Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish (standalone)

Author:Akemi Dawn Bowman

Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Akemi 

Review:I’ve had STARFISH since its publication, but put off reading it because I couldn’t bear to be disappointed by another poor representation of biracial characters. Until I’d read STARFISH, I’d never read a novel that accurately captured the biracial experience; it’s far too easy to tell when the author isn’t biracial and/or a character is biracial just to score diversity points. But Bowman articulates the pain, beauty, inner conflict, and identity crisis of being half-Asian so poignantly. When I finished reading STARFISH, I just clutched the book to my chest and wept. This is the kind of story that could only have been written by someone who is half-Asian. Bowman also handles Kiko’s anxiety and the way Kiko has been abused so delicately and purposefully. I loved seeing how Kiko grew and found her own voice and independence. After I finished weeping, I immediately ordered additional copies for friends and family. This is one of those stories that everyone must read, and one I’ll certainly be keeping on my shelf for forevermore.

Characters/Voice: You’ll immediately be drawn into Kiko’s story. She’s a different sort of heroine; quiet, reserved, socially anxious, and a victim of years of abuse, but one who is deeply relatable and one who should be celebrated along with the bold, fearless, and outspoken. Kiko is an artist, and her artistic eye is weaved into the narrative beautifully. She grows gracefully and gains her independence in such a way that you will cheer her on through every moment.

Pacing: The story moves quickly. I never felt there was a moment where the plot got boring—and there’s no saggy middle. The novel is comprised of generally short chapters, but something new and intriguing is always revealed, so it’s easy to sit down with the intention of only reading a few chapters and find yourself at the end.

Plot: Thoughtfully constructed and executed. Everything is unveiled at the right moment. The significance of the title is brilliant. Stays true to the story presented in the blurb. JUST READ IT.

Setting: STARFISH takes place in the USA; in Nebraska and California, with a bit of a road trip in between. The settings are described well. You won’t come across any references that make you think the story takes place in a different country.

Themes: This story deals with all sorts of universal themes, like identity, weakness vs. strength, overcoming disappointments and challenges, finding family, and self-acceptance.

Trigger warnings: racism, sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, toxic family relationships

Jessica Jade

 

Jessica, signing off.

 

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Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

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Title: The Story Peddler, The Weaver Trilogy Book One

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

Review by: Jennifer Lindsay

Blurb: Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Review by: SP Teen Writer Noah Dingman

Blurb: Todd Hewitt lives in the last surviving colony on New Earth, Prentisstown. Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets. Then Todd Hewitt unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Moreover, all the women in Prentisstown have been killed off by a virus in a war with the planets natives, and the men have to live with the side effect, called the Noise.

Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown and with his thirteenth birthday fast approaching, the day he becomes a man, he discovers a strange absence of the noise in a nearby swamp. He also discovers a girl. And now he’s going to have to run…

Review: As soon as I read the first sentence in the Knife of Never Letting Go I was hooked. This book picks you up and doesn’t let go. It begs you to lock yourself in your room and read it cover to cover; you will stay up to late reading this book. The Knife of Never Letting Go takes you on a fast-paced adventure similar to other YA books like The Hunger Games, but never once feels derivative or unoriginal.

Characters/Voice: The main character Todd, whose eyes and thoughts the story is told through, is very likable and real. Although you might not always agree with the decisions he makes, you can’t help but root for him and his talking dog Manchee. Todd tells you the story as it is happening to him, in that way you get to experience the action and surprises as he does. Todds voice simultaneously tells you the story and helps you get an idea of what it would be like to constantly have your thoughts projected around you in the Noise. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book has fantastic villains. By fantastic I mean the kind of villains that make your hairs stand on end and give you the shivers. It’s great.

Pacing: As I said earlier, this book is a page turner. Once you’re in, don’t expect to put it down anytime soon. Patrick Ness has crafted a unique voice and story that pulls you in and leaves you hungry for the resolution.

