Monday, May 22, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (48)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Two Girls Staring At the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

Published: August 5th, 2014 by Schwartz and Wade which I think is a division of Random House
Genre: YA Contemporary/Poetry
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 257 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

Thoughts: I quite enjoyed this! I don't read a lot of poetry or books in verse, but every time I do, I always think I should read more. This has a very unique format, too, where a line down the centre of the page represents the hospital curtain. It sounds super confusing to explain but it works very well when you actually get to reading it. And it works so well for the conversations.

And I had absolutely no problem connecting to the characters, which is a real strength considering novels in verse are shorter and quicker to read than novels not in verse, and over half the book is dialogue, probably.

I can't speak for how accurate the chronic illness depiction is, but it felt heartfelt and while I was looking around, I found the author's website and it turns out this is in fact an ownvoices book, so that's a good sign. And I kinda liked that the book didn't turn into Crohn's 101. Chess doesn't have all the answers about her illness, and she's just trying to deal with learning about her diagnosis. I mean, we obviously need books about the living with it part, too, but I think this format of verse where it's so immediate and in the moment works very well for a character who's just being diagnosed.

All in all, this was a solid read. I really enjoyed the format and think it would definitely appeal to selective readers since it's so unique.

I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the jacket, though. The back cover basically mirrors the front, depicting both Chess and Shannon with the title going down the spine between them, like the hospital curtain. It's so clever and well designed.

(And yes, the picture is wider than all the others on this post - my normal dimensions made it look funny since it's a wide picture, and I didn't want to squish it.)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published: It was first published in 2010, but this edition is from Scholastic in 2012
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 216 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Yes, there are three of these with the most recent coming out in 2015.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

Thoughts: There are four award medal things on this cover. There's almost more awards than cover! It well deserved them all and more. I'm so glad I read this one. I have a note saying that this would also be a great classroom book and I really do think that's true. The book is set in a part of history that I know I as a white kid didn't learn about in school, aimed at a young audience in a way that is honest and stark while still being approachable for it's young readers.

It's not very often that the acknowledgements play into a review, but I want to quote them. Rita Williams-Garcia says:
"I wanted to write this story for those children who witnessed and were part of necessary changes. Yes. There were children."
I think that is as true today as in 1968, if not even more so. Kids like that deserve books like this. They deserve books that show how incredible they are, and how important they are to the history they're making. They deserve books that don't sugarcoat things.

It's not a very common book that can manage the blance of the type of historical events that happen in the book while also allowing its young characters to have silly and joyful moments. It shows that even though they are doing such important things, they are still allowed to be children and sometimes just play and have fun with their friends. And I don't think I've ever read a Scholastic middle grade book where illegal abortion is mentioned, albiet not by name, but the implication is definitely there and it's not really that subtle. The book is ballsy.

It's also very, very sweet when it needs to be. I know I would have loved this as a kid. Delphine reminds me a bit of Dicey Tillerman, and I loved those books as a kid. She's got the weight of the world on her shoulders, and her voice is wonderful. I really, really want to read the sequels and will likely be ordering them soon. Such a good, important book.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Published: May 3rd, 2016 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 273 plus two author's notes and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: The library. I really should read some books I bought just so I can type something different here once in a while.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Thoughts: So, normally when I review books I don't read other reviews. That's just how I do things. But in this case, I feel that would be irresponsible. Also, I don't actually think my review matters that much. I want to give my platform and my support to this book, and that's why I'm choosing to do a review of sorts at all, but there are a lot of people out there whose voices matter more. So what we're going to do here is I'm going to link to a bunch of ownvoices reviews (giant thanks to this blog post for giving me a starting point) and we're all going to read them together, okay?

Review by Emma at Pop Culture Catchall. Review by Casey Plett at Plenitude Magazine (shout out to a fellow Voigt fan!). Review at Queer Lit on My Mind. Review by Shenwei at Reading (As)(I)an (Am)erican. Review by Alaina Kailyn (I like your name) and Heather Miller Cover at On Wednesdays. Twitter thread from Shelly because I'm still angry... and now I'm getting into weird corners of the internet searching now. Feel free to send me links - I'd love to add more!

So, having linked to those, and since I'm cis, I'm probably not gonna talk about the trans rep. I know I have in the past, but I prefer only to do it when I can't find ownvoices reviews, and mostly just because I don't want people to read books on my recommendation and get hurt because of me. So let's talk about the other stuff I enjoyed, okay? Because this is such a sweet book, and I really did like it a lot. It's a very well-balanced book, I feel, in how there are very serious parts, but there's also a lot of adorable, dorky sweet moments and a lot of really funny humour.

Amanda is so sweet. I just wanted to give her giant squishy hugs and make her safe and happy. I loved what a giant nerd she was. She's an incredibly sweet character and I just really, really enjoyed this story. It's beautiful, and I hope it paves the way for the dozens of other books with amazing, nuanced, diverse trans rep that deserve to follow it.

This review is terrible, sorry. I just really liked this book.

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

Published: August 3rd, 2010 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: I don't want to get up and check right now.
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Got via: The library of course.
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amy Finawitz’s best friend Callie has moved away to the heartland, leaving Amy to cope with eighth grade all alone. So now, while Callie is going for hayrides with boys named Bucky, Amy is stuck eating Chinese food at a table for one, hanging out with geeky girls who knit, and crushing on hottie, John Leibler, all by herself. But then Amy finds a friend in Miss Sophia, the little old lady who lives down the hall. Miss Sophia introduces Amy to a Hasidic boy named Beryl. Beryl is no John Leibler, but perhaps he understands Amy and her problems better than she realizes?

