Vassa in the Night

“‘You couldn’t have gotten away, Vassa. Even if you thought for a second that you were getting out, it wouldn’t really have been true. You made a deal, and now you have to stay. Okay? Don’t try that again!’ She nuzzles me. ‘Can I have my hot dog now?’”

I’m going to start this off by saying that this is the strangest book I’ve ever read. From the dismembered hands that were Vassa’s coworkers to a convenience store in modern Brooklyn that beheads thieves, this book was weird.

Vassa in the Night is based on the Russian folktale ‘Vassilissa the Beautiful.’ Before I read this book, I saw a review that recommended reading the original first, so I did. You can find a PDF online. Reading the original did help me to understand the main plot of the story, which I probably would not have understood as well without reading it.

As you might have assumed, the main character of this story’s name is Vassa. Vassa lives in the ‘enchanted Kingdom of Brooklyn’ with her two step-sisters and step-mom. I know what you’re thinking: evil step-sisters with evil step-mom, but that’s not really the case. Vassa’s step-mom is barely in the story and she had a good relationship with one of her sisters.

Anyway, in Brooklyn the nights have become absurdly long, where sometimes a night can feel like a few days, the minutes going by at an excruciating pace. When Vassa’s mother died, she gave Vassa a magical doll named Erg. Erg is kind of a pain in the butt and gets Vassa into trouble a lot (her sisters think she’s a kleptomaniac because of this), but Vassa promised her mother that she’d take care of the doll. So Vassa feeds Erg and takes her everywhere she goes. One night, all the lightbulbs go out at Vassa’s house, so she goes to the only convenience store open in the middle of the night, which happens to be the one that decapitates thieves. There’s a bit of a mix up at the store and Vassa ends up working there with the threat of decapitation still hanging over her head. Throughout Vassa’s time at the convenience store, she discovers secrets coming back from the past while making new friends and discovering things about herself.

What I liked:

The characters: Vassa, Erg, and the motorcyclist.

Vassa’s character development throughout this book is AWESOME. I can’t really discuss it in detail because no spoilers, but she grows a lot in a span of three nights. She also has a really cool personality and her relationship with Erg is hilarious.

Then there’s Erg, of course. Erg is hilarious. The quote I started this review off with is from Erg. It’s evident how much she cares about Vassa and would do anything for her, as we see throughout the novel. And then she’s obsessed with food which is very relatable. I never thought I could relate so much to a magic doll.

Ah, the motorcyclist. I don’t even know where to start with him because he is strange. He is a guy who ‘guards’ the convenience store by riding around it on a motorcycle. He doesn’t talk or act as if he is listening, but he still has his ways of communicating. I have to say that he is the most unique character I have ever encountered.

I also loved the weirdness of this book. It definitely managed to take me out of my comfort zone. A few things that top the weird board: Vassa’s father deciding he wants to become a dog. A shop that decapitates thieves and everyone acting as if it is normal. Hands that work as employees. Erg. The lawyers where one looks like a rat and the other has scales. The motorcyclist. Long nights. And more.

The swans. There is a flock of swans that follows Vassa around and they are truly the best. They help her out with little things and, ugh, I just love them, you’ll see. There is a quote where Vassa talks about being alone and then her flock shows up. Then she remembers that her swans are always with her. And I love that quote. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.

What I didn’t like:

Okay, so there were a lot of things I liked about this, but there were somethings that didn’t work for me.

The interludes. Throughout the book, there are six or seven interludes where it switches to someone else’s POV and goes to an event a few years back. Where some of these were quite informing, some did not make sense at all. These just managed to confuse me even more, and it was really frustrating.

Vassa’s dreams. It was difficult to determine when Vassa was dreaming. She would be like “Oh, I’m walking around the store—AND THEN I FALL OUT THE WINDOW AND FLY AWAY WITH THE MOTORCYLIST HAHA.” Except it would happen much more naturally than that and it was hard to determine if she was dreaming or not since she was walking around the store or doing something that people tend to do when they’re awake.

Also the convenience store itself confused me a bit. It was just that I had a difficult time picturing it. She said that it was constantly moving and that it dropped whenever someone entered. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t picture it.

Weird=normal. Okay, so people were like “Oh, the nights are lasting six days? Whatever, nothing we can do about it,” which is okay I guess. But then they’re also okay with a store that beheads thieves and leaves their heads on spikes in the parking lot. Okay? More like not okay. As mentioned earlier, a lot of strange things happen and Vassa never seems too concerned about them, and it’s never specified whether people deciding to become dogs is a normal thing or not.

