The Poet X: A Review

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a Young Adult Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction. It’s written completely in poetry form, which I thought was perfect for National Poetry Month in April. I received my copy in my Page Habit box. It’s not really something I might have picked up on my own, although the format was quite intriguing, and I might have gotten it much later in the year. The book came out in March.
The story follows Xiomara, a 15-year-old girl living in Harlem in the present day. Her family is from the Dominican Republic, but her and her twin brother were born in America. Her mother is a devout Catholic and her father a recovering womanizer who doesn’t speak much. Xiomara has to navigate high school, the neighborhood, her changing body and the remarks from boys and men alike about those changes, as well as her mother’s strict opinions and rules about faith.
I was actually surprised how much faith is the center of this story. Xiomara, in several of the poems, examines her doubt and her struggle with faith and her opinion of God. The line that caught my breath was “God just wants me to behave so I can earn being alive.”
Since the book is mostly written in poetic form, the plot goes pretty quickly. It covers from the end of summer to the beginning of the next spring. So much happens in that timeframe that develops the characters, especially Xiomara and her brother. The book is divided into three parts, and the third part I just breezed through because the plot speeds up and so much of the story really plays out in that last section.

There is profanity in the book, as well as a lot of sexual content. There is one poem about masturbation and several about her relationship with a boy in bio class. The conflict of sexual urges versus waiting to be ready is apparent through most of that relationship.
There are a few moments of violence, but nothing graphic. Xiomara, before she really gets into the poetry, relied on her fists to protect herself and her brother. But that really was more just referenced than spelled out.

I think it might be a good book to read with a mother and daughter. It definitely would spark conversation with the endless pressures young girls deal with in today’s society as well as within the church. I would recommend it, but with the caveats of the profanity and sexual content. But the ending of the book is so beautiful. Flawed, but completely beautiful, which is why I give it four stars and a recommendation.

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Children of Blood and Bone: A Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly entertaining and beautiful story set in African mythology (West African, I believe). I love mythology, but I had never really been exposed to mythology from this part of the world, so it was a real treat. Besides that aspect, the story itself is an epic quest adventure within a vibrant world with an amazing cast of characters.
The writing is told from three perspectives. Zelie, a diviner. Amari, a princess. And Inan, a prince, and brother to Amari. Diviners are known for their white hair and silver eyes. They would have inherited magic if it did not mysteriously disappear from this world. When magic disappeared, all of those who had already had magic when it disappeared were rounded up and killed – including Zelie’s mother – in the Raid. Amari and Inan grew up in the palace. Their father was the one who initiated the Raid and taught them that magic was evil.
The story begins when the magic starts to resurface, and the king is bent on snuffing magic out again, no matter the cost. There are themes of how power and strength are defined. As well as what is truly evil or not.
The characters in the story are so diverse and flawed. They each face their own cowardice and don’t always make the right choices, which can affect outcomes beyond themselves. Even when motivations and intentions are pure, decisions can still be wrong.
One aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was the use of chapter lengths. The author would write longer chapters when deeper issues and themes or descriptions of worlds were being discussed. But, when the plot picked up or there were fight or action scenes, the chapters would get shorter. It felt like you were rushing with the characters themselves.

There wasn’t a lot of profanity as we know it. A diviner was referred to as a maggot which was a slur. They also had blasphemous words, like Skies or Oh my gods, which would be different words in our culture, but used the same way.
There was one sex scene toward the last third of the book, but it wasn’t graphic. A lot of it was implied, but it would not be hard to know what was implied.
There is a lot of violence in the book. Lots of people are killed, by sword or magic, and some of those deaths and fight scenes are pretty detailed. There is a lot of talk about scars that different characters had.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in West African culture to understand what’s going on, what’s important, and what’s impactful. I can see some glimpses, some foreshadowing into the next book, which I’m not sure when that would come out, but I’m definitely going to put it on my list!

