Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review: Tomboy by Liz Prince

Title: Tomboy: a graphic memoir
Author: Liz Prince
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA non-fiction, graphic novel
Pages: 255
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (NM)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Growing up, Liz Prince wasn't a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing pretty princess like the other girls in her neighborhood. And she wasn't one of the guys, either. She was somewhere in between. But with the forces of middle school, high school, parents, friendship, and romance pulling her this way and that, "the middle" wasn't exactly an easy place ot be. Tomboy follows award-winning author and artist Liz Prince through her early years and explores--with humor, honesty, and poignancy-what it means to "be a girl."

Review: The Librarian at my school recommended this one to me and I'm glad she did. Since it's a graphic novel, it's a quick read and I think it will really appeal to a certain kind of secondary student, both boys and girls.

Everyone has times when they feel different and this book shows that in full force. The great thing is, that through all of the bullying, taunting, and teasing, Liz Prince held it together and didn't change who she is for other people and that's such an important message. For everyone, but especially for teens.

Liz was and is a tomboy. She dresses like a boy, played "boy" games growing up, etc and for that she suffered at the hands of her peers. Just to confuse people even more (as if it's any of their business) Liz is interested in boys romantically so when kids called her a lesbian, it just didn't make sense to her. What's interesting about the bullying and taunting is that the words the bullies choose. Lesbian is not an insult. Tomboy is not an insult. Calling a girl a boy is not an insult. But the intent behind the words speaks volumes. When I was in seventh grade I had short hair and was often mistaken for a boy. My fourteen-year-old daughter has had short hair for two years and is often called "buddy" or "young man." Our identity is so vitally important to us that when someone gets it wrong, for whatever reason, it hurts.

This graphic novel does a great job of showing how hurtful people can be, whether they do it on purpose or not. It also shows how to handle the situation and stay true to yourself. And that's great.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: There Will be Lies by Nick Lake

Title: There Will be Lies
Author: Nick Lake
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 454
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (AZ)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Shelby Jane Cooper is seventeen. She lives with her mom, a court stenographer who likes to do cross-stitch and wants to keep Shelby safe. So safe, she barely goes out. So safe, she has never been to school. Safe as a newborn baby. When a car knocks Shelby down, it's the beginning and end of everything. Her mother drags her away from her old life. All she can rely on is the lies she's been told. Without them, who would she be?

Review: I have been trying to get this book from my school's library but it has been checked out all year so when I saw it in Foyle's bookstore in London, I bought it. I can see why teens are enjoying this book so much.

This book is so not what I thought it was going to be, but that is completely my fault. I was ready for a typical YA book, a little fluff, a quick read, some girl whose life isn't what she thought. Yeah. It's more than that.

It's a difficult book to review without giving away the story and that would be so wrong of me. It's a book where you almost need to go into it cold so that the truth (and the lies) are revealed to you as you read and you have no preconceived ideas about it. Shelby has been lied to. But what bits and pieces are lies and which ones are the truth? It's so hard to tell! This book is bizarre, magical, has amazing plot twists and is quite emotional as well. I think teens will really enjoy this one!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Kingdom of Strangers by Zoe Ferraris

Title: Kingdom of Strangers
Author: Zoe Ferraris
Year Published: 2012

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 363
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)Saudi Arabia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): When a secret grave is unearthed in the Saudi desert, the bodies of nineteen women are discovered and a shocking truth revealed: a serial killer has been operating undetected in Jeddah for more than a decade. As the officials investigate, lead inspector Ibrahim Zahnani and Katya Hijazi, one of the few women in the police force, are drawn into a a dark underworld that exploits the most vulnerable members of Saudi society

Review: This is the third Zoe Ferraris book I've read and I really like her books! The other two (Finding Nouf and City of Veils) that I've reviewed center on the same main characters as this book, but you don't have to have read the others to understand this one.

