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.

Advertisements

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: 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.

Book Review: A Thousand Boy Wishes by Tillie Cole

Book: A Thousand Boy Wishes by Tillie Cole

Self-Published March 2016|316 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime.One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation?Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.A stand-alone young adult tearjerker romance, recommended for ages fourteen and up.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, and I was in the mood for some cute and sweet and something that would probably result in me sobbing my heart out because it had been ripped to shreds.  I sort of it with this book. but not really.

The crying happened, so it did get me emotionally, but it wasn’t cute and sweet, and it was…blah.  That is really the best way to describe this book.  I wanted to love it, I really did.  Maybe I don’t have a soul or something, because I’m clearly in the minority here.  I do drink my coffee black (at least when I make coffee at home or at work, but Starbucks and various other coffee shops are a different story), maybe that goes with my apparently black soul.

There will be spoilers, just in case anyone is wondering.  You might want to stop reading here, if you don’t want spoilers.

Anyway, back to the book.  Their friendship/romantic relationship was so weird.  It was one-sided to the point of no one else seemed to exist for them.  Rune seemed friendless, and while Poppy seemed to have a few friends, she seemed to keep them at a distance.  Literally, no one else existed for them.  Their families seemed to fade in the background as well.

When she stopped talking to him, I literally thought she was pregnant at first, but that wouldn’t have explained why Poppy and her family moved away for a couple of years.  Her dying of cancer was cliche and boring, and it sort of felt like I was reading a Lurlene McDaniel book.  I’m not sure if anyone else remembers them, but they’re those YA books that focus on sick kids?  Something about A Thousand Boy Wishes reminded me of those books.  It felt sort of tired, and maybe I’m over the whole girl-dying-of-cancer thing.  Maybe if I hadn’t read other books (like The Fault In Our Stars or If I Stay), I would have liked it a little more.  It’s like a mix of Nicholas Sparks, The Fault In Our Stars with a dash of Lurlene McDaniel.  I’m not kidding.

Poppy and Rune were really wooden/cardboard, at least for me.  The fact that they liked music (Poppy) and photography (Rune), could have been an interesting aspect to the book, but it was boring and uninteresting and just sort of there.  There seemed to be very little character development, and it felt like they were just going through the motions.

Also, Rune being from Norway?  I swear, it’s sole existence was for him to seem like this mysterious, exotic bad boy. Exotic seems like a weird word to use, because for some reason, I don’t associate it with Norway, of all places.  But it made him different and appealing to all of the girls.  He is literally the manic pixie dream boy, and it was irritating. Poppy, not so much, but it was there.  And Rune being Norwegian- it was pretty much there to get him away from Poppy, so she wouldn’t have to face him once she got sick.  Makes it easier to not talk to him when HE’S IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COUNTRY.  Him moving was there so he could turn into this horrible, soul of darkness person that hated everyone and everything, because she clearly would not have stopped talking to him if he were still in Georgia.

And don’t even get me started on epilogue, which was a complete and total cop-out in my opinion.  I know it wrapped things up and gave him some closure, because HE DIED AND END UP IN HEAVEN WITH HIS POPPY.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT EPILOGUE?

I’d rather read the HP epilogue.  Admittedly, that’s grown on me over the years, but the one at the end of this book? Seriously?  I did not need to read that.  He randomly dies 10 years later?  That’s it?  That is not the happy ending I thought I’d get, considering this book is described as romance.  I wanted him to move on, find some happiness in a world where Poppy isn’t living, but that never seemed to happen for him in the fast forward we get.  Yes, there’s closure, and Poppy was his entire world, but…I would have been fine had the epilogue not been included.

I did like the concept of a thousand kisses, and writing down your memories of the really good/meaningful ones. And the cover is really pretty.  I’d frame that and hang it on my wall, it’s that pretty to look at.

3 stars.  I know I spent pretty much this whole post ranting about this book, but I really can’t bring myself to give it a lower rating.  I get why people love this book so much, and it was well-written enough, even though it was full of cliches that didn’t appeal to me.  It’s cute enough, and I did like it, even though it doesn’t seem like it. I don’t even know why I like it, but I do.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published February 2017 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding the book.  I was really hesitant to read it- as much as I wanted to read it- because I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype and my really high expectations.

Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

Because I loved this book, and it completely gutted me.  If you read one book this year, please make it this book.

I felt so much for Starr and Khalil and her neighborhood.  What Starr and Khalil went through…I will never experience, and I am grateful I don’t have to worry about getting shot at if I get pulled over by a cop.  The conversation her dad has with her about what to do if she gets pulled over?  That’s a conversation my mom and grandparents never needed to have with me, nor is it a conversation I will never need to have with my non-existent children.  However, I vaguely remember hearing that the police would help me, and that they’d protect me and keep me safe.

That is not the reality for Starr at all, and it makes me so unbelievably sad that not everyone is able to trust that the police will keep them safe.  That Khalil- and many others like him- are guilty until proven innocent, that Khalil, who was doing NOTHING wrong, is seen as trouble because of where he’s from.

It was such a hard book to put down, and even thinking about this book, I’m getting emotional.  The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of everything that’s going on in America right now.  It very much reflects real life, and it felt very honest.

Yes, it reflects real life, but it is unforgettable and powerful, and an amazing story with amazing, nuanced characters. No one is stereotypical or one-dimensional, and each character is unforgettable.

I did want to talk about Hailey, one of Starr’s best friends.  I hated Hailey with a passion, and how she took part in a protest just to get out of class.  In general, I hated her classmates for using Khalil’s death to get out of class, and yet, it’s something I would expect from Starr’s classmates.  But most of all, the things Hailey said, and how she didn’t see anything wrong with making comments about fried chicken to Starr, or comments about eating cats to their other best friend Maya.  Hailey…she didn’t understand why Starr had such a problem with everything Hailey herself said about Khalil, and completely dismissed Starr’s feelings about it.  Yes, she’s 16 or 17, but that doesn’t dismiss it at all. She, very clearly, didn’t want to understand, and it was frustrating to see Hailey want to stay in her own little bubble of people like her.  It makes me wonder why they were all friends to begin with.

No words will describe how I feel about this book.  Just trust me when I say that if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, you really need to.

5 stars.  I loved this book so much, and it’s easily my favorite book of the year.

Book Review: City Of Saints And Thieves by Natalie Anderson

Book: City Of Saints & Thieves by Natalie Anderson

Published January 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|401 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

The more you see, the less you know.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who does not exist.

Tina and her mother first arrived in Kenya as refugees from Congo desperately searching for a better life. Trading the peril of their besieged village for the busy metropolis of Sangui, they can barely believe their luck when Tina’s mother finds work as a maid for the Greyhills, one of the city’s most illustrious families. But there’s a dark secret lurking behind the family’s immense fortune, and when Tina discovers her mother shot dead in Mr. Greyhill’s private study, she knows he pulled the trigger.

With revenge on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving the streets on her own, working as a master thief with the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job with the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving a long-awaited chance for vengeance. But once Tina returns to the lavish home, she’s overcome by memories of her painful past, and the girl who does not exist is caught red-handed, setting into motion a breathless and dangerous cascade of events that will expose not only the truth behind who killed Tina’s mother, but even more harrowing secrets from Tina’s past that will change everything.

I thought City Of Saints & Thieves was a great book!  This is most definitely a book about getting revenge on the person who killed Tina’s mother, and I thought it went in a really interesting direction.

At first, Tina very much wants revenge on the man she believes killed her mother.  When she returns to the place where her mother died, a series of events leads her to realize that she didn’t know for sure what happened the night her mother died.  What really happened that night ends up being far different than what Tina thought happened, and she uncovers a lot of family history.  Everything from who her father is to why they left Congo.

What happened isn’t the whole story, and I liked how we uncovered what really happened that night.  I think it would be interesting to go back and re-read City Of Saints & Thieves knowing what I know now.

I liked the rules of being a thief that we see at the beginning of some of the chapters.  It added something special to the book, and I think it gives a peek into Tina’s life as part of the Goondas.

It did take a little while to get into the book, and I thought the pacing was a little uneven.  It was fast-paced, and then really slow.  I still wanted to know what happened next, but I felt like I had to wade through some parts of the book.

