Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

What Stars Are Made Of: Backlog Review

So I read a lot in 2021 but I wasn’t good at keeping up with reviews after I read like I had been in previous years. What Stars are Made of was one of those books. I read lots of #OwnVoices books by disabled authors the disability written about in this book is written about in one other book I know about the Silver Gate but in the Silver Gate the author isn’t #OwnVoices.

What Stars are Made Of

Summary

Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.

When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled―but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecelia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?

Review

I think this book was primarily written to encourage young girls with being newly diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome and their parents. And that’s okay! It does its job very well, Libby is a smart, funny, encouraging protagonist who is used to her condition and could help someone who is newly diagnosed be less scared. It could also help them maybe be more at peace with some of their symptoms. I’m also always a fan of where people with different conditions get their own books. I also like all the information about female scientist Cecelia Payne that Libby researches throughout the book, and her final project is wonderful. Finally I like the conversation between her and Nonny about the baby.

Overall this was a great book, I love a #OwnVoice book by a disabled writer and always want to see more of those.

Posted in backlog reviews, Recommendations, Reviews

Powerful Black Mermaid: Skin of the Sea Review

Skin of the Sea was a great book. So good I want to hand it out to friends as Christmas presents, Also that cliffhanger at the end was just plain cruel, so I can’t wait for 2022 when the second book arrives. I normally love a book where the main character is a mermaid but this book just took it to a whole new level.

Skin of the Sea by [Natasha Bowen]

Summary

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.
 
But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.
 
To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail . . .
 
Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

Review

TW: Vivid descriptions of people on slave ships, injuries from slave ships. Vivid descriptions of someone being captured for the slave trade

Simi is a great heroine she’s willing to stand up to the Orisha Yemoja or goddess who turned her into a mermaid when it comes to the idea of sinking slave ships of saving Kola, the boy she found who was drowning but alive, she is fiercely loyal, to Yemoja and to Kola and his group of friends once she gets close to them, and she isn’t willing to stop until her mission is done even if she butts heads with Kola from time to time. Even though she’s a mermaid her humanity is a defining characteristic, she misses being human and it influences her choices.

I really love that she’s willing to make hard choices for her friends and the other Mami Wata even at her own expense. I also love the West African mythology and information about different rituals which I hope to hear more about in Book 2. It was very informative and made me want to read some of Bowen’s sources which she lists at the end of the book. Overall this was one of the best books I read this year. It was was well researched and beautifully written. More Simi and her friends as soon as possible please.

Amazon: Skin of the Sea

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Bridge of Souls

I’ve been a fan of the Cassidy Blake series since the beginning. I overall haven’t found it particularly scary but there have been moments in each book that had me on the edge of my seat. This book there was a particular scene towards the end of the book on a bridge that had me questioning how the book would go.

Bridge of Souls

Summary

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows . . .

Unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while traveling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colorful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Review

Okay there were so many favorite things from this book Lara is back for one and her and Jacob’s banter always makes things ten times more fun. The Society of the Black Cat is amazing and reminds me of paranormal fighting D&D group. Then the guardian of death that Cassidy has to deal with itself, like I said few things have creeped me out throughout the series. It’s creepy, one because it’s powers are never really defined. Like when can it get you and when can it not, as a result Cassidy and Lara are always on edge that leads to a high key feeling that works perfect for the confrontation. Some people might not have liked the ending with Jacob but I found it sweet, a great finale to a very sweet and spooky series.

Amazon: Bridge of Souls

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Dark Waters-Spooky Reviews

I think it’s fair to say I’m a huge fan of Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces Quartet. Her latest outing Dark Waters representing the season of summer, doesn’t let down with the scares and sets up for a very interesting finale set in spring. I can’t wait to see how Arden makes spring creepy but I wasn’t there is some precedent for creepy summer stuff but I don’t know anything creepy spring, anyway I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Dark Waters Summary

Until next time. That was chilling promise made to Ollie, Coco and Brian after they outsmarted the smiling man at Mount Hemlock Resort. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker on and off at Brian’s family’s inn and a boom sounds at the door, there’s just one visitor it could be. Only, there’s no one there, just a cryptic note left outside signed simply as —S.

The smiling man loves his games and it seems a new one is afoot. But first, the three friends will have to survive a group trip to Lake Champlain where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. When they’re left shipwrecked on an island haunted by a monster on both land and sea, Brian’s survival instincts kick in and it’s up to him to help everyone work together and find a way to escape.

One thing is for sure, the smiling man is back and he wants a rematch. And this time Brian is ready to play.

