Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Book: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Published February 2018 by Simon Pulse|311 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

I absolutely loved this book!  This is easily one of my favorites from this year, and I think it’s one everyone should read!

I loved Mei, and she was so easy to relate to.  I think a doctor is not the best career path for her, and I’m glad she was finally able to speak up for herself.  It can be hard going against a plan that’s been set out for you, and going against family can be hard.  But Mei knew what she wanted to do, and took a huge risk in going against what her parents thought she should do.

I particularly liked the voicemails and emails we see from her family.  They are very much involved in her life, and I do like that they want what’s best for her.  They do want her to be successful, and while I don’t necessarily agree with some of their actions & behaviors, I do think they had really good intentions.

I felt so happy when I was reading American Panda, and something about it was comforting and warm, and made me want to hug someone.

*Random side note: I feel like I’d be one of those people you see walking around holding one of those free hugs signs.  Seriously, if I weren’t so anxious and shy, I’d totally do that.

Back to American Panda, though.  Mei is such an amazing character, and while she kept secrets for quite a while, you do see the toll it takes on her, and how hard it was to keep secrets from her family.  I also loved seeing how dance was something she loved, and how happy it made her.  Even though her parents weren’t happy with the path she decided to take, it did seem like she had some support in her brother and some friends.  And it also seemed like her mom started to come around as well, which I thought was huge, considering her mom really seemed to have very strong ideas on how Mei should live her life.

We really see Mei struggle with having really strict parents (which I can sort of identify with, but obviously not completely) and how she dealt with their values and beliefs and her own.  I laughed and smiled and quite honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t start crying.  This is not a crying sort of book, but I can be sentimental.

At any rate, something about this book felt very personal, like Chao had experienced what Mei had.  There is something honest and true about this book.  It’s heartfelt, and while I haven’t experienced what Mei did in this book, I did see parts of myself in her.  I feel like we would have gotten along really well, and she is someone I want to be friends with.  She has her flaws, but we all do.  That didn’t stop her from still being completely awesome.

5 stars!  Mei is awesome, and I couldn’t help but love this book.  It’s worth reading!


Book Review: Love, Life And The List by Kasie West and PS I Like You by Kasie West

Book: Love, Life And The List by Kasie West

Published December 2017 by HarperTeen|384 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.

But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself. 

This book is really cute!  While I have yet to love a Kasie West book, I still enjoy her books.  They’re fun and cute and perfect if you want a quick, light read.

I liked seeing Abby challenge herself and try different things.  It’s a cool but also cliche story for an artist- the one who sets out on this journey to do these different things, just to make their art better.  She just wants to be able to show her paintings, and I get that.  It’s cool, and not at all surprising that she sees it as an opportunity to get into the art program of her dreams.  Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?

She has a lot to learn, and it seems like she has a lot of potential as an artist.  It sounds like she’s pretty good, and will continue to get better, which is what one always hopes for.  She gets in the art show (with an unexpected twist, which I have mixed feelings about), she learns a lot about herself, and she gets the guy.  All in all, it’s predictable but cute.

As for her mom, I’m glad Abby wasn’t taking on everything herself.  At least her grandpa was there, and he seems like a pretty cool grandpa.  I feel like we’d get along really well.  I did feel for Abby, because it meant her mom wasn’t there for certain things, but her mom is getting the help she needs, so that’s always good.  Hopefully, her mom was able to go to more of Abby’s things and worried less about her.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, but didn’t love it.  It’s cute, though.

Book: P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Published July 2016 by Point|330 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

P.S. I Like You is another cute Kasie West book!  I figured I’d review two of the books I’ve read by her recently in one post, especially since I’ve read them so close together.

I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t get the two books confused considering I started this one right after I finished the other one.

I figured out pretty early on who the mystery man was.  I thought it was pretty obvious, so when it turned out to be true, I wasn’t all that surprised.  I did like seeing Lily’s reaction to who it was, and how much she was hoping it would be someone else.  Considering the history between Lily and her mysterious pen pal, I can’t say it was a big surprise.  I am surprised, however, that it didn’t cause more problems with her and her best friend, but her best friend does seem pretty cool.  She was pretty understanding and relaxed about it, all things considering.

