Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Magonia – Maria Dahvana Headley


Magonia – Maria Dahvana Headley


Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name. 
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. 
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?



Review: I’m not a huge fan of this book. It has great reviews on Goodreads, so maybe this is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Aza has spent her entire life struggling to breathe. No doctor has been able to help her, and nobody can explain how she is still alive. A few days before her sixteenth birthday, she discovers what is causing her illness—and the cause turns out to be crazier than anyone could have predicted. Aza does not belong in this world.

This book is so imaginative. I’ve never read anything like it, and it’s a refreshing change. I like the strange plot and the feeling that literally anything could happen next. This is a bizarre book: People change skins, birds crawl down the characters’ throats, and there are boats in the sky. It’s weird (in an intriguing way).

I just couldn’t connect with Aza. I didn’t like her at all. Her voice got on my nerves, and she’s very bitchy. I understand that she’s sick, but she doesn’t have to act so whiny, judgmental, and superior to others. It was difficult for me to read from her perspective. She does get more bearable as the story progresses, but I never grew to care about her, so I had a hard time staying interested in her story.

I did care about Jason. He’s not entirely believable as a teenage character, but I (somewhat) admire his dedication to Aza. He knows that she’s out there somewhere, and she might need help, so he won’t stop until he finds her, even if his mission makes him seem crazy. I enjoyed most of the chapters written from his point-of-view.

A lot of things about this story feel flimsy. It could have used more everything: more character development, more worldbuilding, more description (I couldn’t picture any of the non-human characters), more action, more explanation of the plot events. I just wanted more.

I can totally understand why people love this book. It’s definitely unique. I actually think that all wannabe YA authors should read it because the genre could use an injection of creativity. It just didn’t work for me.


     

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Sunday Post #17


The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.


On The Blog Last Week






On The Blog This Week


  • On Monday I review Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley.
  • On Tuesday I list ten characters I didn’t click with.
  • On Wednesday I review The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry.
  • On Thursday I wrap up August.



In My Blogging Life


Look in the sidebar over that way <---- I finally have Stalk Me Everywhere buttons! I’ve wanted them for a long time, but I couldn’t find any free ones that I liked. So, I decided to get some simple-looking ones. They came from Carrie Loves Design Studio. They’re free, and there are tons of colors to choose from. 


In My Reading Life


My Goodreads reading goal was 60 books this year. I finished book number 60 last week, so I upped the goal to 80. I only read 72 books last year, but I think I can get to 80 this year.

Last week, I read The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry and Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Right now, I’m reading The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh.


In The Rest Of My Life


Nature's food chain happened on my lawn. A snake caught a toad:

The toad escaped. It looks dead in the picture, but it definitely wasn’t.




Okay, let’s move on. Here are five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Chocolate pudding.
  2. Midsession is over. Now back to my regularly scheduled school-related freakouts.
  3. New slippers. They’re leopard-print. Exactly like the old slippers.
  4. New glasses! They haven’t arrived yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to see now.
  5. Speaking of my terrible eyesight, I’m very grateful to all of the bloggers who use dark fonts on light backgrounds. I can’t read white words on black backgrounds without going cross-eyed.



I hope you had a great week! I’ll see you around the blogosphere.




Friday, August 28, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Quote A Random Book


Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.



This week’s question (it’s actually more of a demand than a question): Share a random quote from the book you are currently reading.


Answer: I’m currently reading The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry. I’ll open it to a random page and type the first paragraph I see.


“On her Thursdays off, she never went to the library as Peggy did. She went off to town, swinging her purse, and Peggy had told me that sometimes she put paint on her face and met fellows.”






The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.




Thursday, August 27, 2015

Liebster Award



I was tagged by a ton of people to do the Liebster Award. I have to answer the 11 questions that were given to me and then ask 11 new questions. At the time I’m writing this post (which is early August), Hazel @ Hazy Reads is the most recent person to tag me. I’m going to answer her questions. Thank you to everybody who tagged me.


1. What was the last book you read?

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.


