Review: Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

294442My Rating: 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea 

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Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction

Summary: Sent in 1910 to live with distant relatives who own a rubber plantation along the Amazon River, English orphan Maia is excited. She believes she is in for brightly colored macaws, enormous butterflies, and “curtains of sweetly scented orchids trailing from the trees.” Her British classmates warn her of man-eating alligators and wild, murderous Indians. Unfortunately, no one cautions Maia about her nasty, xenophobic cousins, who douse the house in bug spray and forbid her from venturing beyond their coiffed compound. Maia, however, is resourceful enough to find herself smack in the middle of more excitement than she ever imagined, from a mysterious “Indian” with an inheritance, to an itinerant actor dreading his impending adolescence, to a remarkable journey down the Amazon in search of the legendary giant sloth. (Via Goodreads)

 Things I Loved: 

  1. I love Ibbotson’s ability to make historical fiction interesting. No matter what I read from her, she makes historical fiction feel real and timely. This was no exception.
  2. Maia was such a sweet character. You really want her to be happy, and you feel for her when she is not.
  3. I loved the switch-a-roo plot line. The trickery involved, the suspense, the outcome. It was all very well written and really drew me into the book.
  4. Overall, this was just a really fun, sweet read.

Things I Disliked:

  1. There were times when the plot moved slowly. I wish it would have drawn me in just a little bit more than it did.

Recommend to: children’s lit or middle grade lit fans, historical fiction lovers, anyone wanting a cute, fun story full of adventure and trickery

 

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Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

30102870My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Cups of Tea 

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Summary: When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life. (Via Goodreads)

 Things I Loved: 

  1. I love how this book handled both sexuality and mental health. It was raw, truthful, poignant, and, most of all, to the point. There was no playing around with these things. Silvera handled them with care, but with a raw honesty that truly comes through to the reader.
  2. The characters in the book, every single one, are dynamic. Silvera has a way with characters that makes them seem real. Each had flaws, strengths, secrets, wants, needs, that were honest and real. They felt like real people.
  3. The way Silvera handled loss was so real. This is perhaps one of the best books about mourning that I have ever read. It is so true to my experiences with loss and mourning.
  4. This book honestly stuck with me for several days after reading it. I was struck by how it left me feeling and the things it had me thinking about. It’s one those books that stays with you long after you put it down.

Things I Disliked:

  1. At times the story progressed slowly, and I wish it could have moved along a bit faster. Other than this, everything about this book was perfection.

Recommend to: anyone wanting a book about loss, anyone wanting a great LGBTQ+ book, anyone interested in how to properly portray LGBTQ+ characters and/or characters with mental health problems.

Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

39988My Rating: 5 out of 5 Cups of Tea 

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Genre: Children’s Literature

Summary: Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull.  (Via Goodreads)

 Things I Loved: 

  1. How I wish I would have read this as a child. Matilda would have surely been one of my favorite books and characters. Matilda is such a serious, but silly child, and I think eight-year old me would have really related to her. Especially her love of books and learning.
  2. Roald Dahl has a way of storytelling that is purely magical. His stories suck you in and leave you enchanted. Maltilda was no exception.
  3. Matilda and Miss Honey’s relationship is so lovely. I love how Dahl contrasts bad adult relationships with such pure and good ones.
  4. I seriously love how this book made me feel like a young child again. I never read this book as a child, but I still felt an odd sense of nostalgia while reading it.

Things I Disliked:

  1. Nothing. It was a such a lovely read.

Recommend to: Roald Dahl fans, anyone wanting a good children’s book, anyone wanting to be enchanted by a book and its characters.

Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea 

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Genre: Italian Literature

Summary: A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense and generous hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists. (Via Goodreads)

 Things I Loved: 

  1. Each character, and there were many, brought a unique and beautiful layer to the novel. Lila and Elena were both fascinating characters that Ferrante took her time developing both as characters and as young women.
  2. I have an obsession with Italy right now. I’m currently learning Italian, actually. So, reading this was both fun and educational for me. Maybe one day, I’ll read it in its original Italian.
  3.  The writing style was different than a lot of books. It had a very Jane Austen feel, but a modern Austen. I’m not sure if this more formal writing style was because of the translation or if it truly depicted Ferrante’s writing.
  4. The beginning chapter really set the scene and tone of the book. I’m pretty sure that without the first chapter, I may not have cared enough to continue through the entire book. The first chapter, though, made me interested to see how these characters got to this future point.

