Monday, June 17, 2019

To Night Owl from Dogfish
by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer

Synopsis (via Goodreads): From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who's bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who's fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends--and possibly, one day, even sisters.


But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can't imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?
“I really like reading stories with an unreliable narrator, because the person telling you what happened can't be trusted with the facts and you have to figure it out. Maybe when it's your own story, you're always going to be an unreliable narrator" -Avery (Night Owl)”
To Night Owl From Dogfish was an amazing and truly remarkable read that I will never forget. However, I do have one teensy complaint about the audiobook. At the beginning of the book, Bett and Avery are communicating via email, and they use a single thread for most of their conversation. Every time we switched perspectives it was, "Subject: Re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: you don't know me". If I had been reading a physical copy, I simply would have skipped over this part and kept reading. Unfortunately, it was an audiobook, and the narrators read every single re. It made me a little crazy, and I was so very thankful when they switched to a new subject. Other than that, the narrators were absolutely perfect for this.

I enjoyed both Bett and Avery's perspectives, and everything about the summer camps was enjoyable. Bett's antics made me laugh! She was bold, reckless, and I loved how she chose to tackle the world. Avery followed the rules and stuck to her plans, but she was also willing to try new things. Despite their rocky start, the two developed a very loyal friendship that continued to grow throughout the story. To Night Owl From Dogfish takes place over two years, and I really liked seeing how the characters developed over time. I think the authors executed these characters perfectly, and I was in love with them from start to finish.

I also loved that the authors discussed "found" families, and how they are just as important and meaningful as "traditional" families. They were both raised by single dads, Bett having a surrogate mother and a deceased father, and Avery knowing who her mother is (parents were separated and not in contact). It was their normal, and they defended their families without hesitation. Bett and Avery also acted like sisters, and continued their constant communication over the years. A lot of the characters in this book weren't technically related, but they felt a kinship with one another that was beautiful. 

There are plenty of machinations in this book, and I absolutely loved it! Bett and Avery scheme constantly to make things work in their favor, and it was fun watching them plan everything through email. I was worried how that would work at first, telling the story through emails and letters, but it was perfect. It really worked, and I'm thrilled with the result.

I adored all of the characters in this book, especially Bett's grandmother, Gaga (or Betty 1). She's a riot! She also adored her granddaughters, and gave really excellent advice. Gaga participated in a few of Bett and Avery's schemes when the other adults were being unreasonable. Loved her!

To Night Owl From Dogfish is a book that left me smiling and happy. It emphasizes the importance of friendship and family, and shows how two girls can grow together and apart in unimaginable ways. There's a twist at the end that caught me off guard, but it was unexpectedly perfect for this story. I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Deogratias: A Tale of the Rwandan Genocide
by Jean-Philippe Stassen

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Benigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Benigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Benigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog.

Told with great artistry and intelligence, this book offers a window into a dark chapter of recent human history and exposes the West's role in the tragedy. Stassen's interweaving of the aftermath of the genocide and the events leading up to it heightens the impact of the horror, giving powerful expression to the unspeakable, indescribable experience of ordinary Hutus caught up in the violence. Difficult, beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking, this is a major work by a masterful artist.


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Originally, I requested this on NetGalley to read, but the PDF expired before I could get to it. It wasn't the book itself, but the content that made me hesitate to pick this one up. Deogratias isn't something you grab for a little light reading. The Rwandan genocide "lasted 100 days and took 800,000 lives." I decided to buy the book after stumbling across a copy, and I almost wish I hadn't.

I hate to say this, but I was disappointed with the overall story. The forward was the most interesting and informative part of the book, and it's only a few pages long. I felt like it really set the tone for the story, while also conveying the severity of the situation. The forward also mentions that Stassen didn't go to Rwanda with the intention of writing a book about the genocide, but he did, and he's profiting from it. I think this story needs to be told by those who were there and experienced what happened firsthand, or at least by someone who was affected by what happened. It seems like Stassen told his version of events through a character that he himself is unable to relate to. How can you write about something like this as a white male with an outsider's perspective?

