I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn

A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Melody is caught by a police officer smoking her first joint with her friend Sophie. They both managed one cough-inducing puff. The officer takes them both home, giving them a warning to not do it again. The next day she discovers that her parents have decided that they all need to be together so she’s moving with her mom to Korea and away from New York City. The two of them have lived in a tiny New York City apartment for most of Melody’s life while her father has worked in Korea and traveled back and forth to visit them. Melody and her mom have a close relationship but everything in Melody’s life changes once they’re in Korea. Her father is strict and gruff, her grandparents seem cold, distant and uncaring. She does make some friends and her Dad encourages socializing, which helps ease the family tensions and the homework stress. Her relationship with Sophie is strained too and Melody wants to figure out how to pursue her dream of becoming an interior designer while mending relationships with the people she cares about and navigating two countries as her home. A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Language: 24 swears, including 1 f-bomb
Mature content: PG-13-kissing; underage smoking of marijuana
Violence: PG-arguing
Ethnicity: Korean, Ethiopian, American and many languages, such as French, spoken and ethnicities represented in Korea when Melody goes to a nightclub.
Likes/dislikes: I love the descriptions of each setting the main character is in. I also like the relevance of family contention and teen angst that takes place as Melody’s father tries to completely control her and she discovers her mother keeping secrets. She sees her grandfather treat her father the same way her father treats her and she wonders why he does that to her when he seems to dislike being treated like that. Great insight into Korean culture through Melody’s experiences as she visits places and tries new foods.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing!

Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolutin by Jennifer Donnelly pulled me into historical Paris! By page 50, I was completely hooked by this book! I love and feel for Andi, I enjoy her clever sarcasm and appreciate the intellectual and cultural references throughout the story! Andi’s younger brother died in the street two years earlier and she’s never been able to move on and neither has her mother. Her father is handling it better due to his scientific and analytical thinking. Since Andi is failing classes, her father decides to take her to Paris during winter break. He wants her to work on her thesis and improve her grades during their stay in Paris. The two of them stay with her father’s long time friend and French Revolution historian. Andi accidentally discovers the journal of the young king’s caretaker during the Revolution. She becomes engrossed with the journal and the information it holds. Her reality begins to intertwine with the Revolution history and she wishes for the young king to be safe just as she wishes the same thing for her brother. This is my favorite historical fiction book with the strong and tortured main character, extreme character development and depth, research based story line and the vivid descriptions of Revolutionary Paris, 5 stars!

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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Japanese cultures and legends with a spooky aspect kept me glued to the pages of The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco!
I bought this book years ago because the synopsis intrigued me, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until it was set as the October read for the Dragons & Tea Book Club. The first five chapters introduce us to a ghost that sees murderers and scares them to death. This ghost’s life was ended in murder and she seeks justice and rids the world of killers. She notices a teen boy with strange tattoos that he tries to keep hidden as he moves into a house in Applegate, with his father. The boy, Tarquin (Tark for short) lives alone with his father since his mother seemingly tried to kill him when he was younger. The two visit her in the psychiatric hospital and she is terrified when she sees Tark and she’s threatening harm to whoever she thinks is going to hurt him, and only she can see this being. Tark thinks he freaks her out but his mother sees a dark shadow in him. The ghost sees the shadow too. The suspense heightens immensely in the next few chapters and leaves me rooting for the ghostly woman and her strong intentions. Chapters 6- 10: The action picks up alongside the suspense and I didn’t want to stop reading! 11-14: detailed descriptions of Japanese ghost legends surrounding Okiku in the well explain the ghost’s story and the humor picks up as Tark and Callie exchange emails. 15: A group of high school boys committed horrible and mutilating acts on a young woman and this setting opens a chapter with a new murder and retribution. 16-20: Tark, his father and cousin Callie travel to the shrine where Tark’s mother grew up. They learn about her life and all the things they never knew about her from the people she was raised by and grew up with. They witness a possession and exorcism of a little boy and see the shrine’s powers at work. 20-ending: sacrifices are made, tragedy strikes and parts of the shrine are damaged and destroyed.
I love this book and read through it quickly because it was interesting, suspenseful and I grew to love the characters and wanted to know how everything turned out for them. I enjoyed learning more about Japanese culture and legends, 5 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 stars!

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

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Korean folklore!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of Wicked Fox by Kat Cho!
The two main characters meet when Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life from a goblin and Jihoon sees Miyoung’s true form. The next day, Miyoung shows up at Jihoon’s school as a transfer student and, little by little, she reluctantly becomes his friend and then their relationship turns into something more. Yena, Miyoung’s mother seems cruel and uncaring to her and she forces her to move often so they don’t make ties with anyone. The self-denigrating behavior from Jihoon and Miyoung became a little tiresome. I was also confused by the many different names that the characters were each called. The differences became cumbersome to remember. I’m sure if I was better acquainted with Korean culture and folklore, it would be easier for me. There’s a good deal of character development in a few of the characters and we learn some secrets about Yena’s background which are very interesting. 4 stars for this first book in the Gumiho series!

 

Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

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Menagerie of Japanese characters!
Thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa!
The book opens with a thousand-year-old legend of a sword known as Godslayer. Tatsumi wielded this sword when it contained the demon Hakaimono. Since then, the demon has possessed Tatsumi, who continues to fight for survival against Hakaimono. Yumeko continues her mission to the Steel Feather Temple but has been waylaid with her companions to try to save Tatsumi, even though a pact was made centuries ago that if Haikaimono possessed a person, that person would be killed to stop destruction that the demon might cause. As everyone tries to thwart the demon’s plans, he shows his power and what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. The plot twists as the rivalry changes and the enemy of both becomes the focus of all. Genno, the demon who wants the scroll pieces so he can summon a Kami for the wish to rule all, will be the focus of the third book in this trilogy. At times, Yumeko seems a bit dim but then she manages to pull off some amazing feats, with the help and inspiration of others; go teamwork! I also found myself struggling to keep names and descriptions straight and I’m sure that’s because I need to learn more about the Japanese culture. 4 stars for a Japanese fantasy full of a menagerie of characters!

Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling

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Brilliant and eye-opening!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling!
Sienna has just finished college finals and is planning a Team Hope trip to Cambodia. Her friend, Spider, wants to make their relationship more than just friends and Sienna isn’t too sure about that idea. Her father knocks her off her feet when he calls to tell her that Deni will be visiting soon. Deni, as in the Deni that Sienna fell in love with two years ago and who she helped recover from the tsunami in Indonesia on her last Team Hope relief trip. Deni arrives and he and Sienna fall instep with each other and Spider doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Team Hope travels to Cambodia on a long ride and Sienna has her eyes opened wide to the beautiful country torn apart by war, poverty and sex trafficking. The Cambodian people have extreme perseverance and are living in the results of Pol Pot’s destruction. Realistic fiction, adventure and history create the story and a touch of romance brings it all forward. Where the Sea Takes Me is a brilliant, eye-opening read, 5 stars!

Chibi!: The Official Mark Crilley How-to-Draw Guide!

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Draw your very own Chibi!
Thanks to NetGalley and F+W Media for the opportunity to read and review Chibi!: The Official Mark Crilley How-To-Draw Guide! This instructional book is narrated by a cute, humorous character with a fun name (made by a play on Japanese culture) in a comic/manga format. The sections are “Chibi Basics”, “Characters and Poses” and “Chibi Craft Projects” and give detailed instructions for drawing any Chibi you could ever want to draw. I love this book because it’s not limiting Chibi drawing to characters inside a story but gives a variety of inspiring ideas for your very own Chibi! I’m purchasing this book for the school library! 5 stars!