Review | The Cartopgraphers by Amy Zhang

Struggling to balance the expectations of her immigrant mother with her deep ambivalence about her own place in the world, seventeen-year-old Ocean Wu takes her savings and goes off the grid. A haunting and romantic novel about family, friendship, philosophy, and love.

Ocean Wu has always felt enormous pressure to succeed. After struggling with depression during her senior year in high school, Ocean moves to New York City, where she has been accepted at a prestigious university. But Ocean feels so emotionally raw and unmoored (and uncertain about what is real and what is not), that she decides to defer and live off her savings until she can get herself together. She also decides not to tell her mother (whom she loves very much but doesn’t want to disappoint) that she is deferring—at least until she absolutely must.

In New York, Ocean moves into an apartment with Georgie and Tashya, two strangers who soon become friends, and gets a job tutoring. She also meets a boy—Constantine Brave (a name that makes her laugh)—late one night on the subway. Constant is a fellow student and a graffiti artist, and Constant and Ocean soon start corresponding via Google Docs—they discuss physics, philosophy, art, literature, and love. But everything falls apart when Ocean goes home for Thanksgiving, Constant reveals his true character, Georgie and Tashya break up, and the police get involved.

Ocean, Constant, Georgie, and Tashya are all cartographers—mapping out their futures, their dreams, and their paths toward adulthood in this stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding the strength to control your own destiny.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I will always try to give books featuring these subjects a chance, even if they might be somewhat triggering. These are subjects that I feel should be explored, especially in a YA space, instead of ignored as they have in the past.

At times the story does feel very raw and real. I really enjoyed the relationships between Ocean, Georgie and Tashya. It was nice to see how they grew and bonded as the book progressed and the different struggles they each had.

I did like the Google Doc exchanges that were included, but there were times I felt there could be a little less of them. Still, I enjoyed the different ways the conversations could be interpreted and how different readers could see the exchanges different ways.

This was a great exploration of Ocean’s growth and journey through her gap year and recovering from past events. Definitely be mindful if suicide talk, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are triggering.

Happy reading!

Review | Play the Game by Charlene Allen

From debut author Charlene Allen comes a captivating YA contemporary mystery and coming-of-age story, celebrating the power of friendship, first love, and exploring the criminal justice system from the lens of restorative justice. Perfect for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, and Maureen Johnson.

In the game of life, sometimes other people hold all the controls. Or so it seems to VZ. Four months have passed since his best friend Ed was killed by a white man in a Brooklyn parking lot.

When Singer, the man who killed Ed, is found dead in the same spot where Ed was murdered, all signs point to Jack, VZ’s other best friend, as the prime suspect.

VZ’s determined to complete the video game Ed never finished and figure out who actually killed Singer. With help from Diamond, the girl he’s crushing on at work, VZ falls into Ed’s quirky gameiverse. As the police close in on Jack, the game starts to uncover details that could lead to the truth about the murder.

Can VZ honor Ed and help Jack before it’s too late?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was quite a ride and ended up being so much more than I originally thought it would be. It is an excellent debut, with amazing writing and an engaging story that tackling real world issues.

I found the characters very engaging and their stories to be very compelling, which really drove the story forward for me. The murder mystery aspect was engaging at the same time as being a very serious story components. There are a number of subplots that are sprinkled in, most were good contributions to the story but perhaps there could have been a little more focus on the main aspects of the story and less subplots.

I feel like the discussions of loss, the criminal justice system and especially racism were well handled and written and very important conversations to have. All in all I would definitely recommend this book as it’s a fantastic read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Snowcat Prince by Dina Norlund

Syv is a snowcat and the youngest in a family of princes. When his father dies, Syv and his brothers are all in line for the throne. Eager to become kings themselves and wary of how well-liked Syv has become by the citizens, Syv’s brothers send him on a dangerous quest to find the long-lost magical crown that once belonged to their royal ancestor, the Eldking. Legend says that the snowcat who finds the crown will break the curse on their land and bring great honor to the family. But failure could mark Syv with three black stripes, and he’d be banished forever.

Along his journey, Syv will face dangerous beasts, dark powers, and the ever-lurking sand foxes—sworn enemies to the snowcats. But when Syv discovers the truth about the legend of the Eldking and his magical crown, he’ll have to learn the new meaning of honor and find another way to break the curse. 