Plot: The plot sends Todd and Manchee on a journey through New Earth. Like lots of YA books it is very plot driven, but a lot of the book is driven by the character interactions as well. The plot is never predictable and in that way,  there isn’t really a dull moment.

Setting: Patrick Ness’s world building is great. You can clearly picture New Earth through the descriptions given. It feels a lot like the world we live it, but anytime you come across a difference it’s intriguing and well-integrated.

Themes: The Knife of Letting Go deals with many different themes, a few that stuck out to me were manipulation, guilt, and coming of age. The coming of age part is different in this book than most other YA books as it is a coming of age story in a world that is still “coming of age”. Exactly what coming of age means in Prentisstown is different from what it means here, so Todd has to figure out if he should even come of age.

Patrick Ness has written a book that I think anyone who likes YA books (or likes reading as far as I am concerned) should pick up. I guarantee by the time you finish reading The Knife of Never Letting Go you’ll be running to the nearest library, bookstore, or booting up your Amazon app to get your hands on the second book.

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Noah, signing off.

Book Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love hateBook Review: Love, Hate & Other Filters

Title: Love, Hate & Other Filters (standalone)

Author: Samira Ahmed

Blurb: A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.   Continue reading

Book Review: Before Beauty

BEFORE BEAUTY

Title: Before Beauty (First Book in the Trilogy)

Author: Brittany Fichter

Blurb: Prince Everard’s father spent the boy’s youth forging the prince into a warrior. Upon the king’s death, however, Everard realizes he’s lost himself somewhere along the way, and in his pain, makes a decision that brings a dark curse upon both him and the great Fortress that has so long guarded the people of Destin. Continue reading

Book Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

Title: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo51SrZbzYagL._SY346_.jpg

Author: F.C. Yee

Blurb: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s outrageous transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn. Continue reading

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author:  Sandhya Menon

Blurb:  Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Review:

I was super excited to pick up When Dimple Met Rishi because a) I’m a second generation American who grew up in a house of two cultures; b) I’m a devourer of languages and culture besides my own (Bollywood fan here); c) I adore own voices books that represent my wide ranging diverse friends; d) I’m a sucker for slow-burning, friendship building, love stories. This story brings all of those out in a sweet, contemporary, American, fun setting, kind of way.

On plot: The book starts out with a simple premise, and we all kind of know what is coming, but Menon does a great job at sucking us into their story. There is not a ton of conflict but we still find ourselves getting attached to her characters.

On character: First Dimple. She is a strong girl with her own opinions and dreams and plans. We sympathize with her right away when her parents plan this outrageously hidden agenda for her first ever independence from her parents at a dream summer program. We want her to be the one to make her own choices, especially about love and school. (And I LOVE her name–it makes me laugh.)

Second Rishi. He was a breath of fresh air for me. He was not the typical YA boy who acted cool or knew what to say. Actually, he was the opposite, which made him feel so real. He didn’t always know what to say, but was kind-hearted and genuinely cared for people, his parents, and Dimple. And since he cares so darn much, we like him instantly!

On VOICE & DUAL POV: Lately, I have really loved DUAL POV books. Done right, they can build even more tension and sympathy, and Menon does this well. I enjoyed both Rishi and Dimples voices and narratives and felt they were both unique and relatable.

On Themes: I enjoyed learning about different cultures and traditions, the topic of arranged marriage in America, and pursuing risky dreams (Rishi and his graphic novels).

On pace: It wasn’t a fast page turning novel for me, but I didn’t feel it needed to be for the story being told. It was building friendship, slowly but surely. And then the end came perfectly together.

So, if you are looking for an adorably chill, end-of-the-summer contemporary read, snatch it up.

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Nova, signing off.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Pen Friends ~ Summer is not OVER yet. We still have more books to read and review for our Summer Reading Challenge  & Summer Writing Challenge – So send us your reviews of any books you love or find helpful for craft.

Thanks to Dawn Shipman for her review below!

