Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan // Book Review

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan // Book Review

I may be 20 years too late to be reading this series, but I’m also the type of person who believes books can be read by anyone. I’m so glad I picked up Percy Jackson for the first time ever. It’s slowly becoming my new favorite series and I hope to read more from them in the future. But let’s talk about the first book because this is where it all begins.

Here’s More about The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.

My Thoughts

I don’t read much middle grade, so I’m never sure what to expect. The stories I’ve read in the past are the ones I grew up with (A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter), but I was a little too old for these books and so they went unread for very long.

I have to say, I’m impressed. And it’s my own ignorance that I didn’t know how good Percy Jackson was and how I would love this story just as much as I was a teenager reading books. I know these books aren’t necessarily written with me in mind, but I still enjoyed it. This is one of those stories that when you’re a kid, you’ll imagine yourself hoping to be a demigod. You’ll hope that in some way your family was close to a god or goddess and that you carry a tiny bit of that blood in your body.

I absolutely loved the usage of Greek mythology. I’ve been recently learning more about the Greek myths and seeing those bits and pieces played through the story so expertly made me very excited to keep reading. Of course, it’s all the main players like Zeus and Poseidon and Hades, but then there’s the three fates, Medusa, centaurs and satyrs, magical swords, and so much more. It’s rich and immersive and even if you don’t know too much about Greek mythology, you’ll be able to follow along.

I also love that Percy is just a fish out of water. Without any knowledge of who he is or even what god his father is, he kind of jumps in and hopes for the best. I do think things are a bit easy for him, but at the same time the situations he finds himself in are more than what any kid at that age could handle. If anything, Percy feels more mature with a good understanding of what’s happening. He didn’t even seem too freaked out by the fact that he’s a demigod. His friends were also such interesting people with fully developed personalities that differ from Percy’s, so you get some comic relief and the occasional serious talk.

And the adventure they go on was not for the faint of heart. Honestly, I don’t even think I would be okay with some of the situations Percy and his friends find themselves in. I love that their friendship is dynamic and they all bring something to a fight. Where Percy might lack, Annabelle can join in and the other way around.

Overall, this is a fun story filled with friendships, hard journeys, and some very real truths. The twist at the end also made me very excited to see how the rest of the series goes and I’ve already put book 2 on hold at the library. I cannot wait to see what happens to Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura // Book Review

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura // Book Review

I was really hoping to enjoy this one, but it hit a few of my personal pet peeves and didn’t work completely for me. However, that isn’t to say this book isn’t good. It’s still a great novel, but definitely relatable more to younger folks who are active in their school community or looking for that one thing to stand up for.

36220348This Time Will Be Different follows CJ Katsuyama,  your average teenage girl who doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She lives with her mother and her aunt; her mom is this #bossbitch who’s motivation for life is something she wants to pass onto her daughter. Her aunt runs a small flower shop that’s been in their family for many years. However, the shop is failing and there isn’t enough money for CJ’s family to continue taking care of it. Their only buyer is the same family who purchased the flower shop from the Katsuyamas back during WWII. That was before CJ’s family entered the internment camps for the duration of the war. Suddenly, CJ understands exactly what she wants and she’s ready to fight for it. 

I was really hoping this would be an amazing novel, but honestly it fell flat for me. The writing was great and I don’t have any doubts Misa Sugiura is a great writer. However, this book felt all over the place.

It starts off with the family’s flower shop needing to be sold off exactly as the premise says, but then the story goes into how the high school CJ attends is also named after that same family. They mention how the grandfather used to deal in slavery back in the day and how no one wants a building named after a racist person. I liked that this was the setup, but then the whole debacle with the flower shop is resolved way too quickly and the focus of the book becomes this group of kids trying to change the name of their high school.

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But then the story continues to go into ally-ism. I think this was probably the most interesting part of the whole book. Being an ally is a tricky step between being helpful and being self-serving. I thought the examples of this were great, but also just confused about where this was going.

Then it flips and becomes a typical YA story about a young girl who doesn’t know what to do and confused about boys. I just got a little annoyed by this point on how messy this book seemed to be.

I’m sad to say I was annoyed with CJ. Perhaps this is me being too old and the book being too close to a contemporary YA story that I felt CJ to be angry for all the wrong reasons. It’s almost like a lack of maturity, which in hindsight makes sense.

I honestly was hoping that there would be more references to the Japanese internment camps and how that affected CJ. I’m not saying that it isn’t “Japanese enough,” whatever that means, but the premise of the book promises more than what the book is about. Sugiura sets up a short timeline of events when it comes to the internment of CJ’s family without any additional info about it. I’m blaming the marketing teams for promising a story that wasn’t obviously there.

If you’re more of a fan of contemporary YA stories, then this will be the one for you. It covers a lot including social justice issues and how you can make changes to the way the world around you. It may not impact the entire world, but if you can bring a sense of justice to your town then it’s better than nothing. I liked the story well enough, but I feel like there was a lack of focus and instead of narrowing in on one theme, the author decided to cover all the themes.

I received a copy of this book from Epic Reads for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo // Review

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo // Review

Alright, I’m going to do my best reviewing this book because thing 1) I’m not Afro-Puerto Rican so I don’t know that life and thing 2) I don’t have any children.