I also loved the setting!  I’ve read a few books set in Africa, but I don’t think I’ve read any set in Congo or Kenya before.  There is a sense of danger, and I felt like you really understand why Tina and her mother left Congo for Kenya.  You see the danger they’re in, and why people might seek a better life somewhere else.  You also see why people stay, even when it might be easier for them to leave.

It turns out the author has worked with refugees in Africa, and that really comes through.  It felt very well researched and I felt like there was a lot of attention to detail.

4 stars.  It was a little slow at times and it was hard to get into at first, but overall, I really liked it.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

I’m back…sort of!  I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, and I’m trying to get back into reviewing and blogging again.  I’ve been reading, but not up to reviewing.  But I still wanted to talk about the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I haven’t talked about yet.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of them, since it’s been a while…but that’s not going to stop me from talking about them!

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

  • It’s a middle grade contemporary about a kid who runs track, which I thought was cool.  I feel like track doesn’t come up a lot, as far as sports novels go.  Cross country, yes.  Track, not so much.
  • I don’t know that I remember enough to say anything else, but I remember thinking it was okay.  Then again, All-American Boys was such a great book that I had really high expectations.
  • I did like the parallels between running and what was going on in his life.  Especially with how running turned out to be a really good thing for him.
  • I don’t know that I’d read the rest of the books in the series- it looks like this is the first one of…I’m not sure how many.
  • It’s definitely a must read if you like stories about sports.  And also how to move on and deal with your past.
  • I think my rating would be 2 stars.  It’s okay, and not a lot stuck with me.

Book #2: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

  • I really liked this book!  It’s a YA contemporary about Amanda, who transferred schools.  I felt for Amanda, who tried so hard to fit in, and who had to deal with a lot- bullying and transphobia are the first things that come to mind.
  • I really like that it’s not a coming out story- both are important, but I really liked seeing Amanda move to a new town and transition to a new phase in her life.
  • I liked the friendships she had too- people can be horrible, but I’m glad Amanda found some amazing people.
  • I can’t remember anything about the romance, other than I liked it…but that’s about it!
  • I loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  Don’t skip over it, because it really does add to an already awesome book.
  • I feel like I’m not doing this book any justice.  At all.  Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I remember next to nothing.  But it’s such a great book and really important and I doubt I’d do it much justice regardless.  But waiting months to do some sort of half-hearted attempt isn’t helping.
  • Part of why it’s important is because of what the book is about, but it is worth mentioning that the author is also trans.
  • And I’m not sure if it’s true, but the cover model is trans as well.  For some reason, that feels really important as well.
  • I know I got really emotional and starting crying at one point.
  • My Rating: 4 stars.  Had I reviewed it right after finishing it, my rating probably would have been 5 stars.
    • But I may re-read it at some point so I can properly talk about it.
    • I still really liked it though.

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

  • I liked seeing how much Strayed changed during the hike.
  • She did seem ill-prepared for the hike, and I can see why some reviewers think she’s whiny and self-absorbed
    • and also why some people thought she made poor life decisions
    • There’s no judgement from me, though, because she did have a lot of things she had to work through, especially with the death of her mother
  • Hiking- especially since she was by herself for most of the hike- seemed to help her
    • there was a lot of opportunity for her to reflect on her life
    • she did randomly meet up with other people along the way, though
  • I think my favorite part was seeing her not give up, even when it would have been easy for her to do so
  • I can’t imagine doing such a big hike, especially with no hiking/backpacking experience whatsoever
  • It really felt like I was hiking with her, and it never felt boring or repetitive
    • I can’t imagine being alone with my thoughts for that long, but props to her for sticking with it
  • It’s a memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, so if you’re looking for more information or history about the trail itself, this is not the book for you
  • I’ve heard of it before- because it was adapted into a movie, but I mostly picked it up because it was mentioned in one of the Gilmore Girls revival episodes
    • I’m glad I picked it up, though, because I really liked it
  • I think my rating would be 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was an easy read, and there is something about the way she writes

