Just finished this one and found myself in a post-reading high. Found this to be an exhilarating read, and I found myself drawn back to it every timeJust finished this one and found myself in a post-reading high. Found this to be an exhilarating read, and I found myself drawn back to it every time I tried to put it down - just as Andi is drawn to Alex's diary.
Andi's pain is palpable throughout the story. Her frustration, anger and sadness are just so overwhelming. I can see how some of it may be a bit over the top for some readers, but I never had that problem.
Until about halfway through the book, I was kind of wishing this had just been a straight up historical fiction novel - I wanted more and more details about the Revolution, more than would have been shared in a diary. But as Andi became more invested in the history, I became more invested in her as a character....more
Absolutely couldn't put this one down - devoured it in one day, but had so much to think over I didn't think I could do it justice in a review writtenAbsolutely couldn't put this one down - devoured it in one day, but had so much to think over I didn't think I could do it justice in a review written any quicker.
Lina's story was absolutely new to me - I was vaguely aware that Stalin's Soviet Union wasn't the happiest place to be in WWII, but had no idea what that actually entailed. Sepetys gives us one glimpse into the terror and hardship faced by Lithuanians who were deemed dangerous to the cause of the Soviets - even the children who didn't understand what communism meant, or what their parents' activities were.
Lina's story is one of great hardship and uncrushable hope - but not in a sappy way. Lina clearly is angry and terrified, but feels she has to keep up a front to protect her younger brother - not only to keep his fears in check, but to make sure she doesn't attract unwanted attention from the guards towards her family. Lina takes enormous risks by putting her feelings into words and drawings, all of which are described perfectly by Sepetys. The imagery is powerful and using an artist as the protagonist allows for some truly poetic descriptions in an otherwise bleak story.
No spoilers, but I have to confess - I was totally crying by the end of this. Pretty much sobbing as I finished it. A true testament to how powerful this book is, since I'm not much of a crier!...more
What a fascinating and unique time and place Yang chose to explore. And it's clear that Yang did her research - there are tons of historical and cultuWhat a fascinating and unique time and place Yang chose to explore. And it's clear that Yang did her research - there are tons of historical and cultural details crammed into this book, and only rarely did I feel the info was dragging down the story.
I loved that unlike so many other historical novels, Emmajin breaks into the world of men on her own merits, rather than having to masquerade as a man. Granted, there's a certain amount of class privilege that leads to her post in the army (she is the oldest grandchild of the Khan - being a princess has some perks!), but it was still refreshing.
I'll admit at times I was a little nervous about how Marco Polo was influencing Emmajin. At times it felt a lot like the worlds of Christendom (Europe) and Mongolia were polar opposites, and Emmajin would always side with the Christian perspective. Overall, though, Yang does a good job of showing Emmajin's rationale, and introducing Mongolian characters who do hold similar values, they just aren't the ones in power to be influencing the greater culture. I just wish we'd seen a bit more evolution on Marco's side to further underscore the idea that there might not always be one right and one wrong answer - but then again, Emmajin is the only one with much of a character arc, so it doesn't really stand out too terribly much.
I did enjoy how most of the story was devoted to Emmajin's coming of age and her adventures - her feelings for Marco develop gradually over the course of the story, but never overpower the main narrative. Refreshing!...more
As someone who helped start a social justice club in her own high school (a gay-straight alliance in my case), I was definitely excited going into thiAs someone who helped start a social justice club in her own high school (a gay-straight alliance in my case), I was definitely excited going into this book, and could sympathize with a lot of the struggles Asha and Carey face as the Latte Rebellion grows from fun money-making scheme to nationally-recognized movement (okay, my little club never quite went that far).
While overall a strong and poignant look at the way goals and friendships can change in the face of life-altering events (discovering an important movement, graduating high school and choosing colleges), I felt that a lot of the plot was moved forward by contrivances. I wasn't quite convinced with the reasoning for the school rejecting the Latte Rebellion in the first place, and the quick jump to conclusions about the purpose of the group seemed far too fast. Just a few too many negative coincidences to keep me totally immersed in the story. I still enjoyed it, and loved how even though a lot of the plot focuses on being of various mixed races, this still didn't feel like an Issue novel, because the Latte Rebellion is never really the whole point of the story - rather its the catalyst to get Asha, Carey and Miranda to look at their lives and relationships and learn about what is most important to them, a story that is universally understandable. ...more
A solid contribution to the small (but growing) "downtrodden Middle Eastern girl" genre. Zulaika has an interesting story arc, in that in the beginninA solid contribution to the small (but growing) "downtrodden Middle Eastern girl" genre. Zulaika has an interesting story arc, in that in the beginning her hopes and dreams are rather modest and it's only as she's exposed to the world outside of her home that she begins to dream of going to school and getting her cleft palate fixed. Her desire to gain an education doesn't come out of nowhere or from a desire to be like her brothers - it seems it generally hadn't occurred to her prior to hearing that the American soldiers were insisting a school be built for girls.