Review

The group’s relationship with the Smiling Man is evolving, which isn’t good for Brian, Coco, and Ollie. The first two books were direct monster encounters in this book they had to avoid the monster and then get a few messages from helpful ghosts to save them. Also the Captain and the man on the island, tears right here. They were working in a situation where the Smiling Man had all the advantages and I fear that the finale book will be a lot like this as well. Smiling Man with the upper hand, the group having to fight against bad odds so great for reading but not great for my anxiety. Dark Waters was wonderful and scary and suspenseful in a way that I couldn’t see the end all the things you need for great horror/mystery.

Amazon: Dark Waters

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Dragon Egg Princess Review

The Dragon Egg Princess was a lighthearted fantasy with important messages about the importance of nature over progress.

The Dragon Egg Princess by [Ellen Oh]

Summary

Jiho comes from a long line of forest rangers who protect the Kidahara—an ancient and mysterious wood that is home to powerful supernatural creatures. But Jiho wants nothing to do with the dangerous forest.

Five years ago, his father walked into the Kidahara and disappeared. Just like the young Princess Koko, the only daughter of the kingdom’s royal family. Jiho knows better than anyone else the horrors that live deep in the magical forest and how those who go in never come back.

Now the forest is in danger from foreign forces that want to destroy it, and a long-forgotten evil that’s been lurking deep in the Kidahara for centuries finally begins to awaken. Can a magic-less boy, a fierce bandit leader, and a lost princess join forces and save their worlds before it’s too late?

Review

This is a perfect book for young middle graders. It’s got adventure, good heroes and heroines, a wonderful cast of side characters. There are also awesome monsters and other good creatures represented throughout the book and the villain is extremely cool. I would love a sequel to this book as it felt like it ended in a way were there could be more story but that just could be me. I especially loved Kiko as a character, along with the main villain. I also loved the dragon lessons that a certain character receives and the wizard giving them.

Author

The book is written by Ellen Oh who is the co-founder of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Potomac, Maryland, with her husband and three children and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Tea Dragon Tapestry Review

The whole Tea Dragon Series is a beautiful tale of love and friendship, so it would only make sense that its ending volume would be the same. The finale of the series shows the growth of the characters from the first book, and brings in old friends so we can enjoy seeing them again.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry

Summary

Over a year since being entrusted with Ginseng’s care, Greta still can’t chase away the cloud of mourning that hangs over the timid Tea Dragon. As she struggles to create something spectacular enough to impress a master blacksmith in search of an apprentice, she questions the true meaning of crafting, and the true meaning of caring for someone in grief. Meanwhile, Minette receives a surprise package from the monastery where she was once training to be a prophetess. Thrown into confusion about her path in life, the shy and reserved Minette finds that the more she opens her heart to others, the more clearly she can see what was always inside.

Told with the same care and charm as the previous installments of the Tea Dragon series, The Tea Dragon Tapestry welcomes old friends and new into a heartfelt story of purpose, love, and growth.

Amazon: The Tea Dragon Tapestry

K. O’Neil

K. O’Neill is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning illustrator and graphic novelist from New Zealand. They are the author of Princess Princess Ever AfterAquicorn Cove, The Tea Dragon seriesand Dewdrop, all from Oni Press. Their books reflect their interest in tea, creatures, things that grow, and the magic of everyday life. Also look at the way O’Neil’s art style has improved since the first book isn’t this beautiful.

Review

This book was just a joy to read. I read it quickly. O’Neil’s books are always like pieces of candy something you finish quickly and is beautiful and shiny. But in another way they are like a cup of tea, you have to read it again and go back for a second slow look at all the details you missed. The plot itself was great Minette dealt with her past in a way she’s been needing to since book 1 and Greta found some confidence in herself she’s been needing since book one. Also I loved the surprise visitors and their relation with everyone. Overall, this book was great but then again I’m a huge K. O’Neil fan so I may be biased. I can’t wait to see more of their work.

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Hide and Don’t Seek Review

Hide and Don’t Seek was a great spooky anthology book, some stories were spookier than others but they were all pretty scary for the age group. I enjoyed reading this book back in September when it came out, I think I may have read all the spooky books too early because now not many are coming out in October.

Hide and Don’t Seek: And Other Very Scary Stories

Hide and Don't Seek: And Other Very Scary Stories by [Anica Mrose Rissi]

Summary

A contemporary collection of original short stories by Anica Mrose Rissi that is sure to elicit chills, laughs, and screams, even from the most devoted fans of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark!

A game of hide-and-seek goes on far too long…

A look-alike doll makes itself right at home…

A school talent-show act leaves the audience aghast…

And a summer at camp takes a turn for the braaaains

This collection of all-new spooky stories is sure to keep readers up past their bedtimes, looking over their shoulders to see what goes bump in the night.

