Book Review #36: A Blade so Black

Love the cover!

STORY:36952594
In A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney (384 pages), after a scary night in the hospital, Alice had fully-embraced her new life as a dreamwalker, fighter of nightmares, in Wonderland. Hatta’s been training her for months at night while she still manages to live as a normal 17-year-old. Well, until Hatta’s been poisoned, and everything goes up into flames.

At times, I feel like this story is over-eager. It tries to mention all the points: grief, racism, police brutality, white allies, and not fitting the stereotypical “black” mold. I would’ve liked more focus on each subject individually instead of a quick touch and go.

Despite that, I love the way the nightmares spawn from real-life fear. For example, the connection between the black girl being gunned down and Alice’s community pumping out waves of fear. I found this aspect excitingly interesting. I would’ve loved to delve more into that as opposed to the many repetitive times Alice has to deal with her mom/sneak out. They all end the same way. Alice says sorry, leaves again and has to fake text/call to fool her mom, Mom doesn’t get fooled, and Alice gets in trouble. Rinse and repeat. I don’t mind the living a secret life trope, but I wish the instances could’ve been more varied.

I enjoyed some of the cultural moments like when Alice forgot to defrost the meat for her mom (girl, how are you still alive!?! lol), the fact Alice knew she had time because her mom was at a looong church service, the AAVE, her natural hair, etc. I hadn’t thought too much about the struggle of monster fighting with natural hair. For example, Alice bout sweated out her silk press trying to kill a monster. All of that stuff is relatable to me and made me smile when I noticed it.

Anyway, this has a slow start but when the Big Bad Boss starts messing with Alice, the real fun begins.

CHARACTERS:

“I’m protecting the world. Who’d protect me? (pg 143)”

Alice is okay. We don’t really get a lot of time to spend in her head when she’s not dealing with pain, grief, or nausea haha. I like that she has a smart mouth, and she’s bold. She’s strong but still vulnerable. I love when the characters cuddle or coo over her, and when they get the heck out the way and let her run things! SN: I love her nickname, Baby Moon.

I enjoy Hatta’s wit. I know it’s cliche, but I just love hearing (reading in this case) English people say “luv.” I like him, but I don’t know a lot of his motivations such as choosing Alice.

Eh, I didn’t care too much for Alice’s friends. They aren’t that memorable and just play their roles (best friend to cover for you; 2nd love interest). I also don’t care about pumpkin spice, not even enough for a drawn-out conversation that affirms my disdain for it (sn: to me, pumpkin spice smoothies are mad nasty ._.). And every time I’ve heard someone use Aaliyah’s “Age ain’t Nothing but a Number” in an argument (jokingly or not) some foolery has always followed.

OVERALL:
If you can wait for 100 pages, then you can really decide if this story’s for you. I definitely knew I wanted to finish this because I love fantasy and diverse fiction. But I will admit I wasn’t super eager to keep reading until after that point.

I haven’t read AiW in forever, but many of the AiW references are in name only, like literally the characters names. This will either be great or disappointing depending on what you want. The originality tho does give it a lot of room to be great and distinct.

Be aware there are some cringey moments and dialogue here and there but some nice moments too!

Yes, I may have squealed at a certain kiss scene, but one day I’ll grow up and be mature when reading about kisses. BUT TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY!

Lastly, why are y’all like this? As soon as junk gets entertaining and the stakes get high, you gotta wait for book 2. :/

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Book Review #35: Pride

Yo, this book’s presentation is wonderful. I love the cover, the inside drawings, and the poems.

STORY:
(Disclaimer: So, I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, so I’m probably oblivious to the references, parallels, and easter eggs. I’m just taking this story as it is.)

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi (258 pages) gives me a weird feeling where I like the story but not the main character. I definitely liked Zuri standing up to undisclosed Darcy family member because I can’t stand when people know how their family is but still invite you into some negativity. Despite me not caring for Zuri, it was nice to get a basically filler/slice-of-life story. There’s no real plot behind a backdrop of gentrification and prejudice and college admissions. And that’s okay. I can just understand why a story with no goal in mind might annoy some people.

Also, I have seen smoother hate-to-love relationships, but Zuri and Darius are all right. Maybe if the length of this book had been increased I would’ve had more of an emotional connection with them. I really enjoyed Darius trying to win Zuri over in his both confident and awkward way at the diner with Carrie and Georgia. These two just needed a bit more time. I understand why Darius likes her, but why does Zuri like him if he’s everything she hates in a person? Just a little more development and I would’ve been awwing-ing at them. Not to say the pretty descriptions of long eyelashes, gentle caresses, and kisses weren’t aww-worthy. *wink*

Anyway, I liked the writing despite the many many instances of swag, stank, and hood (it’s a drinking game, guys!). The honey analogy is very cute to me.

