Tuesday, May 28, 2019

TTT: Favorite Books Published in the Last 10 Years

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Favorites Books Published in the Last 10 Years (One for Each Year)











Thursday, May 23, 2019

Shorter Musings: The Bridge Home, Genesis Begins Again, Soof, Stand on the Sky

Here are some shorter musings on some recent MG realistic fiction reads.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
I really don't know what to rate this. This is well-written and for such a short, easy read packs quite the emotional wallop. This is a contemporary story of two sisters in India who run away from their abusive father and have to survive on the streets of a big city. They are homeless and spend their days scavenging through trash for anything that might bring a little money. They meet two young boys, and the four children quickly form a family. They will do anything to protect each other. The story is told through the point of view of Viji, the younger sister. This might have blown me away, but for one major spoiler. That element that packs the emotional wallop. I think the author had the best of intentions with what she was doing and much of that is done so well. But at the same time I'm...uncomfortable enough with this element to not feel confident in recommending it. I feel she could have gone a different direction and it would have been way less problematic. Upon further reflection, I may need to revisit this, but that is my stance now. I don't think you get cookies for having good intentions but landing in the swamp of problematic tropes anyways. In my Goodreads review I go into a further explanation behind a spoiler cut. If you are curious, it is here.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams
Genesis is a heroine with a lot going on in her life. Her father gambles and drinks too much, so her family is constantly being evicted from their houses. She wishes she were different in many ways including having lighter skin and straighter hair like her mom. When her family has to move one more time, and Genesis finds herself starting over yet again, she vows to make some changes. Some of the changes like finding her voice and making friends are good. But some of the changes are dangerous. Williams created a believable and sympathetic character in Genesis that audiences will truly feel for as they follow her journey.

Soof  by Sarah Weeks
It's possible you have to be fan of the first book (So B. It) to be a fan of this one. I've never read So B. It (I'm not sure why or how I missed that one as I generally read and enjoy Sarah Weeks's books.) Anyway, I found myself having a hard time liking anyone who was a character in that first book or understanding any of their motivations. There were a lot of things that appeared to happen for plot conveniences and not because they actually made any sense. Aurora is a gem though. I loved her voice and wanted to kidnap her.

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow
The writing here is excellent because it's Erin Bow, and she is an excellent writer. I came away with the impression that it was also well researched and as factually accurate as Bow could make it writing from the perspective of an outsider of the culture. (I know she spent some time in Mongolia prior to writing this.) I fell just short of being able to love it, which is mostly because I am not the right reader for this book. I don't like nature. I hate birds. I also had some questions about character motivation and general characterization of the adults. I do fully intend to add it to all my MG lists and book talk it to the 5th-7th graders. The ones who love realistic fiction and nature will eat this book up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Begone the Raggedy Witches

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan is a 2018 release that wasn't on my radar at all until I saw it reviewed by several friends in a short span of time. The reviews were all stellar, and the reviewers of such similar reading tastes to mine that I bought the book since my library didn't have it. Well, I finally got around to reading it, and I have zero regrets and a lot of love for this amazing new MG fantasy trilogy.

"Fear is a very effective weapon," said Fírinne softly. "And the queen uses it to its fullest capacity. Eventually we become anything she wants us to be, just so she'll leave us alone. But I don't want to live like that anymore. I don't want to go on forgetting that in my youth I danced colour up out of the ground and sang the stars ashiver, just for the joy of it." 

Mup has always lived a fairly well ordered life because she follows her Aunty's rules to the letter. What Aunty says to do, must be done. Aunty always said Mup was to tell her the instant she ever saw a witch hanging about. On the night Aunty dies, the witches arrive in full force. They are there to take Mup's Mam. Mup bravely fights them off with the help of Aunty's spirit. When it becomes clear that someone has taken Mup's father, Mam, Mup, and Mup's little brother Tipper break all of Aunty's rules to try to get him back. Venturing into the world from where the raggedy witches come, Aunty, and Mup's mother come from, they are determined to succeed in their quest even as Aunty's fading spirit whispers dire warnings in their ears. However, they aren't entirely sure who took him. Was it the witches? Was it any number of political rebels ready to put Mup's Mam on the throne in place of her cruel, tyrannical mother who is the current queen? In a strange world where magic abounds, everyone wants something, her Mam does not act entirely herself, and her brother can turn himself into a dog, Mup must find the courage to do what is right and stand by her convictions.