Anna and the Swallow Man: A Review

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 12, 2018). The story takes place mostly in Poland from the perspective of a girl named Anna. At the beginning of the story, she is 7 years old when her father, an academic professor, leaves for work one day and is taken by the Nazis to an internment camp. The friend that he leaves Anna with is unable to care for her, so she finds herself on the streets where she meets a mysterious man she calls the Swallow Man. She follows him outside of the city and that’s where the adventure begins.
It’s written in the 3rd person, though it is all from the perspective of this little girl. There are only a few times that the author breaks that fourth wall to explain something, such as the fate of her father early in the story. Other than that, we are only privy to her knowledge of the world around her, which is limited by what she understands.
The story covers several years of the travels of Anna and the Swallow Man, so she does grow up throughout the story. The writing doesn’t change, really, to reflect that, though the conversations and interactions with others do as she physically matures. Also, her perspective of the Swallow Man changes throughout the story as she grows up, and we do see some transformation that both of these characters go through on this adventure.
The plot is pretty fast moving. They interact with various parts of the war and witness several of the well-known Holocaust events, but a lot of it is again taken from the perspective of a young girl. She refers to these factories and encampments that keep popping up that the Swallow Man tends to avoid, but concentration camps are never really named that in their travels. So, having some basic knowledge of the Holocaust can help pick up on a few of these clues.

There wasn’t really any profanity that stood out, but the book did have some adult themes. As Anna’s body matures, there are implications from some of the men they encounter that suggest how womanly she had become. Also, there is a scene towards the end where she has to undress in front of a man in order to obtain something she needs. While there was no touching, the whole scene made me feel uncomfortable.
Also, there is a lot of violence and death. None of it was particularly graphic, most of the violence was done off screen, but there is a lot of death, which considering it was World War II and the Holocaust in Poland, it’s too be expected. It was interesting how Anna interprets the death that is happening around her.

I think, overall, it’s an excellent but hard read. It’s the kind of story that starts out quite light and calm and evolves into quite a dark story by the end.  Not normally a book I would pick up, but definitely a good read for this particular time of the year.

How to Stop Time: A Review

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This was the book that I mentioned in my February Favorites post.  Here’s the full review!

How To Stop Time is an Adult Fiction by Matt Haig. It’s a beautiful mixture of historical fiction and a little bit of intrigue and mystery and romance. I picked up this book because I wanted something that had romance in it, and the tagline was “The number one rule is don’t fall in love.” And I was hooked. Also, I got a version that features illustrator Chris Riddell. I don’t have many books (Adult or YA) that have illustrations in them, so it was neat to see the words come to life alongside the gorgeous sketches.

Tom Hazard is the main character and narrator of the story. He has lived for over four hundred years due to a condition that makes him age slowly. The story interweaves between his memories of the past and present day that explains a lot of his motivations throughout the book. This has been one of the most seemingly realistic immortality-esque stories I have read. He isn’t rich or overly talented or charismatic, any more than any other human person, which makes him very relatable even though his condition and life are not. Other people with his condition are not completely like him. Similar, yes, but their own complex personalities and perspectives shape who they are. The “immortals” of this story are each different and have chosen different paths.
The women in his story are probably my favorite part. His mother, wife (Rose), daughter (Marion), and a present-day woman he meets while teaching history in London (Camille) are each different and complex. We don’t know everything about each character since it’s told from his perspective, but they are each painted as flawed yet beautiful people who affect his journey.
It’s written in the first person, from Tom’s perspective. We see his conflicting thoughts, his memories from the past and the present day situations in an effortless flowing narrative. The sections are short, as they flip from present day to various places in the past. And there are so many good quotes from this book. I felt like I could highlight several lines.
So, I don’t feel like I can write much about the plot without spoilers. After losing his mother and later his wife, Tom learns that his daughter might have the same condition that he does. He goes out in search of her and comes across a society of people like him. He joins this society in hopes that they will use their network to find his daughter, but in the meantime, he has to follow their rules – don’t fall in love, move every eight years, do whatever Heinrich (the leader) asks of you. As the story opens in present day, Tom is starting to question staying with this society, but fears what might happen if he doesn’t.
The overall themes of time and relationships are beautifully explored. I don’t want to get into specifics because, you know, spoilers, but the author actually does answer the question of how to stop time.

There is profanity used throughout the book, especially with some characters. It is actually a descriptor for a couple of the characters. And talked about deliberately (like, it’s acknowledged that the character cusses a lot).
There isn’t a whole lot of sexual content, at least none really described. A few kissing scenes here and there, and a reference to some sexual harassment that a couple characters endure. But in the sexual harassment section, it is alluded to, and then Tom goes and punches him in the nose. Nothing graphic
There is some violence. Tom is asked to bring people into the society, and if they don’t want to come, he is supposed to kill them. Tom is shot at one point. And of course, there is death throughout the story as people die and he goes on living. But none of it, I felt was too graphic.

