Bite-Sized Book Reviews: WONDER and FORGET ME NOT for raising compassionate kids

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I had the pleasure of actually reading this as a read-along with my students. It's an excellent book about kindness and compassion and empathy, all great qualities we should instill in young people. In Wonder, we follow the life of August, or Auggie, who has a rare facial deformity and, up until the point the story begins had been homeschooled. He decides to start going to school and try being part of a general education classroom. There, he meets a few friends and learns a lot about both himself and about other people in general, and the way people treat those with apparent/physical differences. This heartfelt story is told in multiple perspectives and really drives home the point that everyone has their own struggles, even those who seem to have all the right things going for them, or whose broken parts are invisible. I'm also pleased to note that this is being adapted to film and will be released sometime this year. 


Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

This story explores the experiences of a girl who lives with Tourette syndrome and her classmate and neighbor who also happens to be the most popular boy in school. She just wants to hide her quirks from people and not be labeled a freak or ostracized. He's clinging to his social status in school and is afraid that befriending her publicly would jeopardize that, even though he really, really wants to. There are two things I love about this book. First, it's told in multiple perspectives and styles. Calliope's chapters, where she expresses her thoughts and fears and talks about her day, are told in beautiful poetry. Jinsong's are told in prose and get deep into his moral struggle throughout the story. And second, the author herself lives with Tourette syndrome, and it shows in the thoughtful way she writes about it. The main characters are in middle school, but it's an appropriate read for upper elementary (about 4th or 5th grade and up) and another great read for raising compassionate and empathetic kids. 

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: STAR WARS: AHSOKA

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I'm always up for a good Star Wars adventure, and Ahsoka didn't disappoint. It takes a little bit to wind up to the action, but once Ahsoka starts making some decisions about where she wants to take her life and the kind of person she wants to be, things pick up quickly. For some reference: Ahsoka has survived the Jedi Purge and is hiding out in the Outer Rim as Ashla. She is a mechanic for hire and is trying to avoid attachments. Soon enough, she finds herself drawn back to a life of do-gooding, but this time, it's on her own terms. This story had me cheering at the end of it and wanting for more. Great for any kind of Star Wars fan, but especially those who enjoyed Clone Wars and Rebels.


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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

I picked up this book without knowing it's a sequel until it was "too late" (the first book is called To All The Boys I've Loved Before). Even so, I had no trouble getting into the story and Han does a good job of dropping hints and exposition here and there so everyone's on the same page. This is a sweet romance-type story, but it also covers a lot of ground when it comes to modern teen life in general. The consequences of posting mean things online, gender politics and how circumstances affect different people, and an examination of love and heartbreak are all touched upon here through Lara Jean's perspective. I liked being in her head through all of this and seeing how she reacts to and learns from these experiences.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This is one of those hard to read, gut-wrenching type stories. Naila's super conservative parents don't allow her to date, or even speak with any boys, and it's their tradition to choose her future husband for her. She gets caught dating Saif, and they whisk her away to Pakistan where she thought she was just going on vacation to visit family, but later finds out her parents have chosen a husband for her and planned for her to wed and stay behind. Eventually, as a reader, you start seeing that things are just going to get worse and worse, and you read with sort of a sense of dread for Naila, but there's hope: Saif is looking for her and trying to get her out of her horrible situation. I found myself rooting for Naila the entire time, facing all these things happening to her and choosing to survive.


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

You might know the story of Aladdin, but you won't recognize this version. Aladdin is the son of rebels, expected to rise up with the people, but chooses a life of thievery instead. Jinni has been stuck in her lamp for eons, punished for befriending her last master, sitting in the ruins of her dear friend's old kingdom. When Aladdin finds the lamp and whisks her away, the king of all the jinn charges her with a mission in exchange for the tantalizing reward of freedom. The problem is, using her new master to her ends is at odds with the simple fact that she's falling in love with him. As far as love stories go, this one is ridiculously satisfying, and the whole thing is written as if it were a long, long letter to her dear, old friend. Fresh format, and excellent spin to the story of Aladdin and the lamp.


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Fairest by Marissa Meyer

This book is a spin-off within the Lunar Chronicles series, which tells the backstory of its main villain, Levana. Where Cinder got its inspiration from Cinderella, Scarlet from Red Riding Hood, and Cress from Rapunzel, Fairest takes its inspiration from Snow White, a theme which is continued in the latest major installment of the series to date, Winter. Levana's story is an interesting one: she's totally twisted beyond repair, a ruthless leader, an expert strategist. But she's also hopelessly in love with someone who will never love her back, and she's more than a little bit vain. Great read for any fan of the series, especially if you, like me, love to get more information, backstories, and generally just like to play a little more in the universes that authors create for us. I wish more sci-fi and fantasy series authors wrote spin-off novels - even when they're as tragic as Levana's story.

