Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out

 

Goodreads Blurb

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

 

Review

This was such a quick read! One, it’s written in verse instead of prose. Two, it was a wonderful read so I zipped through it in a day. I originally ordered this book from Amazon because I was looking for a good nonfiction novel to read with my 7th graders this years. And I love the fact that it’s written in verse. I don’t think many of my kiddos have read any books written in verse so it will be good to expose them to that too. And the book is full of symbolism and figurative language to touch on poetry as well. As well as tie in some history aspects of the times (1960-1970’s) and how Communism impacted the whole world.

The story of Ha is based on the author’s life in Saigon in the beginning and then later it’s about how she, her mom, and brothers take refuge in the United States to get away from the Communism in Vietnam. They are hosted by a family in Alabama so that one of her brothers can work as an apprentice car mechanic for the man of the house.

There, Ha and her brothers must adjust to American culture and have to deal with their peers bullying them daily. The author explains it later in the book, that when she moved to Alabama it took her years to realize that she and her family represented what all of these kids were seeing on their TV screens at home and that they had never actually seen Vietnamese people in rural Alabama before. So if the kids were being mean to her she finally realized they were just copying what they were hearing and seeing at home from their parents and from the American news anchors.

I can’t imagine what that kind of culture shock would be like. Ha talks about her memories in Saigon, her friends, the plant life, the food, the landscape and how much she misses all of these things. From reading the book and have never been to Vietnam, they sound sooooooooo different. I cannot imagine. It almost sounds like they moved to a different planet.

I don’t read too much nonfiction so I was really glad I liked it! I think one of the last nonfiction books I read was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about the World War II pilot and his crew members that survived on a raft for months. And I actually read that one with my kiddos and they liked it so much that we started an after school book club where we finished the YA adaption of the book and watched certain parts of the movie.

I’m hoping Inside Out & Back Again will interest them as much! And I think it would be great as a film if they ever decide to adapt it! I’d definitely go see it.

 

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade

 

Goodreads Blurb

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

 

Review

I’m really liking Alexandra Bracken’s books. I can’t decide if I liked this book better or the first one, The Darkest Minds, more… I really missed Zu in this one but at least the majority of the characters came back together! I tried going to Barnes & Noble yesterday to find the third book In the Afterlight, and they didn’t have it 😦 So I ended up buying The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virture by Mckenzie Lee instead. Maybe next time they’ll have it or I’ll just break down soon and buy it off of Amazon.

I think Ruby and Liam’s relationship seemed a little more over the top in this one but I loved the new characters Jude and Vida. Vida is the best! I love people who are super caring and protective but they don’t want you to call them out on it. Her tough exterior is entertaining and endearing even though she doesn’t want it to be.

And have you seen the new covers for these books? They’re even better than the original ones! *Photos from Alex Bracken’s website * I think the Never Fade one is actually my favorite.

 

I don’t want to put any spoilers in this review since it’s just the second book I’m reviewing but the ending was heart wrenching. So so so so so so sad. I wasn’t expecting it! It’s the first time that Bracken pulled on my heartstrings like that and it was very sudden. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you get to the ending. All I can say is, have a box of tissues next to you. All you want to do is console everyone in the end but the team knows they must go on and help the rest of the kids stuck in these awful camps if they ever want their life to be somewhat normal again. What is surprising to me is that Liam and Chubs aren’t exactly in the same boat with Ruby.

In the first book Liam seems like he’s going to end up being a martyr just to help everyone escape the camps but he flip flops in Never Fade. I don’t know if things got too real for him or he just feels like he has something to lose now (Ruby), but he just wants the 3 of them to go into hiding and to protect themselves and to go to California to make sure Zu and her cousin made it there. I think Chubs just wants to be with his friends or his family and that he’s tired of running the way they have been.

The third book sounds like it’s taking them more westward and in the direction of Zu no matter where they end up. I can’t wait to pick it up but we move this week and we’re having our baby the next week so reading may take a backseat for awhile. I have a few more reviews coming for A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi and a middle grade novel called Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a nonfiction novel about the author’s life leaving Saigon in the 70’s and moving to Alabama in the United States.

 

 

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

LOS

 

Goodreads Blurb

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Review

I’ve had lots of luck with sequels lately. First I fell in love with the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper and now I have fallen in love with the sequel to Lady Midnight. I enjoyed Lady Midnight I just think it took me awhile to get back into the Shadowhunter world after not reading it for a few years. I devoured The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices back in college, but then there was kind of a dry spell where there weren’t any new Shadowhunter books for awhile. I think they were busy making the movie and trying to figure out the TV show there for a few years.

But I could not put Lord of Shadows down. I finished it within a week, which is no easy feat with these books because they’re HUGE! I thought I wouldn’t have it finished by the time the baby got here in September. I had already mentally prepared myself that it was most likely the last book I was going to finish during summer. But I completed it and now I’m onto Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken. The sequel to The Darkest Minds. Another sequel! I guess it’s just been a catch up summer for me! I finished all of my professional development by the first week of July so I’ve had lots of time to read.

Lord of Shadows seemed much more emotional to me than the first book. I loved all of the Edgar Allan Poe references and the “Annabel Lee” poem in it but I couldn’t get into it right away. However, I was fully invested in all the characters by the second installment to the series. I loved them all. Emma, Christina, Gwyn, Ty, Livvy, Kieran, Mark, and then the appearances throughout the book by our old favorites Magnus and Alec. The whole plot seemed more cohesive than the first book. More was set up, relationships had been built, there was love, betrayal, and all that’s in between.

