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.

Review: Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

***MInor Spoilers***

All and all this was an enjoyable series. The Caraval trilogy is about sisters, Scarlett and Tella. In their own ways they both are obsessed with a mysterious and magical game called Caraval. It is lead by the even more mysterious Legend. Scarlett for years wrote letters to Legend begging him to bring his game to their small island for her sister’s birthday to no avail. That is until the invitation to play the game finally comes on the eve of her wedding. Scarlett is thrilled at the offer but doesn’t want to accept because she has convinced herself that her upcoming marriage will save her and her sister from the abusive father. Tella has either ideas and with the help of the charming Julian, Scarlett is whisked away to Legend’s private island to play Caraval. She plays the game in earnest as Tella is taken and to win the game she must find her before anyone else. It’s whimsical and heartbreaking as Scarlett overcomes her own fears and traumas to win the game and find her sister. Now, Tella I do not like as much as Scarlett. In fact if my sister did to me what Tella does to Scarlett I wouldn’t be so forgiving. I was very upset with how it ended and after finding out the second book, is from Tella’s point of view I almost didn’t want to read it. It wasn’t that bad. While Scarlett is earnest and constantly thinking of her sister and others, Tella is selfish and self involved. This Caraval isn’t like the others because it’s the real this time. The Fates who once ruled and were cruel were trapped in a deck of cards and are threatening to be released. The only person in their way is Tella. She made a a deal with the Prince of Hearts to help her get to the Caraval and in return she needed to find the true identity of Legend. Tella didn’t know she made a deal with a Fate. In the process of playing the game, Tella falls in love with a man named Dante who is more then she bargains for. If Tella wins she will either doom humanity by betraying Dante and Caraval or lose more of her family by betraying the Prince of Hearts. Well, things don’t end the way anyone thought and the final book has alternating POV of Scarlett and Tella. Honestly, I really wish it had more Scarlett then Tella but it was welcomed development to have Scarlett back. She was a little frustrating at first because she insisted on getting to know the Fiance she left behind and for little pay off. He was there and then not. Same with their Mother. Tella spends all of the second book, trying to release her only to have her die a few chapters into the third. Minor criticisms. The biggest issue I have that was never addressed is this. The end of the first book, Tella is believed dead by their abusive father. When the second book, they are invited to go with Caraval to the capital of the Empire. Scarlett doesn’t want to go because her former fiance lived there and was afraid they might be seen and word would get back to their father. So what does Tella do? She gets in engaged to the heir to the Throne. Their abusive father is the Governor of the island they grew up on. While news may travel slowly to their former home, it would eventually get to him that the heir was engaged and surely he would have recognized his own daughter. It was like this whole plot point was just forgotten and we are supposed to forget it too but it bothered me the rest of the series. Other than that, I enjoyed this series and I’m glad that I waited to read it until it was completed to start reading it. It’s nice to read a series all together for once.

Quick Review: Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard

Fans of the Red Queen series should devour this short story collection. Even if they have already read the two previously released short stories, it is still worth the read. Broken Throne is gives more insight into the world building that author Victoria Aveyard did to create her series. Historical notes by Julian is the perfect way to go deep into how Norta, Montefort, Lakelands, Piedmont and neighboring countries came to be and gives perspective on where they are now. In between the history lessons are short stories, new and old, set in this world that focuses on supporting characters or backstory. The story that fans will probably be the most interested in reading is Fire Light. Fans who were left a little disappointed on how Mare left thing with Cal at the end of War Storm will get some closure in this story. Mare and Cal have been through a lot. They have both done things to others and to each other that they can’t take back. They both needed time to heal from everything that has happened and accessed who they are now and not who they were before they meant. Can they forgive each other? Can they forgive themselves? It was a sweet story that wraps up their story nicely. While I think this was a wrap of the series but I think there is a lot here for more book set in this universe. The Nortan states push towards a representative government is rocky and the epilogue mentions further drama that could easily be turned into a series. There are a few countries that were mentioned but we haven’t been that could be explored. Not to mention, as more and more Reds turn out to be New bloods, there could be so many more stories about them and how that plays out in the world. So what I’m saying, I don’t think we have seen the last of Norta or the Lakelands or Montefort or the last of Mare, Cal, Evageline, Iris, Farley and the other characters either. Whenever Victoria is ready to come back she should know I’ll be waiting.

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..

Quick Review: The Reckoning of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin

So not a lot of happened in this book. Noah Shaw has already been a mess but he’s even more so after the events of the last book. If we are being truthful, he’s never really dealt with the events of Mara Dyer trilogy and now that everything has spiraled out of control, he’s really not dealing well. He broke things off with Mara after discovering what she has done and kept from him. He discovers that Mara’s Grandma, who should be dead is still alive has plans for him. If that wasn’t enough, he lost his power to heal and is a little lost M, Mara’s grandma, wants him to do what Mara did and access his memories and find the clues that can help her and Mara against the Professor but Noah isn’t so keen. The last thing that Noah wants to do remember and feel and after everything that has happened is a little bit paranoid. So yeah, he resists and avoids but also does what he is asked. We get a few answers to how everything began and why some are dying but we are mostly still left in the dark. I wouldn’t say this book was boring but it didn’t have the oompf of previous books. I can only hope that the pay off will come in the final book.

