Thursday, December 6, 2018

Wildcard (Warcross #2)


In this "much anticipated" sequal to Warcross, Asian American gamer/hacker/virtual reality bounty hunter Emika Chen must walk away from her hero and friend in order to work with his enemy for the good of the world. Like the first one, it is filled with mystery, action, sacrifice and adventure. Although this story takes place in Tokyo, this is the Neurolink Tokyo where virtual reality and reality reality intermingle seamlessly to create an almost Blade Runner existence.

Although I read e-books almost exclusively now versus a paper book, my sign that a book is good happens when the book gets really exciting and when I look down at the percentage read marker on the e-book, I am close to the 50% read mark versus the 95% read mark. At that point,  I know I am in for a ride and I start clearing my schedule so I can plow through and read to the end.

Finally, I have mad love for my local public library and the State of Hawaii public library system that actually ordered this e book when I requested it. It was worth the wait (my sneak peek of this book was in September) and I think when a state system can get a request in September and I can make my way through the waitlist by December, that is a well run machine.

Long Way Down

My Thoughts:

This novel in verse is about 15-year-old Will who decides that he must follow the rules and avenge the shooting death of his brother. As he rides down the elevator of his housing complex to L (for loser), he encounters A Christmas Carol like menagerie of ghosts who enter and stay as the elevator stops on each floor.

This is a must share for reluctant readers. The poetry style and the ample white space as well as the generational story of each ghost and his/her connection to Will is a perfect "not boring" way to keep middle level readers engaged. 

I also really love this cover, the way the inside panel of the elevator on the cover shows a fuzzy distorted view of Will is both simple and very metaphoric. As long as teachers don't harp on it and try to analyze the cover to death, I think it can speak for itself. I just really like how haunting it is.

Finally, I appreciate authors like Mr. Reynolds who come at writing as a reluctant reader. I just read an article in The Guardian about Reynolds and how amazing it is that he is a writer considering that he was 17 before he read a book from start to finish. YA needs more writers who are aliterate or reluctant readers writing for their younger selves. Like Reynolds says, to reach readers, do not write boring books. Amen and thank you for this not boring book. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Young Elites


Marie Lu is the author of Warcross, the Ready Player One/Hunger Games  series being written now. While I was waiting on the library list I decided to try one of her earlier series.

Description:

 am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
 
It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt


My Thoughts:

I liked the story, was rooting for the flawed Adelina until in Game of Thrones fashion, the author, Lu, killed off the only character I actually liked and the only one that could possibly be her saving grace. 

At the end of book 1, as a flawed character she has not progressed and I am left without a moral center. I don't feel for her and I feel like she is a major boo hoo whiner who now has more power than she can keep in check. 

Will I read the next book? Probably because there is no waiting list at the library. That might not be a good thing, but "hope springs eternal."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hibakusha

Script: Thilde Barboni
Artwork: Olivier Cinna

Description:

Ludwig has never been a soldier. A childhood injury left him lame in one leg, which has allowed him to largely sit out the war on the sidelines, as a translator. Fleeing his passionless marriage, he accepts an assignment in Japan, allowing him to return to the land of his youth. But the year is 1945. It is not a good time to be Japanese, or German… much less stationed in Hiroshima. Ludwig is tempted by love and, in furtively tampering with his translations of classified documents, by the chance to do something heroic. But none of that will save him...

My Thoughts:

Hibakusha is the Japanese term for survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945. To read about the personal experience of Hibakusha, try Barefoot Gen, a graphic novel series by Keiji Nakazawa. There is also a very good multigenre novel titled Sachiko by Caron Stilson.

This is a fictional love story of a German translator and a Japanese woman in Hiroshima in 1945. What makes this intriguing is that the author starts with the haunting images of people's shadows incinerated in stone.

When I was a child, my mother and I lived in Japan so she could teach English at a Japanese high school. My maternal grandmother had family in Hiroshima so on our school holidays we would catch the shinkansen, bullet train, from Osaka to Hiroshima to stave off our homesickness by visiting relatives. At seven, I visited the peace memorial in Hiroshima and the image of the stone with the shadow of the person that was sitting on that stone continued to haunt me. Like the shoes in the Holocaust museum in DC, the shadow on the stone has stayed with me all these years. I can understand, then Barboni's desire to create a story around the shadow in the stone.

In her own haunted imagination she wonders if the stone can remember. She wants to know if the soul of the person memorialized in the stone can be immortalized in the rock. That is what is most fascinating about this story. 

A digital copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Gilded Wolves


Description:

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.

