Review: This was a very fun, coming-of-age novel. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style. She finds humor in the mundane, and she paints a vivid picture of family and culture. I liked most aspects of the book, but the way the central romance unfolded annoyed me tremendously. It was a very believable premise leading up to the declaration of feelings, but the fall out that would of resulted feels a bit underplayed. Perhaps I have strong feelings about this because I personally don’t care for romance arcs where the relationship with the close friend is thrown to the wayside in favor of a romantic one.
Although it predates the Netflix series Never Have I Ever by a few years, I think that people who enjoyed that show would enjoy this book tremendously. It explores a lot of similar themes such as building a cross-cultural Indian/American identity, marriage, love, sexuality, family, and friendship.
I did not like the casting for this audiobook. The performer had a melodic voice, but she sounded way too old to be believably portraying a teen girl. Also, I am always a little leery of the accuracy of accents when a person is not from that culture.
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 2, 2020 by HarperAudio
Review: DidRebel of the Sands have a love child with The Selection and Children of Blood and Bone??! If so, I’m pretty sure it’s this book. But in all seriousness, this book contains bits and pieces of a number of YA books I have read, including another book I just reviewed: Witches Steeped in Gold. It wasn’t entirely original, but I really loved the way magic was incorporated into the story. I was far less enthused about the romance. It just felt…weak. I don’t really have any other way to describe it. The chemistry between Karina and Malik was extremely lackluster. In fact, for some reason I just found Malik’s character to be lackluster in general. We know he is faced with an impossible choice – kill the princess or let his sister die – but he kind of just accepts it lying down (though I do like what the author did at the end with his character). Karina, on the other hand, also has a difficult choice, but shows so much more strength of character, despite her reluctance to accept her future role as queen. Maybe the author will change my mind about this in the sequel, because the relationship between the two will undoubtedly play a key role in the trajectory of the story. I hope so because I like the world she has created and wish to see more of it.
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 20, 2021 by HarperTeen
Review: I have been dragging my feet when it comes to writing this review, not because I didn’t like the book, but because it has so many similarities to two other books I have recently read. This is a very strong readalike for Children of Blood and Bone and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. It has been hard for me to draw any clear distinctions between my feelings about the three, though I can say that I enjoyed them all. I can’t help but note that white hair on magic users seems to be a very popular trend in YA fantasy fiction that is inspired by African and/or Caribbean folklore. I thought this striking imagery was very distinct to the Legacy of Orisha trilogy, but it seems to have made it’s way into other series as well. One repeating trend I have also noticed (that I actually quite like) is the finely drawn line between hero(ine) and villian(ess). A line that is often crossed by both the former and the latter in such a way that these distinctions become meaningless. Life is messy, and I like when I can relate to both the protagonist and the antagonist in equal measure. It tickles me even further when these roles reverse at some point in the story. I think this series has quite a lot of potential, and it is very possible I might love the second book…we will just have to wait and see.
P.S. If I had to rate the cover of this book it would be 5/5 stars.
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 13, 2020 by Random House Graphic
Review: It is rare for me to read a graphic novel, and even more rare for me to review one. In this case, however, I felt a review was entirely necessary because I was so impressed by the creator’s work. Nguyen managed to convey both time and place entirely through the use of color and wardrobe – a feat that allowed him to seamlessly weave together the present, the past, and the fantastical into one cohesive story. Just…wow.
Another thing I rarely do is save quotes from books, but I couldn’t help but screenshot the line, “They’re only stories. They’ll change when they need to.” I don’t know why, but this little epiphany completely blew my mind and changed the way I now look at retellings and adaptions of classic stories. I also think it sums up this graphic novel fairly well. At it’s core, it’s about a family who communicates through stories when they cannot find the words to express something important to one another. I have always believed in the power of stories, and the execution of this message is just played out so beautifully in this format.
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 22, 2020 by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Review: I personally did not find this book to be a thrilling read, however, I will most certainly be recommending it to young readers. Aside from a few curse words scattered here and there, it is actually a pretty “clean” book. It read more like middle grade fiction, despite the fact our amateur sleuth is an older teenager. Because the main protagonist, Elatsoe, is asexual, there is no romantic angle whatsoever. The setting is interesting and would likely appeal to young readers – kind of a re-imagined United States where the paranormal is considered normal. All things considered, I think I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read it as a pre-teen.
