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Review: Hurrican Child

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Hurricane Child

by Kheryn Callender

Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book has been on my TBR list for ages. So when I was approved to read the eARC for it, I was insanely excited. Though it took me a while to get to this book, it lived up to the hype.

 

Caroline has been seeing people that aren’t there since she nearly drowned as a child. Her mother has disappeared, she’s bullied at school, and has no friends. When Kalinda comes to town, things change. The girls become friends, Caroline falls in love with the other girl, though Kalinda doesn’t feel the same way or so it seems. They are determined to find Caroline’s mother, even if she’s been taken to the spirit relam.

 

(Heads up, the next part contains spoilers that are important to explaining parts of the book)

 

This story deals with a lot of tough issues from racism, to homophobia, to mental illness. All the while seen from the eyes of a girl who is the victim to it all. Caroline has dark skin. She’s treated badly because of it. Caroline and Kalinda see a gay couple and Kalinda starts saying horrible things about them. Caroline, scared, agrees with her. But in the following days after seeing that such a thing is possible, she realizes that she feels that way about Kalinda, which she ridiculed for by other students, a teacher, and even Kalinda (for a short period of time while the other girl comes to terms that she actually feels the same way). This is all done in a good and honestly realistic way. Sadly, there are still places where this stuff happens and this book brings this to the forefront without actually making it homophobic or racist itself, by saying that isn’t okay, that people should love and be free to be themselves. It’s handled in a way that a lot of books sadly can’t seem to grasp lately. As for mental illness, we learn that Caroline’s mother suffers from depression and Caroline herself seems to as well, at a point where Caroline tries to kill herself after realizing her mother had done the same and was living on the island but hadn’t wanted contact with her due to the fact she was scared of being trigged into falling into her depression again.

This book more than anything is about growing up. We watch Caroline, a stubborn girl grow up before us in this short period of time. Caroline learns that sometimes things happen to be people that they can’t control. She learns to forgive her mother. She’s able to grow to accept that she has a step-sister and a half-sister and she no longer hates them. She’s all in all grow in a way that’s amazing and healthy.

The things I would have changed: Maybe a bit more supernatural? Caroline believes it must be out of her mother’s control not being there with her. So, she has to have been taken by the spirits. She’s able to see them after all, and so can Kalinda, as she later finds out. Kalinda seems to know a lot about spirits, but we never find out why. To me, there should be a little more to this to really account for this. Just enough to make it fit just a bit better into the story instead of how it feels slightly not fluid with this story. After all, the supernatural is part of cultures and are part of beliefs. I loved the supernatural part, it just needed maybe a few more scenes to make it feel less clunky, even if the point was to prove that not all spirits are bad and that sometimes there are real world problems that occur.

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Read Women

(Review) Where The Watermelons Grow

Where the Watermelons Grow

by Cindy Baldwin

Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady.
And Della knows what to do when the sickness that landed her mama in the hospital four years ago spirals out of control again, and Mama starts hearing people who aren’t there, scrubbing the kitchen floor until her hands are raw, and waking up at night to cut the black seeds from all the watermelons in the house. With Daddy struggling to save the farm from a record-breaking drought, Della decides it’s up to her to heal Mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations.
She doesn’t want to hear the Bee Lady’s truth: that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain than with healing Della’s own heart. But as the sweltering summer stretches on, Della must learn—with the help of her family and friends, plus a fingerful of watermelon honey—that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

I’ve read a lot of good books lately and a lot of bad, leaving me in such a reading slump that I picked up about ten books, putting each back down before even getting to 50%. When a friend of mine heard this, they suggested “Where the Watermelons Grow”, which I was lucky enough to have received an ARC for earlier this year. And I’m so thankful I had. This book is an amazing read that faces the reality of living with someone with a mental illness and more, so the ones not talked about in popular media.

 

This book follows Della, the oldest of two girls in a family living on a farm, struggling to make ends meet due to a drought and a host of other issues. One night, Della walks into the kitchen to find her mother carving up a watermelon, saying she didn’t want her or her little sister to swallow the seeds and that it would make them sick. This is the hint of what is coming. You see, her mother had schizophrenia, an illness she had suffered from since Della was born and who often blames herself for having ‘triggered’ the illness. We follow Della as she learns to accept her mother’s illness and that there was no magical fix for it.

 

This book is basically the book all of us who suffer from the less popular mental illnesses such as anxiety and clinical depression. It talks about mental illness in a smart and honest way. Della becomes obsessed with the idea that the magic bee honey in town can fix her mother, when she finds out that it can’t, she then searches for ways she can fix it, having blamed herself for the illness in the first place. This book is honest and heartfelt. I struggled to put this book down for days, even reading it in the last few minutes before I went into surgery yesterday.

 

The writing in this book is lovely. The characters even more lovely. As Della learns that not all families are perfect as those seen on TV, that there’s such thing as a found family, and that nothing is ever what it seems, we go through the ride and steps with her. Della is at the age where she wants to believe in magic honey and that the world can be easily fixed. When none of it goes as planned, she tries harder and harder to make these things happen.

 

My all-time favorite thing about this book is the how it talked about mental illness. While people like to pretend that things like honey and nature can cure mental illness (from those who don’t have it), this book puts an end to this idea right away. There is no magic. Just medicine and professional help. It’s a hard we all face either due to a loved one with it or ourselves. There is no magic cure, no matter how hard we might wish.

 

The portrayal of mental illness struck home. I found it done well and in an order that actually makes sense. There are triggers, there are moments of believed clarity, of moments of sharp downturns and a need for control. This book doesn’t pretend otherwise. And the writing makes it clear, there is no magic cure, period. The honey only works as ‘magic’ because it helped people find strength and hope within it. As nice as a magic story is, there’s more to it. Always.

 

I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read that will keep you reading no matter what.

Read Women, Reviews

Halloween is for Jumbies

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Rise of the Jumbies

by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven’t exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne.
To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D’Leau’s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D’Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne’s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home.

First, I’d like to thank Algonquin Young Readers for sending me my first book from a publisher for Halloween this year.

Rise of Jumbies is the sequel to The Jumbies, both stories that will live you with chills despite it being middle grade books. Corinne is a young girl who has faced off with Jumbies to save both her town and the Jumbies themselves from her evil aunt. Corinne, half Jumbie herself, is a fierce girl who will do anything for her village, even if her village now doesn’t trust her. So when kids start go missing, she is willing to go to far lengths to get them back, even if it brings her all the way to Ghana and back.

The thing I love most about these books, not just because it’s helped me out of a reading slump, is the fact the author doesn’t try to make Jumbies, a type of monster that was told to children to make them behave, kid friendly. One creature are kids that become possessed by spirits. The only way to tell is by their backward feet. Jumbies will give you chills and make you want to learn more about old myths and legends just as much as the story itself. Which makes it a perfect Halloween read for all ages, full of diversity and simply good story telling.

I personally loved the second book even more than the first book, weirdly enough. This one brought us Jumbies of the ocean where the first one gave us Jumbies of the forest on their little island. We got mermaids and what I could only call boss Jumbies of the water and land. We got off the island and go to Ghana and learn that despite the distance, both cultures still has a spirit of the water, just by different names. We get Corinne being cunning and fierce as ever, who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the other kids of her island. The story is exciting and fixes what was left open in the first book while picking up the pace. I admit, I didn’t see some of the bigger plot twists coming and laughed more than once aloud. This book is worth the hype around it. It’s fun and beautiful.

I highly recommend this book to fans of creepy stories for all ages. I think that its stuff that kids wouldn’t really find creepy or think too much about while adults get that chill from the descriptions while enjoying a fun story and the friendship between characters. Pick up the first book first, because it’ll help give you a better understanding of Severine and the character of Allan, who becomes important in this story.

Rating: 4 stars

Read Women, Reviews

A not so Dreadful Tale

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The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding

by Alexandra Bracken

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type. 

 

Remember how I said Middle Grade books win this year? Well, this book just proves this fact in Alexandra Bracken’s newest book that comes out this fall. It also happens to be my new favourite book by her, and I’ve read at least the first book of each of her series that are currently out. And here’s why: We follow the story of Prosper Redding, a bit of a sad kid who’s bullied at school and who has become distant to his once close twin sister. He doesn’t fit in with the rest of his family either. More so when he finds out his ancestor made a deal with a demon, who just happens to residing in Prosper currently. I don’t want to give much more away about it though. You’ll have to trust me that Prosper’s tale manages to become even more magical from there. Just take the warning in the first few pages of this book to heart, don’t trust a Redding. Or really anyone for that matter.

The writing in this book is just so much fun. To me, it was one of Bracken’s better crafted stories and it doesn’t get too boring, only a few moments that slowed down and left me crazy because I needed to know where the plot went past the filler section. As someone who loves witches and grew up on Harry Potter magic, this book had just the right amount of magic in it while bringing us a whole new ideas while feeling familiar. It also has the right amount of spookiness without being completely scary. I admit, I was creeped out a few times, so maybe not read this with younger readers just yet, but let them once they’re in middle school, in my personal opinion just to keep it on the safe side. As for the writing quality, it was good. Unlike in some of the past books I read from Bracken, there wasn’t as much unneeded moments in this book. There was a few that I wouldn’t mind not seeing, but most of them come with at least a small purpose behind it, which we do find out later. I think she finally found the right balance in my opinion.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Highly. I’d seriously run to my store and preorder it now. If that isn’t an option yet, then wait for it to be, mark on all your calendars and whatever else until you can. It’s the perfect book for most ages and is perfect for fans of Hocus Pocus. It might be the only thing that ever comes as good and so purely Halloween as this movie.

Rating: 5 stars

AsianLitBingo, Read Women, Reviews

Ahisma

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Ahimsa

by Supriya Kelkar

Lee & Low’s Tu Books has bought world rights for Supriya Kelkar’s Ahimsa, a middle grade historical novel about a privileged 10-year-old girl in 1942 India whose mother joins Gandhi’s freedom movement, and who takes up her mother’s work for freedom when her mother is jailed.

2017 is the year for Middle Grade books. This book is about Anjali, a ten year old growing up and seeing the world around her for what it truly is when her mother joins Gandhi’s freedom fighters. Her mother helps Anjali see the world more clearly while the two of them learn to see past their privilege and come into the world that they’ve been blind to due to it.

This book is important today because we’re yet again facing the idea one group of people see’s their lives as more important than others, in this case the British over the Indians, and the higher castes over the lower caste of Dalits (I won’t use the slur for them here, just google if you don’t know who they are). If this sounds familiar, we’re currently living through this idea still with the fact we still need to protest for the rights of people of color. Because sadly, when we don’t know our history, it simply repeats itself again and again. In this case, freedom fighters aren’t truly fighters, but protesters that use nonviolence in hopes to free India of the British control and bring rights to all castes, much like today with Black Lives Matter protests. It’s also important due to the fact this book also deals with the Muslims in India at the time that later created the country Pakistan. We see the tensions of them and the Hindus heating up, the two sides rioting and fighting and watch as Anjali has to come to terms with it herself when her and her best friend are on the two sides of the religious divide. Again, this is similar to today in much of the world where Muslim’s see backlash for their religion.

The writing in this book was really well done. It went at a good pace and not once felt boring or too slow. I found myself completely hooked on this book and stayed up into the early hours reading this because it was simply addicting and too hard to put down. I found that it read simply as a book, not just for middle grade readers, but for all, but made it very clear for those middle grade readers and without too much violence and other frightening things while staying true to the history.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. I know that I personally didn’t learn much about Indian history in school and what I do know I had learned myself from reading and documentaries I had seen. This book does a good job in sharing with us an important time in India’s history and makes it easier for all readers to understand while keeping all readers also hooked on the plot and story. However, I do warn that there is violence in this book. Sadly, history like this tends to be and to tell this story without it wouldn’t tell the full story despite the fact it also teaches us about “Ahimsa”. Violence isn’t always the answer, even if that’s the easiest option.

Rating: 5 stars