Mini Book Reviews

The Silence Between Us (YA)

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by Alison Gervais

Maya, a Deaf high school senior, has just moved to a new state and a new school. She must navigate the challenges of being Deaf in a school full of hearing kids, while simultaneously dealing with moving, college applications, cute boys, and a brother with a serious health condition.

This was a really sweet high school romance. I enjoyed every minute, and I loved seeing a Deaf person as the main character. It enabled me to see being Deaf or Hard of Hearing from a different perspective and rethink my own preconceived notions and biases.

Mini Book Reviews

The Graveyard Book (MG)

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by Neil Gaiman

As a toddler, Nobody Owens climbs out of his crib and wanders out the front door and up the hill to the nearby cemetery, away from the house where the rest of his family is being murdered in their sleep. The ghostly citizens of the graveyard protect him from the killer who comes to finish the last of the family, and they raise Nobody as their own, teaching him and watching over him until he must finally confront the killer himself.

As horrific as that description sounds, this was actually a great book. The characters were really fun, and Nobody has a whole different kind of adventures than other kids who don’t grow up in a graveyard. Obviously the book deals with the Dead, death, graveyards, and even the undead, so if that’s not your thing, don’t bother reading it. But it’s also about family and identity and friendships and broadening horizons and courage and accepting adventure when it comes.

Mini Book Reviews

The Girl who Drank the Moon (MG)

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by Kelly Barnhill

A baby is taken from her screaming mother to be left in the woods for the (make believe) witch in the annual Day of Sacrifice. The (very real) witch rescues an abandoned baby and feeds her starlight on the way to finding her a new, loving home. Except that she accidentally feeds the baby moonlight and enmagics her, so she must raise the magical child herself with the help of a tiny dragon and a swamp monster.

This book was lighthearted and fun, but it still dealt with big themes like love and family, hope and sorrow, and even death.

Book Release

Firstborn

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When fifteen-year-old Zia’s cursed and exiled older sister reappears only to be captured by the fairies, Zia is determined to use her magic and join the rescue. But between visions, prophecies, infuriated dragons, and a sword that shouldn’t exist, Zia may be getting into more than she bargained for.

This is the second book in the Charmwood Chronicles trilogy. While it can be read without reading the previous book, Sabryn gives helpful background. Because this is the middle book in a trilogy, several things are left unresolved until the final book, Undone, coming September 13, 2022.

Firstborn is available on May 17, 2022, from Amazon and from your favorite bookseller or library!

Mini Book Reviews

The Westing Game (MG)

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by Ellen Raskin

Eccentric millionaire Sam Westing has no heir, or rather, he has sixteen of them. These heirs must participate in the game set out in the old man’s will if they want a chance to win the whole inheritance.

This is a fun and intriguing puzzle mystery with a kooky cast of characters, including a high school track star, an 11-year-old investing genius, a lawyer, a bomber, and a thief. I really enjoyed it, though there were times I had trouble keeping everyone straight. When I finished, I wanted to go right back to the beginning to see the clues I’d missed.

Mini Book Reviews

Daughter of the Forest (YA)

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by Juliet Marillier

Sorcha is the youngest daughter of an Irish warlord. Her world is turned upside down when her father’s second wife turns her six older brothers into swans and their only hope of survival rests with her.

This is a beautiful and haunting retelling of “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen. I loved this book just as much at this reading as I did when I read it in high school, but I would only recommend this book with a STRONG caution: for mature readers only. There’s some graphic description of sexual assault and the aftermath, plus slightly less graphic description of a war prisoner’s injuries from torture.

Mini Book Reviews

Island of the Blue Dolphins (MG)

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by Scott O’Dell

Karana’s people have always lived undisturbed on the Island of the Blue Dolphins—that is, until the Aleuts came to hunt otter and ended up killing half of the villagers. The rest of the villagers welcome the chance to leave the island a couple of years later when a ship comes to take them across the sea. But Karana’s younger brother doesn’t make it to the ship in time, and rather than leave him alone, she jumps ship to stay behind with him. She lives on the island for many years before another ship comes back for her, learning to hunt and make the things she needs and building friendships with the creatures on the island.

This is a well-written survival story with a strong, empowered, likable heroine. Survival stories have never been my favorite, but I found it more interesting knowing that it was based on a true story. It’s not a happy-go-lucky story—the poor girl loses everyone (and that’s not really a spoiler, since most of it happens within the first quarter of the book). Speaking of spoilers, if your copy has an introduction by Lois Lowry, I’d recommend reading the introduction AFTER reading the book—it’s really interesting, but it gives away a lot.