But I think my absolute favorite part of the book may be Reedy's author's note. Reedy writes of his time in Afghanistan as a member of the National Guard and how he was initially disappointed that his mission wasn't to fight terrorists - instead he was working with Afghan communities to build schools and hospitals. I always find it interesting when someone can admit that perhaps they didn't always have the noblest of intentions....more
I kept running hot and cold on this one as I read reviews prior to its release. On the one hand, yay for an inter-racial romance - but do I really neeI kept running hot and cold on this one as I read reviews prior to its release. On the one hand, yay for an inter-racial romance - but do I really need another romance story? Debates over just how science-fiction-y the book actually is, and just a general mixed bag of reviews all contributed to me being slightly hesitant going in. Which may be why I was pleasantly surprised by this book - I didn't let my expectations get too high!
This isn't hard science fiction in the tradition of Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, but it isn't soft SF like Uglies or The Hunger Games, either. It strikes a good middle ground - enough science-y talk to convince me (a SF nerd who is woefully undereducated in real science) of the future-ness, but not so much techno-babble as to leave the newbie-SF reader completely lost.
I was also pleasantly surprised with how non romantic the story is, especially considering the Spider-Man kiss cover. There are plenty of romantic feelings and angst, but Amy and Elder are in such different places mentally that only one of them can really consider romantic feelings. But the mostly one-sided romance doesn't come off as creepy/stalkery. A delicate but oh-so-important balance.
The rest of the story comes out in fits and starts, with lots of dramatic cliff hangers at the end of chapters, drawn out because Amy and Elder alternate narration duties. It's all pretty straight forward, and the forecasting of the bad guy's badness begins pretty early on (really, there wasn't a more subtle example than saying the bad guy views Hitler as one of the good guys?), but it's a nice enough story, more of a mystery than a romance, with some nice SF set dressing....more
I loved The Rock and the River last year, so I was very excited to pick up this novel. In some ways it's radically different from Magoon's previous noI loved The Rock and the River last year, so I was very excited to pick up this novel. In some ways it's radically different from Magoon's previous novel, but in other ways it explores many of the same themes through a totally new lens.
Magoon is a little vague on some of the details here - we know Ella's skin tone is uneven for some reason, and her best (only) friend Z isn't really named Z or even Zachariah. Both kids, and new boy Bailey, are missing their fathers, but the reasons for the missing dads aren't revealed until near the end. But I think the lack of concrete details is meant to highlight that these details aren't what are important - rather, the feelings of fear, isolation and loneliness transcend their individual tragedies and help them recognize each other as kindred spirits.
Another excellent book from Kekla Magoon - I can't wait to see what she comes out with next!...more
Well, probably, because there is a lot more going on than just the Amazon werewolves. ButOMG. Amazon werewolves, guys.
Do I need to say anything more?
Well, probably, because there is a lot more going on than just the Amazon werewolves. But they're a highlight.
The first Billi SanGreal novel, Devil's Kiss, is one of my favorite paranormal books - and in the opening chapters of Dark Goddess I remembered why. The paranormal creatures in these books are the bad guys. Well, mostly. Chadda is a savvy enough author to put in some shades of gray. But those Amazon werewolves? They're not "kissing werewolves," as my husband dubs paranormal romance protagonists. They are beasts who will kill and eat you as soon as look at you. Also I love some of the twists Chadda puts on traditional stories - nothing so earth shaking as to make them unrecognizable, but fresh enough so you don't feel like you know everything before the story really gets going.
