All-American Boys
Book Review / September 28, 2017

Title: All-American Boys Author: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Genre: Contemporary Publisher: Atheneum Books Release Date: September 29th, 2015 Format: Hardcover Pages: 316 Source: Library Rashad is absent again today. That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all… Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing. And that’s how it started. And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like…

Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra
Book Review / September 23, 2017

Title: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra Series: Zodiac Starforce, #1-4 Author: Keven Panetta Genre: Graphic Novel Publisher: Dark Horse Books Release Date: March 9th, 2016 Format: Trade Paperback Pages: 136 Source: Library Illustrator: Paulina Gancheau They’re an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters–not your typical afterschool activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself–and the world–from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions! From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship–with plenty of magical-girl fighting action–delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics!  Collects Zodiac Starforce #1-#4 (via Goodreads) Goodreads Amazon   One of my friends, Sarah Stern, is a comic artist. For her day job, mostly, she is a colorist and she is amazing (for real – check out her website!). Recently,…

Flame in the Mist
Book Review / August 27, 2017

Title: Flame in the Mist Series: Flame in the Mist, #1 Author: Renee Ahdieh Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Penguin Teen Release Date: May 16th, 2017 Format: eARC Pages: 393 Source: First to Read The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for…

The Best We Could Do
Book Review / August 12, 2017

Title: The Best We Could Do Author: Thi Bui Genre: Graphic Memoir Publisher: Abrams ComicArts Release Date: March 7th, 2017 Format: eBook Pages: 330 Source: NetGalley Illustrator: Thi Bui An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves. At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home. In what Pulitzer Prize–winning…

The Underground Railroad
Book Review / August 9, 2017

Title: The Underground Railroad Author: Colson Whitehead Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Doubleday Release Date: August 2nd, 2016 Format: Audiobook Pages: 306 Source: Library Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors…

Akata Witch
Book Review / January 12, 2017

Title: Akata Witch Series: Akata Witch, #1 Author: Nnedi Okorafor Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Viking Children's Release Date: April 14th, 2011 Format: eBook Pages: 369 Source: Library Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too? (via Goodreads) Amazon   A fantasy novel about an albino girl in Nigeria who, on the cusp of adolescence, discovers she is a witch and works to save the world with her newly found best friends. On the surface, Akata Witch sounds like it will be ripe with predictability and poorly represented characters filling tropes. But it is so much more than that. Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom. Sunny is twelve-years-old and can’t seem…

The Blazing Star
Book Review / December 12, 2016

Title: The Blazing Star Author: Imani Josey Genre: Magical Realism Publisher: Wise Ink Release Date: December 6th, 2016 Format: eBook Pages: 239 Source: NetGalley Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius. But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again? She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow. Great. Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger. As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home. (via Goodreads) Amazon   I am typically not someone…

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian
Book Review / September 24, 2016

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Author: Sherman Alexie Genre: Fiction Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Release Date: September 12th, 2007 Format: Hardback Pages: 230 Source: Library Illustrator: Ellen Forney Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike. (via Goodreads) Amazon The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a book that is simultaneously hilarious and heart-breaking. A powerful story told with a dry sense of…

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