Review: The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: The Girl With The Red Balloon (The Balloonmakers #1)

Author: Katherine Locke

Category: YA Historical Fantasy

Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman Company/1 September 2017

Edition: ebook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34448522-the-girl-with-the-red-balloon

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Girl-Red-Balloon-Balloonmakers/dp/0807529370/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-with-the-red-balloon-katherine-locke/1125796622?ean=9780807529379#/

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

This book has content warnings for war themes, concentration camps/death camps, martial law, suicidal ideation, racism, use of g*psy slur (not condoned; done for historical reasons in certain chapters), homomisia, building fire/arson, and murder.

I absolutely loved The Girl With The Red Balloon. At first I had a little trouble understanding the time/POV jumps between chapters, but that’s something I have trouble with frequently. I really loved seeing the different points of view; Ellie and Ellie’s younger grandfather were particularly fascinating to me. The book was solidly rooted in the history of the two time periods, and I felt that worked really well when paired with the fantastical elements of the story.

I loved Ellie as a character, and I really felt her struggle and terror at different parts of the book because she knew that she was in a very real danger that could leave her dead in a time period that wasn’t her own. She does consider suicide a couple of times in the book, which may be important for some readers to know — it was largely portrayed as something that could prevent her from being tortured by those who wanted to harm her, and while it popped up a few times it wasn’t a pervasive theme throughout the entire novel. I also really loved the connection to her grandfather and her Jewish heritage; I felt like I got a really good sense of her as a person.

I also really loved having a lesbian character (Mitzi) and a Romani character (Kai) who were central to the story; both faced oppression regularly (It was 1988 East Berlin), and yet they were both comfortable with themselves. It’s worth noting that Ellie’s grandfather uses the g*psy slur during his chapters; Locke explains in the afterward that this was because that was the word that was used in the 1940s and that there wasn’t a historically accurate alternative. The only other time it has been used in the story was when it was used in a derogatory manner against Kai in 1988, and it is explained in-text that the word is a slur.

I also really liked the romance between Ellie and Kai. It was quick, but it wasn’t forced and it felt like a natural progression. I really liked how they interacted and how they complemented each other as people.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book. If you’re looking for a really good historical fantasy, you should give this one a try.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

January 2018 Wrap-up!

So, I just want to start off this post with a few stats:

  • Number of posts in January: 20 (including this one)
  • Number of review posts in January: 7
  • Number of non-review posts in January: 13 (including this one)
  • Number of non-review posts in January that have an exclamation point in the title: 8 (including this one…)

I may need to cool it on the exclamation points just a BIT.

Anyways, this was a big blogging month for me. For a large part of the month before school hit me hard, I was posting daily, and even after that I managed to post at least twice a week. Considering how sparsely I’d been posting through all of 2017 despite starting this blog in January of last year, I feel like I’ve done a great job of getting myself in more of a routine with blogging. I still need to work on that, but it’s a start. In January 2018 alone, I almost doubled both the number of posts I’ve written AND how many page views I’ve gotten on the blog — doubling my stats from the entirety of last year. My blog is still really small, but that felt like a huge accomplishment.

Reads for January

This was a big reading month for me, too! Here’s all I read in January:

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp — 3.5 of 5 stars — review here!

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson — 4 of 5 stars — For class, so one of my only permitted rereads. Review here!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo — 3 of 5 stars — review here!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon — 5 of 5 stars — review here!

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes — 5 of 5 stars — an excellent poetry collection I read for class.

Hillary Rodham Clinton by Karen Blumenthal — 5 of 5 stars — a great biography with really nice writing.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy — 4.5 of 5 stars — review here!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — 5 of 5 stars — I was fortunate enough to have been assigned this book for class, so I got to bypass my “no rereads” policy to read it again. One of my favorites.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed — 5 of 5 stars — one of my favorites of the month. Don’t pass this one up. Review forthcoming!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth — 4 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

Down In The Belly Of The Whale by Kelley Kay Bowles (ARC) — 1 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

See All The Stars by Kit Frick (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ARC) — 4.5 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids by Joanne Mattern (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars — review forthcoming!