The action is absolutely nonstop here, and while I'm normally all for that, in this case it actually detracted a bit from feeling the danger Billi constantly says she's in. It's established early on, werewolves are bad news. Two Templars might be able to take on one werewolf, but fighting them one on one is too much. Yet Billi constantly comes out on top in werewolf battles - not really winning but certainly not losing. The first time it happened I could buy it, but after days of constant battling it felt like Billi was super-woman. She's an accomplished fighter and a Knight Templar, but she's also supposed to be 15, a squire for the Knights. Not a fatal flaw, but it's the only reason I'm not giving this the full five stars....more
While Hailey was likable enough, I had a hard time sympathizing with her. Almost all of her problems are either of her own making...or not that big ofWhile Hailey was likable enough, I had a hard time sympathizing with her. Almost all of her problems are either of her own making...or not that big of a deal. Everything starts spiraling out of control when her dad cancels their summer plans? Yes, that sucks, and is clearly a symptom of an underlying issue in their relationship, but Hailey keeps escalating the situation with her harebrained schemes that failed to make me feel much sympathy for this ultra-privileged girl.
Cook does do an excellent job of making Hailey sympathetic. Sometimes my gut reaction was to feel bad for her, but I'm not much of a fan of stories where everything could have been solved/avoided with one conversation early on in the story....more
So disappointed by this one. I was really looking forward to it - not only do I love dystopias, but I love any novel that looks at sexuality and gendeSo disappointed by this one. I was really looking forward to it - not only do I love dystopias, but I love any novel that looks at sexuality and gender roles. Part of me wondered if this was going to be a YA The Handmaid's Tale - wasn't holding my breath for it, but it would certainly be interesting.
Instead of the deft dystopian vision I was hoping for, I got a rather clunky story. The protagonist is preachy, constantly telling us how she's better than her friends because she isn't classist (with nothing in the text explaining why she may hold such countercultural opinions - she just happens to hold dominant American 21st century values in a 22nd century dystopia). The world building is almost nonexistant, as many important aspects of this future society are left unexplained - not the least of which is the titular XVI tattoo - why on Earth is the government so invested in the sexual goings-on of teenage girls? And while I can easily come up with half a dozen reasons the tattoo is mandatory for girls but apparently not for boys, I'd really like to have seen at least the government cover story for the tattoo.
I also really, really wish that the most common slang term in the book hadn't been a 21st century slur for transgender people. Really, Karr couldn't come up with a better shorthand for "transports" than "trannies?" It was especially disturbing when, before it was made clear what trans/trannies was short for, a character who's been in a fight is asked if he "kissed a trannie." It just made me really uncomfortable and kept pulling me out of the book (which happened quite often because damn do these kids talk about the various forms of transports a lot).
The novel wraps up rather neatly, so I don't think this is going to be part of that growing trend of releasing dystopian stories in trilogies. On the one hand, there's clearly a lot of worldbuilding that could be expanded upon in a sequel, but on the other, all of the major storylines were wrapped up so neatly that there's very little actual story left. ...more
Torn between "liked it" and "really liked it" here. I absolutely devoured this today - every time I was pulled away to do something else I was countinTorn between "liked it" and "really liked it" here. I absolutely devoured this today - every time I was pulled away to do something else I was counting the minutes until I could get back, totally drawn in by Jessica's struggles and hopes.
But even as I was compelled to keep reading, I recognize this isn't an entirely original story. Sure, I haven't read many books with disabled characters who are coping in the immediate aftermath of a huge physical injury, but Jessica and her friend Rosa, who has cerebral palsy, follow a traditional narrative arc and fall easily into the inspirationally disadvantaged trope. It's not so over the top that it becomes offensive (though in the early stages of their friendship, Jessica sometimes comes close in her praises of Rosa to others), but it's something to be aware of if you're looking for a new take on the disability story. Jessica is likable and you can't help but cheer her on, but sometimes she's so eager to please and help others and make them less uncomfortable that it becomes the definition of her character....more
When I reached the last page of this book, I actually had to double check the page count to make sure I wasn't missing anything. But no, the ending reWhen I reached the last page of this book, I actually had to double check the page count to make sure I wasn't missing anything. But no, the ending really is that abrupt, and leaves tons of potential plotlines unexplored. Instead of the terrifying survival story I was expecting, there's a bunch of repetitive scenes about checking cell phones, rummaging in the cafeteria, thinking about cute girls, and popping zits. Lots of potential here, but ends up stopping way too soon to really take advantage of the great ideas....more
Absolutely fascinating. Every few pages revealed some cool fact that I just had to read out loud to my husband. Amazing information packed into a visuAbsolutely fascinating. Every few pages revealed some cool fact that I just had to read out loud to my husband. Amazing information packed into a visually awesome book - even the cover and the title font choice are awesome! Can't recommend highly enough....more
omg, what a terribly painful book to read. Frances suffers terribly under her abusive mother - and indeed, some of the things that come out of her motomg, what a terribly painful book to read. Frances suffers terribly under her abusive mother - and indeed, some of the things that come out of her mother's mouth are far worse than the physical slaps Frances endures.
