Audiobook Review: In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo

Title: In the Beautiful Country
Author: Jane Kuo
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction / Realistic
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Anna can’t wait to move to the beautiful country—the Chinese name for America. Although she’s only ever known life in Taiwan, she can’t help but brag about the move to her family and friends.

But the beautiful country isn’t anything like Anna pictured. Her family can only afford a cramped apartment, she’s bullied at school, and she struggles to understand a new language. On top of that, the restaurant that her parents poured their savings into is barely staying afloat. The version of America that Anna is experiencing is nothing like her dreams. How will she be able to make the beautiful country her home?” (Goodreads)

I was hesitant on picking this one up because in verse novels just aren’t my thing. I’m glad that I pushed myself to do it though, because it was worth the listen and understand another perspective better.

The book is told through the eyes of a girl named Anna. She has only known Taiwan until her father decides to move him family over to America. Sadly, it isn’t what her family expected and it comes with a lot of hardship they must face.

This was a sad book for a majority of it. The language that people use to describe those that are different from them hasn’t changed. It’s a real shame that we haven’t learned over the years. Anna deals with a lot of bullying because of her differences and her parents deal with property damage at their restaurant. These things still happen.

Even though they go through all of that, they find true friends and it feels like their luck changes after that for the better. Their friends were amazing and helped them a lot, especially when it came to putting an end to the vandalizing.

From beginning to end to really painted a picture of what its like to move from a place you are familiar with to the unknown. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes it sucks to have to toughen it out but in the end it may just turn to a brighter day.

Overall, this was well done!

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Arc Review: The List of Unspeakable Fears by J. Kasper Kramer

Title: The List of Unspeakable Fears
Author: J. Kasper Kramer
Genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Publisher: Atheneum
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc!

“Essie O’Neill is afraid of everything. She’s afraid of cats and electric lights. She’s afraid of the silver sick bell, a family heirloom that brings up frightening memories. Most of all, she’s afraid of the red door in her nightmares.

But soon Essie discovers so much more to fear. Her mother has remarried, and they must move from their dilapidated tenement in the Bronx to North Brother Island, a dreary place in the East River. That’s where Essie’s new stepfather runs a quarantine hospital for the incurable sick, including the infamous Typhoid Mary. Essie knows the island is plagued with tragedy. Years ago, she watched in horror as the ship General Slocum caught fire and sank near its shores, plummeting one thousand women and children to their deaths.

Now, something on the island is haunting Essie. And the red door from her dreams has become a reality, just down the hall from her bedroom in her terrifying new house. Convinced her stepfather is up to no good, Essie investigates. Yet to uncover the truth, she will have to face her own painful history—and what lies behind the red door.” (Goodreads)

Usually a book like this would be one that I enjoy but for a few reasons this one didn’t work for me which makes me sad.

I like books that are set during a historical pandemic or epidemic. I have read much on the Tuberculosis pandemic and even though this is based around the Typhoid epidemic I thought it would still be interesting. I will say that there were new things I learned about like Typhoid Mary. I wanted to know more about her story after and went to google her. It’s honestly pretty sad. There are also other historical tidbits included that involve immigrants and they were ones that I hadn’t heard about either.

Another thing I liked was the talk about anxiety as it’s easy to see that Essie is dealing with it. She was relatable to me because of that as I also struggle with anxiety.

The pacing for the book was on the slower side and I also had a hard time getting into the writing. Another issue was that I thought this would be more eerie/spooky but I found myself bored at times. I do understand that this is Middle Grade but I am quite the chicken and have read other spooky Middle Grade books that had me more entertained than this one. I think this is honestly where my disappointment lies and the biggest reason why I didn’t love the book.

Overall, this was okay. I did learn a couple new things so that is always nice.

Arc Review: Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee

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52130749._SX318_SY475_Title: Brother’s Keeper
Author: Julie Lee
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Publisher: Holiday House

Thank you to the publisher for the arc in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

synopsis header
Can two children escape North Korea on their own?

North Korea. December, 1950.

Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.

But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos–and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.

But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?

Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation.” (Goodreads)

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I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I knew that it would emotionally be a hard read because earlier this year I read Book Review: In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park and it reminded me of events from that book.

Brother’s Keeper is written in the time period of the early 1950’s and correlates with The Korean War. I haven’t read any books about it (non-fiction or fiction) and so I was very curious to get my hands on it.

Sora wants nothing more than to be able to go to school and have her dreams come true. This is hard to do when her mother wants her to become the perfect wife and learn to take care of a household. She is pushed around a lot and it’s really sad to read about. I can’t imagine what it would be like to constantly have a mother talk about her sons and never about her only daughter. Not only does Sora have to try and live up to her mother’s expectations but she also has to find a way to survive with her brother.

The book is split into parts and also chapters. In each chapter there is usually a scene that takes place in the past. I liked those because it helped round out the story and give more details about the other characters that are introduced and the family dynamic before everything starts to unfold.

As for the plot, it is hard to read at times but its one that is also hard to look away from. I found myself not wanting to put it down because I needed to know what would happen next. Will they make it? What will happen to her family? Will there eventually be a happy ending? All of these questions and more would circle in my head and I would just get so anxious reading it. There are many issues presented like war, family, and even the role as a daughter. Each one is well done and definitely make the book a real tearjerker.

Overall, this was a very well written book. I liked reading the author note at the end where it talked about getting research and some of it coming from the author’s own mother who lived through it. This may be fictional but it’s easy to see how real many of these events could be. If you are interested in books like this/ historical fiction, I’d highly suggest checking this one out. It may be an emotional ride but I think it’s one that’s worth taking.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Book Review: Fish by Gregory Mone

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7931704Title: Fish
Author: Gregory Mone
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 1st, 2010

synopsis header
“The exciting adventure of a resourceful boy who discovers his hidden gift as a fortune-hunting pirate

Fish–nicknamed for his incredible swimming abilities–is a twelve-year-old boy from a poor farming family. After taking a job as a courier for his uncle, Fish is waylaid by pirates, who steal the package he’s carrying. He soon learns that it’s the key to locating the Chain of Chuacar, a legendary treasure. As he works to earn the trust of Cobb, the fortune-hunting captain of the Scurvy Mistress, Fish learns of a mutiny headed by a nasty pirate called Scab. With time running out to find the Chain, Fish and some fellow shipmates still loyal to Cobb must thwart Scab’s dastardly plan.” (Goodreads)

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I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for almost two years now. I picked it up from a thrift store for pretty cheap because I just loved the cover. It’s so fun! Plus, the title is quite interesting. Luckily, this was a fun read and the cover didn’t let me down!

Fish is the name of a boy who learned to swim by almost drowning. He doesn’t have the best of luck at the beginning but his good manners, friendly attitude, and not giving up really helps him maneuver through becoming a pirate. He was such a fun character to read about and I loved how he put the pirates in their places and didn’t abide by the rules.

There were other great characters in this book like his friends Daniel, Nate, and Nora. I also liked Captain Cobbs wife, Melinda. My favorite line from her was,

“The little gentleman! So afraid to insult a lady! Well, don’t worry yourself, Fish, I am hardly offended. I am proudly a woman of some weight. And your fears are justifiable. I’m certain I could toss you across this deck as if you truly were a fish.”

I’m glad there was as a few female characters in this and they weren’t just side characters who did nothing.

There were also some great lessons throughout the book too. One was about being a captain/leader:

“A good captain doesn’t control his men. He leads them.”

The plot had great adventure and tons of piratey jobs. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was the perfect light/funny standalone I wanted.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)