Mini Reviews #3

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Well, it has certainly been awhile. I have been reading like crazy but certainly not blogging. I wish I could say it was because I was working in something cool, but honestly, I just couldn't be bothered with anything that smacks of effort. Hopefully, I will be able to pull myself out of this writing funk and be more regular about posting.


All the Crooked Saints

All the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: October 10th 2017
Rating: all the pretty writing
Times read: 1
Recommended by: auto buy author

I was looking for a miracle, but I got a story instead, and sometimes those are the same thing.

 I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing, and I think that it lends itself well to the genre of magical realism. However, character and plot-wise this book does not stand up to her other books. Phrasing wise it does. If you like your prose to carelessly jump back and forth over the line to purple and back again (*raises hand forever) this book is for you. If this does not sound like you stay clear forever because you will spend 456 pages asking yourself what the actual fuck is going on. It is important to note that while most of the main characters are Mexican-American, this is not an #ownvoives book. Nothing jumped out at me as problematic, but I am not sensitized and could very well have overlooked it. YMMV so this is something to consider. Can I tell you what happens in this book? Not really but it was pretty, and I shipped all the things.


Take Me There

Take Me There
by Carolee Dean 

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: none
Published: July 20th 2010
Rating: sad
Times read: 2
Recommended by: I think that Goodreads threw this at me

Words are like people, I think. Put too many of them too close together and they cause trouble

What I loved about this book was this it took the "bad boy" trope and stood it on its head. Dylan is the protagonist rather than the mysterious boy seen from afar. We see his frustrations, his fears, and his loyalty. It is interesting that Dylan doesn't actually make that many bad choices and yet his life and control over it continues to crumble around him in spite of that. I found his illiteracy and yearning for poetry a painful metaphor for all the boys caught up in the criminal justice system. There is a romantic element but although it didn't annoy me it also wasn't the strongest part of the book. It also asks some interesting questions about fate, self-fulfilling prophecies, and the eternal debate of nature vs. nurture. 


The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us
by Kasie West

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: July 2nd 2013
Rating: cute enough
Times read: 2
Recommended by: Again I think that I first saw this on Goodreads.

I’ve missed my hot chocolate. I just think of you as the guy who brings it to me. Sometimes I forget your name and call you hot chocolate guy.

This was a reread. Seventeen-year-old Cayman has always been told to stay away from rich boys, but a chance meeting at her mother's doll shop with Xander makes her question everything. I like Cayman's sense of humor; I love the fact that they bond while trying to figure out what they want their futures to hold. Cayman doesn't let Xander get away with his nonsense behavior. I think that the real reason that this couple would work is that they genuinely bring out the best in one another. This is YA at it's best and by far my favorite book by Kasie West. 


The Inevitable Victorian Thing

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
by E.K. Johnston 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: none
Published: October 3rd 2017
Rating: DNF
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I can’t even rememer

I hate to be sanctimonious about it, but it turns out that good conversation solves a great many problems.

 I will be honest I bought this for the cover and for the title. The premise was very cool, but the writing was distractingly underwhelming. The characters are beautifully diverse, but it felt as if the diversity was a costume rather than part of who they were. My main complaint is that we are in at least four characters heads and I was not able to tell one voice from another. Which made it almost impossible to differentiate one character from another. This of course made the book very confusing and frustrating to the point where I had to ask myself why I was spending a Saturday afternoon fighting with a book. Thus I had to DNF this one. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads I take it that this is a love it or hate it kind of a book.


The Art of French Kissing

The Art of French Kissing
by Brianna R. Shrum

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: none
Published: June 5th 2018
Rating: Moar food
Times read: 1
Recommended by: me as I was searching for food books

I, on the other hand, am wound so tight that I can do nothing but scrunch. My skin is scrunched, my muscles are scrunched, my bones are scrunched; I am an ode to the nineties hair accessory.

 Gaze upon this cover and try to tell me you don't want to buy it. For a book about food and cooking, there was not enough time spent describing the food. Seriously, I could have done with about a hundred pages more of food description. There is a discussion about consent and one point that I both really appreciated and that stood out from the book as "The author thinks that a discussion of consent goes here" rather than feeling like a naturalistic conversation. The biggest problem with this book is actually the fact that Carter, the main character, is kind of terrible. Mean, overly dramatic, and way too easily angered. I ended up reading on in spite of her rather than because of her. On the pro side, this book has beautifully represented diversity, and Reid is adorable and infuriating. More about him please.


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Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene G

The Way You Make Me Feel
by Maurene Goo
Goodreads | Amazon 
Series: no
Published: May 8th 2018
Rating: Frickin' awesome
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I auto-bought it because Maureen Goo

Co-read with Gabrielle because I live a charmed life like that. In The Way You Make Me Feel sixteen year old Clara's class clown way of life if sidetracked when she has to work in her dad's food truck with her worst enemy all summer.

