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September 2018

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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa: A Case of Misguided ExpectationsShadow of The Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1) by Julie Kagawa
Published by Harlequin Teen on October 2, 2018
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.
Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.
Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.
With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.


Shadow of the Fox has me at a loss for how to review it.

It’s received so much praise already – often from other reviewers who I really respect and whose book opinions or recommendations I usually agree with or find helpful – yet despite that, it largely fell flat for me. The prose and the dialogue, in particular, were the reading equivalent of listening to nails on a chalkboard.

What went wrong? Am I just an alien from another planet, operating on an entirely different wavelength from both Julie Kagawa and all the reviewers who loved Shadow of the Fox? Am I just a ship passing in the night, completely missing this hype…ship? Am I disappointed by this book because I had unrealistic or misguided expectations for it? Can I even hope to pick apart my complicated feelings of disappointment and ambivalence about this book?

Additionally, one question which I feel is important for me, as a white person, to ask myself is this: if I dislike an ownvoices work of literature, is it my own internal biases, learned patterns of racism, and/or a lack of similar lived experiences or background knowledge which lead me to dislike the book? Am I harming initiatives to increase diversity in literature by not liking this book? I searched around for some ownvoices reviews of this novel and couldn’t find any at the time of writing, so let me know if there are reviews I should link here, or if you’re an ownvoices reader yourself.

I’ll put my best effort toward examining all of this honestly, for whatever that’s worth. I’ll start things off positively by listing some things I liked.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner: A Beautiful, Magical TaleThe Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Published by Redhook on September 25, 2018
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner's debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods...
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be - and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

Friends, I love this book. I think some readers who aren’t fans of verse in their novels may not enjoy it, but for anyone else, I highly recommend it. I want to say that before anything else because I went into reading this novel knowing very little other than that I loved its cover and found the synopsis enticing. I’m so glad I did. It captured my heart and my imagination right from its opening pages.

Although I love Tati’s stories and his answers, I wonder why a small voice is a daughter’s voice. Sometimes I wish my voice could be loud–like a roar. But that is not a modest way to think. The older I get, the more immodest my thoughts become.

Also, here’s some recommended listening for this review/this book before I really dive into things:

WWW Wednesday posts are something I’d like to start doing in addition to Top Ten Tuesdays. Hosted by the blog Taking on a World of Words, WWW Wednesdays challenge bloggers to answer three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

While school continues to make a dent in the amount of time I have to read for pleasure, that doesn’t mean it’s stopped me completely! I’ve actually managed to make it through a fair number of books in the past week, thanks to reading a few novellas and shorter works. Let’s get into breaking down what I’ve read and what I plan to read next.

♦ Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by thatartsyreadergirl! ♦

Welcome to my second ever T10T post, and one I’m really excited to make. I’m usually pretty terrible about making TBR lists as I’m a chronic mood reader, but I have quite a few books to read in the coming months because I requested them or purchased them instead of borrowing from the library. (I definitely feel much more pressure to read books as promptly as time allows when they’re ARCs.) So let’s get to listing – and in no particular order, since I want to read all of these pretty much right now.

My Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn MasihMy Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih
Published by Mandel Vilar Press on September 15, 2018
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 208
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.
Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.
Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.


My Real Name Is Hanna is a story about a small Ukrainian Jewish community’s harrowing experience during the Holocaust, inspired and informed by real life events. For that reason (among several others), I’ve had to sit with this novel for a bit before writing a review on it. As the author, Tara Lynn Masih, says in the historical note section at the end of the novel, “little did I know I would be submitting the final manuscript during a time in which the KKK and White Nationalists would march again…I dream of a day when we will no longer need Holocaust stories to remind us to be kind to each other, and to be watchful of those who aren’t.”

MRNIH is thus a tale irrevocably tied into themes of anti-Semitism and to the utterly horrible depths to which humanity can, has, and potentially will again sink. It’s a heavy read, especially when one considers the context of the story and the fact that actual Ukrainian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust numbered only five percent of their former population.

