Pax

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be – with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox. Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own.

This small book packs a huge emotional wallop. The friendship between Pax and Peter goes beyond pet and owner; they know they belong together. The book also tackles the subject of war and its atrocities in a not-so subtle way, but without coming across as pedantic.

I didn’t like the main basis of the plot. Having Peter’s father make him put Pax back into the wild doesn’t make much sense to me. There were other ways the author could have separated the two, but that is my only quibble with the novel. My heart broke at that scene and I rooted for them to find each other the entire novel. I enjoyed seeing Pax meet up with other foxes and learn what it’s like to live in the wild. Pax definitely comes into his own helping the other foxes. He discovers his true fox side and it’s a delight to see. Peter also grows as he goes in search of his friend.

I don’t want to spoil the end, but it was definitely bittersweet.

Rating: 4/5

Books That Impacted Me

I may not remember the plots perfectly, but these books have stayed with me in some form or another. There is no specific order to these, they are listed as I remember them.

Grace in the Wilderness by Aranka Siegel – This was the first book I ever read about WW II and the Holocaust. At the time, I didn’t know it was a sequel. I quickly read the first book, Grace in the Wilderness, right after. This is not a typical Holocaust story. Based on her life, it shows what happened after the Holocaust. The main character and her sister are the only members of her family who survived the camps. Their journey to healing was so well told, it made me want to pick up a pen and write.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – I discovered this book as an adult. It was one of the first teen books I purchased after reading it. The world building is just enough to get a sense of the place. Jonah and the Giver himself are wonderfully written characters. I truly enjoyed discovering the truth alongside with Jonah. The cliffhanger ending was one of the first I read like that. I found out after talking about it with other people that I was one of the few that believed things worked out in the end. When I discovered there were other books, I read the rest of the series.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – I literally hugged this book when I finished it. Ivan’s story is so beautifully told. It’s a heartbreaking and heartwarming book at the same time. I wanted Ivan to get his message out from page one and the ending did not disappoint.  This was another I bought because I wanted to have it on hand to read again if I needed to.

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – This was not an easy book to read, but one I feel every single person needs to read. The story of the beating of Rashad told from his point of view and the white bystander who saw it happen is very much of this time. Rashad’s story is the harder one to read. How he processes what happened to him and his healing process is so believably told. I never experienced violence like that and I hope I never had to, but I learned so much reading his story. Quinn’s story was equally compelling. His slow awakening to his privilege and standing up for what’s right may not be realistic for all people, but it’s good to see in a book.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – This was recommended to me while I was in college. I hadn’t read anything like this before. II don’t remember all of the details of the book which is a good excuse for me to read it again. All I can remember is being blown away by his story and the psychology he created due to his experiences. It’s a powerful book.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – You may notice I tend to read a lot of WWII stories and you would be right. I love the original take on the book, how can you not love a book narrated by Death? His telling of Liesel’s story is hauntingly beautiful. I am still angry it did not win the Printz Award that year.

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – This one impacted me, but in a negative way. I didn’t enjoy it in high school, so I thought to read it as an adult. I still didn’t like it. I basically want to punch Holden Caufield in his whiny, entitled, spoiled face.

Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony – I stumbled upon this book my freshman year of college. It introduced me to the zany world of Xanth. It was a hard one to read in public because I either chortled or groaned at the puns throughout the story (I mean and Imp named Ortant? That’s hysterical!). It also had an added bonus by getting me hooked on a lifelong love for fantasy fiction.

There are many other books that have made me laugh, cry, think, and learn. This post would a novel-length long if I wrote about them all.

Memoirs of a Sidekick

 

Vote Boris Snodbuckle for Student Council President! Boris wants to make Bendale Public School a better place. With the help of his best (and only) friend and number-one sidekick, Adrian, he draws up plans for an epic campaign to win votes. Too bad his schemes only result in epic trouble! Worse, Boris’s opponent is the most popular guy in the school-and aworld-class bully, liar and cheat who will do everything he can to bring Boris down. Does Boris even stand a chance? Well, most say it’s impossible. But they just don’t know the B-Ster.

Told from Adrian’s point of view, this book is about the attempt by Boris Snodbuckle to become President of the Student Council. The problem? No one really likes Boris. Boris isn’t a bad kid, he’s the total opposite. He’s a good kid, but his ideas are a bit big. He overdoes it a lot and it doesn’t help that he isn’t a popular kid at all. Adrian follows along with many of the ideas that Boris has, even helps him with most of them.

This is a quick, fun read about the typical underdog trying to make a name for himself. What made this so unique is the point of view. All the action is from Adrian’s point of view. He definitely sees Boris in a very positive light, so you don’t really learn much about Boris or his life. There isn’t deep character development in this story, but it wasn’t necessary for this type of story. There is something to be said for a simple and fun read and this book definitely fits that bill!

