Monday, January 27, 2020

Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith

Title: Don't Read the Comments
Author: Eric Lord
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication date: January 28, 2020
Pages: 368
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Right from the first page, Divya tells her mother don't read the comments. She is talking about her Glitch channel where she plays Reclaim the Sun. Divya uses sponsorship revenue she makes from playing Reclaim the Sun in her streams to help her mother pay rent, groceries and bills. She does this out of the kindness of her heart so her mother doesn't have to work another part-time job on top of two jobs while her mother takes graduate classes. Divya's father is out of the picture since he left the family awhile back.

Aaron, on the other hand, isn't worried about finances but doesn't get support from his family to fund his hobbies. He wants to pursue a career to develop video game storylines. Aaron definitely doesn't want to follow the footsteps of becoming a doctor. His mother wants him to be a doctor and both parents push him to do internships or to work instead of playing video games to boost his chances of getting into a good college.

Divya and Aaron meet through Reclaim the Sun and they support each other in ways others cannot. While people have way too much time trolling Divya, Divya doesn't give up. She rebuilds and fights back. With popular culture and political issues intertwined within the novel, Eric Smith creates a novel that is relatable.

Smith's Don't Read the Comments is written in a dual POV with Divya and Aaron alternating chapters about how Reclaim the Sun impacts their lives. And readers see how their worlds collide through the game. Smith tackles racism, sexism, online bullying, doxing, social-economics and much more within the gaming industry. Stereotypes are broken down in this novel. I highly suggest this book for readers who enjoyed reading Warcross by Marie Lu and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

One of my favorite quotes:

"A chorus of loud cheering erupts in my handset, the voices of hundreds from all over, and my heart feels full to bursting. While the money to help Mom out is great, and the extra funds I'm putting away for college are almost as good, this is the reason I keep streaming." ARC of Don't Read the Comments, page 35.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Tomorrow I'll Be Kind by Jessica Hische

Title: Tomorrow I'll Be Kind
Author: Jessica Hische
Publisher: Penguin Workshop
Publication date: January 14, 2020
Pages: 40
Source/format: ARC//Publisher and The Horn Book
Rating: ☆☆☆1/2


Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In a follow-up to Tomorrow I'll Be Brave, award-winning illustrator Jessica Hische brings to life another series of inspirational words and scenes with her lovely hand-lettering and adorable illustrations. This uplifting and positive book encourages kids to promise that tomorrow, they will be grateful, helpful, and kind.

Tomorrow I'll be everything
I strive to be each day
And even when it's difficult
I'll work to find a way.

Immerse yourself in the beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, hope, and positivity alongside adorable illustrations of love and caring. This book is a reminder to all readers, young and old, that the smallest kind gesture can make the biggest difference in the world--we just have to remember to be kind to one another.

Praise for Tomorrow I'll Be Brave
"Jessica Hische, one of the great designers and typographers, now shows herself equally adept at creating gorgeous and immersive images for young readers. This is a joyous burst of color."--Dave Eggers, author of Her Right Foot

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Tomorrow I'll Be Kind, a follow up to Tomorrow I'll Be Brave, has a similar approach with bright fun colors, animals and intricate lettering. However, some hand lettered words are hard to read like the word patient, which is set in the backdrop behind animals and a slide. Because of the busy background pattering and because the background and the lettering are of the same color family, it is hard to read the word. The focal point is not the word since your eyes gravitate toward the slide. Even the word grateful took me awhile to see what was illustrated. 

Honestly, the page spreads that don't have a spotlight on the fancy lettering are my favorite page spreads. They are easier to read and the illustrations are more meaningful. The pages sans-lettering have illustrations that convey what the sentence text is explaining. Overall, the message Jessica Hische communicates is a good one.

Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind has matte pages with colors that inspire readers. The picture book teaches readers to always lend a helping hand. When someone is in need, you should not hesitate to take the lead and help. Hische wants readers to never give up when they are stuck on something. They should take the time to think things through and to persist. Readers learn to be mindful when they are with others.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten most anticipated book releases for the first half of 2020. The following titles are in no particular order. There is one book with a July release date and one with a general 2020 release date.


1. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare is the first book in The Last Hours series, which is also the sequel series to The Infernal Devices. Join Shadowhunters during the Edwardian London time period including the children of James, Tessa, etc. I am a huge fan of The Infernal Devices trilogy, so this is my number one most anticipated book for the year. Release date is March 3, 2020.