My Thoughts:


This is a story of young thieves with different powers. If this were contemporary novel, the characters would have different 21st century tech skills. Together, under the leadership of their own ousted "prince," these young people have created their own extended family, working together to try and return their "prince" to his throne, or his House. What I like about this is the fact that in a way the characters are both loyal to each other and using each other at the same time. That lends a complexity to the relationships that draws me in. I also like that this is not a happy sappy. The best YA stories, in my opinion balance victory and tragedy, magic and mundane, disappointment and optimism. 

Ms. Chokshi is not known as a trilogy YA writer, however, although there is no hype about a second book, based on the end of the book, there will be at least one more story. If I am wrong about that, I am very confused because there are so many unanswered questions left hanging. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Graphic Biography: Violeta Corazon Maldito

Description:

Violeta Parra was a musician, a poetess, an all-round artist, and the soul of the popular tradition of Chile. The year 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of her birth. Violeta's life was painful and intense, devoted to art and love: for decades, she crossed America and Europe making people all around the world fall in love with the authentic folklore of her homeland. Virginia Tonfoni (writer) and Alessio Spataro (artist) tell her incredible story for the first time here in graphic novel format.

My Thoughts:

This is a complicated life of a woman driven by a vision so strong that she is willing to sacrifice family, relationships, children along the way. The biography uses some of Violeta's own words, but since they are not translated into English, although the rest of the text is in English, I feel like I am missing a key insight into the understanding of Violeta from her own words. Because of that, even in the text skimpy genre of the graphic novel, I felt like there were large jumps in time, relationships, places that made it difficult to feel any kind of emotion for this person by the end. Her death then was not a tragedy or a waste because I did not get a sense of her importance to Chile and the world that is promised by the publisher's description. 

A digital copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Way He Loved Me

Description:

"I love you." Three little words that when repeated over and over are likely to become believable. For Amy Andrews, 'I love you' comes at a price of never-ending forgiveness and hidden bruises.
Amy refuses to listen to family and friends, not wanting to see the only love she has ever known for the monster he really is. Jason is dangerous and volatile, leaving nothing but destruction in his path. Will Amy see the imminent danger before it's too late?
Or will she give every part of herself until there's nothing left? WARNING This book contains mature content and descriptive scenes that may be offensive or difficult to read

My Thoughts:

This book is not helpful at all. As a victim of psychological violence and stalking by an intimate partner, I could not finish reading beyond chapter six. Make no mistake. I am a survivor. I learned how to both recognize my damage and change what I look for in partners. I have been married in a loving relationship now for a very long time. What I am saying is there is a way out. There is a way to survive and thrive. This book is not helpful to get to the end of the tunnel. 

Here are some statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).[vii]

Although the statistics seem grim, what I also know is that we survive and thrive. if 1 in 2 of us have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner, we come out of these relationships changed and strong otherwise the domestic violence statistics would be much higher. Some of us come out without the violence and outside drama that this book suggests as a "way out." That is the kind of book that YA males and females need. They need to see how you can rely on others to help you heal. They need to see how there are safe places and adult advocates who can help. They need to see what a strong friend who can help looks like. That is the kind of book we need. Not this.

An advanced copy provided by Net Galley and the Publisher for an honest review


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mist, Metal, and Ash


Publication date: February 19, 2019

Description:

Worlds collide in this thrilling sequel to the epic, imaginative, acclaimed fantasy Ink, Iron, and Glass.
In an alternate 19th-century Italy, Elsa has an incredible gift: she can craft new worlds with precise lines of script written in books. But political extremists have stolen the most dangerous book ever scribed—one that can rewrite the Earth itself.
Now Elsa must track down the friend who betrayed her and recover the book before its destructive power is unleashed. Can she handle the secrets she’ll uncover along the way—including the ones hiding in her own heart?

My Thoughts:

Dammit, sucked in again!!! Alternate world/fantasy authors love the sequel. YA authors love the trilogy with some novellas tucked in between. So a YA alternate world/fantasy author? I should know better, but this is really my personal genre of choice, so no, I am just left at the "Edgemist." 

This is an action packed, stay up late book. There is always something around the corner and the end words are a great example in craft. No complaints. This book delivers.

But here is my complaint: I hate waiting. This is book number 112 this year. My 111th book was the first book in this series Ink, Iron and Glass posted two days ago. Here is my issue: Christopher Paolini, George R.R. Martin. Confused? These are notoriously slow series writers who leave their audiences in limbo for years, literally. Because I read so many YA books, the chance that I forget this series before the next one comes out is very likely. 

But here is my hope: Gwendolyn Clare is a female writer and female writers are a little more disciplined, or finances necessitate their ability to write on deadline. Take the first three Harry Potter books - three in three years. Until the books hit mass mania appeal, Rowling had time to write. SO my  hope is that February is a good month for Ms. Clare. Her last book before this series, Deep Magic came out in February 2017. Ink, Iron and Glass was out in February 2018. This next book comes out in February 2019. I am hoping that I remember this series and I am hoping that February 2020 is a good month.

