Book Review: Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

The cover design for Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam is absolutely stunning, so much so that it whet my curiosity about the book. When I read the blurb, I was intrigued enough to listen to a online presentation on the book. I loved the discussion of the two authors – so interesting – and was delighted when I was told I had won an ARC of the book.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Blurb:

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

My Thoughts:

I loved this book so much that I could not put it down and read the work in one sitting! The story is written in verse and packs quite a punch. While reading, I heard the voice of the main character, Amal, and sensed the rollercoaster of his emotions as he went through his experience – one which certainly brought up emotions in myself as I read the story. This is a book that made me feel anger against the injustices that are experienced by young people like Amal – young people who are judged not for their actions but by the colour of their skin.

Amal is a character that grows in the story and who experiences a range of emotions. Not only have Zoboi & Salaam have created a person who young men like Amal can relate to; they have also created one who represents the injustices experienced by this group of young men. What I like about this story as well is that it is a thought-provoking one: it encourages readers to think about social injustice and to become more aware of prejudices that exist in our society.

I recommend this book for any person to read – not only young adults. It is a novel that would be a perfect springboard for intense discussion on social justice; and the way in which art can be used as a way not only to express this injustice but as a vehicle to recognise it.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 134th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Teaser Tuesday: With the Fire on High

I picked up With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo for two reasons: I had heard it was an excellent story; and the cover is absolutely stunning. The story is about a teenage girl who fell pregnant when fourteen. It centres on a young girl, Emoni, who loves cooking and has a special talent for it. She is a child on the cusp of becoming a woman and she has to find her place in the world despite all the obstacles in her way.

I am currently reading this novel and would like to share with you an extract from the beginning of the story that resonated with me:

“I just take another bite of my sandwich, close my eyes, and savor, because I can’t think of a single way to make my life more how I imagine it, but I can imagine a hundred ways to make this sandwich better. And sometimes focusing on what you can control is the only way to lessen the pang in your chest when you think about the things you can’t.” (p28, Harper Teen, 2019)

I am enjoying this Young Adult novel that contains a positive story.

Would you open the pages of this novel?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel is the 92nd novel in this year’s book pledge. Teaser Tuesday is hosted by The Purple Booker.)

Book Review: The Water Bears by Kim Baker

I saw this diverse read written by Kim Baker at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year. I love the cover of The Water Bears and decided to pick it up.

Genre: Middle Grade

Blurb:

A story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic.

All Newt Gomez wants for his thirteenth birthday is a bike. After surviving a bear attack last year, he thinks this isn’t an unreasonable request. Instead, his hardworking parents give him a former taco truck to help him get around the wacky island where they live in the Pacific Northwest. And then Newt and his best friend Ethan find a life-sized wooden bear washed up on the shore. Ethan is convinced the bear grants wishes; Newt doesn’t know what to think.

Newt also has a big decision ahead: go to middle school on the island, or to the mainland where his warm extended family lives? There, he won’t be the only Latinx kid; he doesn’t have bad dreams about the attack, and not everyone knows what happened to him. Newt secretly plots to move to his abuela’s house, but his truck is stolen with the maybe-magic bear inside. He must confront his fears and adapt to the reality of a world that’s often uncertain, but always full of salvageable wonders.

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful and poignant story that middle grade readers will enjoy. It contains a little adventure, some facts about nature, and features a boy who learns the value of friendship and that it is okay to be a little different.

Newt has experienced a traumatic event (the bear attack) and slowly learns to accept what has happened to him. He also learns, with the help of his friends, that he can move on from his experience – and that it is okay to move on in a way of his choosing. Newt learns that despite the bear attack, he can still enjoy moments in his life – and that he can continue to do things that he enjoyed in the past.

I like the message in this story; it is a message that will sit well with preteens when they read the book. They will learn what it is to be accepted; as well as what it means to be different. The Water Bears is a well-written story that will appeal to children who enjoy reading novels that show growth in the main character.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 59th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Diverse Reads: The Book of Negroes

I am horrified to hear of what is currently happening in the US and the steps that have been taken to silence voices. World-wide people have struggled and sacrificed for decades so that they can be heard – and in a few moments all the progress that has been made is taken away. We need to respect the voices of the disempowered; we need to listen to what they are saying.