They really did have a lot more in common than she thought, and who knew that some letters would really change things?  For him, as well as Lily.

And the story is predictable- I’ve read enough of her books that she does go for the quirky, charming but very adorable, cliche romance.  Maybe, if I hadn’t read so many other similar stories, I would have loved it, or even really liked it.  Don’t get me read, I did like P.S. I Like You.  It’s cute and light-hearted, and maybe I read it too close to Love, Life And The List to love it more.

I doubt it, but it was fun and cute to read.

My Rating: 3 stars.  The obvious love interest (and similarities to West’s other books) aside, it’s a cute romance.

Book Review: A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Book: A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Published January 2018 by Philomel Books|288 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

I liked A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes!  Not as much as A Secret Sky, but I still liked it.

There’s a lot I don’t know in terms of what it’s like to be a refugee, particularly one from the Middle East.  In this book, we see what Tareq has to go through, and how he’s treated by others simply because of where he’s from.  People seem to make assumptions about him because of that, and because of how he looks.  I can’t imagine knowing what it’s like to always say goodbye to people you know and love, or to the place that you once called home.  It’s hard to wrap my mind around seeing the place I call home because so different that you have to leave and hope that another country will take you in.

I did like seeing how people react to refugees, and while it was a familiar reaction, it still made me sad that some people are so distrusting of refugees.  While we see what led Tareq and his family to leave Syria,  I still wish we saw a little more of it.  I mean, I know it’s on the news, and what we see at the beginning of the novel is horrifying, there’s still part of me that wanted more of their life before things got so bad that they had to leave.  Abawi does show the horrors of what Tareq goes through really well, but part of me just wanted more of his life before.  I think that’s just my preference, though.

One interesting thing about this book is that the book is narrated by destiny.  It made me think of The Book Thief, and if you liked that book, you’ll like this book.

Unfortunately, destiny as a narrator didn’t work for me, and it made me feel so distant from what was going on. It’s already something that seems so far away, and the narrator didn’t particularly help.  Plus, it seemed random, and you’d be in Tareq’s world, and suddenly, you’d have a paragraph or longer section narrated by destiny.  It took me out of the story, which is unfortunate, because Tareq’s story is a really important one.

3 stars.  I liked A Land Of Permanent Goodbyes, and the title is so fitting for the story, but I also didn’t love it.  It’s an important story, and I still recommend it.

Book Review: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Book: Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Published March 2009 by Margaret K McElderry|256 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Samar — a.k.a. Sam — has never known much about her Indian heritage. Her mom has deliberately kept Sam away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a really cute but demanding boyfriend.But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house, and he turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam isn’t sure what to do, until a girl at school calls her a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside. That decides it: Why shouldn’t Sam get to know her family? What is her mom so afraid of? Then some boys attack her uncle, shouting, “Go back home, Osama!” and Sam realizes she could be in danger — and also discovers how dangerous ignorance can be. Sam will need all her smarts and savvy to try to bridge two worlds and make them both her own.

I liked Shine, Coconut Moon!  I really liked Sam, and I liked seeing her decide to learn more about her family. 9/11 really changed things for a lot of people and I thought Shine, Coconut Moon really showed how much people changed.

Like Sam’s boyfriend.  I hated him, I really did.  How he treated Sam because of her uncle was absolutely horrible, and you’d think he’d give her a chance and try to see things from her perspective.  But he had no interest in doing that, and refused to leave her alone, even when she wanted to have nothing to do with him.  It’s hard to believe that she was ever interested in him, and I was relieved when they were no longer together.

And how things changed with her best friend.  Her best friend is the stereotypical character who doesn’t understand how hard things are for Sam after 9/11.  Her friend does come around, and I wonder if maybe she noticed things but didn’t want to admit it.

This book is very much Sam learning about her heritage.  I thought the summary was confusing- it made it seem like her uncle showing up and him being would be a huge part of the book, but it wasn’t.  His appearance does change things for Sam, and she does meet both him and her grandparents because of it, but it wasn’t as important as the summary would have you believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the way he was treated by people he didn’t even know was horrible, and he doesn’t deserve it.  It’s sad that people saw him a certain way because of how he looked, and that people make assumptions and stereotype.  I wish we didn’t live in a world like that, but unfortunately, we do.