Grounded by Megan Morrison

Grounded is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, blended with the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and a dash of The Wizard of Oz. Rapunzel is happy to stay up in her tower, and she fends off all the princes and otherwise curious folk who try to rescue her. That is, until the day Jack tricks her into climbing down, and she sets off on a journey. There's magic, and there are fairies, and this super old tree she's got to find in order to learn truths about herself and her Witch. There are a few things I rather liked about this book: Rapunzel keeps a firm grasp on her agency throughout the story, lending her own logic to the circumstances and situations she's in. Though some folk dismiss her as ignorant, her central character trait is her innocence, and the way other characters handle that says more about them than it does about her. I liked the way she stands up for herself and the resourcefulness with which she proves herself to others, too. This is a nice read for youngsters and I was also happy to note it's the first in a new series.


An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I finally found a John Green book I truly love. If you've read another of his works and weren't sure you wanted to try again, try this one. We follow the story of Colin Singleton, who takes off on a road trip of self-discovery with his best friend Hassan following a break-up with one of the many Katherines he's dated. This isn't really a story about break-ups or loss or angst or whatever, it's really about relationships (and friendships) in general, and the funny way our brains work, and how any little thing can remind you of a person, or a place you've been to, or some other memory. The narrative meanders to and fro much in the same way our memories and experiences do, and the whole thing is just lovely.

As someone who appreciates linguistics and word play, I also loved all the tidbits and trivia I picked up from this book, such as this:

Just lovely.

Friday Things: 06/26 - Feeling the Sadness in Your Joy

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[Ahh, the weekend...]

Here's a look at 15 YA reads coming out next month. Some are intriguing - I may pick up a couple of them.

Great article by a new colleague of mine on Book Riot about the book Fangirl and how it impacted her life when things got tough. I have to agree - I love Levi in this story, and there's a commenter there who made an excellent point about how so many heroes are brooding, have some dark past, etc. while Levi is just.. Levi. Refreshing. Attractive.

7 Batman-inspired cocktails. I really want to try that Joker one.

Solid list of characteristics that'll make me want to follow an audiobook narrator's work (rather than the usual, following an author's work, etc). The only difference is I like little songs and diddies in between chapters, haha.

Why do all of Disney and Pixar's ladies have more or less the same face shape, while the men have hardcore face and nose shape diversity? Interesting and important criticism.

A look at what's going to go away from Netflix next month, as well as what'll be added.

This is a fantastic article about the movie Inside Out and the super important points it makes about sadness and joy. Fair warning though, it contains heavy spoilers for the film.

On Quirk Books: How to Plan Your Geeky Picnic.

[Have a wonderful weekend!]

Friday Things: 03/01 - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Frozen Fever

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[Welcome to another link dump! It's a new month.. actually, it's my last month as a resident of Japan. Ahh!]

On Disney:

The latest Disney Kingdoms series comic is starting up next month: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I'm pretty excited about it.

Disney has opened up some areas where you can enjoy the parades and fireworks at the Magic Kingdom - great that they're doing this, because it's getting tough to find a spot to chill and enjoy the show these days.

There's a cute trailer out for Frozen Fever.

New series announced: LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales. Definitely interested in watching that.

On Sexism and Feminism:

"John Travolta, Joe Biden, and why men touch women's bodies without asking."

Dove started this "Speak Beautiful" campaign encouraging ladies to post more positive status updates on Twitter. That's kind of garbage, so here's a list of books to help you speak your mind. (if you're wondering why I think it's garbage, there's a good explanation at that link, too)

Stuff I Wrote:

On PANELS: Art Roundup: Spotlight on Poison Ivy.

On PANELS: Comics Fetish: Volume 20 (Robots and Cyborgs Edition).


A pal of mine is involved in a new comic! Read it free online.

The question: Why do adults read so much YA and teen fiction? The answer.

[Have a wonderful week!]

