Diversity

Book Review: Please Look After Mom

Book Cover
Author: 
Shin, Kyung-Sook
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The word mom means unconditional love. When I saw the title it seems a little awkward. The mom who had taken care of her family an given endless love was missing; the elderly woman, suffering from dementia vanished in the crowd in the train station. She came to Seoul to celebrate her birthday withmher children. After her disappearance, the story started with a view from each family members. Each of them followed her trace to find her from their memories. While they struggling to find her, they gradually realized that the mom was ignored and had been neglected, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Her name was Park, So-nye; like meaning (So-nye = little
girl) of her name. She was an ordinary girl like all of us who had many dreams for her future. As time passes by her name and her dreams were sacrificed for her to take the role of a mother without her children's knowledge. Through this book, we encounter question and explore true, universal meaning of family.

Reviewer's Name: 
Hyun Sook Oh

Book Review: Lovely War

Book Cover
Author: 
Berry, Julie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Lovely War by Julie Berry is such a wonderful book about two couples in the tragic and terrible days of WWI as narrated by the Greek Gods. I chose Lovely War because of my interest in historical fiction, especially historical
romances, and was not disappointed by this amazing story. The book centers on four young people who's path's cross during WWI-- British Hazel Windicott, a pianist, and James Alderidge, a would-be architect shipped off to war, Colette Fournier, a Belgian singer who lost her family at the hands of the Germans, and Aubrey Edwards, a black American solider in a jazz military band in a time of military prejudice and racial discrimination. Hazel and James meet and fall in love days before he is shipped off to the Front to face deadly combat in the WWI trenches. Distraught over the fate of James, Hazel, eager to help the war effort, enlists as a pianist at a volunteer job and meets Colette, a fellow volunteer. They become very close friends, and Colette begins to fall in love with charismatic Aubrey, who's jazz is redefining the world of music. What follows is a beautifully written novel about these four characters, their hardships, and loves.

This book is structured interestingly-- the story of these two parallel loves is narrated by the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, who tells the tale years later in the days of WWII to her husband, Hephaestus, god of fire and volcanos, and a few other gods to remind them what true love is and the transcendent power of love over war. The story is funny, heartbreaking, intense, and overall, beautiful. I felt as if I knew Hazel, James, Aubrey and Colette personally by the time the story is over. Julie Berry's prose is almost poetic in it's splendor, rich with meticulous descriptions about wartime France and Britain.


This book deals with elements of WWI I did not know about-- Germany's brutal and heartbreaking invasion of Belgium, and the prejudice and racial discrimination in the U.S army during WWI. I wasn't a huge fan of the
inclusion of the Greek Gods as narrators at first-- the story is strong enough to stand without it-- and until the very end, the purpose of the Gods in the story is almost irrelevant. I would have been interested to know if Berry ever had a draft of the story sans-Gods. However, reflecting back on the book, the Gods add another tier to the rich narrative, one that is appreciated more after the novel is over. That said, I know that that
inclusion was to make the book more accessible to teenage readers. Fans of Greek epics and the Percy Jackson series will enjoy the inclusion of them Gods.

The central romance and characters in this book are Hazel and James, and their relationship and connection is deeper than Colette's and Aubrey's until the end of the story. Berry dedicates more time to the relationship of Hazel and James, and it is the best story line as a result. I wish Colette and Aubrey's story would have been given more attention, as it is truly unique and unlike anything I've read, but the last pages of the book focuses solely on them which I enjoyed.

This book never lacks action and is a very quick read. I often had to remind myself to slow down so not to rush through it! Lovely War is written for teenagers, but is just as accessible for tweens and adults, truly making it a book for all ages. Lovely War is one of those special books that you read and know that your perception of the world will be changed because of it. I cannot stress how much I recommend this beautiful book. It is a marvel of the historical fiction, romance and mythology genres that everyone should read.

Reviewer's Name: 
Allie S.

Book Review: Amnesty

Book Review: Amnesty
Author: 
Adiga, Aravind
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Danny is an undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka living in Australia. As he's undocumented, he works as a cleaner and gets paid under the table. One day, he is contacted by the police as one of his clients had been murdered. Danny realizes that he likely knows who the murderer is, but has to decide whether or not to share that information with the police. If he does talk to the police, his undocumented status will likely be discovered and he would likely be deported.

