I’ve been a little slow when it came to reading this week I only finished two books plus a picture book this week, still it brings my monthly total up to 8 so I’m pretty happy. It will be awhile before one of the review is up because I’m reviewing this series which is the spin-off of another series so I’m reviewing the original series first. The second review should already be up by the time this is posted.
Three Keys (A Front Desk Novel)
The Name Jar
Sorry this post is up late, I think I have a cold and/or ear infection so I don’t feel super well. Going to try to keep the reviews going for Blogtober though! I’m also happy because I’m adding to my totally for Year of the Asian Readathon, I’m getting closer to hitting my goal and might even surpass it woohoo! Yay for reading goals this year and smashing them.
So it would be fair to say that I loved Front Deskby Kelly Yang. This book would get 6 stars if I could give them out, it has the heart, importance, and love of Front Desk like times a million and its issues are timely with the world today. It’s going to be one of my favorite books of the year I can already tell, another feat of brilliance by Kelly Yang.
Mia thinks she’s going to have the best year ever. She and her parents are finally out from under the thumb of the controlling Mr. Yao and get to run the Calivista Motel the way they see fit, which includes helping out immigrants.
She also gets to run the front desk with her best friend Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing. But sixth grade it turns out isn’t exactly what she expected. It’s an election year and her teacher openly supports the anti-immigrant candidate who is running to the point she asks them to write about things like why immigration is bad.
Plus the teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great, and unlike her teacher last year she finds herself receiving Cs instead of the As she thinks she rightly deserves.
But school isn’t Mia’s only problem, she’s a businesswoman too and the motel is struggling, in part because they are helping immigrants. The investors are threatening to pull back and sell their shares if Mia doesn’t do something, but Mia doesn’t want to give up on her values.
Especially with a new immigration law that is looming that if it passes will threaten the everything and everyone in Mia’s life.
As I said at the outset, I really enjoyed this book, but another thing I especially apricated was the historical and qualitative/quantitative research Yang did about Proposition 187 as well as the current state of immigration in America. Yang went into some of I’m going to call them what they are concentration camps, to interview immigrants being held there.
I also enjoyed the way Lupe and Jason both grew as characters.
Again if I could give this more than 5 stars I would, amazing work!
A modern middle grade retelling of Great Expectations, which probably would have meant a lot more to me if I’d read the original source material. Still I thought it was very cute.
Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Korean American Pippa Park feels like everyone from her sister to the other kids at her school have a plan to what her life should look like. So when she gets a chance to go to the mysterious Lakeview Private School, via a basketball scholarship where practically no one knows who she is, she can’t help but reinvent herself following a teen magazine’s “Rules of Cool”.
But reinventing herself isn’t as easy as she thought, juggling old and new friends, as well as an unrequited crush turns out to be a ton of pressure. Then there is keeping her real life of working at a laundromat and her family a secret from her new rich elite classmates.
Just when she thinks she can’t handle it all, she begins to recive messages threatening to reveal her carefully crafted persona to her new school. .
And as the threat of being revealed comes even closer, she learns the real reason she was admitted to the elite prep school, and wonders if she should even try to keep her two lives separate and what will happen if she doesn’t.
While it explores cyberbulling well I think it also explores the issue of trying to find out who you want to be, in spite or perhaps because of your family or friend group. This is an issue the middle grade set deals with a lot and I’m pretty sure it’s an issue in the source material so that makes sense. I especially like the way the Korean culture was integrated, the way Pippa felt pushed, her celebrations, and just the little things that were mentioned along the way.
I also liked Pippa’s friend group and basketball team I won’t spoil the ending but I liked the mix of personalities that were shown.
I know I’ve fallen behind on my Year of the Asian Readthon, several books are coming out that should catch me but still I’d like to get back on board with the challenge for the fall. One book that counts toward the challenge that I really enjoyed was Stargazing.
Jen Wang tells a deeply personal story appropriate for middle grades focused on two Chinese American girls.
Moon is everything Christine isn’t, they both grew up in the same suburb, but Moon is confident, impulsive, and artistic. Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.
When Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends soon become best friends. Having fun sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t aren’t around.
But Moon has a secret, she has visions sometimes, of the the celestial beings who speak to her from who reassure her that earth isn’t where where she really belongs.
Can Christine be the Moon needs when her visions turn out to have an all to earthly root and Moon is soon in the hospital fighting for her life?
