Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What if it's us

Title: What If It’s Us

Author: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Published by:HarperTeen

Publishing date: October 9th 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 437

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

 Goodreads  | Amazon

I took me some time to get into this book and I think it was mainly because of the characters. First we have Arthur, who annoyed me a little at the beginning. He has zero chill, he talks SO MUCH, he’s jealous and immature. But eventually I started to like him more because he’s also smart, kind and earnest. Then we have Ben, he grew on my as a character and by the end I really liked him. He’s an introvert and a writer and a bit of an asshole at times and I could relate.

For the first half of the book, I felt like Ben and Arthur had no chemistry and honestly, I didn’t know why they kept trying to make things work. But then they had some cute moments and I started to like them together more. I will say that they went from no chemestry, awkward moments, jealousy and miscomunicationcute to a couple that seemed to work pretty well together in the blink of an eye, from one chapter to the next. The pacing of the development of the relationship could have been better.

As I was saying the characters and romance in the first part of the book didn’t seem to be working, but then when Ben and Arthur finally find their footing in their relationship, even if it’s abrupt, the book becomes so much more enjoyable. They just became this adorable couple that wanted to spend all their time together being cute and this became the fluffy book that I imagined when I saw the cover.

I need to mention that the parents in this book are amazing, both Ben’s and Arthur’s, they are understanding, caring and involved in their son’s lives. I also really liked Ben’s best friend, Dylan, he was funny and quirky and nice, and I liked the glimpses we got from his relationship with Samantha.

This book handles some sensitive topics very well, it addresses light-skinned latinx and how while they have certain priviliges for it, there’s pain that comes from having your heritage doubted and erased as well. Also, this is a very sex positive, which I feel is something we need more of in YA.

Finally, I’ll just say that I liked the ending, which I know a lot of people may not, but it was one of the most realistic parts of the book. I would give the first part of this books 3 stars and the second part 4 stars, so that’s why the rating is what it is.

 Rating: 3,6 stars 

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Review

Book Review: The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

the Tiger's Daughter

Book: The Tiger’s Daugther

Author: K. Arsenault Rivera

Publisher: Tor Books

Release date: October 3rd 2017

Pages: 526

Genre: Adult Fantasy

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil

Goodreads | Amazon 

I wasn’t entirely convince of reading this book until I heard the romance in this was between two girls. We definitely don’t get enough f/f romances in fantasy and that made me inmediately excited to read this. The Tiger’s Daughter is a slow, character driven book and I’m glad to say the epic romance lived up to my expectations. With that said, there is still some action in the book, since there are dangerous journeys and fights with demons and wild animals.

The story is told through a letter written by Shefali, one of the main characters, and adressed to Shizuka, the other main character, which was a bit weird because I kept wondering why was she doing that if Shizuka was also there when those things happened. This is addressed in the book, but I wasn’t too convince with the explanation. What made the book’s structure a bit more interesting was the fact that while Shefali tells her version of the past, what it’s happening in the present is told from Shizuka’s perspective and that way little glimpses of her own version of the past are present in the book. This way of telling the story didn’t help with the pacing, but once you get used to it, it’s not that difficult to read and to get into. 

This is a star-crossed, friends to lovers, slow-burn romance and it was perfect. Defenitely my favorite part of the story. Shefali and Shizuka were amazing characters. The book explores Shefali’s character more in depth because she is the one telling the story, so the book shows what she is thinking and feeling while things happen, and also her character development is more evident. Even when the book shows a very limited view of Shisuka, because it’s mainly how Shefali sees her, there’s enough to her character that I was left intrigued to read the next book, which is told mainly in her perspective.

It’s worth mentioning that the author is not scared of having bad things happen to her characters. So there’s a lot of injuries, near death experiences and emotional trauma. Something else that the author does very well is creating side characters that are captivating and easy to root for.Lastly, this has a very good ending,  it absolutely left me intrigued and wanting to read the next book.

* I will add that I found the world very interesting even if a lot of the hystory and mythology was just hinted at and never fully explored. Nonetheless, this is an Asian-inspired fantasy world and, after reading this, I have seen some reviewers mention that the representation wasn’t well done, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Rating: 4 stars 

Have you read this book? Did you like it? Do you have Asian inspired fantasy books to recommend? 

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Mini Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Americna panda

Book: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release date: February 6th 2018

Pages: 311

Genre: YA Contemporary

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels? 

Goodreads | Amazon

American Panda is an amazing story about Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl that has to straddle two cultures. Mei is an interesting and relatable main character and I think this book does a very good job of showing her struggle trying to live up to her parents expectations, but also wanting to follow her own dreams and desires.

