Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reviews from Saleena 12/29/16

I hate to admit it, but I've been struggling to write these blogs, and to focus on reading.....I think it's just the huge amount sitting in front of me that is making me not want to.....or perhaps I'm just having a phase I'm going through.

Anyway, here is the last of this year; hopefully the new year will bring new inspiration and good books (I seem to find lots of not so great books that I don't finish, and if I don't finish, I don't write about them).

I never would have read this book on my own, but it was recommended; so I thought I'd try it.  Boy, am I glad I did.  Two girls, with nothing in common but an obsession for their favorite show and their fangirl blogging about it.  They start talking, one in her 20s, one graduating high school; and slowly their lives begin to intertwine.  I love their bonding over the show and the fact that it's not JUST about that, there are levels to this story which make it really compelling. 

Blumenthal has written a comprehensive and yet interesting story of the Tommy Gun, where it came from, why and what happened...but in a way that isn't unapproachable, but might be read out of interest.  Very informative with lots of pictures and facts, a well done book indeed.

Gemina begins (in a time line anyway) before and during the events that occur during the Illuminae story.  This one takes place at the space station, with events happening there that influence and affect what happens to the Illuminae, and when they come together it is literally explosive.   The authors did a great job of pulling all the varying facts, time lines and interconnected stories into one.  Just like Illuminae, it has lots of text, photos, misc ways of communicating rather than a straight text based story.  I loved it, and can't wait for more people to read it so we can get all crazed/excited chatting about it.

Listen, Slowly takes place mostly in Vietnam where Mai (or Mia) goes with her grandmother when a private detective comes across information about her grandfather who died (maybe) during the Vietnam War.  Mai begins by being very resentful of giving up her summer to go to a country she doesn't know, meeting relatives she's sure she won't like....but things progress and she finds much she never knew about her family, her origins and her history.  This is a bit of a younger book, so might not appeal to older students; but it really depends on your interests.  It was a sweet story.

After the Ashes takes place in the 1800s, on the island of Java.  The volcano Krakatau is about to erupt after being "dead" for many years, and this story centers on a young lady and what happens to her.  I found the story hard to read, granted it takes place a long time ago, and the main character is Dutch; and the attitudes towards native populations were not great, but it just felt a bit awkward and wooden.  The main character is portrayed as a bit of a tomboy who is now being asked to no longer be friends with her native best friend; but somehow she is oblivious to all of the issues of Dutch rule and hardships her friend faces?  The native issues aren't explored at all, just some vague "we hate you" from scary men ......who of course, refuse to help in the crisis.  And the main character, for all of her "boy-ish-ness" is really kind of whiny and don't see a lot of redeeming qualities for her aside from her knowledge of the flora and fauna, which helps but she isn't a survivalist, only a 13 year old girl.     So, not a bad story, but off-putting and not great.

This Snow White is a graphic novel with a 1930s setting....and I loved it.  The artwork was beautiful, the story nicely adapted and changed for the history and the modern framework....but still retaining the essentials of a Snow White story.  Really nicely done.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Book Review- Girl, Stolen By:Aleena Khan

Book Review- Girl, Stolen
By:Aleena Khan

Imagine if you were blind. It would be hard to maneuver and sense your surroundings. Now, imagine if you were blind AND kidnapped, and did not have the slightest idea as to where you were going. Girl, Stolen by April Henry is a suspenseful and quick-paced novel about a 16-year-old girl named Cheyenne who is accidentally kidnapped as she is sleeping in the back of her stepmother's car. Her stepmother was just supposed to fill a prescription and come back; however, while sleeping, Cheyenne sensed that someone different entered the car. Cheyenne couldn’t see, but she could sense that this was not her stepmother. The smell of cigarettes and the car door slamming loudly immediately gave her the sense that she was being kidnapped. This novel gives you a new perspective on the difficult world of a blind, and  it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things that I didn’t know about blind people. I really like the symbolism of the little girl covering her eyes, most of us do it when afraid, but for the heroine of the story it is something she must live with every day as a blind person.

In addition, this novel makes one honor a girl who has to think of various ways to escape her problematic situation. Everyone should read this novel because of its unique plot and entertaining read.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reviews from Saleena 11/22/16

Ghosts is a fun and interesting graphic novel about a family who live in a town where ghosts are common and welcome.  I love the link between family and Dia de los Muertos.

