people who were really supportive, and it was obvious they cared about her, and what happened to her.  She had some great people in her corner, and she’s lucky to have them in her life.  They definitely encouraged her to hear her parents out after what happened, and I get why she wasn’t willing to talk to them at first.  She did change her mind, but it also seems like they have a long way to go before things are completely better between them.

4 stars.  I really liked this book, and it was a great read.  Her parents were really frustrating at times, and though I don’t agree with how they handled things, they did start to come around.

Book Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Book: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Published January 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents|312 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Sci-Fi/Re-Telling

To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams. 

I liked Dragon Pearl!  Not as much as I wanted to, but I still liked it!

What I liked most is that it’s a sci-fi re-telling of Korean mythology and folklore.  I love re-tellings but they tend to be fantasy or contemporary, and it’s pretty rare that they’re sci-fi so that made this book stand out.  Min travels all over space, and there are pirates and ghosts involved, and you can’t go wrong with pirates or ghosts.  It’s too bad there are no pirate ghosts, but that is definitely not this story.

I liked Min, and how she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps and be a part of the Space Forces.  That definitely changes over the course of the book, and I liked seeing her work her way out of some of the sticky situations she finds herself in.  I was most intrigued by the fox-magic, and how people saw it as a bad thing.  I guess it had to be someone, but I liked seeing her rely on her magic more and more to find out what happened to her brother.

I was surprised by what really happened, and it just goes to show you can’t always place your trust in the people.  She meets a lot of people along the way, and things are never what they seem.

There were times (especially at the beginning), where things seem to drag.  It does take time for Min to get into space, but she has a lot of adventures along the way, and even though I didn’t love it, I can see why so many people do.  I had a hard time getting into it, but I still enjoyed the characters and the world.  Especially everything involving the Dragon Pearl.

3 stars.  I liked Dragon Pearl, and it was fun to see a re-telling set in space.

Audio Book Review: We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, Narrated by Kyla Garcia

Book: We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, Narrated by Kyla Garcia

Published February 2019 by HarperAudio|Length: 9 hours, 54 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: We Set The Dark On Fire #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

I liked We Set The Dark On Fire!  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, but I definitely have some mixed feelings.

I’d say it’s The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Belles meets Girls Of Paper And Fire.  I’d say it’s more Handmaid’s Tale than any of the other two books I mentioned, but I think it reminded me of The Belles and Girls Of Paper And Fire because of girls chosen to do be something, and getting trained to it.  Plus the whole forbidden romance you see in Girls Of Paper And Fire.

I really felt for Dani, and what she was trying to protect.  She has to make a lot of hard choices, but I did find myself wishing that we had more with her parents.  I know she wanted to protect her secret, that her parents gave up everything so she could do better, but I never really felt like that was in danger of being revealed.  I felt like her joining the Resistance, and her falling in love with Carmen was more at stake than sacrificing what her parents did.

I really wanted to know more about the school she went to, and how it was decided who was Primero and who was Segundo.  I really wanted to know that.  It was easy enough with Handmaid’s Tale- Handmaidens were the ones who could still bear children, while wives sometimes could not.  But I wasn’t sure how it decided- if it was explained, I clearly missed it.

So, I did listen to the audio book, which I think didn’t help with the world building.  The narrator, Kyla Garcia was really great, and she did an awesome job narrating.  I loved her narration of Joyride by Anna Banks, but having finished this one, I don’t think it completely worked on audio.  At least for me.  There were details, like who was Primero and who was Segundo that were either left out, or completely forgettable.  There were quotes from the guide that the Medio School For Girls had, and they were completely forgettable as well.  I didn’t mind them, but for audio, it didn’t work.

And there was this story at the beginning of the book that explained how the world came to be.  I liked it, but by the end of the book, I had completely forgotten what it was about.  I think that’s what made me think of The Belles.

The idea was interesting, and I liked a Handmaid’s Tale-type story in a fantasy setting.  It’s not at all a Handmaid’s Tale re-telling but it was the only thing I could think of the entire time I was reading this book.  That is partly why I picked this book up, and I did like it.  The world and characters are interesting, and I do want to know where the story is headed.  I think this is the one time that a comparison to another book is dead-on.

I didn’t really care about Carmen, but I did like Dani.  I can’t say I’m surprised by some of the things that happened between them, but I did want to keep listening to see if any of my guesses were right.  It was fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind.  I liked the overall story enough that I didn’t mind the predictability.

3 stars.  If you love the Handmaid’s Tale, you really like this book.  It reminded me way too much of the Handmaid’s Tale for me to love this book, and it’s similarity to it made it hard to see it as a separate book.  Still, I liked the world and the story enough that I want to know what happens next.