At first, I was going to give this book 4 out of 5 stars because I enjoyed the story and flow well enough. But the ending was so good and as I was reading it, I realized how it had all been building up to this. I got emotional, and that bumps this up to 5 stars for me. It’s a wonderful read about life and time and relationships. I would definitely recommend!

The Hazel Wood: A Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is a dark fantasy YA book. I didn’t realize just how many dark fantasies I would be drawn towards this year. But I definitely give this one 4.5 stars. Not quite one I would pick up again, but I did thoroughly enjoy.
Alice is the main character. She and her mother have been traveling from place to place for most of her life. She has never met her grandmother, an eccentric recluse who is best known as the author of a book of dark fairy tales (which is a book Alice has not been allowed or able to read). They find out that her grandmother has died on her estate called The Hazel Wood. Shortly after, Alice’s mother is kidnapped and sends Alice a message not to go to The Hazel Wood. Alice goes after her, with the help of a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who is a huge fan of her grandmother’s fairy tales. Using the stories as clues and insight, Alice finds herself getting closer and closer to The Hazel Wood, and more truths are revealed.
The measure I use for character assessment is whether or not I care about the characters. I definitely got caught up in the stories of Alice and Ellery. The transformation and growth that Alice goes through are really well done. Ellery, not so much, but is still a character I wanted to know more about. The rest of the characters, which I don’t really want to go into without spoilers, are not quite as complex, some being used to move the story along, but I liked how they were used.
The plot has twists. Some I figured out pretty quickly. But even the ones that were predictable, I liked where the author took them.
The writing at times could get convoluted, but it was absolutely beautiful. The imagery was harsh and gorgeous at the same time. Weaving fairy tales into real-life situations made the whole story seem like a fairy tale, itself. And I loved the concept of using the fairy tale structure, especially towards the end. Also, some of the dark stories that were written by the grandmother are shared in the book. I thought that was pretty neat as well.
There is profanity in the book, particularly with one supporting character. I don’t know if it was absolutely necessary or not.
There is not much in the way of sexual content. I didn’t feel like there was a strong romance in the book. Alice is briefly kidnapped as a little girl, and people who find out tend to ask whether he touched her (which he didn’t).
There is a lot of violence, being a dark fantasy. The fairy tales that are shared are violent. Alice has a gun pulled on her. There are deaths and mentions of death. But part of the story is actually fighting that violent nature.
Overall, I would recommend with the caveat of the amount violence and profanity. Though I felt like the profanity is minor, and the violence is necessary to understand the plot and character development. Really entertaining read.
I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

Everless: A Review

EverlessEverless by Sara Holland

Everless is a YA fantasy adventure by Sara Holland. To be honest, I was drawn to this book because I have a friend with the same name as the author, but I was also drawn to it because I thought the premise was also interesting – turning blood into time and used as currency.

Jules and her father used to live at the palace at Everless, but after an accident, they are forced to flee. Since then, they have lived in poverty and on the run. But now that Jules is seventeen, she has an opportunity to return Everless as they prepare for the wedding between Roan and Ina. Liam, Roan’s brother, has always been mean and cruel, and when she returns, Liam is no different. However, there are a lot of unseen dangers for Jules, and the more secrets she uncovers, the less she realizes she knows about herself and those around her.

The characters are basically divided between the rich/royalty and the poor. Jules grew up around Roan and his brother Liam, part of the wealthy Gerlings who are the lords of their land. Roan is set to marry Ina who is the Queen’s adopted daughter and heir to the throne. I felt like the characters could be a little more three dimensional. I didn’t feel connected to a lot of them, but they have potential.

The writing got better when the plot began to move in the last ten chapters. But I found the folklore about the Sorceress and the Alchemist a little hard to follow. The rest of the storyline was pretty easy to follow, but the lore is actually a foundation for a lot of the plot twists that occur. So, it got problematic at times. And because the folklore was convoluted, the big revelations felt like meh…

As far as theme, there was a lot of repeating the idea of how callously the upper class used the blood-irons that the lower class suffered to make. Since Jules lived among the lower class for so long, it seemed to be all she focused on when she was among the upper class. But they weren’t mean, just didn’t understand how much privilege they wasted daily.

