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Review: Mosquitoland

Book Overview:

Title: Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Genre: Teen Contemporary Fiction

Publication Info: Viking Children’s, March 3, 2015

Synopsis: After her parents’ divorce, Mim is unhappily forced to move to Mississippi with her father and new stepmother. But when she hears distressing news about her mother, Mim takes off without a thought on a Greyhound bus and begins an unforgettable journey that will change everything.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4.5-5 (let’s be honest, it’s really a 5 for me)/5

Writing a review for this book is difficult. Ridiculously difficult, even. I’ve tried talking about it to friends, family, co-workers, and here’s what comes out: “Guys, this book is just… I mean, it’s so… just unique, and… yeah. You should read it.” I’m a hot mess because of this book, and this book is a hot mess. But a really touching, remarkable hot mess. So forgive me for remaining unable to sound professional and polished when discussing this one.

Plot:

This is easily one of the weirdest plots I’ve ever read. Granted, the premise–a hero’s quest to save a loved one that turns into self-discovery–is as old as story-telling. Mosquitoland really is a contemporary odyssey with a teenage heroine. But nothing that happens on this trip is normal, from a kung-fu fight on a gas station roof to a trip to the vet with a human patient (and that’s all I can say without spoiling anything). However, every abnormal, seemingly random event is woven together in a cohesive whole that feels too weird not to be true. Not once did I put the book down for its sheer ridiculousness; I shook my head and kept reading, realizing that life will throw everything crazy and unexpected towards us. Kudos, David Arnold. You’ve shown true plot prowess here.

Characters:

Like the plot, our main character, Mim, is as strange as they come: medicated for possible schizophrenia, blind in one eye, and instantly judgmental of others based on only their name. Not the typical heroine, right? Yet her idiosyncrasies and quirks make her very real (again, like the plot). Mim is a character anyone can relate to or adore–funny, witty, and blunt. Throughout her journey, she’s flawed and cynical, due to a harsh, discerning perspective of the world and a life’s worth of pain. And she’s so contradictory, acting fearless when she’s terrified of truly being crazy, brutally honest at times and fiercely secretive at others. Because of this, her point of view and her story was a puzzle and joy to read. Mim learns so much through her quest to find her mom, and as she grows, she gives the reader so many deep thoughts and moments of clarity. God, I really love this character.

This book also boasts a slew of unusual side characters, all with important roles in Mim’s story, but I can’t write about them without giving away significant things. (I really want to, but I just can’t. Don’t hate me. Read the book, and then we can talk.) Just know that I love and/or appreciate each’s role and individuality.

Writing Quality:

Finally, Arnold really outdoes himself as a writer. This book is so literary that it’s palpable. Mim’s journey contains allusions to Moby Dick, the Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and probably way more I didn’t catch. And the METAPHORS, guys. Mosquitoland is rife with ’em. (She’s freaking blind in one eye. Just saying.) But beyond providing a literary scavenger hunt that keeps nerds like me happy, Arnold, speaking through Mim (and other characters), gives us so much to think about, to the point that I’m still hashing and rehashing things days after closing the book. That, to me, is what makes this a winner.

(TLDR: While weird and unusual, Mosquitoland is a must read!) 

Who I recommend this to:

  • Honestly, I can’t fit this book into any one category. I suggest everyone should download a sample or flip through a few pages, and then if you’re intrigued, count that as a green light.
  • High school, college, and beyond (warning: language, sexual violence, mental illness, mentions of suicide)

 

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January Book Haul (aka My Bank Account Is in Pain)

February 5, 2015 92320 PM EST-1

Happy February! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and New Year!

Surprisingly, I had a relatively book-free Christmas gift exchange this year (maybe my family’s trying to tell me something…), but never fear. My book-buying habits took control in January, much to the chagrin of my bookshelf and wallet. But to be fair, I was on well-needed vacation and deserved to spoil myself. While visiting my best friend, I was taken to two different bookstores (she knows me and my tastes well), and I came home with this pile of beauties!

Seeing as I haven’t posted anything in a while (but do have multiple reviews planned), I wanted to share my purchases with you in the meantime.

IMG_20150205_2232561. Firefight (Reckoners Series #2) by Brandon Sanderson

I bought this book before anything else, AND on its official publication date, January 6. Why? Because the first book in this series, Steelheart, completely blew me away, and I couldn’t wait to have this beautiful story (with its awesome cover) in my hands. In Steelheart, a meteor crash gives superpowers to a select few humans, who in turn become supervillians and world dictators. David, a human orphaned by by one such dictator, teams up with a vigilante group called the Reckoners to take down the dictator. This second installment continues David’s story and promises just as much action and thrills at the first.