Things I Disliked:

  1. The story sometimes seemed to drag on. It was a slow read, to say the least.
  2.  I wish Ferrante would have come back to where she left off in the first chapter at the end of the book. I know there are more books in the series in which she probably comes back to this point, but I wish there had been more at the end of this book.

Recommend to: lovers of historical fiction, those who like stories about friendships, especially female friendships, and to those who want to learn more about Italy.

August Wrap-Up

August was a crazy month. My car broke down. My glasses broke. I finished up my internship. I interviewed twice, got my dream job, and am now finishing up my last week at my current job. Plus, I’m in the process of moving. So, needless to say, not many books read this month. It’s been crazy. But, here are the books I did manage to read and start in the month of August:

Books Finished

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Cups of Tea e184e-screen2bshot2b2015-04-222bat2b11-54-432bam

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Rating: 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea

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Review Coming Soon

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Rating: 3 out of 5 Cups of Tea

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Review Here

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Rating: 5 out 5 Cups of Tea

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Review To Come

Books Started

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I hope you all had a good reading month! See you Monday with a new book review.

Read, Rise, Resist

I have spent most of my life reading books about the lives of others.

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When I was little, I read books about princesses, castles, adventure.

I read these for fun, for entertainment, for escape.

Now, I find myself reading books about horrors,

Horrors no man should know, yet horrors the world experiences daily.

These stories are real, even when fictitious;

They shake our souls and claw at the windows and offer a different view.

They slap us. They wake us. They hope that we listen.

They hope that we will take what we have learned

To rise up, to fight,

To resist, to conquer.

 

 

 

 

Review: Prudence by Gail Carriger

12799420Rating: 3 out of 5 Cups of Tea

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Genre: Steampunk Fantasy

Synopsis:

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones? (via Goodreads)

Things I Loved:

  1. Rue was a fun and unique character to follow. I appreciated her leadership and courage from the very first page.
  2. Like all Gail Carriger novels, this had an amazing cast of side characters. Each had a strong personality that made them stand out among the others.
  3. Rue’s powers added an extra layer to the novel. They were fun and often caused unexpected mayhem.

Things I Disliked:

  1. As much as I love the fact that this was Rue’s own story, I wish there had been more of her parents. I really love reading about their characters, but they were hardly in the novel it felt like.
  2. This just didn’t live up to the Parasol Protectorate books. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but I just wasn’t as enthralled with this one as the others.

Recommend to: steampunk and fantasy fans; Parasol Protectorate series fans; anyone wanting a silly, exciting read

TBR Takedown: A (Kinda) Half-Way Update

For anyone who doesn’t know, I began this year with a problem no reader wants to admit to having. I owned too many books that I had not read. My to be read pile was growing, and growing, and growing, and it took me counting the pile itself for me to realize I had a problem.

I began this year with upwards of 200+ books. I’m not sure on the exact number, as there are still some books wandering around my parents’ homes that I have yet to count. As of right now, I believe I began with 221 unread books.

My original goal was to get this list down to 20. As I reach the 8 month mark of the year, and my goal, I find this goal to be possibly unattainable.

I have gotten rid of 74 books so far, which has been taxing, but also refreshing. I never thought I would be able to get rid of that many books, but now that they’re gone, I honestly can’t even remember some of the ones I got rid of. I held onto them for so long, and now it’s like I never even had the book. It’s a great feeling, honestly.

I have also read 50 books from my list. I first thought that the number of books read would be more than the number gotten rid of. I am both surprised and pleased by the opposite being true. I’ve learned to read the books I really want to read, and to quickly let go of the books that do not hold my attention.
I still have 97 books on my TBR list. As much as I would like to get down to 20, I just don’t know how likely this is to happen by the end of the year. I would like to set a new goal of 40, with the hopes of getting to 20 soon after the new year. This, I think I can do.

