Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reviews from Saleena, 2/14/17

Otis and Meg used to live next door to each other and were deeply in love.  Then came the horrible summer that Otis' brother died and everything changed.  Meg and her family moved away, Otis lost himself in grief and then found swimming and Dara (his coach & friend).  It's been more than 3 years, and suddenly Meg emails him that she is coming into town.  Otis is overwhelmed in a plethora of emotions; as are his parents. 
This is such a lovely multi-layered story...and the phantom limbs not only refers to Dara's lost arm; but also the loss of his little brother and the effects of that loss (and his phantom presence) on all of both families.  Really good but bring a box of tissues.

Marlow Green stumbles onto a truth about Hellish demons that wander the earth; and also a mysterious force that allows you to literally make a deal with the devil; while fighting to keep the world free from demons.  This story was interesting but not my cup of tea.

Stewart & Ashley are brought together by virtue of their parents' decision to move in together.  It's hard on Stewart, because his mother died of a long illness and now he has also lost his home, his school and his safety net.  Ashley is still struggling to accept that her parents are divorced, and has absolutely not accepted that her father is gay (the realization of which was the cause of the divorce).  Stewart is very high on the intellectual scale but lacking in social skills, not autistic; but perhaps Asperberg-like?  (not definted but definitely hinted upon)....Ashley struggles in scholastic pursuits, but rules the school as the chief Mean Girl.  What brings them together, ironically, is a boy.....a nasty, terribly cute boy who befriends Stewart in the hopes of dating Ashley; and as the nastiness surfaces, forces both of them out of their comfort zones.   I really, heavily identified with Stewart, he is a likable and sweet boy who is REALLY trying to logically map out his life, while also acknowledging that life is terribly illogical.  I had a hard time with Ashley, but she IS pretty terrible....and it gets better.   Perhaps the book is a bit "rose colored glasses" but I enjoyed it and the idea of growth & redemption that Nielsen puts forward for all of the characters. 

Wendy Project is a new version of the old Neverland tale, in graphic novel format and with a few minor changes.  It is interesting but not amazing.

All American Boys is a hard book to read, but an important one.  Two boys, one black and one white are at a corner store.  The one is accused of stealing (but is innocent), and because of the accusation (and the aura of suspicion based on his skin color & clothes)...is badly beaten, and almost dies.  The other sees the beating, recognizes that it is overboard but is uncomfortable acknowledging that people he knows (because he knows the police officer, brother of a friend) can be racist & violent.  The incident leads to unrest at the school and the neighborhood as people take sides and each boy struggles with what happened that night, and where to go from here. 
This book tore out my heart, and I knew it would ......a must read for everyone.

Trashed is a weird combo of fact & fiction.  Backderf based the book on his experiences as a trashman, but it is fictionalized so he can take licenses with the characters and make them even MORE out there.  I can almost see this as a Parks & Rec episode, but grosser (because maggots & smell).....but it is nonetheless a look at the job of taking in trash along with an examination of how much trash we create.  Definitely an interesting graphic novel.

Friday, February 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW : Replica By Lauren Oliver by Sulphia Iqbal

BOOK REVIEW : Replica 
By Lauren Oliver
February 7th        BY SULPHIA IQBAL


From a distance, the Haven Institute, tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida, looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, it is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed.

But when a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. As they make their way through a new and menacing environment, they meet a stranger named Gemma, who has embarked on a perilous quest of her own. And as Lyra tries to understand Haven’s purpose, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls.


Gemma has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. A sickly child, she has grown into a lonely adolescent whose life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April.

But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two human models, or replicas, 24 and 72—and a completely new set of questions. As Gemma tries to unravel the mysteries of Haven, she learns terrible truths about herself and her family that will threaten to destroy everything she loves.

Two girls, two stories, one novel.

While the stories of Gemma and Lyra mirror each other, each contains revelations critically important to the other story. Their narratives can be read separately or in alternating chapters.

I had so much expectations for this book, but I will sadly say I didn’t get past chapter four ( technically the eighth chapter, though ) . The cover was neat, but the rest was just boring. Don’t make the mistake of falling for that amazing cover like I did.

