Rating + Review: Space Boy, Volume 1

I was supposed to meet my sister and niece at a children’s museum an hour from our house, but because of flash flooding near the museum, we had to cancel our plans. I decided to take my daughter to a new (to us) library about 30 minutes from our house in an area not affected by flooding. We practically had the library to ourselves. We explored a bit first. The library has a deck on the second level where you can read outside (when it’s not winter, of course), nice furniture and lots of reading nooks, and one of the biggest children’s sections I’ve ever seen. We found a place to play and when it looked like my four-year-old was busy with the LEGO table, I decided I needed something to read. My kid got nervous when I started walking away from her, so I had to pick out something quick! I spotted a graphic novel on a shelf and hoped for the best. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised by this book.

Goodreads Blurb:

A sci-fi drama of a high school aged girl who belongs in a different time, a boy possessed by emptiness as deep as space, an alien artifact, mysterious murder, and a love that crosses light years.

To Amy, everyone has a flavor. Her mom is the flavor of mint–sharp and bright. Her dad is like hot chocolate–sweet and full of gentle warmth.

Amy lives on a mining colony in out in deep space, but when her dad loses his job the entire family is forced to move back to Earth. Amy says goodbye to her best friend Jemmah and climbs into a cryotube where she will spend the next 30 years frozen in a state of suspended animation, hurtling in a rocket toward her new home. Her life will never be the same, but all she can think about is how when she gets to Earth, Jemmah will have grown up without her.

When Amy arrives on Earth, she feels like an alien in a strange land. The sky is beautiful but gravity is heavy and the people are weird. Stranger still is the boy she meets at her new school–a boy who has no flavor.


Space Boy is a graphic novel that introduces us to a teen named Amy who lives in space, but gets sent back to Earth when her father loses his job. The family gets cryogenically frozen and “sleeps” through 30 years on board a spacecraft. When they arrive on Earth, they have to adjust to gravity and catch up on all the news and technology they’ve missed. While Amy goes to an Earthen school for the first time, she comes across a boy who seems out of place – I’m assuming this will be the “Space Boy” from the title, but we don’t learn much about him in this installment.

I read the entire book in just about an hour, so it’s a quick read, but incredibly enjoyable. There are layers and questions and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. While Amy is a teenager and this is marketed as a young adult book, it felt more like middle grade to me because of the reading ease. Also, I found it on the children’s side of the library, so I went into this book thinking it was middle grade. That being said, the illustration style is beautiful (though my daughter kept asking where the girl’s feet were!). I enjoyed the depictions of life in space and the pictures felt like they had movement and energy to them.

One of the reasons why I think I liked this book so much was because it reminded me of the 1999 Disney channel movie Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. Cetus-Lupeedus! Remember that one? But I also enjoyed Space Boy because I love thinking about what it will be like for humans to live in space. Books where the author presents a version of the future and our connection to space usually intrigue me – for instance, anything by Andy Weir, These Broken Stars, Defy the Stars, Ender’s Game and many others.

In all, I’m so glad that I swiped this book from the shelf to read. I didn’t know anything about this book going in, but I’m leaving with a new series to follow. A great graphic novel and great read.

Intrigued by Space Boy? You can read the series online at the Webtoon website. The books are broken down into “episodes” that you can scroll through. Try it out here. This is a good way to read the books for free, but I think I like the format of a book better. 

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Rating + Review: They Both Die at the End

The Finisher (9)

Do you read the acknowledgments section in the back of the book? I do. For one, I’m usually not ready to part with a book once I’m done with it, so I read (most of) the extra content at the end, and two, I love seeing how so many of the authors I read all seem to be friends with each other. I imagine them having artsy get-togethers and interesting email conversations.  Well, while reading Becky Albertalli’s books (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leah on the Offbeat, The Upside of Unrequited), I kept coming across Adam Silvera’s name in the acknowledgments and in interviews with Albertalli. Since I hadn’t read any of Silvera’s books, I decided to give this one a try. Maybe I’ll be adding the book Albertalli and Silvera wrote together, What if it’s Us, to my TBR list, too.   

Goodreads Blurb:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

my thoughts

If you knew today was your last day, how would you choose to spend it?