Thanks for all the support and words of encouragement as I keep trying to tackle my TBR pile.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Cups of Tea

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Genre: YA Fantasy

Series Order:

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • Days of Blood and Starlight
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Book 1) Goodreads Summary:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Things I Loved:

  1. The characters were beautifully crafted. Intriguing, electric, and imaginative. I loved every character Taylor created.
  2. The world building was fantastic. Taylor is one of the better world-builders in the fantasy world. She slips you into belief and inclusion with ease, showing readers her world without explaining it to them.
  3. The way Taylor writes about love make my inner hopeless romantic swoon. Akiva and Karou make me so happy, but Zuzana and Mik are relationship goals. So freaking cute.
  4. There were many threads throughout the novels that Taylor tied together seamlessly. This was especially true in the third novel, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. These threads added so many layers to the triology.
  5. The twist at the end of the first novel. WOAH. Prepare yourselves.

Things I Disliked:

  1. As much as I love Akiva and Karou, their love story was pretty rushed. I just don’t appreciate insta-love. It did get better as the series continued, but I still wish there was a bit more development in certain aspects of there relationship.
  2. The last fifty pages of the series or so was a bit disappointing. I felt like Taylor could have wrapped up the series without the extra plot point that comes in. I understand it, but I just wasn’t invested enough in the plot point to enjoy it.

Recommend to: fantasy-magic lovers; hopeless romantics; anyone looking for a good action/war story.

(Young) Adult Literature | Pemberley Ramblings

It is late Thursday night, and fans are lined up outside the local movie theatre in Hogwarts robes and House ties. Teens and adults alike run around with wands in hand, Harry Potter glasses over their eyes, and lightening shaped scars etched with eyeshadow and costume makeup on their foreheads. It is the release day of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the first Harry Potter-world installment since the release of Deathly Hollows Part 2 in 2011.

When the first Harry Potter books came out, many of the adults who now line the theatre waiting, were children or teens who stayed up late into the night reading, for the first of many times, a book about a boy with magic. Now, they are adults with jobs, rent, relationships, children of their own. They took the lessons from the Harry Potter books that they read religiously as children and applied them to their adult lives. They loved and lost and hoped and doubted, just like Harry and his friends. They learned that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.

Harry Potter is, at its core, a book for children and young adults. It was written, marketed, and sold for children. Yet, to this day, adults continue to read, and often reread, these books. This is a phenomenon that extends past Harry Potter, however, and to the growing genre it inspired: Young Adult (YA) literature.

This genre has grown exponentially since the early years of Harry Potter. Often people associate this genre with bildungsromans and sickly sweet romances set in dystopian fantasy worlds. Most know or have at least heard of the genre’s most popular franchises: The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, Percy Jackson, The Fault in Our Stars. All of these have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list, all have been made into movies, and all have been enjoyed not only by teens, but by adults. In fact, one study by Bowker Market Research shows that at least 55% of young adult novels are purchased by adults and that 78% of these purchases are intended for adult recipients or the adult buyer themselves.

There is controversy around this, however, as many argue that adults who read these books are merely numbing their minds by reading stories that do not matter and that are made simply for escape and not for critical thinking. Others argue that young adult literature holds something special in it that adult literature misses, that young adult literature should be respected just the same. This topic has been covered by The Guardian, Slate Magazine, NPR, and The Washington Post, among others. With the growth of YA literature has come an influx of interest in the adults who read it.

Stacey Cooper, a middle-aged mother of two young adults, has been reading young adult literature since the days of Twilight. She often asks her daughter and her daughter’s friends for book recommendations, swapping books with them when her daughter’s friends spend the night. When asked why she loves YA literature so much, she said, “They are often adventure stories told from a young and uncynical point of view. They are full of hope and energy.” For Stacey YA literature is a youthful look at the world, a refreshing viewpoint that is nice to be reminded of as an adult. In defense of those who read YA literature, Stacey says, “Well written and interesting material is to be respected no matter the genre. I pity those who put themselves into a box.”

