What I Have Been Reading…and Not Finishing

*sighs* There have been quite a few books lately that I have had to mark as DNF. I hate doing it, but I have come to a point in my life where I do not waste my time on books that do not improve my mind or entertain me. My free time is limited, so I have chosen to give most of the books I read 100 pages before I carry on with it or quit it. There were several novels over the past 3 months that I have tried desperately to like, and since being the odd one out is in my nature, I, of course, ended up disliking several of this years most popular books.

Sorry, but I am who I am! Now for the DNFs on my reading list!

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“American Panda” by Gloria Chao had the appearance of the perfect YA contemporary. This book seemed like it was going to be humorous, fluffy and sweet, and a story with a good moral to it. I have been enjoying books that explore other cultures, especially when they intersect with another, very different, culture; the traditional and born-into lifestyles, as well as those that are adopted. As much as I wanted to like “American Panda,” it just did not do it for me. The humor did not come across the page for me, and I was sad that the moments of learning about Mei’s Taiwanese heritage were overshadowed by her distaste for them and her snarky remarks about her family. Maybe this book got better after a 100 pages, but I did not feel the need to continue a book with another snarky female lead who disliked almost everything about her family’s lifestyle. That’s just not my deal.

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If you are looking for a sweet YA contemporary that explores a girl’s coming of age story in the midst of Asian-American traditions (in said case, Korean), then you should read “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han, if you haven’t already. That trilogy has some of the best real-life sibling/family dynamics that I have ever read, and Laura Jean is just the cutest! “American Panda” aside, I also had some issues with two other books that I was honestly super excited for.

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What is with these contemporary books?!!!!! “Emergency Contact” also seemed as if it could be a fantastic contemporary novel, with a dash of intersecting cultures in it, and some good old real life happening. Unfortunately that was definitely not the book I ended up reading.

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I wanted to like “Emergency Contact” by Mary H.K. Choi SO BAD, but again, there was the snarky, judgmental, and disrespectful female lead who drove me crazy. The guy wasn’t horrible; he had just gotten hit with the crap-stick of life and had experienced some pretty bad luck in a short period of time. He was also pretty unremarkable, because I could barely remember his name after I quit “Emergency Contact.” Oops!

My real problem with “Emergency Contact” was the main girl, Penny. I’m sorry to those of you who liked this book, but I disliked her so much as a character. She had a horribly judgmental, mean girl attitude, but as a reader I was supposed to just side with her because she was from the other side of the “tracks”? Nope, a mean girl is just a mean girl, and that kind of behavior will always be unacceptable to me, no matter where you come from. We all possess the freedom to believe certain things, and we have the power and a choice to treat others with kindness or to disrespect them. Penny was just awful in how she treated those around her, including her mother, but she somehow always found time to play her pity violin. I hate that kind of attitude, so getting through a 150 pages was a struggle for me. Mary H.K. Choi’s writing was engaging and comical at times, I just could not endure her female character.

Last, but definitely not least, “From Twinkle, with Love” by Sandhya Menon was my most recent DNF.

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Let me just say that I think Sandhya Menon is an absolutely adorable and sweet person. That being said, I unfortunately do not like her female characters. I really disliked Dimple in “When Dimple Met Rishi,” for various reasons that I will not get into right now, and Twinkle was, unfortunately, no better, and I quit this audio book after a few chapters. Twinkle’s inner monologue was nails on a chalk board, and her awkward/snarkiness did not come across as charming or endearing. One of the many reasons I was not a fan of “When Dimple Met Rishi” was how little Indian culture was explored in it; I wanted to learn more about Dimple and Rishi’s heritage and see how their families individually chose to express their Indian-American lifestyles. “When Dimple Met Rishi” was a lot of tell not show, and “From Twinkle, with Love” was the same. I’m sorry, but I quit this book and ran in the opposite direction.

Call me a quitter, but I just did not connect with these books or their characters at all. Despite the disappointment of these books, I am really excited about this summer and the books and movies that will be coming out. It seems like a promising season, so I will definitely have some more (and hopefully better) reviews coming your way!

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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“Sky in the Deep” by Adrienne Young

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.”