Title: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Page Count: 432
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 20, 2020 by Simon Pulse
Review: I went into this book without reading the synopsis, so to say that I was blindsided by the science fiction angle would be an understatement. This book has very strong undertones of magical realism for the first half of the book and them BAM!…it hits you with aliens. Admittedly, the concept was clever…aliens abducting illegal aliens. It takes a strong stance on immigration issues, and is a clear reprimand for how immigrants are treated by the United States government.
Although I found this to be an enjoyable read, I feel that the author tackled too many issues with her story line. I can appreciate a good genre crossover – combining magical realism and science fiction was creative – however, the plot became very convoluted for the last half of the book. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if the author had tightened up the plot a bit. In addition to the magical realism elements, extraterrestrials, and social commentary, there is also a romance that plays out between the main character, Sia, and the hot new guy at her school. Through the lens of this relationship the author explores trauma, first love, racism, family dynamics, and abuse. Combined with all the other elements of this story, it’s just a lot. Perhaps if these additional elements had been more subtle, it would have worked, but I felt that taking on so much detracted from the flow of the story.
It is very unclear to me whether this book is meant to be part of a series or a standalone. The author leaves the readers with a cliffhanger, but I cannot find any references to a sequel.
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Swoon Reads
Review: This was a unique coming-of-age novel with a very diverse cast of characters. My favorite elements of the book were the rich descriptions of Dia de Muertos traditions and the relationship between Julian and Yadriel. The romance that developed between Julian and Yadriel felt very organic, and served as a great mechanism for character development. I also loved the paranormal spin to the story, with Julian being a ghost, and thought that overall it was very creative.
My biggest qualm about the book was the very cliché villain reveal at the end. I had hoped my predictions were wrong and that the author would surprise me, but unfortunately this was not the case. The ending also wrapped up a little too nicely in my opinion, especially given how dark a lot of the content was following the climax of the story.
Review: It took me a long time to decide how I feel about this book, and to be honest I still don’t really know. Lewis is a fantastic writer, so I didn’t dislike the book, but at the same time I felt very unfulfilled by it. She addresses some very timely topics, yet in the end I did not really take anything away from story. I found many of the conversations between characters to be very cringey (probably intentionally so) and the twist at the end was not as shocking as I think it was intended to be. Some elements of the story were interesting, however, I don’t think this book will be one that sticks with me in the years to come.
Review: There are a few prolific science fiction writers that I have had on my TBR list for some time, and Ursula K. Le Guin is one of them. I decided to tackle The Left Hand of Darkness because of it’s many awards and stellar reviews. Unfortunately, despite it’s many accolades, I did not personally enjoy it. I do, however, understand why it has received the praise bestowed upon it. It is a rather revolutionary work, both for the time it was written and the current time, and it is deeply philosophical….too philosophical for me. Although I do like a book that expands my thinking, I found it to be boring. Gethen as a setting sounds like my personal hell – cold and icy. The ambisexual nature of the native people was interesting, but there was not any particular character that I especially liked. The pacing of the book is hard to describe because to me it felt slow in some parts and rushed in others. All things considered, it is unlikely that I will read anymore books by Le Guin, but nevertheless I can say that I truly appreciate what she has done for the science fiction genre.
Review: This really may be a matter of personal preference, but this book had far too much action and not enough plot/character development for my tastes. In my mind, it was kind of the equivalent of one of those action packed movies that has so many explosions you eventually become unaffected by them. The battle sequences were so long, that rather than finding them thrilling, I just wanted to move on with the story. I was thoroughly unsatisfied with the backstories for Karim and Zala, and therefore had difficulty connecting with them as characters. The past is referenced often, but not in much detail, so the picture of how we got to this place of conflict is unclear. In short, I liked the concept of this book far more than the execution.
I listened to this book in audiobook format and I thought the performer did a good job even though I wasn’t really feeling the storyline.