Tag Archives: Books

Review : The Swap by Megan Shull

Middle-grade book review of

The SwapThe Swap by Megan Shull

Goodreads Blurb

“You be me…and I’ll be you.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives – and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties, while Ellie’s reigning as The Prince of Thatcher Middle School.

As their crazy weekend races on – and their feeling for each other grow – Elli and Jack begin to wonder if maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being somebody else.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about the souls of a boy and a girl swapping into the bodies of the other.

One Friday afternoon during the last lesson, Elle and Jack happen to be in the nurse’s office at the same time. The next minute they find themselves in each other’s bodies. They have less than ten minutes to come to terms with the swap and agree to meet up on Monday morning to find that missing nurse-on-duty. In the meantime, they have to lead each other’s live for the weekend. Both agreed to lock themselves in their rooms all weekend. Except it was a lot harder to do that.

This book is written in alternate POVs. Elle has friendship issues with the mean girls at school. Jack trains hard at hockey with his four brothers. If you can look past the gender-stereotyped characters, the rest of the book is good fun. I enjoyed how the ‘typically’ male or female lingo flew over the heads of each other and how they had to guess their way through, making hilarious and embarrassing mistakes along the way. Because they live in such opposite worlds, they experience a whole universe and see a new perspective in life.

I would recommend this book, with a warning sign to the intended target audience about gender-stereotypes in the story. 4/5

Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

YA book review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer (Raybearer, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book is about a girl brought up to kill her mother’s nemesis.

All her life, our heroine craves the love of her mother, who hardly sees her and on the rare occasions when she does, plays with her affections. Without warning, her mother sends her away to be selected as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If this was not traumatic enough, her mother’s parting words were strict instructions to kill the prince as soon as she gains his trust.

It is very easy to root for our heroine who, on one hand craves her mother’s affections and on the other, wants to be true to her conscience and not kill the innocent prince. The concept of the Council of Eleven is unique.

If you enjoy dystopian fantasy, check out this one. 3/5

Six Foxy Books

It’s National Fox Day on 17 Sep. Here are some fiction books starring foxes.

1. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)Goodreads Blurb

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

My review : Shadow of the Fox

2. Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt

Maybe a FoxGoodreads Blurb

Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

My review : Maybe a Fox

3. Pax by Sara Pennypacker

PaxGoodreads Blurb

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

My review : Pax

4. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Cogheart (The Cogheart Adventures, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat…

Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends—Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox—Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.

5. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

The Fox Girl and the White GazelleGoodreads Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?

My review : The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

6. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsGoodreads Blurb

The winter isn’t ending. Nobody knows why.
And Odd has run away from home, even though he can barely walk and has to use a crutch.
Out in the forest he encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle – three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is faced with a stranger journey than he had ever imagined.
A journey to save Asgard, City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It’s going to take a very special kind of boy to defeat the most dangerous of all the Frost Giants and rescue the mighty Gods. Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever.
Someone just like Odd…

My review : Odd and the Frost Giants

Do you know of any books with foxes in them? Drop them in the comment below!

Review : The Chessman Thief by Barbara Henderson

Middle-grade book review of The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson

The Chessmen Thief with Lewis Chess Pieces

The Chessmen ThiefGoodreads Blurb

Win. Lose. Survive.

I was the boy with a plan. Now I am the boy with nothing.

From the moment 12-year-old Kylan hatches a plan to escape from his Norse captors, and return to Scotland to find his mother, his life becomes a dangerous game.
The precious Lewis Chessmen pieces—which he helped carve—hold the key to his freedom, but he will need all his courage and wit to triumph against Sven Asleifsson, the cruellest Viking in the realm.
One false move could cost him his life.

Barbara Henderson has woven a thrilling origin story around the enduring mystery of the Lewis Chessmen, their creation in Norway, and how they ended up buried in the Hebrides before being discovered on Lewis in 1831.

My Thoughts after Reading

This story is perfectly pitched for middle-grade.

Our protagonist is a slave boy determined to return to his roots and find his mother. His ability to speak Gaelic and carve ivory into chess pieces convinces a prominent man to take him away from Norway on this journey to Scotland.

This books has Vikings, pirates and sea adventures. It also has plenty of heart: a young slave separated from his mother, seeking his freedom.

