Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Towers Trilogy (Karen Sumner-Smith):  In a world where magic is currency and status, Xhea, who has no magic of her own, scrapes out a meager existence in the Lower City by plying her ability to see ghosts.  One day, a man from one of the floating Towers, brings her a glowing ghost and asks her to hold onto it.   The ghost Shai and Xhea form a friendship that will change the world of the Lower City and the Towers.   Xhea and Shai’s characterizations are both excellent, and their friendship drives a compelling story about privilege and change.  Read this series if you’re looking for  a good story about female friendships changing the world.

How to understand Israel in 60 days or less (Glidden): Cartoonist Sarah Glidden documents her experiences on a Jewish birthright tour to Israel and her struggles to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Glidden effectively takes the reader through her reflections and gives a nuanced picture of life in Israel.  While this would not be a good primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, readers will find themselves wanting to know more.
Passenger Duology (Bracken):  Etta is a world-class violinist; on the dawn of a major performance, she is spirited away from her world and flung back to the American Revolution.  The patriarch of the Ironwood family, the most powerful time traveler family, wants her to track down an astrolobe, a powerful time travel artifact, and he holds her mother hostage to ensure her cooperation.  Nicholas-a young man under the thumb of the Ironwood family, is pulled into the quest as well.  Together, Etta and Nicholas  have to work against the clock and learn about this new world.  Bracken delivers an engaging time travel story about discovering your place.  This YA series will be sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats.
Binti: Home (Okorafor):  While Binti has been enjoying her time at the Oozma University, she still struggles with her experiences during her trip out to the intergalactic University.   To settle herself, she decides to return home in order to center herself.   However, Binti’s experiences have significantly changed her–will she be able reintegrate herself into the community she left behind?  The sequel to Okorafor’s Binti is just as imaginative as the first book; Nnedi Okorafor expands the setting considerably as Binti navigates her time at home.  Check this out if you are looking for awesome science fiction!

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It’s a new year, and the reading is good!  Here are my favorites from this past month.

Evicted (Desmond):  This book explores the experiences of individuals living  in Milwaukee’s low-income housing.  Author Matthew Desmond follows the tenants and landlords as they struggle in a vicious cycle that few will break from.  Desmond’s storytelling abilities make this an engaging, if depressing, narrative, but Evicted is also an important look at the impact of income inequality and the changes we need to make.

Julia Vanishes (Egan): Julia has a special talent: she is able to vanish at will.  This is a useful talent to have when one spies and steals for a living.  In a world where witches are executed (including her own mother), Julia forces herself to keep her eyes on the prize: the riches she earns from her jobs. When Julia goes to spy at Mrs. Och’s house, she uncovers a house of strange secrets; her employer, however, is interested in a mother and her child, and Julia soon finds her loyalties and sense of self tested.  I appreciated the unique setting and magic, and I liked Julia’s resourcefulness and grit.  I am looking forward to the sequel.

Being Mortal (Gawande): We’re all going to die, so how do we maintain a life that’s worth living?  Physician Atul Gawande uses a mix of personal narrative and research to explore the way medicine handles end of life care.  Gawande questions whether we, as a society, have been focusing on the right things toward the end of life; medicine focuses on life extension rather than quality.   This was an engaging and touching read, and it got me thinking about the kind of life I want for myself and my parents as we all age.

Behold the Dreamers (Mbue): Cambodian immigrants Jendi and Neni dream of having a better life in America.  When Jendi becomes the chauffer for executive Clark Edwards, they think they’re on the way.   Edward’s wife Cindy is kind to their family and even finds a summer position for Neni.  However, when Clark’s firm becomes tied up in a scandal, the revelations and results will rock the worlds of both families.  Behold the Dreamers is a bittersweet story about the experiences of two very different families; Mbue skillfully makes both families sympathetic while still exploring themes of class and race.

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Another year has passed, and that means it is time for my favorite books of 2016 post!  I hope you either see something you enjoyed this year, or find something new to read!

