Friday, June 23, 2017

Saleena's reviews 6/23/17


Anyone who knows me, is aware of how fascinated I am with stories of the Fae; and Marr is one of the masters at them.  In this series (which I admit, I missed the first one of) she premises that humans are aware of the Fae and have made being one of them a crime (testing done by blood is common to determine whether or not you have magic and are tainted); so a contigent of Fae, one of whom is the incumbent successor of the throne of the Fae AND a link betwen the Seelie and Unseelie courts is pretty much wanted dead by all.  Especially since she is attempting to negotiate peace and eliminate the prejudice against the Fae among humans; Lilyblack is a huge target that everyone seems to have a reason to kill.  The romance and intrigue are perfect for a teen audience but not so syrupy as to turn off an adult reader.  Once again Melissa Marr hits a home run; runs a touchdown (insert sports reference here....I'm clueless...lol)   Amazing!



This is a shorter book, aimed at younger children; but accessible to all ages.  I actually listened to it; and it was an engaging tale with Thor and Loki and Odin and Frost Giants told in a traditional fairy tale way. The fact that Gaiman can write a new story that FEELS like it would fit right into the traditional Norse tales speaks volumes about his talent.  Definitely don't miss this one.










Looking at this title, I really thought it would be a silly tale of dinosaurs; but what it REALLY is, I wasn't prepared for.  It's an alternate history story but in a very much "true to history" style; but with the small change of dinosaurs not dying out.  Napolean's armies have discovered a new species of dinosaur (T-Rex; but not called that in these books) that are being trained for battle.  It works, because Napoleon is exactly the type of leader who would be ruthless enough to sacrifice his own troops in order to achieve victory.  It is a bit of a slow starter but a really well done book.







This book is a collection of quotes and stories that also form the basis of the documentary that was made from a previously never released work of James Baldwin.  It was eye opening and ruthless and I now feel obligated to watch the documentary, though I'm sure it will be even more heartbreaking to see the moving images as to read the excerpts.










Ronit & Jamil is a story of star-crossed lovers (a la Romeo & Juliet) but with a boy & girl from Israel and Palestine.  It's in poetry format and in two voices (but the separate voices are not always identified, so it can be a tad confusing to tell who is talking).  All in all, a nice book; pretty well done and set against modern times.








Glasgow wrote a real book; one that will rip out your heart and make you cry.  It is about a girl who after a life-time of cutting; finally decided to kill herself because life had gotten too much (she was homeless and had been trapped in a sex slavery ring and was desperate to escape).  The author divides the story into 3 parts, one in the mental hospital where we see flashes of what happened to lead her here; one in Nevada as her new life (hopefully) begins, and the 3rd after everything goes wrong in Nevada (no spoilers, so I can't say why the 3rd section).  I was so upset by this that I had to stop listening to the book, go get a copy & see how it ended, before I could allow myself to finish the story.  This book was amazing and heart wrenching and important.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

“Book Review of My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows” by Vanditha Krishnan

“Book Review of My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows”
by Vanditha Krishnan



First of all, look at that cover. Don’t you just want to cuddle up in your blanket and begin reading? My Lady Jane is a comical, romantical, and wonderfully written novel by the terrific trio, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows. These authors, famous for writing the Unearthly, Everneath, and Incarnate series, have done it again with this debut novel series. The other books in the trilogy are releasing later this year and the beginning of next year, and I can’t wait to read them!

Plot: The novel is based off on history -- Lady Jane Grey, a sixteen-year-old cousin of King Edward VI (who is also sixteen), is about to be married to the nineteen-year-old Lord Gifford Dunley, aka “G.” It takes place during the the Tudor Era, which was from 1485 to 1603 in England. The main conflict in the Tudor Era was between the Catholics and the Protestants. My Lady Jane used magical shapeshifters to represent these Protestants, who were hated throughout much of England. In the story, Lady Jane is caught up in an evil conspiracy to steal the young King Edward’s throne, but before she does, she will become one of the most powerful women in England -- the Queen.

