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Review: The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
Recommended: yep
For a heartbreaking but beautiful story and way of writing, for revelations that constantly hurt more

Summary

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

Thoughts

This book took me a long time to actually read because I knew it would be difficult. How could a book about a girl who was sexually assaulted, at the same time as a boy was as well at the same party, be anything but? There’s some magical realism in here that helps, mercifully, to distance and navigate the the pain. It does so much more than that, but for me it was extremely helpful in that way too.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan
Recommended: yep!
for a story of fighting abuse and inequality, for a story that will piss you right the fuck off and make you want to fight alongside them

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

Thoughts

This is one of those books that I’ve really wanted to read for a while, but also knew that it would not be an easy read emotionally for me because of it’s topic. Zara and her family are getting harassed at school and in the town and as it gets worse, the family struggles with how to handle it. I would recommend this for classrooms, but only ones led by a teacher who can teach to the empathy required to have this story matter and make an impact.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark
Expected publication: August 9, 2022!

Recommended: yes!
Middle school classrooms (and even young high school) would be EXCELLENT, for a look at accessible youth activism, for a lot of fascinating learning about the bad AND the good of natural disasters, for two other “serious” storylines for the MCs that handle really difficult situations, for a book that has really mature students which was a breath of fresh air (having been one of those and not the partiers, it was nice to see a book acknowledge I existed as more than a lame side character foil of boringness)

Summary

Explosive volcanic eruptions are cool, really, cool. They inject ash into the stratosphere and deflect the sun’s rays. When eighth grader Jamie Fulton learns that snow fell in June in his hometown because of an eruption on the other side of the world, he’s psyched! He could have snowboarded if he’d lived back in 1815 during the year without a summer.

Clara Montalvo, who recently arrived at Jamie’s school after surviving Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, has a different take all this. She is astounded–and disturbed–by Jamie’s frenzied enthusiasm for what she considers an obvious disaster. The teens’ battling arguments cause science class disruption and create academic trouble: Jamie’s headed for a failing grade in science, and may not even graduate from eighth grade; Clara’s scholarship hopes are dashed.

And school isn’t the only place where Jamie and Clara are facing hardship: as they quarrel whether natural disasters can be beneficial, their home lives are also unraveling. Uncertainty about Jamie’s wounded brother returning from Afghanistan and Clara’s unreachable father back in Puerto Rico forces the two vulnerable teens to share their worries and sadness. As their focus shifts from natural disasters to personal calamities to man-made climate changes, the teens take surprising steps that astonish them. Ultimately, through hard work and growing empathy for each other, as well as for their classmates’ distress over the climate change affecting their lives, Jamie and Clara empower themselves and the people they touch.

Thoughts

If you don’t already know about the year without a summer where the entire world’s climate was drastically changed after a volcanic eruption, you’re in for a treat because this dives into a lot of it in a really accessible way. I had coincidentally just learned and read about it a bit before starting this book, so it was fun to see what new and familiar details there were about it. There were scientific descriptions of what happened, but at a fairly high level rather than the detail I’d read in the adult nonfiction book on the topic (makes sense).

My teacher side was going NUTS at how excellent this book would be for students. I intended to put this at the end of the review, but I’m just too excited to mention it. It’s a wonderful book for many reasons that I’ll get into, but seriously: get this book in schools. Science class, history class, social studies, activism clubs, English class…. EVERYWHERE! And what makes it truly special is having characters and story and emotion amidst all the “info” and teaching / learning moments.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark”
Posted in Book Talk

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that made me laugh (plus crowdsourced list!)

Hey y’all! Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish question idea that was originally created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, from way back in June 2010! Since January 2018, Top Ten Tuesday has been hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Thanks for taking it over! The idea is to make a list of ten books or bookish things on different topics each week. Check out her site for details on how to join and what the upcoming prompts are. 😊 You can also see all the posts from other bloggers linked on each weekly post on their main site.

This week’s prompt was for funny book titles, but the only one I could think of even close to this was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, which is only funny to me because I know what the style of her writing in it is.

