Review: “You Bring the Distant Near” by Mitali Perkins

33155334Rating:
5 stars

This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart.

Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture – for better or worse.

From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity.

Here is a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

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You Bring the Distant Near quote

Hello everyone! I’m coming out of hiding to rave about this spectacular book that everyone should go read as soon as physically possible.

I LOVED this book so much! A book has never resonated so well with me; it’s been months since I read it and I still can’t stop thinking about You Bring the Distant Near. There’s FINALLY a book about Bengali girls, not one, not two but FIVE kickass Bengali girls/women who are awesome in their own imperfect ways. 

You Bring the Distant Near follows five characters spanning three different generations, their struggles, their joys, their dreams and their failures. But most importantly, it’s about their relationships with each other and their identities as immigrants in America.

The highlight of the book for me was definitely all the characters. The characters all have their individual character arcs where they grow at their own pace but they’re also all skillfully woven together in the overall story arc. Perkins is an expert at developing and writing characters in a way that leave no doubts of their authenticity. All five of them go on their own individual journeys trying to find their niche in society as first and second generation immigrants. I also just really love following characters’ stories from childhood to adulthood to make sure I know how they turned out so this book was perfect for me.

The cultural representation is something else I adored. Seeing common mundane aspects of Bengali culture reflected in a book made me very happy because it’s so rare to find in the media. Things like the parents listening to Rabindranath Tagore songs while cleaning the house made the book feel special in a way no other book has.

The book also doesn’t sugarcoat the negative parts of South Asian culture but instead takes the challenge head on by having the characters deal with it. Racism, misogyny, colorism and feminism play big important roles in shaping the characters. There’s also an emphasis of the characters trying to balance the two cultures, deciding what parts of Bengali culture to hold on to and what to leave, figuring out what exactly makes them American. That’s a story most immigrants (myself included) know well so it hits close to home.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who likes a well written and well developed diverse contemporary. And also a huge shout out and thank you to Shenwei @ Reading (AS)(I)an (AM)erica for sending me a copy of this back in July.

Have you read this book? What book characters do you resonate with the most?

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Review: “They Both Die At the End” by Adam Silvera

33385229Rating:
4.5 stars

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.

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They Both Die at the End quote

A huge thank you to the publisher (HarperTeen) and Edelweiss for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

They Both Die at the End is an Adam Silvera book so of course it broke my heart and I loved every minute of it. The concept of knowing when you’ll die has always seemed interesting to me so I was looking forward to seeing how these characters would deal with knowing they’ll die that day. It’s tragic and hopeful at the same time.

Mateo as a character is very relatable and I could find myself in him. He’s a dreamer who’s been wanting to do a lot in life but always felt paranoid or scared to take that next step. He’s cautious and reluctant to try new things because of the jarring question, what if something goes wrong? But he’s also an all around good person. He cares deeply about others and will always be around for moral support.

Rufus is more bold and adventurous but has a good heart and is loyal till the end. He just lost his family in a car accident a few months ago and has been living in a foster home. He has the most wonderful and supportive group of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for him.

Watching Rufus and Mateo’s relationship growing into something deep and significant is heart warming. They’re both very different and under another circumstance, they wouldn’t have met. I usually hate the “met and fell in love all in one day” trope but it makes sense in this scenario since neither of them have any time left. They are both supportive of one another and become each other’s strength as the day goes by.

Similar to The Sun is Also a Star, TBDatE has small chapters with snippets from all the side and minor characters so we get glimpses of what’s going on in everyone’s heads, not just our two mains. I love stories where we get a full picture and in this world, we get to see how something like DeathCast affects all parties, the ones who are dying and the loved ones they’re leaving behind.

Have you read this one? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera book?

ARC Review: “City of Brass” by S.A Chakraborty

32718027Rating:
4 stars

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass–a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

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Release Date: November 14, 2017Arrow

First of all, a huge thank you to the publisher (HarperCollins) and Edelweiss for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

City of Brass is a solid introduction to a vibrant new Fantasy series. The setting is rich and descriptive, the characters are well thought out and the plot is [mostly] unpredictable. S.A Chakraborty creates a complex Djinn society and as someone who is very interested in [more like obsessed with] djinns, I soaked it all in.

City of Brass is a book about oppression, how one group thinks they’re better or more deserving because of how pure their blood is. It’s also a book about Islamic traditions and mythology and is unafraid of showing off Islam and I loved the book for it.

I will say however, all the different terms took a lot of getting used to for me. I figured out there’s a glossary at the end after I finished the book… don’t be like me kids, check the glossary if you’re confused by all the terms.

It also took me some time to figure out everything that was going on in the world, the politics and the different classes/types of djinns. Because Chakraborty goes into a lot of the history of what happened in this world, it was too much for me to remember sometimes. And though the action started off pretty quickly, I wasn’t invested in the first few chapters. It took me until getting 50 percent into the book to have the “I really want to know what happens next” feeling.

