Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right ad...moreCheck out more reviews at Across the Litoverse
Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right adorable depiction of two girls falling in love. For starters, I found the evolution of Mariko and Akiko's relationship had a natural pace to it, and the two girls played their doubts and insecurities off one another well. In the first collection, Mariko's narrative takes the lead, and we see how her admiration of Akiko becomes infatuation, which then matures into Mariko's first love. Throughout this section, readers follow the small, faltering steps Mariko takes before she's able to name her feelings for her best friend, and we're given a view of the unwitting attraction and initial self-denial that accompanies the first crush of an LGBTQ kid.
I also appreciated that Girl Friends doesn't follow a standard coming-out narrative. While the main audience of Girl Friends will likely be younger, queer-identified readers who might find themselves in the same situations as Mariko and Akiko, Morinaga doesn't turn the work into a Coming Out event. In the second collection, Mariko and Akiko do discuss their future, and the girls dream of a time when they'll share their relationship with family and friends—but for now, while the girls are still in high school, they choose to enjoy their time together.
Definitely a welcome addition to any yuri collection!
Ideal for: Yuri fans and queer-identified readers; Manga fans who like a well-crafted romance and the high school drama inherent to falling for a close friend; Folks who liked Sasameki Koto and Aoi Hana in particular.(less)
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At four...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At fourteen, an aggressive, long-settled satellite colony of tumours was discovered in her lungs. As a last resort treatment, Hazel enrolled in a clinical trial for a new drug called Phalanxifor—and now, she's living on borrowed time.
As the novel opens, sixteen-year-old Hazel's closest "friend" is An Imperial Affliction, a novel written by the reclusive author Peter Van Houten. She re-reads the novel because of Van Houten's complex portrayal of a young girl's struggle with cancer and his careful understanding of what it means to be dying and to not have died yet. Her parents decide to send Hazel to a church-based Cancer Kid Support Group in an effort to get their daughter engaged with the world again—and there, her life is re-written by a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters.
Brilliant book that did, in fact, make me feel all of the things. ALL of them. John Green offers a multi-facted view of Hazel and Augustus, and reminds readers that every one of us cannot be reduced to a single condition or social label or whatever the case may be. Green doesn't humanize a social or health issue here—instead, he shows us the complicated lives of three kids who learn to live despite their cancer. A subtle shift, no doubt, but a remarkable one to witness on paper.
As well, I love that John Green expects more of his readers than the standard YA author. While Green writes for teens, he never writes down to them. And, when it comes to the emotional spectrum and the honesty written into The Fault in Our Stars, Green proves his work needs to be read by teens and adults alike.
Ideal for: Nerdfighters (or Nerdfighters-in-training); Clever teens who need a lesson on real-life romance; Adult YA diehards who don't mind crying openly on the morning/evening commute; Readers looking to remember the transformative power of the written world; You, if you're reading this.(less)
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countrysid...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countryside with her Educational Reform Association to write a new textbook based on the testimonies of the lower and middling peasants of West Village. Jingqiu comes from an impoverished and politically questionable urban family, and her impressive writing skills coupled with her endurance allow Jingqiu to redeem what she views as her political shortcomings. She aims to fit in with her hosts and the rural way of life until she meets Sun Jianxin (a.k.a. Old Third), a man who had once lived with her host family as she is now. From the moment the two meet, an instant and impossible love blooms—Old Third comes from a powerful military family while Jingqiu's father was sent to a labour reform camp as a reviled landowner.
Once Jingqiu returns to the city, Old Third continues to pursue her at all costs. But Jingqiu cannot ignore her mother's warning: one slip leads down a road of hardship. One simple mistake—whether it be a misinterpreted letter, an overheard comment, or a neighbour who witnesses a her walking with an unknown man—can ruin a girl's reputation and damage her family's social standing. Even with those fears running through her head, Jingqiu falls further in love with Old Third, and approaches what will no doubt cause her a lifetime of heartache…
Ai Mi captures Jingqiu's suffocating anxiety with grace—she's a quick and clever girl, but sadly, she must redirect her energies into constant self-policing to avoid bringing greater hardship onto her family. Also, love during the Cultural Revolution speaks loudest through the small, secretive details (e.g. Old Third buying new boots for Jingqiu after she ruins her feet at work; Jingqiu sews Old Third's letters into her jacket to protect them from outsiders). I did find Jingqiu's fierce pride could get frustrating at times, though I understand why she would refuse to accept money and other gifts from her friends and from Old Third. Overall, a great addition to the reading list and an excellent representative of modern Chinese literature.
