Pop Culture Homework Assignment 2020: Twilight Re-read

With the announcement of Midnight Sun’s release this summer, Beth and I decided that this year we would read the same books. Yes, folks, we are revisiting the wonderful, terrible novels: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. This is the first time that Beth and I are reading the same books as part of the Pop Culture Homework Assignment! I am so excited! Please join us!

Quick Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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Girl in Translation is the story of Kimberly Chang, an immigrant to the US from Hong Kong. It follows her from when she arrives in the States until after her high school graduation. In the novel, we follow her story as she works to balance school and her life helping her Mother with factory work after school. We see her struggle to fit in with the American students while also maintaining her home culture. We see her survive, push through, and thrive.

 

It is really great novel. I enjoyed listening to it. The audio book is read by Grayce Wey and I really liked how Wey used accent to change from inner to outer monologue. (And, I may have been imagining this, but I also liked that her accent got mellower as the novel went on.)

 

I read this as part of the #AsianLitBingo Challenge. Lit Celebrasian did a character interview with Kimberly Chang over on their blog and it is a lot of fun! You can check it out here!

Review: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

I’ve seen the Star Wars movies but I have never read or watched or played any of the other things set in the Star Wars universe. So, aside from the fact that I was stepping into this world not knowing exactly where I was, I was pretty excited to start it.

Ahsoka is set just after the end of episode 3, while the rebellion is at its beginning. Ahsoka Tano is the former padawan of Anakin Skywalker and a general from the Clone Wars. As a Jedi, she was supposed to die following Order 66, but she escaped. Now, she’s hiding out in the Outer Rim and trying to decide who she is now that there are no jedi. She finds herself on a moon that is occupied by the Empire. Of course, the Empire wants the moon for nefarious purposes. Will Ahsoka help? Will she make things worse? Will she connect with the Rebellion?

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It’s geared towards the 12-18 reader, so it wasn’t as dark or as violent as I would have expected an empire novel to be. But, I liked the characters and the story. I liked Ahsoka’s development as she worked through her feelings on how to exist in a post-Jedi world.

So, if you want an easy read that’s an introduction to the rest of the Star Wars universe, or if you have a child who is super excited about Star Wars after seeing the new movies, Grab this novel!

Short Review: Slam by Nick Hornby 

I started reading this a few years ago and then I stopped for some reason.  I recently picked it back up.  Its the story of a skateboard obsessed teen with a young mother is messes up and ends up a teen parent himself.  In usual Hornby fashion the narrator has an obsession that shapes the narrative and pushes it forward.  16 year old Sam’s obsession with Tony Hawk provides a framework inside which Sam’s life comes together and then spins out of control.  Tony Hawk’s memoir apparently has advice for every occasion in it, if Sam is to be believed.
This is an interesting exploration of teen pregnancy that had many likable characters.  It was also a pretty quick read.  It’s not Hornby’s best work but it was still pretty interesting.

Review: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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I did not expect to binge read Dream Thieves on Thanksgiving. But, I did and now I have to slow my roll down because the fourth book doesn’t come out until Spring. The Raven Cycle is about a group of teens who are looking for a medieval Welsh King rumored to be sleeping somewhere in America. If you wake him, he will grant you a wish.

From here there are spoilers for The Raven Boys.

This novel picks up where Raven Boys left off. Ronan can pull things from his dreams and make them real. Adam woke the ley line and is now its hands and eyes. Noah is still dead and Gansey is still Gansey. Blue is still a not-psychic in a family of psychics. Adam and Blue are kind of together, as together as you can be when your kiss can kill. There is a lot of pain in this novel. Adam doesn’t get why Blue keeps him at arm’s length. Blue can’t help that she’s falling for Gansey. Ronan is still broken from losing his father. None of them understand why Adam went off on his own and, as he grows into what the ley line needs him to be he feels isolated. Gansey is beat up over feeling like he’s losing Adam and he’s at a loss for what to do with Ronan at times. Oh, and Noah keeps reliving his death.

And, now some spoilers for this novel.