CHARACTERS:

I loved Zuri’s family (I’m including Madrina as well). I wanted more time with her mom and papi. Janae seemed really adorable. The money-hungry and boy-crazy twins were fun too (most of the times).

On the other hand, Zuri is irritating. I’m sorry but she’s one of those people that call any black person with alternative interests outside of what society says black people can like, white. I definitely understand her valid concerns of gentrification (I’ve seen it too in my own town). But, in general, why do you feel like you have to prove something!?! She’s always assuming and questioning people! Let’s do 20 questions with you, Zuri, since you know everything. It’s sort of hinted Zuri makes quick judgments since people have judged her family all her life (like, automatically assuming they’re fatherless because her mom has a horde of kids) but not taken seriously. It’s definitely okay if she’s the type of person that hates to apologize, but she couldn’t accept this fact during a heart-to-heart conversation.

To be honest, Darius is my favorite character. I know Zuri thinks he’s uppity, but he just seems awkward to me. Like, back at the bodega, he didn’t know he was supposed to acknowledge those guys ( a big no, no in the south because you’re supposed to speak to people (especially at family gatherings)). Now, straight-up ignoring them is dumb but I think he was just… awkward. If he did acknowledge them, they probably would have roasted him but at least been open to a friendship.

Ainsley, Colin, and Charlise were kind of just there. I barely know anything about Darius and Ainsley’s parents.

Forget about Warren. He went as quickly as he came.

Carrie was weird.  You are supposed to feel a certain way about her at first, but then there’s a kneejerk change to make you feel another way. Maybe it was to show hidden depths, but it happened way too fast for me.

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OVERALL:
This is a firm 3/5 for me.

I enjoyed the New York setting, Zuri’s family, and, to an extent, Zuri and Darius’ relationship. But I just couldn’t get into judgmental Zuri. Like chick, you really do need to sit down. If someone’s looking down on you, you’re going to know, so don’t just assume.

Pride has a decent look at duality, and even though I can’t stand Zuri, I do get where she’s coming from. Let this story be a reminder that everyone (read: black people) doesn’t have to be the same or from your neighborhood for you to like them *cough cough Zuri* In addition, if you don’t want to be painted as an uppity, spineless dude, then make an effort to communicate and see things from others point of view, actually stand up for your friends and admit when you’re wrong  *cough cough Darius*

Well, those are my thoughts. If you like modern retellings of classical literature and a relatively quick read, then go for it!

Book Review 34: Rosario (Mia Keys Book 1)

Hey everyone, back with another review! I’ve been swamped with logarithms and powerpoints and a plethora of other boring, school-related things. Still, I managed to finish this today.

First of all, that cover’s beautiful! Love it.

39103341STORY:

“It’s my belief that we don’t always need to feel the heat on our hand to know the fire burns[…] Sometimes, seeing others in pain is all the motivation we need to not do, or sometimes, to do something (location 400).”

In Rosario by J. Kenyarta (ebook; less than a 100 pages), Mia Keys has just released her high school class for the day and lost her wallet. While walking home, she finds three things: her wallet, an old friend of her fiancé, Levi, and that her fiancé is in some serious trouble. Of course, all this rigamarole requires a journey to Rosario in central Argentina.

Rosario is more plot-driven than character-driven. No filler so action starts quickly.

What exactly drove Mia to go all the way to Argentina? Maybe Alejandro’s been so ingrained in her life that she just needs to see his lips move one more time or to see his eyebrow twitch before she believes he will be fine. Okay, the romantic in me is talking now.

I know this isn’t a romance, but love’s the catalyst, right? Mia should’ve had a flashback/memory of Alejandro,  for example, if he was the one who consoled her in his arms after that incident at school or he met her in college and encouraged her to become a teacher because kids need someone like her. Then, I would have been like let’s find Alejandro! Girl, go get your man! Because there was a lack of development, I just didn’t have an emotional connection to Alejandro or Mia’s need to save him.

On the other hand, I think the story’s strength is really in its action scenes. One of the best parts is when Mia has a huge realization. It’s fast-paced and exciting to read about a narrowly-missed bullet, fun banter, and quick-thinking. Let’s go, Mia, action hero!