From Norwegian author Dina Norlund comes , a beautifully illustrated tale of bravery and honor. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I saw the cover of this graphic novel I immediately wanted to pick it up, who could resist the adorable snowcat and the vibrant color scheme? I do not regret picking it up since the story was absolutely enchanting and beautiful. In it we follow Syv, the seventh and youngest of the Snowcat princes as he goes on a journey to recover a stolen crown. He has to learn some hard truths along the way about how he perceives the world and other beings. Overall it’s a beautiful story with vibrant artwork and some dynamic characters. It was definitely an enjoyable read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Future is Yours by Dan Frey

Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t predict is how it will tear their friendship—and society—apart.

If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you?

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity.

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anytime I hear a book is written in mixed media format I’m intrigued so when this one got recommended to me I immediately found a copy. This book was quite a ride and there were definitely twists I was not expecting, but also some things that were a little predictable towards the end. That may have just been because all the loose strings were coming together to be fair. This was an incredibly fast read that I really had a hard time putting down.

We’re following Ben and Adhi as they create “The Prototype” which allows them to pull information from the internet up to one year in the future. Their friendship is unique as they are very much opposites. At times Ben is insufferable, selfish, narcissistic and more but Adhi isn’t all sunshine and roses either and it is stated explicitly in the book that he suffers from mental health issues. One can imagine the possible ramifications that being able to know what is coming the future might be and many of them are explored in this book. If you’re looking for a fast paced sci fi about time travel that also tackles the ethics and morals that might come with that, this should definitely be on your list.

Happy reading!

Review | Morning Sun in Wuhan by Ying Chang Compestine

What was the pandemic of the century like at the start? This swift, gripping novel captures not only the uncertainty and panic when COVID first emerged in Wuhan, but also how a community banded together.

Weaving in the tastes and sounds of the historic city, Wuhan’s comforting and distinctive cuisine comes to life as the reader follows 13-year-old Mei who, through her love for cooking, makes a difference in her community. Written by an award-winning author originally from Wuhan.

Grieving the death of her mother and an outcast at school, thirteen-year-old Mei finds solace in cooking and computer games. When her friend’s grandmother falls ill, Mei seeks out her father, a doctor, for help, and discovers the hospital is overcrowded. As the virus spreads, Mei finds herself alone in a locked-down city trying to find a way to help.

Author Ying Chang Compestine draws on her own experiences growing up in Wuhan to illustrate that the darkest times can bring out the best in people, friendship can give one courage in frightening times, and most importantly, young people can make an impact on the world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m going to start my review off with a content warning, if you are at all triggered by talk of the currently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you may find parts of this book hard to read. This book talks about the beginning days of the pandemic where it began in Wuhan and there are definitely some portions that are raw.

That being said, books like this are important because they highlight the humanity of a crisis like this. Not politics but sides of humanity, both good and bad. It shows that fear is a powerful motivator in both good and bad ways causing people to either band together and take care of each other, or to turn to the side of fear that result in anger (such as hoarding food or treating others badly).

I really enjoyed Mei as the main character, someone who has hard hardships in her life and is still processing through grief at a very formative age. There are understandable moments of panic and anxiety on her part, but she processes everything and makes decisions in a real way. She’s truly the heart of the story and a great example about how one person can make very positive actions in hard situations, even if they are young.

Happy reading!

Review | Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow . . . and other things too scary to mention.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

First and foremost, this book took me by surprise because I had it in my mind that it was more of an anthology and not an ongoing story, so that set me a little off kilter. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to a litter of fox kits who desperately want to hear a scary story, so they go to see someone known as the storyteller. Over the course of one night the storyteller tells them stories about a pair of foxes and their adventures.

I did really enjoy the writing style in this, especially because between each story we get an interlude between the kits and the storyteller and I did like how all the stories came together at the end. I think a younger reader looking for something a little scary and adventurous would really enjoy this book and find it to be a fast and enjoyable read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill

Bestselling poet, writer, and Instagram sensation Nikita Gill returns with a collection of poetry and prose exploring Hindu mythology and legend.

Let her be a little less human, a little more divine
Give her heart armor so it doesn’t break as easily as mine

Meet Paro. A girl with a strong will, a full heart, and much to learn. Born into a family reeling from the ruptures of Partition in India, we follow her as she crosses the precarious lines between childhood, teenage discovery, and realizing her adult self. In the process, Paro must confront fear, desire and the darkest parts of herself in the search for meaning and, ultimately, empowerment.

