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The Girl With The Red Balloon

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The Girl with the Red Balloon (The Balloonmakers, #1)

by Katherine Locke

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

This might be one of the few ARCs that’s still full of errors but is simply so good I couldn’t put it down and automatically gets 5 stars. The story gives us three perspectives, Ellie, Benno, and Kai. Ellie is in Germany for a class trip to see the country her grandfather was originally from before the Holocaust. However, when she grabs a red balloon during her trip, she is sent back in time to 1988 and East Berlin, a time when the wall was still standing. She meets Kai and Mitzi who are Runners of balloons that are full of magic that helps people flee from horrible places to freedom, which was how Benno, Ellie’s grandfather was saved from death himself.

The plot of this book carries from page one to the end. It’s never dull or boring for a single second. I had such a hard time putting this book down. It was a quick read in that sense because it brings you on such a journey without a minute of dullness that keeps you completely captivated. And unlike most time travel books, it’s not over down or using the same tropes throughout the book that leave it feeling boring. It’s original in every sense and so is the magic in it as well. It combined both magic and science into an almost believable mix that makes you curious but leaving you unsure if you should ever touch a red balloon again.

The characters to me felt real, which is always the key to what I’m looking for in them while reading. Each of the three main characters and Ellie’s friends all have a connection to those prosecuted during the Holocaust. Kai is Romani, Ellie is Jewish, and Mitzi is gay. All of this is still important for Germany in this time when Communism is still big in East Germany and people were still being prosecuted for being different and disappearing. This story reminds us that things are more complicated than we understand, just like situations and characters are. We watch characters go through motions, with understanding the trauma to people and learning to understand that generations of Germans that weren’t involved in the Holocaust aren’t their grandparents. It’s all complicated matters that are talked through and discussed that are super complicated and neither side is right or wrong.

Like I mentioned, the ARC I received was full of errors within the writing. Some were as small as the wrong tense of a word to little things in the plot that probably wasn’t changed when she sent it to the publisher, which is understandable. It made for some confusing moments, but the story itself was so good that it helped carry the story despite it.

One being was Kai mentioned that only the balloon makers can see balloons once in flight because their blood is used in the magic. However Aurora tells Ellie she can’t. This was never said either way if it was a mistake or something in the plot. Another was the fact Runner’s learn the train schedule due to the location of their headquarters. They know the times of trains, but only once do they ever check their watches for the time. This bothered me a bit seeing as its used for a plot twist later. I wish it had been mentioned a few more times though just in my personal opinion.

Do I recommend? Yes. Go support Jewish authors right now anyway with everything happening right now, but make sure you preorder this book or get it when it comes out. It’s worth the read and is honestly amazing. I can’t wait for the next book already. I already know I’m going to miss this read and I just finished it.

Rating: 5 stars

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Blogging For Books Reads: Women In Sports

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Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Sports highlights notable women’s contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem–but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media. A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.

I’m not huge into sports other than Baseball and female Soccer nor was I ever good at sports growing up. But when the people of the amazing book Women In Science decides to make one about Women in Sports, I couldn’t walk away from this book. I was lucky enough to get both an eARC for this and Physical copy, which is the best way to experience this book and the beautiful artwork that goes with it.

It’s a lovely read for those who like sports and even those of us who don’t. It’s fully of inspiring women from around the world from early years to present day. Admittedly, I enjoyed the more historical parts of the book more due to the fact I hadn’t heard of these women as much and they took a lot of the steps that led to women in sports today. I skimmed more of the women of today, already knowing most of their stories, though their accomplishments aren’t less important. All of the women in this book are inspiring and who worked not only for women’s rights in sports but also in the world around us.

The art like I mentioned before is beautiful. I seriously love the style and colors used and it added in keeping the book feeling fun when sometimes books like this can get tiring depending on what facts they stick to. The attention to detail is amazing, every little image on their pages have to do with that woman and her sport and it gives you an idea what your about to read even before you read it.

Do I recommend it? I do for women and men with some interest in sports or sports history. I think that if you have an interest in sports in particular, it will hold your attention for a lot longer than it did mine.

Rating: 3 stars

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Wicked Like Wildfire

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Wicked Like a Wildfire

by Lana Popović 

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love. 
But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

We follow Iris and Malina, twins, who just happen to have a magic that only their family seems to possess. They live sheltered lives in almost hiding, never allowed to let anyone know of their gifts. But a strange woman suddenly appears at their mom’s cafe and everything changes after.

So this book is interesting. The magic in it is beautiful though hard to imagine, I don’t know if its because even the author doesn’t know how to describe it or there isn’t the right words for it. I found it a bit hard to understand at times. It’s an interesting idea, the idea of enhancing the senses in this way and having it be how the magic works in this story. Though I admit, what Iris’s magic of adding to the sense of sight reminded me of my visual disorder. Though it’s less fun and more annoying at times as well as beautiful. Unlike Iris, I can’t make things bloom and what not, but I see spots and colors and constant static in my vision that sometimes reminds me of fireflies. Which did annoy me a bit because sadly, what I have isn’t magic and it isn’t always beautiful. I wish there had been more to, a darker side or parts she didn’t like with it, but from what it seems, it’s just beautiful.

