Own Voice Authors, Pride Month, Read Women, Reviews

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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Review: History of Wolves

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History of Wolves 

by Emily Fridlund

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Madeline is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Madeline as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.
And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Madeline finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand. Over the course of a few days, Madeline makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Madeline confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do—for the people they love

Rating: 2.5 stars

This book has been on my TBR list since it came out and started blowing up my feeds on different social media. I finally got a chance to read an ARC version of this book due my job at the library. So, thank you to the publisher for sending it to us, even if I’m late to the party.

Basically, I have such mixed feelings about this book. I’ve been struggling to explain this book to all my patrons since I picked up months ago. So, I’ll try my best to describe it here, but know I still don’t know how to go about it. Three main events in the life of the main character, Madeline. The first is about the commune that she was born into and was part of early life before it fell apart. Not much is known about it, just some fuzzy memories she has from it and the fact she’s not overly sure if her parents are even her parents or just the people left behind with her. The second is the supposed abuse of Mr. Gierson over one of his students, Lily. We see it from the outside, as Madeline lives the events of his leaving, his arrest, and the fact Lily refused to testify in court against him that he assaulted her, despite the fact he was found with child porn. The third is the summer that the Gardner family moves in across the lake from her. She starts to babysit their son, Paul. Finally, we do see peaks into her future, but there’s no huge event that it focuses on.

The writing was good. It honestly saved me from marking it DNF. Why? The events happening in the book were interesting, but we didn’t get a chance delve into these events deeply, just from the outside. It wasn’t enough to really drive and keep the story interesting. We’re left feeling empty as a reader because we don’t have answers. Does it make it feel more real life, where answers don’t actually come easy? Yes, but it’s completely realistic, but it’s completely unsatisfied as a reader. As a reader, you want something that drives these big events, but instead it sizzles out when the action happens and your left in the background needing more.

I recommend stopping here if you don’t want spoilers, but to make this easier to understand, I need to get into spoilers for the point.

 

 

Okay, that being said, the major problem was what happens with Paul. We learn of his death right before it happens. And then the event gets dragged out into the second part of the book. I went from emotional at hearing this to annoyed at how drawn out it was only to find out we don’t see it. We barely get an idea what happens to him. We don’t get the emotions of it, but annoyance at it being dragged on for ages for nothing. It left me utterly frustrated. The first two events, sure. Madeline forced herself toward doing something with Mr. Gierson which was ridiculously creepy and made me unsettled for a long time. But with Paul, we spend half of the book with him only in the most important moments of his short life, we see nothing. And Madeline doesn’t react the way she should have. Of course, this is a big part of her character. She has less emotions and it’s seen as a big part of her character’s traits throughout the book. There’s little growth in her, just her age.

The idea was there, but there wasn’t enough story to really make me love it other than be annoyed that really, we go in at the same place we leave. It becomes the full focus because there’s simply not enough for it to reach something great. I can see what people like about it. It’s gritty and talks about uncomfortable truths in life, in religion, in being human. But there isn’t enough to really get into things. We get uncomfortable peeks.

 

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Review: Blood Water Paint

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Blood Water Paint

by Joy McCullough

Expected Release Date: March 6th 2018

Pages: 304

Rating: 5 stars

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.

I first heard about this book from a friend of mine who got an early look of it on twitter. Then another blogger read it and was gushing about it. It moved to the top of my list of books I wanted to read, even before I found out it was about an artist I had read about on twitter who’s story was something I was desperate to read more about. Not only did I get that in this novel, but I got it done in beautiful prose writing that made the read quick and addictive.

The story is about Artemisia Gentileschi, a female artist who painted biblical scenes unlike they had been painted before in her time. She depicted them realistically, not shying away from showing blood on these women and what was possibly their true feelings. All of this was done when she herself was forced to live parts of these tales herself when a friend of her fathers sets to teaching her techniques of painting, done in hopes that her father would get a commission he had always wanted. What started out as girlish flirting and love turned to her own nightmare as her life becomes one of the tales that her mother would tell her. But instead of allowing these things to just happen, she fights back by taking him to court, something nearly never done in this time period.

