Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor


Rating: ★★★★ | 18 hours 20 minutes| Fantasy | Hachette Audio | Release Date: 3/18/2017

We’ve been talking about Laini Taylor on this blog since Daughter of Smoke and Bone was featured in this Wall Street Journal article about new books reaching the Harry Potter generation. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series blew me away and Taylor is back at it again in Strange The Dreamer.

In this book, we meet Lazlo Strange, an orphaned librarian who finds himself the center of a story beyond his wildest dreams. Taylor is one of the best storytellers in YA right now and this book reflects that. The worlds and magic systems she creates are so detailed and creative.

At over 500 pages and 18 hours on audio, there were times where you could feel the page count. In the acknowledgments, Taylor says this was originally one book that got made into two and I think with a little less backstory it probably would have worked as one book but there seems to be no room for standalones in YA

At its heart, Strange The Dreamer is as a unique and original tale of trauma and survival.







....I’m not really a fan of YA duologies. They always feel like one story that has been stretched and padded to become two books instead of a story that needed to be told with two books.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


Rating: ★★★ |  358 pages | Henry Holt and Co, | Fantasy | Release Date: 06/05/2012 

Wow, reading this book was a blast from the past. Shadow and Bone was first published in 2012, which was our first full year of blogging. The then-unknown Bardugo was part of a group of debut YA/MG authors called the Apocalypsies that included several other YA fantasy powerhouses like Zoraida C√≥rdova, Sara J. Maas, Brigid Kremmer and Marissa Meyer.

On to the book!

Shadow and Bone takse place in the Russian-inspired land of Ravka that has been divided by a dark shadowy wasteland known as The Fold. Wars have broken out at the borders leaving devastation in its wake.

Childhood friends Mal and Alina are soldiers in Ravka's First Army, which is nothing compared to Ravaka' Second Army---made up of Grisha,  individuals who have mastered the small science (magic) and can wield elements in mind-bending ways. When Alina discovers she maybe one of the most powerful Grisha of all time, she is thrown into the opulent Grisha world and at the arms of the Grisha's charming leader The Darkling.

Kat reviewed this book in 2013 and I think I liked it better than she did. I think the book is setting up for an interesting series. I will say it was kind of jarring how quickly we sort of glossed over Alina's origin story and her time at the Os Alta which is like a Grisha magical school. I also felt the order of the Grisha was so confusing. I kept having to flip back and forth to the information page to understand everyone's category.

I like the relationship between Mal and Alina and I think for fans this is the biggest draw. There was plenty of nightmare fuel and even a few twists that felt sort of predictable. People are enamored by this series (though I'm guessing it's mostly the Darkling)  and I'm curious to see how Bardoguo evolves as a writer in her second book

Slight spoiler, but I feel like the early 2010s were full of YA Bad Boys destined to be Draco In Leather Pants.




I'm reading this series because Kat wants me to read Six of Crows, but I want to go in with the context. Also, I've been wanting to binge a series and when the Netflix show comes out I can be on Twitter going all  "Well, but actually"

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Loves and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan


Rating: unrated | 336 pages | Scholastic Press | Contemporary | Release Date: 1/29/2019

Rukhsana Ali lives two very different lives. With her friends and brother, she is a happily out and dating her girlfriend Arianna. But when she is among her traditional Muslim Bangladeshi community--which includes her marriage-minded mother--her sexual identity is a closely held secret. When Rukhsana is caught kissing her girlfriend, she finds herself fighting for her happiness and possibly her freedom.

Sabina Khan's debut is a layered story that takes a close look at how family and identity can sometimes be at odds, but how there can also be a happy medium if you fight for it. Even though Rukhsana doesn't understand all her family's beliefs, she still has a lot of love for her culture and traditions that she does not want to lose because she is in love with a girl.

But I will say,  I felt like this book had some severe tone shifts.  The book starts off like any other YA contemporary about a teen struggling to balance two lives. In the beginning, it's pretty light and then there is a lot of tension in the build-up as Rukhsana lives in constant fear of being caught with her girlfriend.  After she is outed she travels with her parents to Bangladesh where things get very serious and harrowing, the book takes on an urgent tone. All the fears and anxiety that Rukhsana' had early on in the book come to life. She is given a dramatic ultimatum that leaves her looking for an escape.

All this pain and betrayal sort of comes to a head and vanishes when (slight spoiler) a character is Fridged, a trope where a character's death is used to further or push forward the protagonist's story. It's not just any Fridge---this is a Bury Your Gays Fridge that segues the book almost immediately back into a lighter tone.  Like the death of this character instantly causes Ruhksana's parents to accept her and the book takes on this humorous tone as her parents learn to navigate LGBTQIA spaces. It's startling really. I feel like Khan wanted this book to have a positive ending which I appreciated--but it sort of jumped out of nowhere.

I mean there is a point where they lock Ruhksana in a room, take her passport and drug her but then it's like ---LOL, Mom is trying to set me up with a Muslim girl again. Also, her family spends a ton of money at one point and it's like...shouldn't that be an issue?

With (all) that said I did enjoy Khan's debut and I'm really curious to see what she does next.

Check out the audiobook review here! 



SIDENOTE
So, like I have on more thing to say related to tone. I think this book is hard to make a cover for. I mean I really like the cover and the color choices for this book- but it has a fierce, modern, resistance-y-The Hate U Give inspired cover that doesn't quite hit the dark tones in this book. Like I know illustrated covers are all the rage but I don't know if it works for everything.

Monday, April 1, 2019

We Are Here To Stay by Susan Kuklin


Rating: Unrated  | 4 hrs and 12 mins |  Penguin Randomhouse | Non-Fiction 
We Are Here To Stay is a no-frills collection of interviews that gives voice to young immigrants affected by the precarious renewal of Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals  (DACA). It's not an easy read but it's certainly an important one. We meet immigrants from Mexico, Samoa, Korea, and Ghana. We Are Here To Stay sheds light on the various reasons families come and stay in America, while also displaying the diversity of the immigrant experience. I think the one thing that stood out is despite all the hardships, many of the individuals in this book still believe that America is the best place for them.

Check out the audio review here!


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