SN: A minor nitpick with the Spanish. Isn’t it more likely they would call Mia an estaoudinese than americana? Also, some words needed accent marks, like, sí without the í is “if” (sí=yes, si= if). They’re in Argentina, so I’m surprised there were no mentions of vos/sos.

CHARACTERS:

Mia’s definitely for justice, honesty, and non-violence whenever applicable. It’s great that she upholds integrity so highly, but just once I wanted her to have a raw reaction like cursing out Alejandro for putting her through all this. She’s just too perfect, but I suppose that’s the nature of action heroes. Like, if you walking away from explosions without a scratch, then you’re not human. I’m looking at you, American blockbusters. Back on topic, I don’t really know much about Mia besides her skills and job. It’s cool to have a soft-spoken hero that can hold her own though.

Levi’s kind of just there to guide Mia along.

Gianna was a textbook villain.

OVERALL:

Go ahead and read this!

If you need a quick read while in the doctor’s office or a novella on a rainy day, then here you go. No convoluted plotline just good action.

Review 33: Song of Blood & Stone

First, what a beautiful cover! As far as book presentation, I am impressed. The little folktales before each chapter are fun and not distracting. I even like the size of the hardcover book, the way it fits in my hands, and the slightly and purposely jagged edges.

This is a New Adult book, a change of pace from the usual YA and middle-grade I read. There are adult situations (politics, sex, sense of duty, etc) present in the book as well as this review.

36347830STORY:

“…They battled forces much more powerful than themselves. She could only hope those forces wouldn’t win” (pg 244).

In Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope (372 pages), Jasminda is half-Lagrimari from her father and half-Elsiran from her mother, who was disowned by her family. Lagramari are treated like dirt with pronounced distaste. Jasminda, living a quiet farm life, manages to avoid most of the country people’s scrutiny until a fateful day. After going to the post office, a relatively-dying soldier in the enemy’s clothes, Jack, needs her help. This chance meeting sets many events into motion and unveils a powerful past.

Heads up. There’s an attempted sexual assault moment around pg 60. It’s really unnecessary and serves no purpose but to point out the bad guys. Also, it’s never mentioned again and has no long-lasting effects on the character who experienced it.

The story’s told through Jasminda and Jack’s alternating perspectives, which is fine. In the background, Jasminda can see visions of a past earthsong couple and her songless twin. Unfortunately, I wondered when did the visions become more compelling than the actual story. On a side note, you can notice some real-life parallels fairly easy.

Also, okay, there’s a teensy amount of cringe/ultra dramatic-ness in Jasminda and Jack’s first interaction.

“With great effort, she pulled away from the impossible temptation of his body” (pg 40).

“The intensity in his expression dissolved her creeping sorrow, bringing instead a pang of yearning.”

Concerning the romance, I’ll admit maybe Jack and Jasminda’s attraction happened rather quickly. But they’re not proclaiming their undying love, so it’s cool, right? They respect each other and think the other is very attractive. Also, some onesided dry- humping ensures until later.

“Molten longing pooled between her legs” (pg 211).

Lose his sanity? devoured his mouth? her scent driving him crazy? his hardness? is this a fanfiction!?!

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jk… Okay, I’m just poking harmless fun. I know I can’t write love scenes and it stops being cringy after a while. xD If the love scenes were hardcore with all the real names of the reproductive organs, I would be acting like a total shy kid.

CHARACTERS:

“Do what you think you can’t” (pg 24).

I understand that Jasminda’s been pretty beaten up in life dealing with prejudiced country and city folk, but she’s a little bland. It’s like she just reacts to her surroundings but doesn’t have strong feelings about it. (ex: oh, I have to protect myself? pull out knife. we can’t be friends? cries…)

Jack is okay. Just okay.

My favorite characters had to be Yllis and Oola.

You know who was really interesting that I wanted to see more of? Grandad! Vanesse and the other Elsiran family members too. I also want to know more about Jasminda’s family, her daddy and the twins.

OVERALL:

I don’t know.  Everything just wrapped together too nicely. Not a lot transpired in this book for the longest. The bulk of the story is world-building, Jack and Jasminda, and some visions. Of course, it’s understandable being the first book of a trilogy (?).

Yes, insta-love is present. He’s her whole heart after a week and two sex sessions? I’m assuming more relationship development happens offscreen since Jack knew about her aunt, and I don’t remember that conversation (possibly forgot or skimmed over it).

The entire earthsong story and power is my absolute favorite part, so I muddled through the star-crossed lovers drama and whatnot. The female deity and folklore are equally interesting parts as well. If you’re into fantasy in general, I recommend it. If you’re seeking action or slow-burn romance, look elsewhere.

