Category Archives: Book Reviews

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier is a middle grade graphic novel that follows two sisters, Catrina and Maya, as they move to a new town. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and her parents think if they move close to the ocean it will help here. The town they move to is obsessed with ghosts, and Maya becomes determined to meet one so she will know what dying is like. They are half-Mexican, and they don’t really know much about Mexican traditions. Día De Los Muertos is a big deal in this new town, and most of the storyline involves them learning and then taking part of that celebration.

Only a little over two hundred pages, I read this easily in one sitting. The art was beautiful, detailed and richly colored. The sister’s relationship was a high point to me as well. I found the storyline logically told from a writing standpoint, but a bit boring. Overall, I thought it was nice read, but nothing special.

I do feel the need to note that after I finished reading I looked around for reviews commenting on the representation, and I found a couple concerning articles. I would recommend reading this article talking about how Día De Los Muertos is represented, and this article on the missions that the book mentions. I couldn’t find a specific article on the cystic fibrosis aspect, but I did find a couple comments talking about how the book shows the disease as a death sentence when it really isn’t.

So I wouldn’t recommend this book after all that. I think there are other books out there that get it right, and would be more entertaining as well. But if you do decide to read it anyway, at least read the articles I’ve linked and keep their comments in mind.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Book Review

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“Why is life so complicated? Why can’t we just kiss who we like when we like? Why are there so many rules?”

This book follows Gabi Hernandez on her senior year of high school. I found Gabi to be completely relatable coming from a Mexican family myself. Gabi is Mexican American, and she’s dealing with a stubborn aspect of Mexican culture as she discovers poetry, love, sex, and every aspect of her body.

I loved the characters so much, starting off with Gabi. She’s a quirky girl who writes beautiful poetry, thinks a lot about food and boys, and is always there for her friends. Her best friends, Sebastian and Cindy, each have their own problems to deal with. There’s a closer insight to the obnoxious Mexican machismo and homophobia that’s very present when Sebastian comes out to his parents. However, I appreciated that the story focused on Sebastian having a happy life in spite of this. Same thing with Cindy and her pregnancy. (These aren’t really spoilers since they happen right at the beginning).

What I enjoyed the most about this novel was all the strong themes Quintero integrated so organically into the story. Gabi spends a lot of time dealing with her feelings about boys, wanting to have sex despite her mom being totally against sex before marriage, binge eating even though her mom frowns upon it, and coming to terms with her own body in ways she hadn’t imagined before.

“Sometimes I don’t want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy. I mean, I would never dare ask it who the fairest of them all is because I know the response would make me weep. But sometimes I feel okay about how I look and even think, I’d tap that, why not?”

Along with these themes, Quintero tackles very difficult topics, such as rape, abortion, and drug addictions. I think this book was very self-aware and conscious of the message it was sending, which was one of acceptance. I loved the way it interwove so many different themes without it feeling overwhelming, and the message didn’t come through like an after school special in any way.

I didn’t like the diary entry format of this book. Although I loved Gabi’s intimate narration in her journal, I wanted more scenes. There was so much more I wanted to know about all the side characters, especially Sebastian and Cindy. Many times Gabi just mentioned brief interactions with them without elaborating and I just wanted more from them. I also didn’t feel any connection to the love interest, Martin. He sounded great, but I saw him as a two-dimensional character. That’s why I think the format didn’t work too well for this book.

Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m so glad I got to meet Gabi and her amazing love of food, poetry, and boys. She was such a strong character with a powerful voice. I hope many others get to meet her.

Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat – Book Review

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“To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.”

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this trilogy. Before I begin, I would like to state the trigger warnings pertaining to these books. There is rape, pedophilia, violence, abuse, and slavery. I was highly disturbed in the first book, and although these aspects did ease up as the series progressed, they were never completely gone.

This is all to say that I did, as a matter of fact, enjoy this series very much. Despite all of my initial issues with it, I couldn’t put down any of the books. I read through this trilogy in three or four days, and I didn’t regret the sleepless nights caused by it.

I debated for days whether I even wanted to review these books or not. When I finished the third book, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I wanted to get away from this world and return to reality so I could feel like myself again. However, it’s been two weeks since I finished this trilogy, and I still have not fully escaped it. This is to say, I feel like I haven’t had enough of it. I miss the complex world, the characters, the intrigue, the twists and turns. I miss everything about them, so I decided it was time to review them.