My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci — 2 of 5 stars — library book that fell flat for me. It was weird and I don’t even want to review it because I don’t care enough.

Krazy: George Herriman, A Life In Black And White by Michael Tisserand — 5 of 5 stars — wonderful biography of one of my favorite comics creators. Review forthcoming!

Queerly Loving #2 edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars — a wonderful anthology of queer stories. Review forthcoming!

Reading stats:

  • Number of books read: 20
  • Number of books read during the 24 in 48 Readathon: 10
  • Number of nonfiction books: 3
  • Number of ARCs: 6
  • Number of books by marginalized authors: ~13
  • Number of books read for class: 6
  • Number of library books: 5

It’s worth noting that almost all of the books I read that weren’t by marginalized authors were either ARCs I received or books I read for class. I really like supporting marginalized authors, so I’m happy with that number.

I clearly have a lot of reviews I need to write still! This is largely because all of those books were either read during or right before the 24 in 48 Readathon, and if I’d been reviewing as I went during the readathon there was no way I could have finished it. It’s okay, though — you’ll see those reviews in the coming months!

On The Personal Side…

January was a pretty okay month for me. I took a few risks that were at least worth taking even if they don’t pay off, and I have some great ideas for new projects. I want to write a cute YA romance between two enbies, one who is very secure with who they are and one who is questioning her gender, and I also want to design an independent study course for the final term of my master’s degree on library resources for comics studies. I really hope that works out!

I am just a few short months away from graduating with my master’s, which is weird. This is my 20th consecutive academic year since I first started going to preschool in fall of ’98, and since I don’t currently have plans to get another degree after I finish this one, I’m looking at an actual break from academia for the first time in two decades starting in June. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. On the one hand, school is stressful, but on the other I don’t really know anything else.

February is the month where I hope that I can fine-tune my new plans for an actual blog post calendar, and the month where I hope to do more of my own writing. I want it to be a great month!

How was your January? Did you read anything you just adored? Do you have any cool February goals or plans?

#24in48 Readathon Wrap-Up!

As I mentioned last week, the #24in48 Readathon was this past weekend! I managed to read the whole 24 hours, and I even won a book during hour 42. It’s not my only motivation for doing the readathon by any means, but during the previous one I’d won a hardcover of How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, and I believe I won a galley of an intriguing thriller this time, and winning books is just fun. Here’s an overview of my weekend!

Stats:

Time spent reading: 24 hours 10 minutes 34 seconds

Pages read: 3,145

Books read: 10

Library books read: 2

Books read for class: 2

eARCs read: 6

Fiction books read: 8

Nonfiction books read: 2

Hours I spent doing homework instead of reading: ~5

Number of times I realized that I had an assignment due a week earlier than I thought it was originally due and had to scramble to finish it 22 minutes before the deadline: 1

Books Read:

  1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth — 4 of 5 stars
  2. The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke — 5 of 5 stars
  3. Down In The Belly Of The Whale by Kelley Kay Bowles (ARC) — 1 of 5 stars
  4. See All The Stars by Kit Frick (ARC) — 5 of 5 stars
  5. The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars
  6. The Summer of Jordi Perez (And The Best Burger In Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ARC) — 4.5 of 5 stars
  7. The Cat Encyclopedia for Kids by Joanne Mattern (ARC) — 3 of 5 stars
  8. My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci — 2 of 5 stars
  9. Krazy: George Herriman, A Life In Black And White by Michael Tisserand — 5 of 5 stars
  10. Queerly Loving #2 edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz (ARC) –5 of 5 stars

While I clearly read some books that I didn’t think were that great, I loved a lot of the books I read! That also got me all caught up on my Netgalley ARCs, though I still need to actually write the reviews for them now. Speaking of which, reviews for many of these books are forthcoming — stay tuned!

Did you participate in #24in48 this weekend? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

TBR Thursday: #24in48 Edition!

It’s still Thursday on the west coast for another 55 minutes. Fight me.

Today is a very special TBR Thursday — it’s the TBR Thursday where I detail my expected reading list for the 24 in 48 Readathon! This readathon session runs from January 27th at midnight EST through January 28th at 11:59 PM EST, and the goal is to read for 24 hours during that 48-hour period. Or as much as you can. It’s up to you!

