Monday, July 30, 2018

Sky in the Deep

This is geared toward readers who like fast paced, girl power, woman warrior stories set in the northern climates similar to  the communities beyond the wall in Game of Thrones. The story starts in the middle of a clan war as Eelyn and her battle partner Maya from the Aska clans fight the Riki clans. These two teenagers are seasoned warriors who plow through the enemy ranks until Eelyn gets separated from Maya and is cornered by a massive and powerful Riki warrior. Just as Eelyn believes that he will kill her, she is saved by her brother, but she must be mistaken. She saw her brother die five years ago and this warrior who looks like her brother is wearing the armor of the enemy.

I labeled it fantasy-ish just because it is not really in an unrealistic setting or containing the kind of magic or fantastical creatures found in the genre, but as a fantasy buff, it contains enough of the elements to make this devour worthy.  Carve out enough time for this.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Picture us in the Light

My Thoughts:

 I am constantly looking for contemporary YA books with minority characters, specifically Asian because of my location and the kinds of students we serve in Hawaiʻi (a minority majority state). On my public library overdrive site, asian authors/characters is actually its own shelf on my page. I try to uplift minority authors writing fiction from a minority lens. However, this book took me about 4 months to read as I kept picking it up and abandoning it.  

What bothered me about the characters had nothing to do with the mystery the parents tried to keep secret or even the will he or won't he struggle Danny had about his budding homoerotic awareness. What bothered me was that I could almost hear the author thinking. With first generation and second generation characters, do authors steer towards the stereotypical in order to appeal to a wider, non-Asian audience? By stereotypical, I mean Harry's parents and Harry's drive for SAT perfection. These extra high expectations are the stereotype that fuels the racist "model minority" label that has been an albatross on the subsequent generations. But then there is Danny. It is almost like Ms. Gilbert was trying to both acknowledge the stereotype and at the same time throw the story off kilter with the much less successful Chengs who push their child into the humanities, specifically art and portraiture without any hesitation or pressure. It feels "hapa," (half in Hawaiian) as if the story was written to appeal a certain way to white audiences, and appeal a different way to Asian audiences. I felt it lacked an authentic identity as a whole and that is why it took so long to get through it. I just could not find any character who felt real. 

Seafire (Sneak Peek review)

My Thoughts:

I really do not like to ask for sneak peeks only because I usually only choose books that interest me beyond the description. One example is the graphic novel Sheets that I reviewed as a sneak peek in May. I was enamored by the cover, the simple drawing style and just enough of the story before the preview ended. Still, I could not actually get a full copy until July so sometimes I forget that I am watching the calendar because I read so many other things in between.

However, Seafire is another one that I chose, not for the cover but for the pirate aspect. Like 
the Bloody Jack series, I love me some girl pirates who take over. True, Caledonia is not the pirate. The pirates are the bad guys, however, there be pirate behavior and fights on the seas. I was also drawn to the epigraph on the cover:
Sisterhood is Survival
This one comes out at the end of August when school is started. I hope I remember to request it because the preview seemed frustratingly short.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

From Twinkle, With Love

My Thoughts:

Sandhya Menon, author of When Rishi Met Dimple, just secures her spot in the YA romance writers union (I don't know if there is such a thing, but I'm sure there is). With her predominantly Asian cast of characters, she normalizes culture and diversity in a way that does not make it into a political statement but more of a mirror of what American society could look like.

Like the Bollywood movies that she loves, Menon creates a YA world that reveals the sweet, charming aspects of young love without the cheap marketability of the erotic. The selling point for Menon's stories, again, like the Bollywood movies she loves, is the happy ending. This is not a spoiler alert, just the charm of the genre. If that is not what you are looking for, it is good to know at the beginning. 

From the Publisher:

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Hate U Give

My Thoughts: 

This has been on the must read list all year and for good reason. Although it starts off  like an imitation of the television show Lincoln Heights, this story is a crucial literary piece to capture the frustration, mourning and rage that we see on television as "blips" and 10 second news stories of police shootings and the Black Lives Matter reaction. 

