Category Archives: Book Reviews

What The Boy Hears When The Girl Dreams

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What the Boy Hears When the Girl Dreams, by Graeme Friedman, is an absorbing account of twelve-year-old Finn Townsend’s imagination and hyperacusis. Through Finn’s eyes, the reader visualizes a somewhat stream-of-consciousness picture of this boy’s life. Friedman creatively depicts a vivid picture of the world as a preteen boy views it, imaginative, sporadic, and vibrant. Finn’s inquisitive imagination gives him the courage to investigate subjects he knows little to nothing about.

While thrown off by the lack of quotation marks, the dialogue is rich and carries the story well. Friedman’s prose effortlessly draws readers into this captivating story. I became interested in Finn’s point of view symptoms of his “Super-Hearing” and “Dizziness” attacks, as he called them, from a previous head injury from playing football. Finn downplays the symptoms of his hyperacusis, which he uses to his advantage, as his mother frets over them and insists he sees a doctor. 

Also intriguing is the bond formed between the Australian Finn, and Buseje, the African homestay student residing at his home. As the story progresses, Finn admires how Buseje tends to his sprained ankle, then protects him from overhearing a violent fight between his parents. With his super-hearing ability, young Finn takes notes of Buseje’s sleep talk ramblings, helping her to recall what she has forgotten. Together they piece her memory back together.

What the Boy Hears When the Girl Dreams is a riveting young adult story that takes readers through a vivid world as it is seen through a young boy’s imaginative eyes. This is an evocative novel with a creative plot and engrossing characters. 

Pages: 372

 

Blood In The Medicine Bowl

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Blood In The Medicine Bowl, by Steven Bryan Clegg, is a book that contains two pivotal stories, and both need to be told. The first is about the importance of awareness of poaching rhino horns for money, and the second is about the alertness of crime against humanity with the kidnapping of children. The story’s main setting is South Africa. A rhino having been poached is unlawfully sent to Vietnam to be prepared for illegal sale. The horn is boiling in a pot at Mr. Bui’s home when his 10-year-old son accidentally cuts his finger, the blood dripping into the boiling pot. Meanwhile, Detective Elizabeth Beyes works feverishly to track down and capture a kidnapper of children. Her search leads her to a magician who also steals rabbits called Magic Pete.

Author Steven Bryan Clegg begins his riveting story with a barrage of scenes and characters to setup his novels theme’s of the crime and consequences of poaching and kidnapping. His setting begins in South Africa, shoots to Vietnam, then to China, and back to Africa where he delves into the second plot involving Detective Liz Beyes and her partner, Detective Zahn Lin. Each scene is captivating, the locations are vivid and seem exotic. At times I found the introduction of so many characters a little overwhelming, but the story does a great job keeping the storylines separate, although I felt that it was hard to tell which storyline took priority. By the end of the novel, the story had come full circle and ends leaving the readers feeling satisfied. The dialogue is paced well and I enjoyed the conversations between characters in the story, which showcases Clegg’s talent of character creation. I found many of the characters to be relatable.

Blood In The Medicine Bowl is an intriguing story that dramatically explores the consequences of poaching and kidnapping in some creative and stirring ways. The combination of dual storylines ensure readers are consistently engaged with the story.

Pages: 297

 

Daughter of Pompeii

Daughter of Pompeii by [Lorraine Blundell]

In Daughter of Pompeii, author Lorraine Blundell envisions what life might have been like in Ancient Rome for a little-known girl from Pompeii, called Poppy in this historical novel, and the notorious Emperor Nero. The story begins while Poppy is just a young girl and Claudius is still emperor. Through a tragic turn of events, Poppy loses her only family and embarks on a life-long quest for vengeance. Her journey to becoming Empress of Rome eventually felt less about revenge and more about straight ambition, to change her own destiny and rise far above her station.

Poppy’s character is written sympathetically while still attempting to convey the horrific things she did. Poppy is relatable and easy to root for, but there are times I felt she was unjustified in her actions, but this spike of emotion the story created in me is the mark of good writing. Her only lasting relationship throughout the book is with a friend she makes as a young girl who journeys through life with her, ever loyal and dependable. Farzana is an intriguing moral character, which made me wish I saw more from her perspective in the book. In addition to these two characters, there is a large collection of interesting characters who flit in and out of the narrative.

The narrative is told from an omniscient perspective, and the story often jumps from character to character, switching points of view or “getting inside their head”. I thought this was a little confusing, as it wasn’t always clear whose thoughts we were following. The story covers a lot of time, making this feel like a very quick read.

This novel was well written and the story was very entertaining. There’s everything one might want from a historical novel: the historically accurate references to real people and recorded facts from their lives, the political intrigue of the time, and a glimpse into ancient life for the differing classes. We get to view major historical events through the eyes of our protagonist, bringing to life tragic events like the murder of Claudius, the burning of Rome, and Nero’s descent into madness.