I am, admittedly, making up my reading list as I write this post. I may add things. I may change my mind this weekend. Who knows? For now, here are my reading plans! (Which mostly involves catching up on ARCs!)

1.) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

I am conveniently choosing to ignore the fact that this on my last TBR Thursday. Especially since my last TBR Thursday was actually on Monday. It WILL be read.

2.) The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

I need to read a historical fiction YA novel for class! And I own the ebook! Yay! This one is also a definite read for this weekend.

3.) Down In The Belly Of The Whale by Kelley Kay Bowles

I have ARCs I need to read! I’m going to focus a little heavily on the ones I have from NetGalley this weekend. I’ve only barely joined and need to raise my ratio quite a bit (because someone accidentally got auto-approved for four books during LibraryCon LIVE! without realizing that clicking = the book is on my shelf now… That’s how I got Reign of the Fallen!)

4.) See All The Stars by Kit Frick

See above thing about NetGalley. I’m excited for this one!

5.) The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

This was one of the once I got accidentally during LibraryCon LIVE! and I know absolutely nothing about it. I’m going to read it anyway!

6.) The Summer Of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

The only ARC I have from Edelweiss! This is another one that I’m really excited for.

 

Reading is essentially going to take place entirely on my iPad this weekend, and I am okay with this. I need to use my Kindle app more since I already have so much good stuff on there!

Are you participating in #24in48, too? What are you planning to read?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To (and totallyyyy plan to get to in 2018!!)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books I meant to read in 2017… and didn’t. This happened A LOT to me before my reading slump, but it’s also happening pretty frequently to me now because I’m just finding so many books that I want to read, and my piles are stacking up. Here are ten books I meant to read in 2017 and will hopefully read in 2018!

10.) I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I borrowed this ebook from my library and have around 24 hours left to finish it or so! By the time you read this, I should have read it. Hopefully.

[Note from Future Benni: This review is already up! After I finished writing this post, I looked at my loans and realized that this book was actually due back in *3* hours and so it got moved to my Emergency TBR. Whoops.]

9.) This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Ebook bought at the beginning of the year. You’re going to sense a theme here — I buy ebooks or borrow ebooks, and I forget about them. This is largely why I prefer hard copy over ebooks. I don’t mind reading ebooks, but if the book isn’t in sight then I’ll often forget about it!

8.) The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Another ebook purchase offense. I haven’t had this book for quite as long, so I don’t have to feel as guilty about it. Even if I should still feel guilty.

7.) Warcross by Marie Lu

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I got a post-publication ARC of this book from attending LibraryCon Live!, and because it’s already out into the world I’ve been focusing more energy on the ARCs I have that have yet to be published. Bad excuse.

6.) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

wdmr

I waited for months on the waiting list to check out the ebook from my library, but I eventually bought a hardcover while they were pretty cheap on Amazon. I feel like I’ve been pushing this one off longer than I actually have in reality, but still. Guilt.

5.) On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Another beginning of the year ebook purchase! I have plans to read this book for a module of my YA resources class this term, so I will DEFINITELY be getting to this one this year.

4.) Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Image of book cover from Goodreads

Another library ebook that I need to read! If you look at my OverDrive account right now, you’d think that I should feel less guilty about this one than I Believe in a Thing Called Love because it is not due nearly as soon. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong — this is my second time checking it out because I totally didn’t get to it the first time and now I should feel ALL THE GUILT!

3.) Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I almost bought this book multiple times last year and just… Didn’t… Do it… But then I did! I’ve really been wanting to read this one, so why I’ve been putting it off is a mystery to me.

2.) How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I won this book during the 24 in 48 Readathon this summer! And I still haven’t read it despite how amazing everyone says it is! I also have plans to read this book for my YA resources class, so I’ll be getting to it soon. I promise.

1.) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Image of book cover from Goodreads

I bought this ebook in 2013, and I believe that is all the context you need here… Out of sight, out of mind, right?

 

What books have you been putting off reading? Have you been putting off any books for five years (or longer!) like I have? Let’s discuss this in the comments!