Nikita Gill’s vivid poetry and beautiful illustrations have captured hearts and imaginations–but in The Girl and the Goddess, she offers us her most personal and deeply felt writing to date: an intimate coming-of-age story told in linked poems that offers a look into the Hindu mythology and rich cultural influences that helped her become the woman she is today.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have loved everything I’ve ready from Nikita Gill so far and this one was no different. I’ve had it since release, but was holding on to it for the perfect time. I am both sad and happy that I put it off, simply because it ended up being so beautiful. I loved Paro’s story as she grew up and dealt with so many joys and hardships, things were done to her that she didn’t understand and had to process. At pivotal points in her life she was visited by divine entities who told her stories/lessons. Paro’s voice is beautiful to read through as she ages from baby to adolescent to adult and all the lessons she learns not just from her nightly visits, but from her life experiences and the people around her.

I didn’t know much about Partition in India or Hindu mythology and appreciated the insight shared on both in this book. It’s hard not to keenly feel for Paro, especially with Gill’s expertly written poetry and prose.

Happy reading!

Review | Why Are You Like This? by Meg Adams

A collection of comics with a millennial take on marriage, adulthood, pet ownership, self-love, and self-care. 

Finally, comics that answer life’s most pressing questions: Is my partner actually upset or just hangry? Whose turn is it to remember the reusable shopping bags? Is it appropriate to put up Halloween décor two months in advance? (Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes, it is.) 

“Opposites attract” has never rung truer when it comes to vivacious extrovert Meg and her level-headed introvert husband, Carson. Carson makes his coffee with only the finest locally roasted beans; Meg microwaves two-day-old joe. Carson is reserved and rarely opens up to friends; Meg ensures everyone in her life—including her mailman—knows about her hemorrhoid. From the joys of marrying your best friend to the bizarre musings of a twelve-pound pup to the humor and heartbreak of anxiety, Meg’s all-too-relatable comics leave no stone unturned. Dorky and downright hilarious, Why Are You Like This? explores what it means to make fun of oneself and find laughter in the little things.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having seen some of Meg Adams’ comics before I was eager to pick up a whole collection of them. So many of her comics are easy to relate to whether it be regarding her relationships, her pets or her personality. It was a quick and fun read that had me laughing the whole time, while also often nodding in agreement with the comics. I really love how she’s able to communicate things in a short format that is so relatable and humorous.

Happy reading!

Review | Breakup from Hell by Ann Davila Cardinal

Miguela Angeles is tired. Tired of her abuela keeping secrets, especially about her heritage. Tired of her small Vermont town and hanging out at the same places with the same friends she’s known forever. So when another boring Sunday trip to church turns into a run-in with Sam, a mysterious hottie in town on vacation, Mica seizes the opportunity to get closer to him.

It’s not long before she is under Sam’s spell and doing things she’s never done before, like winning all her martial arts sparring matches—and lying to her favorite people. The more time Mica spends with Sam, the more weird things start to happen, too. Like terrifying-visions-of-the-world-ending weird.

Mica’s gut instincts keep telling her something is off, yet Sam is the most exciting guy she’s ever met. But when Mica discovers his family’s roots, she realizes that instead of being in the typical high school relationship, she’s living in a horror novel.

She has to leave Sam, but will ending their relationship also bring an end to everything she knows and everyone she loves?

Clever, hilarious, and steeped in supernatural suspense, Breakup From Hell will keep you hooked until the last page.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I found this to be a really fun title to pick up, it was super fast paced and entertaining. I do love a paranormal romance, so I thought this was a good concept for a YA paranormal romance.

I did want things to be developed a little more than they were, while the fast pacing was great, there were moments when it was too fast paced and things were a little too instant. That being said I did enjoy the characters overall, especially Mica, but wanted a little bit more.

Overall it was an enjoyable read that was a lot of fun and I found it super easy to read, but I would have liked a little more depth to make it even better.

Happy reading!

Review | Coney – A Trip to Luna Park by Jeffrey Lindberg

It’s 1904, and Luna Park is being built on the sand dunes of Coney Island, Brooklyn. This is bad news for the rabbit Selena, because it will be built right on top of her burrow! Fortunately, she meets Millie, a girl who loves rabbits. She helps Selena cope with the loss of her home.

This magical story weaves together the tale of two friends, and how they confront the men who have destroyed Selena’s home. Against the backdrop of images of Luna Park, the story reaches a dramatic conclusion in nighttime Coney Island!

Take a trip back in time to Luna Park, when for a few pennies you could travel all the way to the moon!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book is absolutely charming. I didn’t know anything about the history of Coney Island, but it was nice to see a little glimpse in the sprinkled real life details throughout the story. The art was breathtaking and seemed to perfectly capture that vibrancy you would imagine when these parks opened, as well as feeling appropriate to the period. It was a very cute story overall, with Selena the rabbit and Millie having a fun adventure together in the park.

Happy reading!