Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

I really did not expect to be so drawn into this book. I knew it was going to be good but I was really touched by Shirin’s story. She is a 16 year-old Muslim girl living in the US 1 year after 9/11. Let’s just say it was easy for her. It was just easier for her to get through her day to just shut down and not let people in. She tried to convince herself that she didn’t care that people called her names or insulted her or just plain treated her like a walking stereotype. She had seen the worst of humanity after the post 9/11 fear of all things Islam and her wearing a headscarf made her an easy target. She went through the motions at school and break-danced after school with her brother and that was it. That was until she met Ocean James, a boy who seemed interested in actual getting to know her. This terrifies her. She doesn’t know why a guy like him would be interested in a girl like her and knows that while he might be a nice boy the world is not. She tries to push him away to try to protect him but also to protect herself from the world of hurt. The worst thing is that when she finally let him in and things inevitably go bad, she questions whether she is worth all the drama and hatred that is brought his way. That was truly heartbreaking. Over the course of the book, Shirin starts to open up not just to Ocean but to everyone else too. Yes, people are horrible. Even more so when they are afraid but shutting everyone else only shuts you out of opportunities and experiences that you would have missed otherwise. It gives them power over you. I know easier said than done. Ocean is also a good example of well meaning White Allies who try hard but don’t really understand how white privilege works. Ocean, truly doesn’t care that Shirin is Muslim or that she wears a headscarf. If anything, he likes that she is different and unapologetic. Shirin spends most of the book trying to push Ocean away because she knows what a shitstorm it’s going to be when their relationship goes public. He doesn’t believe her and tries to convince her it’s going to be okay. Well, sadly she is right and when racism against her threatens him and his place in school, it’s Shirin who has to make the decision to stay or go. The problem that many of us White allies is that we think we know what’s the best thing to do but fail to listen when our brothers and sisters of colors speak about what they really need from us. Ocean, while in love and well intention thought she was overacting, that he understood his classmates better. What he failed to realize was that he lived a privilege life and people will always accept him no matter what because of who he is. His life may not be perfect but it will always be easier then those in the marginalized communities. It’s a lesson we all need to learn. This is just a beautifully written book and I hope that it’s added to school curriculum for years to come because it has so much to give.

Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

I really do love a good mystery, especially when it’s well done. I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find that I was wrong. The clues were there but unless you were paying attention, you completely missed it. Just as many of the characters. Stevie is an amateur sleuth who wants to solve one of the greatest mysteries in American history. The Ellingham Academy was started by an eccentric millionaire. He had a dream to have the brightest kids study at his school and focus on what they want. An educational experiment unlike any other but when his wife and daughter were kidnapped and another student was killed during the first school year, the school became infamous. Despite it’s history, the school still strives and Stevie is determined to solve it’s most famous mystery. The problem is that once she arrives another student is killed and another goes missing. Her conservative parents pull her out of the school for fear it isn’t safe only to be convinced by their employee, Senator Edward King (not so subtlety modeled after Steve King) that the school is safe. Of course, King has his own reasons for Stevie to return. His son, David, is also a student at Ellingham and Stevie and him have a complicated relationship. Stevie doesn’t like making a deal with King but her want to go back overrides her concerns. A bright spot is when the author of the definitive book on the Ellingham case needs a student to help with research on a new edition of the book. Soon Stevie is making breakthrough in the case but at what cost. This is the middle book in the trilogy and they often times feel slow but this one moved at a pretty fast clipped. One of the revelations, I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come midpoint of the book, really throwing me off. It was a great misdirection by Johnson, to get us to focus on one direction while the answer was in the other direction. There were answers and part of the original crime was answered but who so many more are still unanswered. Who killed Iris Ellingham and is Alice alive? What happened to David and Hunter and how do they play into the mystery? Were Hayes and Ellie’s death really accidents or did they know something more? I’m really looking forward to the finale next year.

What I’m Reading Now: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

This is apart of our Diverse Narrators challenge. A Muslim girl trying to navigate the world 1 year after 9/11

Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’ve said it one but I’ll say it again. Holly Black is at her best when she writes about fairies. She is just well versed in fairy mythology that makes this world feel so steeped in tradition but also new and original. Add all he Royal Court intrigue and you have one great story. The Wicked King is the second book of her Folk of the Air trilogy and after the first book there was a lot of stack. Jude outmaneuvered her father to get the throne away from him and save her brother from having to grow up to soon. She tricked Carden into the throne while controlling him and thus the real power in the kingdom. A lot of the story revolves around those who have power and those who do not. Jude a human living in Fairy often times felt powerless. Even though she learned how to fight from Madoc she would always be at a disadvantage but the thing she has over fairies is that she can lie. Lying and her cleverness is what got her this far but controlling Carden is harder than she anticipated. He doesn’t like being commanded by her anymore than he does being the High King. Things get even more complicated when the Queen of the Undersea is taking this moment to push her advantage and someone close to Jude has or will betray her. Fairies may not be able to lie but that doesn’t mean they can’t deceive. Jude’s strength is her ability to strategies. To see Jude constantly adjusting and planning is truly fascinating. She is constantly looking at all the angles but even the best make mistakes. As much as she plans, she can’t always see the whole chess board. In the end, after all her planning and scheming she is not only maneuvered by Madoc but Carden as well. I’ll admit, I did not see the ending coming. I guess I should have guessed something was up since the title of the next book is The Queen of Nothing but it was still stunning. It’s agonizing that I have to wait until next year to find out what’s going to happen but I know one thing. Jude has not been defeated yet. She’ll be back and all fairies better beware.

Late in game 24 in 48 update

So, I wasn’t sure that I would make it to 18 hours. I am pretty pleased that I will definitely make it to 18 hours. I won’t make it to 24, though. That’s okay.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1. Seared by Suleikha Snyder. I finished this earlier today.

2. Circe by Madeline Miller. I finished this yesterday. Oh, god. It’s so good.

3. The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot and Keith Bosley (translator). This epic oral tale has been so enjoyable. I’ve been listening to it first thing in the morning. I think I’m now about halfway done.

4. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard. I’m two chapters away from finishing this one! Woo!

5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. I’m only two chapters into this but I’m very curious to see where it goes.

There’s a chapter of a stats book I’m hoping to also polish off this weekend. I’m pretty happy with this weekend! And, even happier with the new books I’ve added to my tbr from recs from twitter, litsy, and instagram.

24 in 48

I have signed up to do 24 in 48! I have literally no hope of actually making it to 24 hours, but I would like to try. Mostly, I’d like to finish the half finished books I’ve started in the last six months so I can turn out some reviews. Are you also doing 24 in 48? Even if you aren’t, what are you excited to read this weekend?