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review 2020-05-24 01:08
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Stargazing - Jen Wang

Audience: Upper Elementary

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

 

 

Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

 

This is a fantastic story of friendship between two girls who couldn't be more different. One of them is carefree and relaxed, the other feels like she has to be perfect for her parents and never feels good enough. Jen Wang does a great job depicting the challenges of teenage friendships. Another one for fans of Raina Telgemeier.

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review 2020-05-23 19:14
Peanut by Ayun Halliday
Peanut - Paul Hoppe,Ayun Halliday

Audience: Grades 6 & up

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

No one at my old school knew about my peanut allergy...

- first line

 

Sadie is moving to a new high school. This is a chance to reinvent herself, and perhaps even be popular.  So she decides to pretend to have a peanut allergy, but she doesn't realize how hard it will be to keep up the pretense. By the time Sadie realizes that the popular girls are annoying and shallow, her lie is part of who she is at this school. She wants to tell her friends the truth, but she is scared of losing them.

 

This is a great graphic novel. I love Sadie's story and how things get away from her because she didn't really think about the consequences of one "little" lie. The drawings are mostly blue/black/gray but Sadie's shirt is a reddish/pink color. This makes Sadie stand out in every frame.

 

I highly recommend this book to fans of Raina Telgemeier though this book is written for a slightly older audience.

 

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review 2020-02-14 02:45
Review: Pulp by Robin Talley
Pulp - Robin Talley

I have many, many thoughts about "Pulp" upon finishing it, yet I think it's easier to start with the note of how ambitious, well-researched, emotional and engaging this book was overall. I knew I'd be taken in from the premise of two narrators from the past and present intersecting in a gripping way. The fact that one of them - from the present - is researching lesbian pulp fiction as a part of her senior project was one that made me raise my eyebrows and say "Ooooh, that's cool." (Though thinking back to my high school senior project obligations, I second-hand cringed because that was a lot of work and deadlines. For all the ways that Abby gets swamped and struggles to meet the obligations of her teacher's prompting for assignment completion, I felt for her. For the curious, my project dealt with the genetic differences between different types of twins. Try to guess why, heheheh. ^_^ )

To set the stage of this novel specifically, Abby - in 2017 - is taking on this interesting senior project while dealing with many different weights in her life. She's trying to navigate her relationship with her friend/ex-girlfriend and her parents are steadily drifting apart, never seeming to be there for her or her younger brother anymore. As a means of escaping some difficult situations and a future she doesn't quite have answers for, Abby throws herself into researching a once popular lesbian pulp author named "Marian Love". Abby becomes so engrossed in Marian's story that she wants to determine what happened to the author in the vein of writing her most famous story. Soon it becomes more than just a project for Abby and a full on, borderline obsessive quest.

Enter the other piece of the story, back to 1955 when Janet is coming to terms with her own sexuality in a time when the stakes are high to be in such a relationship. I felt so badly for Janet on many levels because she's so in love, wants to be true to herself and be with the girl that she's hopelessly fallen in love with. She juggles her job at the Shake Shack while also wanting to be a writer and produce some of the same stories that captivate her attention. However, in navigating the prejudices of the time, there's the risk of being shunned by her family AND falling into the clutches of McCarthyism, some clashes which put her and friends dangerously into governmental and societal crosshairs.

I won't spoil how Abby and Janet's stories converge, but it's an experience that as the novel progressed to its conclusion I felt satisfied to watch. I felt that way even when the events were difficult to see unfold for the characters because of how both Abby and Janet grew from those experiences overall. There are moments of sweetness within the more complex and emotional moments of this novel, and I genuinely rooted for both Abby and Janet as I saw what happened to both of them as time went on and they discovered more, not just about the times they lived within, but ultimately how they were able to get to a place where both of them were happy and came into their own. In some pieces of the work, the pacing dragged its heels more than I thought it would, but I did enjoy "Pulp" collectively for what it offered, and it's a story I would read again and have in my personal library.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher; I also bought a copy of the book.

