Well this year is off a to a good start, though it has taken me awhile to get things finished because I picked longer YA and adult books, so gotta throw some manga and children’s books in there to shake things up along with the adult ones.
This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars and Stories by Carla Valderrama
I really enjoyed this brief glimpse into forgotten stars and stories of Old Hollywood, aka pre-1960s. I enjoyed learning more about the Nicholas Brothers, who were amazing dancers but I haven’t seen much of their work so I definitely want to remedy that, as well as movies by Sessue Hayakawa (most famous for “The Bridge of the River Kwai” which I have seen but it’s been ages), Lois Weber, and Eleanor Powell (who apparently was the only person that Fred Astaire thought was better than him, and that’s saying a lot). Vera Ellen’s story was super sad, but I always love a mention of Danny Kaye, who used to be one of my favorite actors growing up (and I loved her in “On the Town” with Gene Kelly). 4 stars.
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan – I listened to it originally in Jan 2011, and re-listened to it with my son Nov 2020-Jan 9, 2021.
My original review: Ok, I was honestly skeptical about Rick Riordan trying his hand again at the world of Olympus after the great job he did with the Percy Jackson series. I kept thinking, could it really be a good book? Yes, despite the annoying memory loss thing in the beginning of the book which I think took a bit away from the story, I think he did a good job. I liked that the 3 main characters were older, unclaimed by their god parent and had some ethnic diversity. The story is basically Jason (who has lost his memory) is your typical blond hair/blue eyed hero who joins the story with Piper (half Cherokee/half white) girl and Latino Leo. They find out they are demigods and end up at Camp Half-Blood, but somehow Jason doesn’t belong. They end up going on a quest to free Hera from the clutches of the mysterious enemy (though I figured it out about 200 pages in or so). Overall the villains were surprising and had some interesting twists. I can’t wait for the next book!
*Spoilers* I thought Riordan was super clever to extend the series by dividing up the demigods into Greek & Roman. I figured out the SPQR and the 12 lines right away, but maybe that’s how the Roman camp is organized by legions. I had figured that Percy was abducted by Gaea’s group, but then when they mentioned that he was in the Roman camp, I was like “oh yeah, that makes total sense, since Jason is at Camp Half-Blood.” Now I am really curious to learn more about the Roman camp and see who this other girl is (Jason’s possible love interest), especially after I really liked getting to know Piper.
My review from the re-read (or in this case re-listen): My son thinks the characters were hilarious in the beginning, so a good start to the book. And the story as a whole was good. He liked Leo’s character a lot because he also has ADHD and likes to build things.
Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley
Fascinating look at Palestinian culture and food, and in depth about the people and places that make the country great. It helps that one of the authors is from the country and is as passionate about his home as he is about the food. I had no idea they used that much chili in their food, though the tahini was a bit more expected. I have a lot of pages marked for recipes I want to try, so may actually have to buy this one. Highly recommended, 5 stars.
A Journey Through Greek Myths by Marchella Ward
Well you could tell this was the author’s first children’s book (she is a British university professor) because of the content of the stories, i.e. a fair amount of matricide, patricide, and random killing (not terribly graphic but still there). Granted Greek mythology stories are full of these and that’s cool, just maybe aim the book towards middle grade or teen if that’s the case. I enjoyed the selection of stories they included and a lot of them were ones that my son had never heard before, which is what I was aiming for, as his knowledge of Greek mythology was pretty limited at school and since we were reading all the Rick Riordan Greek books, it made sense for him to know a little bit more about the background stories. I liked that the whole book of stories was tied together by a map and two main characters, aka Night Owl (the grandfather) and Little Owl (his granddaughter), and that it included lgbtq characters as well. Also I loved the outside cover illustrations and the inside illustrations were gorgeous as well. Recommended for ages 9-12, 4 stars.
Once & Future (Once & Future #1) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
I freaking loved this book! I have been wanting to read it forever but just finally got the time. How can I not love a queer King Arthur story in space?!? Plus the fact that the Arthur character is a Arab teenage girl named Ari and Merlin is a baby-faced teenager himself, or the rest of the inclusive LGBTQ+ characters that make up some of the Knights of the Round Table and the queen. And they’re going up against a corporation that is taking over the galaxy and forcing planets to buy their products to survive. Plus the humor was on point and I loved the romances, despite one of them getting significantly complicated. Highly recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.
With Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I adored this audiobook! It’s like each book Acevedo does gets better and better. This novel is about Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Latina who is a fabulous cook and just happens to be a teenage mom. She is a high school senior living with her grandmother and daughter Emma (aka Baby Girl) in Philly because her father couldn’t stay after her mother died there giving birth to her. There are strained relations with her baby’s father Tyrone, who like most guys who have a kid seem to have some serious double standards for her when it comes to dating but it’s fine when he does it and his family doesn’t like her. Her school finally offers a culinary arts class whose end goal is to go to Spain for Spring Break, but with a new cute boy in the class and challenges she wasn’t expecting in the class, she’s not sure how she feels about everything. Things get more confusing when she becomes the fundraising leader for her culinary arts class and gets a compliment from a real chef, who invites her to work for her in the future. Will she be able to follow her dreams and be free to pursue her own future on her own? Or will things get in the way? Highly recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.