Characters: Jane. Oh, Jane. Definitely my favorite book character of all time. She was compassionate, sarcastic, intelligent, and adored books -- all qualities that are relatable to me and many others. Jane wanted to do what was best for England, not just her; that’s what truly made me appreciate her personality. Edward, or should I say, King Edward VI, was a close second. He was one of the few Tudor kings that was noble and magnanimous. Edward was a loyal king, as well as a loving cousin. His relationship with cousin Jane was gush-worthy. And our last character is Gifford. Lady Jane was actually married to Lord Guildford Dunley, and that is one of the significant differences between this novel and history. Gifford, however, was likable. In the beginning of the novel, he seemed reluctant and brooding; eventually, he was supportive and loved Jane with all of his heart. The characters in My Lady Jane were so relatable -- overall, they enhanced the story.


Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed My Lady Jane, but did not appreciate the author speaking right to me. In some cases, this did clarify the actual history behind the novel, but generally it seemed too direct. Other than that, this extraordinary book kept me up for two hours straight, and I appreciate the fact that Ashton, Hand, and Meadows incorporated history into such a hilarious book. Great read!

My Rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Saleena's reviews

I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did.  This simple scientific look at the history of dogs and human and how we affect each other was fascinating.  I recommended it to a colleague, who is finding it equally enthralling.  Definitely one to check out!








I listened to the audio of Still Life with Tornado and it was really well done.  King's writing really grabs you by the throat and shows you the world.  The main character has quit school and is struggling to come to terms with her life, which results in a discovery that much of her life is a lie.  My only complaint was the weirdness of the meetings between the main character and her other selves....it was interesting but confusing because it was never explained.  Is there a dimension that lets you meet yourself at various ages?  Does she have a super power?  Is this a mass delusion?  It bothered me not to have the answer, let me know what you think.



Anna Kendrick's bio is just like her, quick, funny and a delight.  I feel like I should be binge watching all of her movies right now.....=)

Friday, June 02, 2017

“A Book Review of Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys” by Vanditha Krishnan

“A Book Review of Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys”
by Vanditha Krishnan

Historical fiction is a genre that most young adults won’t pick up at first glance. It’s boring, and history seems to discuss the same things over and over again, right? That’s not true to all of the historical fiction world-- Salt To The Sea is an excellent novel by award-winning author Ruta Sepetys. Lifting the veil on a mysterious tragedy during World War II, Sepetys’ profound writing will seize you from the very start…

Plot: It’s hard to review this book without giving anything away, each tiny detail is extremely important to note. Sepetys introduces you to four characters: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred, that live during the catastrophic time of World War II. Each one of these individuals comes from a different background, and they all happen to meet on the ill-fated MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military transport ship. Unfortunately, disaster strikes and all four teenagers have to count on each other…

Characters: The first character we’re introduced to is Joana Vilkas, who is a young nurse seeking refuge from war-torn Lithuania. Joana is an altruistic woman who is willing to put herself behind others. Our second character is Florian Beck, who’s a protective, yet likable Prussian apprentice. Florian is Joana’s first friend during this time, and they bond quite well. Emilia Sto┼╝ek is a 15-year-old pregnant girl from Poland who is escaping after a horrific encounter with a Russian soldier. Emilia is timid and vulnerable, especially to her new friends. We must close with Alfred Frick, the egocentric German sailor living in the shadows of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda. Alfred spends most of his time writing to Hannelore, a Jewish girl living in his hometown. All four of the characters in Salt To The Sea are different, however, they are all respectable in their own way.


Thoughts: Personally, I loved Joana’s bravery, Florian’s loyalty and flattery, and Emilia’s quiet strength. All of them came from difficult situations, but Emilia’s was by far the worst. In my opinion, Alfred was such an obnoxious guy -- every time he was introduced, I was actually scared! During all of his fights with Emilia, I was secretly hoping that he would be the one to lose. As far as the book goes, Salt To The Sea is my FAVORITE book ever written. I enjoyed the mystery, the tragedy,the romance, and the history that encompassed the novel. My reaction at the end didn’t include tears of grief, but of happiness. Every moment spent reading was worth the ending. This genre, historical fiction, is not one I commonly read to enjoy, but this book is something different and you will surely love it!