Not to say you need either to read this book. I’m just saying this perspective won’t be as nuanced as someone who may #ownvoices this book. But as the general public who loves to read authors of color, I’m glad this book exists.

Let’s get started:

This is the story of young Emoni, a 17-year-old teen who’s about to enter her final year of high school and embarking on the next part of her journey. However, she’s also a single mom living with her grandmother and desperately trying to make ends meet. She’s constantly berated by the other students at school for her status as a teen mom and her life decisions need to include her baby. When her school offers a culinary course for the first time, Emoni is super excited. She loves food and cooking and has a knack for flavors and spices. However, the class also offers a week in Spain and Emoni hasn’t left her kid’s side since she had her. She can see herself pursuing a career in culinary arts, but also needs to consider her daughter and their struggle to stay afloat.

Wow, I mean, this story discusses some big themes. I think one of the biggest themes is being a young mother. I don’t think I’ve read any YA stories with teen mothers, but it really was interesting to read. Many decisions Emoni needed to make also required the addition of her daughter. She wanted to go to college, but she needs to find a school close to her. She’s about to go on a trip to Spain and she needs to figure out how to manage that. She’s interested in someone romantically, but she needs to be mindful of her daughter’s feelings before introducing him to her. So many of her decisions were based on very adult and mature thinking. Emoni doesn’t do anything impulsively…until she gets into the kitchen. I also really loved that Elizabeth showed life as a young mother. Emoni has to juggle school, work, and taking care of her baby. I know many moms from my old job and it was difficult to juggle work and taking care of their baby, so I couldn’t imagine what it’s like for someone who’s still trying to graduate high school.

Another big theme is the prejudice, discrimination, and racism Emoni faces everyday. She’s ridiculed because she can’t speak Spanish well. She doesn’t look “black” enough. She’s taunted because she had a daughter at such a young age. People think she’s “easy” because she had sex early. I loved that Elizabeth Acevedo brought up these points because it really brings the story to reality. And the best part is that it’s mostly micro-aggressions. You don’t ever hear someone straight up calling her the N word or telling her to go back to her country, but it’s there. You see it in the way people ask their questions or even the pursed lips of an older woman on the bus. These micro-aggressions are what many people of color face (myself included). It’s the wrong question or a comment you don’t know what to respond with. You may not think it’s racism because it doesn’t blind you in the face with words, but that silent judgment is enough to make a good day into a bad one.

I think what I loved the most is how much Emoni loves her daughter. She tries to juggle school and homework and an after-school job and her friendships while getting home in time to spend time with her kid. While Emoni has the attitude of a teenager sometimes, many of her decisions are considered thoroughly (through the pros and cons) and mature. And all the while she’s still learning and observing and becoming more enriched. It was most definitely a coming-of-age story, but one many adults can get behind because it reminded me a lot of post-graduate me. This girl’s got it all figured out before she finishes high school and I’m still struggling.

Finally, the food! OMG when I heard that this book will also be about food and cooking, I was already intrigued. The story includes a couple of recipes for you to try and it also convey’s Emoni’s personal culinary expertise which I thought was so great. I kind of wish there was more descriptions of food. For example, what does the risotto taste like to Emoni? How did she feel trying tapas in Spain? I would have loved those descriptions to be richer.

What I absolutely love about Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is that it isn’t complicated. She embodies Emoni’s voice and personality and doesn’t break for a minute. I absolutely love writing like this because it feels real. It feels like you’re reading from the actual perspective of the character with their specialized language. I loved the nicknames she had for her friends and family. I loved that she called her daughter Babygirl, but unafraid to bring out her legal name when she’s in trouble. The writing is most definitely a draw and keep you fully immersed in the story.

I think the only issue I had with this book is that everything seemed to resolve itself at the end. I don’t want to say it was easy and there were some things that will probably take time to heal (like forgiving her father or working together with her baby daddy), but many issues just kind of happily ended.

Aside from that, it’s a great story about a young person’s decisions for the next part of life. I think this book works for anyone between the ages of 17-35 because I’m 34 and I’m still struggling to figure everything out.

I received a copy of this book from Epic Reads for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely

A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely

Reading diverse novels is such a rewarding way to get to know other people’s culture without opening a textbook. However, it can be a pretty daunting genre if you don’t know how to get into it.

Luckily, there’s a ton of Young Adult novels centered around diverse issues. In my opinion, I think these help with easing into the genre without being overwhelmed with heavier stories. If you’re thinking about diving into reading diversely, check out these wonderful YA novels. They’ll be easy to digest and spring you forward into more adult authors like Colson Whitehead or Yaa Gyasi.

Continue reading “A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely”

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I had the crazy opportunity to watch Love, Simon a few weeks ago on a plane trip across the country. The movie didn’t disappoint, but I hadn’t read the book. I felt like I should read the book as well and that’s exactly what I did. LOL.

Continue reading “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli”

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

It took me a quick second to get into this book, but once I got into it I was hooked. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and this has to be one of the best fantasies I’ve read in a while.

I didn’t think this was an easy read. I didn’t think this was one of those grip you and take you on an adventure kind of books either. It was a thinker. It was a delicious meal and I wanted to savor every bite.

Continue reading “Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi”