humor, short story, young adult

Book Review: Open Mics: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins

17262283
Title: Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
Editor: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Candlewick
Length: 144 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Short Stories, Young Adult, Humor
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

Review:
I found this book by chance when going through my libraries ebook collection. After reading it I immediately preordered a physical copy of it because I need it on my shelves to reread. The short stories and poems seamlessly show what it’s like to grow up having different cultures while being funny.

Personally, I preferred the short stories. They helped get the point across better and allowed for more detail. As a person who doesn’t necessarily care for poetry, though, I would take this with a grain of salt if I were you.

I read the entire collection in a matter of a few hours but each of the stories definitely had me thinking for the rest of the week. Open Riffs opens up so many new perspectives that are hard to see unless you are experiencing them yourself. I hope to see more diverse stories similar to these in Young Adult in both collections similar to Open Riffs and in full length novels.

I can’t say much without spoiling the stories, unfortunately, but I will say that the stories had me both laughing at some points and tearing up at others. It’s a book I hope will be included in school curriculum’s because I think it makes diversity easier to understand and can help build a better world view. I enjoyed this book immensely and strongly encourage anyone even slightly interested to pick it up and give it a try.

historical fiction, paranormal, romance, steampunk

Novella Review: Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

PoisonOrProtect_promo

Title: Poison or Protect (A Delightfully Deadly Novella)
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Self Published
Length: 150 Pages, Ebook
Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Historical, Paranormal
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Warning: This novella contains explicit scenes not for people under 18.

Note: I received an Ebook Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb:
Lady Preshea Villentia, the Mourning Star, has four dead husbands and a nasty reputation. Fortunately, she looks fabulous in black. What society doesn’t know is that all her husbands were marked for death by Preshea’s employer. And Preshea has one final assignment. It was supposed to be easy, a house party with minimal bloodshed. Preshea hadn’t anticipated Captain Gavin Ruthven – massive, Scottish, quietly irresistible, and… working for the enemy. In a battle of wits, Preshea may risk her own heart – a terrifying prospect, as she never knew she had one.

PoPsquare

Review:
For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I read Carriger’s first three Parasol Protectorate novels last Summer. I loved Soulless and enjoyed Changeless and Blameless and because I reviewed previous novels, Carriger reached out to me to read and review her newest novella set in the same world.

I really enjoy Carriger’s world building. Even without reading previous works, the world is really rich. It’s full of steampunk and supernatural elements that made Soulless so endearing in the first place. A favorite character of mine even made a (brief) reappearance.

Preashea is my kind of woman; fierce and stubbornly independent. Her character made it all the more satisfying to watch the romance unfold. I liked being able to see the various depths of her character which is difficult to do in the short amount of time a novella provides.

Carriger seems to share my weakness for muscley Scottish men as well. First Lord Maccon and now Captain Gavin. Both of them are very swoon worthy but I think I actually like Captain Gavin more. He was sweet and understanding. I enjoyed that he was able to intuitively figure out what Preshea needed from him.

The romance was such a satisfying and slow build and the perfect read to pull me out of the reading slump I’ve been slowly falling into (again, I know!). I actually read the entirety in about 3 hours because I just couldn’t put it down. I now feel the urgent need to continue reading the Parasol Protectorate series. I forgot how much I enjoy Carriger’s writing, especially when it comes to the romance aspect.

I’m sure I would have read this novella eventually since I plan on working my way through all her books, but I’m so glad I got to read it now. It’s probably going to end up being one of my favorite books that I read this year and I’m excited to see future novellas from Carriger.

science fiction, young adult

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

8309278

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Length: 240 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

Review:
It’s amazing how much of this book went way over my head the first time I read it. I think was about 15 at the time and I remember enjoying the book but not really getting why everyone praised it so much. This is my second time reading and wow this book packs a punch.

I think my favorite thing about The Giver is Lowry’s writing. It’s to the point but still descriptive enough to give you the whole picture. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to have. I never felt bogged down by meaningless details or unnecessary information that just muddies the story. I enjoy when things are straight to the point especially when it’s a story like The Giver. The message would not be the same if it was written in a more flowery way.

The character’s themselves are kind of 2D except for Jonas and maybe the Giver. Normally this would bother me but for the world it makes sense. They don’t have a reason or a need to be more than that.

I read this book in about 2 days. It was quick but it resonates with me as it does with the thousands of other people who have read it. My version of the book also has an introduction by Lowry that I found extremely interesting. I won’t give anything away but if you have a chance to read the introduction by her, you should.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I really enjoyed The Giver. It has all my favorite things about books aside from romance. It was funny sometimes and extremely sad others. It had interesting characters. It wasn’t trying to be poetic with the writing. Basically, I need more books like The Giver in my life.