As for the characters, it’s a little complicated. The story deals heavily with abuse in different forms. Their mother is both physically abusive but also verbally. And Iris is learning it from her and does it back to her mother. But her mother we learn came from a very controlling and abusive family herself. It’s important this takes place in Eastern Europe, but that doesn’t excuse abuse, even if things aren’t the same in certain aspects as in the West. This honestly made me uncomfortable and made me question the story a bit if it was for me. But I kept reading to better get an idea of it and got hooked on the beauty of the words.

As for the plot, it was really interesting, if not a bit slow. It started out alright, having had to set things up and then it picked up fast. And there were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming at all. It kept me guessing and I found it did so well. Even what I did guess I didn’t guess fully. There was always more to it. But just before I finished the story slowed to a crawl. I seriously almost stopped at about 95% more than once and took me a few days just for that. I think it could have easily cut a good amount of it or summed it up easier and didn’t leave the reader a bit frustrated when the story had been so good up to that point.

Do I recommend? Yes and no. If you’re triggered by abuse, stay away from it. But if you love magic and the beauty that words can do, I do recommend it. It’s also a pretty great diverse amount of characters from Iris and Malina who are half Asian, to a gay couple, to Romani family that they are good friends with. I think that in itself is partly worth it.

Rating: 3 stars

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My Rad Life

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My Rad Life: A Journal

by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

A companion to the New York Times bestseller Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, this cool guided journal draws from a number of the “rad” women featured in both books, while also including a diverse range of new women, all of whom come to life via inspirational quotes and paper cut portraits.Blank pages invite doodling, lined pages encourage writing, and a collection of thought-provoking prompts encourage users to get to know themselves better by recording their thoughts and ideas on paper.

Originally I had gotten this journal as an ebook a while back, but due to it being something that you need to take part in and write in, I felt like I couldn’t review it until I saw a real copy of it. It just happened that I was able to snag a real copy. And I’m so happy I did because I don’t think an ebook copy would do this justice.

It’s a brightly colored book filled with quotes and images of women from this time and the past. It gives you suggestions on how to fill the journal but also gives you plenty of free space to do whatever you want. I think it’s something that women of all ages could love this book. It celebrates women and being women and is something we need to do more often.

I already have plans for my copy. I’m planning on doing pictures for each woman based on the things they are known for and fought for, that way it’s easy to know more about them than just a quote because we don’t always need words. I also plan on doing some of the prompts offered.

I’m really excited about this book and it can give you inspiration every day when you need it in your life and drive you to be a better person and a better you. I highly recommend it if you want something fun and journal like while learning about different women from history and who are fighting still today.

Rating: 4 stars

Reviews

Solo

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Solo

by Kwame AlexanderMary Rand Hess

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

This lovely, emotional story follows Blade Morrison, son of a famous rocker, as he leaves high school and is preparing for college. But everything he knows gets turned on it’s head all at once. He finds out he’s adopted after a fight with his sister over their father’s embarrassing antics, he finds out the girl he loves has been cheating on him after he gets her named inked in his skin. He goes on a journey to understand all of this by chasing after his birth mother who is in Ghana. In this journey he learns to forgive his father, learns that he can still love, and that the music he thought dead in him still is very much still alive.

This book is surprisingly unique with it’s story. It tells the story in prose and lyrics, leaving the experience even more beautiful and even more gripping. Blade is unhappy in his life of having lost his mother, having grown up with drug addict of a father, and he wishes simply to be normal. You can feel the pain of the character yourself, of someone who is on the cusp of change, one he thinks he understands only to learn he was completely wrong. It was simply a joy to read and get a better idea of the emotions Blade experiences. The lyrical feel is perfect with how this story is tied in to music so intensely. I don’t think the story would have been such an impactful read without it.

The plot was interesting and a new take in finding one’s self, in my opinion. It’s full of so many twists and turns that you don’t see half of them coming. You go into the story thinking you know what this story is about only for everything to get flipped on it’s head. And it did this well, never just letting one of those plots come up without just forgetting about them. It does leave some questions unanswered, but to me, it felt like it was part of life. Sometimes, you don’t get the answers you want, but it doesn’t mean its not important. Sometimes no answer is answer enough to get an idea of the possibilities. We see the pieces of Blade’s life that leads to this change, we don’t see the aftermath, but that’s okay. This story is about him finding who he really is, even if he doesn’t fully understand who that is fully. We don’t know what happens after Ghana. We leave the story in a heart breaking moment, but one that you know will change more than one character in this story due to the cruel reality of this world.

Do I recommend this? Yes. I think it’s such a brilliant read with such an unique way of telling it. It’s a quick read, one I did a lot quicker than I thought I would. In part, it’s because it’s such an addicting style and the emotions in it make you desperately want to know what happens next. I do warn ahead of time of some triggers: drug use, abusive relationships, implied rape, and death.

