Book Review: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2019 by Scholastic Press|384 pages

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

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #2

Genre: Middle Grade Re-Telling/Fantasy

When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been four months since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a reality show is taking over, and her friends are in danger.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again battle witches, solve riddles, and avoid her evil Serpent King father – all while figuring out who are her true friends, and what it really means to be a demon.

Games Of Stars is a really cool book!  I really liked the first one, and knew I had to pick up this one.

It didn’t feel like a middle book at all, and I loved seeing Kiran save her friends and deal with her Serpent King father and a reality t.v. show.  There’s a lot of fun adventures in this book, and I’m glad that continued from the first book.  She really wants to do the right thing, and she’s really determined.  Kiran is a great character, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for her in the next book.

I really liked the world and what we see in this book really adds to the world we were introduced to in the first book.  We see more creatures and myths, and I loved the author’s note at the end where DasGupta talks about her inspiration for the book.

Things are not black and white, and we definitely see Kiran learn that in this book.  While she trusts a few rakkosh, she’s not trusting of all them, but we see that change over the course of the book.  I don’t blame Kiran at all for how she reacts to some of the things in the book, but we see a lot of growth and change in her.  She really does give everyone a chance by the end of the book, and that was nice to see, because sometimes, it seems like books don’t always do that.

It’s action-packed and a fast read, and it went by so fast.  But I didn’t mind at all, because I had such a great time reading it.

4 stars.  I really liked the world and the characters, and it really added to the series.  It’s fun and full of adventure.

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Book Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Book Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Published March 2019 by Skyscape|375 pages

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

Series: Feverwake #1

Genre: YA Sci Fi/Dystopia

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

The Fever King is an interesting one!  I’m really glad I read it, and I ended up really liking it!

The setting was really interesting.  It’s a futuristic America that’s been torn apart by a magical virus, and there’s elements of fantasy and sci-fi.  It seems like there’s a lot to explore in Noam’s world, especially since America isn’t the America we know.  At least in terms of geography.  In terms of refuges and immigrants, the world Noam lives in is all too familiar, and very, very real.

I really liked Noam, and he’s such a different character than Dara.  To a certain extent, he’s more trusting of others than Dara.  That surprised me, considering how Noam grew up, but I also don’t blame him.  I feel like I might have done the same thing if I were him.  I do get his decision to stay behind, though.  I mean, no one would ever suspect him, and he definitely seems like the sort of guy who is underestimated.  I can’t wait to read the next book to see how things turn out for him.

I’m not sure how I feel about Dara.  I did feel for him, and it sounds like things weren’t easy for him.  I do get why he acted the way he did, and I did like him a little more by the end of the book than I did when we first met him.

I don’t have anything else to say about The Fever King.  The world is pretty interesting, and I’d love to see more of it.  I really liked how magic was used in this book and I feel like there’s more to it than what we see.  Especially with how everything came about.  I’d love more backstory on that, but I don’t have a lot of hope we’ll see it.  Either way, I hope we get at least a little more with the magic.

4 stars.  I really liked The Fever King, but I didn’t love it.

Book Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Book: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Published March 2019 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|387 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

I absolutely loved this book.  It was heart-breaking and terrifying but I loved Layla’s story.  I don’t do this often, but if there’s one book you’re going to pick up this year, make sure this is one of them.

Layla’s story was terrifying because it felt so real.  I can see this happening, and Ahmed really drew from real-life/current events with this book.  Throughout the whole book, it was clear that Ahmed was drawing on everything leading up to the election and everything that happened after.

I did like the author’s note at the end of the book, and how she gave some additional resources to check out about the Japanese interment camps.  It gave a lot of insight on what inspired the book and it really added to the book.

I really loved Layla, and though she was really trusting at times, I understood it.  I didn’t always agree with it, but I did understand it.  She was determined to fight for what was right, and she wasn’t willing to stand by and let things happen to her friends and family, even if that would have the easier path.  So many other people in her camp were willing to go along with everything but she wasn’t.  Even when things went very, very wrong, it felt like she became more determined to make things right.

