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

Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas knows how to write a story. On the Come Up is the follow-up to her debut novel, The Hate U Give and while it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch it also doesn’t hold back either. Taking place in Garden Heights about a year after the events of The Hate U Give . It’s not a sequel but you really should read The Hate U Give anyway because it is truly powerful. Bri lives in the Garden and has dreams of being a rapper like her late father who was an underground rapper that died just as he was about to make it big. Bri is your typical teen. She’s stressing about ACT prep and teen romance. Like many families in the Garden, hers is struggling. Her mother is a recovering drug addict that is struggling to pay rent and the bills. Things only get worse when she loses her job and Bri will do anything to make it as a rapper because she thinks it the only way to save her family and get out of the Garden. After an incident at school, inspires her latest rap song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, she is caught up in Gang battles and arguments of social justice. In her desperation to make it Bri almost loses who she is. I like that Bri is a flawed heroine because we are all flawed individuals. Bri is hard-headed, stubborn and is not easy to trust. She is also very loyal and will do anything to help her family. When her song goes viral for the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself torn with wanted to make it to save her family and playing a role that is not herself. She’s tired of people assuming that she is a threat because the color of her skin and that she is poor but that might be her ticket to success. Angie Thomas gets every nuance in this novel. Everything is not black and white. We all make decisions based on thousands of life experience. Bri’s desperation to save her family makes her make a lot of mistakes. Some of those you can chalk up to her being so young but others it being vulnerable to others. She is constantly fighting people’s own thoughts of who she is before she even really gets to decide who she is. Throughout it all, Bri is resilient and while we don’t know what her future will take her, she is knows hat she has the support of the family and friends and the strength to get her Come Up.

What I’m Reading Now: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I know you shouldn’t pick a book by it’s cover but this one is gorgeous. I am also intrigued by the plot.

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 wasn’t 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.

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

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! 



Quick Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

shadow of the fox I was first introduced to Kitsunes thanks to the TV show Teen Wolf (I miss that show) A japanese story of someone who can turn into a fox.  Yumeko is only half-kitsune and has been raised by monks in a temple.  Like foxes, she’s mischievious and curious.  She plays tricks on the monks to some of their chagrins but the Monks also teach her how to control her kitsune powers, which will come in handy when it is revealed that the temple guards a piece of the dragon scroll. The dragon scroll when put together raises a dragon every 1000 years.  The person with the scroll is granted one wish and depending on who making the wish it can be good or bad.  It’s almost time to summon the dragon and many people are after the scroll.  One of them is the master to the Demonslayer, Tatsumi from the Shadow Clan. Tatsumi has a very powerful sword that contains a dangerous demon.  He has to control his emotions or the demon in his sword will take over him.  Tatsumi and Yumeko team up to find the missing scroll.  Well, Yumeko has one piece but needs Tatsumi to help her get it to another temple and keep it safe.  Through their journey they meet other people along the way, including the delightful ronin, Okame and noble Daisuke.  They are challenged by spirits and other supernatural beings who try to get the scroll away from them but they grow a bond that is unmistakable.  For all the fear of the some of the monks that Yumeko’s fox side will take over her humanity, they shouldn’t have worried because it’s her compassion and quick thinking that often saves them.  Her first time outside of the temple, she is often filled with wonder of her surroundings.  Some of the most amusing bits is when Okame introduces her sarcasm for the first time.  At first she is confused by it but soon begins to understand it.  It’s wonderful.  I really liked this book and can’t wait for the sequel.  It’s full of lush descriptions of samarai’s and court life and nature that you can’t be helped to be sucked in.  I highly recommend it.

Quick Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova

bruja born I received this as an ARC a month ago.  Thank you to the publisher for making it available.

I’ll admit I didn’t like it as much as Labyrinth Lost because I thought this was a continuation of Alex’s story not that we didn’t see Alex’s story progressed but she wasn’t front and center.  Her older Lula took center stage.  It was interesting to read about her she dealt with the traumatic experience of surviving Los Lagos and losing her identity but I wanted to know more about Alex and how she was dealing with her new powers as an ecantrix and exploring her bisexuality.  Her relationship with her best friend, Rishi was so wonderfully set up in the last book, it was disappointing not to see more of it in this one.  While we are told that they are still together and happy, we only get one scene with them together.  I understand why she wasn’t included in the narrative as a sinmago, she had nothing to add to the story but I still wanted to more.  In the last book I found Lula to be shallow and not that interesting and she started out that way. I have more of a connection to her now but I’m still only meh on her.  The one trait that Lula and Alex have in common is that they are stubborn and will do what they want even if it’s the absolutely the wrong thing to do.  I got frustrated about how many times she was told, not to do that but she wouldn’t listen because it wasn’t what she wanted to hear or she thought she knew better or could figure out a different solution and the end others we left to deal with the consequences of her actions instead of her.  Ugh.  Oh well, the next book is going to focused on the youngest Mortiz sister, Rose and she has very intriguing powers.  I’m looking forward to that one.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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This book was so stinkin’ cute! This story follows Dimple, ready to concur her first year of Stanford and get going on her life as a app/web developer. But, she still has to wait for the summer to be over. She’d like to spend that time at Insomnia Con, a summer learning experience where she can learn to develop an app with a partner. If she wins the Con, she’ll get to meet her hero, Jenny Lindt, who will also partner with her to finish the app and get it out into the market. She’s so stoked when her parents agree that she should go. Really, though, she should have seen that they had an ulterior motive.

Rishi is excited to meet the woman that his parents want to arrange for him to marry. He assumes that this lady knows what’s up, so he goes to Insomnia Con, requests to work with her as her partner on the app and… is surprised to find out that not everyone has been as forthcoming as his parents were. Even though he couldn’t give a toss about web development, he’s still determined to make it work, even volunteering his art skills for Dimple’s app.

Will it work? Will it all end in a disastrous pile of flames? Will they win? Does Dimple meet her hero? You should read it and find out.  Or, listen to it, like I did. The book is narrated by Sneha Mathan and Vikas Adam and they did an excellent job. I recommend this, especially if you like light stories with well developed, complex characters. So good.

Unrelated, thanks to this book I feel like those four semesters of Hindi I took in college have finally found a use. Listening to the audio book, I was so happy to understand that bits and pieces of Hindi in the text. I still remember some words! Amazing! I was also pleased as punch to occasionally provide an explanation of something for my Mom, who was also listening to this with me. But, no worries if that isn’t something you have in your background. These small bits of text add to the story and they won’t create a stumbling block for you and your understanding. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a bilingual household, because I didn’t, so it is really neat to find fictional representations of what that might look like.

 

This is the second book I finished for the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge!