Saturday Smalls: 24th August 2019 | Silkpunk, Latinx Poetry, WW2 & NSFW Graphic Novels

Welcome to Saturday Smalls, a weekly review feature which was originally created by Destiny at Howling Libraries!

Each Saturday Smalls will include a handful of mini-reviews for books that I’ve read but didn’t get a chance to review at the time and, once I catch up, I will then use it to review books I don’t feel I can commit to doing a full review for. A huge thank you to the lovely Destiny for letting me adopt Saturday Smalls.

This week’s mini-review round-up includes:

  1. Adult Fantasy/Silkpunk novel
  2. YA Contemporary/Poetry
  3. Adult historical fiction novel
  4. Adult graphic novels

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the poppy war

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F Kuang
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult

Synopsis: When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. That she got into Sinegard – the most elite military school in Nikan – was even more surprising. But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Fighting the prejudice of rival classmates, Rin discovers that she possesses a lethal, unearthly power – an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of psychoactive substances and a seemingly insane teacher, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive – and that mastering these powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most people calmly go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away…

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The Poppy War was the first book I read in 2019 and almost 9 months later I still have absolutely no idea how to even begin writing a review for it. The Poppy War is one of the best books I have ever read and it is an absolutely outstanding debut novel from R. F Kuang. By now most of you will have either read the book yourself or likely have heard enough about it that you don’t need much of an introduction to the book so I’ll just stick to my own favourite parts of the TPW:

  • An ownvoice book with a Chinese woman as the main character in a militaristic fantasy book!
  • TPW is a slow book in which the plot takes a while to unravel but this one of the things that made it so enjoyable for me. Kuang doesn’t rush the story or skip through the worldbuilding right to the action but does the story, world and characters justice with her beautiful, intricate and detailed writing
  • TPW has been described as grimdark which is a genre that usually doesn’t gel well with me at all. However, I (personally) felt that TPW was more on the darker side of fantasy than necessarily grimdark although I understand the subsequent books are supposed to be a lot darker
  • Fantasy schools are one of my biggest jams and I enjoyed spending the first half of the book with Rin as she fights her way into Sinegard, as she hones her skills through Sinegard’s lessons, and encounters dangerous gods

Honestly, there is so much to love about The Poppy War that it’s difficult to articulate my thoughts very well (alongside the added difficulty of trying to remember so far back to January…). I grabbed a hardback copy of The Dragon Republic at YALC which I absolutely cannot wait to read and which I’ve heard is soul-destroying. My body is ready.

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the poet X

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: Contemporary/Poetry
Age Range: YA

Synopsis: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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This is another book that I could just spend all day gushing over and I will literally recommend it to anyone and everyone. The Poet X was a huge surprise for me as I would never have described myself as someone who enjoyed poetry but Acevedo opened my eyes to a whole new world with her beautiful debut. The Poet X is one of those books that leaves you speechless when you finish it. When I finished reading it I think I just sat there, holding the book peacefully and feeling so thankful for being able to receive Acevedo’s words through the pages of my book.

If you can, I would 100% recommend the audiobook which is narrated by Acevedo as her voice really brings Xiomara alive and makes the experience even more impactful.

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Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: Adult

Synopsis: Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

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All the Light We Cannot See is one of those innocuous books that patiently sat on my Goodreads shelf for 7 years and my physical shelf for another 3 before I finally picked it up one day on a whim and was glad I finally did. It’s an extraordinary story about a blind French girl and an orphan German boy as they grow up during World War 2. It’s a well-written book with memorable characters and touching moments which is well worth a read, although it is definitely a book you need to set aside a lot of time for. At 530 pages it is a bit of a tome especially for someone like me who reads quite slowly and ended up taking me almost an entire month to read it!

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Title: Saga Volumes 6-8
Author: Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Genre: Graphic Novel
Age Range: Adult

Synopsis: Vol 6 – After a dramatic time jump, the three-time Eisner Award winner for Best Continuing Series continues to evolve, as Hazel begins the most exciting adventure of her life: kindergarten. Meanwhile, her starcrossed family learns hard lessons of their own.

Vol 7 – Finally reunited with her ever-expanding family, Hazel travels to a war-torn comet that Wreath and Landfall have been battling over for ages. New friendships are forged and others are lost forever in this action-packed volume about families, combat and the refugee experience. 

Vol 8 – After the traumatic events of the War for Phang, Hazel, her parents, and their surviving companions embark on a life-changing adventure at the westernmost edge of the universe.

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The Saga series is one of my favourite graphic novel series and I finally got to read volumes 6-8 thanks to my friend lending me her copies a few weeks ago. Saga continues to hold nothing back with its fantastical depiction of issues such as war, death, trauma, sexual content, drug abuse, and violence with added content pertaining to abortion/miscarriage/still-births in Volume 8 so please be careful going into that volume in particular. Volumes 6-8 made me so overjoyed to see the addition of Petrichor, a badass trans female character, and see Hazel reunited with her family but also completely broke my heart with the death of my favourite character…


EST. 2015 (1)

 

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