Horror, romance, science fiction, young adult

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

23395680

Title: Illuminae
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Length: 608 Pages, Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Young Adult, Horror (kinda)
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Review:
I’m like 95% sure this book almost pushed me into a book slump and not in the bad way. This book was so good it had me contemplating what I would do with life while I wait for the sequel. I was a little unsure going into this book. I’d heard great things but typically I don’t do well with weird formats. I was extremely surprised by just how much I loved the unusual way of storytelling in this.

Even though the book was not told through normal conventions, the characters were SO well developed. Kady was sassy and fun even when facing big issues. Her character shined even when she was nervous or scared. Ezra was confident and it was obvious with how quickly he took to being a pilot.

I won’t go further into characters to avoid spoilers, but I generally loved how each character was built and shown. With how the story was told, it would have been very easy to tell and not show but Kaufman and Kristoff managed to do more showing with their unconventional point of views than a lot of the novels I’ve read.

I do have to give a warning for some pretty hardcore gore. The novel isn’t technically labeled as Horror but for me it definitely reads like it. I haven’t read any horror but parts of it felt like I was watching a horror movie so I wanted to add that warning to any who might be squeamish.

The plot was super interesting. Again, I won’t be detailed about it to avoid spoilers but I felt like plot twists just kept coming at me and almost none of them were expected. On a side note, homosexual relationships were thrown in very nonchalantly and treated as normal. I appreciated this. As always, it would have been nice to have LGBTQ+ stuff at the forefront. I’m still glad that this kind of thing was included and that they didn’t make a big deal of it.

This book was such a breath of fresh air. I’ve been struggling to find books to read since finishing this because it was so good. It also took me much too long to write this review. I don’t think words could justify just how much I loved this book. If I can convince you to read one book, it’d be this one. It’s the best book I’ve read in a very long time.

nonfiction, Podcast

Podcast Review: Reply All by Gimlet Media

I’ve recently become obsessed with podcasts and I wanted to do a review of my favorite. (I might review others if this goes over well, we’ll see.)

reply-all-podcast-png-838x0_q80

Title: Reply All
Hosts: Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt
Producer: Gimlet Media
Length: Typically 30-40 minutes
Genre: Non-fiction, Technology
Rating: 5 Mics (Folded pages just didn’t quite work for this one)

Summary (Courtesy of the Gimlet Website):
Reply All is a show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. The show launched in 2014. We publish new episodes on Wednesday nights.

Our show is downloaded around 2 million times per month. If you are new to the show, you can start from the beginning, or try a few of these episodes which we like a lot.

Review:
I never used to be one for podcasts (or audiobooks on a related note) but in September a blog I follow on Tumblr recommended this podcast. It was described as a show about the internet and it intrigued me. I listened to about 30 episodes in one sitting. This is my first time doing a podcast review so please me if it’s a little rough.

I think what captivated me first was PJ Vogt’s voice. He has a voice that you kind of want to listen to forever. It’s soothing and smooth. It makes you want to listen. Alex Goldman also has a nice voice but something about PJ’s voice reminds me of Danny from Game Grumps and I also really like his voice.

The chemistry between the two hosts is also great. They play well off each other and you can tell that they are more than just co-hosts to each other. They’re friends and they love what they do. I’m not sure why but I’m always incredibly happy when I listen/read/watch projects by people when you can tell how much they love it.

It only took two episodes to realize the stories they talk about are the kind of stories I want to hear about. So while PJ’s voice captured me and I loved the hosts’ chemistry, their stories are why I’m still obsessed over 4 months later. I think I would consider this is journalistic kind of podcast. They find weird, interesting, funny, romantic, or all of the above stories on the internet and give you a summary mixed in with them interviewing the people who are involved in said stories.

Now, I don’t think it’s any secret that I pretty much live on the internet. There usually isn’t something I haven’t heard of and the amazing thing is that of all the stories they’ve reported in the 56 episodes they have released thus far I have only heard of one. It makes me incredibly happy when there’s a new thing on the internet that can give me new information. The stories are all incredibly unique and they somehow know where to find them.

The music used in the show is also very good. I tend to get the jingles stuck in my head. But I think the feel of the intro music totally matches the theme of the show. With a theme like technology/internet, it’s a feat well accomplished.

I’m not sure my review is really doing this podcast justice. I also don’t really know what else to comment on. So please find a few of my favorite episodes below!

Episode 1: An App Sends A Stranger To Say “I Love You” 
I know it’s a little cliche but this episode is still probably my all time favorite. I think this episode totally encompasses everything this show is about. It’s hilarious, somewhat emotional, and just an interesting story.

