The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

693208Okay, so, full disclosure: I’m cheating a little with this review. This isn’t my first time reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but the last time I read it was around fifth grade. Going into rereading, I didn’t remember much, except the fact that Alexie uses the word “faggot,” a lot (he doesn’t really, I think it just stood out because I was still shocked whenever I heard someone curse). As a 10 year old, I don’t think I really picked up on all of the themes and nuances of Alexie’s National Book Award winning novel, so I was excited to dive back into it.

“It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it. Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.”

One of the biggest differences in reading I had this time around was the fact that Junior, the main character, is my age now. It is such a weird feeling, going back to old favorites and being the same age as the protagonist. Even weirder is flipping past the copyright page ( it’s the one across from the title page) and seeing the 14+ age marker. I remember being 10, looking at that and feeling so proud for reading something that was marketed towards older kids. Now, I’m the older kid! So, in a way, I was nostalgic for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian before it even started.

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September Wrap Up

What Happened in September

September was my first month of high school! Being at a boarding school is certainly a jarring departure from the public middle school I am used to, but I am so glad to be here. I won’t lie- it’s extraordinarily hard to find time to read for fun here and I’m not sure how I’ll keep up Book Reviews by Ava. But, I know somehow I’ll find a way. Anyways, I’m so excited to see what the next four years have in store.

banner-historical-fiction-part-7-06What I’m Reading

Right now, I’m reading Anya’s War by Andrea Alban. Alban provides a window into a lesser known part of history- Shanghai during the Holocaust. Although some parts seem a bit tedious or unnecessary, the titular character Anya’s perspective is one I’ve never read about before.

What I Blogged About

Review: Renegades by Marissa Meyer. I either love or hate Meyer’s novels, and I’m glad to say I love Renegades, the first book in a new duology.

Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Homegoing was a sweeping debut about a Ghanian family, specifically two sisters, as generations travel from the Gold Coast, to the cotton field of Alabama, to the streets of Harlem, and everywhere in between.

Review: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid. Alsaid’s fourth novel, about a boy working through grief by way of cooking, was lackluster at best.

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is a tricky author. I adored her first series, the Lunar Chronicles, a futuristic (but not dystopian) retelling of popular fairy tales. It was light without feeling boring or simple. Her next project, a stand alone prequel to Alice and Wonderland was, simply put, a jarring departure from what I expected. This contrast made me skeptical, but still excited to see if Renegades could return Meyer to the author I know and love.

28421168-_uy400_ss400_.jpgRenegades is set in Gatlon City, a city similar to Gotham or Metropolis-  fake, futuristic and based on New York. In Gatlon, we follow two protagonists. The first is Adrian, the do-gooder son of the city’s most famous superheroes, who’s just trying to make a name for himself. There’s also the vengeance driven Nova, the niece of the city’s most famous super villain. When Renegades begins, we follow Nova as she manages to weasel her way onto Adrian’s training group, where she attempts to destroy the superheroes from the inside out. It’s a classic setup, but Meyer makes it work, adding her own twists, some which I saw coming, but many I did not.

“Maybe Ace really was a villain. Or maybe he was a visionary. Maybe there’s not much of a difference.”

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

As I sit in front of my computer, trying to piece together a review, I have found Homegoing is incredibly hard to write about. What do I mention first? The vivid descriptions that transports you through pages? The way every character is so individual yet related to every character before them? The deeply political yet never condescending writing? Rarely have I been so blown away by a novel, especially a debut.

booktalk-532c4a2f3d3a64a8It is hard to describe the sweeping epicness of Homegoing in one short review. The novel follows the family tree of two half sisters throughout the course of 300 years. Each chapter intimately describes a member of the family as they move from the Gold Coast, to Alabama, then to Harlem, and more.

“The news made it sound like the fault lay with the blacks of Harlem. The violent, the crazy, the monstrous black people who had the gall to demand that their children not be gunned down in the streets.”

What captivates me most when reading is usually the setting or characters, and Gyasi writes both wonderfully. With fourteen main characters, it can be confusing to remember who’s who, but Gyasi makes a point of creating a unique cast of characters, both in motives and personality. Continue reading

North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

I have heard so much about Adi Alsaid, but, until North of Happy, I had not read any of his books. Reviewers either love or hate him, but I walked away feeling neither emotion, more just a feeling of “this is it?” North of Happy was not shocking good, nor was it shockingly bad. It was just okay.