Mup is such a delightful heroine. She begins her begins the book as a sheltered, rule-following, and seemingly meek little girl. As danger upon danger meets her, Mup discovers a core of strength and defiance in herself that serves her well. She has strong convictions about what is right and what is wrong. As much as she loves both Mam and Aunty, she is willing to defy them both in order to do what she believes is right. Through Mup's eyes, Aunty is able to see the mistakes she made and the things she could have done better for the people she left behind when she escaped her sister's cruel world. Mup is a tether to Mam keeping her grounded as she has to navigate the world she left as a child and the full force of her magic for the first time. Mup also has to contend with magical powers she was unaware she possessed. After all, her father is Nigerian, and she grew up in Ireland. Who knew she could make lightning with her hands? She had no idea she could even do magic until they entered the world her grandmother rules. Upon arriving in this strange world, Mup immediately meets Crow. Crow is Mup's catalyst for defiance and rebellion. She has a deep sense of empathy and feels strongly for his plight. The more she learns about him, the more determined she becomes to help him too. Crow is broken, angry, and mostly abandoned. His father was arrested. His mother severed all ties with him. His uncle cares for him, but also lives a life of fear and desperation always trying to keep one step ahead of the queen's witches. And Crow is determined to defy the witches at every turn. Together, Mup and Crow are a scared but sassy and defiant team ready to take on whatever evil they have to face in order to save those they love.

Kiernan's prose is excellent in every way. She has a gift for story telling and weaves her words like magic. I don't know enough comprehensively about Irish folklore to know if this is based on any specific portion. It does have the feel of being imbued with old and lasting stories though. Then there is the political intrigue portion which Kiernan balances phenomenally well. It is exactly the right amount for the intended audience. Kiernan is exploring some extremely important and necessary themes. When does one submit and when does one rebel? Is it better to be safe or stand for what is right? If you don't speak up when you see wrong being done, who will? All of these questions are explored while also keeping to a quick paced, adventure filled plot that is full of action and conflict.

I highly recommend this to lovers of fantasy, mythology, and well-told stories of any age.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Future Favorite Friday May-19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Thanhha Lai has a YA novel coming out!!!! I don't feel like there is much to add to my excitement here.

In the final days of the Viet Nam War, twelve-year-old Hang took her brother, Linh, to the airport, desperate for them to be brought to America. In a split second, Linh was taken—and Hang was left behind. Six years later, she endures a horrifying escape from Viet Nam and arrives in Texas as a refugee, where LeeRoy, a city boy with rodeo dreams, helps her find the brother she thought she’d lost. But Hang’s heart is shattered all over again when she learns that Linh doesn’t remember her at all. The distance between them feels greater than ever—but she’ll do anything to bridge the gap

Release Dat: September 3, 2019 from Harper Collins

The cover of this one attracted me first. Then I read the synopsis and was instantly in love.

Headstrong Anya is the daughter of the only Jewish family in her village. When her family's livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of Fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus. This seems easy enough—until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn't as old—or as scary—as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family. 

Release Date: September 24, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I just read my first Jenny Colgan novel, The Bookshop on the Corner, two weeks ago. Imagine my delight when I quite accidentally discovered a sequel was coming out next month.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where honking horns and shouting football fans keep them awake all night. If she doesn’t find a way out soon, Zoe knows it’s just a matter of time before she has a complete meltdown. On a whim, she answers an ad for a nanny job in the Scottish Highlands, which is about as far away from the urban crush of London as possible. It sounds heavenly!

The job description asks for someone capable of caring for three “gifted children”, two of which behave feral wolverines. The children’s widowed father is a wreck, and the kids run wild in a huge tumbledown castle on the heather-strewn banks of Loch Ness. Still, the peaceful, picturesque location is everything London is not—and Zoe rises to the challenges of the job.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

Release Date: June 25, 2019

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Shorter Musings YA Realistic

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA realistic fiction reads.