Book Review: Our Year Of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Book: Our Year Of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Published January 2019 by Simon Pulse|384 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

I was pretty excited about this one after reading You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.  Our Year Of Maybe was okay, and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

I didn’t care for Sophie or Peter.  Their friendship didn’t work for me at all and it seemed like she needed him a lot more than he needed her.  I felt like she couldn’t function without him, to the point that she didn’t want to go away for a weekend because she couldn’t see him.  Their friendship seemed really one-sided, and it was strange to me that it was so much on Sophie’s end, considering she was the one who didn’t need a kidney.

I do think it’s awesome that she donated a kidney, even though her parents didn’t seem to agree with her decision.  And we do see Peter struggle with taking her kidney, and feeling like he owes her everything for what she did.  But the fact that he seemed to know she had feelings for him, and didn’t really talk to her about didn’t sit right with me.  It’s fine if the feelings aren’t reciprocated, but he acted like things were fine until he decided to say something.  I don’t know why he didn’t say anything earlier…well, actually I do, and I’m pretty sure it’s the kidney she donated.  But still, I just didn’t like it.

I did want more background on why she decided to donate.  I wasn’t completely sure why she decided to it, especially with her parents not seeming happy about it.  She was 18 when she did it, so I don’t know how much influence they could have had, but I know for me, my grandparents still had a pretty big influence on me, and I would have taken their concerns into account.  But maybe that’s just me.  Still, I would have like more on that.

I thought Sophie was pretty bratty, though.  All she cared about was Peter, and as much as she seemed to love choreography and dance, she seemed to not want to do anything with it unless she could stay near Peter.  I did like seeing her eventually start hanging out with others, but by that point, I just didn’t care.  Also, she was horrible to her sister, who was a teenage mom.  I wish we saw a little more with that, but this book was not about the relationship she had with her sister.

2 stars.  I didn’t particularly like Peter or Sophie, and there were some things that I think needed more information.

Book Review: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Book: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Published February 2019 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families. 

I was nervous going into On The Come Up.  I loved The Hate U Give, and I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time.  On The Come Up was great, and I loved it just as much as The Hate U Give.

This is a very different book than THUG.  Bri, I think, is a character who is not always the easiest to like or root for, but Bri is a really interesting character.  She’s angry and resentful and impulsive but she wants a better life for her and her family.  She lost her dad, her family is struggling to make ends meet, and has to deal with a lot of sexism in the hip-hop industry.

Bri’s trying to figure out who she is, and I love her for that.  She has a great group of people who love her and support her, from her grandparents, to her aunt to her friends to her mom and brother.  The relationships really stood out to me, particularly the one with her mom.  Her mom was amazing, and she just wanted Bri and her brother to do better than she did.  She was supportive and encouraging and wanted them to do well in school.  Her mom had a lot to deal with, from people not wanting to give her a chance because of a prior history of using drugs to going to school to give her kids a better life than the one she had.

I loved seeing Bri’s raps throughout the book.  I’m normally not a fan of lyrics (particularly original lyrics) in books, but it was a way for Bri to express herself, and I really liked it.  I’d actually love to see this book as a movie just to see the rap battles and to see Bri perform.  I really felt for her when someone thought that she didn’t write her own lyrics, and performing her own music was really important to her.  She really stuck to that, and I hated that no one took her seriously when she didn’t want to do someone’s else’s lyrics.  Actually, now I’m curious to see if there’s an audio book, just so I can listen to the lyrics.

On The Come Up does mention the events of THUG, so while we don’t see Starr, or get any follow up on what happened after, it is mentioned.  It makes sense, since this book is set in the same neighborhood.  Now I just want to re-read THUG to stay in this world a little bit longer.

5 stars.  I LOVED this book, and it’s a great follow-up to The Hate U Give.  I loved everything about this book, and I feel like I can’t properly do this book justice.  It’ a great book, and I definitely recommend it!

ARC Book Review: Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Book: Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Expected Publication Is 3/05/2019 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|Expected Number Of Pages: 352

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Dystopia

At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Sixteen-year-old Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throwdowns and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but Nalah quickly grows weary of her questionable lifestyle. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega Towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search of the mysterious gang the Ashé Riders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles crews and her own doubts but the closer she gets to her goal the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone—she cares about.

Nalah must choose whether or not she’s willing to do the unspeakable to get what she wants. Can she discover that home is not where you live but whom you chose to protect before she loses the family she’s created for good?

I liked this one!  I really liked The Education Of Margot Sanchez when I read it a couple of years ago, and I was looking forward to reading this one.