Going off of that, there was not a lot of world building. Does night last days everywhere? Or is it just Brooklyn? Is magic a commonly accepted concept? The world may never know.

If you can ignore those few things, the book is really fun to read and will definitely make you take a step outside of your comfort zone.

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

To: All the people who love Robin Hood and those who like twists in original stories (like Robin Hood…)

From: The girl who loved the twist in classic Robin Hood

Marian was betrothed to Robin when she was young. But instead of being a “proper lady,” she was a little different. While she did enjoy embroidery, she wasn’t normal. She loved fighting Robin with makeshift swords and archery. She was daring and loved Robin with all her heart, until he died.

The people of Locksley always held hope because of Robin. He was their protector, the one who shield them from the persecution of the Sheriff of Nottingham. They were proud. Safe. Somewhat happy. But then Robin died.

Then the Guy of Gisborne comes into play, wishing to be Marian’s new fiancé and Lord of Locksley. No way! The right hand of the Sheriff, the one Robin grew wary of, wanted to take the place of Robin! And as time passed, tensions grew, and Marian, wary of the tensions, became her hero and the people’s as well. She was Robin Hood.

This book was highly enjoyable. I loved the story’s flow and the way Meagan wrote her characters. Marian’s journey about secrets and heartache really hit me in the heart. And brain. This book stayed with me for an extra few days. I even read it during vacation because I had to know what happens next! Anyone who loves fantasy, adventure, and Robin Hood will definitely love this book. I know I did.

I rate this a 9/10 just because of some of the slow parts. This book is a long book, 467 pages to be exact, but every second is worth it. This is great if you need a book to last for a bit longer than usual. Hopefully, I just gave you a new favorite book to read, so go ahead! Enjoy!

The Limit by: Kristen Landon

Matt and his family live in a world, almost like ours. In it, there is something called the limit, or the amount of debt a family has. There is a limit on how much debt a family can have, and if they go over the limit, the government comes to take their oldest kid away.

Matt has complete faith that his family won’t go over the limit, but after a turn of events, Matt finds himself taken away to a facility by Honey Lady, or Miss Smoot. He’s taken to the top floor where all the smart kids live, but little do they know, the building and the people in it, are hiding secrets.

After Neela gets headaches and is told she has left for her family, Matt goes down to the third floor to see Lauren, and sees Neela. He gets suspicious and little by little, his friends Paige, Jeffrey, and Coop, gather evidence to show everyone that this facility is intended to hurt. But will they be able to escape and show the world that maybe taking kids away isn’t the best solution after all?

This book is a fairly short book, but it does have action and suspense. I think it was beautifully written, but this book wasn’t the best book I have ever read. For anyone who wants a short but exciting book, this book will not disappoint. Enjoy!

Watch Us Rise by: Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo

Jasmine and Chelsea are feminists at heart, and they both love the creative arts. Jasmine does short stories, and Chelsea is a lover for poetry. They sign up for their clubs, but in the classes, the unthinkable happens. Catcalling, racist and sexist comments, are what happens in those classrooms. Devastated, the girls quit their clubs and start a new club, Write Like A Girl. Along with their friends Issac and Nadine (and James), they know the fight isn’t over yet.

Write Like A Girl is a club that posts poetry and short stories about feminism. They highlight that girls should love who they are. They even make posts that spotlight important women in history and in the present! The club spread from school to school, but the principal was not happy. He suspends the club saying that it was inappropriate and whatnot. However, Chelsea, Jasmine, Issac, and Nadine all risk everything to make their voices heard.

When Write Like A Girl becomes a sensation with people loving it and hating it, what happens next? What’s the next step?

Masterfully written, it’s a spellbinding book that I couldn’t put down.

Sisters By Raina Telgemeier Book Review

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel that is about Raina’s relationship with her little sister Amara. Before Amara is born all Raina wishes for is a little sister. But when she finally gets the sister of her dreams things aren’t how she imagined. Amara is grumpy and never wants to play with Raina. Flash forward a lot and the family, which now includes a younger brother named Will, is about to leave on a road trip to Colorado to be with family for some time. Raina and Amara still don’t get along well and are always fighting. But when they notice their parents are acting strange around each other they know they have to improve their relationship with each other if they want to survive the long road trip. This book is illustrated well, has a good story that makes you want to keep reading, is easy to relate to, and includes humorous moments too.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

This book starts off with the muggle Prime Minister. He has a meeting with Cornelius Fudge and meets Rufus Scrimgeour. It then goes to Narcissa Malfoy meeting Severus Snape to discuss something forbidden. It then switches back to Harry, who is waiting for Dumbledore to come and whisk him away to the Weasley’s house. He goes. While making a detour, Dumbledore tries to convince a retired teacher to come to teach at Hogwarts.