Review: What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Ben and Arthur have a chance meeting at a post office and they hit it off before Ben disappears in the middle of a commotion caused by someone proposing to their girlfriend. They then go on this epic journey of trying to meet again, in a city of around 8 million people. Can they meet? Will it be as magical as they think it will be? Can they get it right? Should they even bother if Arthur is just a summer intern and is on his way back to Georgia in a couple of months?

Folks, this book was so earnest and touching that it actually physically hurt my cold, cold, cynical soul. Making it to the end of this book was a journey for me; I may be a different person now. A slightly less cynical person. Ladles and Jelly spoons, Friends and Enemies, the power of literature!

Seriously, though, this was a really fun, really touching story written from two different points of view. It is about being open and trying your best in relationships and about saying what you want and admitting when you’re wrong. It was well worth the read. I’ll even forgive it for getting enormously catchy pop tunes stuck in my head.

Once again, shout out to my local library for hooking me up with this audiobook!

Quick Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White is the fourth Cormoran Strike novel and it begins with Cormoran being visited by a mentally ill young man named Billy who tells him about a murder he believes he witnessed as a child. Before Strike can get into the specifics, Billy flees the office and sends Strike, and his partner Robin Ellacott, on a mission to satisfy his own need to make sure that Billy is okay and that no one is getting away with murder. The tale weaves in and out of London. It ends up at protests (it is set before the London Olympics) and in the Houses of Parliament. It reintroduces characters from Strike’s past. The mystery, in the end, felt a little forced. Or, maybe that Strike just can’t let some things go felt forces. I don’t know. I didn’t love this. In fact, now that it has tied up some story lines relating to Robin and her partner Matthew, I may be done with this book series. We’ll see. I do still very much like both Robin and Cormoran. If you really loved the previous books, I say give this one a go, but if you were only so-so on them, I’d say pick something up you are more interested in.

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

I’ve really dragged my feet on writing this review because I loved this book so much that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it. It is the story of Circe, the famous witch from the Odyssey. ONLY SHE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT! This book follows Circe’s life from its beginning to its end and through it we are introduced to so many other stories in Greek mythology. I liked the writing. I liked Circe’s voice. I liked that this character, who I knew from someone else’s story as a minor character, is given her own voice and her own agency and is put at the center of her own narrative. I want more of that in stories. Where are these stories? Send me more of these stories please.

This was so good. Just so good. Ugh. I might actually re-read it again soon, that’s how much a liked it.

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

I fell in love with the premise of this book immediately. A crew of woman sailors out for revenge against the regime that killed or hurt their families. It just seemed like the book I needed to read right now. Caledonia Styx, the captain is a flawed heroine for sure but she is also a good leader. Wracked with guilt after hesitating to kill the Bullet, member of the so called Army that rules the oceans, that lead to the death of her own family. She builds her ship and crew along with her friend Pieces. Many of her decisions on her personal desire to kill this one Bullet and this at times clouds her judgment. The weight of being the Captain and responsible for the lives of her crew members weighs heavily on her as their mission becomes more and more dangerous. After taking on one enemies ship they take on a Bullet. She doesn’t trust him but he offers her information that she can’t deny and things start moving very fast.

From the very beginning this book was intense. I could feel the tension that the characters were feeling throughout their journey. The story is in Caledonia’s point of view and we get a glimpsed of a determined but also conflicted girl. She is a born leader and has the complete loyalty of her crew but has so many doubts and fears that she can’t see it. Almost the entire book , Pieces tells her how much she needs to let go and trust that her crew has her back and just when I thought the message got through, she does something stupid but I won’t go into that because that would spoil the end. That’s the beauty of this book. It really is about female friendship. Caledonia only succeeds because of the crew she assembled and that’s a powerful message. Often girls are taught to be in competition with each other but we can be so much stronger together. All of the characters are fully fleshed out. We don’t get as much of their back story but we get full character traits and that each girl is their own person. In the upcoming books, I hope we get more of her crew and where they came from and how they joined the crew. I really loved this book and happy and sad that it’s a trilogy because I don’t want to journey to end but I also want to read the next book like right now.

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This was an impulse grab that I picked up at the library wayyyy back in January for 24 in 48. I’d read Junot Díaz before, but this is the book that he seems to be known for so I figured it was time that I read it. It tells the story of Oscar de León, nicknamed Oscar Wao, and his family in the Dominican Republic under Rafael Trujillo. The novel is really interesting, the narrative is given by two narrators, Yunior is the main narrator and there are some first-person interjections from Lola, Oscar’s sister. I had to look up a little background, I know very little about the Caribbean (or the US’s interventions in the Caribbean…) but I don’t think you necessarily need to do that in order to appreciate the novel. There is a lot of code-switching into Spanish, which I felt really helped you keep a sense of place in the narrative. And, Oscar is so. very. nerdy. So nerdy. There are geeky references aplenty in the story. I really enjoyed that. There was a little misogyny in the narrative that rubbed me the wrong way (but that’s not a problem of the novel but a wider problem. I was particularly troubled by it in the geeky references…but again, I’m particularly bothered by it in geek culture in general.)

I really enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’m really happy that I read it.