Book Review: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Book: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Published September 2017 by Farrar, Straus And Giroux|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really liked this book!  I’ve heard really good things about her books, and I happened to be browsing e-books on Overdrive, and knew I had to read it when I saw it.

I really liked seeing how connected all three generations of women were.  The multi-generational aspect shows up more in adult fictions, at least in my experience.  I really liked seeing it in YA, and I’m hoping we’ll see more multi-generational stories in YA in the future.

I really liked seeing how different all of them were, but being family really connected them in a way that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I thought Ranee was the most interesting- she really embraced American culture while still holding on to her Indian culture.  I really liked Anna as well, especially with her relationship with Ranee.  Anna really seemed disappointed that Ranee became an American citizen, and started adopting American customs and dress, but she still loves Ranee no matter what.

Something else that I absolutely loved was that they all identified as Bengali, but that there was no one way to be Bengali.  Each woman had their flaws but also their strengths, and they all had their own experiences with who they were and their own place in the world.

I will admit that the shift to Ranee was sudden, when the book, to that point, focused more on her daughters.  But I also liked that the book shifted to her because seeing more of her story really brought the stories of her daughters and granddaughters into focus.

I really appreciated the look at how to blend two different cultures- holding onto the culture of the place you grew up in while also trying to blend in and assimilate to a new culture.  I really liked seeing this aspect of immigration, and how moving to a different country can really change things.

I didn’t enjoy Chantal and Anna’s chapters as much as Sonia and Tara’s chapters, but I still liked them a lot, and how they still dealt with some of the things their mothers and grandmother did.  I loved the focus on family and family relationships and how much those family relationships can change over decades.

4 stars.  I didn’t love You Bring The Distant Near, but I did really enjoy it, and I think it offers something you don’t see a lot of in YA.  I loved the family and their relationships with each other.

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Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Book: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Published October 2017 by Knopf Books For Young Readers|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

I really liked I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.  I could relate to Julia, and how she felt like no one accepted her for who she was.  I can also relate to how everyone wanted to her be someone else, and to live up to the memory of her older sister.  Granted, I have no siblings, but there were a lot of times where I really related to Julia.

Her family seemed really different after the death of Julia, which isn’t surprising because that’s a huge thing to happen.  If there was no effect on the characters, I’d be slightly worried.  The mom did act like how I thought she would- unable to deal with it by staying in bed all the time, but eventually getting out of bed and turning her attention to her other daughter.

One thing I thought was odd was when Julia ended up in the hospital.  One minute, she’s taking a walk, and the next thing you know, she’s waking up in the hospital.  It was really confusing, and I did find myself reading the end of the one chapter and beginning of the other one multiple times to see if I could figure out what was going in.  It didn’t make sense at first, and I thought maybe part of it somehow didn’t end up in the e-book or if I was massively missing something.

We later learn what happened in between those two moments, so it was definitely a decision on the author’s part to have things be fine one minute, and the next thing you know, things aren’t okay.  It does fit with the loss of Olga, and how things are fine and normal until they’re not.  But everything following the hospital incident seemed sudden and random, and there wasn’t any indication that things were that bad for Julia.  I know things aren’t always obvious, and Julia was having a hard time after Olga’s death.

Julia’s hospitalization really changed things for her.  She really did understand her parents better, and how hard they worked to give her and Olga a good life.  One where Julia realizes that she can be herself, and also to take control of her own life.

I wasn’t a big fan of the secrets that Olga had- it does seem very much the opposite of the person Julia and her family thought Olga was, and maybe that was the point.  That people aren’t always who we thought they were.  It certainly is true of her parents.  I think I was expecting something different from Olga, that’s all.

Julia, for some people, might be an unlikeable character.  She’s confrontational and brash, and fights with her mom a lot.  She’s very angry, especially in the beginning, but she really does mature and grow and learn how to deal with everything that happened with Olga.

I also really like that there was dialogue in Spanish, and that it wasn’t italicized or (if I’m remembering correctly) translated.  It wasn’t treated any different because it wasn’t English.

4 stars.  I really liked seeing how much Julia changed and matured throughout the book.  There was one moment that was really confusing, and I wasn’t completely thrilled about Olga’s secret, but overall, I think I think this book is a really great one to read.

Book Review: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Book: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Published February 2017 by Simon & Schuster|296 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. 