I loved when they traveled to Faerie too. I think that’s what hooked me at first. I have loved all Fae books since I was a freshman in high school when I read the Wicked Lovely books. The setting drew me in. I love how mystical and barbaric the world is. It’s such a conundrum! And I feel like this reflected in Kieran and Mark’s relationship. Everything with them and Christina was so emotional and twisted, just like all things Fae. You never know what to expect! And it was done really well in this book. There was no sense of hodge-podgeness.

This is why I enjoyed Gwen and Diana’s relationship too. Nothing is black and white with the Fae. It’s all kinds of shades of gray.

The ending of this book was absolutely heart wrenching. Several people died, loyalties were shattered, and you find out there’s more to the Shadowhunter world falling apart. It’s a great lead for the next book in the series. One of the best cliff hangers at the end of a book I’ve seen in awhile. I have no idea how I am supposed to survive until The Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) comes out in 2019!!!! That’s two stinking years!

I hear there’s supposed to be another sub-series coming out that feeds out of The Infernal Devices series. Supposedly it’s about the generation of Lightwood’s and Blackwood children that come after Will, Tessa, and Jem’s generation in the early 1900’s. I guess I can bide my time with that. I believe the first book is targeted for 2018 at some point.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about trying the TV show out again. I thought the first season was so-so. I watched the first episode of the second season and gave up though. Should I try again? Does it get better? But then I saw a clip of Sarah Hyland as the Seelie Queen and I thought even her acting was bad as the queen. How can you make Sarah Hyland’s acting bad??? I love her in Modern Family! And I think Sebastian has to make his appearance in the second season at some point. That’s another reason I’m interested. I don’t even know who’s supposed to play him. Let me know what you think!

And I gave this book a 5/5 stars. Wholeheartedly, without a shadow of a doubt. It was splendid.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

HPD

 

Goodreads Blurb

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again

 

Review

This was one of the rare incidences that the sequel was better than the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I feel like the story in Hunting Prince Dracula was much more entertaining. Maybe because I enjoyed the setting better. And I really do think Maniscalco’s writing became stronger with the second book. The plot seemed more elaborate and surprised me more in the end than the first book.

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC from the Texas Library Association convention this year. Well… my mom snagged it for me. She’s the librarian at the middle school where I teach. Hunting Prince Dracula will officially come out in September this year, so only one more month! September will be a good month since it comes out then and so does Warcross by Marie Lu. (Which was also spectacular, as most Marie Lu novels are.)

I was hooked on Hunting Prince Dracula throughout the entire novel. Knowing it was going to take place in Vlad the Impaler’s castle in Romania made it intriguing to me. The castle/school seemed creepy and so did many of the students. I kept waiting to see if this book was going to turn out having fantasy elements in it. Which in a way it did but it was still mostly historical fiction. Most of the fantasy aspects came from hearing about all of the myths and legends that surround Romania with vampires and werewolves. I do wish that my ARC had a completed glossary of Romanian translations in the back. It would have been helpful while reading. I guess I’ll have to go buy a copy when it comes out next month. Some of the language was difficult to keep up with.

The ending of this one took me completely by surprise! The whole time you’re wondering is it a real person who lives near the castle committing these copy cat acts to Dracula’s or is it Dracula himself come back to haunt his bloodline? You even see the main character Audrey Rose doubt her thoughts a few times. She always argues scientifically but there’s so many parallels in this spooky place that she can’t help but wonder.

Of course I love the main characers, Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. They’re both witty and Cresswell’s lack of shame in flirting is hilarious. But then you meet new characters like his sister Daciana and the maid Ileana and you love them too! Daciana has about as much shame as her brother and never apologizes for what she believes in. I love her! And Ileana just seems like she knows a little more than she lets on the entire book but she’s also a very good friend to Audrey Rose. You don’t know what to make of her character until the end of the book.

I don’t want to post too many spoilers for this book since it’s not even out yet but I do want to talk about the next novel. And yes, there will definitely be a next one. When the story ends Audrey Rose and Thomas find out they will still be abroad this next year with her uncle as apprentices. And they will be traveling to… AMERICA! You kind of expect that to happen because Audrey Rose drops a few foreshadowing comments here and there about how she’s always wanted to travel there. I think she says New York specifically if I remember correctly. I’m hoping we cross paths with her cousin Liza in the next book since they talk about her traveling abroad the next year as a coming of age thing like Daciana does in this book.

I’ve heard a lot about this type of travel year lately that young adults took in the 19th century. I know there’s a new YA novel out called The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue that it just specifically about a young mans travel year. I wish it was still feasible to do things like that now. Maybe it is… I just don’t know how I’d feel about my daughter traveling on her own with a friend to different countries for a year. Sounds expensive and kind of dangerous. I think for me to be okay with that it would need to be with a study abroad program. But the idea of it sounds marvelous!

Anyway, this book definitely got 5/5 stars from me. I highly recommend it. It is dark like the other book but it’s wonderful! Rich with Romanian folklore and all things Dracula. I cannot wait until the next one debuts. I’m already having withdrawals.