The book eventually won me over with my two favorite things in the world: magic and sword fights. I mean, what Fantasy lover doesn’t love it when the characters are stabbing each other?

Snippets about the characters:

I liked all the characters well enough to be invested in their stories. Nahri is witty, headstrong and a survivor. She is similar to many other YA protagonists I love [Lila Bard from ADSOM in particular]. She has insecurities about not belonging in either of her worlds, neither the human world nor the djinn. Her insecurities were portrayed well and gave her character depth.

Dara is a Daeva warrior who Nahri accidentally summoned one day. He introduces Nahri to the djinn world and they go on a journey to get to Daevabad, the safest place for Djinns. We don’t learn too much about him honestly and I was the least attached to him when it came to the characters.

Prince Ali [cue the Aladdin song 😀 ] grew on me after just a few chapters. Ali is very religious and has strong moral and political opinions, many of which oppose his father, the king. He tries to do what’s right for his people, especially the shafit (half human half djinn who usually live in poverty). 

Muntadhir (Ali’s brother and future king) grew on me as well. Ali and Muntadhir have a deep and complex relationship that I loved. I love sibling storylines and theirs is a good one, with all the love and rivalry two brothers are bound to have.

My favorite character though, because I almost always tend to like side characters more [especially if they’re sweet and kind Hufflepuffs] was Jamshid Pramukh. He is the Daeva head of the guard and Muntadhir’s best friend. I hope to see more of him in the future books.

Is this on your TBR list? What do you like best about Fantasy books?

 

Should Authors Keep Expanding Their Own Universe?

Before I start with the actual post, let me first apologize for being absent the past few weeks. Classes started at the end of August. I now have classes all five weekdays (sighh) and work weekends so finding time to blog is getting even harder than before. I can barely find the time to read (if I didn’t commute to campus, I doubt I’d get any reading done).

I’m trying to get through all the ARCs I [foolishly] requested/accepted during the summer. I’m regretting it immensely now and have vowed to myself to not request or accept another ARC until next year (we’ll see how well that goes).

All that said, I will not be updating consistently in the coming weeks. I won’t be participating in any features at the moment [not that I was consistent in posting them anyway ]. And I [sadly and unfortunately] probably won’t be reading a lot of blog posts. I’ll try of course, but as of now, I make no promises.

Universe Expanding

Many YA Fantasy authors (and some from other genres) prefer expanding their own created universe instead of creating another one. Some of these authors include Cassandra Clare who has been continuing the Shadowhunters series for 10 years now and is now on her 14th book in that universe. Rick Riordan who has continued his mythology series, both his current ones have cameos of characters from Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus. Leigh Bardugo has five books in the Grishaverse with one more on the way. Maggie Stiefvater has her upcoming Ronan Trilogy coming out, about a beloved character from her Raven Boys quartet. And the recent news about V.E Schwab expanding her A Darker Shade of Magic world with a new series.

And not only Fantasy, but a few contemporary authors also write spin-offs with cameos from their earlier works. Becky Albertali’s Upside of Unrequited featured characters from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and she has another spin-off coming out about Leah [also from Simon vs.]. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is also getting a spin-off book about Rishi’s brother, Ashish. I’m sure there are more I’m missing.

I for one absolutely love world expansion. I get [overly] invested in characters and their worlds and knowing I get more stories about them makes me ecstatic. All the book series I mentioned above are favorites of mine and I CANNOT WAIT until their sequels or spin-offs come out.

Expanding a world also allows an author to explore all aspects of its society and culture and answer questions that may have been left out in the first series. I think Cassandra Clare does a great job of this where each of her new Shadowhunters installments goes deeper and deeper into the world without contradicting anything she wrote previously.

But that isn’t to say I want every author to expand their world; sometimes, the story they need to tell just consists of the books in their series and they need to leave it at that.

So what do you think? Are you for or against world expansion? Are you excited for any of the books I mentioned above?

 

Review: “We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour

28243032 Rating:
4.5 stars

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

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We Are Okay quote

Trigger warnings: Depression, grief, loss of family member

We are Okay was an amazing and heart shattering book with intense character development. Marin’s grandfather, the only family she had left, passed away a few weeks ago and to cope with the grief, she leaves for college to New York early. She doesn’t keep in touch with any of the folks back home including her best friend Mabel. When the book starts, we learn that Mabel is coming to visit her dorm for three days after four months of Marin not communicating with her.

Plot wise the book isn’t much, it’s very slow at times and little to nothing happens. But to me, the development Marin goes through during the book more than makes up for the lack of plot. The book isn’t about the actual story but about different types of relationships and dealing with grief. I was full on crying quite a bit during the book. My heart went out to both Marin and Mabel and everything they’ve both been through (Marin especially). It’s obvious LaCour put a lot of effort into creating these characters when and that shows up on the page.