Told in wry emails and brilliant little one-act plays, this laughout-loud debut novel offers quirky characters, a whimsical tour around New York City, and an appealing story about what it means to be a good friend.

Thoughts: For the most part, this is a cute story with an interesting format. It had a couple of issues I'll address, but it's mostly sweet and funny. I'll admit it took me a couple chapters to remember that email existed and Amy was getting replies we didn't get to read from Callie in a short time, not sending things through the mail. This was despite the time and date stamps. This is entirely my own fault for forgetting what century it was.

There's a lot of humour, and the setting is very vibrant. Amy is most definitely a New Yorker, and it plays an important role in the book. Amy spends a lot of time learning about New York history, specifically related to the school assignment the plot revolves around, and that is incredibly interesting. I also liked the kind of subplot/message about going out of your comfort zone and making new friends. And I really enjoyed reading about Amy's Judiasm, and how she compared her experience to other peoples'.

There were like two things I didn't like though. One was smaller, but like the obsession of her mother with dieting and eating low-carb and how she forced that on her family, and also replied to her daughter expressing body confidence issues basically with, "Excercise." I'll admit I'm a little more sensitive to these things than most, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. There's not really any fat characters who aren't, like, old ladies, either.

I also think this book is unrealistically white amongst the main characters (it's New York, come on) and not queer friendly at all. Amy describes some of her brother's friends as "gender benders" and it's not used in a kind way. Her brother is also constantly described as a "bum" for dropping out of college - the entire book is very unfriendly to the idea that college isn't for everyone - and there's a really weird crossdressing running "joke". At one point Amy's parents go to see her brother's play, and due to someone getting sick, her brother plays a female character, including costuming. Her parents yell at him, an adult actor, in public, for doing this. The narrative basically says it's okay, though, because her brother's not actually a crossdresser. This is repeated a lot. There are jokes about drag. A lot.

It's not funny honestly. And since this is a young YA, this is aimed at a younger audience. Amy is in eighth grade. That's a very impressionable age. It is seven years old already, but I found that very distasteful in an otherwise sweet book. I'm left with mixed feelings in the end.

And I think that's everything. That is four, right? *counts* Yeah, we're good.

So what have you guys been reading lately? It's a long weekend in Canada, so I've hopefully just bought a bunch of books at garage sales.

Happy Victoria Day!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, May 15, 2017

Adult Review: Promises to Keep

I know, this doesn't fit here at all, does it? :P An actual review AND an adult book? AND the book is somewhat new?

Promises to Keep by Genevieve Graham

Published: April 4th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult historical fiction
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 313 plus acknowledgements in my ARC but the finished copy should have 336 pages.
Part of a series? I don't think so.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Review: A combination of a genre I don't read often plus some narrative choices I found very strange made this not my favourite. It seemed like an interesting story, and I didn't know much about the setting even as someone who's Canadian, but I had trouble connecting to the book and I just didn't enjoy it very much.

Plot Talk: I thought the plot dragged a bit, to be honest. It was slow to start and it didn't do a whole lot to draw me in. I also felt like it jumped around a little too much, and skipped over things that I thought would have been really interesting to actually see. I don't know - it just wasn't my favourite.

Characters: The book alternates POVs from Amélie to Connor... to two other people who get one or two chapters each. I liked Amélie and Connor well enough, but their romance happened so fast and they had almost no time to actually have that romance. There was a point where it switched POV (again) and my note about it just saying how I have no attachment to these new characters and don't understand why I should care.

And the POV switching was one of my big problems. Sometimes it highly unnecessary and it's page time that could be spent doing better things than listening to one dude complain about how angry he is, and it does that thing I hate, where it shows a scene, and then twenty pages later recaps that scene, completely ruining the tension. How are we supposed to be shocked by a revelation that we already knew?

PG-13 stuff: It's actually pretty light on sex and swearing and such. TW for mentions of rape/threats of sexual assult (it's more hinted at than anything actually happens). It's also fairly frank about how hard the starvation and stuff is for them, but surrpisingly light on violence and the death is a little glossed over. I don't think this would actually get an R rating if it were a movie.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I think I got everything in the rest of the review. Didn't like the POV switches, didn't love some of the time hopping, couldn't connect to the characters/plot as well as I would have liked. I also thought it was really freaking weird that Amélie's chapters were in first person, and everyone else's were in third person. I don't get that.

This has several prominent Aboriginal characters, and I'm not entirely sure how the representation is in terms of quality. There were some moments I felt uncomfortable, and I looked for reviews, but I couldn't find anything. I'm not saying anything for absolutely certain, but I have concerns. Send me reviews of you know of them, please!

Cover comments: The cover sold me here. I think it's really pretty.

Conclusion: Other people might like this better than me. I'm picky, this isn't a genre I'm passionate about, and it ran into some of my pet peeves. I'm going to give it to my mom and see if she likes it. This isn't my favourite, but I thought it was an interesting setting, and I did like Amélie. Right now I'm sitting at about a three out of five roses.



Other notes:

- Some of the deaths were weirdly glossed over. It's like


"Two weeks later everyone was dead!"