Speaking of perspective, the main character was an unreliable narrator. We see the boy he was before (someone only interested in having sex with girls), to the broken shell of a person he is after. When the Hutu started killing Tutsi, the author didn't show us how Deogratias felt, only that he chose to participate in what was happening around him. I couldn't connect with Deogratias and what he was experiencing, because it felt like everything that happened to him was out of his control. There was no depth to him or what he was feeling as the world fell apart around him.

It's clear that Deogratias has been through something traumatic, and it's impacted his mind and how he perceives himself and the world, but the author still uses him to mention female mutilation and dogs devouring bodies (always random and without warning). When we finally discover what happened to him, it's very choppy, and also disturbingly graphic. There's no explanation of his actions, and we're not given any information that would help us understand how certain parts of the story unfolded. We're just supposed to infer based on broken conversations, and images that I won't describe. 

I have very little experience with this topic, so I went into this without any expectations. I do know that children were often made to do things they wouldn't normally do, and they did them to survive. I'm not sure how old the main character was supposed to be, but I think we're supposed to believe that his actions were mostly forced. However, the author doesn't even pretend to give him a choice, but makes one for him without giving us any relevant information.

None of the other characters were expanded on either, which made the story feel somewhat flat. The author has a full cast of diverse people, yet chooses to focus on other aspects of the story. The illustrations felt like caricatures of people, which felt wrong when the author was depicting graphic scenes from the genocide. The violence was often sudden and unexpected, and while it may be accurate, felt like it was included to shock an audience instead of inform them.

The Rwandan genocide is something that happened fairly recently, and I disagree with how this author chose to depict the horrific events that occurred. His story feels like an insult to the people who were there, and to those who lost loved ones to unfathomable cruelties.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Mini Reviews [29]

Little Bird #1 by Darcy Van Poelgeest, 
Ian Bertram (Illustrator)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Director/screenwriter DARCY VAN POELGEEST boasts a long list of awards and accolades for his storytelling prowess and brings the same writing finesse to IAN BERTRAM's breathtakingly detailed artwork in the gorgeous, hyper-detailed miniseries LITTLE BIRD.With the same limitless scope as a new EAST OF WEST or SAGA and the drama and surrealism of Akira, LITTLE BIRD follows a young resistance fighter who battles against an oppressive American Empire and searches for her own identity in a world on fire.

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I didn't hate this, but it wasn't really for me. It was weird and disturbing, but also incredibly gory and violent. I'm looking for more happiness in my comics these days, not torture and death. I think I saw more of what people looked like on the inside (literally, not figuratively), than on the outside. Bleck.


Transformers (#1-3) by Brian Ruckley, 
Angel Hernandez (Illustrator), Ron
Joseph (Illustrator)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A NEW ERA DAWNS! In the infinite universe, there exists a planet like no other: Cybertron! Home to the Transformers, and a thriving hub for inter-stellar commerce, it is a world brimming with organic and constructed diversity. Immense structures line its landscape. Mechanical giants roam across its surface. Starship-sized titans orbit its skies, keeping a constant protective watch above and below. Ancient Transformers merge into its very fabric. Small, mysterious creatures skulk in its shadows. It is a truly amazing realm, long untouched by war, and exuberantly reaching for the stars. This is the Cybertron that Optimus Prime and Megatron vie for in this bold new origin—a world of seemingly endless peace! All that changes when Bumblebee and Windblade take a newly-forged Cybertronian on his first voyage through this world of wonders—they are confronted by the hard reality of the first murder to have occurred on Cybertron in living memory!

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My son and I are loving the new Transformers series! He watched Transformers: Rescue Bots on Netflix when he was younger, and now he likes Transformers: Robots in Disguise and Trasformers Prime. However, all of these shows are about their lives once they've landed on Earth. The comic offers more backstory and history. We get to see where they live, how they're created, and what their home planet (Cybertron) looks like. In the movies and television shows there are so few of them left, but in this comic we see how vast their world and population used to be.

