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.

The DNFs for 2019: On to 2020 books!

I am finally done reviewing books read in 2019. Not to worry, though! I have read 15 books so far this year and am reading two others. It’s been a little harder to listen to audiobooks due to COVID-19, since now we’re all in closer quarters, and I don’t want to bug my family. I still listen when I’m in the car, when I’m in a room by myself doing dishes or folding laundry, or when I’m out in my garden pulling weeds.

I have said before that I generally don’t review books that I don’t finish, since I don’t feel like I’ve given them a fair shake. But sometimes I have so many thoughts about a book, or I think it’s good but not for me, that I have to share them anyway.

Two books that fit in this category are Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief and The Light between Worlds.

The Lightning Thief cover (link to Goodreads)

First, Percy Jackson. It’s so popular that I felt obligated to give it a try, at least so I could know what it was all about. From the beginning I knew exactly what it was that kids liked about it. Percy’s voice is snarky, funny, perfectly middle grade. The plot clipped along, and Percy was always an active player in it. So far so good.

But there were things about it that MAJORLY annoyed me, to the point where even though I was mostly enjoying the book, I had to put it down. One was the premise that Olympus moves to where the center of human advancement is. This really rubbed me the wrong way, to say that Greece was the pinnacle of humanity at the time, when China, Egypt, and the Mayans gave the Greeks a run for their money in 800-700 BC.

I was also annoyed with the fact that Percy was dealt a HUGE blow early in the book and then got swept up in mysteries and adventures and barely processed it for more than a few pages. That rang false to me.

And when all the adults in Percy’s life basically told him, “Yeah, we have big secrets, but we’re not going to tell you for reasons,” I got bored.

Abandoned a little over a quarter of the way in.

The Light Between Worlds cover (link to Goodreads)

The Light Between Worlds is an entirely different story. The premise is that two sisters have come back from a world like Narnia and are adapting to normal life, each in her own way. One sister is really, really struggling. Nothing seems to matter. She can’t connect with people who don’t know what she’s been through, and she lives in memory most of the time. The other sister is doing better but almost going too far the other direction, with university, makeup, young men, etc.

Honestly, it was beautifully written. But I read it in the fall, and I tend to struggle with seasonal blues in the fall, and it was just so, so depressing. I think that’s what Laura Weymouth was going for (an honest look at depression). But I couldn’t do it at that time. Abandoned at about the 2/3 mark.

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

5 stars (It was amazing!)

This was book 2 on my read-YA-science-fiction-with-male-protagonists list, and it did not disappoint. It did remind me in feel of the Illuminae Files series, so if you like that, maybe check this out. And if you don’t like that, then maybe this won’t be for you either.

Is this book going to change the world? Absolutely not. Was the romance swoony and believable? Oh yes. I loved watching the two leads gradually increasing in respect for one another, which slowly developed into love. The plot also kept surprising me, and a series of twists blew my mind.

It’s fun science fiction and fun romance. The YA voice is just right. I’m not sure it would be the sort of thing my 13 year old son would love at this moment in his life, but maybe it would be. Who knows?

There is a pretty tame sex scene, so I guess parents should know about that.