Quick Takes: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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11387515Looks like I’m continuing my tradition of reading books after the hype has passed! What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? It really is one of those books that should be required reading, for children and adults alike. It is an uplifting story that makes you smile and believe the world can be a better place–who doesn’t need that?? All the characters in it were quite wonderful, and I enjoyed the narration from different viewpoints. Even with six narrators, the POV didn’t jump around too much, and I really think it added to the characters and the story as a whole. It’s a tale that’s full of both humor and wisdom, and the message comes across wonderfully without turning cheesy and cliché. It shows why we should choose kindness, to go out of your way to make someone else’s day a little brighter, and in turn not only help them but also ourselves. I can’t think of many other books that portray this so comprehensively, and for that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

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“Believing Is A Kind Of Magic…”

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Panfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

TW: Suicide and Depression

This book was beyond stunning. If I could just leave my review at that, I would. This 35604686book was beyond stunning.

In this book, we follow the events that happen after Leigh’s mother commits suicide. Leigh is not certain of a lot of things after the event, but she is sure of one thing and that one thing is that her mother became a bird once she died. Leigh is half-White and half-Asian, travels to Taiwan for the first time to visit the maternal grandparents that she didn’t know she had. She goes to follow the clues left behind by her mother and this leads Leigh down a path of not only self-discovery, but discovering more about her culture and her family.

This magical realism story uses colors in a way that is stunning and literally paints a picture of mental health, grief and family. I am so grateful to Emily X.R. Pan for giving us this stunning story that explores the intersection of the Asian/Asian-American identities and mental health. This intersection is definitely not something that is explored, particularly by Asian/Asian-American authors. As an Asian-American woman who has and still struggles with mental health illnesses, this was not only a breath of fresh air but I found this to be incredibly necessary and validating.

This book doesn’t shame Leigh’s mother or her story, and it doesn’t fully only evolve around her mother’s suicide. Her mother’s suicide is the core of the story, but shows us just how interconnected mental health is with not only our experiences, but with the experiences of those around us. This story honors Leigh’s mother and her experiences, and it melted my heart.

At the end of the story, there is a note from the author where she shares her own familial experience with suicide. This note is what really set off my emotions and left me a blubbering mess of tears. I didn’t realize how much I held my breath throughout this book because I didn’t realize how overwhelmed I felt with how seen this book made me feel. I’m a bit of a blubbering mess just thinking about it all, but this book is a very important book and I hope to see more stories around this specific intersection in how mental health and culture impact one another.

If you haven’t read this book yet, GO GET IT! This is definitely one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year and I cannot wait to see more from Emily X.R. Pan.

 

 

 

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Series Review: “Study” Trilogy

Magic Study (#2) by Maria V. Snyder
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Fire Study (#3) by Maria V. Snyder
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I have been on a journey, much like Yelena in this trilogy and I have come out victorious! 🙂 I have been very curious about this trilogy for quite some time now and I finally just set out to satisfy the curiosity. I have already written a review about the first book in this trilogy, “Poison Study”, so check it out! In short, I found the first book in this trilogy to be quite addictive, dark, full of political intrigue and a lot of great potential about a fantastic magic system. I did find that a lot of this continued into the second book with one major issue that I’ll discuss further in the spoiler section, however I found that the third book slowed quite a bit for me which super bummed me out. I am surprised that these are marketed as YA books, and I think these could’ve done so much better marketed as Adult Fantasy books.

The things that I liked most about the series, as a whole, was the evolution of our protagonist, Yelena. Yelena definitely grew into her abilities, albeit quite slowly which was slightly frustrating at times. The other thing that I very much enjoyed about the rest of the series was the introduction of complex side characters and a dark political story line which I am always a fan of. I did feel a little let down by the final book as the first two were definitely highly addictive and fast-based, and then the third book weirdly slowed down to a point that I found it become a chore to finish. Le sigh…

If I’m understanding the series correctly, there is a spin-off trilogy that comes next which is based off of a side character from these books. I am definitely intrigued as I really liked this side character and I will probably pick them up sometime in the near future.

Now I only have a few spoiler-y things to discuss, so if you haven’t read this, stop now! 🙂 Overall, if you want a politically-based and dark fantasy trilogy, I definitely recommend trying this out!