Optimus isn't a Prime yet, he's Orion Pax. There hasn't been a war, so Megatron is just like everyone else, and there are no Decepticons. Orion Pax tries to keep the peace and balance what's already there, while Megatron encourages them to do more as a race. He wants them to be more. Bumblebee still has a voice, and there are a lot of other familiar characters as well. I think the story and the illustrations have been fantastic so far, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here. It's so nice to be starting from the very beginning!



Runaways #20 by Rainbow Rowell,
Kris Anka & Andres Genolet (Illustrators)
Synopsis (via Goodreads): The fallout from “That Was Yesterday” is still very much being felt. There’s rebuilding to do, both metaphorical and literal – Are the Runaways up for these repairs?
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This is going to be my last Runaways comic! I haven't been enjoying is as much the last few issues, and I feel like the characters are stuck on a loop. There is no growth, and nothing happens that really challenges them (physically or emotionally). 

I understand that they're a unit, a group that's always been together, but it would be nice to know them as individuals, too. They have their romances and conflicts, but it all feels very on the surface. It's rare to for Rowell to dig deeper into their personalities and give us something life-changing or relatable. 

Honestly, I feel like they all avoid their problems until everything blows up, and then they scrape by until they resemble what they were before. There's no forward movement, and nothing to indicate that they are going to be anything more than what they are now. Gert is unhappy, since she's literally in the wrong time and place, and her romantic interest is beyond complicated. However, all we see are shared looks and a glimmer of what she's really thinking and feeling. I wish the characters were more open about what they're feeling, but everything seems to stay bottled up.

Old Lace had the potential to be my favorite character, but felt more like a decoration than a member of the team.


Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Sirens (#1-2) by Sztybor Bartosz, Jakub Rebelka & Cory Godbey (Illustrators)

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  The critically acclaimed Jim Henson’s The Storyteller celebrates four mythic tales of sirens, inspired by folklore from around the world and told in the spirit of Jim Henson’s beloved television series. In this first issue, Polish writer Sztybor Bartosz teams with artist Jakub Rebelka (Judas) to reimagine the classic Polish folktale “The Fisherman and the Mermaid”. The fisherman is not happy with his life. He works all the time, struggling to make ends meet rather than spending time with his wife and their daughter. One day, while fishing, he hears a mermaid singing and the song overwhelms him with joy. He can’t stop thinking about this song so he captures the mermaid and imprisons her.

I thought the first two books in this series were wonderful! I'm a fan of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, and was thrilled when I saw Boom! Studios had created a new series (that I still need to read). There's also a Netflix show in the works. Anyhow, Jim Henson is a fantastic storyteller, and The Storyteller: Sirens was no exception. I thought the first issue was a great retelling of The Fisherman and the Mermaid (sad and thought-provoking), while the second issue was a spin on the mythology surrounding Nuwa (super interesting and creative). Both were beautiful and well-written!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

My Weekly Pull [74] & Can't Wait Wednesday [44]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday (pretend it's Wednesday 😉) to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Transformers #7 by Brian Ruckley, Cachet Whitman, Christian Ward
Goosebumps: Horrors of the Witch House #2 by Denton J. Tipton, Chris Fenoglio, Matthew Dow Smith

Spider-Man Life Story #4 (of 6) The '90s by Chip Zdarsky, Mark Bagley
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #7 by Tom Taylor, Ken Lashley, Andrew Robinson

Jacob's comics for the week!
Amazing Spider-Man #23 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley
Punisher #12 by Matthew Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, Greg Smallwood
Symbiote Spider-Man #3 (of 5) by Peter David, Greg Land, Ron Lim
Venom #15 by Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, Kyle Hotz

Transformers and Goosebumps are two comics that I'm reading with my son! We're really enjoying both, even though we've only read the first issue of Goosebumps. I feel like we've been waiting forever for the second issue to be released! 