BOOK REVIEW : Like A River Glorious By Rae Carson by Sulphia Iqbal

BOOK REVIEW : Like A River Glorious
By Rae Carson
February 4th         BY SULPHIA IQBAL

After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

The second epic historical fantasy in the Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson, the acclaimed author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I LOVED the characters in this book. I was used to most of these characters from the first installment of the series, but there was a great deal of development that I think really had me liking this book as I read.

The Joyners, a family which consisted of Rebekah, a widower whose husband died coming to California, and her three young children, were a really endearing part of this book. I felt for Rebekah throughout this book because her struggle was real, dealing with three children, one just recently born, all on her own, with no female assistance aside from Lee. I find it amazing how she dealt with all of it in 1849 Gold Rush after taking a cross country trip from Tennessee to California. There were so many labels that could’ve stopped her - widow, women, single mother of three, even bad cook - but she defies all of them.

And then there’s Leah “Lee” Westfall and Jefferson McCauley. For those who have not read the first book, Lee is a girl with a magical ability to sense and attract gold. She ran away from her home in Georgia after her uncle murdered her parents to use her powers and soon joined her best friend Jefferson in Missouri. They both joined a traveling group that was heading for California to earn gold, except Lee has to disguise herself as a boy because her evil uncle is coming after her. Jefferson is my favorite character in this book. He’s kind and considerate, willing to keep Lee’s secret until she was ready to spill, offer the Indians peace offerings,and take in Martin when he had no family.

The beginning was really good.

It’s starts out with Lee and the rest of her group deciding on an area to begin their camp. When she finally decides to reveal her dangerous secret, The Hoffmans, one of the families who had accompanied the group, decide to head back to their home. When her Uncle, who is after her, sends his men to Glory, the group knows they’re in for a whole lot of trouble.

The development of Glory and the people that begin to inhabit it  is pretty much what happens for the entirety of the book, until the last 40 pages or so. What I didn’t really like was the ending because it was a bit too fast for my taste. We don’t get to see much of the villain until the end.


I would say read this book just purely because of it’s characters. Their development is enjoyable and their interaction with each other had me laughing at times. I applaud Rae Carson for spotlighting diversity in this novel as well.

“So I pull harder. More gold coats my arms and legs. I don’t have to look to know I am a golden statue, shining like the daughter of Midas. Except the gold is mine. I’m the one in control. Come.”

“What did we ever do to him?” Jefferson asks.
“We exist,” Tom says simply. “Look at us. Look at who we are.”
We’re a half-Cherokee boy, a one-legged war veteran, three confirmed bachelors, and two uppity women. Little does Frank know we also have a runaway slave with us, but I’d die before I told.”

It was an enthralling addition to the Gold Seer Trilogy and I would recommend it to anyone. You do have to read the previous book to understand it , though.
Check it out at the library and goodreads :

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Raw, By Hana Malik Book Review by Aleena Khan

Raw, By Hana Malik
Book Review

    I stumbled across this short, but powerful poetry book a couple of months ago. It was written by Hana Malik, a NYC-based visual artist who has a passion for writing and expressing individualism. Raw is  a short collection of poetry written to display thoughts on concepts such as self-love, forgiveness, survival and cultural identity. I loved this book because it was short, but very powerful. It's a great book to just have on your nightstand and to browse through if you are having a bad day. The book put the everyday struggles into short and sweet phrases that were easy to understand; I recommend this book if you are getting into poetry and yearn for a beautiful read. I really loved each word of the poems and it really spoke to me. Here are two of my favorite poems:

Too add, I love the simplicity of this book; how every page is black and white with no color. Therefore, the name Raw.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs Review By Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs Review

By Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.” 

Terms to Know:

Peculiar- Having a special ability that a normal person does not have. 

Loop- A play on time which causes a single day to repeat over and over again; only those for who the loop was made for are conscious of it. For everybody else, it just a normal day, every day.

Hollowgast- A terrible creature that reversed time to a point where its soul didn’t even exist, making it soulless and heartless. Can live for thousands of years. Feed on animals, and human blood.

Wight- If a hollowgast drinks enough human blood, then it becomes a wight. Wights can pass for humans. Have no pupils, just blank orbs, but otherwise look just like humans. Act on instinct. Fond of dramatic gestures.