To me, writing in prose just added a new level to this story, making the reader feel the emotions of Artemisia and the pain of her experience. Prose allows emotion to be better seen and felt, though it can be known to take away from the story. Sometimes I wished that it would have focused on certain events a bit more, had a little more depth to help our understanding, but these moments didn’t happen too often, though happened a lot more toward the end. I might end up doing my own research to better understand some of it, not being fully aware of the stories of Judith and Susanna other than what was said in this book.

The character growth in this book is done extremely well. Artemisia starts out as a girl who’s desperate for love and to get out from under her abusive father’s finger. But she turns into a fighter, something harder. Her father shows a lot of growth too when faced with what happens to his daughter at the hands of a man he had welcomed into his home.

The plot follows the events of what happened in Artemisia’s life, a real artist who’s paintings are still well known today. Due to this, I can’t exactly speak on it or critique it. But it did move at a good pace and didn’t feel overly slow.

I highly recommend this read, though I warn there are a lot of triggers in this story such as sexual assault, rape, abuse, blood, drinking, torture, and murder. It’s something to be aware of and makes up most of the story.

Own Voice Authors, Read Women, Reviews

Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters

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 Love, Hate & Other Filters

by Samira Ahmed

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

My first review on here for the year and it was definitely worth the wait. This own voice story is already my favourite read so far this year and we’re only almost done Januaray now.

This story is about Maya, an Indian Muslim teen living in white suburbia, being the only brown person in town besides her parents. The title tells you exactly what to expect from this story, Maya finds love in different forms, finds hate in different forms, and moving past traumatic experiences. Maya finds love of a friendship of a fellow Muslim Indian, who her parents would have loved for her to date, but it didn’t work that way. She finds love in a boy named Phil who seems to like her, but walls get put in their way when a terrorist attack occurs in their state, leaving Maya and her family threatened and even attacked. But Maya manages it all as the strong young woman she is, an insane amount of character growth left in her wake.

This book does something that isn’t done too often. It tells the story of Maya but at the end of each chapter talks about the coming terrorist attack. It’s done in both first person and third person, giving the read a whole new perspective of the read.

The writing in this story was drop dead amazing. I fell with Maya in swoony dreams over the boys she crushes on (despite not liking boys myself, it was simply impossible not to get caught up in her own emotions), the real fear after such traumatic events, leaving me with a number of panic attacks as some of you know. However, that in itself is good. I would hope a book that dealt with tough issues would cause the reader to panic with the main character, to feel all their feelings. And in the world we live in today, a lot of us still have trauma from these sort of events that it’s hard not to let these emotions coming rushing from you. Not only that, but much as other books that deal with tough family situations that leave children in a tough disiciouson, without any spoilers, I felt for Maya at the end of the book, having to face such a choice myself with my own father. For someone who also faced such a reality, it isn’t easy, but I do believe she made the right choice for her, even if her parents couldn’t agree.

Would I recommend? 100%. Go get this book. Read it, love it. Come back here and gush about it for me.

What do you guys think of books that deal with tough issues that we deal with so often such as bigotry, islamaphobia, racism, terrorism, and more? What are some of your favourite own voice stories you’ve read so far?

Own Voice Authors, Read Women, Reviews

The Poet X

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The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

I really loved this book. It lived up to all the hype it’s gotten since it’s announcement and I’m so thankful I was able to read it. Xiomara is a first generation American who is trying to balance her life as such the best she can. Her family is from the Dominican Republic and her mother is extremely religious, only having married her husband to get to America. She tries to force these beliefs on Xiomara and her twin brother. But Xio is finding herself and questioning the things she’s known all her life. She does so through poetry and is able to find her voice in it. But this doesn’t come without hardships and cruelty when her mother finds out she’s dating a boy and about the poems themselves.