27391973Alsaid’s fourth novel follows Carlos, a teenager drifting through life after his brother is tragically killed. Carlos lives in Mexico City, and one of my biggest disappointments with North of Happy is that we did not get to see his neighborhood at all. With such an interesting setting, especially one Alsaid knows wells, seeing as he grew up there, I was sad to see Carlos jet off to Seattle the first chance he got.  This feeling of lost potential is one I felt throughout the novel. There were so many places I wished Alsaid elaborated- from setting to characters, and everywhere in between. The only place I really felt Alsaid’s potential shine through was when he was describing the food Carlos was making or eating.

As in many classic coming of age novels, the protagonist wants to be something unthinkable to his upper-class parents. In the particular novel, Carlos wants to be a chef, much to the distaste of his wealthy, banker father. When Carlos described the food he was eating, the novel became transcendent, the words electric. I mean, I’m a vegetarian, but there were more than a few instances where I would have happily ate what Carlos was preparing. These moments made me forget my qualms with the novel and instead happily read further.

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August Wrap Up

What Happened in August

I cannot believe summer is over! Although it feels like summer has flown by, I am very excited to start high school this month and get back into a more rigorous mindset.

What I’m Reading51nha5jnbll-_sx329_bo1204203200_

Right now, I’m reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi’s stunning debut traces a Ghanian family through three centuries, from Ghana to America. I love the writing of Gyasi’s debut, but sometimes I feel like I am reading multiple interconnected short stories, not one novel.

What I Blogged About

Review: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana. I adore the world Khorana created by drawing from Indian and Greek influences. However, The Library of Fates was predictable and at times contrived.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Menon’s debut was a perfect beach read- engaging and funny, but not lacking depth.

Blog: Who and What I’m Reading. Here, I analyzed what I read and why I read it. I found that I read books by a disturbingly low amount of people of color and men, so this month that’s all I’m reading.

Review: Warcross by Marie Lu. I am a huge fan of Lu, and her latest, set partly in Tokyo, and partly in a sprawling virtual reality, did not disappoint.

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The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Go ahead, judge this book by its cover. I mean, with a cover as beautiful as The Library of Fates, it’s hard not to. Khorana’s second novel is filled with folklore and has truly incredible world building, however fell short due to predictability.

32766747Most of all, The Library of Fates was smart. Presenting themes such as drug addiction and the intersection of feminism and colonialism in a way that made me feel like I was learning without being lectured to. Additionally, Khorana uses historical context to better the reader’s idea of the fictional country the novel was set in. This context was fantastic at times, but occasionally I felt like I was missing a bigger picture since I do not have extensive knowledge of the Silk Road.

The Library of Fates follows Amrita, princess of Shalingar, a fictional country that is similar not only in name to Shangri-La. Amrita lives a privileged yet extremely sheltered life in the royal palace- so sheltered that her own people do not even know her face. However, Amrita would do anything for her people, so when Sikander, a Macedonian conqueror, comes to Shalingar, Amrita agrees to marry him so he does not colonize her country. Before she can do this, Sikander attacks the palace, killing Amrita’s father and forcing her to flee in an attempt to warn her people. Continue reading

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Recently, I attended an author event where the author (I’m pretty sure it was Victoria Schwab, but don’t quote me), described that the part of a novel that mattered most was not the first line, or the first chapter, but the very end. She used the analogy of a dinner. If you have an amazing meal, but a lackluster final course, you won’t remember the dinner as amazing. You’ll remember that so-so final taste in your mouth. Her sentiment articulates how I feel about Sandhya Menon’s debut, When Dimple Met Rishi.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetIn my July Wrap Up, I described When Dimple Met Rishi as the perfect summer read, and, for the most part, it is. At least until the last twenty pages.  Suddenly, the novel changes from a funny account of an arranged marriage, into a story idealized to the point of disbelief. Parents are suddenly accepting, characters realize their mistakes, colleges mysteriously loosen their admission requirements, and all is well in the world. Especially after what had been such a lovely debut, I was disappointed.

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Warcross by Marie Lu

I absolutely love Marie Lu, but her Young Elites trilogy was not my favorite. They felt boring and a little contrived, which was why I was so worried when I began to read Warcross. Additionally, Warcross centers around video games, a topic I am completely uneducated in. But, her Legend trilogy has remained a constant favorite of mine, so I picked Warcross up.

Initially, all my worst fears were confirmed. Warcross begins with bounty hunter Emika Chen flying around Times Square, following people who have amassed steep debts gambling on the popular video game warcross. From the moment Emika began describing the beauty of Times Square, it was clear Lu lives in Los Angeles.

“Everyone- everyone– played Warcross. Some played it intensely, forming teams and battling for hours. Others played by… lounging on a virtual beach… Still others played by wearing their glasses while walking … showing off their virtual pet tigers…. However people played, it became a way of life.”

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