Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

4 stars (I really liked it).

Blood for Blood cover (link to Goodreads).

Blood for Blood is the sequel to Wolf by Wolf and the end to the duology. This one was almost as much fun as the first, more of the same exciting twists and turns and impossible obstacles. I felt like the heroes were a little slow to figure things out, which is why it’s not the full 5 stars, but the ending was perfect, and I was a very happy reader all the way through. I can’t say more without spoiling Wolf by Wolf, since the premise of this one gives away the ending of the first.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

5 stars (It was amazing!)

Wolf by Wolf cover. Link to Goodreads.

An alternate historical science fiction in which Germany and Japan won World War II and split the eastern hemisphere between them, Wolf by Wolf is the story of a teen girl who was transformed into a shapeshifter in a Nazi concentration camp, escaped, and is now on a mission to kill Hitler. At first glance, I thought, “Haven’t I heard this story before? Lots of times?” But the *way* that this one was told was fierce, relentlessly action packed, intriguing, twisty, and compelling.

The romance was my least favorite part, but the rest is plenty good to make the book well worth reading, and the romance wasn’t done poorly; I just have reservations about it at the conceptual level.

It sounds like I’m saying not to read it, and I definitely am not. It’s really cool: motorcycle races in the desert, secrets, an impossible situation that the main character will probably get herself killed trying to navigate. It’s awesome from beginning to end. One of the best books I read in 2020.

Review: Swing by Kwame Alexander

2 stars (It was okay).

Cover of Swing. Link to Goodreads.

This is a contemporary YA about two teen boys who are trying to make their mark on the world in a rather endearingly floudering teenaged way. I have super mixed feelings on this one. It was poetic and well-written, but it seemed to meander, and I felt much of the time like I wasn’t sure where it was going. Then the ending came out of left field, and I guess that was the point, but . . . it didn’t quite land for me. I was left feeling confused mostly.

I’ve also noticed that verse novels don’t translate well to audiobook, and that’s what this one was. If you like somewhat abstract novels or want books about the experience of being Black in America, this one is a decent representation.

Review: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

5 stars (It was amazing!).

The Mad Wolf's Daughter cover (link to Goodreads)

I have to admit, I judged this one by its cover. I heard multiple times that it was amazing, but I wondered if maybe the people talking about it were friends with the author or something. I got it as an ebook from the library at one point and started reading it, but I struggle with ebooks, and I never got more than a few pages in.

When the audiobook finally became available at my library, I decided to try it again, and I’m SO glad I did! I don’t usually read historical fiction, but I immediately got sucked in. This is one book that I highly recommend the audiobook for. The Scottish accents help to immerse you in the world.

I loved Drest’s voice and her relationships with her brothers and father, but most of all the complicated realizations she comes to along her quest that make her question the world and her place in it. It’s a simultaneously simple but sophisticated tale, and it as moments of sadness, fear, humor, and triumph.

The basic plot is this: Drest is the youngest daughter of a Scottish war lord, but when her entire family is arrested, she teams up with an injured member of the party that took them to rescue her family before they are all hanged.

It’s short, and it’s wonderful. Give it a try.

Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

4 stars (I really liked it).

Tristan Strong cover (link to Goodreads)

Out of all the books I’ve read in the kid-finds-out-the-myths-are-real subgenre, including the Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, and Aru Shah books, Tristan Strong might be my favorite. I have a soft spot for Fablehaven too, admittedly. But Tristan is consistently a surprising character, and the cast of characters he encounters is interesting, funny, and cool. There’s Tar Baby, John Henry, Brer Rabbit (and his cohorts, Bear and Fox), the Bone Ships, Anansi, and more, each with an interesting spin that makes this more than just a tour through the tales.

The book is action packed. It’s definitely a book for kids, not the type of book adults want kids to read to better themselves, though I think it does that too. I plan on reading the sequels.