The writing in this book is simply beautiful. It’s done through poetry as Xio tells us the events that are some of her hardest to deal with. It makes these events more personal and brings you closer to her as a character. Though this book is something that is more focused on other first generation Americans that have to deal with finding a balance between their culture and the world they live in, I think a lot of people can still relate to different parts of this, such as questioning things your told to believe such as God and different things such as rules set by parents at this age.

I do warn that there is a lot of difficult subjects in this book such as abuse, sexual harassment and assault, sex, and a little bit about drugs. Sadly it’s something that a lot of people have to face, more so now it seems then ever. I think this book handled it well though and more than once I couldn’t help thinking how important this book is on subjects that are currently in the focal point of our news.

I highly recommend this book. It might not be for you, but it’s not written for you. This book is for all the first generation teens and adults out there. It’s about culture and finding balance. Even if it isn’t for you, I recommend it to better understand such issues people face.

Rating: 5 stars

Own Voice Authors, Read Women, Reviews

You Bring the Distant Near

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You Bring the Distant Near

by Mitali Perkins

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really loved this book. It takes place over 2 generations, first through the 70’s then through early 2000’s, with a bit of their mother/grandmother thrown in to break up the two generations. It’s a lovely story about Indian immigrants who move from London to the US. They simply try to survive, but when their father dies, the women of the family break from tradition. Sonia marries an African American that her mother doesn’t approve of while Tara marries the man that her family was trying to arrange a marriage for the two of them, but because she fell for him. Instead of letting male family members honor their father, they do, Sonia cutting off her hair while Tara returns her father’s ashes to where he was born. We then skip to their daughters growing up, Chantel learning what it means to be Bangali and African American and Anna what it means to live in her cousin’s shadow and learning that she can still be American and Bangali. But the biggest growth in this book comes from Ranee Das, the matriarch of the family. She goes from being a negative and racist character to one that accepts anyone that loves her girls to becoming American herself. It’s a lovely transformation that leaves you proud of her and rooting that she gets a happy ending herself.

The writing in this book is lovely. I probably read most of the book in one night because it became near impossible to put it down. The characters are interesting and realistic and completely their own persons. With so many people and so many generations, you might worry they would all start to blend together, but they don’t. The only thing I wish was different is that we got a small window into Tara’s life as an adult like we did Sonia. But Tara’s story stops being about American, where this story focuses on the American side of it.

This story is perfect for today. It talks about issues we’re still facing in 2017 from racism to immigration to trying to find where you are in this world and who you are. There simply was no one better than the Das women to tell this story.

I highly recommend this book. In a time like now, we need stories like this desperately as a reminder what America truly is supposed to be, not what its current state is.

Rating: 5 stars

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American Panda

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American Panda

by Gloria Chao

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

American Panda is about Mei Lu in her first year at MIT, only 17 years old after skipping a year. Living with the weight of her parents planned out future for her, she finds herself confronting hard truths such as the fact due to her germaphobia being a doctor might not be in her future after all and how her parents handle this fact, or really, lack of handling it in the same way they had with her older brother Xing.

American Panda is probably one of my favourite books I’ve read this year (Yeah yeah I know I say that every time, but it’s true!). It handles a lot of difficult issues that aren’t always discussed and does it in a fashion that’s realistic. Some issues including racism within Asian communities, disownment, germaphobia, not living up to parents expectations, and being the person you really are. Mei as a character is shy but extremely sassy when pressed. Honestly, I fell in love with her soon after starting the book and it only grew the more I read about her. She’s brave and brutally honest when she needs to be the most but is also sweet enough to stand up for people, even complete strangers.

