Hi everyone! Today I’ll be talking about all the books I read in August. Let’s get right into it!
Novels I Read
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn: 4.25 out of 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐⭐) I absoltely adored this book! It was sweet and fast-paced. (Pun intended.) Review to come!
Sunkissed by Kasie West: 3.5 out of 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐) This was okay. I have a feeling I rated this higher because it has a summer-y vibe to it 😆. Review to come!
The Kids of Cattywampus Street, Written by Lisa Jahn-Clough and Illustrated by Natalie Andrewson: 2.5 out of 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐) I had high expectations for this book, but the writing wasn’t my cup of tea. Review to come.
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa: 3.75 out of 5 stars (⭐⭐⭐⭐) This was one of my most anitciapted releases of 2021. However, I was a bit dissapointed. Review to come!
Graphic Novels and Manga read
I read Go With the Flow by Lily Williams (which I adored!), and then some picure books.
Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. I hope you enjoy!
Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?
Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion. And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina — now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks. But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love — or hate — will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…
First let’s talk about the plot. Sugar and Spite promises a magical enemies-to-friends story. And well, I’m happy to say that it delivered! Young readers will find this short and sweet novel both immersive, and exciting.
Furthermore, the characters were very three dimensional! In many cases, I’ve found that middle grade protagonists don’t have much personality. Thankfully, Jolina and Claudine were very intriguing characters. The side characters also added quite the amount of liveliness to the story too. Jolina’s relationship with her grandfather was absolutely adorable!
In addition, I really liked how the dialogue was done. Many Fillipino phrases and words were used, which is great as it allows people to understand more about The Philippines. Moreover, the character interactions also felt very authentic and real.
“Your being brown doesn’t make you ugly. Mom always says we’re beautiful.”
Unfortunately though, I didn’t love the writing. At times, the storyline became too confusing. The world building was done poorly as well. The only things the audience knows about the magic system is that it aids people, and that it’s passed down by generation. (I’m not entirely sure though, so please take what I said with a grain of salt.) However, I loved the talk about colorism and classism. The book promotes the idea that no one should be discriminated against, regardless of socioeconomic status, or race. And I think that’s such a beautiful message!
Overall, I really enjoyed Sugar and Spite! It’s educational and exciting. Younger kids will surely enjoy this story to the fullest!
Age Rating: 8 and up
TW: Natural disaster, bullying
Final Rating: 7/10, or 3.5 stars
What is your favorite Middle Grade novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have a fabulous day!
Hi all! Today I’ll be talking about some YA novels by authors of color that I believe need more recognition. I tried to pick books that aren’t necessarily as present in the book community so that you could discover some new voices!
Disclaimer: Some synopsis’ are summarized by me, others are taken from goodreads.)
(PS: To add the books to goodreads, simply press on the book covers.)
1. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
The story centers around seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan. By day, she works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. By night, Jo writes for a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” And the story takes off from there in such an intriguing way.
This is a young adult historical novel about fighting racism and gendernorms, and I am 100% here for it!
2. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Raybearer revolves around Tarisai, a teen who has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. However, The Lady wants Tarisai to kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust, as she as compelled to obey this order. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
Doesn’t this sound like such a unique fantasy story? I definitely think so!
3. Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai
Butterfly Yellow is a story about a young Vietnamese girl and her little brother. As they get ready to go to America, her brother Linh is ripped from her arms, leaving Hằng behind in Vietnam. After six long years, she makes it to Texas, USA as a refugee. Once Hằng finally reunites with her brother Linh, he doesn’t remember her! She has come so far, and will do anything to bridge the gap between them.
This is an incredibly heart wrenching and beautiful novel.
4. The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves
The New David Espinoza revolves around a teenage boy named David. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again in the fall. Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.
Male body dysphoria is something I rarely see present in books, so I’m happy to see the issue being addressed! This is also an own voices novel.
