Book Review #28: Calling My Name

33829748Aye! I’m always excited for new fiction with black leads!

STORY:

“‘You can’t control everything, Taja,’ Daddy says in a soft voice, eyes closed to the sun.

‘I know, Daddy. But I can control a lot.'” (pg 227).

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (384 pages) explores Taja Brown’s life. It is something of a fictional biography of a young, African-American girl growing up in a conservative Christian background from childhood to adulthood. Of course, you can expect first kisses, periods, and dealings with f*boys.

I think it is a good read if you enjoy “slice-of-life/coming of age” stories. However, the writing is so flowery that I get confused often.

I can emphasize with Taja’s upbringing as I have grown up in a Christian home as well though my parents weren’t overbearing with our faith.

Still, unfortunately, the narrative of an ultra-conservative character usually isn’t that fun.

One of my favorite parts is when Taja feels guilty for reminding her father about a promised birthday present. That is a really relatable moment when you first feel “child guilt” because you know your parents don’t have the money but you want something.

Also, I realized mid-way through the story that this is set somewhere between 80’s-90’s. Some of the references are dated like them listening to Johnny Gill. Chile, who out here listening to JG?

over it eye roll GIF

Okay, okay… I’m one of those people. XDsoul train life of new edition GIF by BET

A few days ago I was just listening to Johnny Gill’s old Arsenio Hall performances. (yes, I know the gif is from Soul Train).

CHARACTERS:

Not too many characters were memorable. I enjoyed the glimpses we saw of Taja’s family and would have liked a bit more beyond her mother always disciplining her.

Taja is cool, but she is very whiny and a bit annoying in her narrative.

Naima, Taja’s younger sister, is a character that I wished we could have seen more of. Unlike Taja, she’s more sure of herself. Taja and Naima’s sister relationship is barely displayed save for a few conversations in their older years.

Damon, the older brother, was okay. I like how he tried to overcompensate for his thinning headline at 15.

OVERALL:

This isn’t a book I would necessarily read again, but it is nice experiencing Taja’s adolescence with her.

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Book Review #21: The Sweetest Sound

29280882STORY:

“You know, church is like that. Sometimes the pastor is talking and all you can think about is eating pancakes when he is done. But sometimes he says something and, just like that, it feels like he’s talking absolutely, positively to you!” (pg 17)

In The Sweetest Sound by Sherrie Winston (272 pages), Cadence Jolly is tired of adults giving her “motherless child” pity. She’s also trying to break out of her perpetual shyness enough to own her beautiful voice. In a fit of frustration and later regret, Cadence films herself disguised singing on Youtube. Of course, now her church choir is trying to find the little girl with the big voice, and Cadence doesn’t know if she will be able to own up to it.

CHARACTERS:

The cast is very diverse with Cadence and her family being African-American, Faith, a Dominicana, Zara, bi-racial (black mom/white dad), and Mei-Mei and Sophie, Chinese.

Some of the best singers (and def your faves) started singing in church, and Cadence is no different. Cadence was very shy but prideful, and I actually like that combination. She was also an avid reader, always mentioning classic books, and wanted to be a writer.

I couldn’t stand Faith. At all. Little girl be happy for your friend.

 annoyed will smith whatever fresh prince rbf GIF

Zara wasn’t memorable but at least she was sweet.

Cadence’s dad was well-meaning but overbearing. Still, he was okay in my book. I didn’t care about his little romance though.

Random note: I kept reading Sofine as So-Fine. :p

OVERALL:

“…Learning to be strong didn’t mean changing everything” (pg 259).

This book was a little dry. Too much poetry and way too much irrelevant junk. It was really hard for me to push through and finish it.

I don’t like giving stars, but this one is about a 2.5. Still, I’m sure it will make some kid’s day.

SN: THAT COVER! (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

Cadence has the cutest pixie cut!

Everything, Everything was okay. (Movie thoughts)

This is somewhat a movie review! I don’t plan on doing more movie reviews in the future, but I did see Everything, Everything and wanted to say my thoughts.

Everything, Everything was okay.

So, I saw the movie yesterday with a theater full of teenage girls, parents, and grandparents.

The movie didn’t have nearly as much detail as the books, but the visuals were beautiful. The location and room-building were excellent. I wanted Maddy’s room (or better yet her house). And if it was the movie’s purpose to make Hawaii seem like the best tourist attraction ever, it succeeded.

