Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: (First Ten) Books I Reviewed

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 first ten books they've reviewed. Here are some of my earlier reviews from when I started the blog in 2012. I only wrote a few reviews before getting back into blogging in 2014. I have grown tremendously how I write reviews in general with more descriptions about why I like a book without just saying I like it. You can click on each link of each title for the review.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

Title: Love from A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication date: April 30, 2019
Pages: 352
Source/format: e-ARC // Netgalley

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Starmixed with Anna and the French Kiss , following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Zayneb Malik is 18-years-old and is currently suspended from Alexander Porter High in Indiana. She is suspended because she spoke up in school about her teacher being Islamophobic, breaking through the silence that has been haunting her for years. Because of her religion and culture, people make assumptions about her. Her father is from Pakistani and her mother is Guyanese and Trinidadian. Her family wants her to lay low and not to cause any issues. However, Zayneb is angry at the world because of all the injustices and inequalities. Zayneb is on her way to visit her aunt who lives in Doha, Qatar.

Adam Chen, currently 18-years-old in college, stopped going to class two months ago. He is flying from the University of London to visit her sister and father who live in Doha. His mother passed away when Adam was young from Multiple Sclerosis, the same disease he is diagnosed with.

Adam and Zayneb meet in an unexpected place. They both meet in London awaiting a plane to fly to Doha. Zayneb flew from Chicago and had a layover in London. However, their meeting was short. Eventually they reunite at a gathering where Zayneb's aunt introduces Zayneb to Adam.

Both Adam and Zayneb have a Marvels and Oddities Journal where they record their marvels and oddities of life. They both are Muslim as well. Although they have similarities, they also have differences which balance each other. Their personalities are completely contrary. Adam is calm, mellow and peaceful while Zayneb is passionate, fiery and is activist. At first, Adam and Zayneb become friends but eventually fall for each other.

Love from A to Z is a cute play on Adam's and Zayneb's names. The novel is written in dual POVs in a diary-like format with a date and either a marvel or oddity title. It covers social justice, Islamophobia, activism, chronic illness and finding yourself. Zayneb speaks up for what she believes. Even though her high school set her up to fail by siding with her teacher, Zayneb doesn't hold back for what she believes in. When she visits her aunt in Doha, she speaks up to a couple of people at the fitness area's pool about how women should have the right to wear shorts in the pool if men are able to.

S.K. Ali gives insight about what it means to be Muslim. Learning about someone's religion and culture is important. Reading about Adam's and Zayneb's experiences are important. It is satisfying to read about Islam and what it means to be a Muslim from a point of view of someone who is born into a Muslim family and also reading about someone whose family converts to Islam. Ali reminds people that Islam is a religion and it's not defined by a certain race or ethnicity.

Love from A to Z is a coming-of-age love story about fighting for what you believe in. I highly recommend this novel if you've read The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan and The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Badger's Perfect Garden by Marsha Diane Arnold

Title: Badger's Perfect Garden
Author: Marsha Diane Arnold
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication date: March 15, 2019
Pages: 32
Source/format: ARC // The Horn Book

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

It's springtime and Badger is ready to plant the perfect garden. He has spent months gathering and sorting seeds. It's been a lot of work but it's worth it. His friends Red Squirrel, Dormouse, and Weasel come to help. They weed. They rake. And finally they plant. Afterward, everyone celebrates, and Badger can already imagine the perfect rows of flowers and vegetables. But then a rainstorm comes and washes away the beautiful seeds. Badger's perfect garden is ruined. Or is it? Author Marsha Diane Arnold's gentle story will encourage young readers to think beyond plans and expectations and imagine the wonderful possibilities that may occur when life and nature have other ideas.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Badger has hundreds of seeds saved in jars and wants to plant the perfect garden. With the help of Red Squirrel, Dormouse and Weasel, Badger had the start of a garden. However, for days it rained and Badger became worried about the garden. The seeds have washed and blown away and Badger couldn't be consoled no matter what he did to keep him occupied. One day his friends let him know that the garden did flourish but at another location away from where they planted the seeds. This hodgepodge of seeds grew to a celebration variety of flowers. All the critters cheered for joy.

The picture book is wonderfully illustrated with finely detailed textures of wood grains and animal fur. Ramona Kaulitzki's brushstrokes create a sense of movement. The colors are muted yet atmospheric; readers feel the emotion from the colors of the palette. Kaulitzki carefully chooses when and where to use pops of color to add life to the pages.

The morals of the story are meaningful. Marsha Diane Arnold sets the tone for children to learn to work together to achieve a goal. Even though everything isn't perfect step by step, sometimes the end goal can be more rewarding. Readers learn that teamwork is important and how being there physically and emotionally when someone is upset is helpful.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Outrageous Things I’ve Done for the Love of Books

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 Outrageous/Crazy/Uncharacteristic Things I’ve Done for the Love of Books. These items can include camping outside a bookstore to traveling far away for a book event. The following events are in no particular order. 

1. I know this is not book related but it's related to a book series. I waited in line for a midnight release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This was way back when I was in college in 2005 and when midnight releases were a thing. There was no such thing as seeing a movie at 8:00 pm on Thursday when it's supposed to be released on Friday. On Thursday my friends and I went to the theater at least 3 hours in advance and started a line to get good seats. We even did some Harry Potter trivia while we waited with other people. The film ended close to 3:00 am and we went to Denny's for food afterward. I had class around 8:00 am so I ended up pulling an all-nighter. After classes on Friday, I went to the mall with a few friends and ended up sleeping on a bench because I was so tired. I have to say that it was all worth it!