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

I really liked this book!  I really liked Margot, and how I can relate to wanting to fit in.  Not to the degree that Margot wants to fit in, and I never went as far as Margot did, nor can I see myself going to the lengths she did, but I can understand why she did what she did.  After seeing her friends, though, part of me wonders why she was friends with them, since she couldn’t really be herself when she was with them.  It seemed like she tried too hard, and she definitely needed to figure out who she was.  I think that’s pretty normal, though.  Sometimes I still feel like I’m trying to figure out who I am, and I’m a lot older than Margot.

I did like seeing her work at her dad’s store, and there are definitely some characters.  I think, though, her dad and brother were the most frustrating.  Her dad didn’t seem to care what her brother did, and I thought her dad and brother not wanting her to be around Moises was a little hypocritical.  Especially considering her dad had affairs with a lot of the girls at the store (and why they felt uncomfortable talking around her), and her brother dealing drugs.  Being concerned is fine, but it was hard for me to take them seriously, especially once I found out what I found out.  And their behavior for most of the book made a lot more sense at the end of the book.

I really liked seeing her at the supermarket, but at the same time, I really wish we saw more of her with her prep school friends and her with her old friends.  Or more with Moises and the community organizing.  I would have liked to see Margot navigate those friendships a little more, and I think it would provided some interesting context for what lead up to her working at the family store.  And also what happened with her friends (old and new) after the summer was over.  And the community organizing Moises was doing- things were clearly changing for the neighborhood, and I would have liked to see more of how different things were.

I really wish it were longer!  It felt really short, and I think adding in something with Moises and with her friends could have added something really special to it.

4 stars.  I really liked it, but I think it could have been longer, and gone more in depth with a few things.

Book Review: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Book: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Published May 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux|325 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

This book was so cute!  I really loved Desi and how she needed steps to finding true love.  It kind of sounds like something I might have come up with in high school.  I loved Desi, and she’s full of awesome and amazingness, and I dare you to not like her, because it’s pretty damn hard not to.

I really liked the relationship she had with her father, and it was nice to such such a great parent-child relationship. I know parents who aren’t around a lot are a big part of YA, so it was nice to see Desi’s dad and how involved he was in her life.

I haven’t watched any K-dramas, so I am completely clueless about it would parallel them…especially since they are her guide to find love.  It kind of makes me want to watch them, just to get a sense of the stories, and how they influenced her guide to getting a guy.  The author does have a bunch of recommendations at the end of the book, so maybe those will be a good place to start…assuming I actually sit down to watch one of them.

Back to the book, though.  As much as I loved Desi, I kind of hated how she thought she was different than Luca’s ex. In her own way, it was a little bit manipulative, plus the whole blowing off her college interview for him kind of bugged me too.  But also in line with your typical rom-com…so…I guess I have mixed feelings about it.  She makes some questionable decisions, but there is something very endearing about her, hence the mixed feelings.

4 stars.  It is a cute book, and even though I wasn’t a big fan of some of Desi’s decisions, I still really liked the story and I especially liked her relationship with her dad.

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Book: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published February 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books|436 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Wintersong #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-Telling

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

I loved this book!  Wintersong was one of the books I was looking forward to reading, but I’m just now getting around to it.

I was reminded of a few books when I was reading Wintersong.  If you like the Iron Fey series, this is the book for you!  It has a similar feel to the Iron Fey series, so they’re pretty good read-alikes for each other.  I’d describe it as Hades & Persphone meets The Iron Fey meets Caraval (which I read after Wintersong but I’m still going with it because this review is obviously being written after reading both books).

I felt very much like I was in a fairy-tale, particularly a German fairy-tale.  I loved the idea of the Goblin King, and how people ended up in the Underground.  It’s such a vivid book and I really felt like I was in their world.  I really didn’t want the book to come to an end, because it meant leaving Liesl’s world, and I didn’t want to do that.  At least there’s a sequel, so there will be more to this story.  Which is good, considering the way Wintersong ended.  It’s going to be a long wait until the sequel comes out.

Liesl is such a great character- she is more courageous than she knows, and she would do anything for her sister- even agreeing to marry the Goblin King to keep her sister safe.  I think being Underground and around the Goblin King ended up being a good thing for her- she learns a lot about herself, and I feel like she becomes more confident in herself as she worked on her music.  She’s a character I can really relate to- taking care of everyone, and feeling like she isn’t good enough, even though she is, and she just needs to believe in herself.

There’s something very dreamlike about this book, and it’s very magical.  There’s something dark and…nostalgic isn’t necessarily the word I’m looking for, but…maybe lament and looking for something lost and/or forgotten?  This book is downright beautiful and poetic, and if you haven’t read it, trust me when I say that you really need to read it!

5 stars.  I’m so glad it lived up to my expectations and the hype!  This book is dark and beautiful and amazing!

Book Review: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Book: American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Published December 2008 by Square Fish|233 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

 

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way—if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

I really liked American Born Chinese!  After reading his Boxers And Saints series, I knew I wanted to read this book, since I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it.

We see three different stories in this graphic novel- Jin, Danny, and The Monkey King.  I really liked The Monkey King’s story, and I also really liked Jin’s.  I felt so bad for Jin when we first meet him in American Born Chinese, and how his classmates and teachers made assumptions about him.  I also loved the story of The Monkey King, and I really want to know more about that story, because I really liked it.

Danny’s story was my least favorite of the three.  I still liked it, but…I’m not sure what it is about his story, but it just didn’t appeal to me the way the others did.  I wasn’t sure how Danny fit into the book at first, because he seemed really entitled and I wasn’t sure why his story was included for most of the book.  It did become clear at the end, and I honestly didn’t see it coming.  Now that I think about it, I might re-read it, because knowing how all three stories connect would definitely help me see Danny’s story in a completely different way.

One of my favorite things was how it all tied together, and I really liked how the book was about liking yourself and being true to yourself, no matter what.  And I loved how well-plotted the book had to be, because everything was so detailed and thought out so well for everything to work together so well.  I can’t imagine American Born Chinese being told in any other format, and I think, if it were told more traditionally (i.e., a novel) it would lose something. Somehow, it works beautifully as a graphic novel.  I think the illustrations are what really bring the book to life.

4 stars.  Unfortunately, my initial dislike of Danny’s story is what is lowering my rating of the book.  Even though his story made more sense at the end of the book, it didn’t work for me at the beginning.  Still, American Born Chinese is a great read because it’s a really good starting point for talking about a lot of different issues.

Book Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Book: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Published April 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

I loved When We Collided!  I randomly picked it up at the library because the cover caught my eye, and I am so glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve really, truly loved a book the way I loved When We Collided.  The Hate U Give is probably the closest, at least of the books I’ve read, but otherwise it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt so excited and emotional about a book.

Vivi is bipolar, but at first, she’s very much this vibrant, colorful person.  It is isn’t until later on that we learn she’s bipolar and not taking her medication for a good portion of the book.  Even though I’m not bipolar, I have struggled with depression, and I found it was so easy to relate to Vivi.  I loved her as a character, and she is this bright, vivid character, and she, in this book, was a living, breathing person.  I feel like I don’t say that very often about characters.

As a book about a girl who is bipolar, this is an amazing book.  Emery Lord did an amazing job at capturing every single thought and emotion Vivi had, and there were times where I really felt like I knew what Vivi was experiencing and dealing with.  She is over-the-top and difficult and annoying, but I still felt for her.  You really see Vivi’s state of mind when she is and isn’t on medication, her illness isn’t manipulative at all, and I loved the way Vivi described things.

I think Vivi’s half of the book- which was so vibrant and full of life- made Jonah’s half a little bit hard.  His chapters were more dull by comparison, mostly because anyone would look dull and lifeless and lackluster next to Vivi.  He was compelling, to a degree, but not the way that Vivi’s chapters were compelling.

His story felt more tired somehow- he’s an older brother, taking care of his younger sibling after the unexpected death of his father, and a mother who has checked out emotionally.  Jonah’s story felt a little overdone, but I did really like that he realized he needed to tell someone what was going on with his mom, instead of trying to pretend like everything was fine and under control.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked that he and his older siblings did what they could for the younger ones, but I’m not the biggest fan of the older sibling(s) taking care of the younger ones because of dead/absent parents trope.

And I wasn’t into the romance at all.  I know their lives collided because of everything going on with both of them, but…it is most definitely a case of insta-love, so keep that in mind.  I’m not the biggest fan of insta-love, but sometimes, it’s okay.  This was not one of those times, unfortunately.  Their relationship worked, in its own way, with it being summer and particularly with Vivi, so the ending wasn’t that surprising.  But I felt like there was nothing between them- there didn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry, and there’s no build-up because insta-love.