This book spans one day in Danny's life, but flashes back to show you how and why he ended up as an undocumented person in Australia. And wow, that's a hard, scary life. The book both calls attention to the unfair, and frankly quite Draconian, immigration policies of Australia and presents a really interesting ethical dilemma. The central question of the book is kind of "what do we owe to each other"? Does Danny have a responsibility to turn in the murderer, even if it means his own life will be irreparably changed for the worse? Danny grapples with this question for much of the book, and it's a really interesting thought experiment. Really, my only complaint is that the last third or so of the book is really repetitive; I found the first two thirds to be fairly riveting.

Folks who are interested in ethics or who are interested in the hardships of the immigrant experience should definitely pick this book up. 3.5 stars. I really liked the first 2/3.

Thanks to Scribner and Netgalley for the eARC which I received in exchance for an unbiased review. Amnesty is available now.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Woven in Moonlight

Book Cover
Author: 
Ibanez, Isabel
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Ximenia Rojas has been the decoy for Condesa Catalina ever since the usurper Atoc overthrow the Illustrarians a decade ago. Ximenia's family, along with the Condesa's, perished during the civil war, and Ximenia and her fellow Illustrians want revenge. When Atoc summons the Condesa to the palace to be his bride, Ximenia goes in Catalina's place and uses her weaving magic to send messages to the Illustrians via tapestry. With only eight weeks before the wedding, Ximenia must find intel about a magical gem that is the Illustrian's only hope.

My literary 2020 is off to a great start with this gem of a historical fantasy YA novel! I went in with fairly low expectations as 2019 was, on the whole, not a great year for YA fantasy. This was very good and felt like something of a course correction. The "historical" aspect covers Bolivian politics and the introduction of cocaine, at least somewhat (I know nothing about Bolivia and the eARC didn't have an author's note at the end, but the author does reference her two Bolivian parents) and deftly weaves a story of magic, moonlight and betrayal. The moon magic is subtle, but well utilized. Ximenia's ability is, for lack of a better phrase, quite cool. The author took a familiar story of rebellion and a headstrong girl and combined those seemingly stale tropes with magical realism and Bolivian flavor to create a book that felt like something new. The romance was earned. The main character grows a lot throughout the course of the book. Ximenia's story is tied up by the end, but there's an intriguing jungle based thread that's left dangling (not a spoiler!) that I'd be willing to bet will be a second book. I'll read it.

Also, I dare you to read this book and not want some tasty Bolivian treats. The food sounds amaaaaaaaaaaazing and it's mentioned a lot.

TLDR: Woven in Moonlight takes a familiar tale of revolution and spices it up with excellent character development and creative magical realism. I'm having trouble thinking of something to compare it to, because I like it better than most books that I've read that are similar (The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson for example - this is in the same zone, but I enjoyed it a lot more). Recommended for readers who like their fantasies to be revolutionary (ha) with a strong female lead and a touch of magic. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Page Street Books for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Woven in Moonlight is available for purchase or you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Hero Next Door

The Hero Next Door
Author: 
edited by Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

The Hero Next Door is published as part of a partnership with We Need Diverse Books. It's a collection of short stories by 14 award-winning authors. It's a celebration of everyday heroes that make a difference in their worlds and challenges each of us to be a hero in our world. While every story may not speak to you, there's something in this book for each of us as we work to make the world a better place.

Reviewer's Name: 
Carol

Book Review: A River of Royal Blood

Book Review: A River of Royal Blood
Author: 
Joy, Amanda
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Eva's nameday is coming up. And on that day, she'll become a Rival Heir. From then on, she'll be expected to try to kill her sister (or die in the process), so that one of them could take the throne. Eva's always been her father's favorite, but in this matriarchal society, her mother, the Queen, who, of course favores Eva's sister Isadore, would do anything to make sure that Eva doesn't get the throne. Including helping Isa with her magic while trying to keep Eva from accessing hers. But the throne is Eva's destiny. It's that, or death.

This was another instance of the plot being hard to describe, though that's mostly due to the fact that there are so many things happening in this book. It's pretty complicated. Not in a bad way - I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was very cool, I loved the khimaer. A lot of it was new to me, or a fun twist on a familiar concept. I loved the book's mythology. Something about it felt fresh. I also bizarrely really liked the middle part of the book - its full of layered mysteries, court intrigue, training montages and the right amount and type of romance. It's built on mutual and earned respect (and yes, hotness). There's a lot to like in this book, and it won't be the last by this author that I read.