In addition to all the growing pains, we learn more about Blue’s family. Persephone has a connection to Adam, we find out. We also meet the Gray man who is there as a bounty hunter to collect whatever allows Ronan to steal things from dreams. I really enjoyed the subplot with the Gray man and Maura and I hope that he continues to be part of the next book. We also learn a little more about Gansey’s and Ronan’s families.

A lot of this novel really focused on Ronan, his ability and its connection to the ley line. I liked Ronan a lot as a character in the first book but he was a little one dimensional. He was Gansey body guard and enforcer. So it was interesting to get some Ronan point of view in this novel. He’s got a lot of anger and also a lot of questions surrounding his father’s life and death. Unraveling the mystery of Niall Lynch not only pushes the narrative forward but also gives Ronan some much needed character development.

We also get a lot of point of view from Adam. We learned about his family in the first novel and we got to see a lot of fall out related to that in this one. We also got to see why this quest and the ley line mean so much to him. Some of the scenes where we see Adam and Gansey together actually lead to some much needed character development for Gansey as well.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I needed to know what happened next. But, I have to say that Adam repeatedly broke my heart. That kid, man. He deserves better.

I am really looking forward to the next novel, Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Review: Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s been on our minds. It’s been in our posts. I’ve been re-reading. The Fourth book in the Raven Cycle comes out early next year and I want to get you as excited about the books as we are.
I am here to pump you up.

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via GIPHY

The Raven Cycle is about a quest to find a sleeping King.  Like all quest stories, it involves a band of merry companions who all have their secrets, their desires and their heartaches.  Our Quest Squad contains the Raven Boys: Richard Campbell Gansey III, Ronan N. Lynch, Adam Parrish and the on-again, off-again Noah Czerny who are accompanied by the not-psychic Blue Sargent.  They are searching Henrietta, Virginia for a ley line that should lead them to a Welsh King that was buried in America.  A medieval Welsh king.  I am kind of a Cymruphile so that one little detail was really all my sister had to say to sell me on these books. A Welsh king buried in America and prophesied to return to unite the Welsh and end English tyranny? Sign. Me. Up.
The first installment of the books brings the team together.  Blue Sargent is the only non-psychic in a psychic family and a townie in Henrietta, Virginia home to Ivy League Feeder School Aglionby Academy. Blue’s family run a tarot card reading business and a psychic phone hotline. The Raven Boys are students at the fancy college prep.  Adam is a scholarship kid, Ronan Lynch appears to be the son of a gangster, Noah is quiet, unassuming and fuzzy around the edges, and Gansey is Old Virginia money and the driving force behind the quest for the Welsh King.  Blue keeps crossing paths with the boys in ways that make their teaming up seem fated and inevitable. They have to wake the ley line before someone else gets to it and harnesses its power. Of course, no quest for long forgotten item would be complete without opposing teams questing for the same thing.
This book was a lot of fun to read.  I enjoy all of the characters and I particularly like how they all have their definite strengths and their weaknesses.  Ronan is violent where Gansey is diplomatic.  Adam is thoughtful where the other boys are thoughtless. Blue is grounded where everyone else has their head in the clouds.  On top of the main story of Blue and the Raven Boys, there is a subplot involving Blue’s family that is also complex and interesting.  I cannot wait to see how the series plays out.
So, you should get in on this.  Quests, Kings, Psychics, ley lines, treasure maps, bad guys, flawed good guys, and, I can’t believe I’ve waited until now to mention this, trees that speak Latin!

Discussion Posts: Re-reading series before the new installment comes out

This month has seen the announcement of the next book in the Raven Cycle series’ cover announced and the next book in the Cinder series released. Both of these things prompted much excitement here at SxLx because we’re into these series. Beth struggled with the decision to re-read the whole series before diving into Winter. I took the new cover art as a signal to re-read the Raven Cycle. In my case, the decision was easy because I haven’t finished Dream Thieves and at this point I’ve probably forgotten more than I remember. But, I know that not everyone feels this pull to revisit the older installments before getting to the new one. So, the comments section is open! What are your thoughts on re-reading a series before the new book comes out? Are you for it? Against it? Do you do it?

Are you a re-reader?