Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

This was truly everything that I wanted it to be. It was a space action adventure. It introduced me to Korean folklore and was just plain fun. Min is a 13 years old and is a fox. Not a real fox but can turn into one or really shapeshift to anything. Her family must hide their heritage since foxes are thought to be untrustworthy. Unlike other supernaturals, like Dragons, Goblins and Tigers who are able to work freely. Many think Foxes are extinct. No, just in hiding. Min’s brother goes missing from his Space Cadet mission and thought to have deserted to look for the Dragon Pearl. A mystical object that can transform worlds and make them more inhabitable. She knows her brother Jun would never do something like that so she goes off and looks for him. While she is away she discovers that there is more then meet the eye. The mystery of what happened to Jun gets mixed with with Ghosts, politics and who can get the the pearl first. Min is sassy and smart. You could say she is clever as a fox. Sorry, I had to. It is interesting how the fox myth differs from Korean and Japanese folklore. In Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox, Yumeko is seen as being a trickster because of her fox heritage but not exactly an outcast the way Min and her family would be if they were discovered. It’s fun to learn how different cultures tell similar stories. Anyway, back to Min. She keeps finding herself in impossible situations but uses her intelligence and fox powers to get herself out. She is brave. There are many reasons that she should give up and just say this is too much for me but she knows what is at stake. Not just for her and her family but for everyone. If the pearl falls into the wrong hand it could be used as a weapon instead of a tool for the better. This books has a lot of twists and turns. Betrayals are all around and friendships questioned. So far it is my favorite of the Rick Riordan presents imprints. Its a shame that at the moment, it is only planned as a standalone because there is so much potential. Obviously it has been left open that if Yoon Ha Lee wanted to come back and right another and I hope he does. It definitely makes me want to check out his other books now.

Reviews: Aru Shah and the End of Times by Roshani Chokshi and The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

I’m going to do a double review for these two books because they are both published under Rick Riordan Presents publishing tent and I read them back to back. Like Rick Riordan’s work, they both are children’s books that are based in Mythology. So why didn’t Rick write them? Well, I think he learned from his Kane Chronicles that you can do all the research you can on culture and mythology you are not a part of or familiar with it’s going to come out a bit messy. Not to say that the Kane Chronicles was a bad series. I think for many of his readers, it was their first introduction into Egyptian mythology so they were not aware of any errors but I could tell that Rick was comfortable and the flow of his writing wasn’t as crisp. So Rick decided he was going to use his platform and start his own imprint and publish Authors of color tell their own stories and mythologies. This is how you ally. Use your resources to uplift marginalize voices and give them a platform to speak.

Both Aru Shah and the End of Times and The Storm Runner follow the same formula that Rick uses in his Greek stories. Introduces the Demigod, send them on a world saving quest that requires them to complete smaller quests along the way to help them be successful, while interacting with other mythological characters or using the myths they grew up hearing to help them get out of trouble. Here I was taken through various Indian and Mayan myths and it was enjoyable. I do admit I enjoyed Aru Shah a lot better then The Storm Runner. Aru lives in Atlanta with her Mom and goes to a elite prep school. Aru is a liar. Well, she has a huge imagination. She often tells her fell kids at schools lies about her life to make her life seem more exciting and things start to go south when a few them catch her in her lies. Technically, Aru isn’t a demigod but the reincarnation of one of Indian mythologies greatest heroes. With the help of Mini, who is also a reincarnation of Aru’s brother hero, are able to save the day. What I liked about this book is that Aru is not the perfect girl. She’s a liar and definitely a troublemaker. She doesn’t have a lot of friends because she feels like an outsider and bullied. Both girls have had trouble making friends and opening up to each other isn’t easy but they do and it’s what allows them to succeed. I love who it really plays up their friendship and the importance of female friendships. Not to mention, Aru is a hoot. I laughed all the way through this book.

Maybe one of the reasons I liked Aru better is that I have some familiarity with Indian Mythology. I know nothing about Mayan. So I was going into this book fresh and learned quite a lot. Did you know the Mayan’s have a Goddess for Chocolate? That is awesome. The Storm Runner follows Zane who lives in New Mexico with his Mother and Uncle, next to a volcano. Who knew there were volcanoes in New Mexico? One night, a plane crashes into his volcano and then Zane meets Brooks, who he calls the most beautiful girl he has ever meant and boom we are off and running. Zane releases Ah-Puch, the God of the Death among of other things and well now he’s in trouble. Only he can kill him and do it before the other Mayan Gods find him and well kill him too because Gods are not supposed to have children because they see this as an imbalance in the world. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did but I found Zane to be frustrating. He really doesn’t listen to what people tell him. He is given good advice throughout the book and he either ignores it or doesn’t want to listen because “who are they to tell him what to do”. Things kinda go from bad to worst when he does this until the end when faced with his own death does he actually listen to what people are telling him and it turns out okay. There were moments in the book that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to finish. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be alright but it wasn’t easy to get through. Again this could be because I don’t know anything about Mayan mythology. With Rick’s Greek and Roman and even a little with Aru’s Indian, I knew enough Myths to figure out what was going ton and how they might be able escape. I didn’t have that here and maybe that made it harder. I also found Aru to be more likeable then Zane but I also identified more with Aru. I should mention that Zane has a disability. One of his legs is shorter then the other and he has to walk with a cane. It seems like his weakness but it turn out it s his strength. I think that is an important message for kids to read and allow them to be seen. I would recommend both books for anyone who loves Percy Jackson and are looking for stories outside Greek and Roman mythologies. They both are good in their own right and I look forward to reading the next books in both series..