I love it that this story was inspired by the famous 12th century Lewis chess pieces found on a Scottish beach. A must read for chess and history lovers. 4/5

If you are looking for middle-grade books with a chess theme, also check out Check Mates.

Review : Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

YA book review of Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and ShadowGoodreads Blurb

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

My Thoughts after Reading

Set in Mexico, this YA book interweaves their myths and legends with contemporary life in the 1920s.

Our heroine is the Cinderella equivalent in her family home. Her widowed mother struggled to make ends meet after her father died and came crawling back to her haughty family. Casiopea is her grandfather’s carer. She has to put up with his bad-temper and her golden-boy cousin’s taunts. The only thing that keeps her going is his promise of inheritance after his passing.

One day her defiance gets her into trouble and she is left behind in a family excursion. She finds the key that her grandfather usually hangs round his neck and opens the mysterious box in her room. Her adventure begins.

In similar vein to Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson and Greek mythology, this story is imbued with Mayan gods and beliefs. The detailed description of places took me to the heart of Mexico. I enjoyed getting to know the two main characters and their development as the book progressed.

If you are looking for a book set in South America, check out this one. 3/5

Review : The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

YA book review of The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book of time-travel, sea adventures and history has a great opening line and scene that pulls you right in.

Our main character is the daughter of the captain of the time-travelling ship. They travel round the world and through time to acquire rare and mystical artefacts, especially maps.

I part-listened to the audio book and part-read the paperback. In each destination, I enjoyed learning about the time and place. The author has done a great job giving us a feel of the places and the eras. I got to know the characters and really liked the Kashmir. The author has also taken pains to sneak in nautical terms in the narration, reminding us that our heroine grew up in a tall ship. 3.5*

Review : Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

YA book review of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Goodreads Blurb

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.


Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA fantasy is about a down-trodden magical tribe under the dictatorship of a cruel king.

Our heroine has inherited her late mother’s magical powers. Together with her non-magical brother and father, they eke out a living as the maggots of society. Fate takes a turn when brother and sister go to the city to make a trade. There Zelie gets entangled with the runaway princess and a stolen scroll that could bring magic back to these maji and diviners.

The story is told in 3-POVs: our heroine, the runaway princess and the crown prince who is trying to stop them. The author has done a brilliant job with both the plot and the characters. There is tension in every scene, and I felt for every character. It felt slow to begin with, as world-building takes time. But once this is established, the story just sweeps you along.

A brilliant read. 4.5/5

Review : A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Young-Adult book review on A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)

Goodreads Blurb

In this debut gothic novel mysterious visions, dark family secrets and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. (Ages 12+)

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

My Thoughts after Reading

This YA book is set in a boarding school during the Victorian times.

Our heroine grew up in India, and after mysterious circumstances that lead to her mother’s death, she returns to England with her grieving father. Enrolled in finishing school for girls, she stumbles into a diary and forms a friendship group with a eclectic group. These soon intertwine.

The pacing is good, making me turn the pages. This story is full of intrigue. I got a good sense of our heroine’s grief and her new life in the school. The author skilfully weaves the diary to their current school life, always moving the plot forward.

A good read. 3/5

Fiction Books about Refugees

It’s World Refugee Week on 14-20 June 2021, taking place all around the world to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021. This day is marked by the UN Assembly to raise global awareness of refugee status, and our global responsibilities. If you are looking for books to bring to your classroom on this topic, here are some suggestions, in alphabetical order. Some are about the journey, some about settling in and others are about being part of the community in their new lives.

1. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Bone Sparrow

Goodreads Blurb

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.
The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.
Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

2. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow

Goodreads Blurb

A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.

My review

3. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Echo

Goodreads Blurb

An impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force from a treasured storyteller!

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck. My review

4. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again

Goodreads Blurb

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

My review

5. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson*

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

Goodreads Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’

*the author has pledged to give 20% of her royalties to a charity for these refugees.

My review

6. A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

Goodreads Blurb

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

7. Love from Lexie by Cathy Cassidy

Love from Lexie (The Lost and Found, #1)

Goodreads Blurb

Ever since Lexie’s mum vanished, her world hasn’t stopped spinning. A new home, a new school – even a new family but Lexie never gives up hope that her mum will come back and writes her letters every day to tell her all about her new life.

