What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

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

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

Book Review Round-Up is when I talk about several books in one post.  Today’s books are When Reason Breaks By Cindy Rodriguez, Compulsion by Martina Boone and Split Second by Kasie West.

when-reason-breaks-coverBook #1: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez, narrated by Cassandra Morris

Published February 2015 by Audible for Bloomsbury|Length: 7 hours, 16 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

What I Thought: I’ve wanted to read When Reason Breaks ever since I heard about it. I thought the dual narration worked really well, even in the audio book. It was hard at first, telling the two girls apart, but as the book went on, it got easier because Elizabeth and Emily are very different girls. I’m also glad that Elizabeth went by Elizabeth, because two Emily’s in the audio book would have been a little bit hard to keep up with. Especially with the connection to Emily Dickinson we see throughout the book.

Emily and Elizabeth are very different girls, but both of them are struggling with depression. With Emily and Elizabeth, we see very different portrayals of it, and I liked seeing how two very different people deal with depression in very different ways. They very much represent different manifestations of depression- outwardly for Elizabeth, and inward for Emily.

I will say that I was frustrated with how Mrs. Diaz dealt with the anonymous letters she got from one of her students. I get why she would assume the letters were from Elizabeth- Elizabeth is not only Goth, but has a lot of other issues that she’s dealing with at home. I’m not at all saying that if you’re Goth, you’re depressed and suicidal, and this book clearly shows that you can be depressed and suicidal and still appear like everything is fine, even if it’s not. But it frustrated me, because she’s focusing all of her attention on the student she thinks needs helps- it’s like she doesn’t consider that it could be someone else, and that was frustrating to listen to, because depression isn’t always obvious. At least she realizes that a student needs help, and that she was able to save the student in time. We don’t really see any attempts at recovery, but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the struggle of dealing with something and not knowing what to do or how to handle it.

Cassandra Morris was an excellent narrator, and even though I’m actively seeking out other books she’s narrated, if I saw she narrated a book that I was considering listening to, I’d definitely consider it as an audio book. I do wish she had done something slightly different for the two girls, but overall, she did a pretty good job. I could have sworn I’ve listened to a book by her, because she sounded really familiar, but I haven’t. Maybe she sounds similar to another narrator Ive listened to.

My Rating: 4 stars. Mostly because the assumptions that Mrs. Diaz made in regard to who was sending her letters was really frustrating (as understandable as it was), and it was a little hard to get over. It is a very good look at depression and the different forms it can take.

compulsion-coverBook #2: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Published August 2015 by SimonPulse|433 pages

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

Series: The Heirs Of Watson Island #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery/Gothic

What It’s About: Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys in Compulsion, the first novel in a spellbinding new trilogy.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

What I Thought: I don’t remember how I came across this book, but it seemed intriguing enough, especially since it’s described as Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys. I know I read The Raven Boys (and I know a lot of people love that series) but I don’t remember much about it, other than they’re trying to find…something. I do love Beautiful Creatures, and I was hoping that I would like this book as much as that series.

As much as I wanted to like it, I ended up not liking it that much. As much as I like the premise, it fell short for me. I can see the comparisons to Beautiful Creatures, and there is this southern Gothic feel to the book, but it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. I did listen to Beautiful Creatures on audio, while I read Compulsion, and I wonder if that would have made a difference. I have the feeling it wouldn’t. I really wish we had more information about the curse that affected all three families and why it bound them to the island. I feel like we got something, but it’s honestly not something I can remember. There are gifts and curses and there is not enough detail for me. All of the world-building was there (and to be honest, it felt a little forced), but never really explained. I wish it were, because those details could have been interesting.

My Rating: 2 stars. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I have a hard time giving it one star, and I’m not sure why.

split-second-coverBook #3: Split Second by Kasie West

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|360 Pages

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

Series: Pivot Point #2

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.

What I Thought: I didn’t like Split Second as much as I thought I would. I liked the first one, but I thought Split Second was really confusing. It was narrated by Addie and Laila, and even though there were major differences in their chapters, in terms of how their stories unfolded, it was hard to tell them apart. Just when I got used to one of them, the chapter was over, and I was thrown into someone else’s story.