I wish I were back in my 8th grade classroom. I would definitely work with my social studies partner to create a paired unit. 

From the Publisher:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

A Few:

I look at the stars again. Daddy says he named me Starr because I was his light in the darkness. I need some light in my own darkness right about now.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


From the Publisher:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive.

My Thoughts:

I am an old sci fi geek but I started reading more minority literature because science fiction seemed so white centric. This book, however, is a perfect combination with a protagonist who is just as marginalized in this futuristic society, but through the ancient knowledge of her people, she is able to survive when no one else does. I also learned a new word while reading some reviews: Afropolitan. Binti is an Afropolitan, meaning she is of African descent but lives globally "not citizens, but Africans of the world" and in this case, of the universe.
I was so sad to find out that this was a novella, especially since I was on the waiting list at my local library for months. Who knows how long I will have to wait for the next one, but this is a rare treat of sci fi and Indigenous knowledge used as a shield and a weapon. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Green Almonds: Letters from Palestine

Green Almonds is a personal memoir of Palestine and Israel through postcards and correspondence by two sisters. Anaele, a writer, spends half a year volunteering with an aid program in Palestine. Her sister Delphine, the artist, stays behind in Liege, Belgium. As Anaele writes about her experiences in Palestine, Delphine draws out her sister's story. 

In the simple drawings and text, Anaele and Delphine share an on the ground story of the complexity and pain of a community severed because of religion, politics, and ethnicity. Anaele makes friends, but as an outsider, is not able to make any kind of real change. It seems like Anaele's relationships with others seem one sided. I am not sure what kind of help she offers, except to be a sympathetic ear for these people. Perhaps this comic is also her way of being witness for the people she works with and telling her story beyond the walls of Palestine. 

For me, this is both a frustrating and realistic look at living as a marginalized citizen in your own land. 

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

Smoke in the Sun

This is the sequel to Flame in the Mist, a story set in feudal Japan. 

While the first book was like Mulan, this last one takes the protagonist, Mariko, into the silken inner workings of the emperor's court. As the betrothed to the bastard brother of the new emperor, Mariko must rely on her deceit and analytical mind to save the ones she loves. 

Devour worthy. This is a fast read if you have a couple hours of uninterrupted read time.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sea Of Love

Publishing date: July 31, 2018
Diamond Book Distributors
Lion Forge

In this wordless comic about an old fisherman lost at sea and the wife who goes to the ends of her earth to find him, this is a powerful story not just of love but about the damage we are doing to our oceans and to each other. This is also a story of carelessness and blind industrialization.

How do I get all of this from a wordless story? Because there are no words, I had to bring my experiences to the book. When his fishing boat gets blindly caught in the nets of an industrial fishing trawler and there are no humans to see him, I think of my oldest son on his little kayak fishing in Kaneʻohe Bay last week. He saw a commercial shuttle boat moving quickly towards him, so my son maneuvered his kayak to sit almost on the reef to leave the channel free. The commercial boat zoomed past him so close that it snagged his line, pulled out 300 yards of line and his lure. My son blew his emergency whistle to let them know he was snagged on them and the boat just blew past him. As a mother, I am thankful that he is ok, and I am grateful that the captain of the larger ship that this shuttle was meeting beyond the reef actually heard the whistle, saw the recklessness of one of his skippers and suspended his license, but it helped me to bring my son's experience into this story. 

This very cute story also has the power to bring more awareness to current issues like the large trash pile floating in the ocean. I wish there were some resources at the end of this to highlight some organizations that are connected to this tale.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chimera 1: The Righteous and the Lost


Haunted by their pasts, a crew of thieves is hired for a covert mission in the midst of a galaxy being ripped apart by an interstellar holy war. If they want to survive - much less succeed - they must navigate hostile worlds, vengeful aliens, a deranged demon, and betrayal from within.  Collects the first six issues of the acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy series, as well as a pin-up and cover gallery.  Perfect for fans of STAR WARS, FIREFLY, or SAGA.

My Thoughts:

This is a good start to a series. A group is given an impossible mission. Powerful forces are in their way. Loyalty and betrayal have a price. 