Bite-Sized Audiobook Reviews: YES PLEASE and WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler (narrated by Amy Poehler)

The only reason I didn't listen to this audiobook right away, like right when it was released, was because I was still deciding whether I wanted to get the print book instead. After all, if I really ended up loving this book, which I knew I would because other rad people I know have universally loved it, having a print copy is way better if only because then I can lend it out to all my friends. But then I decided that I'd rather listen to the author narrate her own book (and hear all her wonderful guests who recorded it with her), and simply buy several copies for my friends later, because it's so, so worth the money and attention.

Yes Please is absolutely hilarious, and sweet, and candid, and all of the best things I can say about it. I laughed out loud like a madwoman listening to this, and as soon as the recording ended, it took everything I had not to just hit play all over again. It's that good. It's that funny. If you're even just a little bit familiar with Amy, or are into TV or comedy or are a mom, or who knows, there are a lot of ways you can relate to this book: you need to read this. And no, I'm not just talking to my fellow ladies - my male friends have also loved and recommended it. Read it.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger (narrated by Moira Quirk)

This is the third book in Gail Carriger's Finishing School series, which I love dearly. I'm sad that there's just one more book coming out later this year to finish it off, but at the same time, I prefer a nicely-executed quartet to an overly-drawn-out long series. I'll probably get into Carriger's other books after this series has finished, because I love her writing style. Also in real life she's an anthropologist (that's what I studied in Uni!) and just, yeah, that's badass.

In W&W the main characters have all matured in all the best ways, and they're finding their paths beyond Mme Geraldine's. While I wish they could all just be best friends forever and keep going on adventures together for their entire careers, it's a logical step for some of them to break away to chase their own destinies. I love all of the developments, the neat way things seem to sort themselves out whenever Sophronia and her friends put their minds to it. This is a fantastic, magical, and just plain fun YA series to get into, and I also highly recommended listening to it because Moira Quirk does such a great job narrating. Her pacing and the voices and accents she uses for the different characters are all on point. Great performance. Great story. Now's a good time to get into the series since the final book is out in November - you won't have to wait too long to get the whole thing. 

Manga Review: Manga Classics LES MISÉRABLES

Kristina PinoComment
"The first release in UDON's new Manga Classics line!
Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo's classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition!

The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Misérables!"

UDON has on a new line of books that has me super interested called Manga Classics. I had a look at this first release thanks to Netgalley, and I'll probably read the second one (Pride & Prejudice, presented in shoujo art style according to the copy) when I can, too. These books adapt classic novels for a young adult audience and are created with the cooperation of an Asian animation studio called Morpheus.

Rendering this classic story with a manga twist in terms of its pacing and style and illustrations gave it a breath of fresh air. I haven't actually read the book myself, though I've seen two stage adaptations and the most recent film starring Hugh Jackman and others. The manga appears to adapt the book more closely, though, and it gave me so much great backstory and extra tidbits that I didn't pick up before. I got to learn more about the motives or connections of various side-characters that I hadn't been familiar with previously, thanks to the comics format and the ease with which you can drop in characters' inner thoughts.

This presentation is longer than a typical graphic novel, clocking in at around 350 pages to really capture the depth of the original work. I read it in two relaxed sittings and didn't find myself feeling bored or impatient at all - the pacing is quick despite this length, since Victor Hugo's book is quite long in and of itself. Though plenty was obviously cut, they kept or focused on a lot of the key moments people are familiar with from various adaptations while still dropping in parts of the narrative the team felt was important to keep in the story - it's a nice balance.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful, and the designs really captured the characters well (and distinctly). At the end of the book, you can also enjoy a little look at its production with words from the creators, concept art, and mini-comics featuring some of the main characters. 

I loved this book, and if you like the classic story I recommend it for you or as a gift. Manga Classics Les Misérables is slated for release on August 12th and MSRP is listed at $19.99 USD for the paperback and $24.99 for the hardcover edition. Learn more about Manga Classics or keep up with news on future releases at their Facebook Page.

Friday Things: 07/11 - pizza party on a plane

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[Oh, I'm on time? Yes! But this time, the reason is because a typhoon is supposed to hit and I felt like I should probably get all my busywork done early so I can just spend the storm reading and doing other things that require little-to-no electricity. Just in case.]

On Books and Comics:

The Mary Sue had the honor of breaking the announcement of a book First Second (I mention them pretty often, don't I?) is publishing called Something New, created by Lucy Knisley. It's about a woman who grew up a shy tomboy and decides to plan her own wedding. Can't wait!