I did have trouble focusing on the book, so maybe my massive confusion was partly because I wasn’t paying as much attention as I could have. I do remember having this problem with Pivot Point, and being confused by the two different time lines, but I don’t remember having this much trouble keeping up with what was going on. It’s also been a while since I’ve read Pivot Point, so part of might be because I remember nothing. I have really liked the contemporary books I’ve read by West, so maybe her more paranormal stuff isn’t my thing.

My Rating: 2 stars. I found that I was really confused, and unable to keep up. It’s an interesting idea, but not my cup of tea.

Book Review: The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House On Mango Street CoverBook: The House Of Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Published April 1991 (originally published 1984) by Vintage|110 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Told in a series of vignettes stunning for their eloquence, The House on Mango Street is Sandra Cisneros’s greatly admired novel of a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. Acclaimed by critics, beloved by children, their parents and grandparents, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, it has entered the canon of coming-of-age classics.

Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, The House on Mango Street tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, whose neighborhood is one of harsh realities and harsh beauty. Esperanza doesn’t want to belong–not to her rundown neighborhood, and not to the low expectations the world has for her. Esperanza’s story is that of a young girl coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become. 

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Like Things Fall Apart, The House On Mango Street was a book I had to read in high school, and even though I sort of remembered the story, there was a lot I had forgotten since then.  I don’t remember how I felt about it when I read it in high school- I’m pretty sure it wasn’t one of the few books I had to read and ended up liking, but as an adult, I really liked it.

I really liked how we get these snapshots of Esperanza’s life over the course of a year.  You get such a good glimpse of what her neighborhood is like, and the expectations that the world has for her.  You see how she wants to break out of that, and how she wants more for herself, even though the people around her might not expect it, or even encourage it.  There were a couple points- some unwelcome kisses and when one of her neighbors gets married- where there could be more to it, but you could also just take it as it was written.

It definitely broke my heart at times, but there were also times where I really felt for Esperanza, and I finished the book feeling confident that things would work out in her favor.  It reminded me of my own childhood, and how different things are now for kids.  There is something timeless about this book, and even though it was published just over 30 years ago, it holds up really well.  It’s still relevant, and totally worth reading, if you haven’t read it.  It’s even worth re-reading as an adult, and I’m actually glad I happened to see it at the library.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I didn’t quite love it, just because I wanted to live in Esperanza’s world for a little bit longer, but overall, I’m really glad I picked it up and read it.

Book Review: Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, A Girl In Pieces CoverBook: Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Published October 2014 by Cinco Puntos Press|284 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

July 24

My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I really liked Gabi, A Girl In Pieces!  I can’t believe it’s Quintero’s debut novel, because, for some reason, I thought that Quintero was a lot of other books out there.

I really liked Gabi’s story, and how it’s told through diary entries.  Something about this book made me think of Princess Diaries, and I think they’re a good read alike for each other.  Gabi’s honest, and she has to deal with so many things.  I really felt for her, and I really liked her and there’s something about her that made me want to hug her. She’s also really funny, and I really wish that a book like this was out when I was in high school, because I am pretty sure teenage me would have LOVED it.  I still really like it, though, and I think the thing I related to the most was how she sometimes felt insecure about how she looked (don’t we all, though?) and I can really relate to turning lobster red after being in the sun for a while.

I feel like Gabi is so aware of everything going on in her life- the diary format really gets her to reflect on things, and we really see her change over the course of a year.  There’s something very sincere about Gabi and she does have her flaws, but I love that she’s flawed, and doesn’t try to be anyone other than herself.

I did want to talk about the cover!  This is a book I’ve wanted to read for a while, and while I like that the cover is totally how Gabi sees herself, and that it’s a color version of the illustration we see in the book, that she draws for her zine.  I can see people not picking up the book because of the cover, but if you can get past the cover, this really is a great book.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but Gabi definitely has a unique voice!