It went by really fast, and it felt like it happened over a really short period of time.  I’m curious about the time period, and if it happened over a few weeks or few months.  Especially in the internment camp.  The book seemed a lot shorter than it really was, and while it wasn’t really in-depth, you got a clear picture of what was going on.  It did skim the surface at times, which is the only thing I didn’t particularly care for.  But it also wasn’t enough to get me to dislike the book, or warrant a lower rating.

5 stars.  I loved Internment, and though it was heart-breaking and all too real, it’s also worth reading.

ARC Book Review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Book: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Expected Publication Is May 7, 2019 by Farrar, Straus, And Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

I really liked Somewhere Only We Know!  I swear, Goo writes the cutest books, and this one was no exception.

I will say, it took me a while to get into it.  Jack and Lucky both narrate, and I think that’s why I had a hard time with the book at first.  It was hard to get into each character, but as the book went on, I got more settled into things, and I ended up really enjoyed the story.

It happens over a pretty short period of time, and it’s quite the adventure for both Jack and Lucky.  There really isn’t a lot of romance- it’s more hinted at than anything else, and while father-daughter relationships are pretty important in her other books, it’s not something we see in this book.  It has the same feel as her other books but it doesn’t have some of the same elements I’ve seen from her.  Still, it was really fun and really cute, and I really liked seeing them explore Hong Kong together.

The Sun Is Also A Star is a pretty good read-alike for this one, in the sense that it’s the one-day romance where they’ll never see each other again…or find each other years later as adults.  Even though we get an epilogue, and see what happens after the events of the book, part of me wonders how things worked for both Lucky and Jack.  Romantically, of course, but also in their personal lives.

As for Jack and Lucky, I really liked Lucky but I was not a fan of Jack.  I think having his perspective really hurt, because we see and know things Lucky does not.  It made it really hard to like him and even though we see him change, it was really hard to get behind it knowing what we, as readers, know.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and it’s a cute book.  I wasn’t a fan of Jack, but I really liked Lucky.  I also wish I had more to say about this book, but I don’t.  It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you like K-Pop.

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.

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.

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!

Book Review: The Rules For Breaking by Ashley Elston

Book: The Rules For Breaking by Ashley Elston

Published May 2014 by Disney-Hyperion|320 pages

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

Series: The Rules For Disappearing #2

Genre: YA Contemporary/Thriller

Who do you trust when no one is what they seem? The gripping sequel to contemporary, romantic YA thriller, The Rules for Disappearing.

Anna Boyd almost lost her life to get what she wanted most in the world: freedom.

But just when it seems that her family has finally escaped Witness Protection, the illusion that Anna could resume a normal life comes crashing down.

The deadly man Anna knows as Thomas is still on the loose, and now he’s using her as a pawn in a dangerous game with the drug cartel determined to silence her forever. When Thomas and a mysterious masked man capture not only Anna but also her fragile younger sister and her boyfriend, Anna decides it’s time to break all the rules-even if it means teaming up with the lesser of two evils.

Anna will do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves and win her life back once and for all. But her true enemies are hidden in plain sight. Before long, Anna will learn that putting her trust in anyone may be the last mistake she ever makes.

After reading The Rules For Disappearing, I knew I wanted to pick up the sequel.  I was pretty curious about what happened to Anna after the events of that book unfolded.  The Rules For Breaking was okay, and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

I did like seeing what was going on with Anna, and how things weren’t over for her, even though they seemed to be.  I loved her dedication to her family and friends, and how loyal she was.  She really did want to protect them and keep them safe, and I really liked that about her.

It’s definitely action-packed and though predictable at times, it was a pretty fast read.  Anna doesn’t know who to trust, and we’re definitely along for the ride.  It’s more action-packed than the previous book, that’s for sure.  The first book was more of a mystery, trying to figure out what was going on, and why they were in Witness Protection.  This one was more dealing with the aftermath of what happened in that first book.

One thought that was going through my head when I was reading this book was how well the first book worked as a stand-alone.  I was wondering where the story was going to go, since things were pretty resolved in the last book.  There is more story to tell, and Anna’s life after leaving Witness Protection, with people still out to get her, is one way to go.  I liked seeing her story, don’t get me wrong, and I’m glad I finished this series, but the first book does work pretty well on it’s own.

2 stars.  The Rules For Breaking was more action-packed than the first book, and I loved how Anna would do anything for her family.  I just wasn’t as into this book as I thought I would be.