Ideal for: Readers who like their romances tragic, impossible, and a touch melodramatic; Folks with an interest in Chinese literature and personal stories from the Cultural Revolution; Readers who notice the small details in life and value the guarded gestures of two lovers living in bad times.(less)
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of Di...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of District 13. Her home in the Seam was burned to ash, along with ninety percent of its population. Gale survived. Katniss's mother and sister, Prim, escaped. Peeta was captured by the Capitol after the second Games came to an explosive close. And the spark of revolution in the districts has caught into a towering inferno of dissent.
Despite her fragile state, Katniss is called upon to lead the rebels as their symbolic Mockingjay. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn in District 13's game, to accept responsibility for the countless lives lost, and to alter the future of Panem's governance. To do this, she must pledge herself to Alma Coin, the woman destined to become the new president of Panem, and rid herself of the anger that comes after leaning her life has been planned out since the first Hunger Games.
She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost.
I definitely felt there was too much plot for one novel to handle—between Katniss's mental damage, the sinister agenda of District 13, and the offensive launched against President Snow and the Capitol, Mockingjay was bursting under the weight of its excess. Plot lines were condensed for the sake of forging one compact package as opposed to two well-balanced novels, and I could sense the narrative floundering therein. And also, the fact that Katniss kept getting knocked unconscious at the peak of each battle became quite frustrating—she's the girl on fire, not the girl on morphling.
Overall, a mixed reaction to the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, though I'm still glad to have the conclusion in place.
Ideal for: Readers who knocked off the first two books and need some resolution; Dystopian teens who like a quick read and who don't pull at loose threads; Folks who like convolutions and darkness in their teen romance novels.(less)
Within the circular maze of black-and-white-striped tents, and against a midnight canvas of stars and white f...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Within the circular maze of black-and-white-striped tents, and against a midnight canvas of stars and white fire, circus patrons lose themselves in the unmatched wonder of Le Cirque des Rêves. But behind the smoke and mirrors lies a fierce competition waged between two illusionists, bound to the contest by their teachers' on-going gentleman's agreement. Celia and Marco have trained since childhood to compete in a "game" with no clear timeframe and no concrete rules. Unbeknownst to the players, this game allows for only one victor, and the circus will be the venue for a remarkable battle of imagination and endurance.
As the circus travels through Europe and then on to the world, the feats of magic spiral to fantastic new heights at each location. But the game absorbs the lives of all those involved in its waking dream—from the eccentric circus owner and the elusive contortionist, to the forlorn fortune-teller and the red-headed twins born into the venue. When Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, the duo transform the competition into a collaborative effort without knowing that the game must end in sacrifice…
Erin Morgenstern hypnotizes with her prose and offers a bright window into a world where mystery pervades and magic is entirely real. The Night Circus is comprised of short, quick chapters that are ideal for commuting readers, though the non-linear movement through the narrative might disorient at times (re: near the end where we jump between 1901 and 1902 in quick succession). Though, being a fan of Doctor Who, I enjoy those breaks from an "A to B" novel structure. I understand now why fashion designers and graphic artists have been captured by The Night Circus, given the lush attention to clothing and the overall style of the circus proper. An excellent book for October in particular, with a steaming cup of tea at hand.
Ideal for: All the kids who ever dreamed of running away with the circus; Readers who love modern fairytales and magic realism blended with a nice bit of tea; Romance junkies who crave an extra bit of magic in their stories; Folks with a soft spot for Halloween and the otherwordly.(less)