That’s the premise for Adam Silvera’s novel, They Both Die at the End. Teens Mateo and Rufus both get the Death-Cast call on the same day, warning them that sometime within the next twenty-four hours, they will die. They won’t know how or when. They won’t be able to stop it. Mateo is a loner whose father is in a coma in the hospital, so Rufus needs someone to help him truly live on his final day. He uses the Last Friend app to find Rufus. Rufus has a group of people who care about him, but thanks to some bad choices he made earlier, he has to stay away from them or risk getting picked up by the cops. Together, Mateo and Rufus live and learn and love as the hours pass them by. They both become the best versions of themselves as the Death-Cast call looms over them.

The title and Death-Cast calls at the beginning of the book means that the reader is on edge through the entire story. There is an ache in your chest because as you get to know more and more about the characters, you also know that time is running out for these teens. Will they be the exceptions? Will they somehow be able to make enough changes or take care of each other so well that neither of them dies? The suspense keeps the book moving along.

That being said, I didn’t looove this book. It’s more like a 3.5 or 3.75 and I’m generously rounding up to 4. It has suspense and characters I cared about, but the characters didn’t really seem like a love-match to me. It felt more like a relationship of convenience. If you knew you were going to die, wouldn’t you want to be loved? Mateo and Rufus don’t really have the luxury of being picky! Would they have chosen each other under different circumstances? I’m not sure.

The relationships that I found more believable were their friendships. Mateo’s friend Lidia is a teen mom who already lost her boyfriend. It seems unfair that she’s losing another branch of her support system. Rufus’s friends Malcolm, Tagoe, and Aimee, have already helped Rufus cope with the loss of his family and it’s clear they love each other. They offer the best support that they can. I like books with great friendships, so I think I would have liked this book more if there was more time spent on friendship rather than on a forced romance.

In all, They Both Die at the End is a solid YA contemporary/sci-fi-ish read. While it’s never explained how Death-Cast knows it will be your final day, the concept is interesting and I could suspend disbelief enough to jump into the story. The book also made me wonder what I would do if I knew it was my last day. This was my first Silvera novel, but I think I would be open to another one.

my thoughts (5)

Rating + Review: Beartown

A Man Called Ove – both the book and the movie – was well-received, but I hadn’t bothered with either because in all the blurbs and reviews, the main character is described as a grumpy, old curmudgeon. That’s really not the type of character I gravitate towards! I’m going to have to rethink that opinion, however, because I just read another one of Fredrik Backman’s books and it was incredible. Thanks to my Aunt Celeste’s recommendation, I read Beartown and was blown away from page one.

Goodreads Blurb:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

If Beartown is an accurate portrayal of Fredrik Backman’s writing, then sign me up for the rest of his books. From the shocking first page to the very end of the book, I was captivated by Beartown’s inhabitants.

Beartown is a small town hidden in the woods that lives and breathes hockey. With jobs and businesses disappearing, the junior hockey team offers the town one last chance for glory and economic stimulation. But when an appalling incident happens days before the big game, the town has to decide between what it wants to be true and what it knows is right.

Perhaps because I’ve lived in small, cold towns where sports ruled, but I found this book so relatable. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine the events of the book at all. It could practically be pulled from headlines. In addition to the setting and content, author Fredrik Backman uses a variety of characters – all with their own charms and flaws – to give a well-rounded representation of a community. Each point of view was compelling. The writing was so easy to read and lovely. There were several fantastic descriptions and lines sprinkled throughout that made Backman’s writing superb. It’s atmospheric and insightful. Beartown was also an emotional read. I teared up a handful of times as I read, proving that the characters felt real to me.

Even though it’s early in 2019, I feel confident that Beartown will be one of the best books I read this year. Without a doubt, this was a five star read for me.

Rating + Review: On the Come Up

Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, sure was a writer’s dream. It was a hit with readers, garnering 275,000 Goodreads ratings (with an amazing 4.55 star average), and was even turned into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg. Like a lot of other people, I was looking forward to another novel by Thomas. With a voice that’s genuine and timely, her young adult fiction is finding traction with readers who are interested in reading diverse voices.