I like the main characters in Ferraris' books: Katya is a strong woman who knows what she wants and that can be difficult in a country like Saudi Arabia where women cannot drive, usually don't work, and have fewer rights than men. Katya works with men every day in the police force, stands her ground (within reason), and finds ways to get around the rules to accomplish more than her job. Nayir, her boyfriend, is more traditional and religious, but in this book he is starting to realize just how modern/western Katya is and I like that he accepts it. Ibrahim walks a fine line with his relaxed views on women working, being in the presence of men, etc. He bridges the gap between traditional Saudi views and the western world.

The story is good as well. A serial killer has been operating in Jeddah for at least a decade and no one noticed. How is this possible? Because he kills Philippina housemaids, a group that no one really pays attention to. This book does a great job of showing the disparities between Saudi citizens and the help. If you like a good mystery and want to learn about Saudi culture at the same time, this book is a good one to read!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

Title: Sugar
Author: Deirdre Riordan Hall
Year Published: 2014

Genre: YA historical
Pages: 266
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (NH)

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher

Summary (from the back of the book): Sugar Legowski-Garcia wasn't always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn't gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she's large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar's life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their rundown home--shopping, cooking, and well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.

When Sugar meets Even (not Evan--his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother. Soon Sugar will have to decide to become the girl Even helps her see beyond the mirror or sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.

Review: I almost didn't get past the first 30 pages of this book, but I am so glad that I did! While I liked Sugar a lot as a character, the beginning of the book is all about food. What Sugar eats, how she eats it, why she eats it, how she feels when she eats it. It's a lot. But then, the food starts to take a slightly smaller role and we get to know Sugar beyond the food. As the book progresses Sugar as a person with experiences becomes the main focus. The food is still there. It is always there, but I realized half way through the book that that is the exact point. At the start, food is everything to Sugar and so it has to be everything at the beginning of the book.

Even is a wonderful character with problems of his own. In fact, Sugar and Even are vehicles for us to experience what many people live through every day: living with an absent parent; being abused by family members (both physically and emotionally); bullying; drugs and alcohol abuse; friendship; first love; heartache; and elation. I feel I really became invested in Sugar and the direction her life was going. I wanted an adult to reach out to her and help her, to guide her, and to do something about the horrible people in her life and the abuse that is heaped upon her on a daily basis. I won't tell you if that happens, but it is all so well done!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reivew: A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Title: A Star for Mrs. Blake
Author: April Smith
Year Published: 2014

Genre: Adult historical fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map): USA (Maine and NY) and France

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Cora Blake never dreamed she'd go to Paris. She's hardly ever left teh small fishing village where she grew up. yet in the summer of 1931, courtesy of the US government, she joins hundreds of other Gold Star Mothers traveling to France to say a final goodbye to their fallen sons. American casualties of World War I who were buried overseas.

Chaperoned by a dashing West Point officer, Cora's group includes the wife of an immigrant chicken farmer; a housemaid; a socialite; a former tennis star in precarious mental health; and dozens of other women from around the country. Along the way, the women will forge lifelong friendships as they face a death, a scandal and a secret revealed.

Review: This book was slow going for me at first, so much so that I almost put it down, but since I am on vacation in the UK this seemed like an appropriate book to read. So I kept going and all of a sudden I realized I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Cora and her companions when they got to the military cemeteries, would they remain friends, and which romances would indeed endure.

Cora is a no-nonsense kind of woman: independent, clear-thinking, and sensible. That sounds boring, but she isn't; I like her. She knows that viewing her son Sammy's grave won't bring him back, but like the other mothers she wants to see for herself where he fought, died, and was buried. World War I and the years after are my favorite periods in history so this book was a good fit for me. I like the fashions, the style, the attitudes as well so that was fun to read in this book as well.

I also liked that there were multiple stories to follow in addition to Cora's: Lily, the army nurse, and Thomas, the army chaperone; Gif, the wounded newspaper reporter; and the other mothers. They all make the reader understand the era, the attitudes, and the experiences all the better. If you are at all interested in this time period, I recommend this book. I didn't know about the Gold Star Mothers and their trip to Europe, but it's fascinating.