First the art was beautiful on this, I really liked how the author talked about there needed to be space for different kinds of young women, both like Christine and Moon within the Asian community, and how there needs to be room to fight stereotypes of how young women have to be.
Even with Moon’s medical issues it’s also rare to see a character like in middle grade fiction, she’s loud, and confident and a little messy, and as someone who was all those things and had them viewed negatively it’s nice to see books portraying them positively in girls.
Ultimately I like the fact that while Moon had issues they didn’t just abandon her to them and worked with her and helped her fix them, and while they were severe medical as opposed to psychiatric its still nice to see.
Henry Khoo is tired of his family treating him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his, sister/bodyguard. And he surely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself.
Except he decides he’s doing just that after his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled. Henry doesn’t want to be cooped up with his family who won’t let him do anything and his former best friend forever turned Not Best Friend Forever.
Plus he’s got a secret he can’t let get out, a secret that his life will be over if he’s caught. He’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon and he’s on the verge of getting caught.
Wanting to prove his indepence and avoid punishment for his crimes Henry embarks on the greatest adventure ever. Hopefully it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.
Front Desk was one of my favorite stories of 2018 so I honestly have been waiting for this book since I heard it was announced.
Mia Tang thinks she’s going to have the best year ever, after all the trouble of the past she and her parents are finally the proud owners of Calivista Motel. Mia even gets to run the front desk with her best friend Lupe. What’s more she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing.
However she hasn’t seen what sixth grade has to throw at her.
Mia’s new teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great. And her whole class finds out she lives in a motel.
Speaking of the motel it’s struggling and Mia has to answer to the Calvista’s many many worried investors.
If that weren’t enough there is a new immigration law looming and if it passes it will threaten everything and everyone in Mia’s life.
This year may have new challenges to throw at her but if anyone has the key to handling these ups and downs it’s Mia Tang!
Twelve year old Clara doesn’t know why vistitors call her island home exotic. There is nothing exotic about to her. She doesn’t see what the big deal is about eating ripe mangos off the ground, and running outside in the rain with her Papa during the rainy season. She also loves going to her secret hideout with Gaynah-even though lately Gaynah isn’t acting much like a best friend.
Clara only has one thing that is really out of the ordinary for her. Something has happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit.
Occasionally she has flashbacks, other times her Mama fills in the blanks, she only knows those aren’t her memories and it’s hard being different from everyone else. But Clara knows this summer is going to be different for her, the village is buzzing with excitement with a new girl who is not like other visitors. Clara doesn’t know it yet but this girl is going to make waves and give Clara a summer she won’t forget!
I’ve been very much looking forward to this one. I finished the first two in the series in probably two weeks, so I’m looking forward to see where the series is going.
After the Dark Halloween in the last book, the town of Timber is having a full blown monster panic! This is making life very difficult for the Torchbearers—Opal, Nico, Tyler Emma and Logan.
While they are all part of the group they each have their own tasks at hand. Nico is investigating the mysterious Rift and the strange natural phenomena that occur as a result of it, all while juggling worries about his dad’s potential work transfer.
Opal meanwhile has her hands full researching the founding Torchbearer Yvette Dumont and deciphering clues from another realm sent by the mysterious Thing in a Jar.
Emma meanwhile has started a wildly popular Youtube show that has brought her new found fame, but has also earned her some enemies. Logan is busy trying to unlock secrets of his own family history and what role it might have played in founding Torchbearer Order
Finally Tyler the self-proclaimed Beastmaster strives to find a way to communicate and not be eaten by the mercurial and deadly alien sea creature living in Still Cove.
But if their not bust enough something cryptic has surfaced in the Darkdeep and Questions arise and the friends find themselves at odds.
Then there is the enigmatic new girl who is new in town and has an agenda of her own. As the five friends discover shocking secrets about the Torchbearers, their houseboat houseboat hangout, the Rift, and the Darkdeep itself.
But as signs point to realms beyond the ones they know, their friendships are put to the test, are their bonds strong enough to hold up against this new threat.
Sorry this a little late, life had been interesting which I should hopefully get back to telling you about in my Saturday reports. So I’m mostly back to my roots of adorable middle grade with these new releases. So looking forward to some of these.
A Place at the Table
There is a cute sub-genre of middle grade fiction that I like to call cute food fiction. Think of Summer of 1000 Pies, Midsummer Mayhem, books where food is the focus and the plot happens around it. I always find them to be especially cute, and I think this one will fall onto the list.
Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth couldn’t be more different. Sara is Pakistani American and used to her small Islamic school, only this year she’s attending a newer bigger school. Elizabeth has her own problems, who is white and Jewish, has her own problems, like her mom struggling with depression.
The girls meet in an after school South Asian cooking class Elizabeth picked up the class because her mother stopped cooking. Sara is only there because she has to be, after all her mom is the teacher, but Sara hates to cook.
The two girls slowly become friends and come up with a plan to make an amazing cross cultural dish together, that will win them a spot on a local food show. The question is, they make good cooking partners, but can they be true friends?
I’ve been waiting for this book to come out since the beginning of the year. For one thing it looks cute as heck, and for two the young witch reminds me of myself.
Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of novice witch before her thirteenth birthday. If she doesn’t she’ll loose her magic forever. For most witches and wizards it’s a simple enough test. It has three steps.
One: Help your town, do good all around. Two: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon. Three: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.
Eva has a problem though, she’s not exactly as magical as she would like and when her magic does work, it’s not always in the way she plans. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers, and gets sunburn instead of calling down rain. The worst of it, when she uses too much magic she falls asleep.
When she lands in the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, she’s not what the residents are expecting. But she’s determined to prove herself. So she sets up a magical repair shop to aid the citizens of the town, she may only be semi-magical but her fixes help the townspeople in ways they could have never imagined
The only problem is Eva’s bit of magic might not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. She must use all her magic, bravery and cleverness, if she wants to have any chance at saving Auteri or becoming a witch.
I really like Shannon Hale as an author so I thought I’d give this a try plus the concept seemed interesting.
There is nothing peaking in high school, and Josie Pie learned that lesson the hard way.
She dropped out of high school to be a star only have her Broadway dreams dashed. The bigger you are the harder you fall after all.
The rest of her life isn’t much better her best friend is distant. Boyfriend-busy, and her mom, she clearly has other things on her mind.
Josie escapes into books to get away from her slowly imploding life
Only thing is she really escapes, she reads a book and suddenly she’s inside it. She a different character: a post-apocalyptic heroine, the lead in a YA rom-com, and so on for every book she reads
At first she’s worried but then she’s amazed. It’s the perfect way to for the failed Broadway star to finally find new ways to shine. The thing is the longer she stays in a story the harder it is to escape.
Will Josie find a story so good that she just stays forever.
Okay I’m sorry I missed you guys on Monday and Wednesday. Last week was an emotional roller coaster for my family and this week I had a medical procedure to help my migraines. So I’ve been taking a lot of naps. Also it made me realize I’ve hardly missed a post since January so maybe I should give myself a break.
I’m not pushing myself too hard this month because let me tell you I’m tired. Plus I’ve got some volunteer commitments. Considering I only finished one book last month we’re keeping this at four books, and hoping that I can do that. Also I’m not sure if I should count all the non-fiction books about bread I’m reading. I’m probably going to go with yes, but I may not review them here, because I’m not sure you guys are interested in baking book reviews.
This Book Is Anti-Racist
This lovely book by Tiffany Jewell helps the middle grade and young adult audience and beyond understand the roots of racism. Jewell also talks about social identities, the histories of racism and resistance against it and how to become anti-racist and use your voice to help move society towards equity and liberation.
Jewell guides you through a deeper understanding of your anti racist self as you progress through 20 chapters. These chapters will help you spark deeper thinking about racism, reveal the origins of racism we are still experincing, and help give you the courage and power to undo it. Each chapter builds on the previous one as you learn about yourself and racial oppression. All you need is a pen and paper. The activities get you thinking and help you grow with the knowledge.
Author Tiffany Jewell, an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, builds solidarity beginning with the language she chooses – using gender neutral words to honour everyone who reads the book. Illustrator Aurélia Durand brings the stories and characters to life with kaleidoscopic vibrancy.
I found this book because I really loved the The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, which I still need to finish by way, whoops.
Tween Felix Knutsson knows his trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he likes the show so much he’s even named his gerbil after the host. His mother Astrid is loving but can’t manage to hold a job. So the two of them end up living in their van, a fact Astrid swears Felix to secrecy about. He can’t even tell his best friends at his new school Dylan and Winnie.
Astrid is worried Dylan will be taken away and put into foster care. And as things go from bad to worse Felix gets a chance to audition for the junior edition of his favorite game show. He knows if he gets his spot and wins the cash prize will make everything okay.