Goodreads Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

On the Come Up is a standalone novel from the author of The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas. This book stars Bri Jackson, a high school junior who wants to become a rapper so she can help her family out financially. She lives with her mom and older brother, Trey, but they barely make ends meet. Sometimes they go without power or visit food drives to get groceries. Bri attends a nice school outside of her neighborhood, but feels targeted there by the security guards and teachers because she’s black. Bri plays on the idea of what everyone assumes about her and raps about what she’d really like to do to the security guards at her school. The song gains Bri some quick fame, and the reader goes along with Bri through the ups and downs of navigating life as a young black girl when your dreams can be dangerous.

Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I actually did (THUG is like a 4.25 stars and OTCU is a 3.8 stars, rounded up!). I struggled to get into this story at first. There was a lot of slang and vocabulary that I wasn’t familiar with and had to stop and think about. For instance, “I throw my snapback on, pulling the front down enough so it can cover my edges” or “She’s beside her Cutlass, getting it in. Milly Rocking, Disciple Walking, all of that, like she’s a one-woman Soul Train line.” It took me out of the story a bit, even though this language is also what helped make it authentic. And unlike THUG, I didn’t find the characters quite as endearing. They didn’t feel quite as fleshed out for me as Starr and her family did. Even the descriptions of people and places didn’t feel as well-done in this book, but perhaps I’m remembering THUG incorrectly. Bri makes rash decisions and doesn’t consider the consequences until later. She makes a lot of careless choices, so it was hard to be sympathetic towards her at times. Despite this, I was definitely rooting for Bri and her family. I wanted them to beat the odds and make it – while also recognizing that many of their difficulties weren’t their fault but rather systematic racism.

On the Come Up is still an enjoyable read, even with a few criticisms. For instance, it was really cool to see Bri come up with her rhymes. She would hear a word or phrase and be reminded of other concepts or rhyming words and turn it into lyrics, or bars. I liked seeing this word play. I also really liked Bri’s mom, Jay, and a conversation she has with the school superintendent. Jay is a strong, smart woman. Even with flaws and a past, she brings a lot of wisdom to Bri’s life. If only Bri would listen! Guess that’s what happens when you’re a teenager, though.

While there is plenty to unpack with this book – racial profiling, inequality across housing and education, gang violence, hip hop culture, guns for white people vs. guns for POC, police brutality – the package is so neat and tidy that you don’t realize that’s what you’re reading about. Angie Thomas has definitely hit on something special and relevant with her first two books. She’s carving out a niche in contemporary YA using diverse perspectives that everyone can enjoy and learn from.

Recommended for:

  • Readers who enjoyed The Hate U Give (or moviegoers who enjoyed the same title)
  • High school English teachers looking for diverse perspectives to expose their students to
  • Readers who prefer to read fiction, but still want to learn about race in America
  • People who like hip hop music, spoken word poetry, and rap battles

Rating + Review: Outline

I can’t quite remember why I added this book to my TBR shelf on Goodreads in June of 2018, but I think it might have been because of a segment I heard on NPR. Perhaps Rachel Cusk was promoting the third book in her Outline trilogy? For whatever reason, the book sounded writerly and interesting. Outline earned a lot of awards and I wanted to see if I agreed with the hype.

Goodreads Blurb:

A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language.

A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking—about their destination, their careers, their families. Grievances are aired, family tragedies discussed, marriages and divorces analyzed. An intimacy is established as two strangers contrast their own fictions about their lives.

Rachel Cusk’s Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

Outline takes a hard look at the things that are hardest to speak about. It brilliantly captures conversations, investigates people’s motivations for storytelling, and questions their ability to ever do so honestly or unselfishly. In doing so it bares the deepest impulses behind the craft of fiction writing. This is Rachel Cusk’s finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant, original novels of recent years.

A Finalist for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. One of The New York Times’ Top Ten Books of the Year. Named a A New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, Vogue, NPR, The Guardian, The Independent, Glamour, and The Globe and Mail.