I’ll keep it short and simple. Captive Prince follows Damen, a prince of a kingdom called Akielos, betrayed by his half-brother and forced to become a slave for the enemy kingdom, Vere. Damen is gifted to Laurent, prince of Vere, where Damen’s identity is hidden due to his having killed Laurent’s older brother during battle. Laurent commands physical abuse to befall on Damen plenty of times, so they pretty much hate each other from the start.

In order not to spoil the rest of the series, I’ll just say that there is a lot of character development in the second and third books. Eventually, Damen stops being a shackled slave enduring abuse, and Laurent stops being an entirely vile human being. Granted, character development doesn’t erase the past, which is why I still haven’t made up my mind about these books.

Aside from Damen and Laurent, there are an incredible set of characters. Mostly devious, but also fascinating and absolutely clever. I was attached to mostly everyone since they all had amazing characterization. The plot was also engaging. I never thought that I would be so interested in the politics of a fantasy world, but I couldn’t get enough of it. There are many devious plans in the works regarding the kingdoms, and there’s a lot of tension between all the leaders. It comes to the point that Laurent and Damen are forced to work together in order to restore and regain power of both of their kingdoms.

The romance was slow burning, which is the best type, if you ask me. I was skeptical at first because I couldn’t see how the author could ever pull off any sort of romance between these two very difficult characters, but let me tell you, she pulled it off, and it was organic and believable as hell. So I’ll give her props for that. Pacat really had a handle of these characters, and she showed the worst and best sides of both of them. I adored Damen from the start, but Laurent took a while to grow on me. I fought it a lot, but I can now say that I love Laurent as well. I don’t actually think either Damen or Laurent are good people, but I love them for what they stand for and for who they want to be. I think that’s what matters.

I don’t think these books would appeal to everyone. It’s important to go into them expecting heavy elements and not-so-perfect characters. Before I read them, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, and it was still difficult to let myself like them for what they are. I’ve learned to cherish these books, and I plan on re-reading them in the future. They’ve definitely stuck with me.

Review: The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee and David John

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Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea as one of the more privileged people there. She ate meat every day at least. When she was seventeen, in an act of rebellion, she crossed the river to visit China. She only wanted to visit for a week before she turned eighteen and started college. But she would never be able to return. She had to rebuild her life in China, and later, in South Korea unlearning all the propaganda she was indoctrinated with her whole life, and in general, learning how to live while not getting caught by the police. Then, twelve years later, she would again go on another remarkable journey to get her mother and her brother out of North Korea.

I will admit before picking up this book I knew pretty much nothing about North Korea. This book taught me a lot, and makes me want to know more. Lee’s story was overwhelming and sad and amazing. I was in a constant state of awe while reading.

The story is told in a very clear way. It was never boring or dry. The only thing I didn’t like about the writing was that there was a lot of heavy foreshadowing like, “She made this choice. It was the worst choice she could have made.” And other phrases very similar to that were used almost every chapter. It’s a little thing. Very easy to overlook in the grand scheme of everything, but it did happen and was a little irritating.

In the end, I gave this book five stars. I think it’s another book that everyone should read. 

Zombies in the East End by Roxanne Dent Review

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Zombies in the East End  sets place in 1876 in London during a brief zombie outbreak. It’s a paranormal steampunk book with a lesbian romance. It follows Billie, a six foot bouncer with a robotic hand, and her crush Callie, a widow who volunteers regularly to help sick and poor women  as people start coming back to life with an appetite for brains.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review. 

This book was super easy to read. I read it in five hours. I thought the concept was really interesting, and I liked that the action never really stopped, besides the whole second chapter being a huge info dump. All the characters were interesting people who worked well together. But, unfortunately, that’s all the good I can say about this book.

This might be because I’ve never read a steampunk book before, but the world confused me. Billie stands out for wearing masculine clothes, and it’s hard for her to be a doctor since she’s a woman and that’s not common, but there’s advanced technology with robots. Vampires are an accepted part of society, but the mention of magic and zombies shocked and confused them. It just seemed a little odd to me.