I really would have been fine without the romance, and it didn’t really fit.  It didn’t take away from the rest of the book, and overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED When We Collided.  I just don’t know that the romance fit- it definitely didn’t work for me, because I liked both Vivi and Jonah, but not as a couple.

5 stars.  I don’t know that I did this book justice, but I thought it was completely amazing.  After finishing it, I literally hugged this book for, like, at least 5 minutes.

Discussion Post: I Miss Reading YA The Way I Used To

Every once in a while, I’d do a discussion-type post about something bookish that wasn’t a book review.  It’s been ages since I’ve done one, and I’m in a mood to talk about why I’m not as into YA as I used to be.

Reading wise, this hasn’t been a great year for me.  I haven’t been reading as much as I normally do, especially in comparison to previous years.  I am re-reading more, at least that I can recall, though this year is the first time I’m actually tracking what I’m re-reading, but for this year, a good chunk of what I’ve read has been re-reads. I’ve been crocheting a lot this year, and while audio books are great to listen to when I’m crocheting, I’ve found myself turning to Netflix or podcasts instead of audio books, and I’ve been turning away from books more than in previous years.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I’m reading this year, but there’s something in particular I’ve been thinking about a lot: how I don’t love YA the way I used to.

When I first started blogging, a majority of what I was reading was YA.  I loved it, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was exciting and new and shiny, and everything was amazing and hit me right in the feels and I fangirled and said squee a lot.  There was a lot of jumping up and down in excitement and a lot of arm waving and it was something that really spoke to me.

But after 5+ years?  I’m not as in love with YA as I used to be.  It really bothered me for a while and while I still read it a lot, I’m not as excited about it as I used to be.  It still bothers me a little bit, because it’s something I really loved, and I want those feelings back.

I think maybe I’m a little burnt out on it.

I’ve read a lot of YA over the years, and I’m really starting to notice that a lot of books are really similar. Granted, I think YA’s always been like this- vampires and fairies and dystopia and…I could go on and on with the different trends.  Part of me feels like I really have to make an effort to read different genres, and to make sure I don’t read any genre back to back.  I notice tropes a lot more, and I’m reminded of similar books I’ve read, and how they compare to each other.

I feel like I’m reading the same story over and over, so I’m probably not mixing things up as much as I thought I was. That or most of what I’m picking up is in the same genre…probably a combination of both, knowing me. I’ve always been the kind of reader that just picks stuff up without really paying attention to the summary on the back of the cover.

Yes, the more I read, the more reference points I have for when I’m reviewing books.  And I’m a lot better at talking about books now then I was when I first started blogging.  I’m going to notice similarities more because I’m better at picking up on those things.  I’m a lot more critical now than I was in 2010.  It’s going to be harder for me to get excited about books the way I used to, because it takes a lot more for me to get to that point.

But I’ve noticed that over the last couple of years, my taste in books have started to change.

I’ve made more of an effort to read more diverse books- I’m reading more books that feature characters who are LGBT and characters who are people of color.  I’ve read a few translated books and books that set in different countries.  A lot of it is YA but a lot of isn’t, and I’m a lot more willing to get out of my reading comfort zone.  I always come back to YA, but I’m also not as willing to read one thing exclusively anymore.  Books are a powerful way to read about the experiences of those who are different from us, and everyone should have the chance to tell their story.

What I read is going to change over time- in middle school and high school, I used to love Stephen King, Anne Rice and Danielle Steel.  I didn’t read a lot in college, unless it was for a class, and then I fell in love with YA in my mid-twenties.  I’m going to like different things at different points in my life, and as I start reading a wider variety of books, I’ll probably start to find my new favorite book thing, whatever it may be.  Who knows, maybe I’ll still find that I love YA, and just need the book version of a palate cleanser.  Maybe I’ll read whatever I want, but still primarily read one thing.

I wonder if part of it is me getting older.

When I first starting blogging, I was 24.  I’m 31 now, and even though I feel like I haven’t changed that much…maybe I’ve changed more than I thought I have.  I still love YA, but maybe, as I’m getting older, the stories that speak to me are going to be different.  Maybe the stories I need to read have changed a little bit.  It’s not that YA doesn’t appeal to me anymore, because it still does.  Maybe, for now, I need something a little different.  It would be so much easier if I knew what that was, but if I keep reading different things, I could find it.

