5 Favorite Revolutionary Novels

Happy Yesterday-Birthday America.

Honestly I’m not feeling super celebratory this year. Over the top patriotism has bothered me for a while, but this year it feels especially off. We still ate apple pie and hotdogs, and we still went to fireworks (there is no such thing as a bad reason to set off safe, colorful explosives)*, but posting American flags made out of books on Instagram feels icky.

Still, since this year marks the 244th anniversary of signing of the document that started one of the more influential revolutions in history, I thought it might be fun to talk about some of my favorite books about revolutions. These are in no particular order. Half-assed listicles for the win!

*plus outside is apparently VERY low-risk of Covid spread, so I figured this was a good opportunity to get my kids out of the house for the first time in months

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Obviously! A good dystopia needs a good revolution, but my favorite thing about this revolution is how messy it is. Both sides are willing to do pretty terrible things in the name of victory, and in the end Katniss doles out justice on a whim. Nothing is black and white in this series, especially Katniss, which is what I think STILL separates this book from all the other YA dystopias out there. Plus the side-characters are SO COMPELLING!!!

Children of Blood and Bone

God, everything ABOUT this novel! The one-of-a-kind magic system, the dynamic characters, the real-world relevance, the romance, the no-win revolution. Like The Hunger Games, one of my favorite things about this book was how both “sides” seemed to be right about magic. But unlike The Hunger Games, I can’t imagine how this can possibly resolve. I came for the revolution, but I stayed for the magic. I’ve never read anything like it before, I love how deeply grounded it is in African traditions, and everything just fit together like puzzle pieces. THIS BOOK!

Les Misérables

Oooooo, I love a good book about the French Revolution! Les Miserables is probably my favorite romantic-era novel. The characters are what really makes this book worth the read, though certainly the revolutionary setting makes for a FABULOUS story. I love how Victor Hugo isn’t afraid to show how the French Revolution didn’t really make things better for anyone, but how the French people continued to have hope (and continued to have more revolutions!). This book is complex, and heartbreaking, and lovely, and LONG. I highly recommend the Penguin abridged version, lol!

Next Year in Havana

I’m pretty well burnt out of dual-timeline historical fiction, but I just ADORED this book in spite of all of that. It’s sexy, it’s authentically Cuban, it’s exciting, it’s glamorous. I love how strong the women in this book are, and that while they aren’t always in control of their lives they TAKE control where they can. They’re willing to take risks for love. And not just romantic love. Familial love plays a big role in this book. Plus, look at that cover. Doesn’t it just make you SWOON?!?!

Prince Caspian

Full disclosure, this is one of those rare situations where I enjoy the movie more than the book. But Prince Caspian is one of my favorite Narnia novels. This is the complete and utter opposite of EVERY OTHER BOOK on this list because it’s pretty black-and-white. Caspian and friends good, existing government bad, zero complications. But I don’t know, I just love the character development of the Pevensies, how they come slowly over the course of the book to realize that they can’t do it alone. They need Aslan. Also, Reepicheep is the best. EVER. I will fight you to the death on that one.

What are your favorite revolution books? Let me know in the comments!

Why I Try to Comment on Every Blog Post I Read

And you should too!

As book bloggers I always see people talking about blog hopping, or comment groups, or posts titled “how to make me comment”. Comments are really important to us, partly because they help us measure the success of our posts, but mostly because we want to engage with our readers.

(Which is just fancy blogger talk for “we want to TALK to you!”)

But I’m going to do you one better. I try to comment on EVERY blog post I read.

Let me start by saying that I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I just can’t think of anything to say, especially on Top Ten Tuesday posts or book tags. Always writing “great review!” feels disingenuous, so if I didn’t connect with the post at all I sometimes just can’t think of a comment. But I would guess this only happens to me maybe once every three or four days. I can almost always think of something to SAY.

Why though?

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Middle Grade Review: New Kid

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Series: New Kid
Genres: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade

Maturity Level: 2
View on Goodreads

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? 

I loved this graphic novel! The art, the story, the characterization, the subtltly, everything was so spot-on! I would put this up there as an all-time favorite with El Deafo and Pashmina. A must-read for middle-graders!

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Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent
Genre: Fantasy

Maturity Level: 3
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After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet–after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure–scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies–and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Reviewing book five in a series seems so pointless, because there’s not much to say about this book that I didn’t say about the previous four. It’s in the same vein, no major changes, and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

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Mid-Year Freak Out Tag – 2020 Edition

Oh my gosh. June is over. Summer vacation is halfway over. I don’t know whether to shout for joy or cry. Shout for joy because PLEASE can we go back to school in August. Cry because summer is over and I’m still waiting on pretty much all the books from my summer reading list to come either to the book store or library. I’m worried I won’t have time to read them all. 😥

Also, the middle of the year always sneaks up on me. During summer vacation it’s really hard to keep track of the date, so I’m always shocked and, well, freaked out to find it’s July. lol

So far this year I’ve read 45 books, but since a HUGE chunk of those were either gifts or read for work, it hasn’t been the most exciting year for me book-wise. Not even all the books in my Top 10 have four stars, yikes! Still, I’m well on my way to my 75 book goal, and frankly may have to adjust it to 100. YAY ME!

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2020

Okay, I’m going to share my two favorites, because they’re so different from each other. My top book is hands down The Mirror & the Light, which is easily the best historical fiction novel I’ve ever read. I love the Thomas Cromwell trilogy so much, and this book was literally perfect. I wouldn’t have changed ANYTHING about it (except maybe make it never end!). My second top book is a YA backlist title, A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. It had been on my to-read list forEVER, and I finally picked it up on sale in February. GUYS. Why did I wait so long to read this book?!?! If you haven’t read it yet you’ve GOT TO.

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Where Does the Harry Potter Fandom Go from Here?

Yes, there will still be a Harry Potter fandom.

The largest chunk of the Harry Potter fandom will, I predict, continue to be fans with no knowledge of J.K. Rowling’s tweets, blog posts, or political agenda. These are casual fans or fans who just aren’t on social media and reading the news. While they don’t make up the majority of fans online or showing up at fan events, they do represent a large portion of the population continuing to buy books and movie tickets.

Another portion of the fandom (I hope the smallest portion) will read what J.K. Rowling wrote and either agree with her or be persuaded by her. They will (I think) continue to loudly defend her.

Finally, a good portion of the fandom disagrees passionately with J.K. Rowling, but feels they can successfully separate the art from the artist. These fans feel they can continue to read the books and watch the films, perhaps even continue to go to fan events and buy fan merchandise, without supporting Rowling directly. Whether this is something these fans can or should do is not the point of my blog post today, and I will defer to others who have spoken on the subject. I will also say that I consider myself one of these fans, and I will continue to love the books that taught me to be compassionate to those who are different than me.

And it is this last group I am talking to today. We are the voice of the fandom, we tend to determine the direction the fandom goes. What do we do now?

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t want to pretend to. But I do have a few ideas that I would like to share.

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Middle Grade Review: Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows

Charlie Hernández and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo

Series: Charlie Hernández
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Charlie Hernández has always been proud of his Latin American heritage. He loves the culture, the art, and especially the myths. Thanks to his abuela’s stories, Charlie possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the monsters and ghouls who have spent the last five hundred years haunting the imaginations of children all across the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Central and South America. And even though his grandmother sometimes hinted that the tales might be more than mere myth, Charlie’s always been a pragmatist. Even barely out of diapers, he knew the stories were just make-believe—nothing more than intricately woven fables meant to keep little kids from misbehaving.

But when Charlie begins to experience freaky bodily manifestations—ones all too similar to those described by his grandma in his favorite legend—he is suddenly swept up in a world where the mythical beings he’s spent his entire life hearing about seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Hispanic folklore and into his life. And even stranger, they seem to know more about him than he knows about himself.

Soon, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ancient battle between La Liga, a secret society of legendary mythological beings sworn to protect the Land of the Living, and La Mano Negra (a.k.a. the Black Hand), a cabal of evil spirits determined to rule mankind. With only the help of his lifelong crush, Violet Rey, and his grandmother’s stories to guide him, Charlie must navigate a world where monsters and brujas rule and things he couldn’t possibly imagine go bump in the night. That is, if he has any hope of discovering what’s happening to him and saving his missing parents (oh, and maybe even the world).

No pressure, muchacho.

Perfect for the fans of Percy Jackson and Aru Shah, Charlie Hernández is an action-adventure full of Hispanic and Latinx mythology and a good dose of humor.

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Review: We Set the Dark on Fire

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Key Mejia

Series: We Set the Dark on Fire
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia
Maturity Level: 4
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At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

If you’re in to YA Dystopias you can’t miss We Set the Dark on Fire. It’s exactly what you might expect it to be and completely lived up to the hype.

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Prediction Book Tag

Hello everyone! Hope you’re having a nice weekend. I wasn’t paying attention and grabbed a hot pan last night, so that’s awesome. By the time you read this it’ll have been over a week, but whatevs, I thought you should know. Right now it’s 3 AM because I went to bed early and my husband woke me up when he came to bed around midnight and I couldn’t fall back asleep. So yay. Hence the blabbering.

Dani @ Mousai Books tagged me in the Prediction Book Tag well over a month ago, but I was doing a thing so I didn’t get to it. UNTIL TODAY. Since then I’ve been seeing this everywhere, so it’s probably just as well that I waited because now I’m pretty excited to see how this goes!

Also, someone tagged me in something like, two weeks ago, and I can’t find that tag anywhere. So if that was you, SORRY!

The rules for the Prediction Book Tag:

~ Pingback to the creator, the amazing Mandy & Sha @ Book Princess Reviews!
~ Tag the person who tagged you
~ Find an answer to match each prompt.
~ Most importantly: have fun!

Prediction for my Next Read

Um, there’s no prediction here. I am a MAJOR planner. Probably because I don’t have fifteen million unread books sitting around my house. The only uncertainty here is order, because I don’t know when the books I ordered from the bookstore will arrive. Plus everything will just have to get put on hold when my Empire of Gold pre-order comes in. Duh. But in some order my next four reads are:

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Discussion: Staying Positive

I had another discussion post, but I deleted it. Because you know what the world doesn’t need? More negativity. More ranting. More soapboxes.

It’s been a rough year. COVID. Race relations. LGBTQ rights. There have been some great things, some celebrations, but overall I think we can all agree the last few months have been HARD. We’ve been lonely, afraid, hurting. There’s been so much, how could you even summarize it in a sentence? 2020 has been a total dumpster fire.

But life keeps going. We keep living. And to make it through, we HAVE to stay positive. We have to focus on those victories. So here are a few of mine from the last few months:

  • I finished my last grad school class with a 4.0.
  • I passed my librarian certification exam.
  • We moved to a beautiful new house in the city I work in.
  • No commute!
  • I read some FABULOUS middle grade books that are reminding me of the goodness of humanity.
  • Speaking of books, re-reading the Daevabad books, and THEY ARE SO GOOD!!!!
  • I was brave enough to talk to my brother about my religion, and he doesn’t hate me.
  • My kids are beautiful and getting smarter every day. They love Narwhal and Jelly.
  • My husband and I re-discovered The New Girl and aaaalllll of the amazingness that is Nick.

What’s keeping you going? What joys and celebrations have you had the last few months? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Love you guys.