That said, the beginning and ending were rote and felt a bit weak. The end, in particular, felt like it existed only to get you to read the next installment. There was no resolution, and it felt very rushed, especially after a story that was otherwise taking its time unfolding. I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing what was otherwise a fun read - give it a go!

TLDR: This was so close to being really good, but it just missed the mark (rote beginning and ending, super strong middle and worldbuilding). I quite enjoyed it, nonetheless. 3.5 stars - I almost really liked it. :)

Thanks for the eARC Netgalley and Putnam for the advance copy! A River of Royal Blood will be available for purchase on 29 October, but you can put your copy on hold today.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: War Girls

Book Review: War Girls
Author: 
Onyebuchi, Tochi
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Onyii and Ify live as sisters in an all-girls refugee/war camp on the edge of the Redlands, an area riddled with radiation from a long-ago nuclear disaster. Nigeria, their home, is in the midst of a civil war. Children are conscripted as soldiers and pilots for mechanized warrior robots. Onyii and Ify are separated, and as truths are revealed to each of them, they must decide where, and with whom, their loyalties lie all while trying not to die a terrible death in a bloody civil war.

Going into this, I knew nothing about the Nigeria - Biafran civil war of the 1960s, which is at the heart of this novel. Personally, I enjoy learning about parts of history that I know nothing about (I typically don’t gravitate to one of the 1,983,784,767 WWII novels, for example), and I really enjoyed the unique setting. The book is set in the future, and the futuristic elements really added a lot to the plot and were well employed by the author. Onyii, for example, is an Augment, meaning that she’s a little bit of a bionic woman. While I didn’t really relate to the main characters, I did really like them. They didn’t always make the best decisions, but their decisions made sense to their characters and their respective arcs. They were easy to root for. Really, my only complaint was that it felt overlong, and I skimmed through some of the battle scenes, but that’s more a matter of personal preference.

TLDR: Looking for something to read after Children of Blood and Bone? You’ve found your next great Nigerian inspired read! (And, honestly, if you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone but it’s on your TBR, I’d suggest replacing it with War Girls, which is a much more original, engaging book). For readers who like apocalyptic novels and futuristic sci-fi battles. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Razorbill for the eARC which I received in exchange for an honest review. War Girls will be available for purchase on 15 October, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline

The Future of Another Timeline
Author: 
Newitz, Annalee
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Tess is a time traveling member of the Daughters of Harriet, a group that does it's best to make their present time, 2022, a safe place for women, whether cis or trans. There's a men's right's activist group from further in the future trying to undermine their efforts by erasing the Daughters of Harriet and women's rights folks from the timeline. Meanwhile, in 1992, teenager Beth, a friend from Tess' past, finds herself in a bit of a pickle. She and her friends kill a boy who was in the process of sexually assaulting their friend. This starts the girls down a murderous path that Tess will do her best to stop.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I usually enjoy time travel, unless its being used as a cheap plot device which was definitely not the case here. Newitz did a lot of homework for this one - the historical notes at the end were really interesting and trips to the past often include historical figures. The story alternates between Tess and Beth with a few other perspectives thrown in on occasion. Tess mainly splits her time between the late 1800s (easily my favorite parts), the early 1990s and her present in 2022, while Beth's story is firmly situated in 1992. While I enjoyed both stories, I never really felt compelled to read the book. Both perspectives were interesting, but not captivating or thought-provoking (though I suspect the book will provide plenty of thinking material for some readers). As a result, certain plot points felt unnecessary and the book felt overlong. I really hated the way Tess' story ended. Nonetheless, its an enjoyable read that makes a great point (women are people too, who knew?) that I would recommend to science fiction readers that are interested in women, women's and LGBT rights. There's also quite a bit of 90's punk rock that readers of a certain age will love. The ending is also quite optimistic, which I wasn't expecting, but did welcome.

TLDR: The Future of Another Timeline is interesting book full of time travel shenanigans that is plagued by the same issues that all time travel book face. Ultimately, while the book was fun, feminist and full of salient social commentary, it wasn't compelling.

3 stars - I liked it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Tor for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Future of Another Timeline will be available for purchase on 24 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

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