I felt the writing was very choppy. A lot was summarized, and there wasn’t a lot of emotions shown. I didn’t understand the character’s logic a lot of times, and everything was solved really fast. It also annoyed me that all the bad things stopped effecting Billie when she was around Callie because Callie was simply so beautiful, and Billie wanted to see her naked. Also whenever the characters would get to know someone new, one of the first things asked about is their love life. It was odd, and not realistic.

So I give this book two stars. I felt like it had a lot of potential, but it sadly didn’t live up to it. 

 

Rywka’s Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto Book Reveiw

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It hurts so much (for them we are not humans, just machines). Oh, pain! But I’m glad that I can “feel” that it hurts because as long as it hurts, I’m a human being. I can feel- otherwise it would be very bad. God! Thank You for your kindness toward us! Thank You, God!

Rywka’s Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto includes a diary written by Rywka Lipszyc. It was translated by Malgorzata Markoff, annotated by Ewa Wiatr, has a preface by Judy Janec, has contributions by  Alexandra Zapruder, Fred Rosenbaum, Hadassa Halamish, Esther Burstein, Zinaida Berezovskaya, and is edited by Anita Friedman.

Rywka Lipszyc was a fourteen year old girl who lived in the Lodz Ghetto. She details seven months of her life in her diary before she stops writing mid sentence. She talks about her faith in God, her wish to write better, her yearning for a better education, and her grief for her mother, her father, and her two younger siblings that died before she started writing.

The book includes facts about how the diary was found, and how it was then translated and later published. It also includes a little history about the ghetto she lived in, and the events she describes in the book which I found very helpful. It also includes pictures of the places she lived and worked at, and scans of her registration cards. Two members of her surviving family writes little essays at the end, and there is also the research they found about what happened after she stopped writing.

It’s a very moving story. One that I think everyone should read. History needs to be kept alive, and books like this one helps to do that.

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – Book Review

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So, this book rocked my world. My first favorite of 2017.

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I have no words to explain the level of awesome in this book, but I will try.

First of all, I’m so thankful to Jellybooks for giving me an advanced electronic copy to read. Last year I read We Are the Ants and it became one of my favorite books of 2016. I was eager to read anything else by Shaun David Hutchinson. I’ll be buying a physical copy of this beautiful book as soon as it’s released.

I have so much love for this book. It follows Ozzie, a boy who exists in a universe where every trace of his boyfriend, Tommy, has been erased from the universe. Nobody remembers Tommy’s existence, not even his own mother. Throughout the story, Ozzie theorizes on the reasons why this happened, as well as trying to figure out why the universe keeps shrinking in size. On top of adoring Ozzie, I fell hard for all of his friends and family. Ozzie’s best friend, Lua especially stole my heart, my lovely gender-fluid rockstar. And Dustin, who I’m pretty sure was ace, also stole my heart. And Ozzie’s brother, Renny. I mean, even Calvin was a small cinnamon roll, and I loved them all.

So aside from the characters, there were strong friendships and relationships that constantly shifted, and it all made sense, even though it shouldn’t have. As the universe shrunk, Ozzie’s world kept changing. It was frustrating, but also so relatable. I felt the same when I read We Are the Ants. It’s one of those stories where you’re aware something is off with the metaphysical world, but it makes perfect sense with the way you’ve felt mentally. It’s hard to explain, but the author does beautiful things with his stories.

I don’t think there’s much of a plot to this book, which added so much more depth. It’s a story about relationships, romantic and platonic. It’s a story about love, loss, growth, courage, and moving on. It’s about opening your eyes to the people in front of you, and showing them compassion and love. It’s about life and death and the nothingness at the edge of the shrinking universe. As Ozzie lost traces of the life he’d always known, I mourned my own personal losses. When you lose a loved one, sometimes it feels as if the universe swallowed them whole.

I’m sad to have finished this book simply because I wanted to continue living in Ozzie’s universe, as scary as it sometimes was. I wanted the story to go on. I’m looking forward to revisiting this book many times in the future. I think that’s a trend with all of Hutchinson’s books, actually. I think he’s now one of my favorite authors.

I definitely recommend this to everyone. I would understand if other people didn’t feel as strongly about this book. It resonated with me, but I don’t expect it will with everyone. It’s a very unique type of book. I’m glad I found it.

(Also, just have to mention the amazing, totally unexpected cameo of a certain pair from We Are in the Ants. It was a nice touch. It had me smiling like an idiot.)