If you’re a history buff, particularly interested in Ancient Rome, this book is for you. Author Lorraine Blundell provides a riveting fictional story within an already fascinating time in history. All of this is elevated by Lorraine Blundell’s captivating storytelling ability.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B07S1S75JV

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The Juju Girl

The Juju Girl: A Tale of Mystery, Murder, Magic, and Love in the Crescent City by [Nikki Marsh]

The Juju Girl by Nikki Marsh explores the unique magic of Creole identity and history. We are introduced to Gabrielle, a girl reemerging into a new life where everything once familiar to her is now entirely brand new. Her life is engrossed in turmoil as she travels to New Orleans at the request of her family. The fascinating magic of juju ensnares Gabbie and shows her an entire world that she had no previous knowledge of.

Gabbie discovers that she has a gift—among a family that can see signs of death and shadowy figures, Gabbie learns about her connection to the spirit world. This connection is tied to the magic of good juju, and the difference between it and conjure. While conjure is a natural ability that heals the body, juju is a spiritual practice that contains supernatural power. Gabbie’s Maman tells her all about the gift that has been passed from mother to daughter throughout their family for generations, and how Gabbie must make the decision to perform good juju and conjure.

I enjoyed that The Juju Girl introduced its readers to a cultural magic that isn’t often discussed in literature. As Gabbie grows and learns about the world through tutoring and the relationships she builds, we get to learn more about her intricate familial ties and the magic they pass between them. I loved seeing the spirit magic performed throughout the story, and that we experienced a metaphor for grief through the representation of juju.

The lessons that were taught throughout the book with discussions around curses and bad juju were so important. I loved watching Gabbie work through these issues, and I would have liked to see even more of these dark instances of magic explored. I felt that the ball scene took up much more of the book than I had expected it to and wished that we could have seen even more practiced magic among Gabbie and her family members.

The familial connections, lessons, and bonds that were continued along the course of the story were touching and felt relevant and authentic due to sharp writing. I loved seeing Gabbie work through her grief and suffering and turn it into something beautiful with her spiritual magic while continuing to honor her Creole heritage. The Juju Girl by Nikki Marshis the perfect book for someone trying to make peace with their pain, or anyone looking for a compelling young adult fantasy novel that has a well developed lore.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B08Y62KJ2D

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The Heath Cousins and the Ruby Lantern

Heath Cousins and The Ruby Lantern by Eileen Hobbs is an enchanting adventure tale where we are taken into a whimsical land with the main character Addie. B, a bright and imaginative child who with the help of a moonstone ring can translate other languages. Addie and her mother head out to do some shopping, during their adventure Addie spots an opening into another world, which she had visited before. In this world there is a garden of choice which leads them to Ambra, the main part of this other world. Addie enlists the help of her cousins, then they head off on a whirlwind adventure where they solve problems and discover clues that cause them to be riddled with curiosities and ensure many more visits to the garden of choice in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this imaginative adventure novel by author Eileen Hobbs. This is a classic adventure story that took me back to my own childhood and filled with me the same sense of wonder that I had back then. Overall, I found the characters to be charming and a joy to follow through this adventure. I liked the author’s voice and enchanting atmosphere that she effortlessly creates in this novel.

While I heartily enjoyed the story, I felt that the child sometimes felt older than their age, hopping on planes and running off on their own. But how else would you find yourself into and out of these compelling adventures.

Heath Cousins and The Ruby Lantern is a book I can see myself reading as a child, curled up at night with a night light, reading until I fall asleep. This is a well crafted and fun sword and sorcery story that will appeal to anyone looking for a timeless children’s fantasy story.

Pages: 166 | ASIN: B08XTST3MZ

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Game of Bones

Game of Bones: British Detectives (Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mystery Series Book 18) by [Geraldine Evans, Nicole covershotcreations, David Burton]

At first glance, the murder of University Administrator Rupert Hunter-York seems too good to be true. All roads lead to one Professor Babbington, an alcoholic professor with a less-than-savory personality (to say the least). With the mountain of evidence falling on Detective Joe Rafferty’s lap, he thinks that this is an open-and-shut case. It could have been if it weren’t for his right-hand man ​​Sergeant Llewellyn. Now it turns out that the case is far more complicated than what anyone could ever imagine. 

Geraldine Evans’ 18th installment to the Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mysteries begins with a warning for its heavy use of British slang, and even offers a handy list in the back to familiarize readers. I’m happy to report that this is a smooth and readable novel, even for non-British readers. Anyone with a grasp of context clues can easily understand the narration and the inner workings of Rafferty’s mind.  

It’s him that we follow throughout the novel, and what a surprisingly cozy place it is for a grizzled detective. While he fusses over the case almost non-stop, we also see him worrying about his baby sister and yearning to get home to his beloved daughter Neeve. He is a flawed man, as we see how his biases can sometimes get in the way of the investigation. But that’s precisely what makes him lovable in the first place. He’s relatable and human and a well-rounded character. 