2. I attended a Cursed Child midnight release party in Harvard Square when I was located temporarily for work in Western Mass. I was able to somehow get some time off in which I left Saturday morning on a Peter Pan bus from Western, MA and took the bus to Boston. I met up with my friends Elizabeth and Marci for the wonderful celebration! We were in front of the line to enjoy the magic and even ordered Butterbeer drinks from Starbucks. It was a magical day to remember. I ended up going back to Western, MA on Sunday morning. For work at that time, I was required to spend three weeks working around the clock with high school youth for my program's residential component. Of course I made this trip happen to celebrate Harry Potter.

3. I endured foot pain to see Rainbow Rowell when she visited Harvard Square back in 2014. Not only did I want to hear her speak but I couldn't wait to meet her. She just released her book, Landline at the time. My favorite book is Fangirl so of course I wanted to let Rainbow Rowell know how much the books means to me. I have been having extreme foot pain that was very hard for me to walk during that time period but I've always wanted to meet Rainbow Rowell. I sucked it up and made it through the night. I probably pushed myself too hard that night but it was worth it because of the experience and the memory. My feet are in good health right now for those who want to know.

4. I visited my former middle school to see Cassandra Clare a day before heading to NYC for BookExpo America and BookCon. Cassandra Clare just released the sixth book of The Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire. Of course when I found out that my middle school was the venue of the event, I had to go! Not only was it nostalgic to return back to my middle school, but I became a fan of Cassandra Clare when I was on the cusp of middle school into high school through her Harry Potter fan fiction, The Draco Trilogy. I waited in line for over an hour to guarantee a good seat. My friend Selina met up with me sometime when I was seated. Not only was the event fantastic since Cassandra Clare was in conversation with Jodi Picoult, but the signing line was very organized. Everyone was assigned a number and a group will be called up to wait in line based on your number. Anyone who wasn't called could sit and relax in their seats. When I finally met with Cassandra Clare, I told her about how I started reading her earlier writing backs in 2000/2001 and that we were in the location of my middle school. She even drew Church the cat in my copy of The Clockwork Prince. I didn't get home to very late that night and I had to get up early to head to Boston and then to New York City for BookExpo America and BookCon the next day. Again..worth it!

5. I endured the disorder of BookCon to see Cassandra Clare a few days later after my first encounter with Cassandra Clare. Can I say that the first year of BookCon was crazy?! Not only was BookExpo America and BookCon overlapping each other, but it also created a chaotic frenzy on the side of the exhibition floor with the autographing session. I frequently went over to the BookExpo America side of the floor except for meeting the voice actor of Catbug from The Bravest Warriors and for seeing Cassandra Clare again. Was it worth it? Yes, it was because Selina and I both used the front of the line pass for Cassandra's line.

6. I traded a book with a book blogger who is located across the world and paid international shipping for the trade. I am a huge fan of Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before series and wanted to trade for an ARC of Always and Forever, Lara Jean. Prior to the trade, I owned ARCs of the two predecessors and wanted to complete my collection of ARCs for the series. It was a win-win situation since I traded a book that the other girl really wanted,

7. I trekked out by myself to Brooklyn during the week of BookExpo America to see Jenny Han for the launch of P.S. I Still Love You. I was staying in a hotel in Manhattan with Selina but I already planned to attend Jenny's launch party. I have to say that getting to Powerhouse Arena was a little confusing after I got off the train in Brooklyn. I was definitely walking the wrong way to the venue but I finally made it there! I was able to meet my OTSP Secret Sister, Nicole, of that round. She surprised me with an amazing care package and I got to meet her in person along with Emma, who is best friends with Nicole. Jenny Han had an all-out party with a cute photo shoot area, nail design station and she also signed books. When I met with Jenny, she remembered me from Twitter and definitely knew exactly who I was. I got Elizabeth a signed book as well since she wasn't able to attend BookExpo America that year. Emma and Nicole walked me back to the train station so I wouldn't get lost going back to the hotel.

8. For Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's book release, my sister and I attended the midnight launch of the book at Borders when they were still open. My sister and I had to work during the day but out mom was able to score line tickets for the midnight release. Tickets had to be attained in the morning prior to the release. Of course one of the line tickets was number 7 so we consider that to be lucky! Our dad drove us to the release fairly early since Borders extended their hours and had a mini Harry Potter party with activities before the launch. All I can say is that I stayed up all night reading the book to find out what happens at the end. Yes, I was tired for work the next day, but I had to find out what's going to happen in the book before all the spoilers hit the internet.

9. I flew out to Las Vegas for Leviosa, a Harry Potter and YA lit convention. It was my first time flying on an airplane by myself, which for me, was nerve-wracking. I definitely had an amazing time. I met a lot of people over the 4 or so days and are still friends with them now. I also reunited with a lot of Harry Potter friends I've met at previous Harry Potter conventions. The YA lit component had a variety of different authors. It was my first time meeting Roshani Chokshi. There was even a cocktail hour where attendees can spend it with authors and other guest speakers. All the Harry Potter related panels and the YA panels were excellent!

What outrageous things have you done for the love of books?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

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 things that make us pick up a book. The following things are in no particular order. 

1. Fantastic world building

2. Coming-of-age story

3. Book about boarding schools

4. Intriguing synopsis and plot

5. Diversity and inclusivity

6. Delicious food

7. Book by a favorite author

8. Slow-burning romance

9. Excellent character development

10. Presence of magic

What things make you pick up a book?