Rating: 4 stars 

 

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The Tiger’s Watch

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The Tiger’s Watch 

by Julia Ember

Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a inhabitor, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, and Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi discovers a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander—a side that draws them to Xian.
When their spying unveils that everything they’ve been taught is a lie, Tashi faces an impossible choice: save their country or the boy they’re growing to love. Though Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn’t question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabitor’s bond to their animal is for life—if Katala dies, so will Tashi.

We follow Tashi, a young inhabitor as they flee from a sudden outbreak of war, leaving their country in ruins. But Tashi and their friend Pharo must hide so that they aren’t caught and found out what they are by the invading army, inhabitor’s possessing a magic that the other country desperately wants. So they hide in among monks as one of the commanders takes a post at that monastery, taking Tashi as a servant. Tashi risks themselves as a very reluctant spy in hopes of finding information that might find out information they can use against them.

Not my best little summary, I admit, but this book is all levels of complicated that I didn’t really stand a chance to describe it without giving away too much or leaving out important elements. I will say of the books I’ve read by Julia Ember, this has to be my favourite one so far. This book has roots in Asian culture and reminds me strangely of Avatar the Last Airbender. Though there’s no bending of elements, the magic in this book and the idea of those who posses it giving up their lives to keep a balance in the world reminds me hands down of Avatar. Fans of the show would probably enjoy this book.

Tashi as a main character is really interesting. Their genderfluid (which made this my first full novel I’ve read with someone genderfluid and I seriously freaked out). They are brave in their own way, but sensitive, which makes some characters look down on them. That doesn’t change the fact their strong. They just aren’t the normal pig headed, rush into danger type of protagonist. They’re one of the few that put themselves and the ones they love first, not just the greater good. They’re forced to make a hard choice, but one that will help some but possibly hurt more. And it’s something they grapple with in a thoughtful manner. If I was in their position, I honestly don’t know what I would have done. It’s also diverse and gives us an interesting cast of characters next to Tashi. Every character is complicated and has a story that is just as gripping and leaves you desperately wanting to know more.

The plot of this book is beautiful. There wasn’t a slow moment in the whole book. You know someone is wrapped up in a story that the sun sets and they don’t notice their reading in the dark until someone points it out to them. Which happened to me with the last half of the book. I was just completely wrapped up in this story. I honestly can’t wait for the second book and need to know what happens. I’ve read good books this year, but not one that wraps me up so completely as this book had without me feeling bored at least in one or two parts of it.

The writing itself was well done. I saw everything clearly in my mind and it was simply beautifully done. The only thing I had a small problem with was the fact a queer character died to advance the plot and the character of Tashi. I don’t know if it can be considered a ‘bury your gays’ situation because its complicated from the start because as soon as we start the book we know this character will die. All of the inhabitors know they will die young. It’s part of the balance I mentioned before.

The world building in this book is well done. The conflict itself is part of what reminds me of Avatar along with the use of magic. I honestly love how much thought went into each place and each of their cultures. It’s been a while since I read a fantasy novel that gives us a world so completely thought out like this. And that just adds to awesome quality of this book.

Do I recommend this? H*ck yes. Go get this book as soon as you can. If you love magic and the feeling that Avatar gave you, pick this up, enjoy it, and come gush with me because I need to gush about this book with you.

Rating: 5 stars

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#NotYourPrincess

#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women

by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale

Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.

To me this, this collection of poetry and prose is important. It gives voices to Indigenous women, tells their stories and empowers their sisters to embrace themselves and who they are. To me, this collection that contains experiences I haven’t felt myself and experiences I deal with as well into words. The poems and stories that did this was stories talking about how they weren’t raised with their heritage and have to learn it on their own or families that whitewashed themselves to hide who they are, much like my own family has. These pieces hit hard while reading them, leaving me wanting to tell my own story instead of biting it back in fear of ‘not fitting’ the expected mold.

To me, I found these pieces well done. However, about half way through this collection, the formatting sort of gave out on me. Sentences ran into other sentences, not ending but cut off suddenly. Some poems make use of different colored fonts while others have the same idea, but the formatting  made it repeat the sentence above when it wasn’t meant to. As it was, the white colored fonts can’t be seen well on kindles, leaving your eyes hurting trying to read it. A more common issue with ebooks on kindles is art work getting cut to pieces so it’s not a full images but small pieces. This was an issue through this arc as well. I felt like the formatting issues did effect my impression simply because half of the pieces I couldn’t understand because I had to try and repiece the pieces together again, leaving me a little frustrated. Hopefully, this can be fixed before this goes out into ebook formats.

Do I recommend this? Yes. Wait to get it in physical form or for the publishers say that formatting has been fixed for ebooks if you get it. I find it a really important read and one that touched my soul and my own experience of trying to find my way of my heritage and understand what that means for the woman I am, as a Metis, who’s family that has been rewritting who they are to hide this side. I feel like this book is important to both Indigenous women and women who want to better understand the struggle.

Rating: 4 stars