Multiple YA authors voiced their agreement when I asked them about the topic on Twitter. When asked about the shaming of adults who read YA literature, and even just the shaming of YA literature in general, Rae Carson, the author of YA novel The Girl of Fire and Thorns, argued, “Real grownups don’t let other people tell them what to read.” Stacey Cooper is a good example of this, as she embraces her YA reading with an unashamed fervor.

The Twitter conversation turned to something deeper when Martha Brockenbrough, author of YA novel The Game of Love and Death, shared her feminist viewpoint: “It’s because we privilege older people, white people, and men especially. [YA literature is] seen as a “girl” thing. The truth is, it can drive popular culture and there’s nothing tha[t] enrages old people more.” When asked about male YA authors, Brockenbrough said, “They don’t shame [men] and often reward them, as if it’s ‘noble’ or ‘rare’ that men are writing for young readers. Smells like misogyny.” Leigh Bardugo, author of New York Times bestselling YA series The Grisha Trilogy, agreed with Brockenbrough, and even tied the topic to larger world issues, saying, “People always get freaked out when women and girls control market share. So they try to undermine and infantilize.”

These comments sparked a number of likes from book bloggers, publishers, and YA readers alike. It is interesting to note how many of those who followed the conversation were women; in fact, at the time I write this, all of them were women. All seem to be pointing to a larger societal issue taking place, one that involves not just YA literature, but the ways in which the patriarchy still controls women’s workplaces. This is a problem that thrives in many female-heavy fields, like nursing, teaching, and the like; fields often, as Bardugo states, that are undermined and infantilized.

When I went and looked at this week’s (5/14/17) New York Times Best Sellers list, I discovered that these YA authors have a valid point. The Hardcover Fiction list consists of fifteen novels written by ten men and five women, while the Young Adult Hardcover list consists of ten novels written by eight women and two men. From women taking up merely thirty percent of the adult list, to eighty percent of the YA list, Brockenbrough and Bardugo seem to be on to something important when it comes to the way our society puts down YA literature and the women who write and read it.

A majority of complaints about young adult literature are about the lack of importance and significance in the genre. Perhaps, as Brockenbrough and Bardugo say, the writing off of all YA literature as insignificant does have something to do with the many women who write in and lead the genre, especially when one considers how unprecedented the complaints about YA literature are. The New York Times Best Sellers Young Adult Hardcover list currently consists of many significant and important books not just for the current generation of teens, but for all, of any age, who read them. The Hate U Give, currently number one on the list, is a novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that follows a young girl’s life after seeing her unarmed friend shot and killed by a policeman. This Is Where It Ends, number five on the list, is a novel about a school shooting. The Sun is Also A Star, number eight on the list, explores race, immigrant life, and first love by exploring the life of a Jamaican girl who falls in love with a Korean boy the day before she and her family are deported. These novels, all written by women, are what Young Adult literature consists of, but are often written off as novels without depth or significance despite their striking and beautiful handling of such hefty subjects.

All published literature has its good and bad. Young Adult literature gave us Twilight, yes, but it also gave us the novels mentioned above. Just like literature marketed for adults, there is a wide range of works in the young adult genre. Bookstores across the country had Fifty Shades of Grey shelved right next to some of the best literary pieces of the early twenty-first century. This is not to say that those drawn to Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight should be judged or shamed. As has been said, people should read what they want, without being shamed. This is to say, however, that there is a difference in the way people talk about YA literature and literature marketed for adults. One is summed up as a whole as cheesy, childish, and unimportant, while the other allows for books to stand on their own and not come to represent an entire genre.

Young adult literature has a history of change-making; often, it is important to note, this change has come from women authors like Le Guin, Blume, Lowry, and Rowling. Young adult literature has been, for the last century, pushing limits, creating narratives that have shaped and influenced the lives of children, teens, and adults, making social commentary on the most relevant of issues in poignant and explorative ways. The genre has been criticized and diminished by many who have read little of the genre’s best, if any, of its works, yet readers of young adult literature keep reading. They keep lining the halls of movie theatres in Hogwarts robes. With every book they pick up, YA readers continue to tackle and engage hard issues. Despite the criticism, despite the shame many want to place on them, YA literature has and will continue to grow its audience to any who are open and willing to read it.

Note: This is a literary reportage piece I wrote for a creative nonfiction class.