In April, I started squeezing in some short reads or books worthy of being branded guilt-pleasure by the likes of me who see mainly huge or deep tomes on my nightstand every day. I often feel a craving for something light, but I rarely give in to it because, I would already have about 10+ books on my to-read-next list. I quite enjoyed this branching out, besides it did put me sooner on track for the next big book! But since they are mostly light reads, I figured a quick short review would suffice.
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (WOW!): I first heard of this book on Candace's Beth Fish Reads. I already loved the sound of this book when I saw it a few days later at my library. And I think it's highly unfair of me to write a mini review for this one, since I absolutely LOVED this book. The main character, Katie, is probably one of my favorites among young bookish characters. Her innocence is so characteristic of children her age, which essentially means that for grownups like me, she is too funny without even trying. You know how that goes? A kid comes and asks this seemingly challenging question about monsters because the kid really wants to know the answer, and all we can do is try not to laugh because we haven't heard something funnier in our life! That said, Kira-Kira is not a funny book, nor is it meant to be. Katie is finding her life slipping away - her sister, Lynn, is very sick. Her parents are trying to do everything for Lynn and working harder and longer to pay the medical bills, leaving Katie feel uncared for. She also has a younger brother who has to be looked after. But, she doesn't have a selfish bone in her body and wants to do all she can to help Lynn recover soon.
Kira-Kira (which means glittering in Japanese) spans a few years in little Katie's life, showing her troubles and challenges. Moreover, Katie's family is of Japanese descent. And in post-WW2, that means being at the very bottom of the social ladder. The Japanese families mostly stick among themselves, but we still see a lot of prejudice through Katie's eyes. Even though I mentioned earlier how much I laughed, her innocence is such that I felt truly indignant, helpless and angry at all the bad stuff this girl had to see. I loved this book a lot and although I'm not dedicating a full review to this book, I hope you'll all pick it up.
Kira-Kira won the Newbery medal in 2005.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman: I've never read a Neil Gaiman book before this, though I'd had plenty of opportunity for it. I picked a couple of his books from the library a few weeks back and this was the first one I decided to read. Possibly because it's reeeaally small? Which it is, and it reads real fast too. Coraline finds a locked door in her new home which leads to nowhere. There's just a blank wall behind it. But one day when her parents were away, she opened the door and what do you know, there's a whole passageway behind. So off she goes and discovers that the place looks just like her real home and that there are people there. People who are not really people but people-like people with button eyes. They also happen to have the same appearance as her mother, her father and her neighbors. There is even a talking cat that looks just like the cat back in the real world. She calls them other people (other-mother, other-father, etc). When she comes back to the real world, her parents are gone and she knows that the other people in the other world have hidden her real parents.
Coraline was a cute read and I know why Neil Gaiman's books sell. He writes about a magical world in a very intriguing way. There is some darkness but there is some innocence too. But, it didn't really hold my attention much - I guess because I always knew it was going to be a happy ending and the magical world didn't attract me much. Still, I do plan to read on more of Gaiman's works, because I quite enjoyed his witty writing.
Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten: I had read some good reviews about this one, and since I had a copy of it on my shelf and was looking for a light read, I thought this was perfect! Ellie's sister, Nina, has been missing for two years. Nina just didn't come home one day. In the present day, Ellie is hanging out with her best friend when she comes across a giveaway box in which there's a picture that's clearly drawn by Nina. In this picture, there's a clue hidden, and from there, Ellie starts an adventure to look for her sister. At the very start, she is accompanied by a guy she met at a party and along the way, she meets some really quirky characters.
Wherever Nina Lies was a fun light read, but it didn't hook my interest much. I probably was looking at it through grown-up lens, but no matter how much I willingly suspended my belief, there was a lot that seemed improbable to me. I'm sure that my teen-self would have enjoyed this. There are some classic teen-favored elements (without being stereotypical) in here - a strong teen girl character, some nice romance, an adventure road trip, a mystery to spur the storyline, and this handsome mysterious guy. I did like the way the mystery played out and I liked the characters in it, especially the guy who works with Ellie at the coffee shop. But it felt a little too sappy for me.