The Spider-Man Life Story comics have been amazing! If you like Spider-Man, these are a MUST! Tom Taylor also writes a wonderful version of Spider-Man, and I cannot wait to see where this newest arc will take Peter. The last issue was so confusing, but then it was perfect! Well played, Tom. 

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My Jasper June by Lauren Snyder
Expected publication: September 3rd 2019
Synopsis (via Goodreads): “This book is a treasure—a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. I absolutely loved it.”—R. J. Palacio, New York Times bestselling author of Wonder

Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with another unforgettable story of the moments in which we find out who we are, and the life-altering friendships that show us what we can be.

The school year is over, and it is summer in Atlanta. The sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and the days brim with possibility. But Leah feels. . . lost. She has been this way since one terrible afternoon a year ago, when everything changed. Since that day, her parents have become distant, her friends have fallen away, and Leah’s been adrift and alone.

Then she meets Jasper, a girl unlike anyone she has ever known. There’s something mysterious about Jasper, almost magical. And Jasper, Leah discovers, is also lost.

Together, the two girls carve out a place for themselves, a hideaway in the overgrown spaces of Atlanta, away from their parents and their hardships, somewhere only they can find.


But as the days of this magical June start to draw to a close, and the darker realities of their lives intrude once more, Leah and Jasper have to decide how real their friendship is, and whether it can be enough to save them both.

I haven't read Orphan Island, or any other book by this author, but I absolutely love the synopsis! Also, the cover is amazing and what immediately caught my attention. 

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

Synopsis (via Goodreads): For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.


But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?
"If you've always been defined, not as a full-fledged person, but solely as another person's polar opposite, and that person no longer exists, do you also cease to exist?"
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I thought Something Like Gravity would have some scientific elements regarding space and the stars, but those references were few and far between. Chris enjoys looking through his telescope, and it's a passion he wants to pursue in the future, but it isn't a main focus of the story. He'll share facts with Maia, and those were interesting (especially about the binary stars), but I wish there had been more. 

Amber Smith has written a beautiful story about self-discovery. Chris is finally figuring out and committing to who he is, and Maia is learning how to exist without her sister. It took tragic circumstances for both of them to start really living, and we see how they use each other to overcome their sadness and fear. They didn't immediately click from the start, because Maia is a very angry person, but it felt like a realistic portrayal of feelings and emotions. She was hurting and she lashed out, and Chris was endlessly kind and patient. 

I know I've said this before, but I dislike it when the main conflict is based on a lie. Maia lies to Chris at the very beginning of their friendship, and then it snowballs out of control. She didn't need to lie, and she had plenty of opportunities to tell him the truth. Honestly, I thought she would have come clean long before everything blew up in her face. Chris's reaction was understandable at first, but then he took it too far. He let his pain and anger cloud his judgement, and he was unnecessarily cruel and unforgiving. What Maia lied about really had nothing to do with her relationship with Chris, but he took it very personally, and it altered both of their lives in a big way.

Additionally, I think this book could have been a little shorter. It lagged in some places and I never felt compelled to pick it back up. The pacing is incredibly slow, and there's very little action, but I know some of you enjoy books that focus more on character development (which there is a lot of). However, if some of the story had been condensed, I think it would have made for a quicker and more enjoyable read.

The ending was both satisfying and disappointing. 

I believe Something Like Gravity tells a story that needs to be told. I think it's a book a lot of people will be able to relate to, and not just because one of the characters is transgender. Although, I do think it's awesome that they are getting more representation in YA books. Something Like Gravity is about falling in love, and learning how to love yourself. It's also about knowing when to let go, and when to hold on. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Synopsis (via Goodreads): From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a postapocalyptic take on the perennial classic "Little Red Riding Hood"...about a woman who isn't as defenseless as she seems.

It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.


Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods....
"...because this was America and the two things Americans liked to stockpile in case of emergency were canned foods and guns."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The Girl in Red was a phenomenal read! I don't often feel anxious while reading, but this book kept me on the edge of my seat (especially when Henry brought children into it). I fell asleep thinking about the story, and was always worried about what would happen next. Red was constantly in danger, and every move she made had to be calculated from every possible angle. One wrong decision would mean death, and I felt her fear and anxiety. I could feel her need for caution and understand her determination. 

