Tag Archives: book review

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.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left but to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a new, refreshing twist to the old vampire story. Set in Mexico City, one of the only cities in Mexico that’s supposed to be without vampires, the book follows five different perspectives as the story unfolds. There’s Domingo, a regular human street kid, Atl, a vampire on the run, Nick, a vampire chasing Atl, Rodrigo, a human helping Nick, and Ana, the cop after the two vampires. Domingo and Atl have are the main main characters, and have the most chapters to themselves.

I’m pretty sure the book states there are around ten different kind of vampires though in the book we see three. How the vampires differ is very interesting as is the lore behind them all. Word building is definitely this book’s major strength, and one area that is spent the most time developed. Everything felt very real. I could really picture the world, and it all made sense.

 The characters were all developed. They all had their own histories, motivations, personalities. No one is pure and sweet. They were all twisted in some way. Domingo and Atl were my favorites which was nice since they were the main focus. The only drawback was I still wasn’t very connected to them. I was concerned and I wanted to know how everything would unfold, but I wasn’t that emotionally invested in them. I remember wondering if they would die, but I had no anxiety over it. I was very calm about it, and I wish I had been more tied to them.

Overall, Certain Dark Things is a solid four star book that I would recommend to others. The world is great. Characters were detailed. While I wish I had been more emotionally invested, I still had a good time, and it was an enjoyable read. 

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

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But one thing I’d learned from being a son of Frey- I couldn’t always fight my friends’ battles. The best I could do was be there to heal their injuries.

The Hammer of Thor is the second book of the trilogy The Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. I’ve briefly reviewed the first book here. It’s a series based on Norse mythology, and this book in particular follows Magnus and his friends trying to find Thor’s hammer while trying to stop another of Loki’s plans. 

I really liked how this book expanded on Sam being Muslim while interacting with Norse gods. It also detailed more about sign language when Hearthstone, who is deaf, signs which I also liked. This book also introduced Alex who is transgender and gender fluid, and she quickly became one of my favorite characters. I’ve looked through other people’s reviews, and as far as I’ve seen the only people with problems with the representation in this book disagree with Alex and think it’s inappropriate for children. So I think that’s a good sign.

It’s usually common for the second book in the series to have a dip in quality, but I found that I liked this one more than the first one. In the first book, I struggled with the mythology, and it slowed down reading. This time, I knew who was who already so that made reading a lot easier and more enjoyable. 

The characters continue to be the strong point of the series for me. I love all of them individually, and all their relationships with each other. They grow and change, and it’s simply a pleasure to read. Magnus is still a very strong protagonist to me. He’s soft, and the others allow him to be soft without ridicule. It’s very refreshing.

The plot is much the same as his other books. Fetch this, something goes wrong, fetch that, something goes wrong, get information here, something goes wrong, and so on and so forth. But it doesn’t bother me like it does other readers who have read his other two series with Percy Jackson. Maybe if I had read that it would, but to me it’s nice to know what will basically happen. I’m invested in the story, but even with all the action and plot twists I’m not on the edge of my seat with my heart racing. That can be a negative to some people, but it was a nice change of pace for me.

Reading The Hammer of Thor almost felt like coming home. I sank into this book, and I didn’t want it to end. It was comforting, funny, lighthearted, and everything that I needed at the moment. I look forward to the third book coming out in October.

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.

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

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First, let me say that I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It in no way changes my opinions on this book. 

 

The Gauntlet is an own voices middle grade fantasy that’s adeptly compared to Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair. It follows twelve year old Farah as she has to find her seven year old brother Ahmad, who has ADHD and has fallen into the game The Gauntlet. Farah and her two friends have to win all the challenges to win the game. If they win, they can get out. If they lose, they are stuck there forever. 

I loved every character in this book. From Farah to The Architect (the master of the game) to the giant talking lizards I liked each of their personalities and how that fit into the book. The three friends Farah, Ellie, and Alex had that whole this is their one trait and everything they do kind of reflects on that. Usually that annoys me, but not this time. I think it helped that with the challenges they had to do it wasn’t just one person having a specialty in that challenge. They all had to work together. 

Speaking of the challenges they had to do, I liked them. I thought they were interesting. Though on the second on I’m still not sure what they were doing. It was a little hard to picture.

The reveal of who The Architect was surprised me. I was suspecting a completely different person, but it all made sense looking back. Which is the best really when you are surprised but it still makes perfect sense.  

The description was wonderful. Though there was one part were Farah thinks that she is just too tired  and frightened to take anymore in, but then proceeds with a full page of description. But, the food that was described sounded great. I have no idea what any of it was, but it makes me want to look it all up and try it.

This is Riazi’s debut novel, and I think she knocked it out of the park. It doesn’t say anything about there being a sequel anywhere, but I think there is room for one. The end left some strings out there that could be tied. Though there is one big question I have that feels less like oh maybe if there’s a sequel it would be addressed, and more like eh I think you forgot something. So I wish I had an answer for that.

Overall, this book was a fun, fast read. I read it in one sitting, and I give it five stars. I think both kids and adults can read this and enjoy it equally. It’s definitely a book I would recommend. 

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.