2. Liberté by Gita Trelease is the sequel to Enchantée. Readers learn more about Camille during the revolution. There is more magic, more sacrifice and more betrayal in the air. Release date is July 14, 2020.


3. The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell is marketed as a queer retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red." I adored Cornwell's retelling of Cinderella in Mechanica and Venturess. I heard great things of the Robin Hood retelling in The Forest Queen. I cannot wait to see what Cornwell has in stored for her readers. Release date is June 16, 2020.


4. Hunting November by Adriana Mather is the sequel to Killing November. I am super excited to read more about November's journey finding her missing father and figuring out her legacy. Release date is March 24, 2020.


5. Hollow Dolls by MarcyKate Connolly is a companion novel to the Shadow Weaver duology. Readers get to find out more about Simone's backstory as a mind reader and how she got to where she is in the Shadow Weaver duology. Release date is January 7, 2020.



6. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao is a contemporary novel with a dual POV. A college student hires a fake boyfriend to appease her parents but then she falls for a guy that is not "rent worthy." Release date is sometime in 2020.

7. Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman is about a trapeze artist who work's at her parent's circus. Harley gets into a fight with her parents and decides to join the rival traveling circus instead. This book is so intriguing! Release date is March 10, 2020.


8. The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski is a fantasy novel about different castes and magic. I loved reading Rutkoski's The Winner's Trilogy and cannot wait to check out her upcoming this LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy. Release date is March 3, 2020.


9. The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth wasn't on by TBR list until I found out she is coming out with another book. It's been awhile since I read a book by Roth but I am intrigued to read Roth's first adult novel. Five heroes battle the Dark One. Release date is April 7, 2020.


10. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is the prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. I am super excited to read this novel and interested to read about the tenth Hunger Games. Release date is May 19, 2020.



What are some of your most anticipated books for the first half of the year?

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

Title: The Map from Here to There
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: January 7, 2020
Pages: 386
Source/format: Paperback//Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens afterhappily ever after?

It's senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing "the rest of her life," Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be--how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord's award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life's most important questions.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

The Map from Here to There starts a couple of months from where The Start of Me and You left off. Paige Hancock is in her senior year and works at the movie theater in a suburban Indiana town. She finished a screenwriting program earlier during the summer. Paige has aspirations to study film in college and she wants to go to NYC or LA to study.

Max Watson, Paige's boyfriend, surprises Paige with an early arrival from Italy due to a canceled excursion. For those who need a refresher, Paige lost her ex-boyfriend in The Start of Me and You and it was a very rough junior year processing grief. Through an amazing support system, Paige has been able to live her life even during the hard times. She met Max through QuizBowl and ended up opening her heart even though she is healing.

In The Map from Here to There, Emery Lord hones in on the different relationships Paige has, just like in The Start of Me and You. It's not all about romantic relationships but friendships are also important. Lord puts a spotlight on female friendships which is rare in most young adult novels. Kayleigh, Morgan and Tess really care about Paige. Senior year is a big year for many and everyone has their own path to forge. Through college applications to partying to different family dynamics, Max's and Paige's friends are very supportive and help Paige at times when her anxiety peaks. Senior year is about wondering if relationships will be fragmented due to the distance. It's about finding who you are and doing what is best for you.

Although I love how Lord continues Paige's and Max's story, it was a slow first hundred pages with very little happening in the plot. Paige became frustrating in this novel compared to in The Start of Me and You. However, I am happy that Paige and her friends are responsible when they are drinking and they either have a designated driver or they call someone to pick them up at a party. Paige's parents are supportive of Paige when she wanted to resume sessions with her therapist. And Paige overcomes her fears. I find it odd that the book ended right when Paige goes on spring break with her group of friends. I was hoping to see at least high school graduation or the summer before college.

If you are looking for a continuation of Paige's and Max's romance story, this is not the book to find it. The Map from Here to There is focused more on Paige's journey through her senior year and how she deals with loss, a car accident, separation, finances, anxiety, etc. I do have to give Lord credit for adding a super lovable new character. Hunter Chen works with Paige at the movie theater and he adds just the right amount of humor to the novel.

