Saturday, August 25, 2018

First Impressions: The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Title: The Emperor's Riddle
Author: Kat Zhang
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: On a visit to relatives in China, eleven-year-old Mia is having a rough time. Her mom is boring, her brother is getting weird lately, and one day, her beloved Aunt Lin completely disappears! Could the ominous man who visited the apartment the night before be at fault? There's a painting, a map, and a mystery, and even her brother Jake is willing to pitch in and help. Will they find the treasure - and more importantly, will they find Aunt Lin?

First Impressions: Hmf. This was not entirely satisfying. While I loved the detailed setting and the changing relationship between brother and sister, the mystery itself felt mostly like a game with a lot of coincidental discoveries. When I got to the end, I was surprised that this wasn't something cooked up by the aunt to liven up their visit.

Best For: Readers who want a virtual trip to China - not just the tourist destinations, but the everyday life.

More: Ms Yingling Reads

Saturday, August 18, 2018

First Impressions: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Dimple is always at odds with her traditional Indian family, so she's shocked when they actually allow her to go to a six-week coding convention. But when she arrives, all is made clear, because she meets cute, nerdy Rishi - the guy her parents intend her to marry!

No way, not even. Arranged marriages are so last-century! Except that Rishi actually thinks it's a good idea. And Dimple's horrified to find herself kiiiiind of falling for him. What's a modern, forward-thinking Indian girl to do?

First Impressions: What a sweet froth of a book! I love the way both characters are coming at this thing from different angles and how they both have to navigate love and respect for their families and traditions with the things they want out of life.

Best For: Readers who love a rom-com and who might identify with Rishi and Dimple's struggles as they navigate their own identity with the background of a non-White, non-Western culture.

More: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Published: 2017
Source: Local Library

Summary: Starr is in the car when her friend Khalil is pulled over for a broken taillight as he's driving her home from a party. The next thing she knows, Khalil is dying on the street in front of her, shot in the back three times by the policeman who pulled them over.

Starr's heard this story before - Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and too many others to count. She's always thought she would be front and center, advocating for justice. But when she's in the middle of it, when the complexities of her school life, her family, and her neighborhood are intersecting with the news stories of an innocent boy's death, all her firm resolutions suddenly seem like soap bubbles. What's the right thing to do?

First Impressions: My god this was so good. It's about the murder of Khalil, but it's also about how Starr navigates her identity as a young black woman in several worlds and how she can reconcile those worlds, and how sometimes, they can't be reconciled.

Later On: This draft has been sitting in my Google Docs since June 2017, when I first read this book. Part of the reason it's been so hard to write a review (other than my overall difficulty blogging last year) was that this has gotten so much attention, and it seems like everyone has already said all the things I feel about this book.

What made it such an incredible and affecting book for me was how immersive it is. There are some books that feel like they're being told to you. You're standing at a distance like it's a news report. This is a book that positions you right behind Starr's eyes, and everything that happens and everything she feels about it all feels close enough to touch.

There's the horror of witnessing Khalil's senseless death, and the helplessness you feel along with Starr, knowing it's unlikely that his murderer will answer for the crime.

But there's also Starr at school, and the mask she puts on to fit in among her (mainly) white and well-off classmates. You feel the distance between herself and her friends and boyfriend, who don't understand the devastation she feels because it's not a part of their experience. Some of them are still able to be there for her, and some aren't.

There's Starr existing in her community, the richness and interconnectedness of her life and relationships. She loves her family and her friends and her neighborhood, but also feels conflicted because she wants to leave.

Finally, there's the fear about speaking out, about stepping forward and putting a target on herself, and the courage she has to muster to do it anyway.

I'll be seeing the movie when it comes out.

More: Forever Young Adult
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Saturday, August 11, 2018

First Impressions: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: At seventeen, Molly can claim twenty-six crushes but not one first kiss. When her twin sister Cassie sails confidently into her own first romance with equally cool and confident Mina, Molly feels even more left behind. She's struggling with anxiety and feelings about her weight, and It doesn't help that her friends are trying to push her into romance with cute Will (spoiler: he's not worth it) and away from dorky Reid (spoiler: he is). With their moms finally able to get married, it's going to be a summer of changes.

First Impressions: Gaaaaaaaaaaaah I loved this book with all of my heart. There's so much here about how growing up and falling in love changes all your other relationships, and it's not really good or bad, it just is.

Best for: Readers who want stories about family and sisters, are encountering (or remember well) this bittersweet feeling, and enjoy a romance that is not with the obvious partner.

More: Forever Young Adult
Not Acting My Age

Saturday, August 04, 2018

First Impressions: The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

Title: The Other F-Word
Author: Natasha Friend
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Hollis's life is kind of a mess right now. One of her moms died of cancer six years ago, she's entangled in a weird hookup situation with a classmate (and getting nasty texts from his ex), and honestly she can't take one more thing. But then Milo, who was conceived via the same sperm donor as Hollis, reaches out to her and their other half-sibs. Hoping to learn more about their shared father, they all wind up learning a lot more about themselves.

First Impressions: Ugggghhhh this was so good! Hollis's story was so complex and I loved that her hooking up with a classmate wasn't a terrible thing in itself, it was the reasons why. So good. Milo's story was a little less compelling but still very readable.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Book Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Title: Breadcrumbs
Author: Anne Ursu
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Summary: Hazel and Jack are the best of friends, but she feels things changing as they work their way through fifth grade. When he suddenly shuts her out, she knows something is wrong, and when he disappears completely, she's determined to find him for the sake of their old friendship. Armed only with what she's learned from books, Hazel will have to survive a strange new world and all its dangers if she wants her friend back.

First Impressions: Eeeeeee this booooook. I want to hug it.

Later On: This is billed as a retelling of The Snow Queen - which it is - but that's not the only way that books and stories impact it. Hazel is a reader. She buries herself in books like a lot of the kids (and former kids) reading this very book. She refers to characters as if they are old friends and tries to draw on the things she's learned from their stories. Sometimes it's helpful. Sometimes it's not.

Of course, the best fairy tale retellings aren't just a rote recitation of the story. Ursu uses the idea of the Snow Queen's icy grip to explore ideas of changing friendship, depression, and growing up.
This is a quietly beautiful book that actually becomes more complex as Hazel moves into the fantasy world. With no pat answers (and barely a hint of prepubescent romance, thank you), this book curled right up in my heart and stayed there.