Every relationship in this book in all honesty is handled well and with care, even characters that are more off to the side are fleshed out and brought to life. I’m not always the biggest fan of straight relationships, but the one between Mei and Darren is so sweet you will get cavities. It’s done in a way that’s sweet but real, Mei worrying that her family might lead to Darren hurt from everything she had witnessed with Xing and his girlfriend Esther. The relationship with Xing and Mei is the perfect example of siblings with a big age gap between them, something I know well with my older brother being 10 years older then I am. It reminded me of my brother and myself a lot and it hit me with happiness to see our relationship mirrored in this book.

I could go on forever about this book, but I’m gonna keep away from too many spoilers, just the hints of issues that occurred in the book that leads the plot, as mentioned above. All I’ll say is my life mirrored Mei’s in a lot of ways. One event in particular was almost dead on for what happened after I came out with my dad’s side of the family. All I’ll say is, I’m happy Mei went, even if it led to a huge fight with her family, it gave her the chance to grieve properly, which I sadly never got to chance to do myself.

I highly recommend this book. Its the right amount of sweet and adorable with real life issues that happen to people throughout life and it’s handled beautifully. Also, hot chocolate wins every day.

Rating: 5 stars 

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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

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Annie On My Mind

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Annie on My Mind

by Nancy Garden

This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.

Annie On My Mind is THE gay book. And I was lucky enough to get a chance to read and review it for an upcoming re-release. So with banned book week here, I sat down and read through this book finally.

We follow Liza and Annie in the year that they fell in love while Liza is looking back on the whole experience. It starts out sweet and wonderful, but trouble strikes when the two are caught together at Liza’s teachers’ house. Liza in turn is nearly expelled for simply being gay in the 1980’s. Luckily, she wasn’t, but the two teachers who are also gay lose their jobs at the school for the same issue.

All of which is still a nightmare for me, a gay genderfluid person. I grew up in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I witnessed a lot of homophobic behavior while it was still considered a mental illness. I grew up knowing it was ‘wrong’. Things have changed greatly, but with the current political climate, I fear that still that I could not be allowed to work in my dream job, a library, simply for being gay. It’s less likely now and I’m thankful for that every day, but this book simply reminded me of these old fears.

The story itself is sweet, though possibly a bit naive considering when this book takes place and where. Two girls falling deeply in love with each other and deciding that they rather not live in a make-believe world like they originally did, which seems a bit odd for actual college seniors to actually do. A lot of things like this haven’t aged too well with this book. It is a good book with a good message, but teens today are a lot different then they were and a lot would find that them living in their pretend worlds off.

There’s a lot that isn’t explained in this book that really should have been. Both Liza and Annie live in New York City during a time when Gay rights was huge, a long with the AIDs epidemic, neither of which are mentioned or even remotely acknowledged as being a thing. I realize that it’s possibly because during that time period the author might not have been part of it, but living in New York, you would think they would both know being gay is a thing and that the hysterical nature of the homophobia they face is partly due to the AIDs epidemic, not just the supposed ‘wrongness’.

Nowhere in the book does it mention the year, which leaves you think the author meant for it to be one of those books that are simply universal. Sadly, it doesn’t hold up that way anymore. For starters, payphones are no longer a thing, which get featured heavily in the book. Students would no longer nearly be expelled from school for being caught half naked with another girl outside of school, though even in this book its mentioned how wrong that it was in the first place Liza was going through it. I’ve had plenty of openingly gay teachers who haven’t lost their jobs for being gay, thankfully. My suggestion to fix the confusion would to be to add a forward to explain these things or somewhere just stick a date for readers to better understand that this takes place in our not so pleasant past.

The book might not have aged well, but the story is itself is still important. Everyone should understand how far we’ve come to be able to just marry our partners compared to nearly having your school career ruined for being gay. I think the story itself is good and sweet. Teens and everyone should be able to see what a healthy gay relationship looks like, even if its no always perfect.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to just read a good LGBTQA book that’s sweet and helps us better understand our past as well.

Rating: 3 stars 

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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