That's about all I've got for now.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, May 8, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (47)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphonia, and Mirka Andolfo

Published: December 14th, 2016 by Marvel
Genre: YA Comics
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136
Part of a series? Yeah, this contains issues #7-12 and I still don't understand why the numbers started over and that's why I read bind-ups. I never claimed to be an expert.
Got via: The library as usual.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): While CIVIL WAR II brews, the next generation of Avengers has bigger things to worry about - like a tri-state academic competition! As rival schools clash, Ms. Marvel's teammates Spider-Man and Nova are now her enemies! But when Kamala gets called to the real battle's front line, she faces a fight she can't embiggen her way out of. She's about to learn a valuable lesson: Never meet your idols! As war intensifies, tragedy strikes too close to home - and Ms. Marvel must choose between her heroes and her family. When friends become foes, Ms. Marvel struggles to put her life and Jersey City back together. Kamala will be forced to grow up fast and find her true place in the world. But will she be an international sensation...or a menace?

Thoughts: Sometimes I have to seriously do research to write these things. Because honestly I read Kamala and I read Lumberjanes, and I know next to nothing besides what I read. So apparently Civil War II is important and also not so well-liked. (Kudos to Alice here for making me aware of this!) Frankly, I know nothing about the main event and also frankly, it doesn't really matter for this volume. When Last Days happened, I felt like I wanted to know more about how this effected the universe. With this, I want to know more about what happens to Kamala next.

Honestly, naming this volume "Civil War II" feels more like publicity than anything, with everything that happens in this. I think nearly everything that happens because of the event, could or would have happened with out. It's just background, really. So if you're wary of the event, don't worry about it here and definitely don't skip these ones because, well. You'd miss a lot.

A great deal of this volume spends more time with Kamala's family, and their history, and how and why they immigrated. More of her family is introduced, too, and I love how they show how strong the women of her family are, and how that has shaped Kamala to be who she is. The support of her family is so incredibly imporant to Kamala, and she couldn't do what she does without them, and I love when they show that.

Also, there's a queer character now! I won't spoil if the person is new or old, or who it is, but if you've been waiting for that (I saw it on tumblr and was desperately waiting) this is when that happens. And it's lovely.

Big, important things happen in this, but they feel organic, not just triggered by the Civil War II event. These feel like things that have been naturally building, things that make sense to the characters, and don't feel shoehorned in for an event. My advice if you're nervous would be ignore the title and take these just as issues 7 to 12, and don't worry about anything else in the Marvel universe unless you wanna go there. This, at least, isn't about anything else. This is about Kamala. And it's well-worth reading. Focus on her, and let everyone else figure out their issues.

Also I kind of want to check out that Champions thing now? Especially because I have to wait until AUGUST for Volume 7. (And it's only January for me! Who knows when I'll post this.)

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Published: June 7th, 2011 by First Second, but my edition is from Square Fish which is an imprint of MacMillan, and that was in like 2014.
Genre: YA Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 221 plus a Q&A
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks.

Thoughts: This was okay. I liked the art style, but I never felt like I fully connected with the story or Anya. Anya being an immigrant and Russian and everything is a neat dynamic, but she's not a real likeable character, and I don't need characters to be likeable, but I prefer them not to be... so unpleasant that I can't relate to them and Anya sure had unpleasant moments.

There's a decent chunk of fatphobia that is both internalized by Anya at herself, and aimed at other people. She was fat as a kid, but isn't as a teen, and has body issues. That isn't a bad thing, obviously, but her comments about other people are gross. And the only person who really says that it's okay to be fat is Anya's mother, and it comes off like she's very old-fashioned and not actually... right.

And I... I'm going to take a picture (page 48) but basically there's a page where Anya looks at herself in a bathroom mirror and imagines herself fat and it made me really uncomfortable. It is incredibly rare to see bodies that look like mine in graphic novels or comic books and the only time I do when the main character is basically saying how awful it would be for herself to look like me? Vera's mother, who the drawing is obviously modelled after since the clothing is the same, is the only kind of fat, kind of more chubby character (and she actually looks smaller than Anya's imagining of herself) in the whole book.



It feels bad to read. Maybe I'm more sensitive than other people, but it made me anxious and unhappy. The mystery is good, and I liked the story, but I didn't connect enough, and that part hurt. Maybe three roses top? And I don't feel comfortable recommending it honestly. You'll have to make your own decisions on this one.

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Published: April 5th, 2016 by Tor
Genre: Adult fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 169 plus a really funny about the author.
Part of a series? Yeah, there's a prequel coming in June, and a sequel planned for 2018. I will be needing them all.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Guests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Thoughts: This is the first book I've ever read with a canon asexual character, and I'm never going to be over that. I have literally never in my life read a book with a main character with my sexuality. I want you to really think about that, because it will be relevant to this review as I go on, and I want you to have that context.

Let's talk some other stuff first, though. The idea of what happens after portal fantasies (like Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland as mentioned in the summary) is something I super enjoyed. If you ever want to hear me rant, ask me about Susan Pensevie sometime because I definitely have feelings about that. This book understands those feelings. And then it gave me a whole bunch of new feelings that I don't know what to do with. I feel like that should be a button or something, "Seanan McGuire gave me feelings." I have a feeling it would be popular.

The setting of this kind of boarding school is amazing. I would read so many books set in this universe. I found even just the day to day normal bits of the school fascinating, and I almost wish the book had been a bit longer so it could be explored more.

(My computer died in the middle of me writing the review and I'm finishing it like three weeks later after writing half of it in a notebook so if it feels disjointed there's your reason. (I may reference this in reviews - don't worry about it. Everything's pretty much cool now, and my timelines are probably super confusing in reviews, lol.)