The illustrations are beautiful and there is an LGBTQ character as well as a mixture of human and non-human characters perfect for an adventure that spans universes.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018



This award winning book is perfect for the upper elementary and middle school male reader. It's a novel in verse about twin basketball stars trying to win the game, win the girl, win the adoration of their dad. There is a lot of growing up in this short book and the rhythm is as fast paced as the game.

Last words:

He dribbles/back to the top of the key,/fixes his eyes/on the goal./I watch/the ball/leave his hands/like a bird/up high,/skating/the sky,/crossing over/us.

Sunday, July 8, 2018


Release Date: August 28, 2018
Lion Forge

My Thoughts:

I wrote about this graphic novel, Sheets, before and put it on my TBR wish list. Sometimes wanting something and then getting it is disappointing, but this story did not disappoint. My husband cries over children's books about dogs dying and moms getting older. It is the combination of the illustrations and the simple words.

This graphic novel does the same thing. Marjorie speaks to the teen/tween/child in all of us who wants to disappear, who holds their little family together when the adults are too sad, who longs for something they will not have again, and who finds solace and comfort in unexpected encounters.

At the laundromat this morning, I caught myself staring at the dryer and feeling like a ghost spa would be the most indulgent idea ever. This is one to own, just so you have it on hand when someone needs it.

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

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How It Went Down

My Thoughts:

A young black man/boy, Tariq, is shot down on Peach Street in an inner city neighborhood by a white man passing by in his car. Was Tariq in an altercation with another white man? Did he steal from the local store? Was he a gang member? Was he carrying a gun? How does it affect these witnesses, this neighborhood? Why are the stories different from each other? If the police let the shooter go because of self defense, where is the gun? Was it really a Snickers bar Tariq was holding?

Told from the point of view of the different witnesses who all see things a little differently, this is a maddening and frustrating look at racism in America. 

Last Words:

I'm just being me, bro. Tina whispers the rest. "You just be you."

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Study in Charlotte Audiobook

I have been on the waiting list for this book so when Audiobook SYNC magazine offered this in their summer free audiobook duo, I couldn't resist. 

This version is narrated by Graham Halstead and Julia Whelan.

I have said this before. I really have a hard time listening to audiobooks and paying attention. However, this was engaging and paced nicely.

My Thought:

This is a YA mystery of two British teens, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson who end up at the same Connecticut boarding school. Mystery readers will automatically recognize the famous last names and these teens are indeed descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. 

Charlotte Holmes is a precocious, arrogant teen who has a gambling problem (sound familiar) and who wants nothing to do with the awkward, temperamental Jamie Watson.  But when a boy that Jamie fights  with ends up dead, the duo join forces to try and solve the mystery before they are arrested for the murder.

For fans of YA and mysteries. 

A few words:

The two of us, we're the best kind of disaster. Apples and oranges. Well, more like apples and machetes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Between the Lines

My Thoughts:

In the development of readers, there is a term called "transitional readers." Students who will become lifelong readers or "fluent readers," hit this stage at different times in their life from upper elementary to middle school. Think back to the time when you were into books in a series because the characters became friends of yours. Think back to those authors that you trusted because their voice was comfortable, and their style engaged you. That is the transitional stage and YA books cater to that stage which is why there are so many trilogies. 

Ms. Grimes is a voice I trust for transitional readers. If readers like Jacqueline Woodson's Locomotive but want an older high school character, Grimes is a great portal to a PG version of the urban (NY), minority (mostly African American, Puerto Rican, Hispanic) experience. 

Like Grimes' Bronx Masquerade, this story highlights multiple characters, all with their own obstacles and strengths. What holds them all together is a poetry class in school and an upcoming poetry slam competition. 

Through their backstory told in prose and their resulting poem, Ms. Grimes is perfect for the reluctant male readers. As a teacher, she also seems to model her own writing process (free write/share/poem) or at least offers up some specific ideas on how to run a writing workshop in the classroom. 

Between the Lines is Grimes doing what she does best. She allows her characters to tell their own stories in their own way and opens up the neighborhood a little to let hope radiate outwards.