Episode 3: We Know What You Did
This one was SUPER interesting. No spoilers, but I learned so much from this. I definitely suggest giving it a listen.

Episode 13: Love is Lies
This is bar far my favorite episode. It was just SO intriguing and you kind of learn the inside on something everyone is curious about but no one (Americans, at least) have so little knowledge about in the general public.

Biography, graphic novel

Graphic Novel Review: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

amazon haul

Title: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Translator: Anjali Singh
Publisher: Pantheon
Length: 192 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Autobiography, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,” Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.

Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.

As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up—here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home—it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.

Review:
Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels are amazing. There’s no other way to put it honestly. I did end up enjoying part 1 better. I found her childhood more interesting and informative than her teenage years into adulthood.

I can’t find much else to say about Persepolis 2. Even though I enjoyed part 1 more, this book was just as intriguing and eye opening as the first. I enjoy the way Satrapi uses narration, dialogue, and art to fully display her story and the range of emotions she was catapulting through as a lone teen in a foreign country.

I hope she makes a 3rd part. I want to see how her story continued. I want to see her success and how she came to write both parts of Persepolis.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 320 pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 folded Pages

Blurb:
Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays (who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school . . .

Review:
I’m finally reaching the point in my Harry Potter reread where it doesn’t feel like Harry is a little too young for me to relate to. The first two books Harry is 11 and 12 and now he’s finally reaching his teen years and matured a bit more reading is going a lot faster. Which is evident in the fact that it took me two days to finish the book.

I’m also enjoying seeing the differences in the book versus the movie. The first two movies are extremely accurate to the book and it’s only in Prisoner of Azkaban that they began having to cut thing to make it more adaptable to the movie format. There were so many things I had forgotten! It’s kind of crazy.

I’m excited to continue my Harry Potter reread and I think it will only get better from here. In my editions of Harry Potter Goblet of Fire is almost exactly double the amount of pages of Prisoner of Azkaban so I think it might take me a little longer to get through but none the less my Harry Potter reread is finally moving along.

Biography, graphic novel, nonfiction

Graphic Novel Review: Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

9516

Title: Persepolis: The Story of Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Translator: Mattis Ripa
Publisher: Pantheon
Length: 160 pages, Paperback
Genre: Autobiography, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Review:
I’ve been putting off this review mostly because of laziness but also because I’m not sure what to say. This book is so emotional and I wasn’t sure I could review it like I normally do graphic novels based on art and storyline and what not.

Personally, the art style isn’t for me but this isn’t the type of graphic novel you read because the artwork is pretty. The art style reflects that of the story and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It befits what Satrapi is trying to portray to the reader.

As for the storyline, there were times where I was confused and wished for the details I would have gotten had this not been a graphic novel but the details of the pictures were also very helpful.

Overall, I LOVED reading this. I’ve already ordered the second graphic novel and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 256 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The Dursleys were so mean that hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

Review:
I know, it took me FOREVER to reread this one. I think it was partly my slump and partly because it’s a little hard for me to read middle grade novels these days even if it’s a novel I love. Pre-reading slump, every word of every novel felt really difficult. Especially of novels that felt too young for me like Harry Potter sometimes does.

However, continuing the Chamber of Secrets after my reading slump was absolutely delightful. I had a hard time putting it down. I forgot how quickly Harry Potter novels progress once you get passed the beginning.

I’m not really sure what else to say. I had a great time rereading this (once I got over my slump) and I’ve already started The Prisoner of Azkaban. I can’t wait to continue rereading this series. I think as I get further into my reread of the series the books will be easier for me to digest because as Harry ages you can see the maturity and character development. I love that about these books.

 

science fiction

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

the martian

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Broadway Books
Length: 387, Paperback
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:
I finally read this book after seeing so many rave reviews. I was worried that the hype was more than the book deserved but after reading it I can safely say it probably needs more hype. I’m not sure I’ve ever said that about a book but no one I know in real life had even heard of the book until the movie.

I think most people’s biggest problem with the book was the information dumps it has frequently but I actually really enjoyed those parts. It was written as if Watney was recording his life on Mars for when someone found it long after he was gone and I think a real scientist would have done just as many info dumps so people would know how he survived.

The writing was simple and easy to understand for a science fiction novel. I went into it expecting to have to struggle through a lot of science verbiage that I’d have to look up but that wasn’t the case at all. It was nice. Sci-fi books tend to be a bit intimidating for me because I am awful at science. The Martian doesn’t let that happen.

I do think it had some slower parts but they didn’t last long and the whole novel was intense and suspenseful so the slower parts were a nice breather. I don’t read a lot of suspense filled novels so I enjoyed the bits where it wasn’t so suspenseful.