The Downstairs Girl and Frankissstein

These two books are actually part of my 2020 Book Review project I started back in January. I am pretty behind in this, not even sure I’ll finish it this year at this rate, but we’ll see. I have actually been reading quite a lot this summer (managed to read about 54 books/audiobooks between June-mid August), though not much off that list to be honest. I am excited because I am actually going to be joining a reader’s advisory group at the library that will talk about books, movies, TV shows, and more starting the first Tuesday in October!

#18. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

I had no idea that white slave owners had imported Chinese workers after the end of the Civil War to replace the free blacks in the South, though it kind of makes sense. Both groups were smart to leave though. Jo Kuan, a seventeen-year old Chinese girl, is part of this group still living in Atlanta with Old Gin, an elderly Chinese man who has been taking care of her since she was a baby. She is working at a hat shop, but gets fired from that job and is hired back as a lady’s maid for a prominent local family. She worked for them before as a companion for their daughter, and now she’s that daughter’s maid.

Jo has been harboring some secrets. She’s secretly the anonymous author of a local paper’s advice column, and has been talking about more and more hot-button issues for the time, like race and gender, and she and her grandfather have secretly been living under that paper owner’s house since she was little. Also Jo is trying to uncover the secrets of her own past, something that Old Gin has been keeping quiet about since her parents left her with him. Will she be able to find out who she really is and come into her own as a talented young lady? To find out, read this engaging historical fiction. Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars.

#23. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

I actually listened to this book on audio back in July, but am just now getting to the review. Sorry people, but my life, just like everyone else’s has been pretty crazy lately. This book was really weird, but definitely made you think about a lot. I rather enjoyed it, especially Mary Shelley and Ry Shelly’s perspectives. I can’t describe this one succinctly but Jenna’s Goodreadreads review from April 7, 2019 sums it up the best: ““This is the story of Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. It is the story of Ry Shelley, a transgender doctor living in the present day. It is the story of Lord Byron, Ron Lord, Dr. Polidori, Polly D, Victor Frankenstein and Victor Stein, a scientist developing AI. Jeanette Winterson takes us on a journey back to the past and into the future, masterfully weaving the stories of all these individuals, intertwining their lives and their thoughts and their souls. It is profound and it is funny. It is philosophical. It asks us to reflect on many questions: What is intelligence and what is life? Are we our bodies or are we just souls inhabiting physical matter? If we upload a human brain into a machine, would it be human or would it be machine? What, if anything, sets humans apart from other living beings? If we succeed in creating true AI, how will it feel about being created to serve us or about living amongst us?”

Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment

Once again, this book is from my Book Review project for the year, list found here.

Zoes Terrific Colorific Experiment

Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment by Zoe Persico

This picture book was gorgeous and a cute story about an African-American girl named Georgia who loves science while all the rest of her family loves art. And they try to convince her to use art in her creations, but she doesn’t want to listen. She eventually discovers that science and art can work together to describe something beautiful, and the rest of her family helps her with that. Absolutely adored the illustrations, the colors were so beautiful and I loved that she was so into science. Recommended for ages 7-10, 5 stars.

Frankly in Love

I am continuing with the Book Review project, list found here. This is definitely my favorite book so far as well as Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, which coincidentally just won a Belpre Illustrator Honor award.

Frankly in Love

Frankly in Love (Frankly in Love #1) by David Yoon

Summary from Goodreads: “High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.”

I listened to the audiobook version and I loved it! It was so hilarious and yet gave us a serious look at racism in America through the eyes of Korean-American high school senior, within and outside his culture. Also seriously made me crave Korean food.

Honestly it reminded me a lot of listening to my best friend in high school and college. She’s Pakistani-American and even though she was born in the States, there was so much familial pressure for her to get married, not only to a Muslim, but specifically a Pakistani Muslim man. She later discovered this did not work for her, and would prefer whoever she marries to just be a good honest man (preferably Muslim). I have talked with a lot of international immigrants, having worked with a lot over the years, and find that most that come to America face the same pressures from their parents.  And like Frank, they are almost forced to choose by being whatever their parent’s nationality is or American, but seldom both. Frank falls hard for Brit Means, and I think she was good for him as a first girlfriend but because of all the pretending he has to do to be with her, it probably never would’ve worked out anyways. He somehow never managed to tell her and I think she would’ve ended it sooner if she had found out. And then even when Joy and Frank get together they can’t make it because of their parents’ fighting, for completely different reasons. Highly recommended for ages 15+, 5 stars.