I haven’t read any of Nina LaCour’s earlier books so I didn’t know what to expect with her writing and I was pleasantly surprised. Her writing is wonderful and she articulates herself beautifully and with incredible expertise. This is one of those books that are immensely quotable and leave you thinking about the dialogue days after you’re done reading it.

Unique Blogger Award

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A huge, HUGE thank you to both Maxine @ The Rogue Storyteller (who tagged me back in March) and Empress @ Empire of Starlight for nominating me for The Unique Blogger Award! Maxine has some very thoughtful book reviews and awesome recommendations so go check her blog out! Empress also has some great book reviews and she’s just a wonderful person inside and out so go check out her blog too!

Rules:

  • Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.
  • Ask them three questions.

Maxine’s Questions

  1. What’s your favorite retelling of a story/folktale? This can be in the form of a book or movie.Oooh, my favorite retelling. I guess I’d have to say the Lunar Chronicles because I haven’t read many retellings I liked. Out of the Lunar Chronicles, Winter (Snow White retelling) is probably my favorite.
  2. Are there any characters that you think deserved a better ending than they got?You mean ALL OF MY BABIES WHO DIED?? YES! SO MANY! (I’d also like to not spoil anything for anyone so let me refrain from actually making a list of characters who deserved very much to live).
  3. If you could be any book character for a day, who would it be and why?
    Image result for kamala khanThis is such a hard question! As much as I’d love to be any of the Six of Crows crew, I’d kill myself and the team in seconds. I’m actually going to go with Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel), she is still trying to get used to her newfound superpowers, we have similar family backgrounds and I think her powers are super cool.

Empress’ Questions

  1. If you could have any fictional power, what would it  be and what would you do with it?Related imageI’ve always liked force field manipulation/creation the best. I don’t think I’d do anything special with it really, just learn how to reach things with my field so I wouldn’t have to go get it, maybe use a force field to levitate myself, protect myself from a nuclear apocalypse, etc. etc.
  2. What is your favorite/most hated YA trope?Favorite: The Chosen One trope, I just love the whole your destiny is blah blah blah story line for some reason.

    Most hated: insta-love. No, just no.

  3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life what would it be? 

    I… would rather not read for the rest of my life than choose among my children. I cannot and will not do it.

My Questions

  1. If you could bring any book character from their world to yours so you can be friends, who would you pick?
  2. What hobby would you like to pick up that you haven’t already?
  3. Do you like happy endings or sad but realistic endings?

I Tag You

(I’m going to tag some blogs I found recently that I loved. If you’ve already done the tag, feel free to disregard.)

 

Diverse Characters Monday #4 – Natasha Kingsley

Diverse Characters Mondays tpbg

Diverse Characters Mondays is my self hosted weekly meme celebrating my favorite diverse characters. This meme was created to get myself to post more frequently with a topic I am interested in. Posting memes always help me get out of a blogging slump, especially since I haven’t been posting Diversity Spotlight Thursday posts as frequently anymore.

If you’re not familiar with “diverse” characters (which I’m sure most of you are), they are basically a character who is not a white allocishet and able person (note that this is in no way a definite definition of a diverse character and feel free to comment or email me if you think I need to add/change anything). 

If anyone wants to participate, please do! If you do decide to do this, leave the link to your post down below and I’d love to check it out! Your post can be as long or as short as you like.


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Art by Kanski-Art from Devianart.com

Natasha Kingsley

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha Kingsley is an undocumented Jamaican immigrant living in New York City. Her father brought their family over to the USA from Jamaica pursuing an acting career which didn’t work out for him and he only ended up neglecting his family in the process. Her and her family is twelve hours away from deportation when the story starts. Because of this, Natasha has had to grow up fast and take up responsibility at a young age. In The Sun is Also a Star, Natasha is trying to use up her last day in America going to an immigration lawyer to try and make a case for her family.

This is the life you’re living. It’s not temporary and it’s not pretend and there’s no do-over.

Natasha is very logical when it comes to making decisions. She is intelligent, determined and knows exactly what she wants to do in life. She picks the most practical choices, the ones where she’s certain she knows the end result. That said, her personality doesn’t leave her passionless but the opposite. She’s always passionate about the decisions she takes and has no regrets.

She’s also a cynic when it comes to love and romance which makes sense because of the circumstances in which she grew up. Seeing her character develop and mature into a more caring and forgiving person was one of the best aspects of the book.

Natasha is strong, independent and fights tooth and nail until she is completely out of time. She was holding out hope for her and her family even until the day they were to be deported. That shows some extreme determination on her part.

Have you read the Sun is Also a Star? What do you think of Natasha?