So if you’re feeling brave, turn the page.

Amazon: Hide and Don’t Seek

Review

As I said before I think these were pretty scary stories for the age group for which they were directed (8-12). It was compared to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I’d agree with that comparison but I’d also compare it to Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces Quartet. They definitely aren’t slasherly just psychological horror. Which may be good depending on what you’re looking for.

I had a couple favorites the school talent show one was very good. And the Hide and Seek one were both good. Anyway if you are looking for some short reads for and a good anthology. Check out Hide and Seek and Other Very Scary Stories. It’s definitely worth your time and a good read for the season

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Not Your All American Girl-Backlog Reviews

So I’ve been reading pretty seriously to try to catch up with my shortage earlier in the year. Thanks again broken ankle, we all love you, not. But I’ve been reserving no time to write up these book review meaning I have reviews going back to August. I’m going to try to remedy that by posting at least one backlog review a week. This book was a great one from Scholastic. I know Scholastic has been under fire lately but I trust the brand and will continue to support them here.

Not Your All-American Girl

Not Your All-American Girl by [Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Madelyn Rosenberg]

Summary

Lauren and her best friend, Tara, have always done absolutely everything together. So when they don’t have any classes together in sixth grade, it’s disastrous. The solution? Trying out for the school play. Lauren, who loves to sing, wonders if maybe, just maybe, she will be the star instead of Tara this time.

But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the everygirl star from Pleasant Valley, USA?

From amidst the ensemble, Lauren tries to support her best friend. But when she is not bring herself to sing anymore, her spot in the play and her friendship are in jeopardy. With the help of a button-making business, the music of Patsy Cline, and her two bickering grandmothers, can Lauren find her voice again?

Review

This book makes great points about open casting, in this way it reminds of Chance to Fly. I especially loved a quote towards the end of the of the book where they are talking about how Alice in Wonderland is going to be their play next year and the teacher talks about how it’s always been done and Lauren says about the casting how about let them wonder. I love how Lauren found her voice through Patsy Cline and how she thought she was Jewish and I loved the interaction between her Chinese and Jewish grandmothers. The solution the cast found to play in the book was excellent.

Overall 5/5.

Amazon: Not Your All American Girl

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

The Brave

The Brave is meant to be a lovely novel about overcoming health issues of the mind and body. It’s also meant to be about Native American ways of doing things. However it relies deeply on caricatures and the idea of Native American spiritualism.

The Brave by [James Bird]

Summary

Collin can’t help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It’s a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.

Review

To quote the The Circle a publication of Native American News and Arts ” How closely did they read? Granted, the story is make believe and brimming with magic and mystery and ghosts, but this magic and mystery depicts wooden caricatures in a fake reservation setting. Insight into why adults do what they do is rarely offered. All we learn is that one drinks too much alcohol, another is always getting into or out of her truck, and a wise, spooky grandmother appears and disappears.” They go on say of The Brave ” He is also welcomed by a next door neighbor – Orenda – who spends most of her time in a treehouse. Orenda, wise beyond her years, teaches Collin to be brave when faced with adversity. Sick with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Orenda predicts that one day she will turn into a butterfly. As Orenda loses strength, Collin gains strength both mentally and physically. With the help of some kind of medicine man and after turning into a wolf and killing a boogeyman, or dreaming that, Collin is mostly free from his OCD.

I personally can’t speak to another spiritual tradition but Collin losing his OCD just seemed too easy as someone with OCD myself. Feel free to argue with me in the comments. While the book was an attempt to be a book about improving oneself. It came off as putting Native American caricatures and the over used idea of Native American spiritualism.

Amazon: The Brave

Additional Reading

“The Brave” is compelling, but could do without the stereotypes

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

Infinity Courts: A Sweeping Fantasy

The Infinity Courts swept me away I seriously got annoyed when I learned the sequel wasn’t out till next April because the book was THAT good. Also the cliff hanger was great but what I’m saying is I need more of this story stat.

The Infinity Courts by [Akemi Dawn Bowman]

Summary

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen of Infinity, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

Review

Bowman definitely does a good job creating a whole different world. The part of the world we spend the most time in Victory is very well fleshed out. The different lands that are threatened are also hinted at just enough to be ominous but still mysterious. As for the characters the entire rebel group is well flesh out. I especially liked how reluctant Nami was to help the group, she tried to shy away from conflict sometimes to her own detriment but she wasn’t going for that Chosen One role, she just happened to be the only one who could do a job and struggled deeply with having to do it, the book also has a couple major plot twist especially the one at the end that I liked and I can’t wait to see how they play out in the sequel.

If you want surprise, morally grey characters, and a really beautifully thought out world give The Infinity Courts a try