“Sky in the Deep” by Adrienne Young is one of the best books of 2018, and it is in my top ten favorite books ever as of May 21st, when I finished this beautiful novel. I went into reading this book by Young with low expectations; I was intrigued by the clansman and Viking-esk vibes that the cover and synopsis hinted at, and I had heard fairly good things from other readers and reviewers. I have learned, though, not to trust pretty covers, well-constructed summaries, or (usually) popular opinion. That being said, I honestly could have gone into reading “Sky in the Deep” with extremely high expectations and I still would have come out on the other side of reading this novel satisfied and shocked by how addictively good it was. This novel was intelligent and compelling, beautiful yet brutal; it was a consuming read that had me torn in two from beginning to end. The last book I read that had so completely captured my attention in a similar way was “The Winner’s Curse” by Marie Rutkoski. There was a ton going on when I was reading it, and normally that would prevent me from picking up a book, let alone finishing it. Lately I have found myself getting easily distracted by the tv or computer work when I am not working, but “Sky in the Deep” was so addictive and engaging that I honestly tuned everything out. This book was SO good that I tried to hide away so that I wouldn’t be interrupted by anyone or anything.

Alright, now to the reason(s) why “Sky in the Deep” was such a refreshing and addictive fantasy novel.

Eelyn, the heroine of “Sky in the Deep,” both surprised and impressed me. I admire Adrienne Young so much for how she was able to write such an intense, driven, and compassionate character. Eelyn was a literal warrior, and at times I truly feared that she was going to become the next Katniss Everdeen, but she never did. I do not know how Young managed to do it, but Eelyn was written in such a way that her fire and her anger toward the Riki were realistic, yet her attitude and internal dialogue never come off as being bitchy. Eelyn bore some pretty horrible scars left by her past, but she had a good heart, and I loved seeing how she grew to understand just how similar the Aska were to the Riki. I was rooting for Eelyn throughout “Sky in the Deep,” and I was truly impressed by how Young was able to bridge the gap between a fierce warrior and a strong, yet kind-hearted woman. In my opinion, Eelyn is one of the most interesting and engaging female heroines in YA fantasy right now. If not for the beautiful and fluid writing, read this book for Eelyn and the other fierce women in it.

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Eelyn is a heroine to contend with, and another thing that I adored about this book was how Adrienne Young managed to create side characters who were just as impressive and moving as Eelyn was.

Oh, Fiske…

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Fiske was a tough cookie to crack, and I was taken by surprise with how much I liked him as a character. He kind of just simmered in the background for half of this novel, but I really grew to like this character, much to my surprise. The dynamic between Fiske and Eelyn was SUPER tenuous for a large majority of “Sky in the Deep,” but I liked what they brought out in each other and how they challenged one another throughout this novel. I also loved seeing Fiske and his family interact, because it made what could have been a cold story feel rich and warm despite the brutality of the tribal lifestyle. Okay, no more about Fiske, otherwise I will spoil the reading experience for you!

As well-developed and interesting as the characters were in this book, I was also insanely impressed by Young’s ability to write such a brutal world that was as chilling at times as it was beautiful. I adored how different “Sky in the Deep” felt from other fantasy books that have come out recently. I loved the historical feel that this book had, and Adrienne Young did a fantastic job of capturing the brutality and fear of everyday life that was rooted in the tribal cultures. These clans created their own dynamic cultures and communities, yet they built that culture and society off of the unnecessary belief that any clan other than their own was meant to be their enemy. They were always warring with one another, sometimes for no real reason other than tradition and because of hate, and I thought that Young displayed that aspect so well in “Sky in the Deep” with her Scandinavian- inspired Aska and Riki clans.

There are obviously so many things that I loved about “Sky in the Deep,” and I could honestly go on and on about how much I adored reading this book, but I have to end my review sometime. “Sky in the Deep” was such an amazing read and I am so happy that I picked it up after my sister recommended I give it a try. Adrienne’s debut was elegantly written, with its brutal yet moving story and fabulously flawed heroine. I wouldn’t change a thing about “Sky in the Deep” or my reading experience, and my only regret is that it wasn’t longer!

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I will definitely be picking up the companion novel to “Sky in the Deep” when it comes out next year.