Guts and New Kid

Well I feel like I’m off to a good start reading-wise. I’ve read twelve books so far this year, with lots more planned. I just hope I can fit them all in. I’ve started on the easiest books for this year’s first reading list, found here, the picture books and graphic novels, with some of the books on e-audio as well. I’ve found that my son really likes audio books too so we are usually listening to one together, as well as one of my own when I’m in the car by myself.

Guts

Guts (Smile #3) by Raina Telgemeier

I’ve been wanting to read this book all last year but never got around to it, mostly because I hadn’t read the previous book, Sisters (Smile #2). So I picked up both of them when I was going to review this book. My son is reading the Smile series almost concurrently with me, so I get his impressions too. He liked Sisters more than Smile because he thought it was funnier (especially the snake trapped in the van), but I liked Smile better because I lived through braces and know how annoying/painful they can be (and I’m talking back in the day when you had the metal ones not the nice plastic ones they use now). Anyways, on to the Guts review.

Guts takes an awkward topic, i.e. getting nauseous or having other tummy troubles because you’re over-nervous about something (in Raina’s case, dealing with upper elementary/middle school life) and making it funny and acceptable. I especially like the part when they go to the doctor’s office and she’s says “you have irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and you just need to not get stressed” and both her and her mom crack up because that’s damn near impossible. I have probably been a worrier all my life, I just didn’t have a word for it. Anxiety can be debilitating. Sometimes it can manifest itself in overthinking, other times it can be prevent you from leaving the house because you’re so scared of what will happen if you actually make a move. The overthinking is the worst honestly, well that and getting nauseous/having irritable bowels.

Raina is trying to navigate her way through changes at home and school. She goes from sleeping with her sister in bunk beds and sharing a room, to her own room, to splitting a room with her parents so her grandmother can have the downstairs sofa. She’s starting to go through puberty but hasn’t had her period yet, though other girls her age have. There’s one girl that’s really mean to her and she’s getting bullied. Her best friend has just announced that she’s moving next year and going to school on the other side of town. Raina’s body just can’t handle it and reacts in a not-so-nice way. But eventually she figures things out, gets a counselor, and learns to accept the changes. Highly recommended for ages 8-12, 5 stars.

 

New Kid

Summary from Goodreads: “Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”

I really wanted to like this book. It had great reviews and it just won a freaking Newbery (the only graphic novel to ever have done that)! But I just couldn’t get into it. For me it boils down to two things: I didn’t like the artwork and the story really dragged. I did like the relationship between Jordan and Drew, the other African-American kid in his class. I liked that the book was subtly introducing the idea of microaggressions (in reference to racism and biases) to kids, as this is something people of color have to deal with all the time, from everywhere. And Jordan’s hand-drawn comics were for the most part really funny. I’ll probably try to read again later when I’m not so swamped book-wise.

Dandy, Planting Stories, and Chapter Two is Missing!

These three books were taken from this list of books I plan on reading and reviewing on here this year. I grabbed these three picture books last week before I left work for New Years and read two of them the first day of the year and saved the last one to read with my son.

Dandy

  • Dandy written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Charles Santoso: My son and I have been reading Dyckman’s books for a couple years now and love Wolfie the Bunny and this book seemed in the same vein as that, so I knew I wanted to read it. It was a very cutesy and understatedly hilarious book about what really matters in life. Sweetie, Daddy’s only child, has made a friend who just happens to be a weed named Charlotte that her dad wants to get rid of, which he tries to at every possible opportunity. When his daughter is off at swim practice, him and the other dads finally get the chance for revenge against the weed, only to have it foiled by an adorable drawing of Sweetie and her friend, and he makes a grave mistake. But he more than makes for it in the end. The illustrations by Charles Santoso are excellent and hilarious. Highly recommended for ages 5-9, 5 stars.

Planting Stories

  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre written by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar. I had obviously heard of Pura Belpre before as a librarian, but didn’t know anything about her. This charming biography gives you the low-down on why she came to America, how she met her husband, how she was the first Latina to publish folk stories from back home in Puerto Rico (like Martina the Beautiful Cockroach which I had first read after I finished library school though Carmen Agra Deedy’s version), and how this influenced storytelling in libraries. I loved the idea of “planting stories” and can’t wait to share this one with my book club. Highly recommended for ages 7-10, 5 stars.

