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: 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.

Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

5 stars (I loved it).

Like The Hate U Give, this book centered on a fully realized character and her choices. Like The Hate U Give, it handles racial issues with grace and power and authenticity. Like The Hate U Give, the moment when the main character truly finds out who she is and what she needs to stand for, it’s explosive.

You should absolutely read it.

That said, be prepared for a main character who isn’t as easy to like as Starr was. She’s flawed and stubborn and complex, and that’s a lot of what I liked about her, but you should be prepared going in for a story that is less . . . I don’t know if “heartwarming” is the right word for The Hate U Give, but you get the idea.

Angie Thomas, though . . . she’s a force. I am blown away by her phenomenal talent. And once again, I was blown away by Bahni Turpin’s narration.

(Do note that, once again, there’s a fair amount of swearing.)

Review: The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

5 stars (I loved it!).

The Terrible Two cover (link to Goodreads)

Okay, so this is hilarious and delightful. The humor writing is top-notch, not merely zany or crazy like some middle-grade humor but subtle and surprising and *constant*. I mean it. I am in awe of how tightly written this book is.

I loved it as an adult. My third grader loved it. My older boys read it in a day. The first twist isn’t really surprising, but it’s not meant to be. It’s still funny.

Basically, for the uninitiated, the main character moves to Yawnee Valley, a city known mostly for its cows. He was established in the big city as the school prankster, and he hopes to keep that title here, even if he’d rather be anywhere else. But it appears someone else has already claimed the title: he shows up to his first day of school to find that someone has managed to get the principal’s car up the stairs of the school and has blocked the front doors with it.

It’s not really believable. Many of the characters and situations are larger than life. It doesn’t matter.

The illustrations are perfect, and they add to the appeal. But the audiobook is also excellent. I can’t decide which to recommend more. Maybe do both together?

Review: Giftchild by Janci Patterson

5 stars: It was amazing!

Giftchild cover (link to Goodreads)

Background: When we were in college, Janci and I were in a writing group together briefly. I knew as soon as I read her writing that she was going to be published someday, and I was right! Her debut is good, so maybe you’ll like it too (Chasing the Skip). Just don’t expect a romance.

I’ve been reading Janci’s books ever since. I got this one for Christmas 2017, but since I rarely have time to sit and read, I hadn’t picked it up yet. When I finally had a sick day, I burned through the whole book in less than 24 hours. I was completely hooked. I mean, this character is a MESS. She’s a teen, and she makes VERY BAD DECISIONS for what she thinks are VERY GOOD REASONS, and reading it felt a bit like watching a train wreck, but I couldn’t look away. It was utterly gripping and heartbreaking and deep. My favorite Janci book to date, in other words.

Do note that the main character’s goal is to get pregnant, which obviously involves sex, but it’s not shown on the page.