American Panda by Gloria Chao
I bumped this up my TBR list after seeing several really favorable reviews for it in a row. I'm so glad I did. This is an excellent story of the child of immigrants trying to find her place in the world. Mei struggles with how to be herself and the perfect, obedient daughter her parents expect her to be. They have already officially disowned her brother. Mei's journey is one of self-discovery, which is interesting since it is advertised as more fluffy and more of a romance that it truly is. (There is a romance, but it is definitely not the central relationship in the book.) I really loved how much this story was about Mei's relationship with her mom and the complications of relating to each other.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
I enjoyed this as the quick, fluffy read it is intended to be. Kasie West is the ultimate at YA romance that is perfect for any age YA reader not wanting sexual content or strong language in their books. Her books are always fun and enjoyable. I wanted to love this one more than I did because of how much I enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. This is a sort of companion novel in the way that romances that center someone introduced in another book are. Lacey is the focus of this story as her acting career gets what she hopes will be her big break. Her love interest is the tutor her father hires to help her get her schoolwork finished while on set. Donovan is quietly nerdy but also hot and funny. Lacey has a strict no dating rule. Donovan has a strict no dating actresses rule. They both fail at wanting to follow their rules. The book's story is rounded out by a mystery going on set that was rather predictable and a little distracting. It was a fun afternoon's read though.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in first person blank verse poetry as the journal of the main character, The Poet X is an excellent book about growing up, finding your creative voice, trusting your talent, and surviving difficult circumstances while learning to thrive. It is incredibly well done on every level. Xiamora is the daughter of immigrants. Her parents are incredibly strict, and she is struggling with questions of faith and a desire to live her own life outside her mother's stringent rules. There are parts of the book that were incredibly difficult to read as Xiamora's relationship with her mother is incredibly toxic and it bleeds into all her relationships as well as her view of herself. The journey is worth it in every way though.

Royals by Rachel Hawkins
This was so FLUFFY!!! And I thoroughly enjoyed every frothy second of it. Daisy's older sister is marrying the Prince of Scotland (just go with it -doesn't matter), and Daisy finds herself having to live amongst the Royals to protect herself from paparazzi following her around back home. The problem is the royals closest in age to her are hot messes. The younger prince is the hottest mess of them all. And he comes with a stuffy best friend whose sole purpose in life seems to be save him from himself while jumping to conclusions and sneering. Daisy is not impressed. Until she suddenly realizes Miles is kind of hot when he's not sneering. Then they have to fake date for publicity. I mean...
antagonism to love ✅
snarky clever banter between heroine and hero✅
fake dating trope✅
girls having each others backs and sisterly devotion✅
This book is just perfectly made for me. It was so much fun to read. And Daisy is really the best.

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
I was super into the first 1/3 of this. I loved both Jasmine and Chelsea (though Chelsea is more abrasive, she is amazing and a fighter) along with their friends and families. The conflicts both at school and home were well executed and realistic. I just started to lose interest and felt as though it was getting a bit repetitive after a while. It may be the mood of the week, or maybe it needed tighter editing. Whichever is the case, it tempered my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I do love that it is a book I feel I can recommend to younger readers in the YA range who love contemporary social justice stories.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

April 2019 Stats

April was another good month. I'm so happy to have my reading mojo back this year!

April Favorites:

*whisper shouts* Everyone read Spinning Silver. Seriously.

April in Numbers:
New Reads: 9
Rereads: 1

MG: 3
YA: 2
Adult: 5

Fiction: 10
Non-Fiction: 0
Realistic Fiction: 5
Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 5

And onto May! A month that is filled with more stuff than December in terms of events and celebrations. Here's hoping I can find time to read too. May has so many cute looking romcom releases I'm looking forward to. Just perfect for June vacation reading! There is also the obligatory TBR shelf pic. If you are noticing that the shelf has even more books, it's because all my summer book club titles are on there now too.

Have you ready any books that recently that are new favorites? What are you looking forward to reading?