Rating: 3.5/5

The Hate U Give

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Along with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, this book truly captures what is going on in today’s society. Starr Carter lives in a poor neighborhood with her family. Her father, once part of a gang, has reformed himself enough that Starr is able to attend a fancy prep school in the suburbs. While her mother worries about the family’s safety, her father is reluctant to move so he won’t be considered a sell-out to the neighborhood.

Starr lives two lives: her home life and her school life. She acts and speaks differently at school because she doesn’t want to be thought of as ghetto or a thug. Life isn’t always easy for her and it gets harder when her friend Khalil is killed by a police officer right in front of her eyes. Understandably traumatized, Starr doesn’t want to be known as the witness to the shooting. She fears the backlash it would cause. Her voice during this time is so authentic and so heart-wrenching that I wanted to hug her and help her get through this.

I haven’t read a book like this, where a character is so split between her two selves and how she eventually makes peace with herself. I could not put it down. It was powerful, heart breaking, made me learn, think, and cry. Even though the book is very much a part of what is going on in the world right now, it is one that will definitely stand the test of time.

Rating: 5/5

About Me

I haven’t posted anything really about me on this blog. I will rectify that now.

Hi, I’m Natalie. I am a public librarian in NY. I have five fur babies, read mostly YA fiction (though my go-to for “big people” fiction books are fantasy and romance), I watch a lot of TV and have many many fandoms, and am plagued with some annoying, but not life threatening chronic illnesses (osteoarthritis, IBS, interstitial cystitis). I also have dysthymia (the nicer way of saying chronic depression) and anxiety disorder.

My brain likes to pick at things. It could be work related, life related, health related, it doesn’t matter. Today it’s picking at the IBS bloating and how it’s making me feel about my body. It’s ridiculous. I have no right to complain about how I look. I’m fine. If I mention it to my friends who are struggling with their weight, they rightfully roll their eyes at me. There are times when I let my brain be and times when I worry about why I’m thinking about. It’s never dull in my head, that’s for sure.

I’m also an open book and and over-sharer. If you read my tweets, you probably figured that out. I know I should be more private and I am working on keeping more things to myself, but most of the time, I honestly don’t care who knows what’s going on with me. It’s not like any of it is a federal secret or anything, but I should learn to keep some stuff to myself.

I will write more posts like this in between book reviews, I promise!

 

 

 

Red Queen

 In a world divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities–seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard –a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.

This book sounded right up my alley. Fantasy? Check. Royalty? Double Check. Girl with secret powers? Triple check.  I kept wanting to love the book, but I couldn’t do it. The world building is good, but the characters fit too easily into tropes: the best friend who could be more, the sainted sister, the evil Queen, the two Princes. Mare should have been an amazing character, a girl who kicked ass and took names, but she wasn’t. She was way too passive. She let the action happen around her, let the resistance recruit her. She never took charge, never took ownership of her powers and used them. She only really gets some spine at the end of the story, but it wasn’t enough for me.

I don’t mind romance in my fantasy novels, but the love triangle made me cringe. Mare liked one brother and wanted another, neither of which I felt fully attached to. Both boys were not well developed and rather cringe-worthy. Even the female rival really isn’t one. She’s nasty, borderline evil, basically a stock character of the female rival. Even the evil queen seems a shade too evil. The characters are all ones we’ve seen before. Reading about the same type of character doesn’t bother me if there is some depth to them or some twist to their story that makes the book worth reading. Most of the characters in this book had neither.

I had to skim big chunks of the book to see if it got interesting. It didn’t, at least not for me. I know there is a huge fan base around this whole series and I had really high hopes of falling in love with a new series.

Rating: 2/5

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw is not a typical athlete. In fact, he has no athletic training at all. He stumbles upon a track team’s training session, and on a whim, decides to join a race. Wearing beat up sneaker and jeans, he manages to amaze everyone, especially the coach. Ghost hasn’t had the easiest of lives. His Dad is not in the picture and his Mom works long hours. Joining the track team is his chance to make friends and stay out of trouble. He has some problems becoming part of the team and staying out of trouble, but he eventually finds himself on the right path.

I am a huge Jason Reynolds fan and have not been disappointed by any of his books and this is no exception. This is a short novel, but it still has lots of depths to it. Ghost’s story tugs at your heartstrings. He makes a bad decision during the novel, but instead of being angry with him about it, all I felt was empathy and sympathy. The secondary characters are wonderful, especially the store owner Mr. Charles. Mr. Charles shows Ghost the much needed kindness he needs. Someone I follow on Twitter captured their relationship perfectly by stating she will never see sunflower seeds in the same way again.

There are glimpses of Ghost’s teammates, who also have their own stories.  Even Coach has his own story, which he shares with Ghost to help him get on the right path. He’s a wonderful mentor and every troubled youth should have a person like Coach in their corner to support them. You get some glimpses at Ghost’s Mom, which is refreshing. Parents in YA novels tend to be absent.

This is the first in a series and I cannot wait to read the others.

Rating: 5/5