Review: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Series: The Carls
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While they were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction without ever lifting a finger. Well, that’s not exactly true. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.

Months later, the world is as confused as ever. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online about the world post-Carl; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda infiltrates a new scientific operation . . . one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.

As they each get further down their own paths, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers; unexplained internet outages; and more—which seem to suggest April may be very much alive. In the midst of the gang’s possible reunion is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.


I’m going to start by saying that if you haven’t read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing to turn around and do that, because neither this book nor this review will make any sense to you unless you have. Not a sequel that can be enjoyed without having read the first book, sorry folks.

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American Sports: Basically The Hunger Games

I know, I know, what a ridiculous hot take. But hear me out!

So I was scrolling through Instagram, like you do, when I saw an ad (does anyone else get SO MANY ADS these days???) for Nike. It was a super cool video of girls playing football in the dark and rain, exciting music, and so on. The final message was that Nike is spending some large sum of money to promote having women’s flag football in every school in America by 2023. Cool! I would totally have played! I opened the comments, curious if anyone else was annoyed they weren’t all pushing for the boys to play flag football too. Well. I should have known better.

“You make football better?! I dont understand why they dont just give ’em pads and put them on the field with the boys then.”

“If they’re so tough and they sacrifice just as much, make them play real football, where men sacrifice their memory and their body sometimes.”

“How does flag football makes football better?”

“Why flag and not tackle ???”

These are the tame version of the comments, after the platform has taken down some of the most offensive offerings. But the attitude is the same. It ain’t football unless they’re hitting each other.

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Middle Grade Review: Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Genres: Middle Grade, Novel in Verse
Maturity Level: 2
Content Warning: Islamophobia
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.


This will be a short review. I don’t fully “get” free-verse poetry, so I’m not quite sure what all to say, but this book felt just amazing.

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Review: Love From A to Z

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Maturity Level: 3
Content Warnings: Islamophobia, Degenerative Illness
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break. Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since [redacted by reviewer, because spoiler!], Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister. Adam’s also intent on keeping [redacted] a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals. Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


I loved this book so much! Maybe even more than A Very Large Expanse of Sea, which was my favorite YA book last year, and in several years, tbh. While the content of this book was similar, the style this book was written in was much more my preference and equally good.

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Favorites February: Mockingjay

Welcome to Favorites February! This month I am re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in a long time, and then taking some time to discuss and celebrate each book when I’m done. This is the final week, and I’m of course going to discuss Mockingjay.

I feel like I should start by saying I actively disliked the final book the first time I read it. I think the plot is objectively less strong than the firsts two books, and I still hate how the last third played out. It all seemed so pointless and unnecessary. However, every time I read this book I enjoy it a little bit more. This is also probably the most thought-provoking book in the series, so there should be plenty to discuss!

As always, spoilers ahead.

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.

Why I Love This Book

  • Katniss’s PTSD is extremely intense and compelling, and I think important for young people to read in this bloody series.
  • Man, Snow is EVIL.
  • When they play “crazy cat” with Buttercup ❤
  • The ethical and moral questions brought up by the war.
  • What happens to Peeta is so terrible, but for some reason so unputdownable?
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Classic Remarks: Are Genre Classics Respected?

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Do you think genre books receive the respect they deserve, even if they are considered classics?

I think this is such an interesting question, and I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the discussion around it. The short version of my answer is: sometimes.

Classic science fiction tends to get a lot more respect than classic fantasy, but only if it’s not *too* science fiction-y. Romantic mysteries and adventures get taken much more seriously than the gothic adventure novels of the Regency era. Classic romance novels get taken seriously until about the19th century.

Examples. Fahrenheit 451 is generally taken seriously as “literature,” and is even studied in school by most American students. It was written around the same time as The Lord of the Rings, which is generally dismissed by the literary folks as perfectly fine to read for fun, but not on par with, say, Catch-22. Frankenstein, widely regarded as the first science fiction novel, is likewise beloved and respected. Dracula (which, to be fair, was never meant to be “serious”) and the stories that inspired it are not. Isaac Asimov’s work is generally well-regarded, whereas HG Wells is an oddity. Brave New World has successfully made the literary canon, Dune has not.

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Thoughts from The Hunger Games: Not so Different from the Capitol

The Hunger Games is a pretty explicit commentary on reality TV and sensationalized news stories in America. It’s disturbing how much Americans enjoy seeing people’s suffering play out in real time, whether it’s their failing love stories (Married At First Sight, *cringe*), physical challenges (Survivor), or even death (George Floyd’s murder being broadcast repeatedly on the nightly news). Even when it’s horrible, we just can’t look away.

But what really stood out to me as I re-read The Hunger Games this past month was the subtle way in which Suzanne Collins would relate me, the reader, with the viewers at the Capitol. Especially poignant to me was this quote close to the end of the book:

Well, Foxface died almost a day ago, so there’s been plenty of time for the audience to place bets and get bored.

The audience, i.e. the reader, has had a pretty “boring” couple of chapters. Nobody has tried to kill anyone, it’s just been Peeta and Katniss snuggling in a cave trying to not die. Presumably Cato and Thresh are fighting it out off-screen, but YA readers who like a fast plot are probably starting to wonder when something is going to happen to our protagonists.

And that’s the moment that got me thinking. Why is it so appalling to us that the Capitol would enjoy the spectacle of children killing each other, but it’s totally fine for us as readers to enjoy the same thing?

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Middle Grade Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Series: Tristan Strong
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?


I feel like in writing a review of a Rick Riordan Presents book it’s impossible to not compare the book to Percy Jackson. Tristan Strong was just about as different from Percy Jackson as possible while still falling under the same modern-mythology umbrella.

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Favorites February: Catching Fire

Welcome back to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in (maybe) a decade. And here you are, just in time for the sequel that actually lived up to it all! I didn’t love Catching Fire the first time I read it, but the more I read it the more I love it.

As always, spoiler alert.

Summary

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Why I Love This Book

  • Finally getting to know Peeta and Haymitch as people.
  • Seeing the other districts.
  • The revolution themes, especially because they are obscured and uncertain.
  • Cinna’s amazing design for Katniss’s opening ceremonies outfit.
  • How Collins explores that killing a person never really leaves you and Kanitss’s PTSD.
  • Seeing Katniss fall in love with Peeta in the arena, and watching everyone else figure it out even though she doesn’t.
  • Even though it’s longer and the Games don’t even start until the last 75 pages, it’s still so compulsively readable.
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Classic Remarks: Favorite Couples

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Who are some of your favorite classic couples?

Thank you, Krysta and Briana, for asking who are “some of” my favorite couples. Because I could just tell you all about Elizabeth and Darcy for a whole blog post, but I’m assuming that isn’t what anyone wants to read, lol.

No surprise that most of my favorite classic novels have great romances at the center of them. The only question will be whether I can keep this list to a reasonable length…

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Is there anything more cliche? But I admit, Pride and Prejudice is probably my favorite book in the whole world. I love watching Elizabeth fall in love with Mr. Darcy. I love watching Mr. Darcy pretend to be indifferent. I love all the ridiculous characters. I love how they become better people for one another. But mostly I love Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. *sigh*

Continue reading “Classic Remarks: Favorite Couples”