Review: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

“There are no coincidences.”

I was trying to read this book along with Amina’s Voice, but quickly realized it wasn’t working in my favor me because as Ron Swanson likes to say, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” So I decided to dedicate my sole attention on this tale, and it was beyond magical.

  • We have a phenomenal first chapter from the pov of eleven-year-old Virgil Salinas with a supporting grandmother that tells of her dreams and stories!!
  • We also have an incredible cast of diverse characters who won over my heart:
    – Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous Filipino-American family.
    – Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature.
    – Kaori Tanaka,  whose family is Japanese-American, is a self-proclaimed psychic with a little sister Gen as her second-in-command.
  • Can we take a minute to talk about how Kaori is one of my favorite characters… I genuinely had the bouts of insta-love the minute this twelve-year-old that doesn’t sound like a twelve-year-old because, as she likes to say, “I’m the reincarnated spirit of a 65-year-old freedom fighter” was introduced!!
    Hello, Universe 1-- bookspoils

“Kaori was mildly surprised to get a text from one of her clients (her only client, truth be told) on the first day of summer, particularly at seven forty-five in the morning. But the night before, just as she was gliding to sleep, she’d had the vision of a hawk perched on a giant fence post. Only now she realized it must have been a vulture, not a hawk. And vulture started with V, just like Virgil’s name. The connection couldn’t have been clearer.”

This girl with “her powers of second sight” is something else…

  • the humor is on point:

“Something will happen to you,” Kaori continued.
Virgil looked at Gen. She shrugged.
“That’s it?” said Virgil. “Something will happen to me?”
“I see darkness,” said Kaori.
“Your eyes are closed.”

Honestly, dare I say iconic… both for making me laugh out loud and for the subtle foreshadowing thrown in from the author (which I’d thought at first to be just her having a laugh). But circling back to the humor, these brilliantly vivid characters reminded me of the kids from Stranger Things being their best selves on TV!!

And:

  • And moving on to Virgil’s Lola – aka the best literary grandmother ever – she was a force of nature. I could always count on her old ghost stories and dreams to fully capture my spirit. Also, she’s just one hell of a supportive adult!!!

“Sorry, Lola,” Virgil muttered. “I was just thinking about something that happened on the last day of school.”
Lola tossed the garbage pizza in the cart. “What? What happen?” She was always ready to hear gossip, no matter where it came from.”

This is me. This is who I am.

  • So as Kaori had foretold to Virgil – “What I mean is, I see you in a dark place.” “Dark how?” “Just dark.” – he’d gotten trapped at the bottom of an old well thanks to the worst of humans throwing Virgil’s backpack, which had Gulliver, his pet guinea pig, in it. Which is also when I noticed what the cover, though absolutely gorgeous, happens to spoil if you’d skipped reading the blurb.
  • Oh, and circling back to the worst of humans, I have only one thing to say to the bully, Chet Bullens, whose family is probably full of Trump supporters…tumblr_oaesann93b1qet8ilo1_250
  • On a more positive note, there’s some magical realism aspects thrown in to further enchant my heart.
  • And the story continues full of busy happenings that lead to friendship, kinship and family. In the end, I just ended up adoring this group of explorers. Plus, I really hope Tanaka and Somerset will go into business as promised. (Maybe we’ll even get a sequel/ novella on that idea…)
  • And last but not last, I was as joyful as my girl Valencia from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when the story ended on such sweet and hopeful note.tumblr_o7o1w7snid1si3gq6o1_500

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Hello, Universe, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings that cover her room.

One day, Morfie, a mysterious pale girl, appears at school. And she knows all about Sandy’s drawings…Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting imagination of Colombian artist, Lorena Alvarez Gomez.

This vibrant and colorful picture book with its lively drawn illustrations has to be one of the most beautiful ones out there. It’s truly a stunner of a book.

So to share my excitement, I decided to include some of my favorite exquisitely drawn pieces:nightlights-1-bookspoils

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nightlights-7-bookspoils#aesthetic


As much as I adored Nightlights , I did have a few tiny issues with the way the storyline was dived into. The exploration of reality vs. fantasy was a bit confusing, especially with how it ended so openly and abruptly. But since I loved the illustrations so damn much (THIS BOOK IS GORGEOUS!!), I’m giving it a free-pass.

And on a more serious note, I’m in awe of Gomez’s art and talent. For the next few hours, you can find me looking up and staring at every single one of their works .

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March  14th, 2017

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Nightlights, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us. Flying Lessons & Other Stories includes a variety of characters — from different backgrounds, disabilities, ethnicities, sexualities. And so here’s a look of some of my favorite short stories featured in here:

Sol Painting, Inc. by Meg Medina

Twelve-year-old Merci Suarez is helping her father out at his work the summer before entering her first year at “fancy Seaward Pines School.” Her science loving brother, Roli, is also helping out. And when they arrive at their painting locating for the summer, it turns out to be their newly shared school. But the day takes a turn for the worse when some high school students walk in and destroy the hard work of Sol Painting, Inc. without even a hint of remorse.