2015-02-05 21.00.592-3. The Darkest Minds and Never Fade (Darkest Minds #1 and 2) by Alexandra Bracken

I’ve heard nothing but good things about these books, and so I picked them up at the same time as Firefight. To be honest, I’m going into this series pretty blind: all I know is a virus takes out most of the world’s children, and the survivors are kept in secluded camps by the government. The premise sounds promising, and there’s no mention of romance in the book blurb (not that romance is bad, but I love a good action story). I’ll definitely review these books once I finish them, and I really look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.

2015-02-05 20.59.444. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This book was published nearly five years ago, so I’m definitely behind the hype, but I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for forever. Like others by Lauren Oliver, the novel falls into the thriller/mystery genre, with a post-mortem protagonist investigating the events of her death. Again, I’m to this book also a bit blind, but I trust Oliver’s writing and can’t wait to start this.

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.00.095. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’m also very late in getting to this book, but after reading Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory and adoring it, I plan to read every book she’s written. From what I’ve heard, this book deals with deep issues and has sensitive content, but is a beautiful piece of realistic fiction.

Note: I only bought five teen books in January, which is uncharacteristic for me; the rest of my book haul will be adult and literary fiction. My feelings won’t be hurt if you stop reading here.

 

2015-02-05 21.03.136. City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

This book promises magic and mystery and mythological creatures and Prague–what’s not to love, right? No one I talk books with has read this book or even heard of it, but it just might be a hidden, unknown treasure. I have hope for this book.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.03.277. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

I’d been eying this book for a while, and I found it for $1 at a half-price bookstore (happy dance time!). From the back blurb, I gather that the Hawaiian heroine contracts leprosy, and the story follows her experiences as a social outcast. I’m intrigued by this storyline and the setting, so hopefully this won’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.04.118. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Descriptions of this book are frustratingly vague, but I gather that the plot involves books, secrets, maybe a conspiracy or secret society? I’m not all too sure, but any story that involves books screams my name; plus, I also picked this up for $1, so I had no choice but to add it to my collection.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.04.569. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

I’ve been meaning to read this classic for forever, but have always been intimidated by its daunting page count. Granted, you can find a million editions of this book at any bookstore, but this particular one was too special for me to resist. Look at that cover! So cute with the illustrations and speech bubbles! I’d like to shake that cover designer’s hand. I’m not sure as to when I’ll get around to reading it, but it’s a lovely thing to look at on my bookshelf.

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.03.5010. Arabian Nights by Anonymous

I’m such a sucker for mythology and cultural tales, as well as beautiful cover art, so like with Three Musketeers, I bought this without a second thought. Looking back, I did no research into this translation or checked into which tales are included, which may not have been wise. But again, a truly beautiful cover is all it takes.

 

 

 

 

2015-02-05 21.02.4511. Women Who Run With Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My mythology-loving, feminist reader friends have been begging me to read this for a long time, so I was thrilled to find a hardcover copy for only $2. God bless half-price bookstores! This non-fiction work compiles examples of the independent or “wild” woman in world mythology and cultures. This book has made huge strides in feminist studies and should prove an interesting (and educational) read.

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Quick Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley!

Book Overview:

Title: We Should Hang Out Sometime

Author: Josh Sundquist

Genre: Teen Non-fiction/Memoir

Publication Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Dec. 2014

Synopsis: On a quest to solve the mystery of why he never had a girlfriend, Josh Sundquist shares and analyzes his dating and relationship experiences.

Book Review:

Overall Rating: 4/5

     On the surface, We Should Hang Out Sometime is a funny memoir of teenage and young adult heartbreak. However, with deeper reading, this book actually delivers much more–namely Sundquist’s thought-provoking exploration of what shaped his identity and decisions from teenage to adult life and how we let our emotional baggage influence our lives.
     To me, this was a realistic and, at times, nostalgic portrait of teenage thought. Dealing with attraction and dating in adolescence and early adulthood is hugely frustrating, with lots of conflicting emotions (optimism, pessimism, fear, courage, desire, awkwardness). Sundquist depicts these emotions honestly (and hilariously) with his retelling of failures and grand romantic gestures, and I often found myself giggling uncontrollably or grimacing in secondhand embarrassment. I followed his stories and feelings without second thought, and I think this proves his true talent for storytelling.I was also touched by the deeper message of this book, showing how fear can blind you, disable you, control your mind, make your decisions for you. As something I’ve experienced often throughout my life, I easily related to Sundquist while reading, and I think teen and adult readers will as well.
     Finally, if I had to sum up this book in one sentence, I would choose the wise words of Rafiki from The Lion King: “The past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.” I think everyone needs to hear this message, and so I highly recommend this book.
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