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review 2017-06-18 21:57
A Small Revolution
A Small Revolution - Jimin Han A Small Revolution - Jimin Han

This is a pleasant surprise. It's a Kindle First book I got a few months ago, along with the audio upgrade, that had so much more to it than I expected. At it's core the story is about four college girls who are held captive by a guy with a gun for reasons that blur between the personal and the political. But this isn't about some rejected college student who wants to take out his anger by showing power, it's more of a hostages make people listen situation.

Yoona is the protagonist and I loved the way she tells the story to Jaesung. It's not done in a way that makes it sound like she is relaying it to him later and that everything is fine. She talks to him as if he is her conscience. Jaesung is another character who is not in the room with them but he is still a part of it. You know from the beginning that Jaesung has something to do with why Lloyd, the gunman, has these girls in this room at gunpoint.

I appreciated Yoona, Jaesung, and Lloyd as characters, as would-be or possible revolutionaries. I loved the niavete they possess and the way each works through that in their own way and the way the interference, or not, of parents rang true to life for me. Some are very involved, others not so much or not at all. I couldn't help but feel for Yoona, not just in that room but as other events became known. Then there's Lloyd's unraveling, what brought him to the place, what motivates his conversations with the negotiator and I loved the negotiator. Much of the book isn't even about the room they are in but the way they all came to be there and these are the scenes that surprised me most.

I enjoyed the story embodied a part of American life by being about people who were the first or second generation to be born in the US, by being about people who still have ties to the land of their parents. I appreciated it as a story about Korean-Americans, which I feel is a group we don't hear much about, but also about Korea and a dorm room in the US. The story elements fit together beautifully and the only thing I would wish to change about it was a little more denouement.

Also, I really love this cover. Its perfectly captures the feel and tone of the story without giving anything away. Every time I see the cover since finishing the book, I get a little wistful about the story and all the characters and everything they wanted to do and everything they wanted to fix about the world.

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review 2017-04-11 01:47
Just Listen
Just Listen - Sarah Dessen

This was a much better book than I expected. The way it handled serious issues was careful and deliberate.

Trigger warnings for rape and sexual assault.

Given the description on the book page, I wasn't really prepared for what I found in this book. As mentioned above, the issues were handled with great care. While rape was at the center of the story, it also has mention of and dealings with eating disorders but never blames the victim. Owen is important, but I felt like this description inflates his importance. I expected a bit of a rom-com type story where Annabel's life isn't perfect but her problems aren't quite being the victim of a violent crime, you know what I mean?

Yes, her life wasn't perfect before the rape either and that's obvious from it's first mention, but that's not the point either. Owen is also not an "Edward" like figure as the description also led me to believe. Maybe it's just my own misguided interpretation but I feel like "intense" is one of the words used in yound adult stories to denote a boy who turns your life upside down and then is borderline abusive in some way. Owen is absolutely wonderful and his version of intensity is more the insistence of honesty and his level of comfort in his own skin than the way he broods or tries to control her life, neither of which are things he does.

I loved absolutely every character, except one, of course. They all worked well to propel Annabel's character growth. It was well paced and I enjoyed both the family drama and the school drama, especially the work they worked together to prompt Annabel to act. I thought it presented a great narrative for how such events come into being and how people respond to them.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library, which is read by Jennifer Ikeda. She's a fantastic narrator, having won a few awards for it already.

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review 2017-03-30 23:55
Girl at War
Girl at War: A Novel - Sara Nović

This is an enlightening story about what it can be like to grow up in a civil war and then to escape to another country that was mostly dissociated with it. Or be forced out, depending on how you look at that part of it but I don't want to spoil anything either.
While parts of the story can be a bit explicit, I wouldn't call it any more graphic or triggering than the Hunger Games. That said, I can't say for sure what would trigger someone who has lived through such events, so I'll gladly change this if someone disagrees.

As stated in the synopsis, the story follows Ana Juric. It's a bit of a coming of age story and I personally liked the time jumps. For me, the most striking thing about the story was the way social protocol in the US silenced Ana about her experience. I've seen this pan out similarly with my mother, who lived in Cuba for a while in her childhood. She doesn't talk about it much but will sometimes with the right opening. She's always felt that people don't really want to hear about any of it, like anyone would only were ask to be polite but really preferred she not mention it, which couldn't be further from the truth for some of the family.

To me, it was fascinating to hear about it. Then again, that puts one in the other bind that we get to see Ana go through as well. She fights off being disaster or tragedy porn and one of the easiest ways to do that is to simply not tell people that you were a part of whatever the disaster is. But the story is really about her realization that she can't ignore what she was a part of just because she doesn't live in that world anymore. It's about reconciling her past and her present and maybe figuring out where that leaves her to go in the future.

Many parts of her story are those that we hear of here when we do talk to refugees and immigrants who come from war-torn places, but I didn't feel like it was wholely stereotyped. The writing is what makes the difference. Much of it reads a little like a young adult book, but I think that's mostly because it's told in the first person perspective of a new adult who is remembering her past. I like that perspective choice because it relates a deeper understanding of the thought process of a person in those situations as they carry out whatever actions they do. The movement in time help in the endeavor to give both her perspective as she's doing things and the way she feels about it later.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't really like about the story was that I felt like the end of the book snuck up on me. I didn't feel like there was a specific climax and it felt unresolved. Though I didn't like that as an ending for a book, I understand it's beauty as an ending. That happens sometimes where the perfect ending isn't a particularly satisfying one.