Nonfiction: I read so many fascinating nonfiction books this year, but the one that really drew me was Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, which chronicles Smith’s coming of age as a young black man in America.  Smith has a unique and compelling voice, and I found myself  completely engrossed.  If you are looking for books on the black experience, I found this one highly accessible and eye-opening, especially when paired with books, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright. (Honorable Mentions: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates); The Nazi Hunters (Andrew Nagorski); Born on the Edge of Race and Gender (Willy Wilkinson))

Graphic Novels: Monstress (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) takes this spot.  Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a young woman who has a literal monster inside of her.  As she tears through obstacles to her answers, she  also awakens forces that have long laid dormant. Monstress’ art is gorgeous and immersive, and Maika is an engaging heroine in what is shaping up to be a great story. I can’t wait to read more.  (Honorable Mentions:  The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks; Toil and Trouble, by Mairghead Scott, March 1-3, Lewis et al; Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill)

Realistic Fiction/Literary Fiction:  The Last Painting of Sara De Vos (Dominic Smith) takes this category.  The story explores the intertwined lives 0f Sara de Vos, one of the few Dutch female artists; Marty De Groot, the descendant of the owner of de Vos’ last remaining painting; and Ellie Shipley, an angry grad student who forges the painting.  After Ellie gets her life together and acquires a professorship in Sydney, Australia, her life threatens to unravel when both her forgery and the original come to Australia for an exhibit. Smith does a superb job of building up the character dynamics and weaving the story threads together in this engrossing novel.

Science Fiction & Fantasy: The Paper Menagerie (Ken Liu) was my favorite science fiction and fantasy book this year.  Liu blends science fiction concepts, history, identity, and mythology in this compelling collection of unique science fiction stories that should not be missed.  (Honorable Mentions: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Becky Chambers); Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction (translated by Ken Liu))

Young Adult: The YA winner is Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea.  Salt to the Sea follows a group of teenage refugees who, along with thousands of other refugees, board the Wilhelm Gustloff in order to escape the German-Soviet conflict in the last year of World War II.   Their relief is short-lived: a submarine attacks the Wilhelm Gustloff, which sinks, taking most of its passengers with it.  Sepetys has a knack for bringing to life relatively unknown historical events (The Wilhelm Gustloff lost over 9,000 of its 10,000 passengers, and the tragedy is considered one of  the (if not the worst) worst maritime disasters, even though not many know about it), and this book was no different. Salt to the Sea is a compelling story with sympathetic characters, and reading about the characters’ experiences brought tears to my eyes.    (Honorable mention: Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo)

Best wishes for 2017!  Happy reading!



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Hello, I’m back with my top books of the past month!  This time around, I have a short story collection, a couple of graphic novels, and a young adult novel.  If any of those sound interesting, read on!

The Paper Menagerie (Liu):  Ken Liu combines history, science fiction, and fantasy in this engaging short story collection.  My favorite stories include a mother who creates magical origami animals for her son and a story about a man who is able to pull memories from history in order to bear witness to a horrific crime.  Liu’s writing is engaging, and I really enjoyed how he blended history, mythology, and science fiction concepts in his stories.  If you like thoughtful,engaging, and/or genre-bending stories, you will definitely want to read this collection.

And I Darken (Conqueror’s Saga #1) (White): Ladislav Dracul is the daughter of the leader of Wallachia.  Ladislav–or Lada–and her brother Radu learn harsh lessons at the hands of their ruthless father, whom neither can seem to please .   When her father sends them as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, they meet Mehemed, the heir to the throne.  The trio form a close-knit relationship as they struggle to secure their power in a harsh world. This alternative history is a fast-paced story that explores decisions and the way they shape individuals.  Lada is a compelling and terrifying heroine, so if you tend to like darker protagonists, this one is for you.

Faith: Hollywood and Vine #1 (Houser): Faith is  a nerdy young woman is also the psionist Zephyr, who is able to use telekinesis and fly.  After tragedy strikes her superhero team, Faith decides to strike out on her own in Los Angeles.  She takes a job as a content writer for an online publication and looks out for those in need.  When potential psionists start disappearing, Faith is on the case!  This is a fun superhero comic: although the plot is fairly brief, it proves a solid introduction to Faith and her world.  Faith’s warm personality will endear you to her, and her struggles have nothing to do with her appearance (Faith is “plus-sized”).  I’m looking forward to reading more stories about Faith!