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

  • This book deserves a lot more attention.  I feel like it didn’t get a lot of attention, despite the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick.  The publication date also got moved up because of it.  And I know it was recommended by Obama, so I had really high expectations.
    • It lived up to all of the hype…at least the hype that I heard.
    • It’s totally worth reading
  • I admit that I didn’t like it at first, and it took me a while to get into it.
    • I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I really liked it
  • It is a hard read, because you see what it might have been like for slaves on the Underground Railroad
    • I’m not sure what to call them, but there are ads and wanted posters for runaway slaves, which really added to the journey Cora takes
  • The Underground Railroad is quite literal in this book but it was terrifying to see what it was like during that time period
    • so many people risked everything to be a part of it- whether they were a stop along the way, or the one trying to escape slavery
    • I know I said it already, but it really highlighted what it might have been like
  • It really is mind-blowing that people were willing to take a chance to have freedom than spend one more second as a slave
  • My rating: 4 stars.  It was hard to get into at first, but worth reading.

Book Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Book: My Sister Rosa By Justine Larbalestier

Published November 2016 by Soho Teen|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Contemporary

What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.

I was intrigued by My Sister Rosa when I first heard about it, and I finally got around to reading it!

Rosa’s pretty creepy and twisted, and she seemed a little bit older than her ten years.  It’s easy to see why her parents- especially her mom- wouldn’t believe what she’s really capable of.  Some people seem to know there’s something different about her, though, but they’re not sure what.

We’re told right off the bat that Rosa is a psychopath, and nothing’s really changed by the end of the book.  I wish there was more build-up with Rosa.  I also thought that maybe Che was an unreliable narrator, and that he was the psychopath, not Rosa.  I expected Rosa’s results, but not Che’s- it seemed opposite of how Che acted in the book.  I also didn’t get how the book went from “my sister is a psychopath” to “everyone is a psychopath, but you just don’t know it.”  The book makes it seem like it’s something that’s really common, but I always thought it was a lot more rare.  I also felt like I was being told Rosa was a psychopath, as opposed to actually seeing her act that way.

I also felt like we got two stories in one book- one focusing on Rosa, and one focusing on a coming-of-age.  I felt really bored reading about both Rosa and Che’s life in New York, and I kind of wish the book focused more on Rosa. It was a little too unbalanced, and I wish the book had focused on one or the other.

Considering how big of a role David and Sally have in the book, we know absolutely nothing about them.  Some of the other characters had the potential to be really interesting, but they fell a little short.  I did like how diverse the characters were, though.

2 stars.  It was okay, and I felt like there were two different stories that didn’t go very well together.  I also wish we saw how creepy Rosa was, instead of being told that she was psychopathic.

ARC Book Review: Black, White, Other And A Girl Named Mister

black-white-otherBook #1: Black, White, Other by Joan Steinau Lester

Published January 2017 by Blink|225 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Identity Crisis.  

As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day.

Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?

Rating/Review: 2 stars.  It was okay for me, and I wanted to like it, but I had a hard time with it.  I found myself skimming through the part where she’s reading about her relative.  I liked the present-day story a little bit more, and the message was really obvious- but it’s also really important.  She really does struggle to fit in, and you see how much things change her and how she feels caught in the middle on so many different levels.  I did really like seeing the relationship with one of her friends and her reaction to Nina hanging out with other people.  I think it’s something we can all relate to, feeling like we don’t fit in, but I feel like I understand Nina a little better.

a-girl-named-mister-coverBook #2: A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

Published January 2017 by Blink|233 pages

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

What It’s About: Nikki Grimes, a bestselling author known for titles such as Dark Sons, Barak Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, and Voices of Christmas has written a gripping book from the perspective of a girl named Mister (Mary Rudine) who finds herself momentarily distracted from her faith commitment to purity by a handsome boy named Trey. After one night of weakness, Mister finds her entire life has changed, even if she can’t yet accept all the changes occurring within her are real. When the emotional scars of losing her innocence are more lasting than she imagined, Mister turns to a book of her mother’s, which contains poems from Mary’s perspective. As both Mister and Mary’s voices play out in the story, a full and meaningful portrait of Christian faith, trust, and forgiveness emerges, along with the truth that God can use even the most unplanned events in our lives for his greater glory.