Well, Clara is certainly an extrovert. I am always way more judgy of extroverts. I don't mean to be but because they approach the world in a completely different way that I do I need some damn good writing to make their motivations and actions understandable and not just attention seeking. Maureen Goo manages that deftly. Clara is completely unlike Desi from I Believe in a Thing Called Love. She is much less introspective and much more concerned with outside events. The Way You Make Me Feel is a more broadly comedic and less "thoughtful" but maintains the same level of charm and warmth. My only real complaint about this book is that it did feel like the ending was a bit abrupt and I wanted more closure.  Or just more. 

The Way You Make Me Feel hits all of my YA sweet spots diversity, vivid setting, excellent characterizations, and a large amounts of food. Ermahgerd, the food. I will confess that I have a strong dislike of all things kimchee. It has to do with the pickle/brine thing. I can't stand saurkraut, pickles, or olives in my food for the same reason. I still want one of the Kimchee Pasteles from this book. I would be making them at this moment if I knew where to find kimchee in Beijing. 

The disruption and mayhem fed my soul, and I looked around the auditorium triumphantly.

I love that Clara is not a model student who is hugely concerned what her parents will think of her if she doesn't overachieve. Not every Asian high school student loves the academic part of school. Or is good at it. She is slightly over the top and dramatic, but she is also never mean-spirited. This was a concern because she does tend to want to be the coolest person in the room. This contrasted with Rose, Clara's nemesis, who is hampered by the need to please every person that she comes in contact with. It is an odd couple type of situation and it was beautifully done. They have to get over their issues both with one another but also learn to deal with the issues that they have with themselves. I love when books portray the way that positive frienships enrich lives. 

Multiculturalism was portrayed in this book was *chef's kiss. Clara is American of Korean decent by way of Brazil. There is a complexity there that reflects real life. As someone whose hypothetical child would be half American, half German by way of China I definitely appreciate this. The secondary and tertiary characters are all authentically and casually diverse making Clara's LA that much more reflective of reality. Speaking of LA. I am a huge fan of books where the setting is in itself a character. 

Hamlet Wong is frickin' adorable. He is earnest and slightly nerdy. He genuinely cares about other people and sees through Clara's brash facade to the interesting and special person underneath. I know that I shouldn't want a high school summer romance to last forever but this one better stick. 

Clara's dad Adrian Shin is everything wonderful in this world, and I need him to have an adult romance novel to himself. I'll wait. But not patiently. Please get on that Maureen.  Heart eyed emojis is forever! 

Seriously, Maureen Goo deserves a round of applause and for this book to be read by everyone. Cute, funny, romantic, and the perfect antidote to every day of the week feeling like a Monday.

From Goodreads:

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo's signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Book Review: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound By Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound
By Aisha Saeed
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: May 8th 2018
Rating: solid MG read
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I first saw this on twitter

I preordered Amal Unbound months ago because of the cover and because of the Pakistani setting. A few weeks ago I read Written in the Stars by the same author, which renewed my interest. I still hadn't read the blurb when I started reading it, so I went into it having no idea what sort of story to expect. A story of drama and intrigue, a rom-com, historical? It turns out it was none of the above.

Amal is a girl living in a small village in Pakistan who wishes to become a teacher. She is pulled out of school to take care of the family when her mother suffers from postpartum depression and ends up accidentally making an enemy of the powerful man who owns her village.

Amal Unbound is the sort of book that really highlights how vital #ownvoices writing is. I don't think that that this book could or should have been written by someone who is not part of the Pakistani community. Amal Unbound tackles classism and indentured servanthood in Pakistan, and it takes someone with both an intimate knowledge and love of Pakistan, and it's people to portray both of these realities accurately.

Or maybe I would do all these things. I knew now that one person could hold many different dreams and see them all come true.

This is a very short book.  Or maybe it felt very short because it was so readable. I read half of it last night and half of it today. As far as I know, Amal's age is never given. Somewhere between 12 and 17 is all I can say for sure. There is a clarity of writing and story that will make this book accessible to younger readers.

This is definitely a "plot" book. All of the stories energy goes into fleshing out what is happening rather than "world building" or characterization.  The writing is slightly spare, and there are no lush descriptions of Pakistan. There was a forward momentum to the book that discouraged lingering over words or characters. It was very much a book of the hear and now of the story. I find that I read books like this very quickly because I am so anxious to find out what happens. But because I am reading so fast, I don't always pay enough attention to the writing.

Amal is a strong and admirable character. I love how dedicated she was to learning and how determined she was to save herself. She was also a slightly blurred character, and I wonder if that has to do with the fact that she is also written as a representative character.  Amal has a specific history and struggle, but she is also emblematic of the many girls and woman around the world who are living this reality. I love that there is a message of hope and positive outcomes through action. 

Aisha Saeed is masterful at writing complex secondary characters. None of them are all good or all evil. Even characters who could almost be cartoonish in their villainy *cough Jawad Sahib *cough are portrayed as humans with human emotions and fallacies. 

Amal Unbound is highly recommended if you are interested in diverse books, contemporary books set in non-English speaking counties, or books that look at the lives of girls and woman in the developing world.

From Goodreads:

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when--as the eldest daughter--she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens--after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt. 

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal--especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.