Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl

I was scrolling through my most recent blog posts today and was embarrassed to see I haven’t posted anything since March! I have so many book review and just general blog post ideas constantly going round in my head that I feel like I’m consistent with actually writing and posting blog posts…but apparently not!

Today I’m breaking this hiatus to share another unique book with you! A middle-grade novella told partly through blackbirds’ perspectives, Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl is funny, witty and touching. Read below to see how I felt about it:

I was first intrigued by Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl when I read the description. I love books that delve into the psychology of children’s emotions, especially since they oftentimes struggle to understand what they’re feeling at all. And then add the element of birds’ perspectives? Talk about interesting!

I was not disappointed. I was pulled in by the writing style (most likely because the author is British—that alone gives you enough reason to pick this book up) and I was fascinated with the characters. On the one hand, there’s something caricature-like about them, but on the other hand they feel so real. Every character from Roy’s parents, the school bully or the school’s superintendent had a quirk. No character was two-dimensional. I would say ultimately, each character had simple, single goal they were working towards. The problems arose when something (or someone…often Roy) stood in their way. All poor, sweet Roy wanted was to be left alone with the birds. But it would take a lot of change to make that happen.

Click this link to read my full review!

Contributor Reviewer

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Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: Murder Among the Tombstones by Kim Carter

Long time, no see!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review, so I’m excited to share another unique one with you guys today! I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review–mainly because her sequel is being released soon.

Mysteries used to be all I read as a kid, but I honestly haven’t read many since high school. So I really enjoyed watching Clara and Iris, two hilarious old ladies, try to solve a murder mystery in Murder Among the Tombstones.

From the beginning, I loved the idea of two old ladies starting their own detective agency. So you could say I was hooked before I even opened the novel. And, for the most part, it was everything I’d hoped it would be. I loved all the main characters: polite and reserved Clara, spicy and naïve Iris, responsible Quita, hot-tempered Detective Nettles and dedicated Detective Pitts. Even the side characters (and there were many of them) each had distinct traits so that I was almost immediately intrigued after each introduction.

One element about Murder Among the Tombstones I loved was Carter’s writing style. I learned several new words thanks to her unique vocabulary. And there’s something about the setting and flow of the story that feels so warm and inviting and hard to put down. The dialogue felt very realistic and I found myself laughing out loud several times over Iris’s antics.

As for the mystery, I was immediately pulled in. The main murder case was horrifying and it soon became clear it was a serial killer. About halfway through the book, we entered the heads of the murderer and his latest victim. I was disgusted by the murderer’s thoughts and dying to know who he was. It was clear to me that he was a psychopath based on the way he handled his victims. And, of course, I’m hoping beyond hope that his latest victim will escape unscathed.

Click this link to finish reading my review!

Contributor Reviewer

Posted in Book Reviews

Second Five Books of 2017

“Lantern-shine, dim but kind—
No starkness in darkness—
Even I please the eye.
Outside, wind and rain,
Weather’s fitful wax and wane.
Tomorrow’s sun will reveal
What night conceals.
All we lack, regret, know,
Forgotten in lamp-oil glow.”
-The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

6. * Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I feel about the Underland Chronicles as a whole (hint: it’s pretty positive!).

7. * The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – I will admit that I’m biased because Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite authors EVER, but this is one of her best books. A retelling of Rapunzel and prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre (my favorite book of hers after Ella Enchanted), the first half of this book was just perfect. I could not put it down and I don’t say that often. I loved the tension between Perry and her adopted parents and blood-related sister, her sweet and tender relationship with Willem and her desire to conquer her kingdom’s prejudice. She is probably one of Levine’s best main characters. That said, the book took a turn about halfway through and the tone of the novel changed. While the new plotline was fascinating and interesting, it just didn’t feel like the same book anymore. Overall, I liked the climax and resolution and I appreciated the angle Levine took on prejudice and its affects. But I finished it slightly dissatisfied. However, now that some time has passed, I find myself remembering bits and pieces of the story and feeling warmth at the memories. I think it has a special place in my heart and now that my expectations are properly set, I have a feeling I would enjoy it much more on a re-read. The reason I now think it’s one of her best books is because of the clear message it sends about prejudice and the steps needed to overcome it. In that sense, it’s very powerful and relatable.

8. Stolen Magic by Gail Carson Levine – Sadly, my praise is not as high for this novel as it was for The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre. A sequel to A Tale of Two Castles (which I loved!), it’s overall: underwhelming. There is a mystery, but it’s not nearly as compelling as the mystery in A Tale of Two Castles. And in the sequel, Elodie has little to no internal conflict, therefore, no room for character development. The most character development happened in minor characters whose perspectives we were in occasionally, but not nearly enough. By the time the book ended, the story and characters themselves hadn’t really progressed, which never happens in a Levine novel. Her character developments are usually some of my favorites! I have read in her blog, though, that she really struggled with this story and even she wasn’t satisfied with it, so I like to give her grace considering she’s written several of my favorite books. We can’t win them all.

9. * Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I felt about this series as a whole (hint: this is when the series takes a turn and I read the last two books so quickly to find out what happens next. I couldn’t read fast enough!).

10. * Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I felt about this series as a whole (hint: ugh, it gets better and better!).

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in Book Reviews

First Five Books of 2017

“You see, I tired of constant fear, so I made a decision. Every day when I wake I tell myself that it will be my last. If you are not trying to hold on to time, you are not so afraid of losing it.”

-Gregor the Overlander

Happy New Year, my fellow book lovers! It’s been a good long while since I’ve posted one of these and now that it’s 2019, I felt like it was time to review the books I read in 2017. 😉 Hoping to post these reviews this month in preparation for posting about the books I read in 2018 throughout the rest of this year.

*SPOILER!* I may include some of the book’s plot/content in my reviews for them, so if you haven’t read one or more of these yet and want to read it without spoilers, then you can just skip down. *

  1. Don’t You Know There’s a War On? by Avi – I’ve read a few books of Avi’s in the past (my favorite being Sophia’s War) and he’s an excellent storyteller. As for this one, I listened to on audiobook on the way to and from work. It’s about a young boy who believes his principal is a Nazi spy trying to get rid of Howie’s favorite schoolteacher, Miss Gossim. While Howie was immediately likable and I loved the constant reminder adults gave him throughout the book (“Howie, don’t you know there’s a war on?”), honestly, this book was a little odd. Granted, I think Avi’s books always hold an aspect of strangeness, but this one in particular didn’t work for me. If I recall correctly, it turns out Miss Gossim is pregnant and I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s fired. Her fiancé of sorts is off fighting in the war, but he either dies or Miss Gossim doesn’t believe he’s coming back. So despite Howie’s efforts to make her stay, she ends up moving away. The reason this all seemed off to me was, of course, that strange sort of admiration/love 5th grade Howie has for his teacher as well as the fact that she ended up confiding in him things that really shouldn’t be discussed with children. And then we never find out what exactly happened to her. So by the time the book ended, I was confused as the point of the story.
  2. The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson – This is a sappy retelling of Sleeping Beauty set in 14th century Germany. While I loved the interesting setting, vocabulary and clothing, the actual plot was slow, the romance was unrealistic and cheesy and the ending was slightly underwhelming. I read it because Melanie Dickerson wrote all these fairy tale retellings as part of a series that end up intertwining, which sounds so awesome, but so far haven’t found it worth it to try the other books in the series.
  3. * Making Sense of Your World by W. Gary Phillips, William E. Brown and John Stonestreet – I read this book for a class called Comparative Worldviews. It basically goes over the major worldviews out there and how each lines up with Christianity. It really helped me not only define each worldview, but discover what it is about each one that shows its lack of truth.
  4. * Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins – Click here to read how I feel about the Underland Chronicles as a whole. (hint: it’s very positive!)
  5. * 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith – After listening to Don’t You Know There’s War On?, I listened to this audiobook in the car on my way to and from work. Smith wrote the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which I’ve read a few of, and his characters are just so charming, you can’t help but wish you lived in Botswana, too. 44 Scotland Street is much different as it takes place in Scotland and the main characters are, in my opinion, not half as charming. And it’s not to say it isn’t well written. I just think the setting of Scotland Street, while enjoyable, just can’t hold that same unique charm as the setting of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. While I enjoyed listening to the story (it was really different as it was originally written as a serial), there were a few characters I just didn’t care for and I feel like we spent too much time in their worlds. Needless to say, I really want to read the next book and see what happens to the characters I do like.

* Books that I highly recommend have a * next to them

Posted in Book Reviews

Highlight: When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine

And the 12 Days of Christmas Books tour continues! We are halfway through this fun Literature Approved event and I’m so, so excited to share my second (and last) review for the tour. The Christmas book I chose to review this time is When Christmas Comes Again, one of my favorite books from one of my favorite middle grade series–Dear America.

I love this book for many reasons…but before I start ranting and get ahead of myself, you can find out for yourself below!

This book is part of the Dear America series, a middle grade historical fiction series near and dear to my heart. I hope to review many Dear Americas in the future, but I’m excited that my first one happens to be one of my all-time favorites!

When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine is one of the few (if not the only) Dear America about a seventeen-year-old girl. Most of the Dear America heroines are between twelve and fourteen years old, so you can imagine my excitement when I was finally the exact same age as the main character. Therefore, Simone’s questions about her future and her meaning in life are very relatable as I asked myself similar questions at that age. Also, Simone’s family is French and as I am French-Canadian, I loved the bits of French language and references throughout the diary.

Click here to finish reading my review! And when you’re finished, check out the other Christmas books Rayleigh has reviewed this week of various genres. These posts are a fun ride you want to be on!

Contributor Reviewer