Something I thought was odd was when the book took place.  There were times where it seemed like it happened right after 9/11 and we’re in the months right after.  But towards the end of the book, it seemed like more time had passed.  Maybe I missed something, but the timeline seemed really strange and confusing to me, and it took me out of things a little bit.

I did like seeing Sam expand her worldview, and how she started talking to people that she previously ignored.  It’s too bad some of the other people in her life couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do the same.  It made me angry that people started treating her differently because of her uncle, and that even though they’ve known her for years, they started looking at her with suspicion.

I’m really not sure what else to say about Shine, Coconut Moon.  It’s definitely worth checking out and reading.

3 stars.  Even though I liked Shine, Coconut Moon, I didn’t love it.  I really felt for Samar, and I felt so angry on her behalf.  I definitely recommend it!

Book Review: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Published January 2009 by Delacorte Books For Young Readers|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha’s promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and after reading You Bring The Distant Near last year, I finally decided to read Secret Keeper.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t like it as much as You Bring The Distant Near.

I did feel for Asha and Reet, and I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a marriage arranged for you, or to know that your decisions are not your own to make.  Asha has her own path, and while it differed from the traditional path her family wanted her to take, she knew what she wanted.  It’s very different than the path that her sister took.

I found it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that their uncle could make decisions- such as their future spouse- for them since their father was trying to find a job in the U.S.  It’s a very different life than the one I know, and it’s not bad.  It’s just very different and hard for me to picture.

I did like Asha, and how much she wanted to help people.  Wanting to be a psychologist really opened doors for her, and it really seemed like a way for her to take care of her mom and her sister, especially after her dad died.  I also liked that she considered her diaries from her father her secret keeper, but I didn’t particularly care for actually reading the diary entries.  I also liked how Reet wanted to take care of her mother and sister as well, and how getting married allowed her to help them.  It’s strange how one event can change everything, and how we all need to make sacrifices.

2 stars.  Even though there were things I liked about Secret Keeper, it was just okay for me.  I had a hard time getting into it, and I wish I liked it more than I actually did.

Book Review: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Book: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2014 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

When I read All-American Boys a few years ago, I really liked it.  Enough to want to read his other books, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

One of the biggest reasons why it was just okay was the writing.  The writing style is perfect for middle grade, and I really did think I was reading a middle grade novel, but the writing style itself didn’t match up with what happened in the story.  I was surprised that Ali was in high school because I (wrongly) assumed he was 12/13, and not the 15/16 that is actually mentioned in the book.

It’s also pretty short, and you could easily read it in a couple of hours.  I did want it to be longer, because it felt like things weren’t developed enough.  In particular, the big moment of the book really felt like a let down.  I expected something bigger, and something that wasn’t so easily resolved.  It was resolved a lot faster than I thought, and even then, it felt like Ali got very lucky that his father was there to take care of it.

However, it really did feel like I was sitting next to Ali on the stoop as he told me this story.  There is something about his voice that’s very honest and raw, and I did want to hear more of Ali’s story.  It felt really personal, like we were there with Ali, instead of feeling distanced from what was going on.

I also liked seeing the relationship Ali had with his family, his friends, and his neighbors.  In particular, I liked seeing how Needles dealt with Tourette’s.  While I don’t knit, I do crochet, and crafting as therapy is pretty accurate.  It’s different, but I also thought it was really cool.

2 stars.  I thought it could have been longer, in order to develop the characters and flesh out some of the events a little more.  But I also thought that Ali was pretty easy to relate to, and I think a lot of readers will really like him.

Book Review: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Book: Enter Title Here by Rahal Kanakia

Published August 2016 by Disney Hyperion|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

I’m your protagonist-Reshma Kapoor-and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success-a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

In this wholly unique, wickedly funny debut novel, Rahul Kanakia consciously uses the rules of storytelling-and then breaks them to pieces.