Instead, I’m switching this up to be books that made me laugh, which is actually a post I did a year or two ago but still tracks. Maybe I’ll do a new list soon but for today this works! This list has both nonfiction and fiction, and a brief description of the kind of humor in each. 🙂

Crowdsourced List

The second part of this is a look at what books other have posted for today’s actual prompt. I’ve done this once or twice before for other Top Ten Tuesday prompts and had a lot of fun with it! Plus I’m curious what others have found, and if there even ARE any that multiple people mention. Let’s see…

Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday: Books that made me laugh (plus crowdsourced list!)”
Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa (8/9/22)

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa
Expected Release Date: August 9, 2022

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BOY! This was WAYY better than I expected. Kudos. What a ton of fun this was to read!

Recommended: yep
For a flashback timeline mystery, for a tricky narrator, for a mystery where everyone has motive

Summary

When Amaya is invited to Kaavi’s over-the-top wedding in Sri Lanka, she is surprised and a little hurt to hear from her former best friend after so many years of radio silence. But when Amaya learns that the groom is her very own ex-boyfriend, she is consumed by a single thought: She must stop the wedding from happening, no matter the cost.

But as the weeklong wedding celebrations begin and rumors about Amaya’s past begin to swirl, she can’t help but feel like she also has a target on her back. When Kaavi goes missing and is presumed dead, all evidence points to Amaya.

However, nothing is as it seems as Jayatissa expertly unravels that each wedding guest has their own dark secret and agenda, and Amaya may not be the only one with a plan to keep the bride from getting her happily ever after…

Thoughts

The book is almost entirely set in Sri Lanka besides a few portions of current day and flashback that are set in the United States with Amaya. An important note right there: the story does have a good number of flashbacks. You could in fact argue that almost the whole thing is a flashback, as it starts with Amaya being detained and picks up at that point late in the book after establishing how everyone got there. It also intersperses narrated chapters with interview transcripts of people in the story, usually one seen in the previous narrated chapter. I loved this, as I find some variation in the type of text gives the story a lot more texture (texture 😁).

Continue reading “ARC Review: You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa (8/9/22)”
Posted in Chatty

The Amazon First Read results are in… Kind of…

I mentioned recently that I was finally reading a book from Amazon’s first reads program that I was enjoying. After a few rounds of stinkers, I had pretty much given up on it. I finished one from it today though and it was…

Fine. It wasn’t excellent, but it wasn’t terrible. I’d say solidly average. Some good, some bad, overall fairly forgettable and some moments where I checked how much was left.

That’s not even the book I had posted about though, so there’s a second chance to impress me in the running. We’ll see if it can be anything better than “ok at best!”

Posted in Book Talk

August 2022 TBR: I mean, not much?

Hey y’all! Somehow, as I’m looking at my planned reads for August, I’m not seeing much. I had 4 books on my list, and one of them I’ve already finished. So this month will probably end up being a bit of a mishmash of whatever I happen to pick off my shelves or get from the library. I’ve managed to up if to 6 (one complete) based on what I’m already starting this month. Let’s take a peek!

No rhymes

The Reasons

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa: already finished! I got a BOTM copy secondhand but still before the publish date next week (8/9/22), and WOW was it way better than I expected. This one is already done!

Pictured: not how the book happens, but imagine if it did?
Continue reading “August 2022 TBR: I mean, not much?”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club (8/16/22)

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim!
Expected Release: August 16, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • Romance and meet-cutes are all well and good, but I do love something about matchmaking. It seems lovely to have someone who gets to know you so well they can recommend someone to you whom you might want to spend your life with. Sophie is taking a swing at being exactly that, even if she technically doesn’t have her degree in it. Side note: there are schools on matchmaking?
  • It’s all men in their 70s who are getting match-made, and I have really high hopes for that. I love love at all points in life, but I worry this could end up being treated in a really trite or cruelly comical way. Roselle, please do it justice!
  • This is prime to be sweet and tender and heartbreaking and make me cry a lot of different kinds of tears.

