As I mentioned before, I’ve been digging into a lot of middle-grade books this month, including quite a few on audiobook. You know the drill: mini-reviews are all coming up next. This time, we have a contemporary told from the point of view of a gorilla who lives in a mall (currently one of my favorite books of the year), a touching novel-in-verse about a girl who immigrates to the US from Syria, and a cute-and-spooky book that is loosely part Coco and part Ghostbusters.
Up first: the book that OH MY GOD I WAS NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR.
Author: Seanan McGuire Series: Wayward Children, #5 Publication date: January 7, 2020 Genre: fantasy, portal fantasy My rating: 4.5/5 stars
Let me start this by saying that Seanan McGuire is an absolute gem. Her writing is always brilliant, and I absolutely adore all the worlds she created in this series, so I of course was looking forward to getting to further explore them in this latest installment. In fact, after Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Jack and Jill quickly became my favorite characters in the series (alongside Kade, but alas, he hasn’t gotten his own book yet). However, this wasn’t a five-star read–honestly, it’s on the lower end of the 4.5-star rating. I guess I just didn’t quite feel the same “spark” with this one that I did with some others from the series. (Was that a pun referencing the excessive lightning in the Moors? Maybe…)
Anyway, given that it is a short book, I don’t quite feel up to a full review, but here is the publisher’s blurb, followed by my thoughts in a quick bulleted list for your enjoyment/reference. Please be aware, there aresome spoilers in here for the earlier books in the series, if you haven’t read them yet–though, of course, no spoilers on this particular installment!
Author: Roshani Chokshi Series: Pandava Quartet, #1 Publication date: March 27, 2018 Genre: middle grade, fantasy My rating: 4/5 stars
This was a cute and enjoyable read, for sure, with a delightful voice, a feisty and salty protagonist who was a little too relatable, and so much mythological fun. Obviously the #OwnVoices take on Indian mythology was a strong point in its favor. Seriously, props to Rick Riordan for helping support authors from other cultures in getting their mythologies into stories to be published and loved as much as his own Percy Jackson was. He could have written those books himself, but instead he decided to step away and let #OwnVoices authors take the spotlight. But I digress–let’s start with the publisher’s blurb!
Oh boy, more audiobooks! Yaaaayyyy! In lieu of a long intro, I’ll just describe them quickly and then get straight to the mini-reviews. We have, in order, a social science book about miscommunication, a super-queer YA fantasy with genderfluid and genderqueer main characters, and a thoroughly-researched book detailing the lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.
Hello, lovelies! With all the pandemic craziness going on in the world, I’ve been slacking on some of my reviews, but I’ve still been reading plenty (I think I’m at 23 books since shelter-in-place started?). A lot of that reading has been via audiobook as I go on walks in my neighborhood, drive to my grandma’s house to help her with things, or work on the endless task of cleaning in my room (seriously, how is it that I can clean everything and still have a disaster just days later?).
All that is to say, I have a lot of audiobooks to offer some opinions on, and you know what that means: another round or two of mini-reviews! This time, we have the striking story of a sexual assault survivor, a children’s classic, and a memoir of one of the stars of Queer Eye. Let’s get started!
Author: Don Zolidis Publication date: May 5, 2020 Genre: young adult, contemporary fiction, realistic fiction My rating: 4/5 stars
Speech team kids, rejoice: finally, the art of competitive public speaking has crept into mainstream consciousness enough for us to get a whole book about forensics! (For those of you who haven’t taken part in the wild experience that is high school or college speech team, “forensics” is another term for speech team. Seriously, their national organization is the NFL–the National Forensics League. I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.)
Regardless of whether you did speech or not, you could probably guess that speech culture is…well, not the most positive. And so Don Zolidis, known in the real-world forensics community for his wide range of hilarious plays, often used in competition, has now written a book that leans into the toxic speech team culture with a team of hilarious, sarcastic, scheming social outcasts who want to change things for the better.