STILL, I’mma rock with it to book 2. Somehow I think since all the expository, world-building writing’s out of the way, we can get into the real meat of the story. ^^

2.5 stars out of 5, but let’s round it up to 3!

Thanks for reading!

Review 32: Making Friends

It’s been a little while, guys. I have just been so busy! I’ve published an ebook of my collection of short stories, got swamped with homework, read like 12 books in a week, and started watching My Hero Academia. So yeah. Anyway, this book is a gem. c:

36127435STORY:

“How do you weaponize friendship?” (pg 234)

In Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk (272 pages), Dany is bummed to find herself split up from her usual friend group. Now in the 7th grade, she finds herself lonely and unable to befriend anyone. Through luck, she discovers her aunt’s old sketchbook has some serious magical capabilities. She brings to life Prince Neptune (from a Tokyo Mew Mew/Sailor Moon/magical girl mash-up of an anime) and her ideal best friend, Madison from New York. Only thing is when imaginary beings become sentient, free-thinking beings, everything doesn’t go as planned.

Existential crisis in juvenile fiction? The best friend is the ultra special, pink-haired character from anime(s) with actual depth? Magical girl shoujo references!?! Let’s go!

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I honestly enjoyed the entire cast of characters, relatability, and artwork. Yes, to that cute, expressive artwork. The light humor is great too, not cringy just right.

This story is great for younger kids to acknowledge how all your actions have a consequence; On the other hand, older kids/teens will love that it explores the be-careful-what-you-wish-for trope in a fresh way.

And that plot twist tho? Laughs for days!

“You’re a minor character! Boom!” No context needed but the shade of it all. xD

CHARACTERS:

I loved the cast of characters and a few of them came from diverse backgrounds (black, Guatemalan, Asian, etc).

Dany is pretty normal. Usually, in these type of stories, the main character is whiny, annoying, or special-snowflakey. Dany might be a touch of that, but she’s still likable to me.

Prince Neptune is bae! Yeah, Dany I liked him too.

Also, go Aleesha! She’s adorable and brainy and comically serious and has a cute bun of natural hair.

Tom is also equally bae haha. He’s an adorable character obsessed with conspiracy theories and can think for himself. Gasp. A middle-school character not consumed with popularity? Yep, that’s him.

ART:

A wonderful display of colors, not too bold but not too soft. It reminds me of the palette of a 90’s pop culture ad, green, blue, purple, pink, etc.

Like I said before, I enjoyed the anime-inspired expressions and whatnot. I think the paneling was fine as well.

OVERALL:

Making Friends is beautiful and wonderfully dumb.

READ IT!

If you’re like me and love shoujo/general anime references, light-hearted stories, and a good laugh, then I definitely recommend it. I couldn’t stop smiling while reading this.

5 out of 5

8/20/18 Monday: What I’m Reading Now

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.

What I’m Reading Now:

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Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce (224 pages). I have read 59 pages so far.

 

 

 

 

31193404Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge ( 224 pages). I have read 0 pages so far, but I’m excited to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

35297272Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (394 pages) okay, the cover’s gorgeous and the premise sounds super cute, so … You know I had to get it. I have read 0 pages so far.

 

 

 

 

 

34054703All About Mia by Lisa Williamson (324 pages) seems like it has an interesting premise. I have read 0 pages so far.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Read Last Week:

36896665In The Middle-Route Run (Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo #2) by Ben Costa (208 pages), I really like seeing more of Rickety’s origins and the cast of colorful, fun characters makes every scene play out like a movie. I like the mature tone taken with the story, meaning there is violence, existential crisis, and an even a sole curse word without feeling like “ooh, this story is sooo edgy.” I just admire the all-ages quality this story has.

Not to mention the artwork and coloring are A1. I definitely recommend it.

29773916In Chasma Knights by Boya Sun and Kate Reed Petty (128 pages), the imagination behind this story is so much fun! Little animals or monsters come with screws and gears, and you can combine their parts like robots to create vehicles or other devices.

I enjoyed the storybook, manwha-like artwork a lot.

Overall, I think this had a great end to a stand-alone or a good beginning for a series. Kids are going to love all the bright colors and cute characters.

It needs to be said: Coro needed to be choked out! I’m surprised there wasn’t an explicit conversation where they acknowledge you can’t just take someone’s stuff and do whatever you want with it. This fool really took her stuff twice!

