Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

More info*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 344
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

Daniel and Natasha meet by chance, or fate, or coincidence. Daniel is sure she's the one, but Natasha doesn't believe in love. Besides, she only has one day before her family is deported. In one day, Daniel tries convince her that love can be scientific while she tries stop her family's deportation.

I was halfway through this book when I thought "This kind of reminds me of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." And in a way it did, but not because of the obvious reasons. Sun isn't full of facetious nonsense, nor does it take place in space. It was more that Yoon included a third-party narrator, apart from Daniel and Natasha, who will occasionally interrupt to explain certain things; eyes or time travel paradoxes, or a certain minor character's history. So really, it's nothing like Hitchhiker's.

I liked how Yoon showed that every person can affect each person that they come in contact with. The person in the street, the driver of the car that almost hit you, the train conductor--whoever it is, we're all connected. Maybe it is coincidence or dark matter or fate, but it happens and it's hard deny that.

It was interesting to see the lives of children of immigrants and immigrants themselves. It's something that I have no firsthand knowledge about and know very little in general, except the stereotypes given on TV and in movies. But Yoon knows firsthand, and I think that that gave the story more heart and more validity than anything else. Children that have to carry their parents' expectations of the "American Dream" on their shoulders, who are American, but at the same time, experience the culture of their parents. It was an interesting to view that, even as an outsider.

There was a bit of strong language and some sexual references.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: A Feiwel and Friends Book
Pages: 449
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 13+

Despite being the daughter of a marquess, Catherine only wants to be a baker. Her tarts are known throughout Hearts, and have even earned her the attention of the King of Hearts. However, it's the joker who has caught her eye, and who shows her a world completely different from the Hearts she has known.

I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I feel that many people don't understand it's importance in literary history, or pass it off as some kind of drug-induced dream (my opinions of this theory are strong and could fill another post on its own). I think that Meyer has the same kind of love and admiration for Carroll's most popular work, because it showed in Heartless.

The kingdom of Hearts is just as strange as we see in Wonderland, with caterpillars and penguins who talk and work, but seen through the eyes of Catherine, who is from Hearts, it is all completely normal. Which is a great way to treat it, and I was pleased to find everything also seemed normal to me. I like how straight from the start, I could pick out familiar characters and see how they fit into the story I already knew.

Catherine is presented as a sympathetic character, with strengths and faults, who experiences things that turns her into a character we are all familiar.

A great one-off story from an author who wrote a series I love.

No language or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 260
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 14+

Viviana has always been expected to be good, do well in school, not date, and get in Stanford. But things fall apart when a private photo makes the rounds at her school. Suddenly, her father is gone and Vivi can't seem to pull herself together. Only her friend Sammie has remained constant, but that might change when they both meet Evan.

What happens when too many expectations are put on a person?   Can one mistake ruin everything? We're able to learn along with Vivi that expecting to be perfect, and learning that we're not, can have long and harmful effects on a person.

This novel deals with death, illness, unfaithfulness, anxiety, friendship, cyber bullying, and many more topics. Most teens--most people--deal with one or more of these throughout their life. Vivi has to learn how to live with them, in the best possible way, just like we all do.

There is little language and some sexual innuendos.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson; illustrated by Sanna Annukka

More info*
Publication date: 2012
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pages: 45
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 8+

The young fir tree in the forest wants nothing more than to grow up. As it grows, it sees men come and get the tall majestic trees, and the small beautiful trees, and it wonders where they go and dreams of traveling.

I've read quite a bit by Hans Christian Anderson, but never this story. Like most of his fairytales, The Fir Tree is a moral story. The tree doesn't enjoy its youth or the small moments in life. The ending is actually rather sad.

Annuka's illustrations in this edition are gorgeous. The modern geometric pictures perfectly complement Anderson's 19th century story in a way that wouldn't seem possible at first.

This is a quick, bittersweet little story that should be added to everyone's Christmas reading list. As the rays of sunlight tell the tree, "Enjoy your youth!"

There is no language or sex.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 343
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 13+

When Evelyn becomes the maid to Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man," she's just grateful to be off the streets and away from prying eyes. But then the ghosts of murdered women start to visit Joseph and Evelyn must leave the safety of the hospital in order to put them to rest.

This is another Jack the Ripper story, though what was new and interesting about this one is that it focused more on the victims than it did on the murderer. Because of the type of women that the victims were, very little thought was given to them and who they were, besides the most basic of information. Kirby gives them history and sadness and reason.

Kirby's theory on who Jack the Ripper was is interesting too, though I found myself wanting more answers than were given in the book.

Evelyn was a relatable protagonist, not because most of us have  physical scarring, but because we have all have emotional and mental scarring. She's also a good person, with some faults, but who sticks to her word and takes care of Joseph with kindness and friendship, despite his own disfigurements.

There is no language, though some sexual references especially concerning prostitution.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Pages: 437
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

Viyara is the last city in the world, protected from the Ruining by a magic wall that is protected by the Sisters of Thorn. There is an unsteady peace among the three clans, one that is shaken when Romeo kills a Catresou, though he's in love with the Catresou's "sword," the Juliet. When Romeo and Juliet are separated, each forms an unlikely bond to try to find a better way to save the city and its inhabitants.

Hodge is one of the most unique writers I have come across. She can take stories that we all know and turn them around, upside down, adding a bit of a twist there and creating an entire new story that just shares the bare bones of the original. Her world building is, as always, on point.

The writing in Bright Smoke is just as precise as in her other novels, though it seemed to have some dark undertones to me. Not really in the writing or anything, but in the feeling I received from it, if that makes any sense. Also, this seems to be the beginning of a series, which I wasn't expecting and made me a little disappointed when I started getting close to the end and realized that there wasn't any way that it would all be satisfactorily wrapped up.

There isn't any language, but there are some vague references to sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.