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!

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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

Book Review #29: The Last Black Unicorn

I think this is my first non-fiction review? So yeah!

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The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (288 pages) is an interesting read or, better said, an interesting life story.

Be aware there’s a bunch of cursing and crude language, almost excessively. The appeal of the humor is all the messed-up/f’ed up junk that happened in Tiffany’s life. Oh my God. Sometimes, it got heavy. Nothing is politically-correct (disabled jokes, poop in shoes, etc) and a lot of trauma is present through carefully covert jokes.

But real life can’t be censored.

Anyway, I like the choppy, episodic chapters because it’s easy to put down and start reading again. Honestly, many of the sentences are written in AAVE, which is cool.

Three stars out of five!

 

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.

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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