I don’t remember there being any distinct profanity used in the book. There was one kiss in the book, and I think there was a hint of infidelity, but no sexual content. Considering you pay for things with blood-iron, which is made by draining blood, there’s definitely some violence, some death, but none of it seemed too grotesque.

The book was okay. It definitely felt like it will be part of a series because it came with a bit of a cliffhanger at the end. But I don’t know if I will read the next book. I just didn’t feel invested in a lot of the characters or in the lore. It was a solid three stars for me.

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!

The Cruel Prince: A Review

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Cruel Prince is a YA fantasy adventure by Holly Black. It takes place mostly in the Fairie Realm. I recognized a lot of the lore from what I have read in traditional Fey stories, even some Shakespeare, which I thought would be interesting.

The story surrounds a girl named Jude. Other major characters include Caden, the prince to the High King, and his friends Valerian, Nicasa and Locke, Jude’s twin sister Taryn and their half-sister Vivienne, Magnus the General to the King and also Jude’s paternal guardian. The story is told from Jude’s perspective which is very affected by her understanding that the Fey and the Fairie world for that matter are beautiful and dangerous. From the moment she gets there, she is taught how to protect herself, what not to eat, what to do to keep her from getting manipulated or “glamoured” by the immortal Fey who don’t have a very high view of mortals, especially mortals without extraordinary skills of some kind of art. So, to me, the characters are limited in the way they are developed because it is all from her perspective which is highly prejudiced on these facts. Some of the actions of others aren’t really explained or understood, it’s because “that’s just the way it is” as Jude sees it. Jude’s violent past and present also affect her perspective.
Jude and her twin sister Taryn and half-sister Vivienne are taken to the Fairie world after witnessing the murder of their parents. The murderer then becomes their father (Magnus) and raises them among the high court fey because he is the General of the Army to the High King. Because of his status, they are educated among the basically rich kids who look down on their mortality. Caden and his friends, especially, torture Jude and Taryn. And the two sisters have different reactions to that bullying. The current High King Eldred is stepping down to give the crown to one of his children, and Prince Dain seems to be the front-runner. Jude is hoping to become a knight for Prince Dain, essentially giving her power to protect herself from her enemies. As the coronation nears, there is a lot of intrigue and deception, and Jude must choose who to trust.
One of the themes is having power and using power and desiring power. And also how power can corrupt and betray.
The writing flows pretty well. I’m not a big fan of the entire scene or what everyone is wearing being described, and there was a good bit of that in here. I’m very plot driven and character driven, which I think is done well in this book, but I found myself skimming the paragraphs that described everyone’s clothes. There is a lot of foreshadowing, and I didn’t fully trust everything Jude saw because the prejudices were pretty clear, so some of the twists were not surprises to me, but I did like how everything connected in the end. When things were finally revealed to Jude, the author had some secrets that I didn’t catch right away that played into the plot.

There is some profanity in the book, mostly towards the end with one character. Most of the language was very lore based so it didn’t have as much traditional profanity. I feel like that one character use of profanity signified their rejection of the Fairie world and the longing of the mortal world.
There is a reference to the “greening of the gown” which is a euphemism for sex, there is one scene where a character strips off their clothing, but most of the actual content just includes kissing. There is some romance and it does play into the plot or subplots, but I felt like this was more of an action adventure than a romance, so the sexual content was at a low.
There is a lot of violence in this book. I mean, the story starts with the descriptions of Jude’s parents being murdered. The Fairie world is very violent and Jude becomes very violent as a result. There is a lot of blood and fight scenes and murder scenes throughout the book.

Overall, I think the book was well written, though slow at times. It’s going to be a trilogy and I am interested in where the author will take the story from where it ends in this book. Of course, the next book is not slated to be released until next year, so I’m not sure if I will remember to get the next book at that point. I would recommend late teens early twenties for this book just for the amount of violence. Jude does learn how much violence and the desire for power can corrupt, but believing she is far too gone, relies heavily on these things to try to do what is best. So I would be aware of that. I give it three and a half stars. It wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve read, but it’s good for its genre.

What have you been reading lately?

I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!