2. If you could have any bookish job – librarian, writer, illustrator, agent, etc. – what would it be and why?

I would love to be an editor or start my own publishing company. Being an author or a professional book reviewer would be awesome, too.


3. Which author would you most like to meet?

Stephen King. If I did meet him, I’d be so freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to speak in coherent sentences, but I’d want to thank him for existing. I probably wouldn’t love reading or be a book blogger if I hadn’t discovered his work when I was a kid.


4. What made you start blogging?

There aren’t many people in my real life who like to read. Book blogging is a way for me to connect with my “tribe.” Also, I really enjoy writing reviews. They force me to slow down and think about what I read instead of just flying through books as fast as possible.


5. Do you take part in social networks? Which is your favourite?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, G+, BookLikes, and Goodreads. Goodreads is my favorite because books.


6. What book have you recommended to the most people?

The MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. I’ve recommended it so many times that I feel like I could just walk up to random strangers on the street and start talking about it.


7. What is your current favourite TV series?

This is hard because I don’t watch a lot of TV. The only shows that I watch regularly are Survivor and The Amazing Race. I really like The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and South Park. I also tend to watch a lot of Gordon Ramsey’s shows, even though I hate cooking.


8. What are your must-read blogs?

9. What’s your favourite season and why?

Autumn. Because it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold.


10. Do you have any pets?

Yep, these weirdos.


11. What is the next book you are dying to read?

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes.



~*~

Now I have to ask a bunch of questions for you to answer. I don’t know who has already done this tag, so I’m going to tag everybody. If you want to answer my questions, leave a link in the comments so I can check out your answers.

1. What are your favorite blogs?

2. What is the next book you plan to read?

3. If you had to get a book quote tattooed on your body, what quote would it be?

4. What is the last book that you really, really loved?

5. What’s the story behind your blog’s title?

6. What is the best blog post you’ve ever written?

7. Who is your favorite fictional villain?

8. Who is your most-owned author, and how many books by that author do you own?

9. Did you like to read when you were a kid? If you did, what was your favorite book?

10. If you could live in any fictional world, what world would it be?

11. What hobbies do you have besides reading/blogging?




Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli


Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli


Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. 
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


Review: I liked a romance-y book. What is happening to me? Is this real life?

I can’t believe I almost skipped this novel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. The synopsis intrigued me, but the reviews made it sound so sweet and fluffy. I don’t do fluffy, and I can’t stand cutesy romances, so I was nervous about this book. But, it turned out to be amazing! It has so much more depth than I expected.

Sixteen-year-old Simon meets someone called “Blue” on Tumblr. They start emailing, and their emails eventually become sexual. All Simon knows about “Blue” is that he’s a boy, and he goes to Simon’s school. One day, a classmate, Martin, sees Simon’s emails and uses them to blackmail Simon in to setting him up with the hottest girl in school.

I flew through this book. It’s so entertaining. Every time I put it down, I picked it up again right away. I read most of it in a few hours because I needed to figure out Blue’s identity and see how Simon would get himself out of this blackmail mess. I love the mystery surrounding Blue. Every time a new character was introduced, I thought, Is that Blue? No, it can’t be. Is that other guy Blue? I did figure out Blue’s identity long before Simon did, but I was never 100% positive, so I didn’t mind being correct in the end.

Even though this novel deals with serious subjects, it’s really funny. My favorite part is Simon and Blue’s email conversations. Both characters are extremely intelligent and humorous. There are a few laugh-out-loud lines in the book. At one point, Simon talks about going through puberty and discovering erotic fanfiction. He says, “That was the summer I taught myself how to do laundry. There are some socks that shouldn’t be washed by your mom.” I spent about five minutes laughing like an immature idiot at that line.

I had a lot of fun with this book, but I do have some issues with it. I think it starts abruptly. It took me a while to figure out what was happening and why all of these characters are important. There are a lot of characters, and almost all of them are underdeveloped. The underdevelopment does tie in to the book’s theme, but it also makes it difficult to keep the characters straight at first.

This story has a great message about identity. It’s impossible to know everything about a person, and you shouldn’t make assumptions about anyone. “People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it's a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

I would have skipped this book if I had listened to my assumptions about it. I’m so happy that I ignored them and read the book.




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Writing Styles In Contemporary YA 101




Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books that would be on my syllabus if I taught ________ 101. I’m filling in the blank with “Writing Styles In Contemporary YA.” You’d totally take that class, right? It doesn’t sound boring at all, right? I tried to pick contemporary YA books that have something unique about the way they are written.



1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl. 
This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.

Why it’s on my syllabus: Stream-of-consciousness writing style that is part novel, part screenplay, and part bullet point list.



2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Why it’s on my syllabus: Sparsely written poetic writing style with a lot of repetition, especially in dialogue.



3. Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls. 
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another. 
I am that girl. 
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through. 
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame. 
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. 
Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Why it’s on my syllabus: Nonlinear structure and some unusual uses of punctuation.



4. Burned – Ellen Hopkins

It all started with a dream. Nothing exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind of dream that most teen girls experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten is not like most teen girls. Raised in a religious—yet abusive—family, a simple dream may not be exactly a sin, but it could be the first step toward hell and eternal damnation. 
This dream is a first step for Pattyn. But is it to hell or to a better life? For the first time Pattyn starts asking questions. Questions seemingly without answers—about God, a woman's role, sex, love—mostly love. What is it? Where is it? Will she ever experience it? Is she deserving of it? 
It's with a real boy that Pattyn gets into real trouble. After Pattyn's father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control until Pattyn ends up suspended from school and sent to live with an aunt she doesn't know. 
Pattyn is supposed to find salvation and redemption during her exile to the wilds of rural Nevada. Yet what she finds instead is love and acceptance. And for the first time she feels worthy of both—until she realizes her old demons will not let her go. Pattyn begins down a path that will lead her to a hell—a hell that may not be the one she learned about in sacrament meetings, but it is hell all the same. 
In this riveting and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster ride. From the highs of true love to the lows of abuse, Pattyn's story will have readers engrossed until the very last word.
Why it’s on my syllabus: Novel-in-verse



5. Click: One Novel, Ten Authors – David Almond, et al.

A camera. 
Some photographs. 
A box with seven shells. 
And many mysteries. 
Those are the things that Maggie and Jason inherited from their grandfather, the famed photojournalist George "Gee" Keane. Gee traveled from Ireland to Russia, Japan to Australia, taking pictures of people at work, at war, in sports, and at play. Now Jason receives Gee's photographs and camera—though he has no idea what to do with them. And Gee leaves Maggie with the puzzle of the seven shells—one that might take her whole life to solve. As Maggie and Jason use these gifts, they will discover all the people their grandfather was . . . and all the people they might yet become. 
Ten bestselling, award-winning authors unite for a novel of brilliant writing, global adventure, and constant surprise.

Why it’s on my syllabus: A composite novel written by ten different authors.



6. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits. 
One extraordinary love. 
Eleanor . . . Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough . . . Eleanor. 
Park . . . He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punchline. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises . . . Park. 
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. 

Why it’s on my syllabus: Duel perspectives.



7. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . 
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. 
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Why it’s on my syllabus: Nonlinear structure and intrusive narrator.



8. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. 
Why it’s on my syllabus: I wouldn’t feel like a teacher unless I forced my students to read at least one classic.



9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Charlie is a freshman. 
And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. 
Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant rollercoaster days known as growing up.

Why it’s on my syllabus: Epistolary novel.



10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. 
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Why it’s on my syllabus: A novel with pictures.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers – Judy Blume (Editor)


Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers – Judy Blume (Editor)


Many of today's most distinguished authors of books for young people have found their work censored or challenged. Eleven of them have contributed original stories to this collection. Along with a story written by the late Norma Klein when she was a student at Barnard College, they comprise a stunning literary achievement as well as a battle cry against censorship. 
Contributors: David Klass, Norma Klein, Julius Lester, Chris Lynch, Harry Mazer, Norma Fox Mazer, Walter Dean Myers, Katherine Paterson, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Rachel Vail, Jacqueline Woodson, Paul Zindel.