I seriously adored the voice in this. The book really combines a classic tone in the narration, including a self-aware passage about narration, with a great social commentary including very astute comments about dieting and male privilege, and it's refreshing like whoa, especially for a relatively small book.

Now let's talk some ace stuff. I talked to a friend about this (thank you, Luci) because I am not the Grand High Ace. They mentioned criticisms they'd heard that the ace rep might be too generalized and the aro rep (or lack thereof) might be problematic. On the first - Nancy always talks about her asexuality only as it relates to her. She speaks often in "I" statements. Nancy is also not aromantic, and mentions that, which I appreciate as a lot of people might not even know whatthat is, and it's not not the same sexuality. Nancy's experience with romantic attraction seems to be that she wants to kiss and hold hands with people, and that want is directed at specific people. (Listen to the grey aro person try to explain romantic attraction.)

A potentional problem is that this could be seen as equating romantic attraction and therefore romantic orientation solely with physical acts. An aromantic person who likes kissing is still aromantic. I personally don't think the book does this. I think, though, people who don't know much about ace and aro people could assume this, though.

And that's not really a problem with the book, I don't think. It could have been a little more explicit, but Nancy is a teenager and shouldn't have to be the One True Holy Ace, really. Personally, I think allo people need to be a whole lot more careful not to assume that reading one book about one asexual character makes them an expert on asexuality. Nancy's experience is valid and important, and shouldn't take away from anyone else's. The author, indeed, is an ownvoices author, being demisexual but not aromantic, and may well be drawing from her own experience. (Or not, and that's cool, too.) Basically we just need many, many more ace and aro characters, so a variety of experiences are shown.

*looks at notes scribbled on pink cardstock* *which I have now lost since making that joke* *this review is a mess* Oh! There's a trans character in this, and can I just say he is very, very swoonworthy. I think his rep is good, but I'm cis, so grain of salt there. And here's a review from someone else for you! (And more from other reviewers here, which updates a lot more than I do.) And since that doesn't go into detail on possibly triggering things, I will so, like, you know what to expect because I like doing these things for you guys. The character does face some transphobia from other characters, but the narration never, ever misgenders him, and the book's context  and other character always 100% states that this is wrong and not acceptable.

I know from Word of God, also, that there are additional queer characters, but it's not explicit, at least not yet. Curse of the short book.

All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I still feel all the ways about the ending. I also think this borderline works as a YA crossover. There's some horror and a little gore, but I've... honestly read more gory YA. (Never going to be over the eyeball eating book. Sorry.) I'd say a lot of teens would be fine with this and certain teens may just need it. I appreciate and acknowledge the criticisms, but I think most of them (not like the race rep or anything - the ace stuff I talked about)) are more a problem with parts of the audience than with the book, and I'm comfortable recommending it.

Dear lord that was long and this post isn't over yet.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Published: My edition was released March 13th, 2012 from Square Fish which is a Macmillan imprint, but it was originally published September 28th, 2010.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 213 plus an interview with the author with a bunch of questions and an excerpt and probably some other stuff I can't check because I returned it to the library already.
Part of a series? There is going to be a sequel released May
Got via: Obviously the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her step-mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others.

But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there's a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn't know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Review: This wasn't awful, but I didn't really love it either. It's definitely pretty exciting most of the time, but I wasn't really overwhelmed. It's a decent thriller, maybe a little like the book equivalent of a Lifetime movie. You probably won't be bored, but it's maybe not very high quality.

Like, I have to say, I don't think this is so okay.


Transcription/quote (minus a little stuff that isn't relevant):
"It's Cheyenne," she said softly. "Cheyenne Wilder."
 "Why did your parents name you Cheyenne?" Griffin asked as they drove past two horses - one brown and one black - and running free. His eyes followed them for a moment. "Isn't that an Indian tribe?"
"I'm one-thirty-second Indian. Not enough to really matter."
 High cheekbones, dark hair, dark eyes - he could see it.
I'm incredibly white, so I tried to find reviews from Native reviewers, but I came up pretty empty. I am going to link to Debbie Reese's blog just because I want to link to something, if not something specific. It never comes up again, but it's... uncomfortable, at the very least.

I also think you can definitely tell that it's not an ownvoices book. It's very well researched, and I give kudos for the author for that, but you can still tell that the author isn't writing from experience. I have to wonder, then, if this would ring true to someone who is blind or visually impaired. I obviously can't answer that either, but I do raise it as a question. I also think that it's an interesting idea to have a kidnapper and victim bond, the book maybe goes a little too far. There is no way to make it okay to suggest they'd continue a relationship or be friends, which the ending suggests could be a possibility. Yes, Griffin is abused by his father - he still kidnapped her and almost got her raped and killed. It's not okay to minimalize it.

Overall, it was kind of fun reading it in a guilty pleasure way. It doesn't have a ton of depth, and has some issues. I don't have much to say about it, but I wouldn't be comfortable recommending it. Also, I'm not a giant fan of the cover either, but that's just because I don't like orange. Editing Laina: I wrote this review before I saw that there was going to be a sequel, and I'm kind of uncomfortable with continuing this story personally and probably won't be picking up the sequel.

Okay, I think that's it. This turned out very, very long!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, May 1, 2017

YA Review: Far From You

I'm writing this when I'm really sick and gross. Be gentle on me, okay?

