Review: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

5 stars (I loved it!).

Nevermoor cover (link to Goodreads)

Forgive the teeny-tiny cover image.

Everyone knows Morrigan Crow is cursed to die on her eleventh birthday and to make bad things happen to those she comes in contact with until then. But when, on the eve of her 11th birthday, she is recruited for several jobs that she can’t possibly do after she’s dead–and by some rather mysterious and very interesting people, no less!–her life begins to change in completely unpredictable ways.

There are twists upon twists. Morrigan’s mentor reminds me of a ginger-bearded David-Tennant-as-10th-Doctor. Very energetic, cryptic, and zany. The world is magical and a bit steampunky and a bit Harry Potter. Much of the feel of everything reminded me of Harry Potter (specifically book 4), but there was enough that was unique that it didn’t feel totally derivative. The prevailing emotion throughout is wonder–that “Wow! So cool!” feeling that J. K. Rowling so often gets just right.

I immediately recommended the book to my picky 11 year old, and he devoured it and the second book in the series. We’re eagerly awaiting the third, which comes out this spring.

I can’t guarantee your kids will like this book, but if they like Harry Potter, City of Ember, Doctor Who, or Aru Shah, chances are good they’ll like this too.

Review: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

4 stars (I liked it a lot).

This novel, told in verse, follows a Syrian pre-teen as she travels to the US with her mother to live with family in Cincinnati when their hometown becomes unsafe.

I should have read the print version of this one. The narrator was fine, but I think certain aspects of the book don’t work if you don’t have the visual formatting to draw attention to certain words and phrases, to give them weight. The result was that I wasn’t ever really *into* this book, and I think I would have been if I had had the physical copy and had been able to savor certain parts rather than just barreling through them with the audiobook. I also felt like it was a little heavy handed with the message at times, though in verse form, I think I would have been more patient with that.

The main character was fully realized, and the message is timely and important. Would be great for fans of Out of the Dust and Wishtree.

How Not to Get an Agent

When I was writing, revising, and querying my first book, I wasn’t on Twitter yet. I didn’t know what not to do, so I learned the hard way about everything embarrassing.

So, if you really want to not get an agent after you finish writing a book, here’s an easy checklist to make sure you’re on the right (wrong) track:

  1. After you finish your first draft, only have friends and family read it. (Or, better, don’t have anyone read it at all.) If you don’t have anyone who knows anything about writing read it, you’ll never know about your book’s flaws. And since even seasoned writers write first drafts full of flaws, your book is sure to have them. If you want to avoid getting an agent, it’s best to send your book off into their inbox full of those flaws.
  2. After making minimal revisions, send a query letter that is three pages long. Yes, I did this! And it definitely didn’t get me an agent.
  3. Query soon after completing your first draft. You don’t want to wait to not get an agent! Why spend years perfecting your draft if you could get rejection now?
  4. Make silly, unprofessional jokes in your query letter. The agent will be sure to ignore anything that comes after them!
  5. When trying to figure out what a query letter is and how to write one, do a basic Google search rather than zeroing in on the magnificent website, Query Shark. That way you’ll find advice from a wide variety of people, most of whom are not experts.
  6. Avoid joining Twitter.

Of course, there were many mistakes I didn’t make, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make those mistakes! If you’re really serious about not getting an agent, you could try

  1. Not researching the agents you query to find out if they even represent the genre and age range your book fits into
  2. Responding rudely to a rejection from an agent
  3. Querying 100 agents all at once without finding out if your query letter works first
  4. Overlooking typos and grammatical errors in your query letter

Honestly, the possibilities are endless! If you really want to remain unagented, I’m sure you’ll find your own creative way to do it, just as I have.

Best of luck to you.

Review: The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

5 stars.

The Defiant Heir cover (link to Goodreads)

I mentioned before that I was completely invested in the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, from the beginning to the end. Caruso is a master of pacing. In this one, too, there’s never a moment where it failed to keep my attention.

But there were a few things it did even better than the first book.

  1. The problematic aspect in the first book is treated as problematic rather directly. I’m beginning to trust that a satisfying end to that whole situation can be achieved.
  2. KATHE. I won’t spoil anything, but holy cow, that’s an interesting character, and a VERY interesting love triangle.
  3. A deeper look into the magic of the world, which is weirder and cooler than I thought it would be.

This series is a lot of fun. I highly recommend it if you like fantasy with lots of court intrigue, weird magic systems, and romance.