An interesting and informative guide to the history of LGBTQ athletes.

Albertalli wrote a very good book, and it looks like it's been optioned to be a movie.  Simon isn't really out of the closet, but has been emailing someone he met online.  When someone finds one of his emails, he blackmails him.  As Simon works his way around the blackmail, he also is trying to figure out who the face is behind the emails.  I really liked the tone and the character development....really well done.

George is a trans boy in grade school, trying to figure out how to talk to his family about who he is.  This is a book aimed at middle school students and is one of only a few books on this topic for this age range.   It's a sweet book and a quick read.

Some Assembly Required is a biography of transgender boy, Arin Andrews.  He discusses his journey, the difficulties he's faced and the obstacles he's overcome.  An informative and inspiring story, and enlightening for anyone looking to learn about transgender issues.

Feedback is another novel in Mira Grant's Newsflesh Universe.  This one involves another blogger group following the Democratic candidate, happening in the same time frame as the original first, it seemed to follow a similar character arc but thankfully, things changed mid-way.  I was REALLY happy to see a gender fluid main character, in a way that wasn't about their sexuality; just a facet of who they were.  Feedback is a tense ride, that keeps the reader on edge until you get to the end.  Great job!  Also, word of warning, this series is definitely aimed at older teens & adults.....lots of zombies & violence....but only if you're good with that sort of thing.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Review of Taken By Erin Bowman By Aastha Kannan

Taken By Erin Bowman
By Aastha Kannan

A fan of The Hunger Games or Divergent Series? Then this is most certainly the book for you. Centered around a boy named Gray who lives in a town called ClaySoot, the book follows his journey to find out the truth about his life and the Heist. The Heist is a ritual that occurs on every boy’s eighteenth birthday. On the eve of a boy’s eighteenth birthday, a feast is held in his honor to say goodbye and the minute the boy turns eighteen the ground shakes hard and he is swallowed up, never to be seen again. Many boys who know that their fate is to be the same, attempt to climb the Wall which is a barrier between ClaySoot and whatever lies beyond it, but their burned bodies show up at the bottom of the Wall the next day. Every time. Gray refuses to believe that this is the only solution and looks into matters himself. By his side is his childhood crush Emma. She slowly falls in love with Gray and follows him in his search for answers. Answers are not always easy to find in ClaySoot and with Gray’s eighteenth birthday creeping up, time is running out. Nevertheless, Emma and Gray keep the search going for an explanation for the Heist and why it happens and how. Their questions lead them over the Wall, a feat no one has managed to survive so far. The next morning their bodies are not found at the bottom of the Wall. They are the first climbers to ever survive. If I give away much more there will be no need for you to read the book so I will only say this, for people who enjoy mystery, suspense, romance, and thrill, this is a book you do not want to miss out.

Review of Today We Are Rich by Tim Sanders; review by Eddie Sim

Today We Are Rich by Tim Sanders is a book about harnessing self confidence to achieve what people previously thought was impossible. Tim Sanders often brings up what he calls the "Negativity Loop", a cycle where someone thinks negative thoughts, suffers from it, and keeps thinking negatively resulting in a downward spiral. In this book, Sanders discusses his "sideways years" where his life takes a turn for the worse and he makes continuously worse choices, creating a negativity loop. This is resolved as he remembers the confidence lessons his grandmother taught him as a child that he can apply to turn his life around for the better. The book also covers his clients who suffer from their own problems, and how he has helped them get their lives back on track. Sanders shows how to deal with a worst case scenario (it probably won't happen), and how to turn negative thoughts into positive energy. As a whole, Today We Are Rich is not a book on how to make profit, but rather being rich as a person and living life to the fullest.

I really enjoyed this book ever since I got it a few years ago. At the time I had been struggling in school and my own personal life, but this book helped me bring my confidence to a new high. I learned that the worst case scenario I imagined almost will never happen, and how to prepare for a better outcome. I feel like I’ve become more positive overall! I’d recommend this book to anybody who is currently in a slump right now, as it’s a short read but provides a huge amount of insight into how to improve yourself.

Eddie Sim

Book Review of The Storyteller By: Aastha Kannan

Book Review of The Storyteller
By: Aastha Kannan

            Written by Antonia Michaelis, The Storyteller, is a book I have glanced over and walked away from numerous times while searching for books to read in the library.  Thankfully, on my last visit I passed it once more except this time, I stopped and picked it up. When I saw the purplish pink cover littered with blood drops and a single rose, I knew I had to read it. Good thing too because until that moment I did not know how much I was missing out on. Michaelis is a terrific author who blends in mystery and romance flawlessly. The story follows two characters named Anna and Abel, a good girl and a bad boy, classic tale right? Except, this romance involves a murder and a storyteller’s story. The book goes back and forth between the storyteller’s story and reality and strangely Anna starts to realize that Abel (the storyteller) seems to be incorporating murders that have not yet happened but will eventually in his stories. She does not realize until it is too late, until she has already fallen in love with him and his younger sister Micha for whom he tells stories. Beautifully written, using vivid colors and characters that who can be made relatable to young people, Michaelis knows just how to draw out every emotion throughout the course of the novel. Anna and Abel’s desperate love and need for each other gives the story a certain degree of heartbreak and grief because Michaelis’ genius writing allows your subconscious to realize what the story is saying without actually interpreting it till you are told. Therefore, you are left with a feeling of anxiety about who the murderer is while wishing that everything works out for Anna and Abel but at the same time knowing who the murderer is and praying that you are wrong. The other characters in the story are wrapped up in the rawness aspect of the story and Michaelis ties them in perfectly, just enough for the reader to be aware of them but not enough for the reader to think much of them until much much later. Until it is too late. Overall, this book is a 10/10 for me and any and everyone must read it should they get a chance. This book will truly change your perception of writing. 

Lots of books! Reviews from Saleena 11/4/16

I got a bit crazed and totally forgot to keep up with Goodreads or my blog.....sigh.....perils of a working person I guess.

So, here is a GIANT amount of stuff   =)

Dan Vs Nature is not one I might have picked up on my own, but it was assigned for review, and I read it....and boy am I glad I did, it was REALLY funny, very slapstick and sliding in under the door was a message of acceptance & not trying to be someone you aren't.   The basic premise of the book is that Dan's mother is in love...again, and he isn't prepared to accept the new man.  Worse, his mom is now talking marraige and moving and he just doesn't want to go through all of that, just for her to be dumped, again.  His mother has a habit of changing herself completely with every new man, and this one is a wilderness survival nut, so Dan's mother sends Dan and the Fiancee out to the wilderness to "get to know each other" and "commune with nature".  Between the silly (and ridiculous) antics of Dan and his friend and the bad luck that happens on the adventure, the reader will be in stitches.

Continuing the Throne of Glass series, Queen of Shadows is the story of Celeana and her ever escalating war against the evil king.  I don't want to spoil it, but there is treachery, assassins, magic and threats behind every won't be able to put it down!  And, like me, you'll be on the edge of your seat waiting for the next volume (I think the concluding one).

Stick is Brett's nickname, because when he plays football the ball sticks to his hands.  Preston is an outcast that just doesn't fit in.  When the football team decides to play a mean prank on Preston, Stick decides that he has had enough.....even though he loves football, he hates it.  He hates all the politics, the way it's the only thing his dad can focus on, the way it consumes his life and he cannot find any joy left for the game.  So, he quits.  And he starts to get to know Preston.  And nothing is as it seems, and nothing will be the same....

I love this book, I didn't expect to, but it's a quick read, with a great topic and the character of Stick is so frustrated and looking for a magic fix to how messed up everything felt like someone I knew.  This is a REALLY good book!

White Rose is another assigned title that I quite enjoyed.  It's the middle of a series, and even though I hadn't read the other title, Jewel, I figured it out and found myself intrigued.  I may even have to read the other titles.
This book begins with Violet escaping the Duchess and the life, but finding a rebellion that calls to her.  Ewing really brings many dimensions to all of the characters, making the story more enthralling, as you uncover the good and bad of the enemies and heroes.....this is an intense book, and it doesn't shy away from the horrible things people can do when rebelling, or when they have unlimited power; but I think, if you like a truly compelling fantasy story, you should try this one.

Leveller refers to the job of retrieving people lost in the MEEP, a virtual reality hooked directly into your brain.  Most people aren't truly lost, just not in a hurry to return to work or school.  Nixy specializes in bringing people back, so she isn't surprised to be called by someone at her father's job; but she is shocked when she finds that the person she needs to retrieve is the creator of the MEEP's son....who just won't return.  Going in after him, she finds that he is trapped, and now, so is she; until they can figure out who has done it and how to trick them into letting them go. 
This is a fast paced adventure with a touch of romance, and a fun ride for all.

I mistakenly thought that this was part of Maas' other series, but once I dove in, I fell in love.  This one is a more character driven, fairy tale style book, with a girl who kills a beast, only to be taken to the house of a beast as punishment....and then to fall in love.  There is a curse, but Feyre, the main character is no wan princess waiting for a rescue, no, THIS girl goes into the mouth of hell to do what is right and to save her love.....a bit intense for some, but I loved the tale and can't wait to read the next one.

This is the concluding volume of the Trelian series, and it wraps it all up pretty well.  It's not the most amazing book I've ever read, nor is it the's just an interesting fantasy adveture with lots of moving parts...and Knudsen does a really good job of tying it all up in a bow so that the reader feels it's resolved.

You know me well is a book told in two voices, and written by two authors, LaCour and Levithan.  Mark is at a bar (that doesn't check ID) for Pride Night at a bar, and he's there with his best friend, whom he wants desperately to be more, but who is deeply in denial of his gayness.  At the bar, Mark sees his friend hanging out with another guy and is suddenly struck with how hopeless the situation is.  Kate is an out lesbian artist, about to graduate high school but terrified of what comes next.  She's in NYC to meet the cousin of her best friend, someone that she thinks might be perfect for her; but she is very aware of her own imperfections, and instead of meeting her, runs away and ends up in a random bar that doesn't check ID.  Kate & Mark have seen each other around school, but aren't friends....but tonight they start talking and make an instant connection.  Can they help each other deal with their issues?  Or is this just a random thing that happens and means nothing?

I absolutely adored this book, devouring it in one sitting, unable to put it down.   Much like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, the action in the book happens over a short period of time.....this one is a week.  I also was happy with out characters who aren't fighting with their sexuality (a la the classic "why am I gay?") but who are just dealing with regular issues, falling in love with the wrong person, worrying about the future, and trying to figure out how to deal.   This is an excellent book and everyone should read it.

I have said many times that I will pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman, so when I saw this new comic, I had to try it.   The title makes it sound much more I was not surprised, but instead delighted to find that the girls in the book are actually (at least probably) not human at all and that the boys (mostly the main character) are clueless about girls but trying hard anyway.   It's a quick read, quite fun and funny.

Golden Boys is one of those books that English teachers love, full of symbolism and "language" and "deep thoughts"; but which I abhore because while all the symbols and language and thinking are fine, I really just want to read a story....and this book had no story......or at least not one I could find.   The author lays out the issues quite early, but then with all the fussing, and talking and discovering of each others issues, nothing actually happens.  It's like watching a reality show that's actual reality, lots of nothing really happening.   I read it because it was an assigned review, and I really disliked this book, but upon looking it up; found it had indeed won many awards, and gotten many kudos (a perfect 10 from VOYA?  wow); which as far as I'm concerned, just goes to show how far I am from the awards crowd....I'm never looking for anything high brow, just a good story with characters I feel a kinship with (even if we have nothing in common).....I want to be transported, not examine a book for all the parts and then declare it a "feast for the mind".....but if you like that sort of thing, this is your kind of book.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne Review By Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne Review
By Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii

“Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

A Note Before I Review the Book:
Everyone says that the current generation doesn’t read much. And that was true. I mean, who wants to read if there are so many interesting things to do out there, such as keeping up Snapchat streaks and catching Pokémon with the Pokémon Go app? However, when I wanted to read the all-new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I searched it up on the library catalog, I found to my astonishment that all the copies were checked out. What does that mean? So does the current generation read, or is it just this particular book? In fact, it’s a little bit of both. “One legacy of the Harry Potter books is that they turned a whole generation onto reading,” writes the August 2016 issue of the Time magazine. And that’s absolutely true, for no other book in our library (and probably in other libraries) is as demanded as the Harry Potter books. 
Meet the Main Characters:
Harry and Ginny Potter: This remarkable duo returns in the eighth book of their story. However, this time, they are not Hogwarts students defending everything they know, but supportive parents of their three children (James Sirius, AlbusSeverus, and Lily Luna). 
Albus Severus Potter: The main character of this story, Albus is the middle child of the three Potters. When he first goes to school, everyone is surprised that he is not like his father in so many ways, and Albus struggles to keep his reputation together as he tries to be like his father but only makes it worse.
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger: Of course, the book wouldn’t be complete without these two. They are the loving parents of Rose Granger-Weasley, and they help Harry with his “son troubles” as they did long ago.
Rose Granger-Weasley: Tries to be Albus’ friend, but only makes him more frustrated about his life and personality. She, herself, is very much like her mother.
Scorpius Malfoy: The son of the once-hated Draco, he is rumored to be Voldemort’s son and also struggles with his life. He quickly makes friends with Albus, despite their father’s concerns.
Delphi: A sneaky little witch that lures the two boys into a trap that they didn’t know they were in until they fell right into it. 

A Little Summary With No Spoilers (I promise!)
It is time for Albus Severus Potter, Harry Potter’s middle child, to start his schooling at Hogwarts. Despite the excitement around him, Albus is very nervous because he believes that he will mess up. As soon as he arrives to Hogwarts, everything goes just the opposite of how Albus wants it to go. He is not placed into Gryffindor, he makes friends with a Malfoy, and he isn’t at all like his father in lessons. 
One night, Albus overhears a conversation of his father with Amos Diggory (who is still suffering from his son’s death). Amos tells Harry that he heard that there was still one time-turner left at the Ministry of Magic. He begs Harry to let him have the time-turner just to go back to the Tri-Wizard Tournament and to bring back his son. However, Harry refuses to do this and denies all facts of having a time-turner.
Albus, still angry at his father because of several previous arguments, decided to help Amos Diggory to show his father that he is still good at something. With the help of  his Malfoyfriend and a girl named Delphi (who claims to be Amos’ neice), he breaks into the Ministry and steals the only time-turner Hermione didn’t destroy.
However, this time-turner only allowed the trio to travel into time for five minutes. Obviously, this wasn’t enough time, but Albus decided to do it anyway, and plunged into the Tri-Wizard tournament of his father’s youth. The trio manages to save Cedric, but when they come into the past, there are several changes. Rose isn’t born, Albus is in Gryffindor, and Hermione is a teacher at Hogwarts (although before she was Minister for Magic). 
The trio flies into time again, and save Cedric again. Only this time, when they return, Scorpious Malfoy finds that Harry Potter had been dead for years, Albus was never born, and Voldemort ruled the world. Scared and horrified, Socrpiousalone (for Delphi has disappeared somewhere) runs into what is left of the sad party. Ron and Hermione (although not married), along with Severus Snape all live in the depths of a forest, and constantly have to be on the watch for they could be killed any moment.
Desperate to get back to the world he knew, Scorpious tells the new Ron, Hermione, and Severus of his world. The three are surprised to hear what had actually happened, and they agree to help him get back to reality. Scorpious returns. Everything seems that it’s just right.
However, that’s not the case. All of a sudden, the boys find out who Delphi is, but it’s too late. She takes them back to the day Harry’s parents were killed, and leaves them stuck in the past. It’s up to the boys to call over their parents and close ones to help them defend the past and save the future, all while living in the present.

My Thoughts on this Book:
Overall, I thought that this book fit snugly with the other seven, and that it was a great continuation. It must be remembered that this play is only based on the book, and is not the actual story. However, it was still hard to tear myself away from it because I have not touched the series since I finished it, and I realized how much I missed this wizarding world. There was plenty of action for those who cannot read long and boring descriptions, and there was enough descriptions for those who are confused without it. The style was so much like J.K. Rowling’s, it was hard to believe that she didn’t write the play as well. I definitely recommend this book to all Potterheads and Un-Potterheads. Everyone will love this new book, for it’s like the other seven and not like them all at once. Enjoy!
My Rating:
I give this book 10 out of 5 stars. No, I didn’t make a mistake. I am giving it 10 out of 5 stars because it was simply wonderful. 

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, review by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  A Quote to Consider: “With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of...