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I finished this book a couple of days ago but needed a few days to fully digest it. It was a very good and well written but it is also very uncomfortable. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the cover. It is about sexual violence towards women and doesn’t hold back. In fact the book has a warning of his contents of violence and sexual assaults. Even knowing that it was part of the plot didn’t make it any less upsetting or uncomfortable to read. That being said, it also has a beautiful love story between two equally powerful women and female friendships that is not always depicted in YA. I’m going to put my review under the cut because I want to sensitive to those who are experience trauma and may not want to read. I also there will be spoilers as there is no way to talk about the themes of this book without doing so. Continue reading

Reading Challenges

As you’re thinking about your goals for 2019, I thought I’d write a quick plug for our Reading Challenges. We have three: 

  1. Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge- This is a 30 book challenge intended to challenge readers to try new subjects, new authors, new genres, and new publishers. It is divided into three sub-challenges, so you can zero in what you’re most interested in.
  2. Diverse Narrators, Diverse Stacks– This reading challenge is meant to focus on subject matter, allowing readers to use books as windows to the world
  3. Diverse Authors, Diverse Lives– This reading challenge is meant to focus on authors. The idea was to challenge ourselves to be thoughtful in whose words we’re reading and to think about how our choice of material affects the book industry. 

If you do one of our challenges, let us know! Hashtag in #StackXLifeX so we can find you! 



Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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So, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was so, so good. Its critique of society was subtle, but apparent, its heroine was super likable. Man, I love when a book is this enjoyable.

I think my favorite part was how Frankie grew and learned while the novel progressed. I also think it was great how she clearly struggled with wanting to be a part of something and wanting to create her own path and do her own thing.

Anyway.

This book is the story of Frankie Landau-Banks who, at the outset of the novel, confesses to conceiving of a series of pranks/vandalism that took place at her elite boarding school and were carried out by The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, a secret society at said institution. From there, they go back to the beginning and lay out exactly what happened to bring her to this confession. The pranks are fun and the way she goes about getting them accomplished is pretty genius. Or, if not genius, is pretty clever.

I enjoyed this so much, and if you like reading about high school shenanigans and social commentary, I think you’ll like this one, too.

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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This book hurt to read. It is the story of Finch and Violet, who meet on the top of the bell tower at school when one of them saves the other one’s life. From there, its a love story. But, it’s also a story about dealing with tragedy and with things that have happened to you. It is also a book about mental illness and suicide. The writing is great. Finch is charming and Violet is awesome. The romance is precious. I’m glad I read it. Behind the cut is spoiler city.

Continue reading

Review: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

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So, this is the story of Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. Gibreel is India’s biggest movie star and Saladin is an expatriate who has just been to India for the first time is fifteen years. They are on a hijacked airplane that explodes over the English channel. The two of them plummet to Earth and the novel builds from there as a series of dreams and strange transformations. They are the only two survivors of the incident. Gibreel and Saladin’s story serves as a frame for a bunch of smaller stories that all intersect and overlap with the main narrative. Gibreel’s story overlaps with the story of Muhammed. Yes, that Muhammed. There is an alleged incident in which Muhammed heard an angel whisper some verses that were meant to be included in the Quran, but that he later recanted because the verses did not come from the angel on Allah’s behalf but from Shaitan, the adversary. Yes, this is the book the caused all the controversy and had Rushdie in hiding for years because of a fatwa against him. I feel like here is where I should say something about freedom of speech and blasphemy laws, but I don’t think that there is anything that I could say that hasn’t already said better. Rushdie is exploring something in this novel, Muhammed’s life, that he should be free to explore without fear of death.

 

There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The story is clever and there are many really neat parallels between the sub-plots and the main plot. I like magical realism and enjoyed the bizarre parts of the novel. Rushdie tackles some pretty big themes like racism and migration in the text and he does it well. But, I think this might be another book that is a victim of its own hype? It has caused so much scandal (and is still banned places because of its blasphemous text about the Prophet). I was expecting to be wowed beyond belief but I wasn’t. This was a good novel, and its complex narrative with all the subplots make it a really rich and engrossing read. But, it left me cold and I wasn’t so involved in it that I couldn’t have put it down. So, it was good and I recommend it. But, it won’t be making my Top 10 this year.

 

The audible production is read by Sam Dastor and he did an excellent job. Because the narrative moves in and out of the main story and the sub-stories (and because there are characters who have similar names), I think I was saved a little potential confusion because each character had their own voice. That being said, there were sections I had to re-listen to because there was just so much detail and the text was so rich that I needed more than one pass to absorb it.