Reading

Alice by Heart – Steven Sater | A Book Review

Alice by Heart - Steven Sater

Title: Alice by Heart

Author: Steven Sater

Genre: Historical Fiction (Young Adult)

About the book: It’s based on a musical that follows Alice Spencer in London during 1940. She has to take shelter in a tube station because of World War II. Alice reads her favourite book, Alice in Wonderland, to Alfred, who is sick with tuberculosis. But slowly the two worlds begin to blur.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: Even though I’ve never read Alice in Wonderland before, I found the premise intriguing. It took me a while to get into the story though.

Characters: I like the relationship between Alice and Alfred; it was very sweet and wholesome. There are a number of other characters as well, and I found them to be quite unique.

Quote:

“Although it breaks my heart, I’ll help you let me go.”

Writing: The author is descriptive, as he includes a lot of imagery. I enjoyed the photos as well as the illustrations interspersed throughout the book. They added to the reading experience, making it easier to visualize some of the scenes described.

Final thoughts: The ending isn’t too unpredictable, but I liked the end nonetheless.

I’d recommend reading Alice in Wonderland before reading Alice by Heart That way, the story is easier to follow and you can understand all the references.


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Reading

The Downstairs Girl – Stacey Lee | A Book Review

Title: The Downstairs Girl

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction (Young Adult)

About the book: It follows a Chinese teenager named Jo Kuan. She works as a maid by day and writes an anonymous advice column by night. Jo challenges commonly held ideas of race and gender in 1800s Atlanta, which leads to backlash from readers.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: The cover sold me. I was also intrigued by the title and premise.

Characters: Jo is curious and resourceful. I saw so much of myself in her. I enjoyed seeing the different individuals develop as the story went on. I wasn’t too fond of certain characters early on, yet they grew on me.

I love diversity and representation of traditionally marginalized groups, especially when it’s done right.

Quote:

“One should never confuse cost with value.”

Writing: There’s a little bit of romance but not too much. I’m no expert on how people in Atlanta around 1980 spoke, but in my opinion, the language seems to capture that time period well.

Final thoughts: The novel gets better, and the ending is satisfying.

I highly recommend The Downstairs Girl especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction. Even if you aren’t, it’s an eye-opening read that explores racism and sexism from different perspectives.


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Reading

Like A Love Story – Abdi Nazemian | A Book Review

Title: Like A Love Story

Author: Abdi Nazemian

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the book: It’s set in 1989 during the outbreak of the AIDS crisis, following three teenagers named Reza, Judy, and Art.

I received an advanced review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: The title and cover are interesting.

Characters: I enjoyed seeing the growth of all three protagonists throughout the story. There’s diversity with both Reza and Art being gay. I love how the characters aren’t perfect because they all have their own problems.

Quote:

“Don’t you want to create your own life?”

Writing: The book alternates between different points of view with each POV told in the first person. Some of the romantic scenes are more mature in nature. Nazemian makes many references to popular culture in the late 90s, most of which went over my head. That being said, I didn’t mind not knowing the songs or movies mentioned. If anything, it made the book feel more grounded in the late 1900s.

Final thoughts: I didn’t know what to expect for the ending, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. This novel isn’t just about love. It’s also about family and friendship. I think the themes are relevant and will resonate with a lot of young readers.

I’d recommend Like A Love Story to those interested in stories exploring homosexuality.


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Reading

We Hope For Better Things – Erin Bartels | A Book Review

Title: We Hope For Better Things

Author: Erin Bartels

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the book: Elizabeth Balsam is a journalist who loses her job. A man named James Rich asks her to deliver a camera and some photos to a relative of hers named Nora who’s living in an isolated farmhouse.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

First impressions: I was interested in the plot, specifically about Detroit and the Underground Railway. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story.

Characters: There were a lot of characters, so I had a little trouble keeping track of everyone at first. That being said, the author did a good job fleshing out the main protagonists: Mary, Nora, and Elizabeth.

Quote:

“Change happens when the cost of keeping things the way they are is too high.”

Writing: It’s well-written with some romance. Some of the issues and scenes depicted are more mature in nature.

Final thoughts: By the end, I had a greater appreciation for the title of the novel. The ending answers a lot of lingering questions but also leaves some open-ended. While the subject matter might not make for the easiest read, I think books like these are necessary, especially in this day and age.

If you like historical fiction that addresses racism in America, I would recommend checking out We Hope For Better Things.


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Reading

A Q&A About Book Genres

Questions. Answers. Book genres.

What’s your favourite genre?

That’s a tough one. As of right now, I have to say thriller. Any type. Legal, medical, even political. I’m not the biggest fan of politics, even though I took a class in high school. Shudders.

Least favourite?

Romance. Or anything remotely resembling it. Thanks but no thanks. Maybe when I have a boyfriend, I won’t roll my eyes while reading romantic scenes, but I can’t make any guarantees.

What genre(s) do you write?

Realistic fiction because contemporary young adult is all I know how to write.

Which ones do you read?

Almost everything. You name it, I probably read it, unless the book involves two main characters falling in love within the space of two pages.

What do you want to read more of?

Historical fiction hands down. I don’t read enough about history, but whenever I do, I tend to enjoy the story.

Read less of?

Chick lit romance. Duly noted.

The first genre you fell in love with?

Realistic fiction in general. I went through middle grade chapter books like a girl with nothing better to do. Because I had nothing better to do.

Any you’ve fallen out of love with?

I used to read manga and comics. I haven’t fallen out of love with them per se, but perhaps I’ve fallen more in love with other genres. Maybe I’ll pick them up again in my retirement.

The genre associated with your favourite book or author?

Young adult fantasy and science fiction. I’ve come to appreciate these books more than I used to when I was a narrow-minded kid.

The genre associated with your least favourite book or author?

I kid you not, it’s a young adult fantasy and science fiction. Huh.

The most hit or miss genre in your opinion?

This might explain my two previous answers. Fantasy and science fiction by far. The author either hits the mark or misses it completely for me.

An underrated genre?

All of them. Sports fiction specifically.

Most challenging genre to read or write?

An epic fantasy because I don’t have the chops to pull that sort of book off. Exhibit A: what’s world-building…

As always, I’d love to know your answers in the comments below. Or you could write a blog post answering the questions above.