Chow does a wonderful job of slowly opening up Frances' world. In the beginning, Frances stoically accepts her mother's critiques, but as a teacher encourages Frances to explore her previously unknown speaking talent, Frances begins to recognize the power that words hold.
Outside of Frances and her mother, most of the other relationships aren't nearly as well developed. Frances and Theresa strike up a friendship incredibly fast, after Frances has resented Theresa for what seems like ages. After that quick bonding the relationship continues in fits and starts - the ups and downs not having much sense other than what will make Frances' life more difficult at any given moment. The romantic subplot takes awhile to get going, but once it does I was charmed by how realistic it was - overpowering deodorant, clammy hands, and sweaty prom outfits (after vigorous dancing) all immediately called to my mind my early romances far more than any idealized romance novel ever could.
As a member of the speech team in high school and college, I absolutely loved the competitive aspect of the story. While some of the details are different from how I competed, there are some details that were spot on - like the bitchy competitor who does her best to sabotage her fellow performers. Grr, I hated people like that!...more
If I'd put it together earlier that Friesner also wrote Sphinx's Queen, I think I would have ended up skipping this entirely. This was a bit of a chorIf I'd put it together earlier that Friesner also wrote Sphinx's Queen, I think I would have ended up skipping this entirely. This was a bit of a chore for me to work through, and has a lot of the same problems I saw in Sphinx's Queen. I need to pay better attention to who I'm reading...
We're less than two weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. It's been nine years since I read my first book on the tragedy, Ashes of Roses. It's still a terrible tragedy to read about. However, I feel there are much more powerful takes on this story - mainly ones that don't fall back on telling about important events, often via clunky and stilted dialog, over showing. Emotional and powerful moments, important to Raisa's development, were often only reflected on after the fact via dialog or inner monologues from Raisa. It was frustrating because this immigrant's story should be one of amazing highs and traumatic lows, but most of those except for the fire (and a few amazing coincidences near the end) happen off screen.
Raisa and many of the supporting characters come across as far too saintly to be real - and the only character that deviates from this pattern is punished for it. It was frustrating because I felt like we never really get to know any of these people - even Raisa, the protagonist - because I know that real people just aren't this goodhearted 24/7, at least not in numbers as great as these. There were also some really awkward attempts at showing the grittiness of the Lower East Side in 1910-1911, but censoring that grit in the most obvious and unnecessary ways. When Raisa first arrives in New York, prostitutes are alluded to multiple times within just a few pages - but before anyone actually says the word they interrupt themselves, saying such things aren't fit for a young woman to hear. Once would have been understandable, but there were at least three awkward pauses like this in one chapter. Definitely overkill....more
I've been dying to read this book since I saw the cover. Love the bright yellow color and the germs on the dress!
Luckily this holds up as an absoluteI've been dying to read this book since I saw the cover. Love the bright yellow color and the germs on the dress!
Luckily this holds up as an absolutely fascinating story, both for the science and the characters within. I loved learning about Typhoid and the spread of disease along with Prudence. I loved the encouragement she received from Dr. Baker (who, if Wikipedia is at all accurate, was a fascinating person in her own right. When do we get her story?!).
I didn't know much about Typhoid Mary before reading this - other than the basics that she had spread the disease while being healthy herself. Chibbaro makes Mary Mallon a sympathetic character, even as she does play a major role in the problems Prudence has to solve. Mary definitely presents a problem for the Health Department, but she isn't the villain - rather the continuing existence and spread of typhoid is the true villain of the novel....more
This is a very slim book with spare writing that nevertheless does an impeccable job of conveying the hardships and horrors of living in Sudan in 1985This is a very slim book with spare writing that nevertheless does an impeccable job of conveying the hardships and horrors of living in Sudan in 1985, at the outbreak of their civil war, as well as the difficulties in contemporary Sudan of obtaining a basic need like clean water.
I often say that I most love books where the ending feels like merely an ending to this part of the story, but the characters have lives that go on. I don't think I've found a more powerful example of that than A Long Walk to Water - where Nya's opportunities are about to grow in ways she can barely fathom, all thanks to the installation of a well in her village.
Giving this 4 out of 5 because I wanted moremoremore. Sometimes less can be more, but this is such a unique story, especially with the parallel stories of Salva in 1985 and Nya in 2009, that I craved more information about their lives....more