Chapter Two is Missing

  • Chapter Two is Missing! written by Josh Lieb, illustrated by Kevin Cornell. I really wanted to like this one as it looked over-the-top dramatic and fun, but it was so long it dragged and lost my interest. My son loved it though. The narrator is here to tell us that “Chapter Two is Missing!” and Milo the book’s janitor needs to do something about it, and help him find the chapter. The narrator has already hired Detective McGarrigan, and helpfully provides her information several times. Will they be able to catch the culprit who did it and recover the missing chapter? It gets an extra half star because my kid liked it so much he actually read it out loud to me. Recommended for ages 6-9, 3-1/2 stars.

2020 Book Review project

used-books-store-2

Happy 2020 people! It’s been so far so good for me personally, helps that I had the first 5 days off work. I decided at the end of last year that I would start the year reviewing a list of 28 books that I discovered off various online professional reviews and blogs but did not have the chance to read. So here’s my list in no particular order and reviews will be forthcoming:

  1. The Good Thieves by Catherine Rundell (Children Fiction)
  2. Furious hours: murder, fraud, and the last trial of Harper Lee by Casey N. Cep (Adult nonfiction)
  3. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Adult nonfiction)
  4. The five: the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper (Adult nonfiction)
  5. You will be safe here by Damian Barr (Adult fiction)
  6. Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Children/YA Graphic Novel)
  7. New Kid by Jerry Craft (Children Graphic Novel)
  8. Tristan Strong punches a hole in the sky by Kwame Mbali (Children Fantasy)
  9. Frankly in Love by David Yoon (YA Fiction)
  10. Dandy by Ame Dyckman (Children Picture Book)
  11. Chapter Two is Missing! by Josh Lieb (Children Picture Book)
  12. Georgia’s terrific, colorific experiment by Zoe Perisco (Children Picture Book)
  13. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA Fiction)
  14. Planting stories: the life of librarian and storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Denise (Children Picture Book Biography)
  15. Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon (YA Historical Fiction)
  16. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (YA Fantasy)
  17. The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu (YA Fantasy)
  18. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (YA Historical Fiction)
  19. Kiss Number 8 by Coleen A.F. Venable (YA Graphic Novel)
  20. The Line Tender by Kate Allen (Children Fiction)
  21. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (Adult Fiction)
  22. They called us enemy by George Takei (Adult e-comic)
  23. Frankisstein: a love story by Jeannette Winterson (Adult Fiction)
  24. D-Day girls: the spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the Nazis, and helped win World War II by Sarah Rose (Adult nonfiction)
  25. Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima (Children Picture Book)
  26. All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker (Children Fiction)
  27. More to the Story by Hena Khan (Children Fiction)
  28. The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman

Best Books of 2019

It’s crazy to think that today is the last day of 2019. This year has flown by so fast it seems, though it was definitely slow during the summer for me. It’s a wee bit late for this but I wanted to list my favorite books of the year because I love sharing awesome books I’ve read. I did like some picture books but this list was already too long, so I just left them out. You can check out my reviews on Goodreads if you’re interested.

Children’s Chapter Books

Klawde

  • The Klawde series by Johnny Marciano: Started reading them to my son at bed and we love them. They are the most fun books to do voices for and completely hilarious, full of crazy puns my kid loves.

Never Say Narwhal

  • The Platypus Police Squad series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka: My kid and I really enjoyed this hilarious series and it was fun to listen to a bunch of platypus police detectives with NY accents living in Kalamazoo City, with a bunch of Panda and Narwhal gangsters running around trying to hijack the town.

MegaBat and Fancy Cat

  • Mega Bat series by Anna Humphrey: A sweet and super adorable series about a young boy and his adopted pet MegaBat. I enjoyed reading this one to my son.

 

Graphic Novels/Manga (all ages)

Princess Princess Ever After

  • Basically anything written/illustrated by New Zealand artist/author Katie O’Neill. So far I’ve read The Tea Dragon Society, Princess Princess Ever After, Aquicorn Cove, and The Tea Dragon Festival. [children]

Return of Zita the Spacegirl

  • Zita the Spacegirl series (#1-3) written/illustrated by Ben Hatke: Picked this series up for my son but got sucked in as well. It’s just a fun semi-wordless quick read that explores the adventures of the reluctant galaxy traveler Zita. I already loved Ben Hatke’s artwork from books like Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. [children]