But thing don’t turn out exactly the way he plans
Susin Nielsen is a Canadian author for children, adolescent and young adults. She received a Governor General’s Award and the 2013 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award for her young adult novel The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen.
I’ve fallen off the tracks when it comes to my YARC challenge books, however I intend to do better about that this coming month.
Leigh Chen Sanders is having to deal with a lot lately, after losing her mother via suicide. She is visiting her maternal grandparents for the first time. Leigh, who is half white and half Asian is only certain of one thing lately. When her mother died, she turned into a bird.
During this trip to Taiwan to meet her grandparents she also intends to find her mother, the bird. But some question lead to answers you didn’t know you were looking for, and Leigh finds herself chasing ghost, dealing with family secrets, and finding a bond with her grandparents.
She must also deal with her own grief and guilt tied up in her mother sucide.
Dealing with real and magic, The Astonishing Color of After is a wonderful tale about finding oneself though family history, grief, art, and love.
Emily X.R Pan is Taiwanese and Chinese American. She has received numerous awards for this book including the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award, the honor of being an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist, and being long-listed for the Carnegie Medal, among other accolades.
Okay so I’m not going to give too much away about the plot but there is ace rep!!!! So happy. Also mental health rep, this is why I’m like a third into this book already.
Corey and Kyra were inseparable best friends in their tiny Alaskan town of Lost Creek. But as Kyra starts to seriously struggle with her bipolar disorder Corey’s family move away. Corey is worried about what might happen in her absense so she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long dark winter.
Just as Corey is about to visit Kyra dies. Corey is devestated and confused because Kyra promised she wouldn’t hurt herself. But any time she tries to find out more information the Lost community speaks in hushed tones saying Kyra’s death was meant to be.
They push Corey away, but as Corey dives deeper into the mystery of her best friend’s death, she finds more questions than answers and her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets, like maybe Kyra’s death wasn’t a suicide after all, but can she piece together the cold hard truth and survive her visit?
A contemporary retelling of a Midsummer Night’s Dream with a diverse cast.
Eleven-year-old Mimi Mackson feels lost in her big Indian American family, everyone else has something they are good at. Her Dad’s a renowned food writer and her mom’s a successful businesswoman. Her three older siblings are all great at things like acting, sports, and music.
It’s easy to feel invisible. Sure she has baking but she’s not sure she’s the greatest at it, she loves it though, and wants to prove she’s not the least talented member of her family. So when a new bakery called the While Away comes to town and offers a contest for young bakers she knows exactly how to do it. Plus she’ll get to meet her idol, Puffy Fay.
But strange things start happening in the Mackson household when her father returns from his business trip he’s suddenly lost his refined sense of taste. Without him to help her there is no way she’ll win the contest
Missing her friend Emma who moved out of the country earlier in the year and mourning the fact she won’t win the contest, Mimi retreats to the woods behind her house and finds herself drawn deeper in by a strangely familiar song. She meets a strange boy named Vik, he shows her parts of the forest she’s never seen before.
What’s more, he likes baking and together they find a book that tells all about the different ingredients Mimi could use for the contest. With this and Vik’s help, Mimi can’t help but win!
But things are getting stranger with her dad, and her sibling’s romantic issues cause trouble as well. It all seems to lead back to her baking, but baking can’t be magical, can it? As the contest approaches Mimi learns everything isn’t what it seems and must choose once and for all what is most important to her.
Mimi is a great heroine, and the way baking is integrated into this book is amazing. Every treat that Mimi bakes is one I want to try, except perhaps for the one that has a spoilery consequence. But they all sound tasty none the less and the cast of supporting characters from her big family to the staff at the While Away Bakery is easy to fall in love with.
Five Favorite Things
Mimi’s Friendship with Vik
The book was easy to follow even without having read Shakespeare.
This was easily a 4.5 book. Cute, funny, and engaging, I’ll probably read it again this year.
With it being Year of the Asian Readathon I had to do a series of books focus on Asian authors. With Asia’s rich history of martial arts, I thought the most appropriate would be fighting type, and I decided to focus on #OwnVoices authors, as I think everyone should. Below are some more of Pokemon Reads Fighting Type!
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword
Peasprout Chen and her little brother Cricket are the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, and Peasprout Chen wants nothing more than to be a champion.
They are there to learn the art of wu liu, a beautiful combo of martial arts and figure skating.
But soon they will find themselves not only battling for top ranking at the academy but facing prejudice when the lovely Pearl buildings of the academy are vandalized.