I ask myself what I can do as an ordinary person living an ordinary life. I can listen and respect the experiences of those different to my own. I can pay attention to the voices of the disempowered. I can read the stories written by those whose lives are disimilar to my own. I can speak up when comments and actions are made to disrespect the experience of those living without ingrained privilege.

Reading fiction is one way in which to explore the voices of those that are often submerged in society. Experiences described by authors of colour can give an insight into a life different to our own. When I was growing up, these reads were not available. Now, however, the shelves in the bookstores are slowly showcasing stories written by authors of different races and culture.

Today I share with you a powerful story written by a Canadian author: The Book of Negroes. Lawrence Hill gives voice to those who were forced from their home country in West Africa and sold as property. The novel centres on the story of Aminata Diallo from the time she was captured, sold into slavery in the United States, and fought for freedom. This powerful novel not only brought tears to my eyes, but it made me think on the slave trade and the far-reaching consequences of this moment in history. Hill writes Aminita’s story with empathy and brings the experience of the woman to life. This is a novel that I have recommended to others to read; and it is one that will always have a place on my bookshelf.

What diverse read has resonated with you?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Teaser Tuesday: Pressure Point by Jessie Kwak

Yesterday when I opened the door to my home after work, the place was quiet. I was alone: my husband was still commuting home and my daughters were at university. I am still not used to being the only one at home by 5pm on a Monday. With my daughter no longer at high school, I think it is going to take a while for me to get used to these moments alone.

You may be wondering what did with my silent time. Yes, of course! I made myself a coffee, grabbed a new read, and put my feet up on the sofa. I had been wanting to start Pressure Point by Jessie Kwak since I had received it last week.

I haven’t read much of the novel yet so I will share a teaser with you from the prologue:

“Manu’s found that nothing helps a negotiation along quite so well as your enemy knowing just how close you can get to them.” (p 9)

(2019, Jessie Kwak)

I look forward to reading the third novel in Jessie Kwak’s Bulari saga. Guess what I will be doing when I get home today!

Do you enjoy gangster-type stories? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Teaser Tuesday: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Today I am sharing an extract from Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik. I bought this novel on Amazon about three years ago because I was intrigued by the blurb. At that time, I had not read any diverse novels and I was curious about a story based on the dating experience of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

In this novel Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men when her sort-of boyfriend/possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves to be a little too close to his parents – until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all exposé on the Muslim dating scene and she makes a foray into online dating.

I am sharing an extract from when she is describing her first experience of dating on the internet.

“You know what the problem is?” I continued. “There are the men who’ll marry a hijabi – but then expect her to move in with a hole-in-the-wall, or think she’s going to be this weird paragon of traditional values.” I sighed. “And then there are the men who are all, “You’re living in the west – what’s with the hijab?’”(p43)

(2015, Twenty7 Books, UK)

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayesha Malik is a story that had me chuckling throughout. This diverse rom-com was published in 2015 and was my first diverse read.

Would you read this diverse rom-com? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

At the Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins in Spring, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura. My daughters are excited to read this one and will grab it from my hands as soon as I have reviewed it! 😀

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

My thoughts:

I love seeing the diverse reads that young people have the opportunity to read today – the type of reads that I did not have growing up. This Time Will Be Different is one such read. The story describes the experience of a girl of Japanese descent who is being raised by a single mom. Her experience as a minority in her school is also referred to.

Even though she is a minority, CJ’s experience as such is not focused on in the story. Instead, the writer shares with us the character’s personal growth as she determines what it is that is important to her; and how she will go about fighting for what it is she wants. CJ also learns about the importance of family and friends – lessons that teens of diverse cultures need to learn.

Sugiura shares with us a story that describes the progression of a seventeen year old finding her own voice; and learning about the voice of her family members. This Time Will Be Different is also a tale of romance and of family relationships. The novel is an enjoyable and light read with a message that will touch the heart of its readers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 73rd in my book pledge for 2019)