I wish I liked it more than I did, but it’s definitely an interesting read.  I thought the world was really different- it’s ruled by women, and girl gangs are in charge in Mega City and the world beyond it.  This is a world where winning fights means you move up the ranks,  I don’t think I remember seeing many, if any men in this book.  They are very much in the background, and low on the totem pole.  It’s an interesting role reversal- the women are violent and powerful, and I think it could have been easy to have it be the complete opposite.

I had a hard time with the world.  We’re thrown into Nalah’s world and I wanted to know more about how the world came to be.  Why were the women ruling things?  What happened that Mega City seemed to be closed off and dealing dreams?  I had so many questions about the world, and they weren’t answered.  Everything was just there, and not really explained.  I wanted to know why things were the way they were, and I really felt like the sueño tabs weren’t used as much as they could have been.  It helps people sleep, but they end up being really addicted to it.  Since Nalah’s group didn’t use it, we only got glimpses of what it did.

I did have trouble keeping the different gangs apart, especially at first.  It was the same for the characters.  While I was able to keep up by the end of the book, it did take a while.

Dealing In Dreams is also in first-person, which didn’t work for this particular book.  At least for me.  I don’t mind it but I think we were in Nalah’s head a little too much.  I don’t know that multiple narrators would have fit with this story but it could have been interesting to get another perspective on things.  The writing didn’t work for me- it seemed a little stilted but maybe it’s because it’s first-person?  Maybe I’ll have to try it on audio, because it seems like it would work really well as an audio book.

I know it seems like I didn’t like Dealing In Dreams, but I did!  Thinking about it now, I think my issues with the book was a combination of not completely paying attention to the book, wanting a little more from the world-building and characters, and thinking it’s better suited to audio.  But I liked seeing what was going on in this world.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this book, and I do mean that in a good way.

I think the one thing I truly disliked was the ending.  It just sort of ended, and I was confused because it seemed like there should have been more resolution.  I was even more surprised that this book seems to be a stand-alone.  I assumed that it was the first in a series- which would explain the ending and the fact that I didn’t get the details I wanted.  There’s not a lot of room for explaining every single thing in a stand-alone.  There’s definitely room for another book set in this world.

3 stars.  I did like Dealing In Dreams, and I loved the role reversal in the book.  I really liked the world, but I did finish the book wanting more.  Maybe we’ll get lucky, and see another book set in this world.

Book Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Book: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Published January 2019 by Wednesday Books|388 pages

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

Series: The Gilded Wolves #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

From New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi comes The Gilded Wolves, a novel set in Paris during a time of extraordinary change—one that is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous desires…

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history—but only if they can stay alive. 

I’ve heard a lot about this book lately, and it seemed like it was time to read it.  Unfortunately, it was just okay for me but I can see why so many people love it.

The world was really confusing, and it didn’t make any sense to me.  I wasn’t sure what was going most of the time, except they were on an 1800’s Da Vinci Code type of adventure.  I didn’t get the whole thing with the houses, or the Babel fragments or the Forged items.  The characters all sounded the same to me too, so I didn’t really get the point in having multiple narrators.

Not only that but there was this whole steampunk vibe but it was set in 1800’s Paris but it didn’t seem like Paris.  Now that I think about it, that part of it made me think of Grim Lovelies.  Maybe it’s the magical quest in Paris thing, and considering this is the second book I’ve read that have had those elements, it makes me wonder if it’s just coincidence that the two books have those elements.  Or maybe it’s going to be the next big thing?  Coincidence is more likely, at least for now.

There are a lot of characters, and I had a hard time keeping up with everyone.  Most of them are not memorable, and I can only remember Severin and Hypnos.  Even with them, I couldn’t tell you anything about them.  And it’s not just the characters that aren’t memorable, it’s everything else too.  Details are not sticking with me, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you every single little detail.

I wish we had a little more character development and world-building.  It would have been nice to have characters that were really distinct and well-rounded.  I know I say this all the time with series, but maybe in the next book?  Which I don’t think I’ll be reading because I was not interested enough to keep going.  If I’m this confused and bored, how much more confused and bored will I be with the next one?

2 stars.  The idea is pretty cool, and I liked the author’s note at the end.  I just wish I had seen more of her inspiration in the book.  The Gilded Wolves was just okay for me.

Book Review: Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Book: Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Published March 2014 by Touchstone|288 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Memoir

Determination meets dance in this memoir by the history-making ballerina.

In this instant New York Times bestseller, Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers . A true prodigy, she was attempting in months roles that take most dancers years to master. But when Misty became caught between the control and comfort she found in the world of ballet and the harsh realities of her own life, she had to choose to embrace both her identity and her dreams, and find the courage to be one of a kind.

