Book Review: How Do You Live?

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino

How Do You Live?
by Genzaburo YoshinoBruno Navasky (Translator)
4 out of 5 stars

Copper reflects on the meaning of life as he faces challenges at his school. He befriends a poor classmate who is being teased and bullied, but that puts him in crosshairs as well. Somehow he must find the courage to stand with his friends, and find out what kind of person he really wants to be. Copper’s uncle and mother give him good advice, but ultimately it is up to Copper to make his own decisions.

This book is told in two parts; the first is Copper’s experiences at school and the second is his uncle’s notes to him about philosophy and the underlying meaning behind everyday things. These two perspectives overlap in alternate chapters. First we read about something that happened to Copper and then his uncle writes to Copper about it, expounding on different moral and social ideas of why that particular experience was important and how it can help to shape Copper into a good person.

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Book Review: War of Kings and Monsters

War of Kings and Monsters by Christopher Keene

War of Kings and Monsters
by Christopher Keene (Goodreads Author)
3 out of 5 stars

Nathan has no idea who he is. He is an apprentice Caller in the king’s home and best friends with Prince Michael, but he has no memory of his family and assumes he is an orphan. He studies under the Master Callers to summon Melkai monsters from another world. Some of the monsters are massive, and others are miniscule, like Nathan’s own little Melkai, a small lizard. The barrier between the world of humans and the world of the Melkai is weakening. Nathan is sent on a quest to find the other half of the magical key that can seal the barriers between worlds before the destructive Melkai are unleashed to roam freely across the land.

I enjoyed the plot of this book, because there are some clever twists and turns. There are several times when some particular character or object or connection is revealed and it was just so satisfying. The plot is full of fantasy tropes, but I didn’t really mind that because I like tropes. Some of the plot devices were obvious, but again, I don’t mind that as long as it is set up in an interesting way.

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Book Review: Matched

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched (Matched, #1)
by Ally Condie (Goodreads Author)
3 out of 5 stars

Cassia follows the rules. She is excited for the benevolent government officials to choose her Match for her, the man she will one day marry. She is matched with her childhood friend, but briefly sees another boy in her match information. She is told that it was only a mistake, but she’s curious about the other match, and begins to bend the rules and then break them.

I really loved the dystopian setup in this book! The seemingly benevolent government who watches your every move, and makes all your life decisions for you based on data and predictions and genetic compatibility. It was such a cool and interesting setting!

I really loved Cassia’s character development. I loved her internal struggle, and how she begins to question her world. She is torn between two boys, two lives, and two selves. Does she choose to play it safe and have a good life with her match? Or does she choose to rebel and live free, but risk losing everything? I was fascinated by the intricate details of her emotions and thoughts.

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Book Review: The Boatman’s Daughter

The Illustrated Boatman's Daughter by Tom Durwood

The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter
by Tom Durwood (Goodreads Author)
2 out of 5 stars
In 1860s Egypt, Salima helps her father with his ferryboat business, but she longs for more education and wants to travel and see the world. Hoping to make some money to pay for school, she applies for a clerk position with a company overseeing the construction of the Suez Canal. She becomes entangled with the corruption and danger surrounding the various European and Egyptian powers struggling for control of the new canal.

The writing style is really excellent, and made me care deeply about the characters. However, it could use a copy editor for little things like punctuation.

The plot was exciting, and the adventure was interesting. However, there were times when I couldn’t understand why the plot took the direction it did in some scenes. It wasn’t clear why the characters chose to do what they did, or how they got to a certain point, or how they gained particular knowledge. It was just some little things that didn’t quite add up, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the overall story.

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YA Book Review: Lycanthropy and Other Illnesses

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O'Neal

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses
by Kristen O’Neal 
1 out of 5 stars and Did Not Finish
Priya has Lyme disease, and wakes up every morning with pain and fatigue. She joins a support group online with other people who have chronic illnesses, and discovers that her best friend might be a werewolf.

