Quick Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

belles The kingdom of of Orleans is obsessed with beauty because their people were cursed with grey skin and brittle straw hair.  The Belles are the blessed few who were born with color and the ability to make others beautiful too.  They can change a person’s skin color, bone structure, hair and make-up and because of this they have a privileged place in the kingdom.  Camille is one of six new Belles and she wants to be the Favorite.  The Favorite lives in the Palace with the Queen and the Royal family.  She gets to help create the laws of beauty and sets the standard.  She will do anything to be the favorite even if it means getting it over her best friend.  However Palace life isn’t what she imagined.  For one thing, the Princess is a nightmare and a psycho.  She’s the technically the second in line for the throne but her older sister has been in a coma so she’s about to named regent.  Camille is smart and ambitions but at times she is so slow I want to scream at her to pay more attention to wants going on!  She at times is so wrapped up in being the best Belle and impressing others that she fails to see that she is falling right into their trap.  It was a good set up to an intriguing series. It had a lot of world building in the this one so now that is out of the way, I think the rest of series will move at a better pace.

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What We are Reading Now: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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We’ve been reading about this book for months now.  So excited to finally get a chance to read it.

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

children of blood and bone This novel had a lot of hype around it and I’m glad to say it was justified.  From the very beginning I was hooked.  With the exception of one section, it was fast paced and gripping.  I immediately liked Zelie and was rooting for her to succeed.  I was drawn to Amari and struggle to right the wrongs of her family and battling her own fears. Both of these women are strong and brave.  They have their own flaws but when it came to helping those in need they didn’t hesitate to step in.  It’s beautifully written and full of lush imagery that I felt I was taken to an Orisha just as I was taken to Wakanda in Black Panther.  There is so much potential in how this series will unfold that I really can not wait to read the next book.  Like I want it right now!

That being said, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly like and leave that under the cut.  Continue reading

Rick Riordan Presents is killing it with it’s Cover Game

Rick Riordan has made a career of making Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology more accessible to kids and adults.  Now he is launching his own imprint to bring a more diverse set of mythology written by authors of that culture.  The covers for the first three books released under his imprints are amazing.  If I wasn’t excited about reading them before, I am now.  Take a look.

aru shah Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi.

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from their latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

storm runner The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

A 13-year-old boy must save the world by unraveling an ancient Mayan prophecy

Zane must not only grapple with a family history that connects him to the Mayan gods, but with newly acquired knowledge that his ancestry may have something to do with a leg deformity that requires he use a cane — not the greatest reality for a middle schooler.

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Mayan mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate

dragon pearlDragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Space opera based on Korean mythology.

A standalone middle grade novel starring Min, a teenage fox spirit whose brother is missing and thought to have deserted the Thousand Worlds Space Forces in order to find the pearl of the title, an artifact that may have the power to save their struggling space colony.

Diverse Narrators, Diverse Stacks Results

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So how did I do with this year’s challenge.  Pretty good, I think.  I read a few books that I normally wouldn’t have read and other books I would have because I love the authors.  I didn’t complete the challenge though and I’m sad about that.  Will have to do better in 2018.

  1. A Book with a Trans Narrator: Eddie Izzard in Believe Me by Eddie Izzard
  2. Queer Narrator: Apollo in The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  3. African American Narrator: John Lewis in March Vols. 1-3 by John Lewis
  4. African Narrator: Did not complete
  5. Narrators from various socio-economic backgrounds: Rainey, Rio and Frangie from Silver Stars by Michael Grant
  6. Asian-American Narrator: Lara Jean in Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han and Daniel in The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  7. Disabled Narrator: Call from The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  8. Narrator that survived Abuse: Feyre, Rhysand, and pretty much every character in A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  9. Asian Narrator: Sunja in Pachinko by Mi Jin Lee
  10. Native American Narrator: Did not complete
  11. Mexican Narrator: Cristina in Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
  12. Indigenous Mexican Narrator: Did not complete
  13. Muslim Narrator: Kamala in Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
  14. Jewish Narrator: Rainey in Silver Stars by Michael Grant
  15. Atheist Narrator: Magnus Chase in Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

So I competed 12 out of 15, which isn’t bad but I was really hoping to do all 15.  How well did you do this year?

 