As I started reading Outline, I was expecting to go on a literary adventure through some lovely writing. With lines like, “Love restores almost everything, and where it can’t restore, it takes away the pain,” I had high hopes for this book. The prose read quickly and easily, so while it could have been pretentious, it felt precise and effective. Each word felt carefully chosen. The part that I came to dislike was the lack of plot.

The lack of action.

The lack of connection to our narrator.

I followed the narrator around and listened in on her acquaintances’ conversations, but learned next-to-nothing about her. Can the main character really be the protagonist of her own story if she didn’t do anything?

On a flight to Greece, the narrator and her seatmate, whom she calls her “neighbor,” strike up a conversation. She learns that he has been married three times, had several kids, earned money and lost it, and had a tumultuous life overall. We learn that the narrator will be teaching a summer writing course in Greece. Next, the writer has a conversation with another writing teacher, a conversation with a friend she met on a previous trip to Greece, a conversation with a different friend and a published author, some conversations with her neighbor from the plane, we listen in on two of her writing classes, and then the book ends with a conversation with the next writing teacher who will teach the course. Each of these conversations reveals the deepest, darkest secrets and fears of the people the narrator is with. For some reason, all of these people spill intimate details about their lives while the narrator holds herself back. She isn’t prying into their lives or even asking questions – they freely offer up these details (but why? People don’t do this). I just couldn’t imagine this happening in real life, even though much of the book felt real because of its leisurely pace and unremarkable action.

The format of Outline reminded me of The Canterbury Tales. There’s a framework: a “pilgrimage” to Greece, and fellow characters tell personal stories, from which the reader is supposed to gather some sort of insight. It’s a departure from the typical novel and felt very anticlimactic to me. Although the writing is lovely, it felt a bit pointless. I feel like I need a professor to point out what I was missing. Like, is the fact that there’s not a satisfying ending supposed to be a mirror of life, where there’s no real conclusion, just a continuation? What else did I miss?

I don’t want to read the next book in the Outline trilogy; however, I’m also feeling such a lack of resolution that I’m curious to know what happens next to our main character. Will we finally come to know more about her? Or will the next book just offer up more conversations with random people? Cusk’s prose may be worthy of awards, but the absence of a plot left me unimpressed.

My 5 Star Books of 2018

We’re already 18 days into 2019, but I still wanted to share some of the best books I read last year. I hope you’ll be inspired to add them to your TBR lists if you haven’t read them yet. Out of 59 books, I gave 13 books a 5 star rating on Goodreads. The chart below talks about 10 of these titles. While most of the titles are YA, I find it interesting that there are two graphic novels listed and a nonfiction book. Neither have appeared in my previous “Five Star” posts (check out my lists for 2015, 2016, and 2017). A tip: click on the infographic below so you can zoom in and actually read the text!

Honorable Mentions:

  • Becky Albertalli’s books:
    • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (and the adorable film adaptation, Love, Simon)
    • Leah on the Offbeat 
    • The Upside of Unrequited 
  • Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  • One Dark Throne and Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake
  • The Thousandth Floor series by Katharine McGee
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray

Did any of the above books make it onto your favorites list? What were your favorite books of the year?

Wrapping up November

Thanks so much for stopping by my little corner of the web this month. I’ve gained new followers and found new blogs to follow myself. I’ve blogged from my cell phone – new for me – and blogged from an airport and a different country. While NaBloPoMo can be stressful as I put pressure on myself to churn out way more content than usual, I’m always glad that I participated.

Other November Stats:

  • Read 3 books:
    • Juliet Takes a Breath
    • Holding up the Universe
    • From Twinkle, With Love
  • Started 3 other books (but their lending periods ended before I could complete them):
    • They Both Die at the End
    • The Ensemble
    • Strange the Dreamer
  • Gained 16 new followers
  • Had web visitors from 38 different countries
  • My post “Casting To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” continues to be my most popular post, with 97 views this month alone
  • 14,577 words published in November
  • Saw Hanson’s String Theory concert in Minneapolis
  • Threw a Wonder Woman themed 4th birthday party
  • Spent a week in Mexico

Not too shabby for 30 days! Hope your month was productive and fulfilling, and that we continue to see each other around the blogosphere.

May your holiday season be filled with lots of books and blessings.