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Quick Takes: Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
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23602562This was a bittersweet little tale of two old widowers find each other at a time when loneliness lingers in the nights. I enjoyed this first foray into Haruf’s fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and think I may pick up some of his other books when I get the chance. I definitely appreciated this sweet little book as a short break from the hefty Les Mis. Haruf has that sparse, Hemingway style of prose, though, and unfortunately that doesn’t always work with me. I feel like the tale moves too quickly, and I’m not able to sit with the emotions as long as I’d like. Maybe I’ll just have to practice slowing down my reading pace. I also just found out Netflix came out with a movie about this book last year, so I may have to check that out!

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Series Preview: Poison Study

Poison Study (#1) by Maria V. Snyder
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I had first heard of this series years ago and was definitely intrigued by it, but never got around to picking it up. Recently, I was watching one of my favorite BookTubers, Regan17206162 from PeruseProject, and she had binged the trilogy, which peaked my interest again. I looked at my library and found this first book available via eBook, so I decided to check it out. And I am so glad that I did!! 😀

This first book was so great!! Admittedly, I did go into this book with some low expectations, but I found that this book way exceeded my low expectations!! For those of you who don’t know about this book, we follow Yelena, who is a convicted murder given a chance at a new life as the Commander’s poison taster. At the surface, this sounds like such a basic fantasy story but there were some surprising layers and complexity to the story. I had read someone’s review of this book and agree with the notion that I wished that this was an adult fantasy rather than a young adult, as I think that that would’ve added even more layers to the story.

Now I have read some mixed reviews of the rest of this series, so I am going to try to find a library copy of the second book to see how I feel about it. But, I did like this first book and it was definitely enough to intrigue me to continue on with the series. This is the first book in a fairly longer series with some overlapping series, which is my favorite thing to read! Depending on how I feel about the second book, I’ll either do a full series review or I’ll do an individual review if it flops for me.

This now concludes my spoiler-free review of this book and now I need to get into some spoiler-y thoughts because I definitely have a few of them!! 🙂

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Love & Injustice

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
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This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 AND my February Book of the 33590210Month pick, so all around I was really excited for this book! As you can see from my star rating, I LOVED this book!! This was a book that I kind of had to sit on my rating and thoughts before I made a final decision and I’m happy to say that I genuinely believe that this is a five-star read.

This book was beautifully written, captivating and heartbreaking all at the same time. We follow Celestial and Roy, a pair of happy newlyweds. Roy is a young executive and Celestial is an artist, both up and coming and at the start of their exciting careers. As happy as their lives are unfolding, it all comes tumbling as Roy is wrongfully accused of a crime and then sentenced to 12 years. Throughout the novel, we follow their individual journeys and the impact of this event on them and their marriage. This is such an important read exploring the injustice of our justice system, particularly towards Black men, but from a different lens. To me, this is equally a socially just focused book but also a tragically beautiful love story.

The thing about this book that I loved the most was the deep exploration of our characters. We take a pretty deep dive into both Celestial and Roy, but also Andre who is Celestial’s childhood friend that she takes comfort in while Roy is incarcerated. Not only do we have strong character profiles of our protagonists, but we also examine the lives of those around them which builds for a richer story. In the exploration of our characters, we find incredibly flawed, relatable and real characters. You can’t really find fault in anyone’s actions, as I would ask “what would you do” if you were to find yourself in any kind of situation like this.

I loved the different formats and switching of POV’s throughout the book. I found this to have a powerful impact on the book, as we could actually see the direct impacts on each of the characters and just helps you to understand where everyone is coming from. There is a short exchange of the story that is told in letters sent back and forth between Celestial and Roy while Roy is in jail, and this was the most heartbreaking part of the story as you really start to see the changes in their marriage just from the letters.

All in all, this was an important read and it was a heartbreaking love story. This was complex and raw, and I believe everyone needs to read this book. I am so happy to have read this and am so grateful that this got to be my Book of the Month pick! 😀

 

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How Serendipitous :) <3

Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet by Various Authors
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This anthology was beyond sweet!! 😀 When I first heard that this was coming out, I was absolutely head over heels! I loved the concept of this anthology as it is one of my favorite movie/book tropes. I love the concept of a “meet cute” and I am a sucker for 33503607 sweet, romantic stories.

As I have done with other short story compilations, I will give you mini breakdown of all the stories along with my ratings for each story. The rating above is the overall average rating which came to be about 3.6ish. Overall, I really liked this anthology!! This anthology was not only super sweet, but also incredibly diverse which just made my heart sing! I appreciated the diverse portrayal of love and characters. I also loved how different all of the stories were. As these were stories of how people who fall in love initially meet, they all definitely leave you hanging and the better stories definitely leave you wanting more.

With all that being said, I will now get into mini/spoilery reviews of each story!! 🙂

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