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Published: It was published in spring 2014, but my edition was released August 11, 2015 by Disney Hyperion.
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 341 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

Review: I have about half an hour to write this before I need to take some cold medication and I probably won't be in any shape to be review writing. Also the coughing is making my head hurt. So let's go - we could summarize this as I did in a tweet by saying, "Tess Sharpe made me cry." This is very much a book about grief and mourning and it's portrayed with rough edges and hard parts, and it worked so well for me.

There are so many things in this that I enjoyed. Sophie is like my absolute favourite kind of character and this just pushed so many of my buttons. I feel completely awful right now so let's get into the nitty-gitty of everything else here.

Plot Talk: This book uses a non-standard timeline alternating chapters taking place in the past, which aren't necessarily in chronological order, and scenes in the present day, which are. The book gets total kudos that this never becomes confusing or irritating. You guys know I have kind of a fondness for these "after the big thing happens" books, but you also know that unnecessary flashbacks can seriously annoy me. These are never unnecessary. I also thought the decision to make the flashbacks a different font was super clever. My sick, tired brain appreciated the differentiating.

Characters: Oh, man, Sophie is my favourite though. Besides the fact that a bisexual main character with chronic pain and PTSD, all of which are labelled on page, is just freaking awesome, her character is blunt and not charming or soft a lot of the time, and I really, really love her. I can't really give you context without spoiling, but my favourite line of hers that describes her perfectly is just, "I wasn't subtle." I don't share any identities with Sophie so I can't speak for her representation, but I can speak for how much I enjoyed spending a book with her, and that was greatly (editing Laina - greatly? Cold medicine kicked in for that sentence). I will say I appreciated the labelling, though, personally.

The other characters felt familiar in that way that authentic small town characters do. There are definitely bigots, and unsupportive, gossipy, not very nice people, and this applies to several levels of the book. But I loved the inclusion of people who are supportive, people trying to be better, and the themes about forgiveness and how people are imperfect and hard but you can work to get to better places with them.

I'm totally rambling, but the characters are great in this. It's also a really, really interesting mystery, kind of Life is Strange minus the time travel stuff (I love that game), and I kind of guessed the answer but not entirely, and I super enjoyed the depth and complexity of the characters.

PG-13 stuff: It's an older YA and the subject matter reflects that. There's language, underage drinking and drug addiction, sex, violence, etc. It's all handled well with a lot of respect and doesn't become done simply for shock value. I can't think of any obvious triggers, but that could be the cold medicine making me fuzzy, so... maybe don't trust me on this one.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I wish some people had been described as fat? And it's really, really white and besides the main characters there's only one other queer character named once. I understand small towns (boy, do I understand small towns), but I still feel like it could have done a little better. The fat characters especially - I don't think there are any. I choose to headcanon Aunt Macy (who I love) as fat, but I don't think that's canon.

It's such a good book and does so much well that it sucks to see the things that it leaves out.

Two things I'm going to kind of point out. Sophie has chronic pain, and she gets addicted to oxycodone. The book does not talk about how this is untrue for everyone, or how reliance on painkillers to function is not necessarily the same. This can definitely be harmful. Tess Sharpe has talked about this on Twitter (her account is private - apologies if you can't see the thread, but she basically says she wishes she had unpacked this belief) and I personally appreciate that, but these tweets do not exist in the book. So you'll have to make your own decision on this one on whether you'll be okay with it.

Slight spoilers here but I wouldn't, like, not do them, so. Skip if you need to. You will also, I think, have to make your own decision on whether Mina falls into the Dead Lesbian trope. (Tess has also talked about this on Twitter.) Mina is dead at the beginning of the book and she's a lesbian, but she's not dead because she's a lesbian. My personal opinion here is that I want queer girls to be able to have stories about grief and mourning too, although those should not be the only stories they get, and it's not like it's a surprise that she's dead or anything, so I personally did not find it upsetting in the way that I've found other media that do use the trope. This is one you'll have to decide for yourself, and I'm not gonna sit here and yell at you if it's too much for you, too close or too painful.

I bring both these things up in this format because I don't have the experience to speak from on either of them, really, but I would feel uncomfortable recommending it without mentioning them.

Cover comments: I really like it. Looks a little better on my computer than in person, but I have a library copy so that's probably because of the contact paper on the book dulling it a bit. I like that it's relevant to something actually in the book.

Conclusion: Basically I don't think this is going to be a book for everyone, and I can totally understand people avoiding it because of things that would be painful for them, but if you like the sound of it, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I loved the voice, and I'm really interested in reading future books. I like the things she does with books. Knock off a star for no fat people/the very few other issues I had, but this is still a four rose book for me.



Note from editing Laina: I'm much better now. Sinus infections suck, though. Do not recommend.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reading Challenges Check-In: April

Okay, check in time! I'm late because I was reading today, the 30th. Wait, do I have a post scheduled for tomorrow? Oh, I do. Um, when should we post this?

So the March mini-challenge theme was mental health and I chose:

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Published: June 19th, 2012 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: YA Horror
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 322 plus some acknowledgements and stuff.
Part of a series? There's a 1.5 novella sequel.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won't stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn't sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she's failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she's forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group's fate is determined less and less by what's happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

The part where I talk: Mostly I liked this. I'll talk more about it soon.

And for bingo, I read:

Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson

Published: May 2nd, 2006 by Henry Holt and Company.
Genre: Historical YA.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 229 plus an about the author.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of rage and revolution against pitying insults and the lack of respect for people with disabilities.

As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.