There’s plenty to tell – the new group of misfits she calls friends, the talent for music she never knew she had and the gorgeous boy with blue eyes and secrets to hide. But her letters remain unanswered and she’s starting to feel more alone than ever.

Lexie’s about to learn that sometimes you need to get lost in order to be found.

The first in a gorgeous new series from the bestselling author of the Chocolate Box Girls and the perfect next step for fans of Jacqueline Wilson.

My review

8. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

The Night DiaryGoodreads Blurb

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

My review

9. Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari

Red LeavesGoodreads Blurb

Aisha is a thirteen-year-old refugee living in London. Happy for the first time since leaving her war-torn home, she is devastated when her foster mother announces that a new family has been found for her and she will be moving on. Feeling rejected and abandoned, Aisha packs her bags and runs away, seeking shelter in the nearby woods.

Meanwhile, a few doors down, twelve-year-old Zak is trying to cope with his parents’ divorce. Living in a near-building site while the new house is being refurbished, he feels unsettled and alone. Discovering a piece of rubble with the original builder’s signature set into it, he starts researching the history behind his home – and in doing so finds a connection with a young soldier from the past, which leads him to an old air-raid shelter in the same woods.

Both children, previously unknown to each other, meet in the heart of the ancient city woodland as they come into the orbit of Elder, a strange homeless woman who lives amongst the trees – and, as helicopters hover overhead and newspapers fill with pictures of the two lost children, unexpected bonds are formed and lives changed forever . . .

10. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

Running on the Roof of the WorldGoodreads Blurb

Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.

There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I watch the soldiers tramping away and call the words after them. ‘Dalai Lama.’

Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.

And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.

My review

11. I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Goodreads Blurb
An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this “lyrically ambitious tale of exile and reunification” (Kirkus Reviews) from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.

The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heart-wrenchingly graceful.

My review

12. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee

Goodreads Blurb

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . . ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . . MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . . All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end. My review

13. Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu

Boy, EverywhereGoodreads Blurb

BOY, EVERYWHERE is the debut middle grade novel from writer A. M. Dassu. It chronicles the harrowing journey taken from Syria to the UK by Sami and his family. From privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a smuggler’s den in Turkey to a prison in Manchester, it is a story of survival, of family, of bravery.

Sami is a typical 13 year-old: he loves his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. But a bombing in a mall changes his life. Sami and his family flee their comfortable home in Damascus to make the perilous and painful journey towards a new life in the U.K. Leaving everything behind, Sami discovers a world he’d never encountered – harsh, dangerous, but also at times unexpectedly kind and hopeful. My review

I hope you’ve enjoyed going through this list. Have you read any of them? Can you suggest anymore? Drop it in the comment below!

First published 15 June 2019. Updated 29 May 2021

Review : Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Book Review of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai by Wang Anyi

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of ShanghaiMy Thoughts after Reading

This literary fiction is translated from a Chinese work. It takes its title from a classic Tang dynasty poem about the tragic love between the Emperor and his favourite concubine.

Right from the opening chapter, the author invites you to step inside the world and relish in every minutiae of Shanghai life. I am amazed at how the author is able to describe so much about everyday things we take for granted, from apartment blocks to pigeons.

I recognised some of the expressions in Chinese. In some ways, I would say the beauty of the language in the original text is lost in translation. I say this because a single word in Chinese, after translation, becomes a three syllable word in English, or a string of words to describe the same context. When the rhythm is lost, the reader can only grasp about 70-80% of the author’s original intent.

This story centres on Wang Qiyao, from a high-schooler all the way to her death decades later. Although she is the main character, this account is narrated from a detached omniscient view. Right to the end, I didn’t really understand her. I felt as if I’ve seen her entire life through frosted glass. People came and went in her life. They seem to be drawn to her, but apart from her beauty, I could not understand why. She lived through the tumultuous times in China history, but the author has skirted round these historical events. We get little hints that it’s going on outside.

Nonetheless, the unhurried pace allows you to immerse completely in every aspect of Shanghai life. 3/5

Goodreads Blurb

Set in post-World War II Shanghai, “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the “longtong,” the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai’s working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of “old Shanghai”–a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication–only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.

From the violent persecution of communism to the liberalism and openness of the age of reform, this sorrowful tale of old China versus new, of perseverance in the face of adversity, is a timeless rendering of our never-ending quest for transformation and beauty.