My Rating: 10/10



BOOK REVIEW : Empress of a Thousand Skies By Rhoda Belleza BY SULPHIA IQBAL

BOOK REVIEW : Empress of a Thousand Skies

By Rhoda Belleza

       BY SULPHIA IQBAL






MY THOUGHTS
Empress of a Thousand Skies is an appropriate, timely read that sheds light on things most YA novels don’t usually do in science fiction. The book mirrors major issues like privacy, danger of of technology, and racism. After reading Carve the Mark, I was kinda skeptical about anything intergalactic YA. That said, I had really low expectations for this book, but I was glad to find I was earnestly wrong.

The novel is told in the perspective two distinct characters, the first being Crown Princess Rhiannon. At a young age, her parents and older sister, who at the time was Crown Princess, died in an accident. Since that very day, Rhee was convinced her late father’s best friend was responsible for their deaths, intending to seize the throne and succeeded. She never stopped to question her theory and decided it would be her sole mission to avenge her parents when she finally reclaimed the throne and killed her family’s betrayer.

Meanwhile, the novel also narrates the story of Alyosha, a popular social media star originating from a planet called Wraeta. The people of this planet are basically shunned and are considered as “lessers” for their skin color and “violent and unstable” behavior.

I’m really picky about my characters and though I did not exactly like Rhee, she did have a significant amount of character growth. In the beginning, she started off naive and impulsive, quite understandable after the accident gave her survivor’s guilt. Alyosha’s character was rather insightful and diverse; it was refreshing for a YA character in sci-fic to address issues without being subtle. He is framed by the leader of the planet for the supposed murder of Crown Princess Rhiannon, solely because of the color of his skin, forcing him to address the racial comments that seem to never end and the issue he has with privacy and social media in a world where every move you made could be acquired through the cube, a device installed on every person as a means to record memories.

To reiterate what I said before, this book does actually capture issues like racism, privacy, and the dangers of technology in an appealing way. I think Veronica Roth tried to do the same in Carve The Mark, though it did not work as well.  Reading YA sci-fic with similarities to real realities puts things into perspective. As Emily May put it, “it was deeply disturbing to see how much a dramatic and dangerous fantasy world could mirror our own,”.

The only thing that prevented me from giving this book a 5/5 was the fact it was slow until the very end and how boring it was for a majority of it. The idea and concept might not have seemed original at first glance, but it proved to be different from other intergalactic novels out there. The world-building was not bad and certainly fared better than Carve The Mark. But the plot was really bland for a lot of it and could have used more spice and action.
QUOTES


“If all we are is what people think we are, then we’re all screwed.”

An actually interesting intergalactic YA novel that you should definitely pick up.
Check it out at the library and goodreads :

RATINGS: 3.5/5



BOOK REVIEW : Caraval By Stephanie Garber BY SULPHIA IQBAL

BOOK REVIEW : Caraval
By Stephanie Garber
       BY SULPHIA IQBAL

                                   WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet, stop at the 2nd section.
                                              ALSO: ISN’T THAT COVER JUST BEAUTIFUL??


MY THOUGHTS
Caraval was an emotional roller coaster through a complex web of mystery and the unknown, sisterhood and friendship, sprinkled with the right amount of magical goodness, so unlike other books you might have read this year.

There are times where I’m reading a book and there are just far too many problems to ignore. At some point, I usually put said book down and call it a day. That was not the case with this one. While Caraval was not perfect, it made me feel like that was okay, like I didn’t have to think too much about what I was reading. It was simply Caraval, the story of two sisters and their everlasting, steadfast love and friendship.

Scarlett and her younger sister Tella live on an island with their harsh and rigid father who plans to force Scarlett into marrying a guy she’s never met. After the disappearance of their mother years ago, their father’s personality had begun to transform him into an abusive man, willing to punish one sister for the fault of another just to make his consequences clear.

The two sisters grew up hearing many stories from their grandmother who introduces the story of the Legend. According to grandma, Legend conducts Caraval ( this game that’s almost like a reality game show mixed with Willy Wonka ) every year, each game with its different purpose. He invites exclusive players to play one another for the grand prize: a wish granted by Legend himself. Scar and Tella idolized Legend while growing up. They wrote to the gamemaster each year, asking him to visit and help them escape the wrath of their father. They would eagerly wait for a letter that never came.

