I’ve got four bite-sized reviews for you today, and these are pretty varied in theme, genre and format. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Published by Soho Teen on January 16th 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA
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.
I was so excited about it when I got this book at ALA last year that I immediately sat down and started reading it in line. This was the only book that inspired me to do that (even though I was surrounded by books and had plenty of long lines to sit in). And I absolutely loved it. I finished the book upon returning home from ALA and felt like I’d just read something important—a book that opened my eyes to another culture and the struggle that many Muslim Americans face in America. The book is told mostly from Maya’s POV, but we also get short sections interspersed from the perspective of the person who eventually turns Maya’s life upside down. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember all that much about the romance in the book (confession: I waited too long to write the review), but I remember being less excited about this aspect of the book than about the cultural aspects and Maya’s struggle to find independence from her well-meaning but stifling parents.
I found this to be a powerful story of daring to go after your dreams when it seems like everything in this broken world is plotting against you. I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via ALA Annual in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Chaos in Kadoma Ward by S.J. Pajonas
Published by Onigiri Press on November 15th 2017
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Source: The Author
My content rating: Adult
Contract by proxy — Yumi is owned by a corporation.
Forced into a new life on the planet Hikari, she has two objectives: find a job and get along with Rin, the man holding her life in his hands. But with her occupation missing from this planet and her enemies looking for her, she must intrude on the kindness of reluctant strangers to stay out of harm’s way. Rin’s ex-wife wants Yumi gone, and a judge threatens to deport her if he catches her loitering about town with no job. Her desire to bolt grows stronger daily.
But Rin won’t let her go. He’s fascinated with the stories she brings from home, stories that promise to save him from the madness they all live in, a meritocracy with low birth rates and malfunctioning androids. As they build a tenuous friendship, and something more, Yumi has to face her fears, her inadequacies, and her lack of control. A headstrong journalist, she’s pushing her luck on Hikari every day as the society turns bored, restless, and finally rebellious. War is coming, and Yumi and Rin are right in the middle of it.
Chaos in Kadoma Ward is the second book in the Hikoboshi Series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war. Buy Chaos in Kadoma Ward today!
The absolute best thing about the books in this series is the worldbuilding, and that was no different in this second installment. I love how Pajonas created a world built on and governed by corporations—in this world, your importance and your value as a person are dictated by your employment. This is a major issue for Yumi. She’s spent her life being proud of her job (and, indeed, judging her own worth based on it, in some ways), but now she’s suddenly thrown into a situation where the skills she’s always cherished mean nothing—journalism doesn’t exist in Kadoma Ward. For the first time in her life, Yumi feels worthless. Her struggles with those feelings are a major theme throughout the book. I was also a fan of the romance in the book—I was anticipating a slow-burn romance between Yumi and Rin, and that’s exactly what I got. If I had one criticism of the book it was that, because there was so much worldbuilding going on in the first half of the book (which I loved—not only is the culture that Pajonas creates interesting, but there are lots of cool sci-fi elements to the story as well), I felt like that first half lacked a bit in pacing. It focuses on Yumi learning about the new planet she’s on and trying to convince herself that she’s not useless, and I was waiting a little longer than I would have liked for something major to happen because of that. Still, overall, this was an excellent read. I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Dating Down by Stefanie Lyons
Published by Flux on April 8th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Verse
Source: Won It!
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex; Drug use, heavy drinking, etc)
When a good girl falls for a bad boy
She thought she loved him. She thought she could change him. She thought if she just believed in him enough, his cheating and his drugs and his lying would stop, and she'd be his and he'd be hers and they'd love each other forever.
But for Samantha Henderson, X--the boy she will not name--is trouble. He's older, edgier, bohemian . . . and when he starts paying attention to Sam, she can't resist him. Samantha's family and friends try to warn her, but still she stays with him, risking her future and everything that really matters.
As moody and vivid as it is captivating, Dating Down is told in scenes and bursts of poetry that create a story filled with hurt, healing, and hope.
I feel like a book in verse has to be truly emotionally compelling to work well. It has to build and flow and keep me entranced. I don’t know that this book quite accomplished that, but there were parts I really enjoyed.
Here’s the gist of my thoughts when reading this book:
- Ooohhh, I love this. I need to read it out loud. It flows so trippingly across the tongue.
- Okay, the novelty has worn off a bit, but I’m still enjoying it. Think I’ll switch back to reading in my head.
- Wait, I love the powerful imagery and the use of poetic devices, but I’m not so sure about the actual story. I get that we’re warned upfront that this guy is no good for Sam, but this might be a full-on train wreck. I feel like maybe I should look away.
- Wow, this is really long. How has Sam still not seen the light?
- (And when it’s all over: ) Hmmmm… I’m just not sure. That was quite a downward spiral (and then a sort of sudden reversal), but some of the poetry was fantastic. I’m… torn.
So, there were parts I loved, but it just couldn’t keep me engaged throughout, and I wasn’t sure I really liked the main character all that much. In the end, I gave it 3/5 stars.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling
on July 31st 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: Anyone!
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
So, I know a lot of people have really strong feelings about this book (mostly negative), but I went in knowing those qualms and I have to say that I enjoyed the story. I read that a lot of people didn’t feel like the characters from the original series stayed true to themselves, but I don’t know that I think that’s true—they grew up. They changed. If Harry and Hermione and Ron were the same as they were as teenagers, I’d start to worry a little. They seemed like… parents to me. Not perfect parents, but I haven’t met any of those yet, so I was okay with that. Obviously, since this is a play, we don’t get the roundness of characterization that we’d get in a book, but I expected that as well. I enjoyed the story and meeting the next generation of Potters (and Weasleys). I give it 4 stars.
I really wish I could see the production, though. Maybe someday.
That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?