Drawn to Sex by Erika Moen and Matthew NolanDrawn to Sex: The Basics by Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan
Published by Limerence Press on November 6, 2018
Genres: sequential art
Pages: 160
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

The first volume in a planned, 3-volume, sex-education series.

Have you ever had a question about sex, but didn't know who to ask? Well, Erika and Matthew have spent years learning, talking, and creating informative comics about all aspects of sex. Using comics, jokes, and frank communication, they're here to demystify the world of sex and answer your questions—including ones you might not even know you had!

In this first book of the Drawn to Sex series, they explore the practical side of sex, from the basics of what defines sex, to barriers and testing, masturbation, and the ins-and-outs of having sex with other people.

Pick up this fun book if you’re looking to learn something new, understand sexuality better, or know someone (maybe you!) who might benefit from some judgment-free education. Erika and Matthew are here to help you out!


My tl;dr review of this: A joyful, approachable, gloriously inclusive volume on the basics of sex. It welcomes and celebrates consenting adults who are comfortable doing any and all kinds of sex, as well as those who are uncomfortable with some or all sex. Informative, well-researched, friendly, and well worth a read, even if you know plenty about these topics already.

Also, just an aside: while this review won’t show any NSFW images or anything like that, it’s going to be discussing sex and things relating to it, because of, y’know, the nature of this book. If that’s not your jam, maybe give this review a pass.

♦ Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by thatartsyreadergirl! ♦

Okay, so I haven’t ever participated in a book blogging meme before. But when I saw this one’s topic, I knew I wanted to do it. (Even if I only just managed to post it on Tuesday with…7 minutes to spare. Oops.)

Anyway. Y’all, I love me some hidden gems, and there’s so many out there to recommend.

For this post, I decided to narrow the scope of it for myself to fantasy, speculative fiction, and scifi novels I consider underhyped. So, here goes!

The Impossible Girl by Lydia KangThe Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
Published by Lake Union Publishing on September 18, 2018
Genres: historical fiction, paranormal, mystery
Pages: 364
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Two hearts. Twice as vulnerable. Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee can mingle with the rich just as easily as she can slip unnoticed into the slums and graveyards of the city. As the only female resurrectionist in New York, she’s carved out a niche procuring bodies afflicted with the strangest of anomalies. Anatomists will pay exorbitant sums for such specimens—dissecting and displaying them for the eager public. Cora’s specialty is not only profitable, it’s a means to keep a finger on the pulse of those searching for her. She’s the girl born with two hearts—a legend among grave robbers and anatomists—sought after as an endangered prize. Now, as a series of murders unfolds closer and closer to Cora, she can no longer trust those she holds dear, including the young medical student she’s fallen for. Because someone has no intention of waiting for Cora to die a natural death.


“I’m not ashamed of who I am, Leah. It’s everyone else that has trouble with it.”

The Impossible Girl takes an interesting, almost fantastical premise – does Cora Lee, the protagonist, really have two hearts? – and then firmly grounds it in rich historical detail. Especially vivid are the depictions of resurrectionists (people who obtained corpses to serve as public medical dissection cadavers or even as freakshow museum anomalies) and their work in mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. It’s a novel that asks a lot of questions about medical research, respect for the dead, “race science,” past and present misogyny, and being biracial in an America that thinks of nonwhite people as inferior.

The Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn CurtisThe Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn Curtis
Published by Kids Can Press on September 4, 2018
Genres: young adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he'd spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn't mean returning to New Harbor.

Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she's lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.

People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn't sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find --- and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?


I knew that coming here would unearth all sorts of nasty memories. And just standing here, I’m hit with a multilayered emotion that’s heartache and shame and panic, my past so close I can sense it brushing against the fine hairs on the back of my neck.

I think I originally requested this title to read and review because of a few things: a) that gorgeous cover, b) I want to stretch myself out of my reading comfort zone a bit and read more contemporaries, and c) this part of its blurb: “an honest and emotional story that will resonate with the wide range of readers impacted by sexual assault.”