With an insider’s passion, Misty opens a window into the life of an artist who lives life center stage, from behind the scenes at her first classes to her triumphant roles in some of the world’s most iconic ballets. A sensational memoir as “sensitive” and “clear-eyed” (The Washington Post) as her dancing, Life in Motion is a story of passion, identity and grace for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

I really liked Life In Motion!  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

I don’t follow ballet or dance so I wasn’t sure who Misty Copeland was before picking this book up.  It seemed interesting enough, so that’s why I picked it up.  I really liked reading her story, and it felt like I was getting a peek behind the curtain.  It’s a look into a world that seem so graceful when you’re looking at it from the outside, but I really appreciated an insider’s perspective.  There were times where it felt like she was name-dropping a lot, even though I didn’t recognize most of the names.

Still, she had a lot of support, and even though it’s glazed over, I got the sense that she wanted to do the same. The Boys and Girls Club was where she got her start in ballet, and it seems like she’s never forgotten that.  Again, it seems like she’s very grateful for the opportunities she got there, and wants to pay it forward.

I was surprised that she started ballet late in life, at least for a dancer.  I have this image in my head that all professional dancers have been dancing since they were little kids, and Misty does not fit in that image.  She seems like a pretty quick study, and really determined to be the best ballerina she could be.

I really felt for Misty- she didn’t have an easy home life, but it really seemed like her mom had good intentions.  She seemed to have a great relationship with her siblings, and they seemed pretty supportive of Misty’s dreams.  She did live with her ballet teacher for a while, so she could focus more on her ballet, and that definitely put her at odds with her family at times, particularly when Misty filed for emancipation.

I admire Misty’s strength and passion, and reaching to young dancers was really important to her.  Her mantra, this is for the brown girls, was a strong message throughout the book, but particularly towards the end of the book.  I cried when she got the role of the Firebird, and it was so important to her, that you couldn’t help but cry and feel happy for her.

The writing itself was okay, and while the book was mostly linear, it did seem to jump around a little.  It was also repetitive at times, particularly with a couple of injuries she had.  And this is slightly random, but I thought her usage of mommy throughout the entire book was a little odd but to each their own.

4 stars.  Overall, I really liked Copeland’s memoir.  There were some things I didn’t like but I loved reading her story.

Book Review: A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Manadanna

Book: A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Manadanna

Published September 2018 by Sky Pony|320 pages

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

Series: The Celestial Trilogy #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Re-Telling

Named one of the best 25 space opera books by BookRiot!

The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to.

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back. 

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali. 

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart. 

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.

I really liked this one!  I’m not familiar with the Mahabharata at all, so I’m not at all familiar with the stories that inspired this book.  But I want to know more about them because I am curious about the stories that inspired this book.

I really liked the setting, and you can’t go wrong with a book set in space.  It was an interesting setting for the story, and I kept picturing planets, but it seemed like everything was set on space ships.  Maybe I’m wrong on that one, but that was my impression.  It was a little bit fuzzy for me, since nothing was really described or explained.  I wish there had been a little more world-building, but it’s also possible I missed those details.  It wouldn’t be the first time that happened, and it probably won’t be the last.

I also had a hard time keeping track of who was who and how they were all related, especially at the beginning.  I managed to keep up by the end of the book, but at first, it wasn’t clear to me what was going on.  We were definitely thrown into this world, which is fine but it took a while to get my bearings straight.

Fate, free will and prophecies are pretty important in this book.  There’s definitely the sense that certain events were put in motion because certain characters did everything they could to avoid it.  Esmae is definitely the lost princess no one knows about who comes out of the woodwork to claim her throne and her crown.

I really liked Esmae, and there were a lot of beliefs she had to reconcile and loyalties she had to deal with.  I wish we had more with her and Titania, and I feel like there’s a lot of potential there.  I know Titania is a warship but I’m definitely intrigued by their relationship.  Something about that made me think of the Binti trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor.

I can’t speak to how well it does as a re-telling but based off a quick read of the Mahabrahata wikipedia page, it seems like it sticks to the overall story…but in space.  Again, I could be way off, because I skimmed the Wikipedia page, but it seems like it sticks to the overall story.  I don’t know if we’ll continue to see that, but we’ll find out in the books to come.  I’m sure someone much more familiar with these stories could talk about this aspect a lot better than I ever will.

I really enjoyed this one.  There’s a lot of political intrigue, and I’m curious to see where things go, especially with how things ended.

4 stars.  I was wavering between 3 and 4 stars, but I really liked the setting, the story and Esmae.