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Search tags: magical-realism
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review 2017-04-07 13:38
Bubbles by Abby Cooper
Bubbles: A Novel - Abby Cooper

Abby Cooper's BUBBLES is the follow-up to her strong debut and surprisingly takes every aspect to the next level. I was amazed, chapter by chapter, just how good Cooper’s new middle grade novel truly is. BUBBLES has all the humor, magical whimsy, and lovable characters that were notable in her first outing, but manages to exceed expectations in terms of style, voice, and concept.

 

12-year-old Sophie has a lot on her plate: her mother is single (again), unemployed and depressed, her teacher is making her do a challenging project on risk-taking, her best friends convince her to do a triathlon with them, and she’s getting a crush on her childhood friend Rafael. To make matters more interesting, Sophie starts to see other people’s thoughts in balloons over their heads and finds out there are definite pluses and minuses to knowing what on people’s minds.

 

The concept works really well and draws the reader deeper into Sophie’s inner world with every revelation. Most of us can relate to thinking we can read other people’s minds at times, and it’s never more important than when in our young teens. The plot moves along nicely and gathers momentum with every relational complication. In the end, it comes down to learning about communication, and without saying too much more, the results are surprising, funny, and touching. I highly recommend this wonderful and inspiring novel.

 

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review 2017-03-20 19:13
Book 10/100: Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
Still Life with Tornado - A.S. King

This is only the second A.S. King book I've read, and while I didn't enjoy it as much as Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, A.S. King's writing voice is so effortless and engaging to me that so far I've been willing to follow her places I might not put up with from other authors. The magical realism in this book -- Sara encounters past and future versions of herself, which her family members can also see and interact with -- is never really explained, and that didn't bother me. In addition, you have to wait a LONG time before figuring out why Sara has basically issued a big F.U. to her life, quitting school, disengaging with family, etc., and I can understand why certain readers would give up on her existential crisis as whiny or entitled.

But none of this bothered me because King's writing weaves this sort of spell on me that makes me trust that she is taking me someplace worthwhile. And that did end up being the case in this book. What starts out feeling like the pointless meandering of a teenager in a funk eventually blooms into an exploration of the longstanding effects of abuse, trauma, and repression. There are no "big revelations" here, but instead an examination of the way all the tiny cracks in a life can add up in th end to something totally broken that must be built again from scratch rather than reassembled from the rubble.

I think teenagers who feel disengaged for seemingly "no reason" could find a real kinship with Sara, while those who relate to her less could find deeper compassion for those around them if they are willing to stick with her through her journey. I'm glad that I did.

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review 2017-03-19 16:18
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin - Stephanie Knipper,Andi Arndt,Cassandra Campbell

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was really a great story. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started listening to this audiobook but I soon found myself hooked. The story touched on so many difficult topics and everything worked together in a way that I wouldn't have expected. I really liked that the story was told from multiple points of view and I thought that each perspective really added an important piece to the overall puzzle. I really ended up enjoying this book.

This is a book that is really about a lot of things. It is a book that tells the story of two sisters, Lily and Rose, mending their relationship. Lily and Rose have seen very little of each other in the years leading up to the start of the book but when Rose needs Lily, she comes to help. That is just one part of the story. This book also focuses on a little girl with disabilities who has a special gift.

Antoinette was a great character. She is nonverbal but she still says so much. She is her mother's world and the feeling is mutual. She is a caring child that doesn't want to see anyone or anything ill or in pain. She is willing to do anything she can to help take care of those that she loves. Unfortunately, Antoinette's gift comes with a price that those who love her work to protect her from.

I loved how so many different elements came together to tell this story. I loved the parts from Rose's point of view that really demonstrated her love for Antoinette. Lily's struggle to fit in and the things she struggles with in her life every day was very well told. Seth and Will both added to the story with their actions in the present and they both had really interesting pasts. I enjoyed the magical realism elements that helped to tell this story.

I loved the narration. I have listened to Andi Arndt several times in the past and have always enjoyed her work. This was the first time that I have listened to Cassandra Campbell and I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the book that she narrated. I think that using two narrators really added to the impact of the story. Andi Arndt did narrate the bulk of the story but they both did an equally wonderful job. This was an emotional story and both narrators really did a great job expressing a lot of strong feelings.

I would recommend this book to others. This is the first book by Stephanie Knipper that I have read and I am really impressed by her ability to write wonderful characters dealing with a lot of difficult issues. I would definitely like to read from this author in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from HighBridge Audio via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Initial Thoughts
I enjoyed this story. The narration was great. I really liked the little bit of magic that made its way into the story.  