Consumerism was very low. But I wished it had been higher. All of Maddy’s outfits were so cute!  Where are they from? Forever 21? I would love to buy some of the dresses she had especially the yellow one with the zipper.

It had a nice soundtrack too. I definitely perked up at hearing Ari Lennox’s distinct voice in the movie.

There were some major pacing issues. Introducing Rose (who is only mentioned in the book) was cool, but not at the expense of cutting out major moments, which are in the spoiler section.

The kisses were good. The love scene was tasteful.

I loved the inner-thought bubbles when Olly and Maddy had like their third meeting. The direction the director took to show their text messages was creative too.

I liked the ending a lot more here! The book’s ending felt too open-ended.

Overall: Not totally exciting unless you have read the book, and then you might feel disappointed because some of the best parts were condensed or passed over. Still, I am glad I got to see it. I haven’t been to the movies in a while.

[SPOILERS INSIDE]

Continue reading “Everything, Everything was okay. (Movie thoughts)”

Book Review#9: Hackerteen: Internet Blackout

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Hackerteen: Internet Blackout by Marcelo Marques (112 pages) read like an educational cartoon such as the ones with a measly ten minutes of a fun plot then twenty minutes of stuff you are supposed to learn.

STORY:

Yago was a boy too consumed with computers, so his parents, afraid he would go down the wrong path, sent him to an ethical computer-hacking academy. While there he met a group of mismatched computer hacking kids, who were flat as cardboard cutouts. Seriously, I only knew like two of the group of four/five kids’ names.

After being converted to the ways of computer-hacking righteousness (to be honest, Yago never did anything wrong beforehand. His parents just freaked out instead of limiting his computer-use), Yago’s family ran into money troubles. As his hacking skills improved, Yago received suspicious calls for UNETHICAL *gasp* hacking.

I did not quite understand the hacking academy. What was the significance of the monks, and why did the school give out colored belts like a karate class?

CHARACTERS:

Could you even call the cast characters? Yago was supremely bland, actually, the whole cast was. Maybe Hackerteen was meant to be more story-driven as opposed to character-driven?

ART:

The artwork was a bit wonky but quirky. There are some nice artistic moments but mainly it is below average. Also, Yago’s character design leaves a lot to be desired. As a twelve-year-old, he dressed like a normal kid, but at seventeen he looked like an anime character, a Speed Racer-reject to be exact.

OVERALL:

Eh, this book was not entertaining at all. It was just too dry like cornbread lodged in your throat without a drink to wash it down. I did not have high expectations for this story, so at least I was not disappointed.

I could only recommend this to someone younger than ten years old. Not sure if anyone older, who was not a parent, would appreciate it.

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Book Review #2: Olive’s Ocean

 

“Her life was a measly mess that could be contained in a closed fist. But her sadness could not be contained, and so she cried and cried.”

 

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STORY:

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (217 pages) is about a twelve-year-old, redhead girl named Martha. A girl who went to her school, Olive, gets killed by a car. To Martha’s surprise, she finds out from Olive’s journal that the girl wanted to be her friend. This news confuses Martha, and she finds her thoughts consumed with Olive. Martha spends the rest of her summer vacation at her paternal grandmother’s house, thinking about death and her family.

What I like about this book is the writing. Everything Henkes seems to write in Martha’s narrative is poetic.

I also like romance a lot, even if it’s just sprinkled throughout a book. Innocent preteen romances are always fun to read because they are pure and awkward. Awkward and pure. It’s before the broken marriage, the cheating scandal, or the nasty dm (direct message). Preteen romances remind people of much simpler times, and I’m no exception to that. It’s adorable that Martha’s clueless about boys.

I can’t say that there was anything I disliked about this book. If I had to be nitpicky, the book could be considered anticlimactic throughout because the story reads like a kid’s normal day.

CHARACTERS:

There’s nothing startlingly interesting about Martha. She’s just a normal kid, but I like that. Martha’s like thousand of kids anyone might know in real life, curious and thoughtful.

Godbee, the grandmother, is wise and just a little bit feisty. She reminds me of the God-like characters played by Morgan Freeman. I like the conversations Martha and Godbee have the most.

I wish I could have seen a bit more of the Manning boys, Tate in particular. Still, their presence was just enough so I did not forget about them.

OVERALL:

This was a good read, nothing too obscene (there is a minor reference to Morning Sex), and the perfect length. If you want a book for a lazy afternoon then this book is for you!

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