That didn't ruin the book and I'd still recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or books with female protagonists or diverse reading.

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review 2017-01-04 14:10
The Moonlit Garden
The Moonlit Garden - Alison Layland,Corina Bomann

I listened to this one, narrated by  Justine Eyre. It was about 12 hours long, but it passed by quickly with this fun read. It's not particularly deep or magical and it doesn't call life as we know it into question.

It's a nice read/listen, light and intriguing for anyone in the mood for a little escape from the disappointments that have been abounding.

Funny enough, the only problems with the book are also reasons why I liked it. Lily Kaiser's journey is a little too convenient throughout the book but that can be just perfect sometimes. It can be exactly what I need to read or listen in order to balance out the pressure of the world.

So, yes, the book is a little too neat. The story a little too beautiful and coincidental and works a little too well, but I didn't mind it at all. Mostly because it was also written incredibly well. It moves between times, giving insight into Rose Gallway's life that Lily doesn't readily have and let's the reader piece some of it together on our own. I do enjoy that. And then the author lays it all out and it's just perfect. A little too perfect, like in one of those rom-coms that we watch to feel good but that we all know aren't the way the world works.

I really loved that about it. It's going to be one of my comfort books, to peruse when I'm down, maybe listen to when I wanna revel in new beginnings, like the mood I re-watch Stardust in. If you've read a few too many mysteries lately, or too many books that ripped your heart out (like I have recently), than this is the perfect book to recover with. It's comforting and sweet and romantic and doesn't take itself too seriously. But it's not the book for that serious deep read. Don't expect it to be.

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review 2016-12-21 19:35
Nirzona (A Love Story) - Bill Tucker And... Nirzona (A Love Story) - Bill Tucker And Annie Berry,Abidah El Khalieqy

I have to admit that it took a while for me to decide whether this book was worth finishing. I was captivated by the first few pages but unsure how it was going to be a love story. When the love story did start to pick up, I was unsure if I was going to like it and then I fell in love with our female lead. Firdaus is amazing. It's not that she's gorgeous, though it's obvious that all the men around her think so. It's definitely not the lovesick way that she's portrayed in Sidan's POV scenes. It's when the story shifted to focus on her that I started to really enjoy this book. Don't get me wrong, our male lead is a good guy too. They're in the situation that they're in because of his convictions about his home. Walking through the recovery of Aceh after the tsunami is heart-wrenching and sadly real. I've read more about how well-intended efforts and money donated to causes like relief and recovery get sidelined and the people in these places don't get much of it. Their leaders do, but not the people who were already poor or who lost everything unless they were well connected. I have to admire Sidan's ethics, even when given the capability to leave it all behind. I appreciate his dedication and sticking to what he feels is the right thing to do in his hometown while I understand that it is a problem for his personal life. Unfortunately, I also understand the dangers that keep a woman like Firdaus away from Aceh in that time of turmoil. It really does set up an interesting problem for our young couple. There were also several observations that Sidan makes along the way that were brilliant. He takes time to recognize what's happening to his people and just who is taking advantage of them. I highlighted several passages the reflect on his feelings toward colonialists and those volunteers who make a profit for being there. There are moments that were strange for me, like references to the A rchangel Michael and some of each character's strange dreams. I liked their inclusion because I think we all dream about the things that are on our minds as much as their troubles are, but they were strange dreams that also read strangely and not in that Wonderland or Neverland kind of way. Just strange in that way that stress dreams are just strange. Again, though, it's Firdaus. It's not just her but the way Sidan interacts with her. There's a scene, and it's a flashback so it doesn't spoil anything, where they were hanging out and it's time for her go home. Sidan offers to escort her home and she refuses that she needs to be escorted. After she beats him up about it a bit, he responds with this: Fine. Whatever you want, Lady Feminist. So that I’m not mistaken for a colonizer, so that I’m not thought to be exercising my power, so that I’m not accused of marginalizing anyone or subordinating anyone, I won’t interfere. I loved it. There are a few more scenes that I just loved her for and there's also these great references that he makes when admiring her and comparing her to the women of his home. I don't know anything about Indonesia, so it makes for quite the history lesson, especially for the feminist in me. I fell right down the rabbit hole on it with one thing leading me to another. Here they are: Admiral Keumalahayati - the first female admiral of the modern era in the world (modern because it excludes Artemisia, or so it says in the Wikipedia page. Inong Balee are mentioned but don't have a Wikipedia page or really anything that explains them in a similar way. They're explained throughout the book and mentioned in the Keumalahayati page as the group of women warriors, made mostly of war widows, who fought in the Aceh wars against the Portugese under the admiral. There was a mention of the 4 sultanas of Aceh and this is the article I found on them. Finding those led me to these: Cut Nyak Dhien - a leader of the Acehnese guerrilla forces. Semiramis - legendary female ruler of Assyria Artemisia I of Caria - Greek admiral who fought alongside Xerxes I This article about the 4 Muslim women who ruled the Maldives Getting back to the book at hand, I did appreciate the way it ended and the final chapter really made me love Firdaus all the more. I won't say more, lest I spoil it! Personally, this was a Kindle First for me for November.

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