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review 2017-05-08 20:19
Review: A Million Junes
A Million Junes - Emily Henry

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. I used some of my points to secure my copy of this one.  I have a weakness for Romeo & Juliet inspired stories, and that plus the promise of magical realism was what caught my eye about this title.

 

A little apprehensive as I tried to read the author’s debut novel and didn’t get very far at all with it, but I fell head over heels in love with this book almost right away. (And now I will have to go back and read that debut novel again).  

 

It’s almost impossible to recap the plot because that would be extremely spoilery. The basic premise is Jack “June” O’Donnell has lived in a mysterious little town her whole life, she knows there is a feudal history between her family and their neighbours, the Angerts. Something that has been going on for years and years and years. There’s deep history all connected to the strange little magical wonders that surround June’s house and an infamous tree in her family’s yard.

 

It all start to unravel when hanging out with her best friend Hannah one night, June’s neighbour, Saul Angert appears back in town after being gone for years. June knows that the last thing she should be doing is hanging out with an Angert. However, inevitably, June finds Saul knows one of her friends, and she finds herself hanging out with Saul more and more.

 

The writing is delicious, it’s superb. The novel elicits an incredibly emotional response.  It’s so amazingly written. It paints such a vivid picture and really made me feel engaged with the characters, and hooked on the story.

 

The relationship between June and Saul is wonderful, beautifully built, it has ups and downs, trust, friendship and romance. Both face hidden truths about their past and the secrets which caused the falling out between their families all those many years ago.

 

Also – bonus points for female friendship. June’s relationship with her best friend Hannah is everything you want in a BFF friendship. Trust, sticking up for each other, silliness, being there for each other, listening. It was just wonderful to see the dynamics between the two girls not overshadowed by boys or bitchiness.

 

All with a delightful touch of magical realism floating through the novel.

 

A brilliant story going easily from funny to cute to dramatic to romantic to gut-wrenching and back again. (The end made me cry). I absolutely loved everything about this book.

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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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review 2017-04-02 22:26
Pete the Cat: Pete's Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Pete's Big Lunch: My First I Can Read - James Dean

Pete the Cat: Pete's Big Lunch is an absolutely perfect story for emergent readers in kindergarten. This author has really taken new emergent reader books by storm as I and thousands of others have fallen in love with silly likable Pete. In this book Pete is trying to make his lunch but he is just not satisfied with anything he chooses. However, when he invites his friends over to share his lunch with him does it become truly endearing. This book teaches students that sharing can make you feel good and make some activities more enjoyable when shared with friends. Along with the character building lesson on sharing I would personally focus on teaching the children about nutrition with this book. A great activity would be to have the kids bring in one healthy and one non healthy item from home. We can all share our items with the class and discuss what makes them healthy or not healthy.

Reading Level: Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.

LEX 220L

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-26 19:12
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

 

Impressive.

 

We were the lucky ones is this and much more.

 

At first I picked up this book for the beautiful, romantic cover and the title.

 

There are moments in our life close to the perfection and other ones where we can pronounce these words: "We were the lucky ones..."

 

A disgrace, some illness able to change the face of a family.

Life is long and can be plenty of events, sad and happy.

 

In this family these words can be used with a double meaning: in this case we don't analyze exactly the sad destiny of a family because of the departure of a beloved one for an accident or the illness of a person.

 

No.

 

In this case we talk of Holocaust.

 

In this case we are back to the atrocities of the last 1930s perpetrated by Adolf Hitler at certain people.

 

The idea of the creation of a pure white race and the suppression of all the Jewish existing in the world including sick people has meant the departure in the various camps established by the same Hitler of more than 6 millions of poor people and a total shame for the world.

 

So the title can have two meanings: "We were the lucky ones" because of course there will be a long period in which the family will suffer great pains because of the atrocities wanted by Hitler, but at the end when all that horror gone they can repeat this same phrase with a certain relaxation and a complete different meaning because in comparison with most of the people killed in lagers, camps wanted by Hitler this family survived at all of it.