5. This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams
This is a young adult romance featuring two New York teens; Isabelle and Alex. Isabellle is a dancer, and Alex, a baseball player who wants to be a poet. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.
This is an authentic young adult drama with one of the best family dynamics I have ever seen!
6. Once Upon an Eid by A Collection of Authors
This is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
This book is just the cutest thing ever! If you’re looking for an own-voices Muslim rep, this is definitely the book for you!
7. Want by Cindy Pon
Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary. Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?
This is a perfect novel for all the science fiction and dystopian lovers out there!
8. Internment by Samira Ahmed
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Despite being fictional, Internment tells the story of many people today. It’s an eye-opening book perfect for those who enjoyed The Hate U Give.
9. Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by A Collection of Authors
This is a collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride. In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.
If you want to read more Indigenous own voice books, then this is 100% the book for you!
10. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Pet is a rather unusual, but gripping tale about a girl named Jam. In her city Lucille, there are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
Pet is a bizarre yet astounding tale that I just know whimsical fiction lovers will come to adore!
I hope you found some great books to add to your TBR! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know. Stay safe everyone! 💙
Hey everyone! Today I bring you my review of ‘A Castle In The Clouds’ by Kerstin Gier! Before I get into my review, I just want to add that this is a translated novel! (Translated from German to English.) I can’t wait to read more translated books in the future!
(Synopsis from goodreads.)
Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.
Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.
First, let’s talk about the plot! The original premise of A Castle In The Clouds was everything I could have ever wanted on a cold winter afternoon. A mystery in an old hotel in the mountains? Sign me up! And can we talk about that stunning cover? The execution however…totally lived up to my expectations! There was mystery, humor, and romance. (Which in case you haven’t noticed already, is one of my favorite combinations.)
The book follows Sophie, a 17 year old high school dropout navigating her life as an intern in the old hotel in the mountains, which is most commonly known as; The Castle In The Clouds. Sophie reminds me a lot of Sophie from the film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. They’re both charismatic and caring people. However, she didn’t have much character development in the story. Nevertheless I did enjoy the fact that it was a very plot driven story. That intrigued me, as I’m used to reading very character driven books. Tristan and Ben where two other lovable characters. There was even a love triangle between both boys and Sophie! Now, I dislike love triangles, so I disliked that aspect of the book too. Why must it always be your favorite character that ends up heartbroken? I also think the romance felt a bit out of place. Moreover, I absolutely adored Tristan! He was a guest at the hotel, and there was this vibe to him that reminded me so much of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. He even looked like him! Tristan was honestly such a delight to read about! Ben on the other hand, was alright. Ben was a young adult set to inherit Castle In The Clouds from his father. I found him to be slightly stuck-up at times, but I didn’t dislike him though.
Unfortunately if I reviewed every side character, this review would be 30 paragraphs long. 😆 The hotel staff had some nice and funny characters, but none of them stood out to me all that much. (Except for Old Stucky, he was one heck of a guy.) Another side character that I enjoyed reading about was none other than Don B. Jr, a snarky 7 year old guest at the hotel who had me laughing like crazy. From his rude comments, to his spontaneous actions, Don was certainly a memorable character. Next we have the Ludwigs, who where the sweetest old couple ever, and had a lovely backstory! From sassy Gretchen and her other self absorbed sisters to Amy and little Gracie, these hotel guests where nothing but boring. But my favorite side character was hands down ‘The Thriller Writer.’ The only thing we as readers knew about him was that he writes books…And asked the kitchen staff to send him a raw animal to 💫inspire his writing💫. All in all, each side character had their own personality, and I found that to be one of the best parts of the book! Despite having so many characters, the story never became overwhelming or complicated. So props to Kerstin Gier for executing the story in such a beautiful way!
“Bienvenue. Willkommen. Benvenuto. Welcome to A Castle In The Clouds. Enjoy your stay.”
The dialogue between the characters was immersive, and every line was fresh and fun! The thing with mysteries is that every piece of dialogue matters, so naturally I paid close attention to it…Only to find that all of my assumptions where completely wrong. (Let’s just say I’m not the best detective. 😂)
In case you’re wondering, the entire novel is in Sophie’s perspective. I found Sophie’s narrative to be super entertaining! The writing style was also very descriptive. Typically, I dislike descriptive stories. However, I loved reading the author’s descriptions of the hotel! The author writes in such a way that allows the readers to feel like they themselves are in the hotel and are experiencing the same events as Sophie, and to me that’s something truly special!
The overall enjoyment level was slightly affected by the weird pace fluctuation. I felt that the climax came out of nowhere, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t anticipating a huge plot twist. Unexpectedly though, I found myself breezing through the last 150 pages! It was simply too gripping to put down!
‘A Castle In The Clouds’ was a cozy read, perfect for fans of mysteries and contemporary! I highly recommend you give this novel a go!
Age Rating: 13 and up
TW: Violence, talk of kidnapping and murder, kidnapping, some suspense
Final Rating: 9.5/10 or 4.75 stars
What is your favorite mystery novel? Let me know in the comments below! Have a fabulous day!
Hiya! Today I will be reviewing the contemporary fantasy YA novel; A Song Below Water By Bethany C Morrow. Enjoy!
(Synopsis from goodreads)
Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
Let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded so incredibly bone rattling and revolutionary! The execution however, let me down. The whole story was very confusing, and many of the magical creatures weren’t explained beforehand. As someone who doesn’t know much about magical realism and fantasy, I was extremely confused. I also longed for more social commentary. I felt like there was barely any, which is such a shame as it could have made this book 10 times more enjoyable.
Fortunately though, I liked the main characters. Effy and Tavia had the best relationship! It was just the sweetest. I absolutely loved the talk about black hair! I actually learnt quite a bit about black hair through A Song Below Water. Wallace was another great character. He was kind, charismatic, and charming. At times I felt as though Effy was cold towards Wallace for absolutely no reason whatsoever. For example, he’d try to help her, and she’d snap at him. The fluctuation from I-love-Wallace to I-hate-Wallace was a bit off, and didn’t transition smoothly.
“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”
Tavia’s parents were dislikeable, and their actions where discriminatory towards sirens. (Tavia is a siren by the way.) Fortunately, I was very intrigued to see the father-daughter dynamic play out, so that was cool! Moreover, the other side characters such as Naema and Priam were flat out mean. I won’t talk much about the actual actions some characters made as I don’t want to give spoilers. However, it seemed that a lot of their actions were done ‘just because,’ and didn’t have any meaning behind doing so.
The dialogue between Effy and Tavia was the best thing ever! I absolutely adored their late night talks! If you’re looking for a story about sisters, do check out A Song Below Water. I also loved how Tavia and Effy used sign language to communicate when Tavia was not able to speak. Sign language is something hard to find in YA novels, let alone fictional novels! As mentioned previously, I was hoping for more talk about the discrimination that sirens, let alone African Americans, face.
“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”
For the most part, the writing style felt choppy and hard to follow. I did however, like how I was able to distinguish between Effy and Tavia’s point of views. In many books, it’s hard to tell which character’s head the readers are in, but with A Song Below Water, I was able to distinguished perfectly between the two! They each had their own unique way of thinking, and I’m so glad the author delved into that vigorously! The best thing about the book though, was that there was barely any swearing or cursing! Isn’t that amazing? I don’t know about you, but it left me feeling very happy.
I’m sad to say that the overall enjoyment level of A Song Below Water wasn’t very high. I was way too confused to feel completely immersed in the story. It took me over 200 pages to get into the storyline. Fortunately, the plot was whimsical perfection, so that added to the overall enjoyment of the book!
A Song Below Water was an enlightening read that I recommend to whimsical fiction lovers!