The part where I talk: This was a little different than I expected it to be, but it was really enjoyable. I'll talk more about it soon.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Published: June 19th, 2001 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary... upper MG to lower YA, in my opinion.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 135 plus an author's note.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's been six months since her best friend died, and up until now Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia's Indian Camp in their mostly white midwestern community, Rain decides to face the outside world again—at least through the lens of her camera.

Hired by her town newspaper to photograph the campers, Rain soon finds that she has to decide how involved she wants to become in Indian Camp. Does she want to keep a professional distance from the intertribal community she belongs to? And just how willing is she to connect with the campers after her great loss?

The part where I talk: I have some mixed feelings on this one, honestly. Blog post definitely to come.

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

Published: Originally published January 1st, 2014, my edition was released March 1st, 2015 by Albert Whitman Company
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 249 plus acknowledgements and what not.
Part of a series? I do not believe so.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from the back of the book, but here's the goodreads link): All Abby really wants is to meet her father. It's not that she's ungrateful for what she has - nice mom, adorable grandparents, great friends - but she feels like something's missing. But she'd never tell anyone that.

Abby's about to find out that her dad lives a very different life in a very different country. From Bollywood movie premieres to the colorful and sometimes gritty streets of Mumbai, she is about to experience it all, for better or worse. This is what happens when all your wishes come true... Is Abby ready for the truth?

The part where I talk: I thought this was really cute. Blog post to come... soon? Hopefully soon. Honestly I don't know when things will show up around here. I just type and hope for the best.

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

Published: April 17th, 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA... either Urban Fantasy or Magical Realism, I'd say
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 241
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him.

Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

The part where I talk: I really enjoyed this! Review to - is there any point in me even saying this? Reviews of everything to come.

This Song is (Not) for You by Laura Nowlin

Published: January 1st, 2016 by Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 230 plus acknowledgments
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves April, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

The part where I talk: I was a little disappointed in this one. I'll talk about it in more detail in an upcoming blog post.

And my bingo card:


I have two books that I need to read by the 5th, and after that things get a little uncertain because the library is weird right now. We'll see what happens, but hope for the best that things go back to normal very soon. I did pretty good this month, though.

I still haven't gotten a bingo!

So what did you read this month?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, April 24, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (46): This is All Just Ms. Marvel

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. In this case, I read four volumes of Ms. Marvel and kept trying to put them in individual issues, but it was getting a little ridiculous trying to make the scheduling work and I just kept moving things around so... this happened.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt

Published: April 7th, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic book, I guess
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136 pages. None of them have numbered pages.
Part of a series? This contains issues 6 through 11.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity -- by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel's life take over Kamala Khan's? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she's the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Thoughts: I've raved about Ms. Marvel already in a post I can't link to because it's not live yet and I've got two more volumes to read and review, so I won't go on for too long, but I have to say how much I love this series. These are so good, and now more than ever, so important. I absolutely love the direction this volume goes, and the messages it has through the lessons Kamala learns. Her family is featured a little less in this volume, but they are not less important.

So important, so good, and so recommended.

I'm going to go read more now.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc

Published: June 23rd, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 112 pages
Part of a series? This volume contains Ms. Marvel #12-15 and S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Love is in the air in Jersey City as Valentine’s Day arrives! Kamala Khan may not be allowed to go to the school dance, but Ms. Marvel is! Well sort of--by crashing it in an attempt to capture Asgard’s most annoying trickster! Yup, it’s a special Valentine’s Day story featuring Marvel’s favorite charlatan, Loki! And when a mysterious stranger arrives in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel must deal with...a crush! Because this new kid is really, really cute. What are these feelings, Kamala Khan? Prepare for drama! Intrigue! Romance! Suspense! Punching things! All this and more!

Thoughts: The Valentine's Day issue was just adorable, guys. I know a lot of people really enjoy the Loki character in the Marvel movies, and I thought this was a really fun way to use that character. It's a great way to start out a really great installment in this series. This is the first time the series has really tackled romance, and gosh, the way they handle it is wonderful.

They talk about how gross the idea of the "friendzone" is - and a male character says that, which I think is incredibly important to show it's not just a thing that girls are saying. They talk about the family pressure Kamala deals with regarding romance, and both pros and cons are shown for that. Kamala's parents' expectations for her are treated with respect and dignity. Kamala's respect for her parents is shown to be incredibly important to her. They talk about victim blaming, and guilt when something bad happens, and they handle it so, so well.

I legit do not want to write anymore in this review because the next volume is staring at me and I want to read it now, but just know I recommend this series so much.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Published: December 1st, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA Comics
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 120
Part of a series? This contains issues 16-19.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the moment Kamala put on her costume, she's been challenged. But nothing has prepared her for this: the last days of the Marvel Universe. Lucky she's got the help of Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers! Between teaming up with her personal hero to rescue her brother and trying to keep her city from falling into an all-out frenzy, Kamala has barely had time to come to terms with the fact that the world is literally collapsing around her. But the truth will catch up to her, and soon. When the world is about to end, do you still keep fighting? Kamala knows the answer. Let's do this, Jersey City.

Thoughts: This might be my favourite set of issues yet. I've mentioned before that I think fans of Legend of Korra would enjoy Kamala, but I don't think I've ever mentioned that I like Season Four of that show best. Story arcs that deal with the aftermath of trauma are something I enjoy a lot, although that does kind of make me sound like a terrible person, but I think it can be really interesting and I like when that's given time and respect and not just ignored.

