Posted in Hue's Reviews

Hue’s Reviews: Akata Witch

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality? – Goodreads

Okay. Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Akata Witch has been nicknamed the African (Nigerian) Harry Potter. While there are some influences, overall this story respects the cultural magic realism hailing from Nigeria and other African countries. Hate to break this truth to some readers, but J.K. Rowling doesn’t hold the copyright to magical realism in books, particularly when you see cultural aspects she nicked for her stories. But, we’ll save that pot of tea for another discussion.

As the blurb states, 12-year Sunny is a Nigerian-American, living in Nigeria with her parents after living in the U.S. for nine years. She’s an outcast – an Akata or “wild animal” – not only because of her ethnicity and birth country, but because of her albinism. Deep down, she’s a normal kid, enjoying soccer (football), getting good grades and suffering from school bullies. But, as she reaches deeper into her soul, there’s a calling within her soul she cannot tag.

She meets to fellow kids, Orlu and Chichi (another kid, Sasha, an African-American, joins the group) and they discover their souls are intertwined for greater roles some of they knew, but still couldn’t imagine. They form a leopard coven (lambs equate to muggles, if you insist on following the HP world) and with training, find themselves battling an evil rogue using children and ritual killing to bring on a vicious spirit.

Will she accept her gifted fate? Or, will she cower and decide being ordinary’s not so bad?

Nnedi Okorafor clearly writes with love as she showcases rich and varied Nigerian traditions within magical realism. I’m not Nigerian. In fact, I do not know where my African heritage descends (Another story for another day). Okorafor schools me on foods, language, and aspects of her culture better than any documentary.

I’m dancing to the bookstore for the next installment.

Furthermore, she paints the landscape strong. I see the dust, mud, and urbane landscapes with Leopard Knocks (Okay, her version of Diagon Alley. Give it a rest!). Yet, while the latter’s fictional, those markets described in Akata Witch are real with a magical spin.

Additional, each kid she created holds their own personality. None of them blur. They stand distinct (although Sasha worked a nerve or two for me). They are spirited and melancholic, joyous and angry. They realize the hardcore job ahead and all encompassing it.

While rough in some areas (mainly, reading about the ritual killing and maiming), this story presents fantasy, a genre which I tend to shy from, in a palatable manner and I cannot wait to read the next book in her series, Akata Warrior.

However, while I highly recommend this story, AW has one glitch: the ending. The battle’s way too short for the amount of build-up presented. But, given Okorafor’s series, my inpatient self will have to move on the next book. While fantasy’s lack of diversity speaks volumes – I mean, you can create blue fairies but not people based on real folks – this is a story worthy of reading. Adapt this book into a movie…stat.

Verdict: 4.5/5 Chittems (Read the book to get the reference)

*Thanks to Penguin’s First Reads Program for an honest and unbiased review*

Posted in Hue's Reviews

Hue’s Reviews: One of Us is Lying

The Breakfast Club meets Murder Club meets Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.

But, what we get is a lumpy bowl of cereal meeting cliche after cliche wrapped in post-John Hughes.

If you’re going to evoke the aforementioned, make your work saucy. McManus offered a good setup, we meet five kids preparing to sit in afternoon detention. Bronwyn’s the nerd. Nate’s the rebel. Addy’s the princess. Cooper’s the jock. Simon’s the outcast.

What did I say in the first sentence? McManus created a good premise. One of them, Simon, bit the dust. He died. Four suspects gunned for him since he hosts a gossip app, spewing sordid tales. Who hated him the most? Did they work together?

Kudos to the writing, though clichê-ridden (e.g. the good girl falls for the bad boy), holds your attention. Yet, by the middle, I figured the whodunit while still hoping I figured wrong to no avail. The solution deserved more time as it created some true angst and nuance towards the characters. Oh well.

Another issue is that, bar one student, the other teens felt blah to me. Nate’s the bad boy. But, he doesn’t feel as threatening as John Bender (Judd Nelson). He felt like a wannabe. Bronwyn bored me. So, you…spoiler alert…cheated in class. Big whoop! Boring. Cooper’s reveal, while not exactly fresh, gifted a little dish. However, Addy granted me actual character development. At the beginning, she’s the pretty ditz. But, at the ending, she’s smarter than let on and she’s willing to risk her mind, body, and soul to solve the mystery. Go Addy! Leave the others.

Always bet on the princess. Sometimes the nerd disappoints.

It’s a fine and quick read. Nothing substantial. A tad mediocre. But, isn’t those two aspects a selling point nowadays?

Verdict: 3 out of 5

*This book sits somewhere on my bookshelf. Can you find its location? Or, will you grab the bull by the horns?*

 

 

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Hue’s Reviews: Conversations with Friends

“A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.” – Goodreads

Let’s be honest…

Selfish and self-absorbed young woman discusses her daily escapades with equally selfish and self-absorbed people of various occupation and age and learns absolutely nothing.

Sally Rooney’s dialogue’s realistic, albeit a bit strange considering Frances, the main character, remains an android throughout the entire piece. She’s empty and cold. By the time she demonstrates a sliver of emotional intelligence, we’re the dumb ones for sticking around longer than deserved.

I love unlikable characters. I thrive on their stories. Usually, they possess a je nais se quoi begging us to join them on their journey. However, all I thought about was Frances’ end to her journey. I did not care, which is sad. There is a health issue involved and I found myself shrugging, never sure if I’m manipulated into forced sympathy.

Good writing, which, at times, comes off as printed cinema verite. I can see a one-shot camera following Frances and her batch of smug and wealthy vagabonds, unimportant to the common person, waxing poetic about sex, adultery, wine, and travel over scenic pastures in black and white cinematic fashion. I give this story a plus on painting a strong picture as I read scenes.

Another plus? It’s set in Ireland. I like reading international stories with their cultural nuances, slang, and other sights on what makes us normal (or abnormal) as we live life.

LGBT representation serves as its final plus. Frances’s bisexual. Her friend and sometime hook-up, Bobbi’s a lesbian, along with Melissa, another character entrenched in a strange menage a trois-like situation with Frances. I had no idea. But, I’m grateful for the representation, even if the women involved caused my eyes to sweat, due to excessive eye-rolling.

Yet, I desired more than literal conversations with Irish and LGBT friends. I yearned for a plot with a path (low path indeed) with characters earning my following.  The good writing and LGBT representation saved my review from hailing a one-star verdict. I cannot recommend this story. It’s boring.

Verdict: 2 out of 5

*Thanks to Penguin First Reads for the ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Posted in Hue's Reviews

Hue’s Reviews: The Other Girl

“A horrific crime. One witness―a fifteen year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.

Is it any surprise no one believed her?” – Amazon

Officer Miranda Rader, former bad girl makes good, investigates the murder of a popular and well-respected professor in a small Louisiana town. Gruesome and outside the realm of her department, she intends to find the killer. However, she realizes her past may relate to her past. How far will she go to solve this crime and what ties does her past hold with the case?

Continue reading “Hue’s Reviews: The Other Girl”