Mini Book Reviews

The Belles (YA)

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by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles were created to bring beauty to Orleans. But the people of Orleans have become too obsessed with beauty, and so has their power-mad princess. It’s up to one Belle to make a change…

This book was beautifully written with vivid characters and loads of action and intrigue. (It reminded me of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard if the world was run by beauty queens.) If you’re not into makeup and clothes, at least a little, it might be a bit much—I started skimming the descriptions of clothes and flowers and food by the time I got halfway through the book. I also wasn’t a fan of how everyone seemed to have a lover on the side, either gay or straight, and it was just an expected part of life, with no respect for marriage. But I think Clayton did an amazing job of painting a world where people will give anything to be beautiful and of exploring what the costs might be.

Mini Book Reviews

Amulet: The Stonekeeper (MG)

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by Kazu Kibuishi

After Emily’s father dies, her family moves to mysteriously missing great-grandfather’s house. When her mother is abducted by a monster in the basement, Emily and her brother must rescue her or risk losing another parent.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I really like the premise, characters, and art. But there were times when the dialogue felt forced, like there was information that needed to be given and it was squeezed in where it didn’t necessarily fit. I also found the ending unsatisfying—I know there’s a whole series that follows, but if you’re not immediately devouring the rest, this one feels unfinished. A caution about death: every death in the book happens right on the page, which may be a bit intense for younger readers.

Books I've Read

Books I’ve Read: 2021

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In 2021 I read a lot. But most of that was bingeing sweet romances and cozy mysteries, not MG and YA. I did read a handful of YA that I loved this year, though, and I’m glad to share them now. (If you want the full list, including the romances and cozies and the few nonfiction titles, my email subscribers get access to everything.) A few of the YA books include some adult situations, violence, or language that may not be suitable for younger readers, so I’ve marked them as PG13.

A lot of these books knocked my socks off, to be honest. I always love Patricia C. Wrede’s books (as you can see by how many of them I reread this year), and Naomi Novik has quickly become one of my new favorites. The Night Circus and Instructions for Dancing were both gorgeous and heartbreaking, and I’m already thinking of rereading Dear Hero. I hope you find some books to enjoy!

The Westing Game—Ellen Raskin

Daughter of the Forest—Juliet Marillier (reread, PG13)

Son of the Shadows—Juliet Marillier (reread, PG13)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon—Kelly Barnhill

Child of the Prophecy—Juliet Marillier (reread, PG13)

The Graveyard Book—Neil Gaiman

The Silence Between Us—Alison Gervais

Holes—Louis Sachar

The Good Hawk—Joseph Elliott

Sorcery and Cecelia—Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (reread)

A Deadly Education—Naomi Novik

Mairelon the Magician—Patricia C. Wrede

Magician’s Ward—Patricia C. Wrede

Beauty’s Cursed Sleep—Mary E. Twomey

Spindle’s End—Robin McKinley (reread)

Children of Blood and Bone—Tomi Adeyemi (BIPOC)

Dear Hero—Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat

Beauty—Robin McKinley (reread)

The Lady Jewel Diviner—Rosalie Oaks

The Moria Pearls—Rosalie Oaks

The Sapphire Library—Rosalie Oaks

The Crossover—Kwame Alexander (BIPOC)

The Rose Legacy—Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle—Jessica Day George

Merci Suarez Changes Gears—Meg Medina (BIPOC, Newbery)

The Night Circus—Erin Morganstern (PG13)

Instructions for Dancing—Nicola Yoon (BIPOC)

More than His Best Friend—Sally Henson

When You Reach Me—Rebecca Stead

A Thief in Time—Cidney Swanson

The Blue Castle—L.M. Montgomery

Pure—Catherine Mesick

Thirteenth Child—Patricia C. Wrede (reread)

Across the Great Barrier—Patricia C. Wrede (reread)

The Far West—Patricia C. Wrede (reread)

From the Desk of Zoe Washington—Janae Marks (BIPOC)

Anne of Green Gables—L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea—L.M. Montgomery

The Bear and the Nightingale—Katherine Arden

Rule #1: You Can’t Date the Coach’s Daughter—Anne-Marie Meyer

Ink and Bone—Rachel Caine

Off Limits: the Best Friend—Kat Bellemore

The Girl in the Tower—Katherine Arden

The Last Graduate—Naomi Novik (PG13)