Quick Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

You know how often the book is so much better than the movie? Well this was exception to the rule because I have to say I like the movie better. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the movie multiple times and am fans of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I don’t know but the book was kind of blah. A lot of descriptions with not a lot happening. No wonder they made so many changes to the movie. They both follow sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens who both have had some bad luck in love. Sally is widowed early on in the book just like in the movie. She is also focused on being normal even though everyone else in her family are okay with being themselves. Gillian is still the wild spirit that runs away from home and ends up in an abusive relationship with Jimmy who ends up dead but that’s kinda of where the the similarities end. The book takes place primarily in Long Island then in their Aunt’s house in Massachusetts. Maybe that’s what I didn’t like it as much because the Aunt’s were not in it as much as they are in the book. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing are kinda the best part of the movie and without them the book is kind of lacking. The urgency that is felt with the dealing the spirit of Jimmy isn’t there. There is no build up of the romance between Sally and Gary Hallet. He doesn’t even appear until the last 50 pages of the book. As for a book about witches there really isn’t much witchcraft going on. I was a little disappointed in it but at least I can always watch the movie.

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.

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.

Quick Review: Defy Me by Tahereh Mafi

The second book in a trilogy is always a difficult one and this one is no different. I felt it was a little uneven. It first felt a little slow in the beginning and then lose it’s momentum in the end. This was also difficult because this book really lays out all the abuse and trauma that Juliette/Ella has been put through by the Reestablishment. So much of her young life had been taken from her and not just from her but Warner and the other children of the World commanders. It’s very heartbreaking everything that she has been through and everything that continued to be done to her, her sister and friends. I really enjoyed the chapters in Kenji’s POV and was sad when they stop halfway through. MORE KENJI. The ending was sweet but also kinda cruel because for a brief moment they all were in peace that we all know will not last long. So it wasn’t t he best book in the series but it was a good set up to what is to come and reminder of all that is at stack from them.

Quick Review: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an interesting piece of speculative fiction in which humans hibernate in winter. Set in Wales, it follows Charlie Worthing as he joins the Winter Consuls, a group of folks who elect to change their hibernation period so that they can be up during winter to look after the people regularly hibernating. In this world, a company has patented a drug that allows people to hibernate without dreams, which has helped people make it through the hibernation period in greater numbers, which has been great for society. The downside is, a small number of people wake up from hibernation with the drug as nightwalkers, essentially brain dead (and often violent) but sometimes with enough function to be trained to do odd jobs. Charlie has to survive his first winter solving a mystery, facing villains, and avoiding fairy tale WinterVolk.

This was really entertaining. I enjoyed the world that it was set in (and, I’m always here for books set in Wales that implies that all of the community is primarily Welsh speaking). I liked the exploration of what it would be like if humans hibernated. That was really interesting. There were a few conceits that did not work for me, but in general this book was an excellent escape from reality.

Quick Review: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

The Everlasting Rose is a good sequel to The Belles.Camille and her fellow Belles are on the run from Sophie, who is now queen. Their world has been turned upside down with new found knowledge about how the Belles are born and many other secrets. In the first book, I found Camille beyond frustrating because she made a lot of naive and well stupid decisions. In this one she is much more clearheaded and ready to fight. She knows the what is at stake is willing to do anything to stop it. She discovers a strength inside that she never knew she had. She still makes the occasional stupid decision that made me want to scream but not as many. That is what we call growth. I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series because it does wrap up pretty nicely but also leaves a few things open for the story to continue. Camille and the Belles are in a better place now then the beginning of the first book but I’ll be interested to see what happens now that certain ideas have been introduced to the story. However, if this is the end then I am satisfied with how it ended and thoroughly enjoyed this 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

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.