The focus of this book is definitely Mei’s relationship with her family.  Mei’s parents are so strict that in order to not dissapoint them or make them angry, Mei stops thinking for herself. So, it was amazing to witness her character devolpment as she finds the strenght to make her own decisions in the course of the book. It was also wonderful to see how that change in Mei impacted her mother and how it affected their mother/daughter relationship. I understand that this is not everyones experience, but I still think that this book manages to address in a very insightful way what it means to be a first generation immigrant for some young people.

Another great things about this, it’s the way in which the siblings relationship is handled and how reconnecting with her borther helps Mei realize that she needs to decide what is valuable and important to her, in terms of relationships and dreams.

This book also has a very cute romance that doesn’t take over the story, but it still a nice addition to it. The love interest, a Japanese-American guy,  is really understanding and caring.  Also, there’s a lovely female friendship, that it’s not exactly a central part of the story, but that adds an amazing elemento to it.

Overall, I found American Panda to be insightful and captivating, and I would recommend it if you like contemporaries focused on family dynamics and relationships.

Rating: 4 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

Book: Children of Blood and Bone

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Release date: 2018

Pages: 525

Genre: YA Fantasy

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Goodreads| Amazon

Children of Blood and Bone is a captivating read. The world and magic system are so well crafted. The descriptions and hystory of this world, as well as the myths surrounding the magic, the Orishas and the Divîners make this story fascinating and unique. This is definitely an action packed book, the characters go in a long and dangerous journey where so many things happen and thanks to that we get to see so much of this world and understand it so much better.

The characters  are so richly constructed and developed and they quickly became my favorite thing about the book. I love the fact that we get a book with a all black cast of characters set in a West African inspired world.

  • Amari is now one of my new favorite characters, she starts like this naive princess but her character development was incredible. She is defenitely the most compelling character in the story to me, she is the voice of reason and that makes her relatable.
  • Zélie is a really complex main character, her anger and her sadness and the way those feelings motivated her actions and decisions make her feel so real.
  • It took me a little time to like Inan, but there’s so many layers to him that made him a really interesting and intriguing character that by the end I couldn’t help but to appreciate him as a character.
  • The one character that could have used a bit more development, even if I still liked him, was Tzain. We don’t get to know much about who he is beyond the fact  that he is his sister’s protector.

I loved the fact that the story focuses on the sibling relationships: Amari & Inan and Zélie & Tzain. Each one of them loves their ssibling, but there’s things that took place in the past that complicate those relationships and add an intricate element to the story. This book is angsty, dramatic and emotional and it basically gave me all the feelings. Zélie and Inan relationship while a bit insta-love-y grows to be deep, complex, and full of longing, betrayal, sadness, anger and love.

An aspect of this book that I found very fascinating was the way in which the characters, especially Zélie and Inan, constantly doubted what was best for their people: should magic come back or not, who should have power, who should have magic, how to make sure magic was misused and how to bring peace to Orisha instead of war. It is refreshing to see characters in a fantasy book that aren’t always sure of what to do and that don’t think they are right all the time. And as a reader, it was interesting to find myself understanding some of the fears of both Zélie and Inan, even if they were in different sides.    

Overall, I think Children of Blood and Bone was definitely worth the hype and if you are a fan of YA Fantasy, I totally recommend you give this one a chance.

Rating: 5 stars

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Review

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire

Book: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books

Release date: November 6th 2018

Pages: 336

Genre: YA Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Rape and Sexual Assault

Each year, eight girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for and the most cruel. But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Goodreads | Amazon 

Girls of Paper and Fire is set in a fascinating Asian inspired fantasy world, where there are different castes made up of demons, half demons/half human and humans, and there’s also differnet clans within those castes with varing amounts of power. The rich and mysterious histories of some of the clans left me intrigued and wanting to explore this world more, especially, because we only get little bits of information sprinkled thorught the book in a way that felt natural to the story, which makes it more alluring.

The main character, Lei, wasn’t the most compelling or complex character in the story, but what I liked about her is that she is a normal girl, she doesn’t know how to fight, she is not the brightest strategist and she is not a master of cunning and decieve, and in a sense, it’s refreshing to find a character like that in a fantasy book, because it shows that there’s different ways to be brave and to fight back, which is something this book does really way. 

A very powerful thing this book does is show the lenghts some men will go to to feel powerful and how so many times girls get trapped in this horrible situations because of that. So many times men see women’s bodies as a place to show and impose their power, especiacilly if they feel powerless in other parts of their lives. Also, this book does a very good job of showing the way girls react differently to an impossible situation, which was one of my favorite parts of the story. Each paper girl reclaims her body and her sense of self in their own way.

Nonetheless, I felt like most of the paper girls were pretty much stereotypes: the mean one, the innocent one, the mysterious one and some of them I didn’t even get to know enough to say anything about them. From the paper girls, Wren was definitely the most three dimentional and interesting and I would love to have her pov in the next book. Another character that I really liked and that I wish we saw more and found out more about is Zelle, which has only a couple scenes in the book but managed to intrigued me like almost no other character in the story.

