Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  I happened to start reading this on the first day of the race riots following George Floyd’s murder, and although I try to read very diverse authors on diverse topics, I was really glad I was reading this at the time I was. It made for a very poignant look at race and the complexities of human relationships in general. I believe that one of the best ways to curb hate and racism and judgment is to read about other people—the issues they face, the complexities of lives other than your own, and the introduction and immersion into other cultures and peoples and times. If you aren’t reading diverse authors and diverse stories, you are sorely missing out on not only educating yourself, but on some excellent stories and interesting people.
I feel like this book has to be judged in two ways: the story and the writing style. First off, I’m going to tackle the writing style. I first read Acevedo’s book With the Fire on High, and you can read my review of that book here. I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed her characters and really enjoyed the female protagonist’s voice. She was sassy and smart and independent. Clap When You Land is written as a novel in verse, which means that although it looks like it’s going to be quite the undertaking to read, in reality it only took a couple of hours. I tore through that thing. I really enjoyed the organizational style during most of the book. The chapter would highlight which of the two female character’s story would be told during that chapter, and then when it would switch the chapter would switch, etc. Once the two girls ended up together, this didn’t happen anymore, however, which made things more confusing. Once I saw a name I could figure it out, but it would always start out first person and there would be a little bit of confusion for awhile. Also, I really missed the depth that comes from Acevedo’s writing in long form. Although I understand there is power in poetry and power in simplicity and brevity, it just wasn’t my jam in this situation. I have to think that were I a YA reader, I would also feel the same way. I wanted more descriptions of the situation. I think the story lent itself well to more depth and discussion, whereas there was a lot to be inferred just by the way that it is written. I know that Acevedo is an award-winning poet, but this just wasn’t my thing. For that reason, I’m giving that part of the book three stars, and I think a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that I really was looking forward to a novel like With the Fire on High, which I enjoyed so much.
Now it’s time to tackle the story. I have really enjoyed the fact that YA books are not afraid to discuss hard things these days. A father who has two different families in different countries is a tough pill to swallow for those families, and would be even more confusing and difficult since the girls were young enough that there were a lot of loose ends in their lives. The settings of place were excellent, although the Dominican Republic was given a lot more time and description than New York. I have been to the DR and I loved reading about the ocean and the vibrant colors and food, etc. Also, I’m pretty sure that when our flight landed in the DR, people clapped, which was fun to read about in this book.
I think it’s easy to paint a father with two families in a negative light. Although Acevedo wasn’t afraid to shy away from the obvious complexities in the relationships, let alone the struggles that two half sisters who have never met would experience when they found out about each other because of a tragic situation, I appreciated that she also addressed the nuanced and difficult situation that he was a good, loving father, whom a lot of people loved. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a good man trying to be a good dad and friend, family member, etc, to those around him. I think that this lent itself to a lot of thought on my part about what makes a person a good person or a bad person. It’s so easy to categorize someone one way or the other, and a man with two families might fit snugly in the category of one who can’t be trusted and one who takes advantage of people. However, people are more complex than that and judging right away without learning more about the situation or the person is a detriment to both of you. Because of this, I’m giving the story element of this book five stars.

My Rating: 4 Stars
For the sensitive reader: There is some language in this book, and there are some scary situations of stalking that, although they don’t come to fruition, are still creepy.
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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