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review 2017-03-15 17:21
Himself
Himself: A Novel - Jess Kidd

Mahoney was dropped off at a Dublin orphanage when he was just a baby. Now, 26 years later, he has come into possession of a note that tells him of his mother's name and where she was from.  Mahoney decides to return to the small, west coast Irish town of Mulderrig to see if he can figure out the truth of his mother.  However, Orla Sweeney was a blight on the town of Mulderrig and most of the folks are glad to have her gone, by whatever means.  Orla and her son share the gift of ghosts-and the ghosts tell secrets about the townsfolk. When Mahoney returns and reveals his parentage, many of the townsfolk are put out and don't want the memories of Orla to return.  With the help of an aging thespian, Mrs. Cauley, Mahoney will use his gifts and the town's fear to find out what happened to his mother.  



Himself is an amazing story of mystery, secrets, acceptance and a bit of magic.  I was immediately pulled in from the beginning when we see Orla's murder and Mahoney's return to the strange town.  I was especially interested in all of the ghosts that Mahoney is able to see and loved his interactions with them, especially Ida. Mahoney's journey took me to a beautiful and haunting Irish town in 1976. From an enchanted forest to a low-tide island and magnificent old buildings, reveal Mulderrig's appeal.  Even more than the setting, the cast of characters is expertly drawn.  Both the living and the dead receive full attention in the hunt for revealing Orla's fate.  For me, Mrs. Cauley stole the show with her straightforward attitude and unrelenting will.  I am in love with her comebacks and her promptly placed farts in church.    The mystery of who exactly killed Orla kept me reading.  I really wanted Mahoney to connect with his mother's ghost.  I do wish there was more of a resolve there, but the ending was still satisfying.   The mix of history, mystery, and grand characters sprinkled with a bit of supernatural created a wonderful world that I absolutely could not put down. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 

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review 2017-03-15 01:16
Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi
American Street - Ibi Zoboi

Initial reaction: I enjoyed every moment of this novel because it was an emotional and realistic journey with a strong protagonist whose narrative voice stayed with me long after I finished the story. It's a difficult read to swallow in places because of the actions of some of the characters, but in the end, I was rooting for Fabiola to find her footing.

Full review:

I have so many emotions upon finishing "American Street" - and that's a very good thing.

It's a story with many layers to its narrative, brought to life by the vivid narration and characterization throughout. "American Street" tells the story of Fabiola, a Haitian immigrant arriving in the United States, but separated from her mother along the way when she's detained by authorities at the airport. Fabiola ends up in Detroit, living with her aunt and three cousins as she tries to adjust to life in America between waiting for efforts to get her mother back and pursuing her own ends to make it happen. This is only part of the story, as Fabiola reflects on her experiences in Haiti, struggles to fit in alongside her cousins at school, discovers some tough truths involving the people around her, both friends and enemies alike.

I think Fabiola is one of the most well rounded and voiced protagonists I've read in a YA work in a long time. She's fiercely loyal to her family, faith (she practices Voudou, which is probably one of the few times it's actually portrayed in a non-stereotypical way that I've seen in many works, including YA), and goals. She's not without flaws, and the way she recounts her experiences in Haiti alongside her difficult adjustment to life in Detroit is vibrant and vivid. The relationship between her and her cousins (Primadonna, Chantal, and Pri) is wonderfully done. I liked the rolling banter between them in places, allowing the reader to get to know them in the way that is close to Fabiola, but also for their own motivations. The narrative allows a deeper eye into some of the side-characters through monologue snippets delivered between chapters in a seamless way. I was even taken by the scenes of romance and relationship building that I saw through the narrative. The diversity of the characterization feels natural, well established, and refreshing to read in many respects.

I'll admit "American Street" hit me hard on a number of emotional levels because of the way the story unfolds and the turns of conflict. The narrative takes an honest look at relationship abuse, drug dealing and abuse, inner-city life, cultural clashes, among a number of other subjects. One could say that in some ways, there quite a few threads that aren't completely tied, but its Fabiola's resilience and transformation that carries the momentum of the story despite places where the story could've had better closure. The weight of Fabiola's decisions also factor into the story and give some raw moments of grief and coming to terms that really stood out for me. In the end, I really appreciated the narrative journey that "American Street" took me on, and it's one I'd definitely read again.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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