Review: Places I Never Meant To Be is a collection of young adult short stories and essays that contain material that is often banned by schools and libraries. The stories deal with issues surrounding love, race, class, sex/sexuality, illness/dying, abuse, bullying, homelessness, and moral dilemmas. All of the stories are tastefully done. The authors aren’t pushing boundaries just for the sake of pushing boundaries. Even the fantastical stories deal with issues that real teens face.

The anthology also contains personal essays about how censorship and book banning has impacted each author’s life and work. Some of these essays are crazy. I didn’t know that people went to such extremes to get books banned. There are a few essays that I like more than the stories because they are so eye-opening.

Most of the stories in this book are pretty average. The anthology was published in 1999, and the stories are showing their age. Many of them feel dated. However, there are a few that I love:

In “Spear” by Julius Lester, the son of a famous black leader falls in love with a white girl. The two main characters in this story are very well-developed. Both of their families are pressuring them to be something they’re not, and I felt bad for them.

Paul Zindel’s “Love and Centipedes” is a horror story about a girl who uses centipedes to get revenge on a bully. I love horror, so of course I’d like this one. The characters are quirky, and the writing is attention-grabbing.

In Rachel Vail’s “Going Sentimental,” a teenage couple discovers that losing their virginity isn’t as dramatic as they expected. This is my favorite story in the anthology. It points out how our sex-obsessed culture can sometimes give teens unrealistic expectations. It’s also hilarious.

“Lie, No Lie,” by Chris Lynch is about a practical joke that turns out to be very unfunny. Reading this story made me uncomfortable (in a good way). I’m not sure how I should feel about the ending.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a huge fan of Judy Blume’s introduction to this book. She does tell some interesting stories about how censorship has influenced her work, but the introduction feels a little long-winded and preachy to me. I totally agree with what she says, but reading it reminded me of those really long charity commercials that try way too hard to make you feel guilt and outrage.


Overall, this is an okay anthology. I enjoyed it. It’s a quick read. Most of the stories are short and entertaining. Some of them will make you uncomfortable, and some of them will make you think, and you’ll learn a little about censorship in the process.




Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Sunday Post #16


The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.


On The Blog Last Week





On The Blog This Week


  • On Monday I review Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories By Censored Writers by Judy Blume (Editor).
  • On Tuesday I show you which books I’d put on my syllabus if I taught a class about writing styles in contemporary YA. (I know you’d totally take my class. It doesn’t sound insufferably boring at all, right?)
  • On Wednesday I review Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
  • On Thursday I (finally) do the Liebster Award thing.
  • On Friday I quote random books.



In My Blogging Life


Have any of your unfollowers ever told you why they unfollowed your blog? One of mine has! A few days ago, someone messaged me and told me that they unfollowed my blog because I “promote children’s books that make homosexuality seem normal.” No one has ever given me a reason for unfollowing before. I just assumed that my recent unfollowers hated vintage illustrations of people in fancy hats. I will continue to post whatever I want on my blog, but it’s interesting to know a reason why people unfollow.

Early 1900s fancy hat ladies.

Speaking of fancy hats, I’m glad that most people seem okay with my blog redesign. I was terrified to redesign because I sometimes have bizarre ideas about what looks acceptable. I’m still messing with things and searching for nice (and preferably free) social media icons. Thank you to everyone who took the time to give me feedback and suggestions on how to improve the blog. I really appreciate it.


In My Reading Life


I’m on a nontraditional school schedule, so it’s currently midsession (midterms) for me. I didn’t have much time to read last week. I finally finished Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. It wasn’t my type of book, but I'm glad that I didn't DNF. Now, I’m reading a middlegrade novel called The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry. Middlegrade isn’t my favorite genre, but I like this book so far.


In The Rest Of My Life


I’m the type of person who majorly stresses out over every stupid, inconsequential thing. In an effort to fix that, I’m going to list 5 things that made me happy last week.