“My brother has always been strangely good at reading my mind. Can’t he see how awful it felt to be unimportant, to watch Papi stand there like a chump?
“What did you want Papi to do, Merci? Pitch a fit and blow your free ride?”
Without warning, tears spring to my eyes. He pretends not to notice. Instead, he cups my scalp with his enormous hand and gives a squeeze. “Try to let this idea into your thick cranium. Papi chose to be invisible today so you won’t ever have to be.”

That last sentence really hit hard.

Medina is a great storyteller that managed to really give depth to her characters in such a short amount. With Roli’s passions and Merci’s dedication to the business, I was more than swept into their lives. I hope they receive everything their heart desires.

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson

I love Woodson’s writing a lot, so I was truly pumped when I saw her as one of the contributors to this collection. Main Street is told from the point of view of a main white character, Treetop, befriending Celeste, who has brown skin in a predominately white town.

“I had never known anyone brown, and Celeste had never lived in a place where brown people didn’t.”

It is a sprawling look at race, harmful stereotypes, childhood friendships, and identity. And that ending left me feeling hopeful for the future.
I was also left wanting more of Jacqueline Woodson’s writing, so I’ve got to get her books into my hands very soon!

Oh, and just to give you an excerpt, here’s one of my favorite passages from the story:

“Last winter the snow fell so long and rose so high, my father hired a man from Keene to plow it. When the man arrived, his huge plow moved silently through the mass of snow. The silence surprised me. How could so much power exist inside such quiet? As I watched, pressing my head against the window, I said to my father, I want to move through the world that quietly. That powerfully.”

I’m in love with Woodson’s way with words.

Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani

About a month ago, Santosh’s sixty-nine-year-old nani informed (not asked) that she would take him on a three-week trip across Europe. “Less than a month later, I am alone on a naked beach.” To say that his grandmother was quite a character would be an understatement.

“In Berlin, she left me stranded in the middle of a dodgy parade. In Marseilles, she paid a fast-talking young cabdriver named Gael to take me out with his wild teenage friends while she shopped for shoes. And yesterday, on our first night in Spain, I dressed up in a suit and combed my hair so I’d look nice for the “theater,” only to end up cowering in the front row at an adults-only burlesque.”

But I ended up liking her so much more than expected, particularly after this next passage:

“Did you take Mom away too when she was young?” I ask later, struggling to crack a stone crab at dinner.
“Your mother is like your grandfather,” Nani says vaguely, already finished shelling and eating hers.
“What’s that mean?” I ask, trying to keep the slippery crab in the silver cracker.
“They’d rather stay home and do work.”
“Yeah, but that’s how they both make money—”
“And what do they do with it?” Nani fires. “Your mother hoards every dime as if she’ll live forever. Your grandfather hasn’t taken me to a movie or dinner or show or anywhere else in fifteen years. ‘We’re old now,’ he says. ‘We’re old.’ ”
“But he lets you spend as much money as you want—”
“Money!” She pounces. “What good is money to a bird in a cage?”

That last sentence left me speechless.

Since this was the title story and my first read by Chainani, I was quite excited to say the least. And the author did not disappoint: the characters were lively, complex, and the dialogue was gripping. And Kamla Sani (the grandmother) speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I loved her.

I appreciate her so much that I need to share this next dialogue, because with one final sentence she managed to shift my whole point of view:

“Do you know why I brought you on this trip, Santosh?”
“So you could get away from Grandpa?”
She lets out a cackle. “No! Well, yes. But no. I brought you on this trip because you win too many awards at school.”
I stare at her blankly. “What?”
“Best in math, best in English, best in debate, history, science, chorus…How many awards can you win? Every year I come to the ceremony and watch you go back and forth to the stage, picking up all the trophies and making me and your mother carry them, because there are too many for you to hold.”
“Nani,” I say, losing patience. “What does winning awards have to do with anything?”
“Because when you’re older, no one cares how many awards you win, Santosh. People care if you have something to talk about. And right now, all you have to talk about are things from books.”16467132I’m not even joking with inserting that gif because that passage really was inspirational for me. Nani notices how receiving those awards year after year doesn’t make Santosh happy as it used to do, and so she offers up some really useful advice that I took to heart.

And as if this story couldn’t get any more hearts from me, it included a LGBTQIA+ storyline!! Props to Nani for fake fainting so that her grandson can talk to the cute boy he likes.

“Come, Santosh, darling,” she wheezes, adding a few hacking coughs, as if while fake fainting she also happened to contract tuberculosis. “Stay with your nani and this handsome boy who rescued me.”

Is there anyone better than her?? Nope…
I know for a fact that I won’t forget her anytime soon. And so I think it goes without saying that Flying Lessons was my favorite short story. (However, I need to have more clarity on that ending!! Help.)


Overall, I’m so glad this collection exist; I need more like it. Flying Lessons & Other Stories is the best thing that’s happened to me this week. And I have nothing but love for it.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Flying Lessons & Other Stories , just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!