Monday, April 24, 2017

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

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Publication date: 1999; 2010 (this edition)
Publisher: Ember
Pages: 203
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 12+

Blamed with her mother's death, Adeline Yen was treated as the lowest of the low in her family. Left at boarding school and forgotten, she was able to flee to Hong Kong just ahead of the communists. Trying to prove herself to her family and schoolmates, Adeline works hard to get good grades and earn a place in the world and her family.

This gives an interesting look at pre-communist China from the view of a child. There was also a lot about the Chinese written language and how it work (which was really fascinating).

It was a little juvenile, but that just made it easy to understand and more approachable for the audience that I believe Mah was writing for. The children who are ignored or blamed for things they had no choice in.

It was sad, but optimistic. Mah didn't seem to let the situations of her childhood negatively affect her. Instead, she worked hard and remained optimistic. This is probably because she had at least one adult who believed in her.

No language or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pages: 291
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 17+

Beatrix wants to be the next great anatomical artist and to do that she wants to do what da Vinci did and study real bodies. Jack is charming, ridiculously handsome, and . . . maybe a criminal. A chance meeting turns into something mutually beneficial, and then even more. But each has baggage that could interfere with their newfound romance. Can the heart actually break?

This was a somewhat standard teen romance novel. The writing was good, nothing was really off, but I can't say that it was something that stuck around with me after reading it, but it was entertaining to read and had interesting characters and intriguing conflict.

I had never thought about the fact that all those drawings in science textbooks were the hard work of someone studying the human body intensely and thoroughly.

The approach to mental illness was good.

There was some hard swearing and some sex as well as sex talk.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illust. by Jim Kay

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Publication date: 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 205
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 11+
Awards: Carnegie Medal; Kate Greenaway Medal

One night, after midnight, a monster comes walking. It's not the monster from Conor's nightmares, so Conor isn't frightened. The monster tells Conor three stories in exchange for Conor's truth. But Conor doesn't know what that is and isn't sure he's willing to share.

I think what I liked most about this book is the simple way that it told truths. Villains aren't all bad, heroes aren't always good, and sometimes people leave you. (And now we shall have a sing along to "No One is Alone" from Into the Woods . . .) Ness presents everything in a way that I feel like younger kids would find it approachable.

Ness also includes the themes of acceptance, feeling emotions, and being there for others.

Kay's illustrations were mesmerizing. They showed movement and chaos, like what Conor must be feeling, but could also show stillness and peace. There was an orderliness to the chaos, and I probably could have continued to look at them for a long time to really get the feel of them.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 329
My rating: 3
Ages: 15+

When Stella meets a cute guy in Starbucks, she doesn't realize that he's the lead singer of the Heartbreakers--the biggest boy group in the world. With her sister sick, Stella doesn't have time to worry about Oliver Perry, especially since he's so famous. But when an opportunity comes to work with the band, Stella isn't sure if she can turn it down. With business and pleasure mixing, along with worry over her sister, Stella is in for an adventure of a lifetime.

This is a nice, fun light read that also deals with some heavier subjects like family, friends, illness, and taking chances. It's nice when something that could just be another teen romance, feeding into the adolescent fantasy of meeting someone famous, is actually a bit more complex and fleshed out.

Both Stella and Oliver are dealing with fears and insecurities that I think a lot of teens (and adults) are familiar with. And throughout the course of the book, they make progress, with a few setbacks, on overcoming them, which makes for good character growth.

There was some hard language and some mild sexual talk.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

All These Wonders ed. by Catherine Burns

More info*
Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Pages: 327
My rating: 5 stars
Ages: 16+

Seeing Pluto for the first time. Surviving a concentration camp. Sharing custody of a dog. Summer camp. Each person has a story to tell, a story to share, about facing the unknown. The Moth has collected these stories into one volume, to share with the world.

I love these slice of life stories. They could be funny, sweet, sad, or happy. Each person shares something from their life that we can all identify with, even if we've never worked with a space craft or was a spy in WWII or been a refugee. But we've all lived life, experiencing new things, encountering death and birth, living through all those moments that make life what it is.

Because these are transcripts of oral stories, the voice of the person is kept intact, in a way that written stories seem to lose. I kept telling my family about certain stories I had read, even reading one out loud in it's entirety to my mom as she made dinner one night ("A Phone Call" from Auburn Sandstrom). Others I just summarized, though I'm sure really poorly.

Well worth reading. These are the things that help us see that we are a human family, connected by the things that are universal.

Some hard language and references to sex.

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