Additionally, there's a super trippy twist that I was not expecting, and it left me reeling. There are no words to convey my initial thoughts, since I don't think any of them were coherent. After Adam (don't think about Adam), I didn't know how to organize my thoughts. It was completely unexpected, but also perfect for this story. I can't really say any more, because I don't want to ruin the surprise!

Henry shows you human nature when there are no longer laws and expectations. "And people always reduced to their least human denominators when things went bad." We see what people will do when they think they can get away with anything, and witness the darkness that spills over when no one is watching. Women become objects, and children become tools and pawns. Men are recruited to a cause, or killed because life is no longer valued. Red finds herself in the middle of something she never anticipated, and she's struggling to navigate the chaos.

Red is an amazing character. She loves horror movies, reads science fiction, and has a plan to survive. She also has a prosthetic leg, but she doesn't that that define her. Red is intelligent, quick on her feet, and snarky. She doesn't like authority, and believes she knows more than your average person. She's also loyal and unbelievably kind, and fierce when she needs to be. I want more characters like her. “You think a gun is going to help me more than my brains?”

The Girl in Red is very loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, and the similarities are few. She's trying to get to her grandmother's house, she wears a red hood, and there's a hatchet. Everything else is purely Henry, and I'm thrilled. She's an incredible writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Sunday Post [21]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.

News:

My son starts school in the fall (which I often cry about because he's my baby and I'm used to having him at home), and I just finished filling out all of the application forms. I have a degree in Education and offered to homeschool him, but he really wants to go to a public school. He said, "Mama, we're best friends, but I really want more friends that are my size." I cannot tell you how much I have cried over this. He's my baby, you know? I know he's going to love it and be happy, which is what I want for him, but it's bittersweet. On a positive note, it will give me and the girls some solo bonding time (as solo as you can get with twins).

We've been trying to get all of outdoor activities (walks, playground, swimming, etc.) in before noon, because it's so hot here. After lunch, we look for things to do indoors (library, crafts, trampoline park, etc.). There's also a Discovery Center, which is awesome and massive, but it's a tad pricey. We try to go there at least one a month, and the monsters always love it.

Previous week on the blog:

Friday: Nothing!
Saturday: Nothing!

What I'm currently reading:

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith 
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I'm enjoying Something Like Gravity, but it's really slow. I think the story is fantastic, and definitely a book that's needed in the world, but it could definitely be shorter. With the Fire on High is fabulous, and Acevedo is a phenomenal author and narrator.

What I plan on reading next:

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2) by Julie Kagawa 
When Dimple Met Rishi (When Dimple Met Rishi, #1) by Sandhya Menon
Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

What I'm watching:

I actually took a break from reading this week, which was unexpected but clearly needed. I've read so many wonderful books this month, and think my brain was overloading on all the awesome. I also wanted to reboot before starting Soul of the Sword, because ohmygodsoulofthesword! I've been listening to Acevedo's With the Fire on High when we're in the car, and reading Something Like Gravity while putting the kids down for their naps, but I haven't been reading during every spare second of every day (which is what I usually do). 

Instead, I've been catching up on movies and television shows. I watched two movies on Netflix: Always Be My Maybe and Wine County. Always Be My Maybe was adorable and fun! I really loved when Keanu Reeves showed up (hilarious), and the entire movie was just happy-making. Wine Country was mostly disappointing, and not as funny as I thought it would be. 

Husband and I have started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine from the beginning! We were watching it together before it switched networks, and we forgot where we were. I've almost watched all of S1, and I'm loving it (again). It's such a great show! B99 is definitely something you can watch over and over again. The cast is fantastic, the episodes are always a laugh, but there's also a serious undertone that follows the story.

Challenge updates:

Discussion Challenge: 4 / 11-20