Rating & Review: 2 stars.  This one was okay for me.  It was a quick read, which I think is because the entire book is told in verse.  It was okay, but sometimes it felt like things were broken up to give the appearance of poetry, because there were times where it didn’t feel like I was reading poetry.  Then again, I don’t read a lot of novels told in verse, so maybe unfamiliarity is where my problem lies.  There is a whole diary feel to the book that didn’t quite work for me.  The comparison to Mary, Jesus’ mother, did not work for me at all, and I felt like the comparison was trying to compare apples and oranges.  I’m also not sure what the book was going for abstinence, maybe?  That’s the impression I got.  I’m also not quite clear on who the book is actually meant for- definitely not me, but maybe a teen who’s questioning her faith is the target audience for this?  The ending was also abrupt and left a lot of questions.

Book Review: A World Without You by Beth Revis

a-world-without-you-coverBook: A World Without You by Beth Revis

Published July 2016 by Razorbill|372 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

What would you do to bring back someone you love? After the unexpected loss of his girlfriend, a boy suffering from delusions believes he can travel through time to save her in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis.

Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age. 

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it’s his job to save her. 

In her first contemporary novel, Beth Revis guides readers through the mind of a young man struggling to process his grief as he fights his way through his delusions. As Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofia, he has to decide whether to face his demons head-on, or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I have so many thoughts about A World Without You!

So, I have to admit that I knew I wanted to read this book, but that I didn’t know what it was about going in. At first, I didn’t realize it was a contemporary, because of the whole school-for-kids-with-special-powers aspect.  As the book went on, I realized that, in fact, the book was not sci-fi or paranormal or fantasy- basically, whatever genre you classify kids-with-special powers as.  That was when I realized the book was more contemporary than anything else.

I was a little disappointed that it was a contemporary novel, because I think it had a lot of promise if it had stuck to the idea that Sofia was trapped in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, and not the aftermath of her suicide. I do think the books works better if you don’t know that going in, because the paralyzing fear that something is wrong is much more palpable.  I kind of liked that I didn’t realize something was wrong at first, because everything seemed so normal.  But it was frustrating at the same time, because it became a story I wasn’t as interested in.

I think, had I known going in that Bo had severe mental illness, I would have spent the book frustrated knowing what was going on, and waiting for him to catch up and figure everything out.  There is an undercurrent of fear and confusion and you really see Bo lose all sense of time and reality.  It’s also the most severe case I’ve seen in any YA book that deals with mental illness- I think Identical by Ellen Hopkins is the only other one I can think of that comes remotely close, and it’s pretty similar in that you don’t realize what’s going on until the end of the novel.

I did really want the story where Bo has to go back in time to save Sofia- partly because that part of the novel really interested me, but I’m also curious about how Revis would tell that story.

I feel like the blurb gave away way too much.  I know I mentioned that this a book that may be better if you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re figuring things out right alongside Bo.  But I still think it works better if you know nothing.

We also get a few chapters narrated by Phoebe, who is Bo’s sister.  I feel like her chapters were meant to show how different they are, and how everything that is going on with Bo affects her.  Her chapters were boring and flat, and I feel like all she did was complain about how no one paid attention to her because she’s the good student who’s going off to college.  It’s clear that her parents seem to be focused on Bo- which is understandable- but I do understand that her parents probably don’t give her a lot of attention because she’s the one they DON’T have to worry about. And given everything going on with Bo, she probably feels like she has to do well.

It is hard to say for sure, though, since most of the book focused on Bo, and we only get a few chapters focusing on Phoebe.

The last chapter- an epilogue- was really weird for me.  It did leave you wondering if maybe Bo did have some sort of power or ability but no one realized it because it presented as something else.  It’s ambiguous enough that you’re not sure, but…I am not a fan of the epilogue.  I know it’s trying to wrap up with what happened the previous chapter, and that if the book had ended with that chapter…it would have been a hell of a cliffhanger.  But I felt like the epilogue took away a lot of the fear and confusion that we saw in the chapter before it, and it really lost the darkness and edge that it would have had otherwise.

The moment between Bo and Phoebe was weird- if Bo does have a mental illness, then was it just a coincidence? It did feel off, like maybe he did have some sort of supernatural ability, but no one believed him.  I wonder if maybe he did, but it wasn’t said outright, because it would have contradicted everything in the book?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt like you could see it that way.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I do think it works better if you don’t read the blurb, but it’s also a really good look at mental illness.  It’s just not for me.