This volume opens with Kamala dealing with feeling betrayed and heartbroken from the events of the last volume. For a great deal of the arc, Kamala has no idea what to do, and even as she goes into the action, you can feel how terrified she is that things are out of her control. It's not just her fear, either. When Kamala tells her parents that something bad is happening to Manhattan, they assume there's been an attack, and you feel their fear. The comic shows people stepping up to help when it looks like the world is ending, and people who don't - and why. This takes the time to focus on Kamala's family as much as possible, and it's beautiful and I may have cried a little.

Possible spoilers ahead - I did a little googling because Ms. Marvel is the only Marvel comic I read, and this arc is part of a larger Marvel arc. This is the end of a story. This is the beginning of another. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, and Nico Leon

Published: July 12th, 2016 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 144.
Part of a series? This contains issues #1-6 which are not the same as the ones in No Normal, and I totally don't understand comic books. I guess everything kind of restarted in the Marvel universe after Last Days? Don't ask me. I'm just here for Kamala.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): She's your new favorite. She's everyone's new favorite. And now she's joining the big leagues. Look out world, Kamala Khan is officially an Avenger! But will being one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes be everything she imagined? Or is life as a celebrity harder than she thought?

But while saving the world is important, Jersey City still needs its protector too. A development company that co-opted Ms. Marvel's face for its project might well have more in mind for gentrification than just real estate. Can Kamala take down the evil suits destroying her home without ruining her personal life? Speaking of which, who exactly is that with Bruno? Get back on board and cling on, Kamala Korps, the ride is about to get wilder than ever!

Thoughts: Okay I totally lied in that last review. This is totally my new favouite volume. Honestly, I won't lie, it's mostly because this volume introduces a new character and I love her so much. Beware spoilers (for the series - these pictures won't have spoilers for the issue really), but I need to post pictures.























(Sorry for the glare. The pages are reflective, so my flash really bounced back, and it was nighttime so I had to use it since the lighting in my room is not very good. BUT LOOK AT HER.)

This is Mike. She's chubby and she has blue hair, and I love her so much. I LOVE that she doesn't have a super plus-size model perfect hourglass shape, but is just... chubby. She's beautiful and I love her, and she looks like a real teenager. I love that they show her in pajamas and not only all glammed up, and there's nothing bad about that. I absolutely adore that when Kamala, Kamala (!!!), our protagonist, makes a fatphobic comment (and not to Mike's face - to someone else), she immediately gets called out for it, and it's very firmly said both by other characters and by the narrative that wasn't okay. And then it never happens again, which is nice. I like that they addressed it, but didn't make her entire narrative about it. She's also a geek and lovely and adorable, and I'm so happy about this character. Give me all the characters like this.

Also Mike has two moms, and that's awesome. There are several new characters in these issues that I think are awesome. Like, there's a teacher who I can't remember if she's showed up before, who's black and uses a wheelchair, and a few others who may not be giant characters who are constantly there, but they really add to the idea that the world is diverse and wonderful.

I just adore this series so much. I love this world they've created. I love Kamala. I love the other characters. I love how they talk about such real things that aren't just superhero things, like gentrification, and interracial and interfaith relationships, and that body-shaming isn't okay. I already have the next one out from the library, and I'm super excited to read this.

Okay! I believe that's everything. Thanks for reading.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, April 10, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (45): Easter

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes they're themed for holidays. I needed a bunch of these books for a thing, so I thought I'd shar with you guys.

If you're not an Easter person, check out whatever last week's post was! I'm scheduling this way in advanced so I have no idea yet what it is. I don't know how I got so many blog posts either. I'm a little frightened. Come, hide with me in the Easter candy.

Except not Peeps. Those are horrible. And I realize the irony of that considering:

This really bad joke I made like six years ago and has never stopped making me giggle. Seriously, though, I bought some candy cane Peeps on clearance (because, you know, it's January when I'm typing this) and they were absolutely disgusting. And it's not just the candy cane flavour, it's the whole texture and everything.

So gross.

Anyways, here's some Easter books!

Captain Awesome and the Easter Egg Bandit by Stan Kirby

Published: January 6th, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Chapter book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 117 in the paperback copy I have
Part of a series? I believe this is the 13th of the series.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): To celebrate Easter, Eugene and his classmates decorate some eggs at school. Eugene's is the most MI-TEE of all! But when he enters the classroom the next day-GASP!-they're gone! This is a case for Captain Awesome and the Sunnyview Superhero Squad. They sniff out the trail and round up the usual suspects, but the evil Easter egg bandit escapes them. Will Captain Awesome and his team of superheroes track down the villain before Easter is ruined?

Thoughts: I was ordering Easter books and saw this, and thought I'd order it for my Storytime graduate. There's lots of pictures, rather large font, and it's pretty easy, ages 5-9 suggested, but it's fun. There are some very gigglesnort inducing moments, and I think reluctant readers would enjoy it. I'm writing this in March 2015, and for a two month old book, it is pretty roughed up already, so either someone was a little bit careless, or some people have really enjoyed this one.

Not my favourite (and it's weird that a school would paint Easter eggs? What if you have Jewish students?) but it's fine for what it is.

Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny by Barbara Park

Published: February 13th, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade (Chapter book)
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119 pages
Part of a series? Yes, there are 17 Junie B. Jones books, and then 18-28 are the "First Grader" ones, all under the "Junie B. Jones" series header. This is the 27th of the series.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's an Easter Egg-stravaganza! With over 50 million books in print, Barbara Park’s New York Times bestselling chapter book series, Junie B. Jones, is a classroom favorite and has been keeping kids laughing—and reading—for over 20 years! In the 27th Junie B. Jones book, Lucille is having an Easter Egg Hunt at her rich expensive mansion! And guess what? The winner gets a play date to swim in Lucille's heated indoor swimming pool! Only, here is the problem. How did Junie B. get stuck wearing a big dumb bunny suit? And how can she possibly find eggs when she keeps tripping over her huge big rabbit feet? Being a dumb bunny is definitely not as easy as it looks. Will Junie B. end up with egg on her face? Or will the day deliver some very uneggspected results?

Thoughts: I really love these books. I think they are absolutely hilarious, and parents will probably love them as much as kids. I got this for my Storytime graduate, who didn't bite at the Valentine's Day one, but is a bit older now and may enjoy Junie more. I seriously just really love these. They're ridiculously funny, and adorable, and I really enjoy them. I laugh a lot reading them.

Short review, but highly recommended. (And this is a RL 1.8, by the way, if you care about that kind of thing.) 2017 edit: Also, I'm not sure if this was true when I wrote this review and I can't even remember if I wrote this in 2015 or 2016 because this post does include multiple years of books, but when I was adding in the amazon link, I noticed that this has a slightly redesigned new cover! Check it out on amazon. I like it and I'm glad the books in general got a little spruced up, without completely getting rid of the original cover art.

Heidi Heckelbeck and the Tie-Dyed Bunny by Wanda Coven

Published: January 21st, 2014 by Little Simon
Genre: Fantasy MG/Chapter book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119 plus an excerpt of the next book.
Part of a series? Yes, this is book ten of the Heidi Heckelbeck series with sixteen books in the series currently published and at least two more expected.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Heidi brings home the class bunny over Easter weekend—and finds herself in a magical, colorful mess!

Easter is just a few days away and Heidi Heckelbeck can’t wait! The holiday weekend is even more special because it’s Heidi’s turn to take home Maggie, the school’s bunny. But when Heidi takes Maggie out of her cage, trouble follows. Maggie escapes from Heidi’s arms and runs through all of the Easter egg dye! Will Heidi figure out how to un-tie-dye the colorful bunny before she has to take her back to school?

Thoughts: I haven't read any of the other books in this series, but I think that's kind of representative of how kids read sometimes. They see a cool book, they want to read it, not read nine other books first, you know? I think this works well in the aspect, functioning as both a book of a series and one that is understandable unto itself (although I'd have to read more to say definitively about the series aspect). The only part that is a little sudden in this book is that it's kind of "BAM magic!". I honestly wasn't really aware going in she was a witch until about 70 pages in when it came up.

On a whole, though, I liked it. The magic aspect works well, and is very sweet in how it's used, and I'd be interested in learning more about the world and setting. I loved that kind of thing as a kid, and I think there's a wide appeal. This one also has a lot of appeal to young animal lovers. I know there are some kids where if I say there's a bunny (or cat, or puppy, or horse) in a book, they're automatically interested!

This is aimed at around ages 5-7, and I think the frequent pictures and larger, simple text are perfect for that age range. There's a little bit of a "mean girl" thing I wasn't a huge fan of, but otherwise, this was good. There's also a good lesson about pet care and responsibility, and while those have obviously been done a lot, it's done well here and they're repeated so often for a reason. (Although I heard you're not supposed to bathe rabbits because it can kill them, so that part of the book gave me a pause.)

And as for the actual Easter element, it's mostly limited to dyeing Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. It's background, mostly, if you're not so into that element, and you're just looking for rabbit books.

Ogres Don't Hunt Easter Eggs by Debbie Dadey Marcia Thornton Jones, illustrations by John Steven Gurney

Published: February 1st 2004 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Fantasy-ish if you've read one of these, you know what I mean.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 61 pages of story, with 17 pages of activities, plus about the authors and book listings putting it at about 96 pages.
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a lot of these. I said the whole thing in this post and I'm not doing it again.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Indiebound / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): There are some weird grown-ups living in Bailey City. But could the man fixing up the park for the town Easter egg hunt really be an ogre? It's been raining ever since Brutus Bigg arrived in town. And even though he's supposed to fix up the park, he seems to be messing it up so on one will go there and bother him. Is Mr. Bigg an ogre trying to claim the park as his home? The Bailey School Kids are going to find out...but will they be able to stop him in time for the Spring Festival? This special edition is full of super spring puzzles and activities, too!

Thoughts: I adored these books as a kid. If you had left me alone in a room with all of these for a week, I probably could have lived off them alone. I've only read a couple more recently, but they seem to have held up well. This one at least doesn't use any pop culture or technology references that would date the book. The Easter element is also limited to an egg hunt the town does and how much the kids want to win.

One question I do have - why are these kids so paranoid? Slightly weird new gardener = ogre! Then they convince a hoard of kids to chase this guy with cats. Can you imagine being this guy? You're just doing your job trying to make the local park look nice, fighting terrible weather, and suddenly a herd of children show up and randomly chase you with cats. How do you even explain that to people?

But this was fun, and that kind of silliness can be nice for kids who aren't quite ready for more scary books, or just aren't a fan of scary things in general. I also liked the extras/activities they included. I always think those are tons of fun, and this is just fun overall. Good stuff.

Okay, so. Hope the big Bunny treats you and yours well, or Happy Passover or have an awesome Ramadan, or if you don't do anything at all, have a good weekend!

Peace and cookies,
Laina