Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

4 stars (I really liked it)

I was completely invested in this book from the first chapter on. The premise is that there’s a world where people with magic can lose control whenever they use it, especially some of the more powerful, and accidentally, like, burn down a town or something. So to keep everybody safe, mages are “tethered” to a “falconer,” someone who can release the power and stop it with a magic word. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

It’s intriguing and romantic and exciting, and more. It was a really, really fun read.

Still, I constantly felt uneasy about the fact that the tethered mage in the book is an orphaned, fiery black teenage girl, and her accidental falconer is a white noble’s daughter. It seemed like it was trying to make statements about slavery, but at the same time, it was trying to make the main character (the noble’s daughter) relatable, which is hard to do when she’s essentially a slave owner. But, yeah, nobody wants whole towns destroyed accidentally, so this system might actually be necessary?

I had to wonder if discomfort at relating to the main character was part of the point, and I enjoyed the book enough to read book 2 (review coming in a few days).

Review: Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

3 stars

So . . . there was a LOT about this book that I liked. I loved that it didn’t pull punches talking about bullying and how it can sometimes come from a former friend. It felt very familiar to me, and honest, and different from how bullying is portrayed in other middle grade fiction.

I liked watching a real friendship develop. I liked Delsie’s interest in weather. I liked the central conflict regarding her desperate longing for a nuclear family and her search for her mother, and I liked the resolution to that conflict, mostly.

I know I’m mostly alone in this, judging from reviews, but I don’t like books that are middle grade but that seem to aim to please adults more than kids. This was one of those books, in my opinion. The relationship between Delsie and her grandmother, for example, felt a little too precious. The way Delsie was written, too, she wasn’t so much relatable as pitiable or nostalgic. I can imagine kids being required to read this in school, but I’m not sure how many of them I can imagine *liking* it.

That isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I did. But my goal in this blog is to help parents, teachers, and other mentors to find good books to put in kids’ hands. If your kid really likes literary fiction, then, sure, this might be a good one. This might also be a good one if your kid is dealing with mean friends (pair it with Shannon Hale’s Real Friends).

Year in Reviews

A few years back I realized I had only read three books all year. I made a new year’s resolution to read more books, and I did. When I first started querying Parallelogirl, I decided to read more middle grade so I would know my genre and age category. At the time, I was posting reviews to a private message board for some friends. When I created this website, I repurposed a lot of those reviews for my blog, and I started out with quite the backlog. Despite posting new reviews 1-3 times per week all year, I’m still behind.

I will eventually catch up at the rate I’m going (I read at least a book a week, but definitely not three), but it might be a few months down the road, depending on how often I post reviews. Still, I want to share the list of books I read in 2019 now. They’re not really in any sort of order, but I did put my favorite books of the year in each category at the top and bolded them. Full reviews for middle grade and YA books are coming eventually. 🙂

I completed about 60 books this year. It’s a bit of a fuzzy number because there are a few books I read 80% of before giving up on, and I still keep track of those for my own sake, though I have labeled them “did not finish” in the list below. Including the DNFs, there are 61 books on this list. (There were a handful of others I abandoned early on, simply because it was immediately apparent they were not my thing. They are not on the list.)

First, middle grade books:

  1. Planet Earth Is Blue, by Nicole Panteleakos
  2. The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  3. Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
  4. Nevermoor, by Jessica Townsend
  5. The Unteachables, by Gordon Korman
  6. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  7. The Terrible Two Get Worse, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  8. Wundersmith, by Jessica Townsend
  9. Alcatraz 2: The Scrivener’s Bones, by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Dean and Shannon Hale
  11. Alcatraz 3: The Knights of Crystallia, by Brandon Sanderson
  12. Shouting at the Rain, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  13. Best Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
  14. Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga
  15. Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs
  16. Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin
  17. Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass
  18. Snow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin
  19. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling
  20. The Terrible Two Go Wild, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  21. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
  22. The Strangers, by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  23. Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett
  24. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall
  25. Percy Jackson 1: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (did not finish)

Next, YA:

  1. The Defiant Heir, by Melissa Caruso
  2. These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman
  3. On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas
  4. Gift Child, by Janci Patterson
  5. Obsidio, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  6. Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough
  7. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley
  8. Mirage, by Somaiya Daud
  9. Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen McManus
  10. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
  11. The Light Between Worlds, by Laura E. Weymouth (did not finish)
  12. The Tethered Mage, by Melissa Caruso
  13. Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen

And finally, adult, which I don’t generally review on the blog but still read some of. I will include star ratings for these, since reviews are not forthcoming:

  1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson *****
  2. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik *****
  3. The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd *****
  4. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty **
  5. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie ** (but Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey did the audiobook, and he was terribly entertaining)
  6. Legion, by Brandon Sanderson *****
  7. Legion 2: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson ****
  8. Legion 3: Lies of the Beholder, by Brandon Sanderson ***
  9. The Extra, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson *****
  10. The Girlfriend Stage, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson ***
  11. Everything We Are, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson **
  12. Everything We Might Have Been, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson ****
  13. The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg ***** (Though this book has a very small audience, I’m in it. I can’t say whether a poetic, human retelling of the New Testament from the POV of the people who loved Jesus will be for you.)
  14. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer ****
  15. Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer *
  16. Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer **
  17. Chaos Queen 1: Duskfall, by Christopher Husberg ****
  18. Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler *****
  19. The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue * (full disclosure: I didn’t quite finish this book. I was getting the feeling the ending was going to make me really mad, so I read spoilers, and yeah, it was going to make me really mad, so I stopped reading.)
  20. The Expanse 8: Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey ****
  21. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman ****
  22. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik ***
  23. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman ****

Review: The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz book 3) by Brandon Sanderson

4 stars (I liked it a lot)

Knights of Crystallia cover (link to Goodreads)

I love the dynamic between Alcatraz and Bastille, and this book is chock full of it. Alcatraz is finally in the city where he belongs, surrounded by family. There central conflict surrounds Bastille herself: whether she is worthy to be a knight of Crystallia. There’s lots of action and humor and twists. It’s a very fun read, and it was delightful to see each character’s strengths and weaknesses drive the plot and provide a very satisfying ending. I’m sticking with this series for the duration.

Review: Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

3 stars (would be increased to 4 if I’d read the actual book rather than the audiobook, I think).

Snow & Rose cover (link to Goodreads)

This is the perfect book for kids who love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. It gets the feel just right. There’s enough woodsy darkness without being too scary for young children. There’s a tricksy gnome, a mysterious bear, a missing father, a woodland cabin, and a magical library without books.

I sometimes found myself a little bored as I listened due to a scattered plot and poor pacing at times, but I ultimately enjoyed the book, and it’s not long. I can’t be sure, but I think if I’d had the illustrations to enjoy, I would have been more patient with the book’s flaws, and the scales may have tipped more toward delight. I mean, look at this:

Snow & Rose would be a good read-aloud, even for very young listeners, since they’ll have pictures to look at while you’re reading. The illustrations really are part of the full experience of this book, so don’t be like me. Get the physical book.