            We are at Hogwarts, after spending all summer at the Weasley’s house. Harry can continue his ambition to be an auror when he thought he couldn’t. He needs to borrow a potions book from the school storage until he can buy one. He happens to get one that has lots of odd scribblings and markings on it. It almost seems like someone revised the book. Harry tries one of the edits and miraculously, it works and gives him the reputation, that he doesn’t really deserve, as expert potioneer.

             We progress through the year; Professor Slughorn tries to “collect” Harry, as his crown jewel to his selection of people with famous contacts or have good potential to have a successful job. Harry is invited to his Christmas party, after avoiding Slughorn as much as possible. Halfway through, Draco Malfoy is dragged in, claiming he wanted gate crash. He is taken away by Snape. Harry follows them and his suspicions, which have been going on for a while, are confirmed. He tries, in vain, to convince Ron and Hermione that Malfoy is up to something. He however, has a hard time doing this as Hermione and Ron are having one of their biggest fights yet.

            Ron has been dating Lavender Brown, which Hermione dislikes, she tries to do things like make him jealous, to some degree of success. Ron however, is still in a passionate relationship with Lavender Brown. This whole fight was started because Hermione had kissed Victor Krum, two or more years ago. Hermione is hurt and doesn’t know why Ron is angry and Ron refuses to explain or apologize. Then something happens, that both heals their friendship and makes Harry even more obsessed about finding where Malfoy disappeared to and what he is doing.

            Throughout the year, Dumbledore has been teaching Harry about Voldemort’s past, how he has made Horcruxes in his quest to become immortal. Dumbledore found a potential Horcrux and takes Harry with him to find it. In a secret cave that Voldemort visited as a child, they find Slytherin’s necklace. They are successful. However, when they are returning to Hogwarts, they come upon a horrible sight, Voldemort’s sign, the Dark Mark, is hovering above the school. They come and land on the Astronomy Tower, after riding brooms there. Harry is somehow frozen in place and must watch as a horrible scene unfolds before him. After said horrid scene happens, the perpetrators run away. Harry is freed from his bond and chases after them. There is a large fight and when Harry calls someone a traitor, he finds out who the “Half-Blood Prince” is, who he has been obsessing over almost as much as Malfoy. The Half-Blood Prince is the person who has been providing helpful tips and spells in his Potions book all year.

            Livid and yet very sad, he goes back up to the castle, after who he was chasing managed to escape. There is a funeral for a very special person who died, and everyone goes home for the summer.

            I really enjoyed this book, although the ending was both a surprise and was quite sad. I expect anybody who has been following the Harry Potter series, after reading this book, will understand. Sorry that I didn’t include who died and such, but I feel that would be a large spoiler. This book was very good. It follows lots with Harry’s obsession, which made me a little irritated. I expect that was supposed to be the effect though. Harry would think of nothing else, aggravating even his best friends. Overall, I would suggest this book.

                        I would rate this book a 8.5/10

Farewell to Manzanar by: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Jeanne was hardly 10 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. When the president ordered for all the families who were Japanese to be moved to internment camps, Jeanne didn’t understand! She couldn’t believe they were moving her entire family to Manzanar. Upset, she gathered a small bit of her possessions.

Manzanar was… hard to get used to at first. The small barracks had to be shared with other families, and there were many cracks that had to be filled. Privacy was hard to get and the government, during the first years, kept the residents inside. The food was better than you’d expect. The government, as time went on, did let people go outside of camp and hike and play. The children could go to school, classes were taught, and recreations were learned. Jeanne took up baton twirling. There was church that she could attend as well.

Unlike the concentration camps over in Germany, Manzanar was more civilized and had much more freedom. However, that doesn’t mean people died. Women who gave birth had a high risk of dying, as they could bleed to death while giving birth. People also probably died from the cold that swept through the camp.

I loved this biography! Usually, I would detest reading biographies, but this book is an exception. Jeanne wrote her book cleverly and I was able to read it through without being bored. I absolutely loved it. It highlights the racism that happens after the Japanese were freed from camps, the disagreements with her father because of cultural differences, and many other problems. I would rate this book a 4/5 just simply because I would be confused at times. Overall, this biography was splendid, and if anyone needs to read a good history book, this book will suit you just fine. Happy reading!