Mini Reviews Roundup

I've been reading a ton lately, but for some reason I haven't been motivated to write reviews. So, since I've gotten so far behind lately, I thought I would do a round of mini reviews of all the books I've read recently that I neglected to write a full review for.

[Book Review] The House in the Cerulean Sea // T.J. Klune

This book has often been compared to the Harry Potter series, if only for the presence of magical beings. Protagonist Linus Baker is a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. It sounds like an interesting job, but in reality it is filled with stacks of paperwork and soul-sucking hours spent in a cramped office space with very specific rules and regulations. The highlight of Linus's job is his trips to orphanages where he gets a chance to interview the children and inspect the facility for fitness. However, he soon learns that many children are afraid of case workers from the Department, with good reason. It is only when Linus is assigned to observe an orphanage located on a secluded island outside a small town that he begins to understand the consequences of his job and his visits to orphanages.

[Book Review] House of Hollow // Krystal Sutherland

House of Hollow is a gothic book, through and through. It's not a mystery, though mysterious events occur. It's a dark gothic novel with bits of horror mixed in. Think of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the movie or the book, if it were written and directed by Hans Christian Andersen. Iris Hollow is 17. When she was young, she and her two sisters went missing around Christmas time. They were there one minute, then their mother looked away then back again and they were gone. No trace. When the sisters finally reappear near their house one day years later, no one can explain how they went missing or how they returned, not even the girls themselves. Such is the lore of the Hollow house. Now, Iris's older sister Grey is missing again, and strange yet familiar things start happening. Iris knows Grey is hiding something, but first Iris has to find her.

[Book Review] Elatsoe // Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe is a magical realism YA novel where the world we are used to exits in tandem with many other creatures such as vampires and werewolves. The world of Elatsoe reminds me of the world in the Spiderwick chronicles (the book, obvi, not the deplorable movie). Elatsoe, who goes by Ellie, is a bright young woman whose cousin has just been murdered. Everyone is calling it an accident, a car wreck, but Ellie knows better. She has dreams about the dead, and her cousin visits her while she's asleep shortly after he dies. Ellie, with the help of her ghost dog Kirby, as well as her wonderfully present and supportive parents and her hometown friends, begins to unravel the mystery of her cousin's death. But communing with the dead is a serious feat, and if done wrong, things can quickly get out of hand. Is Ellie strong enough to handle the darkness around her family's history?

[Book Review] Punching the Air // Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

I read every book written in verse that I can find because most of the time I adore them. They also aren't really marketed as a genre; I've never seen a section in a bookstore dedicated to verse books, so whenever I stumble upon once I get excited.

Punching the Air tells the story of a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. It's a story about racism as well as finding your passion, that thing that gets you through each day, no matter how difficult the day. For Amal Shahid, that's poetry and art.

[Book Review] Greenlights // Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights is unlike any celebrity memoir I've ever read. The comedian memoirs, such as Tina Fey's Bossypants and Amy Poehler's Yes Please are full of self-deprecating jokes and anecdotes about growing up a woman. Those are all good things. Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody basically tells how she went from rags to riches and how she's still star-struck by it all and most likely suffering from an ongoing imposter syndrome, while Lauren Graham's Talking as Fast as I Can details her career on Gilmore Girls and her experience writing the book in her trailer on a set. Essentially, all the books I've read cater to consumer curiosity about what it is to be a celebrity and how it all feels. McConaughey, on the other hand, doesn't just write a memoir--he writes an autobiography, from childhood up to the present.

[Book Review] Permanent Record // Mary H.K. Choi

Pablo has been struggling with finances, with finding a passion, with discovering what he wants to devote his life to. At the moment, he's working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour bodega. He's avoiding telling his parents how over his head he is from student loans and the credit card he opened when he first started college. Basically, his life is a mess. Then one night, famous pop star Leanna Smart wanders into the bodega and everything changes. There's an instant connection, but Leanna is crazy busy all the time, zipping from one continent to another making albums and movies and business deals while Pablo spends his time working and avoiding taking responsibility for all his problems. Is there any way they can make their relationship work, or were they doomed from the start?

[Book Review] Disability Visibility: 1st Person Stories from the 21st Century // Edited by Alice Wong

I expected this book to be dense or to contain lots of jargon. I assumed since it was an essay collection that all the contributors would be academics writing about the portrayal of disability in literature or film. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find this was not the case. As the subtitle "First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century" states, the essays in this collection tell 1st-person stories from individuals with disabilities. For example, Ariel Henley writes about her experiences with beauty and art in her essay "There's a Mathematical Equation That Proves I'm Ugly--Or So I Learned in My Seventh-Grade Art Class." Henley's art teacher taught her about the subjectivity of beauty in art, and Henley movingly write about how her teacher changed her view of her own reflection.