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.

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: 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).