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

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**Spoilers**

This was a credibly well written and crafted novel.  I was really taken in by this family and their struggles and triumphs.  Pachinko follows one Korean family from 1910-1989 from their home in south of Korea to Japan.  When Yangjin’s daughter sixteen year old daughter, Sunja gets pregnant and the father can’t marry her. a boarder at her boarding house agrees to Marry her and take her to Japan with him to spare her and her family any shame.  Being a Korean living in Imperial Japan at the time was not easy.  They were often discriminated against and limited in their movements thanks to racist policies.  As the family tries to find ways to survive through poverty, war time and other personal tragedy it tears them apart and brings them together. If there is one thing that I got out of this novel is that no matter where women live, what their station in life is or what religion they practice.  Their choices are pretty shit.  Sunja finds herself pregnant from a secret affair with a wealthy businessman.  When she finds out that he can’t marry her because he already has a wife and three daughters back in Japan she walks away.  His offer of being his Korean wife and him buying her house and taken care of her is not enough.  She will never be his true wife but also being an unwed mother will bring shame on her and her family.  When a young pastor falls ill in her family’s boardinghouse, she and her mother help him get better.  Isek is convinced he was sent to them on purpose to help them as they helped him so he agrees to marry her and take her with her to Osaka.  This will spare the family of the shame.  At 16, Sunja choices are to be destitute and shunned from society or marry a complete stranger and move to another country.  Isek is a kind man and takes good care of her and their sons.  He raises Noa as his own flesh and blood and does what he can to provide for his family and his brother and sister in law.  They do grow to have mutual understanding and good marriage.  It’s a shame that Isek dies early in the book due to unfairly imprisoned for political reasons but I wanted to know more about him.  Their children Noa and Mozasu are two very different children.  They both struggle to find their identity as Koreans born in Japan and lived their whole lives but still looked at as foreigners.  I’m sure this is something many children of immigrants can relate too.  Noa and Mozasu both represent the “good Korean” and the “bad Korean”. Noa was always the good student who believed that if was good, if he studied hard and was the best in his class who would be able to overcome prejudices and be accepted only to ultimately discover that years of hate is not easily overcome, particularly when the hate comes from within.  Mozasu on the other hand understood early that you can’t change people’s mind.  If people wanted to label him the “bad Korean” he would comply and ultimately was able to succeed.

I’ll admit I know very little about Korean history or their relationship to Japan.  Considering we could be at war with North Korea very soon this seems like a big oversight on our parts.  The Koreans were overtaken by Japan and forced in to be second class citizens in their own country.  When they moved to Japan things were not better.  They were limited on what jobs they could get.  They had to live in a ghetto. Even their chosen professions were looked down upon.  Pachinko, a kind of gambling was seen as criminal activity and often thought of us gangsters.  After World War Two when Japan lost their war their situation became even more precarious.  They were not anymore welcomed in Japan then before but with uncertainty at home they couldn’t go back to Korea.  If they did, do they go back to North or South Korea.  In a way they became homeless, which seems even sadder since for characters like Noa, Mozasu, Yumi and Solomon who were all born and raised in Japan.  This is the only home they ever knew and yet they never treated like they belonged.  There is a pretty powerful scene of Solomon, the son of Mozasu so 2nd generation Korean Japanese, having to go to the home department and register so he can stay in the country he was born in.  I would say that would be crazy but then I remember what’s going on in our country and it doesn’t seem so crazy that a country would do that to it’s people.  There is also discussions on women’s role.  Sunja from the very beginning is a hard worker and finds it hard to stay stagnant.  When Isek is imprisoned and the family is desperate for money, she steps up and starts selling kimchi by the train station despite warnings from his brother in law that women must work.  She is industries and does what she needs to do to keep her family fed and sheltered.  It is her strength that keeps the family going.  At one point, Koh Hansu, who got her pregnant at the beginning of the story, shows up and sends them to a farm out of the city to save them from the end of the war.  I was angry that after what he did and could just show up and play hero.  Like how dare he?  Sunja rejects him over and over again but he always comes back.  So infuriating.

I’m glad that we are doing our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives challenge because I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have this book otherwise and I would have missed out on a wonderful story.

Review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

silver mask So what do you do when you have the soul of the enemy of death even though you have no memory of his past life and now everyone else knows it and blames you for the death of your best friend but your innocent?  For Call it means you get thrown in jail, broken out and then kidnapped by the very people who’ve been trying to avoid the last three years.  Call’s luck is almost none existent.  Call is also full of self doubt and guilt.  He wasn’t the one to kill Aaron, that was Alex but he still feels responsible for it.  If Tamara had chosen to save Aaron instead of Call it would have been Call who died and not Aaron.  Does Tamara regret that choice?  Call had always assume that Tamara liked Aaron more than him and like most people tolerated him because Aaron did.  Now that Tamara, Jasper and Call are kidnapped by Master Joseph and his crew things get a little hazy.  Call is not Constantine despite having his soul but he’s been having trouble convincing others of this.  He may not be him but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t share some of his ambitions.  Without Aaron, Call feels a little lost and maybe all would be forgiven and go back to what they were if Aaron was alive again.  Master Joseph gives him the chance.  Raise Aaron back from the dead and you can decide whether you want to stay or not.  The Enemy of Death was called that because his obsession with defeating death.  I’m not sure I buy that if Call is able to bring Aaron back that all would be forgiven and that all of a sudden there would be so much support for his cause but we need to find the conflict.  Of course Call is able to bring back Aaron by doing the one thing that Constantine was never willing to do, give apart of himself to do so but you can never go back.  Aaron is not as he was because he was dead and should be dead.  Call’s plan to bring Aaron back and things go back the way they were goes sideways immediately and battle ensues.  If I didn’t know that there is one more book left in the series, I would almost think that this was finale because there was a lot of loose ends tied up.  I’m not sure where they go from here but there is still one bad guy still out there.

This is part of my Diverse Narrator challenge.  Call is disabled with a bad leg from when he was an infant.  While his lifelong injury played more of a roll in previous books it is still a big part of who the character is.  His bad leg has always made him think that he was less capable then those with two good legs and he’s felt this way because of most of his life that’s what people have told him.  Throughout the series, Call has persevered despite being slow to run or walk.  He’s been able to use his other skills and wit to get in and out of  trouble and prove he is just as capable.  May that be a lesson for us all.