Summary

Newly minted professional matchmaker Sophie Go has returned to Toronto, her hometown, after spending three years in Shanghai. Her job is made quite difficult, however, when she is revealed as a fraud—she never actually graduated from matchmaking school. In a competitive market like Toronto, no one wants to take a chance on an inexperienced and unaccredited matchmaker, and soon Sophie becomes an outcast.

In dire search of clients, Sophie stumbles upon a secret club within her condo complex: the Old Ducks, seven septuagenarian Chinese bachelors who never found love. Somehow, she convinces them to hire her, but her matchmaking skills are put to the test as she learns the depths of loneliness, heartbreak, and love by attempting to make the hardest matches of her life.

Posted in Chatty

My Amazon First Reads picks may finally break their streak of being really disappointing!

Hey y’all! I’ve mentioned before in some reviews of books I read that were from the Amazon First Reads program that they had continuously not impressed me. Some were so unenjoyable that I just DNFd the book usually between 20-50% depending on how generous I was feeling about giving it a chance.

WELL! I think I’ve finally found one that’s working for me! Oddly enough, it was for the July first reads that I put off choosing until the very last day of the month that I was able to choose them. I’ve been so disheartened by how bad previous choices were for me that I was feeling like I shouldn’t bother… but ultimately, I can’t have 2 free books offered and not even look at them!

I’m glad I did because there were several intriguing choices. I was debating on, and accidentally opened the chapter sampler of it. I realized that was a good idea to help me decide if I would like it, and three chapters later I realized yes, I liked it, and should probably just get the whole book. xD

Hopefully this holds true, and I’ll have a cheerful review of No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge soon!

Summary

Lena Sharma is a successful San Francisco restaurateur. An immigrant, she’s cultivated an image of conservatism and tradition in her close-knit Indian community. But when Lena’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble, her ties to her daughter, Maya, and son, Sameer—both raised in thoroughly modern California—slip further away.

Maya, divorced once, becomes engaged to a man twelve years her junior: Veer Kapoor, the son of Lena’s longtime friend. Immediately Maya feels her mother’s disgrace and the judgment of an insular society she was born into but never chose, while Lena’s cherished friendship frays. Meanwhile, Maya’s younger brother, Sameer, struggles with an addiction that reaches a devastating and very public turning point, upending his already tenuous future.

As the mother, daughter, and son are compromised by tragedy, secrets, and misconceptions, they each must determine what it will take to rebuild their bonds and salvage what’s left of their family.

Posted in Book Talk

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Wanna Go!!!

Hey y’all! Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish question idea that was originally created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, from way back in June 2010! Since January 2018, Top Ten Tuesday has been hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Thanks for taking it over! The idea is to make a list of ten books or bookish things on different topics each week. Check out her site for details on how to join and what the upcoming prompts are. 😊 You can also see all the posts from other bloggers linked on each weekly post on their main site.

This week’s prompt is place I want to go that I’ve read about in books, whether real or fake. This is insanely easy for me both because I love to travel physically, and because I read a TON of books set in places I’ve never been around the world. That’s a specific draw for me. 🙂

I did have a weird moment of realization during this though. Since fictional places are also included in today’s list options, I got to thinking how there didn’t seem to be any fictional place I’d ever want to visit because in books they’re always so violent and dangerous and a million things could kill me. This was followed by me thinking how someone from one of those places would view Earth and/or the United States. And I was shocked when I realized, oh… they might feel the same. 😅 War and human rights issues constantly, a car might run you over, some places on Earth have now become literally too hot for humans to live anymore… there are definitely some issues here, even if they aren’t literal dragons. I mean, heck, we even had a recent plague!

Side note: reading about real current events in a dramatized, fictionalized way would be cool. I’d read that news site.

Anyway. The list.

The Books

Approximately arranged by how far away they are from me currently.

The Places

The Cat I Never Named: Bihac, Bosnia

Because this book was incredible and more than enough to make me fall in love with Bosnia and want to see where they’re at now, knowing the history.

Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Wanna Go!!!”