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Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses series

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Blurb: When 19-year-old Feyre, the sole provider for her poverty-stricken family, ventures into the bleak, ice-cold forest to hunt, a giant wolf stands between her and her prey. She knows the stories of the Fae who are rumored to haunt the forest and can sometimes take on other forms…but her family is starving. She kills the wolf and sets in motion the plot for this three-book series. For her crime of killing the wolf, who was, indeed, a disguised Fairy, Feyre’s life is forfeit. She can allow herself to be torn to shreds by the beast who appears to enforce the law, or be dragged away from her family to the land of Prythian, to serve out her life sentence. Choosing the latter, she is soon introduced to that place of magic and wonder, a land both beautiful and terrible, where mystery, violence, and political intrigue abound. She also learns to love the ‘beast’ who brought her there—Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court.

Feyre was already a hunter, a fighter, but when Tamlin and all his people are taken captive by the murderous queen Amarantha, nothing will stop her from attempting to save him—even at the risk of her own life.

The next two books add, layer upon layer, to the complexity of this world, where violence and brilliance live side by side and masks come in many forms. Book 2—A Court of Mist and Fury—follows Feyre as she attempts to recover from the emotional devastation she endured in Amarantha’s dungeon and Book 3—A Court of Wings and Ruin—unite many plot lines and lead to the final battle that will determine the future of both the Fae and humankind.

Review:

I was pulled into Feyre’s story by the happy thought of another Beauty and the Beast re-telling, but was immediately led deep into the dazzling world of the Fae—a mythology I was unfamiliar with. For me, the first book began rather slowly but once I got past the first few chapters, Feyre and Tamlin’s story had me turning pages as fast as I could. The story was anything but predictable. As soon as I thought I knew what was coming next, author Maas worked in another twist that slammed one door and threw open another.

Feyre is a strong and passionate character, replete with doubts and conflict, but also with unwavering loyalty to those she loves. Before the story even begins, she’s had to endure privation and terrible difficulty just to survive. She is not perfect and often makes decisions that made me cringe, but I still found it easy to like her, cheer her on, and fear for her life. At the end of book one (and without giving too much away) she is gifted with Fae power that she cannot always control, but bit by bit, grows in her strength until she truly becomes a Wonder Woman—though a believable one, thanks to Maas’s careful character- and world-building efforts.

The evil in this world is real—but so is the good. The appearance of the dark High Lord of the Night Court—Rhysand–half-way through the first book introduces a mystery that is not resolved until much later. Other characters, even those who appeared secondary at first, wormed their way into my heart. The love stories—and, yes, there are more than one—are magnificent, and the themes of loyalty, sacrifice, redemption, and family are woven seamlessly into the plot.

My only concern with this series is its rating as Young Adult. The love scenes are graphic beyond anything I’ve read in adult romance. “Steamy” doesn’t seem a strong enough descriptor. I’d hate for a young teen—or even a not-so-young one—to get ahold of these. FantasticFiction agrees: “Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.” I’m thinking they fit better in the publishing category New Adult, but, unfortunately, the YA designation seems to be sticking.

Even though the major conflicts are resolved by the end of book three with much blood, death, and gore, the avid fan wants to know what happens to some of those so-called minor characters—Cassian and Nesta, Lucian and Elaine, Mor and Azriel. Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a 4th book in the series is due to be released in 2018.

Book Review: In 27 Days

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Title: In 27 Days

Author: Allison Gervais

Blurb:

Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him. Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, Hadley is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back 27 days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Hadley soon discovers Archer’s reasons for being alone, and Archer realizes that having someone to confide in isn’t as bad as he’d always thought. But when a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart, Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything—including her life—to keep Archer safe.

From award-winning Wattpad author Alison Gervais (HonorInTheRain) comes In 27 Days, a story of redemption, first love, and the strength it takes to change the future.

Review: Continue reading

Book Review: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

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Title: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Author: Mary Weber

Blurb: Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet. Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Review: Continue reading