Ghosts (Telgemeier): Cat and Maya’s family move to Northern California’s coast so that Maya, who has cystic fibrosis, will be able to breathe more easily.  Cat is uncomfortable and uncertain, while Maya explores their new home with her usual enthusiasm. One of the locals informs them that the dead come to visit for the annual Day of the Dead festival.  As the Day of the Dead festival, Maya’s condition worsens.  Will Cat be able to adjust to her new home?  Telgemeier’s colorful illustrations are eye-catching, and her characters’ struggles are realistic and relatable.  The mix of real life problems and supernatural element make for an engaging, bittersweet story that will have you reading it over and over again (I certainly did!).

That’s all for this month.  Catch you next time!

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Hello, readers–it’s time for Top Books of the month!  Because of NaNoWriMo, I didn’t get to read as much as I usually do, but here are a few titles I particularly enjoyed!

Made You Up (Zappia):  Schizophrenic Alex transfers to a new school for a fresh start after an incident involving paint and her old school’s gym floor.   On her first day, she runs into head outcast, Miles Richter, and they instantly butt heads.  Alex thinks he looks familiar, but, when you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not, she isn’t sure.  Anyways, she’s just trying to survive her last year.    Her experience is a lot different than she expects!  I loved Alex–she’s funny and determined, and that made me root for her as she battles to succeed at her goals. The story is engaging because Alex’s unreliability means I wasn’t sure whether what I was reading about is real or not.  I also found the romance interesting as neither she or Miles is easy to get along with, and their own challenges affect the relationship.   I recommend this one if you like unreliable narrators and unconventional romances.

Redefining Realness (Mock):  In her memoir,  Janet Mock describes her experience in transitioning while growing up as a poor person of color in Hawaii. She does a great job of blending her personal story with a discussion of broader issues that trans individuals face.  If  you are curious about trans issues, check this one out.

A Silent Voice (1 &2) (Ooima): When Shoko enters Shoya’s elementary school class, he uses her deafness as an excuse to bully her.    He leads his classmates in attacks against her, and, finally, the bullying escalates so badly that Shoko is forced to leave school.  Haunted by that time years later, Shoya seeks out Shoko in order to look for redemption and forgiveness. Bullying is a deeply personal topic for me, and I was intrigued by the premises.  I like that nothing is straightforward, and the whole plot so far is bittersweet.    Shoya is not automatically forgiven, and he has to struggle to make amends while fighting against people’s perceptions and his own self-loathing.  I am annoyed that Shoko has been relatively passive so far, so I’m hoping she will play a bigger role in the later volumes.  I have the next two volumes on hold at the library, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

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July’s come and gone–and that means another “top books” post!  So, let’s get right down to business.

Station Eleven (St. John Mandel):  

When actor Arthur Leander has a heart attack while performing in King Lear, it will be the last “normal” night.  After that night, a flu sweeps the globe, killing many and uprooting the modern world.   Several years later, a performing troupe travels the landscape performing Shakespeare.   Among the performers is Kristin, who was there the night Leander died. As she and her companions struggle to make their way, the beginning still impacts the present story.

I was completely floored by this book.  St. John Mandel brings to life a ravaged world just starting to recover, and does a superb job of weaving the past and present events together that turn into a story that was so touching.  It’s very hard to explain the plot without really giving away the magic, so just believe me when I say you should read it!

Uprooted (Novik):

Every year the wizard Dragon takes a girl from the village; they stay with him for several years before leaving the villages near the dreaded Wood forever.    Agnizeska never believes she’ll be picked for the role, but chooses her he does.  Agnizeska goes to the Dragon’s tower and soon finds herself using her new-found power to combat the onslaught of the Wood.

Novik really captured my imagination with this fairy tale-inspired work.  She describes the world wonderfully, and sets up the conflict and the Wood’s ability in a meaningful and fascinating way.  The story is strong, and Agnizeska’s growth and determination are a pleasure to read.  My one minor complaint was that the romance seemed done to fulfill some kind of expectation rather than truly developed.   Overall though, this was a great read, and I recommend it to fairy tale lovers!