Because of this, Scar was in disbelief when she receives tickets from Legend to play this year's Caraval. Despite years and years of waiting for a letter back, ironically Scar actually opposes the idea of attending Caraval, arguing that not only could they not leave the island under their father’s nose, but there was also Scarlett’s wedding, which was to happen in a week or so.

Julian, a random (when I mean random I mean actually random)  friend of Tella’s, helps knock out Scar and drops Tella off at Legend’s island. By the time Julian goes back and brings Scar to the island, Tella has disappeared.

Already guessed what this year’s Caraval is about?

Yup. This year’s objective : find Tella Dagna. With the help of Julian, who has apparently played the game before, Scar reluctantly is immersed in a confusing wild-goose chase in a world where everything is a mere illusion- a game that is controlled by Legend and could very well ruin you. But Scarlett can’t let that happen. She has to find her sister, save her from Legend, and return back to their island before their father finds out.

I found this book and its concept really creative. It was refreshing to read a YA book where there are two female who were actually friends and had none of that sister hate and/or girl problems. The idea of this reality game show coming to life by a misunderstood villain and two sisters  who are caught in the middle of it all - it was straight up my alley and I’m sure yours too.

Things That Were Not So Great
   WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet, don’t read anything under this!!!

Caraval had a lot going for it, but as the persnickety (don’t you love that word?) book reviewer I am, I will address some of the minor issues.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of the review, there is a handful of nonsensical and overly dramatic phrases scattered throughout the book, such as :

“It smelled like the middle of the night”

“He tasted like midnight and wind”

“Tella’s expression fell, like a doll Scarlett had dropped.”

“She could see the sting of her rejection in shades of stormy blue, ghosting over his heart like sad morning mist."

“Periwinkle curiosity”

Like what?!!! How on earth can someone taste like midnight? Does midnight even have its own taste? And since when did curiosity have a color? For those of you who have read Shatter Me and did not like it for this exact same reason, I know you can resonate with me. I mean, I get it, metaphors and literary devices are important, but when authors go too far *CRINGE*, it has officially become a high school creative writing class piece.

Additionally, there was practically no character development whatsoever. The two main characters in this book were really iffy from the start. Scarlett is consumed by the need to protect her sister, making tough decisions and taking in consideration everyone’s opinion, even her dad’s. She was willing to get married to someone she didn’t even know just so that everyone around her could be happy. At one point, I remember Julian asking whether she ever actually cared about herself. It’s not like I really didn’t enjoy her character, but I just think Scarlett could’ve matured a bit more by the end of the book. She was kinda whiny and had to get a hold of herself, though I wouldn’t know how to act myself if my sibling was kidnapped as part of a game that could potentially cause me to lose them forever. Tella, always the rebel, couldn’t stand waiting for things to magically solve the issues involving her father and therefore makes rather rash decisions. Even in the end, you see her acting behind her sister’s back, and though you really don’t see her as much, I really wish we could’ve seen more of Scarlett and Tella together and their development as individuals and sisters. Honestly, the only character who actually changed to some extent was Julian. In the beginning, you wouldn’t think his role was as essential to the book as Tella’s or Scarlett’s was, but he’s more important than you think.

The ending was kinda disappointing. Towards the end, I was in this frenzy, guessing possible identities and connections between the characters. At some point, you think you got it and then Garber is like HA YOU THOUGHT WRONG and yeah…..And then you get to the end and you’re like...oh, and I’m going to stop there before I spoil anything.

I really liked the premise of this book and read the book with an opened mind. There was so much hype about it and I naturally told myself not to expect anything too great. I think that’s the best way approach books like this, so if you decided to ignore the warning , try to ignore whatever I said in this second section and read the book.

QUOTES

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”

“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.”

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.”

“What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”


Check it out at the library and goodreads :


RATINGS: 5/5

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound is about a girl named Amal who lives in pakistan and goes to school...