Speaking of well-rounded characters, Game of Bones is full of them. We’ve talked about Rafferty, but we can’t forget supporting characters like his partner Llewelyn and the babbling suspect Professor Babbington. Each character has such unique personalities reflected in their mannerisms and dialogue that they become imprinted in your mind despite how brief their roles may be. This applies even to minor characters like the icy Ms. Harriet Temple and the tight-lipped Professor Curtis. 

It’s the characters that truly shine in the novel, but I felt that the pacing could have been improved. While it starts in medias res and grabs the reader’s attention from the first sentence, the excitement level fluctuates. Fortunately, the characters that populate the Game of Bones makes it a worthy addition not just to the Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mysteries but to the canon of mystery fiction as a whole. This is a gripping mystery novel that I highly recommend.

Pages: 286 | ASIN: B079K6CNDM

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If the Mountain Were Smooth

If the Mountain Were Smooth by [Angelina Marie]

If The Mountain Were Smooth by Angelina Marie is an emotionally charged story following the internal struggle of Gabriella. After suffering a traumatic childhood centered around drugs and sexual abuse, she must combat her inner demons in her daily life. Busying herself with her up and coming career as a model while attending college, she distracts herself from the constant struggle of her mental health issues.

Full of love and hope, this story is a wonderful exploration of personal growth. Using the aspects of improving internally and reflecting on improvements in her every day life, the reader is able to experience Gabriella’s daily journey with her. Using shorter sentences in the beginning to represent the brief, disjointed thoughts of Gabriella, is a magnificent technique used to represent the character’s mental state. These sentences gradually become longer as the story progresses, and the character grows. Similarly, towards the start of the story, she reverts back to a childlike way of narrating, using terms such as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ when she is having a flashback. Strongly suggesting where the issues she is now in a battle with began.

There is a strong sense of character throughout, with an insight into all of their different mannerisms and back stories being integrated well into the text. This is further enhanced by the use of dialect to distinguish between each person, for example the way Jason speaks with phrases like ‘crib and ‘you know what I’m saying’ contrasts with Gabriella.

This is an emotional thriller that utilizes amazing metaphors to illuminate important issues; like mental health problems which are represented as a monster or demon. This contrast against the shy, Catholic main character really encourages you to feel sympathy for her. This is a novel that creates authentic characters that readers can empathize with, if not relate to.

If The Mountain Were Smooth is a riveting contemporary drama following a troubled young woman who finds herself in the middle of a far reaching scandal where she’s forced to make hard decisions that affect the lives of people around her. This is a sharp and observant novel that fans of emotive women’s fiction will surely enjoy.

Pages: 159 | ASIN: B08L2553SY

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The Governor’s Daughter

The Governor's Daughter by [Maria Ereni Dampman]

The Governor’s Daughter follows nineteen year-old Emma Bellamy who is guarded and suspicious of others in a brutal dystopian future where she’s treated like little more than property. Emma uncovers the dark truth about her strict society and abandons her privileged life to set our on a perilous journey beyond the walls of the Premier City to seek the truth. But what she finds will challenge her in ways she hadn’t even imagined.

Emma’s character develops dramatically throughout the story as she transforms from a naïve young lady to a woman with huge inner strength. Her dialogue, inner monologues and actions all portray her as a strong young woman who is battling against the system she finds herself in. As she grows and matures, she finds herself to be growing stronger both physically and emotionally. Ryan, her fiancé, is an entitled, and cruel young man, determined to use his power in this corrupt society to its full extent.

Declan, a young physiotherapist, is handsome, clever and darkly sullen. Trapped within the rigid rules of society he is a ‘marked man’ and bears this mark both physically and psychologically. Supporting these main characters are a small group of minor but still alluring characters, that weave in and out of the story. These are characters that both support the government and characters that are secretly fighting the government. All of these characters help to make the story authentic and believable.

While the novel explores some heavy topics the novel has a clear and easy structure to follow. Most of the chapters are all entitled with the name of whoever is narrating that chapter. The narrations give a clear picture of the rules of this disturbing dystopian world, from the points of views of both the oppressed and the oppressor. There are many twists and turns along the way which holds the reader’s interest and keeps them guessing until the end of the story.

The story is set in the future; in 2045 America. The setting is vastly different to the U.S. of today, with physical walls dividing citizens and keeping them apart. There is some description of the architecture, from the palatial mansion like homes Emma resides in, to the squalor others live in. This dichotomy between the haves and have-nots and the physical and moral differences between the two reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but made for a young adult audience.

The Governor’s Daughter is a riveting dystopian novel with subtle by deep commentary on society. Readers will enjoy following the vivacious protagonist and exploring the vivid dystopian future author Maria Ereni Dampman has created.

Pages: 488 | ASIN: B097CKSNYK

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