Shadowshaper (Older): 

Sierra Santiago plans to spend the summer working on her mural and hanging out with her friends.  However, a creepy man crashes a party, and her abuelo (grandfather) begins to weep and apologize.   Soon after, Sierra discovers a group called the Shadowshapers, individuals who are able to infuse art with the spirits of their ancestors.  As Sierra works to master shadowshaping, she must face down an individual who is looking to destroy everything she cares about.

This new YA fantasy is fantastic–it only took me an entire evening to read this awesome story!  I love the concept behind shadowshaping–it has a really strong familial connection, and I like how art becomes the medium to channel these spirits.   Sierra is a great character who rises to the challenge, and the story is exciting and hits upon issues such as culture appropriation and family without letting them completely overwhelm the story

Leviathan trilogy (Westerfeld):

Prince Alexander is forced to flee his home in the dead of night.  Commoner Deryn Sharp joins the British Air Force disguised as a boy; she serves on the great whale airship Leviathan.  A crash landing brings the two of them together, and Alex and Deryn join forces to make a difference in World War I.

This YA alternate history fantasy trilogy was a great read!  The plot in each part of the trilogy is exciting and frequently humorous, and the worldbuilding–World War I with mechanical machines and biological creations–is creative and fun.  The characterization of both Alek and Deryn was well-done; their decisions strongly affect the plot, for better or worse.  Deryn with her spunk and drive was my favorite character, and I really liked the relationship between her and Alek.  It was well-balanced between them and did not overwhelm the plot.   If you haven’t read this trilogy, you should.

Rat Queens, volume 2 : The Far Reaching Tentacles of  N’rygoth (Wiebe):

The Rat Queens are back!  In this volume, they face off against a deadly threat in the city of Palisade.   When Dee’s former god N’rygoth is revealed to have a role, she and the other Rat Queens must face up to their pasts to defend what they have in the present.

I very much enjoyed the second volume of Rat Queens.  The story takes a more serious tone as it explores the back-stories of Hannah, Violet, and Dee.  While perhaps not as funny as the first, I liked these developments and am looking forward to the next installment!

All right–that was July!  Thanks for reading!

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The first month of a new year has passed, and I’ve already sunk my teeth into some tasty books!  Here’s a quick recap of  some of the books I’ve read.

I must start out this post by discussing Marie Lu’s The Young Elites.  A blood fever ripped through the world–this fever permanently marks its victims and, in some cases, grants special powers.  These gifted individuals are called Young Elites.  Adelina Amoretu survived the blood fever, but endured harsh cruelty at the hands of her father.  After escaping, Adelina meets an organization of fellow Elites, who offer to show her how to control her abilities in exchange for her help in overthrowing the king.  But can Adelina overcome her own darkness?  I was sucked into Lu’s world, and she delivered a gut-wrenching tale.  Don’t miss this one!

I also checked out Pierce Brown’s Golden Son, the sequel to Red Rising (a favorite of mine last year).  Darrow has left the Institute for a position in the family of Arch-Governor Augustus.  He hasn’t forgotten his promise to his wife Eo and is struggling to support the rebellion while staying afloat in a cutthroat political arena.  However, he finds achieving this goal more challenging then he ever would have believed.  This follow-up did not suck me in as much as Red Rising did–I think it fell a bit into “second book” slump and I personally do not always find political maneuverings interesting.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and look forward to reading the trilogy’s conclusion.

I also have been reading a lot of manga lately.   I just finished Naoko Takeuchi’s rewritten and redrawn Sailor Moon!  Sailor Moon was my gateway anime, so reading this manga was pure nostalgia.  While I sometimes felt like I was getting a “cliff notes” version of some of the story arcs and characters,the series has plenty of action and a real go-getter message!   I am currently working on CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura and Toshiaki Iwashiro’s Psyren.  CLAMP’s Sakura is charming and precious, and the story is action-packed and heartwarming; I can’t believe it took me so long to read this!   Psyren follows the adventure of three high school students who acquire cards that read “Psyren”.  They are transported to a futuristic apocalyptic Japan; there they must use their psychic powers to fight off monsters and solve the mystery of Japan’s disastrous future. I have been enjoying the action and mystery in this series and can’t wait to read what happens!

Okay, that’s it for this month.  I hope to be back next month with another report!

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