7086986Scarlet Rose #2 I’ll Go Where You by Patricia Lyfoung (96 pages) is much better than the first book in the series. Where the first dragged and was filled with cliches, this second book manages to make the story fun. The Fox’s identity is revealed and Maud, of course, has a hard time coming to terms about her once-idolized hero. Some Scarlet Rose and Fox shenanigans abound and end with a fun pirate adventure. There are also some cute shipping-scenes if you’re invested in that sort of thing. I’m actually more interested in knowing more about the Baron brothers.

Some minor violence is present with a victim dying with a bloody arm. Still, a fun book for all ages.

SN: Ohmygosh! The author’s the one behind Totally Spies and Martin Mystery’s art direction. No wonder I thought the art was familiar 🙂

31123268In Fat Girl on a Plane by Kelly Devos (376 pages), I wasn’t really blown away by Cookie at all. I like that she wasn’t afraid to call out buffoonery against plus-sized people, but I just never fell for her. Maybe she was too snarky for me. And I sho’ didn’t care for her 31-year-old-grown-behind-man-abusing-his-power love interest.

His nice-then-nasty personality was fun to an extent. Him and Cookie one-upping each other was fun. Good banter. When he progressed beyond that, I was kind of over it.

The funeral was the absolute best part. Everything else is pretty forgettable.

40994995In Luisa: Now or Later by Carole Maurel (276 pages), I hated older Luisa. She was just so cantankerous, ugh. Beautiful artwork. That is what really drew me in from the character expressions to the color changes. I guess the takeaway is to take all your opportunities or you will end up as a grouchy 32-year-old who missed her chance at love.

Still, the other characters besides older Luisa are really likable. There are strong lgbtq and time-travel themes present as well.

28818219Concerning Curse of the Attack-o-Lanterns (The Creeps #3) by Chris Schweizer (128 pages), you all should know that I love the Creeps series, and I think it would be cool to it see in a cartoon format.

As always, I liked the characters and their interaction with the sheriff. The humor’s spot-on, and the book doesn’t treat kids as stupid. Yeah, the premise is kiddy but the tension that stems from it is real. I’m always ready for more Creeps books!

Warning: A character dies in a pretty graphic, cartoony moment.

Pokemon Horizon: Sun and Moon by Tenya Yabuno (192 pages) is exactly what you would expect from the Pokemon franchise: a gung-ho shounen protagonist who isn’t really knowledgeable about the Poke-world though not dumb, a level-headed female character and a cute (poke)mon with an unquenchable fighting power. Cute drawings but nothing spectacular.

 

 

 

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Kidlit version hosted by Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen of Teach Mentor Texts; original version hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Book Review 31: When Dimple Met Rishi

 “She’d seen what his soul was made of. And she liked it” (pg 367).

28458598STORY:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (380 pages). First, I really liked the cover (and the controversial “iced coffee” back cover) and the rom-com flare though I’ve to say I got tired of the constant kissing. You have to drizzle kisses into a story like sprinkle cheese, not too much. On another note, I just loved Dimple’s name; it’s so cute.

There’s not much focus on the actual coding that takes place (it’s lampshaded by Dimple herself). Instead, living up to parents’ expectations, back-and-forth with Dimple/Rishi, and a dance contest takes up the bulk of the book. If you don’t mind the lack of coding, you will probably enjoy the non-linear plot.

Also, I was amazed at YA fiction characters communicating about sex before having it, and even putting it off to a later date.

CHARACTERS:
Disclaimer: Yes, we know Dimple “took over too much”, can’t keep her fists to herself, and basically played yo-yo with her relationship. And thought she was a special snowflake. It’s understood.

Dimple is a brash character that still is likable in some portions of the book. It’s really hard to pull off characters like her because they usually come off as edgy jerks. However, that’s not entirely the case here. If some of her narrative thoughts could’ve been tweaked a little, I think more readers would have liked her.

Rishi is a cinnamon roll. It’s super-refreshing to have a male (romantic) lead, in a genre filled with angsty bad boys who can’t communicate, that speaks his mind and is kind in a gentleman sort-of-way. I actually wanted him to find another girl who suited him better. Dimple, of course, wanted the best for him, but she forced him to make decisions often.

OVERALL:
I didn’t hate this story. I rather liked some of the details and descriptions and diverse characters. Whoa. That’s a lot of “d” words. Anyway, I don’t feel as strongly as others, so I recommend you read it. 3 stars/5.

[SPOILERS START HERE]

Continue reading “Book Review 31: When Dimple Met Rishi”