Anonymous Noise 14

  • Anonymous Noise series (Vol 6-16) written/illustrated by Ryoko Fukuyama: Discovered the one season of the anime first, which only covers the first 5 volumes, so picked up number six and read all of them. It’s just the fluffy high school drama with a love triangle I want in a manga. I picked this one because it has Yuzu, one of my favorite characters on the front. Only two more volumes to go before the series is done. 😦 [YA]

Unnatural

  • The Unnatural series written by Mirka Andolfo – I discovered this series by accident but glad I was able to read it because it was just about as crazy as Saga. Per my review: “Lesley Blair is just a normal pig living in a totalitarian world that controls who you can mate with, down to governmentally selected dating services when you turn 21.” And stuff just gets weirder once she turns 21. Very graphic and adult but I enjoyed it. [adult]

Pumpkinheads

  • Pumpkin Heads written by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks: I love Rainbow Rowell’s YA and adult books and this one is no exception. Sometimes the most obvious thing is the answer to your question, as  Josiah learns from Deja. [YA]

America Vol 1

  • America Vol 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez written by Gabby Rivera – Shortly after I read Juliet Takes a Breath, I discovered this. And this new incarnation of Captain America is pretty badass! I know it had some mixed reviews but I enjoyed it. [was in Adult section but def 15+]

The Bride was a Boy

The Bride was a Boy written/illustrated by Chii – my review below: “Absolutely adorable manga about the author’s transition from male to female. The cutesy illustrations (my son said it reminded him of “Ouran High School Host Club’s” animation) helped move the story along, which helped especially as it got pretty technical with explaining in a non-condescending manner the terminology for gender, sexuality, and Japanese laws. Chii was lucky to find such a great guy who accepted her for who she was, and helped her along on her journey to womanhood. Highly recommended for ages 15+, 5 stars.”

The Adventure Zone

  • The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins written by Clint, Griffin, Justin, and Travis McElroy – This book was hilarious, and I know next to nothing about D&D or their podcast. [adult]

 

Young Adult

Rebound

  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander: I read The Crossover in April and surprisingly enjoyed it (a sports verse novel, who knew?) and then found this one and liked it even better. This one tells the story of Chuck Bell, the father of The Crossover twins, and how he came to play basketball. I managed to get a friend who was seeing Kwame Alexander at an event to get it signed for me!

 

Adult 

Juliet Takes a Breath.jpg

  • Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: I am late to the Gabby Rivera party but I am in love with her stuff right now and can’t wait to read more. I think my review sums it up: “I freaking loved this book and its message was great and perfect for me in a way I really needed at this point in my crazy life. Highly recommended and 5 stars!”

Ayesha at Last

  • Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – snippet of my review “It’s basically a modern Muslim interpretation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” with a bit of Shakespeare’s mistaken identity thrown in just to make things interesting.”

Born a Crime

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, narrated by the author – I loved this book and have been recommending it to everyone I know, but it is hard to listen to all the racism and apartheid policies of South Africa. It was also the most heartfelt and hilarious book I’ve read in a while. I love his mom and he is very lucky to have her. And the man is not afraid to cuss so make sure you’re not listening to it around kids and I do recommend the audiobook because he’s a great narrator.

Thrawn - Treason

  • Thrawn: Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3) by Timothy Zahn – This one harkened back to the first book as far as the awesomeness of the book and tied together events that happened in the show Star Wars: Rebels. I’ve been interested in Thrawn ever since I read the first book, then saw him in Rebels, and he is one of the most interesting characters of the Star Wars universe in my opinion. I know my son would just say “Why do you like the bad guys so much?” and to that I will say, they are usually just more complex and fascinating characters.

The Omega Objection

  • The San Andreas Shifter series by G.L. Carriger (aka one of my favorite authors in the world Gail Carriger): I haven’t read a lot of m/m romance fantasy werewolf books to be honest, but I loved this series. Honestly though I re-read the Parasol Protectorate series of Carriger’s books this year and they were even more awesome on audiobook.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: No I promise it’s not all porn, though it does have some erotica in it. Nikki, a bartender and law school dropout, decides to teach a creative writing class that evolves into much more, including the liberation of older traditional Punjabi widows.

Crazy Rich Asians

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: Yes I saw the movie but I thought the book was better.

Kill the Farm Boy

  • Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne: Another hilarious fantasy book, in the vein of Monty Python and The Princess Bride, by the author of the Star Wars: Phasma and the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles. 