Now Peasprout must solve a mystery to ensure peace between her home country and Pearl, all while still becoming a champion.
Author Henry Lien was born in Taiwan and currently lives in Hollywood.
The Pokemon that reminds me of this book is: Mienshao
It’s the martial arts Pokemon and seems elegant like the art Peasprout is learning and the city Pearl.
Usagi was born in the year of the wood rabbit, and she has extraordinary powers. For example, she can soar over treetops in a giant leap, and hear a squirrels heartbeat a mile away. But she can never use her powers, and neither can her little sister Uma, and while she understands that keeping her powers a secret from the vicious Dragonlord is important, rambunctious Uma is a little tougher to convince.
But when the Dragonlord captures Uma in his quest to find everyone in her land with zodiac powers, Usagi must, for the first time use her power to try to get her sister back and fight against the Dragonlord.
To get in touch with her powers she must make a journey to Mount Jade along with other people who have similar powers, they are the fabled Heirs of the Twelve, a mystical group of warriors who once protected the land.
But things aren’t always what they seem and Usagi must decide who to trust as she takes on deadly foes and eventually on her path to facing the Dragonlord himself.
Cindy Lin is a former multimedia news producer who has done work and lived in Japan. She now spends her time in Southern California.
The Pokemon that reminds me of this book is: Lopunny
Due to the Usagi’s Zodiac powers this was an obvious choice, this is usually a Normal type Pokemon, however when it Mega Evolves it gains the Fighting type
This is a short middle grade by #WeNeedDiverseBooks co-founder Ellen Oh, the book draws inspiration from Korean lore and culture. Jiho Park is just trying to get by, in a kingdom filled with magic, he and his family are immune to its effects but that doesn’t make his life easy.
Since his father disappeared into the Kidahara, a powerful ancient forest, five years ago Jiho wants nothing to do with his family legacy of being a forest ranger and protecting the Kidahara. Jiho has lost too much and knows all too well about the dangers the forest holds and how those who go in don’t come back, like his father and the only daughter of the royal family Princess Koko.
But when Jiho agrees to help foreign forces access the Kidhara to get money, he needs for his family to survive, he finds out that a long-forgotten evil that’s been lurking deep in the Kidahara is starting to wake up again.
But how can a magic-less boy, a bandit leader, and lost princess join forces and save the world before it’s too late?
The Pokemon that reminds me of this book is: Meloetta in Pirouette Form
This Pokemon is the melody Pokemon and the forest in the book has a magical call, plus she reminds me of some of the magical creatures in the book.
My second book down for Year of the Asian Readathon, I might actually make my goal this year, I’m reading another YARC book by Tae Keller, When You Trap a Tiger, that’s based in Korean folklore. But first, let us talk about the book that took me like sixish months to finish?
Lalani of the Distant Sea
Lalani Sarita’s is just trying to get by Sanlagita where life is difficult and women aren’t valued. Whenever someone tries to leave the island they never come back, a fate that befell Lalani’s father. Lalani and her mother have to suffer from her stepfather and stepbrother. And deal with a drought that has hit the island.
When Lalani travels up the mountain the islanders think is evil, she meets a creature there who grants her wish, but not in the way she imagined. And when distress falls on the village, Lalani ends up shouldering the blame.
To help her mother who has fallen ill from an incurable disease, Lalani must leave the island to find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. It holds what might be a cure for her mother and a way for Lalani to erase the mistakes she’s made in the village. But where generations of her people have failed to reach the island what chance does an ordinary girl have?
Erin Entrada Kelly is a Filipino-American writer of children’s literature. She was awarded 2018, John Newbery Medal, by the Association for Library Service to Children for her third novel, Hello, Universe.
I really enjoyed this book because of its unusual narrative structure. It had chapters that were written from different people’s perspectives like a usual book, however, what was unusual was the perspectives from things like the different creatures in the book, the trees, and birds. I’ve never encountered this before and I really liked it, you were never really sure what you were going to get in the next chapter.
However, I think while these chapters were interesting, it sort of felt like they slowed the overall pace of the story. It made sense that they were there narratively, but the pacing kind of got lost in the mix so by the end you almost forgot why you going on the journey with Lalani in the first place because you were too interested in the other side characters and adventures that were described or at least I was?
But I liked the book I just think the pacing threw me off and that is why it took me a while to finish it. Overall I’d say the book is a solid four stars.