Last Words

"So." Porzia gave them all a glittering smile. "Would you care to make a deal?"

An advanced digital copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ink, Iron, and Glass

Description:



Can she write a world gone wrong?
A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation, where her mother—a noted scriptologist—constantly alters and expands their reality.
But when her home is attacked and her mother kidnapped, Elsa is forced to cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative Victorian Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of young scientists with a gift for mechanics, alchemy, or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.
In debut author Gwendolyn Clare's thrilling Ink, Iron, and Glass, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created—and only she can stop it.

My Thoughts:

I wasn't looking to start this book because the reviews are not very good at hashtagging it. One says it is SF (science fiction)/ It is not. It takes place in an alternative Victorian Italy. Not my definition of science fiction. Another says it is a steampunk fantasy. I think that is closest but I was not looking for a steampunk fantasy.
I only started this because Net Galley offered up the second book in this series as an advanced digital copy and my local library had the first book available, so I read it. I admit, I was wrong.
This book was exciting. I liked the steampunk aspect, the Victorian Italy and the undercurrents of Indigenous decolonization and political intrigue. It reminded me of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart  but for older teens. This is another minority, girl power, action. Not enough is said about the main character, Elsa as an Indigenous character, but she definitely faces the same kind of colonization and racism. I want to explore that further as the books continue. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Shadow of the Wind



Description:

"Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show." --The New York Times Book Review

New York Times Bestseller

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

My Thoughts:

This is for the readers who want to unravel a convoluted mystery. If readers like The Book Thief, they will like this sumptuous book. This is not for all middle level readers, but this IS for readers who are willing to be caught up in the exotic, the dark, the malevolent and the erotic. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Strange Fruit II

My Thoughts:

This graphic historical non-fiction highlights vignettes of black Americans living from the period of slavery to right before the civil rights movement. Because of this dark time in history, none of the stories are very uplifting except the story of Victor Green. The rest of them show different kinds of heroism but because these are real people's histories in an anti-black America, most of the lives in here are also about the effects of systemic racism in America. 

The one "uplifting" story is about Victor Green, a postal worker who decided to publish the Green Book for the Negro Motorist. The first printing was in 1936. In it he identified safe gas stations, bathrooms, restaurants and resorts across America for the African American traveler. His goal was to eventually not need to publish this type of book anymore. Although it lasted a few years after the Civil Rights act, the last publishing of the Green Book was in 1967. 

In truth, the rest of the stories are disheartening, however the references at the back, the artwork and the limited text are perfect for the middle school reader to do further research. We need more of these types of graphic works built on primary resources. It is time that our social studies curriculum told history from the point of view of the downtrodden too, and not just the victors. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Throne of Glass Series

My Thoughts:

I have been holding off on this series for the mere fact that this is a series with at least 6 other books following it. I also held off because the wait for this book at the library is in double digits. For the second book, I am #20 for 3 copies. For this book, I waited about five months. 

HOWEVER, this is a medieval fantasy, girl power, female warrior, magic and demons kind of book which means that it is right up my alley. I have many others in this blog, including the latest, Empress of All Seasons. 

I blame it on the fact that I got some oral surgery work done this morning and decided to take Friday off and just read so at 8 pm, this book was done and now I am back on the waiting list for a series that I did not want to get sucked in to. Too late. 

Whatever: or how my junior year became totally f$@ked

Tags: LGBTQ, queer lit, coming of age, boy meets boy, coming out

Description:

It's like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and mother-effin' cheerleaders.
Junior year is about to start. Here's what Mike Tate knows:
His friends are awesome and their crappy garage band is a great excuse to drink cheap beer. Rook Wallace is the devil. The Lemonheads rock. And his girlfriend Lisa is the coolest. Then Lisa breaks up with him, which makes Mike only a little sad, because they'll stay friends and he never knew what to do with her boobs anyway. But when Mike finds out why Lisa dumped him, it blows his mind. And worse—he gets elected to homecoming court.

My Thoughts:

This is a perfectly sweet coming of age LGBTQ book. There are several that I have read over the years like this but looking over my past posts I realize that I have read them but have not written about them. 

This one I like. It is sweet and although the character is confused like the character in Picture us In the Light, Mike does not have the same Asian guilt stigma and his secret is really only a secret to himself and a couple of his friends. His mother and grandmother are very supportive and his best friend who he thought was his girlfriend basically has to out him to himself. See, sweet. 

My issue is that this is a very good YA book for the middle level reader and I have no problem putting it in my classroom library. My issue is that I just need to know who to book talk this kind of book to. I don't have any suggestions yet, but I wonder if just having it as an option is enough?