In the first 50 pages of this book, nothing happens at all. Well, we get to see some sweet character introductions of Priya and her siblings for about 3 pages. And Priya joins the support group. That’s it. The entire first 50 pages could have been condensed into 5 pages.

And that’s when I got bored and stopped reading. I have a rule that I have to read at least to page 50 before I will let myself DNF a book, knowing that I gave it a fair chance.

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Non Fiction Review: The Mindfulness Journal for Teens

The Mindfulness Journal for Teens by Jennie Marie Battistin, MA,...
The Mindfulness Journal for Teens: Prompts and Practices to Help You Stay Cool, Calm, and Present
by Jennie Marie Battistin, MA, LMFT

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This beautiful guided journal prompts the reader/writer to answer questions, contemplate quotes about peace and mindfulness, practice meditations, focus on the breath, embrace personal affirmations, and write down their thoughts.

The best thing about this book is the beautiful design and calming colors on each page. It makes me want to open the book and notice every little leaf and fruit design around the edges while I do the meditations.

The prompts begin with a simple noticing of your emotions, your body, and surroundings, and then move into more deep contemplations and journal instructions about your insecurities, your strengths and fears. Continue reading

Book Review: The Lantern’s Ember

The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck
The Lantern’s Ember
by Colleen Houck 

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Ember is a young witch with a great deal of untapped power. Jack is a supernatural being, who keeps his soul in a pumpkin lantern and guards the crossroads to a magical realm. Jack is determined to stop Ember from crossing to the OtherWorld where her power could be stolen from her, but he has a hard time guarding his heart against her sweet charms.

There were so many things that I loved about this book, and a few things that annoyed me.

First, the world-building and magic systems are wonderfully imaginative and interesting. I was entranced with the magical setting and the witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves, goblins, and succubi that populate the OtherWorld. They each have particular powers and traits that were fascinating to discover as they are explained through the plot. I also really loved the steampunk feeling of the world, and how automatons and clockworks are integrated with magic power. Continue reading

Book Review: Eighteen and On Her Own

Eighteen and on Her Own by Arleta Richardson
Eighteen and on Her Own
by Arleta Richardson

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Mabel is done with high school and ready to teach her first year of school at a little country one-room schoolhouse. Her boyfriend, Russ, is pressuring her to make plans for their future wedding, but Mabel isn’t ready to commit to a formal engagement. Meanwhile, Mabel has trouble with her country students when there is a scarlet fever scare, a break-in at the schoolhouse, and a blizzard runs through the area. Another young man seems to have feelings for Mabel and she has to decide between a new love or the steady old relationship with Russ.

I just love how spunky and energetic Mabel is! She is always getting into the most ridiculous situations with her best friend, Sarah Jane. Just because she is grown-up now, doesn’t mean she isn’t still mischievous and playful, but her problems are bigger and require a deep solution now that she can’t rely on her parents and teachers to bail her out of scrapes. Continue reading

Book Review: Birdwing

Birdwing by Rafe Martin
Birdwing 
by Rafe Martin

4 out of 5 stars on GoodREads


Ardwin is the youngest in his family, cursed with one arm that is a swan’s wing. He is feared and reviled by the world, and sets out to seek an adventure that will lead him to his true home. But he will never find peace until he learns to accept himself, wing and all.

This is a continuation of the fairy tale of the brothers who are transformed into swans and saved by their sister who weaves shirts of nettles to break the curse. One little brother’s shirt is unfinished, missing a sleeve, and that arm remains a swan’s wing.

I loved Ardwin’s character! He’s a very deep thinker, and he puzzles through many ideas about identity, instinct, belonging, love, and hate, and forgiveness. There are so many wonderful themes that he wrestles with, but he ultimately finds where he truly belongs.

The plot is wonderfully fantastical, full of wizards, enchantresses, talking animals, deep earth magic, and impossible plot twists that kept me guessing and wondering and perfectly in awe. Continue reading