I should admit now that I didn't care much for Lost at Sea and I lost interest halfway through Scott Pilgrim, so I'm not the most avid Bryan Lee O'Malley out there. I don't dislike the man or his work, I just didn't love it. But after reading this sterling review and endorsement by my fellow Riot contributor Brenna, I'm excited about next week's Seconds release.

EpicReads suggest 25 YA titles for fans of Game of Thrones. I might give one or three of these a try...

UDON Entertainment posted up previews of their upcoming books in the Manga Classics series for Les Misérables and Pride & Prejudice. I'll probably review them, so maybe check back for that here?



On Disney:

Cute bangles coming out at the Disney Parks next week. Love the style, but I just wish they weren't so dang expensive.

More Disney DIY! This time, tie-dye Minnie ears.




In which you can read some of the weird things Jen Campbell has overheard or been told at the bookshop where she works.

Apparently Cats is coming back?

In the UK, an app is being developed for people who call emergency on their smart phones that allows them to share video of what's going on to responders, so they can try and get more information before they even arrive at the scene. Additionally, the app could help responders pinpoint the location of the caller in cases where the caller doesn't know exactly where they are. Could be very awesome.

Slightly NSFW, but very cool reminder that we are all way more than our appearance.

Pilot of a diverted plane got hungry while waiting out a storm, ordered pizza for everyone because he's an awesome guy.

[have a great weekend!]



Double Feature Book Review: INCUBUS and SACRIFICE by Jennifer Quintenz

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"Braedyn Murphy used to think nothing important ever happened in her sleepy town of Puerto Escondido. But that was before she learned she was a descendent of Lilith, the mother of all demons. Now Braedyn fights to protect humanity from the Lilitu - the beautiful, souls-stealing daughters of Lilith.
As she fights the Lilitu, Braedyn must also fight her growing love for her boyfriend Lucas - because even a simple kiss could end his life. Their only ray of hope is an angel’s offer to make Braedyn human, but it’s an offer she can’t accept until the world is safe from the Lilitu.
Braedyn knows she’s a key player in this ancient war... but she’s not ready to believe she just might be humanity’s best hope of surviving the final battle for Earth."


"Just when Braedyn Murphy thought she understood the danger descending on her little town of Puerto Escondido, a new threat arrives. A cult devoted to Lilith has taken up residence in town, led by a charismatic old woman with more than one secret. When Cassie gets tangled up in the mystery, Braedyn realizes her two worlds are colliding. But if she’s going to stop Lilith and her Daughters from reclaiming this earth, Braedyn might not be able to protect her friends.
As her duties to the Guard become more difficult, Braedyn turns to Lucas for solace. They begin to wonder if now is the time to claim their one night together—knowing that one night is all they may ever have.
Darker forces have their own plans for Braedyn and the Guard. No one ever told Braedyn this battle would be easy—but how much can one girl be asked to sacrifice in order to save the world?"
Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at!

After the events of Thrall, the first book in this series, Braedyn is left with some heavy thoughts about the future. She wants to become human, but the war between Lilitu and humanity looms ever closer. Her romance with Lucas just makes them heavier.

Incubus focuses on exactly what the title implies: a male version of Lilitu, Incubus. What makes him all the more terrifying is that, unlike with Lilitu, nobody really knows what he can/can't do or how to fight him. He continues to be a menace right through the third book, Sacrifice, to tragic results.

Both of these books had me at the edge of my seat. We got a few breaks here and there between action sequences during

Thrall, but hardly any rest during Incubus or Sacrifice. What I liked about the turbulence was that it paints an accurate picture of what's going on inside Braedyn's head. At this point in the story, she doesn't really get to relax, so why should we?

I don't know why I had it in my head that this series would be a trilogy, but as I was nearing the end of Sacrifice, I was filled with dread. What did the title entail for Braedyn and how would survive this mess? And then it ended before a resolution was reached.

I looked it up, and it turns out this year will see the release ofGuardian, book four in the series. Silly me! But now I'm worked up about what's going to happen next.

Of course, these two books retain (and reinforce) all the qualities I liked about Thrall, such as the good relationship between Braedyn and her father, and some hard-learned lessons about responsibility. I enjoyed the character development all around, too - making sure nobody is left to the wayside, and even taking on the themes of second chances and taking an active role in changing the kind of relationships you have with people for the better (and that it's a two-way street).

I'm happy I've picked up this series and am looking forward to the next installment. These books are written for young adults, but is easily enjoyed by older fans of myth and fantasy as well. I recommend all three of the books out so far (at the time of writing) for teens and adults.