Ymbryne- A female who can manipulate time and take the form of a bird (for only birds can manipulate time)

Meet the Characters:

Jacob Portman- An average sixteen-year-old that spent his childhood on a positive note with his grandfather. Embarks on a out-of-this-world adventure to figure out his grandfather’s past and connect it to the present and his own life.

Abraham Portman- Jacob’s grandfather. Tells him many stories of his youth that fascinate Jacob when he is little. Is thought to go crazy because of the trauma he experienced “in war”. Has many secrets that Jacob must uncover, including the fact that he was also peculiar and lived at Miss Peregrine’s home at one point in life.

Franklin Porter- Jacob’s father, and the son of Abraham Porter. Does not believe Abraham, thinks he is crazy. Thinks his son is crazy when he starts backing up what Abraham said. Always starts writing books and then gets discouraged because he is beat out by someone else.

Dr. Golan- Jacob’s psychiatrist who later turns out to be something that Jacob never even suspected. Follows him to the island and messes things up for quite a while.

Miss Peregrine- A ymbryne. Takes the form of a Peregrine. Headmistress of the house that she created to take in peculiars.

Emma Bloom- A peculiar girl, lives with Miss Peregrine. Peculiarity: can create fire with her bare hands. Had a soft spot for Abraham Portman when he was alive and living at the home. Finds Jacob to her taste as well.

A Summary With No Spoilers:

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s stories about children with 2 mouths and levitating powers. His grandfather would always sit with him and tell him fantastic stories of a house where these magic children lived. His grandfather would always shows Jacob photos to top off the stories. And, he would always ask, “Do you believe me, Yakob? No, you don’t believe, do you?” 

Jacob always carefully considered the stories and photos. And, as a little, open-minded boy, he said, “I believe you.”

However, as Jacob grew older, he found that his grandfather’s stories of monsters with eight tongues that haunted him and children that lived under the safety of a bird were just something to entertain him when he was younger. At least, he believed so.

And when his grandfather began to panic and repeat over and over that the monsters had found him and that they would take him any moment, Jacob began to get worried that his grandfather was becoming insane. After an especially perplexing conversation on the phone in which Abraham began to inquire where the key to his gun drawer was located, Jacob decided to stop by and check on his grandfather.

To his utter surprise and horror, Jacob found his grandfather’s house a wreck. Drawers were hanging open, doors ripped out of the doorways, and the furniture in shreds. Jacob ran out to the backyard to find his grandfather lying in a puddle of blood, half-dead. 

“Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940. Emerson—the letter. Tell them what happened, Yakob,” whispered Abraham to his grandson  before passing on right before his eyes.

Just as Jacob decides to leave, he sees it. A black monster with eight tongues, it’s beady eyes swirling with mist. It stands behind the bushes, as though watching and waiting for the right time to strike. Jacob faints.

Devastated, scared, worried, and troubled, Jacob tries to find the answer to the phrases, only convincing his parents that he has gone crazy. They take him to a psychiatrist who soothes Jacob by twisting the words to make it seem as though Jacob had just seen a figment of his own imagination. He suggest Jacob takes a vacation.

But what Jacob doesn’t know is that what his grandfather had been telling him was true. The children exist. The monsters exist. The Bird exists, and so does the home where all of them live. 

Bit by bit, Jacob learns about his grandfather’s past, and what that means to him now. He learns of his own peculiarity, makes friends, and finds his true foes. And when the house is endangered, it is up to Jacob to save the children and the Bird from the world.

My Rating:

I am giving this book a 9/10 stars. Everything about the plot was wonderful. The children were so vividly described that it felt like I had met them personally. The plot was action-packed, and kept me on the edge of my seat as I read. And the mystery-like parts of the book kept me wondering what would happen next at all times. A bonus is the realistic photos that are included throughout the book, for they make you feel like you are actually in the story and are going through the emotions with the characters. The only part that kept me from giving me the book the full 10 stars is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I will just warn you that the ending cuts you off like a slap in the face. It’s so abrupt, that you can’t help by running to the library to get the second book right away, which is what I am currently doing… Enjoy!


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...