 

Every time I read a book about the Holocaust is always a sufferance.

 

Georgia Hunter will introduce to you her family and the problematic that her relatives lived during the Second World War.

 

Her family lived in Lvov, a little village in Poland and during all the years of the war the reports of the facts of the various protagonists. The book is written with great class, culture and calm. There are not too many dialogues, nor a great sentimentalism although you will find memories, letters exchanged between the various protagonists.

 

What I love the most of this book, because I read various books about the Holocaust is a true happy end for once.

 

At the end of every chapter, the bulletins of what was going on in Europe, America and other part of the world in that tragic moments in which world was like suspended.

 

My favorite characters the one of Addy the granddad of the author and his mom.

 

What it is important to do with Holocaust and tragedies like these ones is to continue to tell, and never never never think for a second that atrocities like these ones won't never exist anymore. It's important to remember at the new generations that the freedom obtained has been the fruit of all the people who died during the last Second World War and the men who helped to set free again countries taken hostage by an absurd, absolutely cruel dictatorship.

 

 

 

I thank First to Read and Penguin Random House for this book.

 

 

 

 

Anna Maria Polidori

Source: alfemminile.blogspot.it/2017/01/we-were-lucky-ones-by-georgia-hunter.html
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review 2017-01-23 18:22
City of Saints and Thieves
City of Saints & Thieves - Natalie C. Anderson

I received a copy from Penguin's FirstoRead.com

 

The initial premise of this novel is nothing particularly original. Tina’s mother has been murdered, the police haven’t done anything and she’s hell bent on revenge. What gives this book an edge and makes it stand out in the YA mystery genre is its setting. The novel takes place in a city in Kenya and villages in the Congo. It’s raw, it’s violent and scary and incredibly well written.

 

Tina’s mother is a maid in the house of a very rich man who lives in Sangui City in Kenya. Tina lives there with her baby sister Kiki, and finds herself befriending the rich family’s son, Michael. When Tina’s mother is murdered, Tina runs away. Kiki is safe in a convent school, while Tina is on the streets and becomes part of the city’s most ruthless gang, the Goondas. Her quick thinking and small physique and some other talents make her a great thief and she toughens up, surviving in hard circumstances. The scary leader of the Goondas, a mysterious and very dangerous man, offers Tina the chance at revenge and blood against the man she believes murdered her mother.

 

As Tina puts her plan in motion, nothing is as it seems as she uncovers secrets and lies, and finds herself working with her old friend Michael – she believes it is his father who is responsible while Michael swears blind it’s not. Michael inserts himself into Tina’s investigation which yields more questions than answers, more danger and thing about Tina’s past and her mother come to light, things of course Tina never knew, which takes Tina, Michael and Tina’s technical whiz friend Boyboy who’s also helping out of Sangui City into the jungles of the unbelievably dangerous Congo.

 

It’s unflinching and brutal as Tina digs into her mother’s history. She’s smart, tough and wiry and never gives up no matter how hard or seemingly impossible everything looks. She’s just as brutal as the boys and men she has to work with, yet at the same time, she does have some softer moments. Just little things that make her human rather than just hell bent on revenge. Her resolve never really waivers until some really hard truths come to light about the truth of what happened to her mother in the villages in the Congo. There’s war and atrocities going on around them, and people who could be trusted may not be what they seem.

 

It’s very twisty turny, I never guessed who the killer was. I had several theories and all were wrong. Though in a way when the truth is revealed, you kind of find yourself thinking (or I certainly did) should have seen that one coming! but never did. It’s very harsh and not a comfortable mystery read at all.  But it’s so different in its setting and characters and it’s certainly a very compelling read. It did drag a bit in parts of the plot, and some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as Tina was, but the slowness of the plot does pick up.

 

Lots of dark secrets and lots of emotional impact.  Tough, but very good.

 

Definitely an author I would love to read more from.

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