Difficult but Intriguing Words

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

I know it’s been about 6 months since my last post, but my life has been pretty crazy lately so there ya go. But I plan on writing some more in the new year. Anyways, I just got this children’s book for my son and I called The Dictionary of Difficult Words, which was compiled and written by Jane Solomon, because I’m a bit of an logophile (lover of words, especially new and intriguing ones) and a Sesquipedalian (definition below). Secondarily I’m trying to expand my son’s vocabulary. Below are a list of words that I liked the sound of and forgot I knew or completely new words. See if you know any of them. I will put NFW next to the ones I am currently loving for my all-time favorite words list, my absolute favorite being “Kerfuffle”. 

Ailurophile: Someone who loves cats

Absquatulate: When someone absquatulates, they leave a place very quickly and without warning. (NFW)

Abecedarian: Someone who is learning the alphabet or who is a beginner in any subject

Bildungsroman: A story about someone who is growing up and learning about who they are. This sometimes called a coming-of-age story. 

Borborygmus: the rumbling sound that comes from someone’s stomach

Catoptromancy: When people use mirrors to uncover hidden knowlege, i.e. the Queen in Snow White using her mirror to learn Who is the fairest of them all?

Clowder: a group of cats

Cockalorum: Someone who thinks they are more important than they actually are

Cruciverbalist: Someone who creates or loves solving crossword puzzles

Deipnosophist: Someone who is very good at having interesting conversations with others while sitting down for a meal (NFW)

Dabster: Someone who is an expert at something

Ianthine: Something that is ianthine is the color violet (NFW)

Interrobang: A punctuation mark that combines the exclamation mark with the question mark. It’s used when someone is really surprised or really excited while asking a question

Kakistocracy: A government ruled by the worst people (cough cough Trump and cronies)

Lionize: When you lionize someone, you treat them as if they are very important and special

Metagrobolize: If you are metagrobolized by something, you are puzzled or confused by it

Mugwump: Someone who has a hard time making decisions, usually refers to politicians

Miscpocha: Someone’s family and very close friends

Mulligrubs: Someone who has the mulligrubs is very sad and is in a bad mood

Nucivorous: an animal that eats nuts such as squirrels

Omphaloscopy: When someone focuses too much on one idea and never gets anything done; also known as navel-gazing

Oology: the study of eggs, especially birds’ eggs

Orthography: When someone uses the word Orthography, they’re talking about how to spell words correctly

Prestidigitation: The art of moving your hands skillfully, so others think they’re actually seeing something that they’re not actually seeing (NFW)

Quidnunc: Someone who is very nosy and likes to gossip about the lives of other people

Quinquennium: a period of five years (NFW)

Ramfeezled: If someone is ramfeezled, they are worn out and exhausted

Ripsnorter: Something that’s extraordinary and amazing

Sesquipedalian: If someone is sesquipedalian, they know a lot of big words and they love using them (NFW)

Spaghettification: The idea that objects get long and skinny like spaghetti when they’re sucked into black holes (NFW)

Testudinal: Something related to tortoises, turtles, and their shells

Thigmotropism: the sense of touch that some plants have that makes them grow in spirals around things

Xanthic: Something that is the color yellow

Xenization: When someone uses this word, they’re talking about a person’s travels as a stranger (NFW)

Zenography: the study of the planet Jupiter

Zeugma: a type of play on words where one word is used in two different ways in relation to other words in the sentence. For example: She devoured her book and a sandwich. 

Micro-Fiction #15

Apparently I haven’t written one of these since August 25th last year, so it’s about time for me to start this up again. I’ve been feeling more inspired lately and have decided to get back on board with this to help jump start my fanfic writing. It’s a bit hokey but I thought it was a decent first attempt at writing again, the first line is taken in context of the photo being from 1992. 

Portable Confessional

Chris Wilkins, Father Anthony and his portable confessional, July 1992

“House Calls”

Father Anthony was hip to the beat, he was down with the times, or at least he was in his mind. A portable confessional, he thought to himself one day, that’s just what I need! I can mount it on my bike and away we go!

A bit of an amateur handyman, he built himself the “Portofess”. It had a door in the front, a small bench seat on the interior and a hole with mesh on the back so people could confess their sins to Father Anthony. In this way, he was able to go to places none of his other fellow priests could go. He went to brothels, night clubs, the docks, even the gay bathhouse downtown. He visited his elderly parishioners who could not come to church. He absolved so many souls that summer, he was certain John Paul II would guarantee his way into heaven.