  1. Delicious spice cake.
  2. The baby snake I saw while walking the dogs. It was so tiny that it looked like a piece of black spaghetti. I didn’t know that snakes could be adorable. Also, it gets bonus happiness points for not being a rattlesnake. We have enough of those.
  3. The days when it wasn’t a million degrees outside. There were two days last week when it felt like fall instead of summer.
  4. Midsession means that the semester is half over.
  5. Need a pipe-smoking lion? Never fear, public-domain clipart is here.





I hope you had a great week. I’ll see you around the blogosphere!





Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Book Haul to End All Book Hauls (The End)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

If you’ve been following my Book Haul to End All Book Hauls, you’ll know that I ordered 7 boxes of books. I showed you the contents of box #7 two weeks ago, but I got another book. This one came all by itself.




Stuck in Neutral – Terry Trueman


Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel loves the taste of smoked oysters and his mother's gentle hugs. Unfortunately, it's impossible for Shawn to feed himself or to hug his mom back. Shawn has cerebral palsy, a condition that has robbed him of all muscle control. He can't walk, talk, or even focus his eyes on his own. But despite all these handicaps, despite the frustration of not being able to communicate, Shawn is still happy to be alive: "Somehow all the things I think about and remember turn to joy . . . favorite movies . . . pinecones . . . chocolate pudding . . . the scent of Comet in a stainless steel sink . . . . Life can be great, even for me." That is why he panics when he begins to suspect that his father is thinking of killing him. Shawn knows that his father is trying to be kind; he imagines that his son's life is an endless torment. His dad has no idea of the rich life that Shawn lives inside his head. And Shawn, helpless and mute, has no way of telling him.

Friday, August 21, 2015

FF Friday: In Which I Adopt A Fictional Beast




Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.


This week’s question: If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you pick? Fictional ones count too!


Answer: Fictional animal for sure. I’d want a pet that is bizarre, creepy, and useful, so I’m going to pick a Thestral. I’m not totally sure if I’d be able to see my pet because they’re only visible to people who’ve witnessed death, but it would be awesome to have one. It could give me a ride when I didn’t feel like walking. And I could take it shopping with me because a lot of people wouldn't be able to see it. I can totally picture myself walking through the mall with a Thestral.






The follow part: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. I’d love it if you also followed me. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton


Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga. 
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. 
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. 
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. 
First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.


Review: It took me a week to write this review because I couldn’t find the words to describe how much I love this novel. I don’t know what to say to make you go read it.

The narrator, Ava, is born with feathers and wings. To find out why, she starts looking into her family history. This book chronicles four generations of her unusual family. It’s a story about obsession and heartbreak and wasted lives. It’s both devastating and surprisingly hopeful. “Strange” and “beautiful” are the perfect words to describe it.

I love magical realism, and I like family sagas if they don’t feel completely plotless. This novel is definitely character-driven, so there isn’t much of a plot, but it’s fairly fast-paced, and the characters are fascinating. They’re all so well-developed, which is impressive because there are a lot of them. They each have a distinct personality. I feel like I really understand them.

This is a book about love, but it’s not a love story. The characters’ relationships don’t always work out. Sometimes the swoon-worthy hero doesn’t turn out to be all that swoon-worthy. I love this book because it has elements of magic, but it still feels so real. It’s honest. The author doesn’t hold anything back. The characters’ emotions are raw, and even the good guys have some pretty nasty flaws.

Can we talk about the writing? I can’t believe that this is a debut novel. The writing has a melancholy tone with some bursts of humor. The descriptions are on-point. Most of the story is set in Seattle, but it’s a surreal, otherworldly Seattle. The writing completely embodies the strangeness of Ava’s family. The reader can really feel the characters’ desires and triumphs and heartbreaks. It’s not writing. It’s art.

Since this is a review, I have to come up with something to criticize. If you don’t like magical realism, character-driven stories, sadness, or family sagas, you probably won’t like this book. I love the hopefulness of the ending, but it’s a little rushed. Also, the author repeats names too often instead of using he/she/they. The repetition became slightly distracting.

That’s all I can come up with to criticize. Seriously, I was stunned when I finished this book. I can’t think of anything I hated about it.

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait to read whatever the author writes next.