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review 2020-01-25 02:17
Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan
Lies She Told - Cate Holahan

This is definitely one of the harder mysteries that I have to review, or maybe I'm spoiled by the engrossing experience of the last mystery I read. The TL, DR version of this review: parts of it I really liked, and parts of it I didn't.

This is the first book I've read from Cate Holahan, and I can say from the get go that I want to read more from the author in the future for sure. I'm just not certain what side of the fence I fall on in reacting to "Lies She Told". It's a dual perspective story, though not in the way that you would typically find in a mystery of this scope. It's largely the story of a writer whose star has dimmed over the years (Liza Jones) and who struggles to write her next bestselling novel. But Liza throws herself into her work to distract from the fact that her life is falling apart - she wants to have a baby, but her husband is distracted by the sudden disappearance of his work partner, Nick.

The dual perspective is from the viewpoint of Beth, the heroine of Liza's story. Beth is a jilted wife who realizes her husband is having an affair as she's struggling to care for their newborn child. Beth becomes immensely jealous and wants to carve her own path to vengeance against her husband, but ends up murdering her husband's mistress with some complexities to face in the aftermath of that.

Fiction somewhat mirrors truth when Nick turns up dead in a river and Liza's husband is investigated for the disappearance/murder. The aim of the book makes it clear that the reader should question what is fiction and what is truth to Liza's life as details from Nick's murder surface. The aim of the book is fascinating and definitely something that intrigued me as I went through the story. However, there are some caveats that detracted from my experience a bit. The pacing in the story often lulled in moments where it switched between the perspectives of Liza and Beth. For a time, I found myself more immersed in Beth's perspective because she had the more compelling strength of grief and rage associated with her story (cheated lover, new mother, seeking to fill the void her husband left with his frequent departures and keeping her sanity together).

Liza's story wasn't as compelling to start (basically wanting a baby, husband more preoccupied with Nick's disappearance, and Liza wondering why she should care since Nick was a douchecanoe, though Nick and her husband lawyers who won a transgender rights case. I think as Nick's backstory came to light and the inference that his disappearance/murder possibly might've centered on a hate crime, I found myself more intrigued. Too bad it fizzled a little after that.)

As the story wove its way towards the end, the goalposts shifted a bit in terms of the whodunit to keep the reader guessing. The climax was very intense, particularly in the confrontation between Liza and her husband. However, the ending to Liza's story left me feeling unsatisfied from the experience, wanting a bit more meat than it provided for the set up. It tied up some loose ends, but not in a way that I really felt attached to. Beth's ending was a suitable one given the framework of the story and knowing where Liza's mind was by the end of the book, as well as her authorial choice to end Beth's story the way she did. But I still was like "Ehhh, that could've been a little more fulfilling."

In the end, I'm glad I read it. The writing had strong, compelling moments where it hooked me, yet the conclusion made it so the one-time read was enough for me. Definitely curious to see what else Holahan has in her bibliography.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher.

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review 2020-01-24 02:42
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Fadhil al-Azzawi & Jennifer Roy
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story - Fadhil al-Azzawi,Jennifer Roy

Audience: Middle School

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

The afternoon the bombs start falling, I get my highest score ever on my favorite video game.

 

Eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil lives in Basra, Iraq. He loves American television, Superman comic books, and playing soccer with his friends. When an international coalition initiates military action to stop Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait, Ali’s life is turned upside down. Ali’s father is serving with a medical unit and his older brother (Shirzad) is left in charge of the family. Everyone in the village is depending on government rations for food and supplies. Ali’s mother even burns his comic books for fuel to cook with. 

 

The book is based on co-author Fadhil’s childhood and doesn’t shy away from depicting the war. There are some pretty violent scenes in this book, including when Ali witnesses a firing squad that kills a bunch of people (even a child his age). At one point, Ali thinks his father may be dead and he often worries about his own safety.



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