Something else I really enjoyed in this book was getting to see two queer, Asian girls being in love even when it’s a forbidden love. I do think the romance was a bit insta-love-y, but the way the relationship evolves and the way they give each other strenght, support, compassion, understanding and trust is wonderful, so I didn’t mind the insta-love.

Lastly, I have to say that unfortunetly  I never felt like I was completely inmerse in the story, I felt like the writing was okay but didn’t make me feel emotionally invested in the plot or the characters.

Overall, Girls of Paper and Fire has such an important message, the sensitive themes and topics that it addresses are so well handle and the world building is so intriguing and fascinating that it’s definitely worth reading even if there are some small issues with the characters and writing. 

Rating: 4 stars

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Review

Mini Review: To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

to make monsters out of girls

Book: to make monsters out of girls

Author: Amanda Lovelace

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Release date: September 18th 2018

Pages: 168 pages

Genre: Poetry

“What happens when the man of your dreams turns out to be a nightmare with sharp teeth and claws?” 

In to make monsters out of girls, lovelace explores the memory of being in an abusive relationship. She poses the eternal question: Can you heal once you’ve been marked by a monster, or will the sun always sting?

Goodreads | Amazon 

My reading experience when it comes to Amanda Lovelace has been varied, I read and loved The Princess Saves Herself In This One and I read and didn’t like The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One, so I really didn’t know what to expect from this poetry collection.

What I got was reletable and evocative poetry about heartbreak, abusive relationships and the heart’s ability to heal. In this collection, I saw again Lovelace’s talent to put into a few words things I have felt and I have thought, or simply things that at some point or another I need to hear.

sometimes
no closure
tells us
more than
the closure
ever
could.
– some people were never worth your words.

This poetry collection is mainly about one relationship and the reader gets to see the connection and the progression between the poems, which I found really interesting. Like most of Lovelace work, it’s personal and it gives the reader a glimps into her past, while relaying an incredible amount of pain and anger.

This poetry collection is raw, hard-hitting and reletable and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys poetry or that wants to start reading poetry.

Rating: 4 starts

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Review

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Book: The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Release date: 1959

Pages: 182

Genre: Horror

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Goodreads | Amazon

As someone who doesn’t like horror movies, I always assumed that I wouldn’t enjoy horror books either, which turned out to be a lie. Recently, I have discovered that I like a spooky, scary story from time to time. I had never heard about this book or the movie adaptation until recently,  when the Netflix show came out. I really want to watch that show, but I was intrigued enough to give the book a chance before watching it.

I was expecting a really scary book, but that’s not what I got. This is eerie and uncanny, and it definitely made me feel unsettled at times, but I was never truly scared. Shirley Jackson’s writing works perfectly to fuel the feeling that things are not what they seem, her writing not always makes sense and there’s a lot of description to build up the spooky atmosphere.

The story is told from Eleanor’s pov and even before she gets to Hill House, it’s easy to tell that she is a very particular woman. She has always felt trapped and lonely in her life, she gets distracted easily, she is very imaginative and creates entire fantasies in her head, sometimes not very pleasant ones. She is self-consious and doubts herself and from the very beginning you can tell she’s not gonna be a very reliable narrator.  In that sense, even before getting to Hill House, I already had a sense of not knowing what was real.

When Eleanor finally arrives, the other characters are introduced, none of them are very likeable but they are intriguing nonetheless. The book moves slowly, we get to see the characters becoming friends and exploring the house with only a few strange things happening, it takes a while before the spooky events start to happen. I understand that the wait is supposed to increase the suspense, but to me there were points when I was a bit bored and I felt the book was dragging. 

After certain point in the book, once more and more strange events have occured and Eleanor starts to lose her grip in reality, I found the book got a lot more interesting and compelling, because I couldn’t be sure of what was real and what wasn’t. I was especially doubtful about the interactions between Eleanor and some of the other character where the other characters were unpleasant, I couldn’t figure out if the the characters were unpleasant or they just seemed that way because I was seeing them through Eleanor’s eye and she had sucummed to madness at that point.

About the end I’ll say that I saw it coming, but the author managed to make me believe for one second that it wasn’t gonna go as I was expecting. Even if I saw it coming, I found the ending to be fitting with the story.

Overall, I’ll say this is a eerie and spooky book that would make you feel unsettled and doubt what’s real and what isn’t. If you’re just starting to read horror books, this may be a good one to try. 

 Rating: 3,8 stars 
Have you read this book? Did you watch the movie or the Netflix show? Do you have any recommendations for classic horror books that I should read?

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