When I first heard about this book, I was pretty intrigued.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and while it is a cool idea, it didn’t work for me.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it does feel like Reshma’s story isn’t a new one.  It definitely falls into the “I must do all of the things I never did before in order to truly live” trope.  Which is fine, but it really didn’t work for me, and it felt really fake.  I mean, I know Reshma is doing it so she can have an easier time writing a book people will want to read, and maybe Reshma herself is why it didn’t work for me.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Reshma, and I feel like a lot of people would see her as unlikeable.  She is ambitious, and will do anything to get into college.  I was really surprised by the lengths she went to in order to get into college, and I kind of wish the book had gone more into that.  What she did isn’t okay, and she really is ruthless and cruel.  There is no redemptive arc for Reshma, and even at the end of the book, she still believes she did the right thing.

I do wonder if her parents business deal played a part in why she did what she did.  Maybe she didn’t want what happened to their business happen to her, and I get that.  But it doesn’t change the fact that she is cold and willing to do to others what someone did to her parents.  She didn’t learn from that at all, and I felt like, even though there were some very real consequences for her actions, she was still determined to lie, cheat and sue in order to get her way.

And as terrible as Reshma was, I kind of liked that she didn’t really learn her lesson or change because of what she did.  Would it have been easy for her to change and learn something?  Of course, but I feel like that would be the predictable thing.  Her not changing was a little bit refreshing, and sometimes, we don’t learn or change, even though we should.

2 stars.  I didn’t like Enter Title Here as much as I thought, and it fell flat.  I didn’t mind Reshma’s ruthlessness, though I think she went overboard in what she did in order to get into college.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Three

So, I’ve been doing a series of posts talking about some of the books I read that I never got around to talking about.  We are starting to get to some books that I’ve read a little more recently than some of the other books, so I have more to say about them…but also not quite enough to do a full review.  If that makes sense.

  • Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields.  I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.  It’s a cool concept, an assassin who can kill people by kissing them, but it didn’t work for me.  And that’s a little disappointing, because I really wanted it to work well.    I loved how Marinda looked out for her brother, and how much she cared for him.  It was really nice to see, but that was the only thing that I really, absolutely loved.  The story didn’t make a lot of sense, but things are magically explained at the end.  The thing that made the LEAST amount of sense was how another girl had to seduce the boys that Marinda kissed.  What’s the point of death by kissing if you’re not the one seducing them enough to get close to them?  And how do these boys even go from the one to Marinda without questioning it?  I do not understand this at all.  What, Marinda can’t seduce them or something?  Or this other girl can’t kill them?  This makes zero sense to me.  My rating is 2 stars for things that didn’t make a lot of sense and the lack of world building.
  • The Secret History Of Us by Jessi Kirby.  I used to LOVE her books, but the more Jessi Kirby books I read, the more I dislike them.  I don’t know if it’s because my interests have changed or I’m harder to please because I read a lot of YA contemporaries, but I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.  The pace was pretty slow, and I wanted more of Olivia dealing with her amnesia.  She does try to piece things together, but I wanted more frustration or something from Olivia.  I also wanted more with Walker, but instead, he barely made an appearance.  I wanted more of a reveal, and I felt like something bigger was going to happen.  But nothing bigger happened, even though the book made it seem like something mysterious was going on.  The Secret History Of Us gets 2 stars.  It was okay, but I wanted more than what we got.
  • American War by Omar El Akkad.  I really liked this book at the beginning, and it was really interesting.  But then it lost steam, and I lost interest by the end of the book.  Like The Handmaid’s Tale, the future we see in American War is one I can picture easily.  You do get a good look at what a modern war would look like, and it’s interesting that climate change is what triggers the issues between north and south.  I would have it expected it to be over something else, women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights or something involving religion.  I know it’s terrible to make an assumption like that, but I do like that climate change is what triggers because it is different than what you might expect.   I felt like a lot of things weren’t really explained or addressed, and it felt like something was missing regarding the use of fossil fuels.  I don’t know if maybe Sarat’s perspective really limits what we know, since she was 6 when war broke out, but a little more broad of a picture would have been nice.  American War gets 3 stars.

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.