While this isn’t specific to YA, I’ve noticed that in general, I just haven’t been excited about reading this year. I’ve read and blogged pretty consistently since 2010 and while I’ve had a few (short) breaks and slumps, it’s never been the slump I’ve experienced this year.  If I’m going to be honest, it’s been nice to have a break.  I think it’s something I’ve really needed.  Re-reading has been nice- and really helpful, actually- because I’m reading, and not worrying about finding the motivation to review anything.

While the point of this really long post hasn’t been to come up with a conclusion for my disinterest in YA, it has been really helpful to talk about why I’m not as interested in reading it.  Even writing this, I’m starting to feel better about reading, and I’m starting to feel excited about reading…especially YA.  For some reason, I’m in the mood to read some really cute, sappy YA contemporary.  I (very sincerely) hope this is a turning point in my reading!

If anyone else has experienced this, how did you get through it?  Did your reading habits change completely, or did you take a break by reading something else?  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Releases Of 2017 (So Far)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Favorite Books Of 2017 (So Far)

This list turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I’ve read a lot less this year than I have in previous years, and what I have read…I’ve been less than enthused.  These books are definitely the stand-outs, and I had no problem picking a list of 10 favorites!  All links go to Goodreads!

  1. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.  I really liked If I Was Your Girl.  Amanda is an amazing character, and it was hard to stop reading it.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I’m not going to lie, part of why I read this book was because it was mentioned on the Gilmore Girls revival.  I really liked seeing the journey she took, and how much hiking changed her.
  3. The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead.  Don’t let the Oprah sticker fool you, this book is really good!  You felt what it was like to be a runaway slave, and how terrifying the Underground Railroad really was.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  This is easily my favorite book I’ve read all year.  I thought it was completely amazing, and if you pick up one book this year, this is one I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
  5. The March Series by John Lewis.  This is right up there with The Hate U Give- I’m having a hard time picking a favorite between the two.  This series is one of my favorites because John Lewis shows how hard he- and countless others- fought so that everyone could be equal.
  6. A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.  I didn’t like this one the way I liked ACOTAR or ACOMAF, but it’s still one of my favorite books from this year because I liked seeing where things went.
  7. The Wrath And The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  I loved the audio, which I really recommend if you’re considering reading this book.  I felt very immersed i the world, and loved the take on 1001 nights.
  8. Legion by Julie Kagawa.  I was not expecting the book to start or end the way it did, and it’s my favorite book in this series so far.  Which is interesting/funny because I wasn’t a big fan of the series at first.
  9. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.  I thought Los Lagos was really vivid, and it had an Alice In Wonderland feel to it, which I really liked.  The magic and traditions really made the book come to life.
  10. City Of Saints And Thieves by Natalie Anderson.  One of my favorite things about this book is how detailed and well-researched it seemed.  The author worked with refugees, and that really came through.  I also liked the rules of being a thief that we saw scattered throughout the book.

Book Review: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Published September 2005 by HMH Books For Young Readers|308 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl — she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening — something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened. Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.

In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem — monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.

I’ve read a couple of Okorafor’s books, and thought I’d read this one.  It’s not my favorite book of hers, but I still liked it a lot.  Zahrah The Windseeker is this really cool middle grade that’s about learning how to accept yourself and overcoming your fears and overcoming fear of the unknown.  I really liked that about the book.

I also really liked how there’s this interesting blend of past and present- there’s something about Zahrah that feels really old, and yet there’s something very modern, especially where technology is concerned.  I think that’s something she does really well.  If you liked Akata Witch, this is a really good book to pick up.  Even if you haven’t, it’s still a really good read.

I loved the setting, especially the market and the jungle.  I thought the jungle was very vivid, and I could picture everything very clearly.  I really felt like I was with Zahrah in the jungle.  I really liked the market as well, but it didn’t have the life and vividness that the jungle had.

I also really liked that she came across another windseeker, and I wish we saw more of their relationship.  Even though Zahrah needs to take her own journey, and the other windseeker isn’t supposed to have a huge role in the book, I still wonder what sort of relationship they have once the book ends.  I thought her friendship with Dari was great, and how she kept going, even though she was scared, because she wanted to help him.  She really was willing to help him, no matter what.

I am curious about the ending.  I liked it, and it wrapped things up really well, but at the same time, I thought it left things open for a potential sequel.  As far as I can tell, it’s a stand-alone, which is fine, because it works really well on its own.  But there is part of me that wants to know how things turn out with Zahrah.

3 stars.  I liked it, and there are some things that I really liked (and even loved) about the book, but I didn’t love it the way I’ve loved her other books.