Lord writes contemporary novels about real-life teen issues like losing loved ones or how to navigate life when having mental health issues. Lord discusses how teens cope with having mental health issues as well as addressing how to help those who have mental health issues through her novels. Many readers will be able to relate to Paige and what she endures every day. It's important to forge strong support systems and Lord guides readers to do just that through her characters. I highly suggest reading The Map from Here to There after reading The Start of Me and You even though some readers mention how it's fine just reading this novel as a standalone. Also, check out When We Collided by Lord.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell



Title: Pumpkinheads
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Illustrator: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: August 27, 2019
Pages: 175
Source/format: Paperback//Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Pumpkinheads is the perfect graphic novel for the fall months. Deja and Josiah, who goes by Josie, work at the best pumpkin patch every autumn but this year is different. This year is senior year and it's their last chance to make every last second count. Josie has been crushing on his girl named Marcy, aka Fudge Girl. Deja is trying to help him ask Marcy out on the last shift. What are friends for? While trying to locate Marcy on the pumpkin patch, Deja and Josie run into every problem possible from a train coming down the railroad to helping other coworkers manage other parts of the pumpkin patch to even finding that their coworkers are messing up the succotash at the Succotash Hut.

Rainbow Rowell is a master at storytelling through friendships and relationships. Rainbow created a wonderful story about two teenagers who make their last day at work an adventure and a day they will never forget. Even though Deja and Josie struggle to find Marcy, they reminisce memories such as meeting for the first time during new employee orientation at the S'mores Pit to Josie teaching Deja how to do magic tricks. Rowell reminds readers to take one day at a time. She reminds people to make long-lasting memories. The humor in Pumpkinheads is perfect! Rowell always has some of the best humor in her stories. From interracial relationships to queer representation, inclusivity shines in this graphic novel. It even has wonderful character personalities. Readers learn a lot about Deja and Josie and feel like they've known them for their whole lives.

Illustrator Faith Erin Hicks does a wonderful job depicting all the locations of the pumpkin patch. The colors of the palette are full of autumnal colors and that set the mood. The added map of the pumpkin patch under the cover is a nice touch. When I was reading Pumpkinheads, I can almost smell the October air and can taste the kettle corn and caramel apples. You will want to snuggle up with a cup of hot apple cider during sweater weather when reading Pumpkinheads. Whether you decide to read this graphic novel during the fall months or at another time during the year, Pumkinheads is a must read! Take your time, wind down and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I Read In 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten favorite books that they reads in 2019. I have to say 2019 had a lot of wonderful reads. I did not include some of my re-reads in the mix. Although I love To All the Boys I Loved Before trilogy and the Little Elliot books, I wanted other books to shine for my favorite reads of the year. I couldn't limit myself to ten books. I also decided to categorize my books by genre/format. The following titles are in no particular order. 


CONTEMPORARY
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Frankly in Love by David Yoon

HISTORIC FICTION
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

FANTASY
Finale by Stephanie Garber, 3rd and last installment in the Caraval series.

MYSTERY/THRILLER
Killing November by Adriana Mather

DYSTOPIAN
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

GRAPHIC NOVELS
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

AUDIO BOOKS (love the narrators)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander - Eddie Redmayne narrates this audio book and he is phenomenal, especially since he is Newt in the film adaptation. Just like in the films, he makes the character! No one else could have been casted as Newt overall.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - I loved the narrator for this audio book. She definitely kept me entertained. 


What are your favorite books that you've read this year?

Friday, December 20, 2019

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang


Title: In Real Life
Author: Cory Doctorow
Illustrator: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Pages: 175
Source/format: Paperback//Library

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author (Little Brother, For the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

In Real Life is so much more than video games and LARPing. It's about female empowerment, human rights and doing the right thing.

When Anda's class has a lady named Liza visit to introduce students to a multiplayer online game called Coarsegold Online, Anda jumps on the opportunity to connect with other girls online. She convinced her mother to let her sign up at a $12 monthly cost. Anda's avatar leveled up quickly and she joins Clan Fahrenheit that is lead by Lucy aka Sarge. Through one of the missions, Anda meets Raymond, a 16-year-old Chinese boy, who is a gold farmer. However, Anda finds out that Raymond's real job is to gold farm in order to make a living. He is exploited. Through Raymond's friends and Anda's Fahrenheit guild, she is able to start a movement to prevent bullying and for everyone to access equal human rights.

Jen Wang illustrated the cover perfectly. On the left, we have Anda in her real-life persona while on the right we have her Coarsegold Online alter ego, Kalidestroyer. With engaging illustrations and a diverse character cast, I am excited to see more from Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. In Real Life is captivating and the plot and illustrations draw readers in.

In Real Life discusses video games, politics and economics through sequential art. This graphic novel would be a great addition to read class regarding injustices around the world economically. Online gaming isn't just for the rich who can afford to pay a monthly fee. In fact, online gaming can hide so much more. It really makes you think about what is underneath the surface. Everything isn't what appears to be.