Review: The Jumbies

“She pitied people. She went inside the ships and saw that some of the people were chained below. She helped them escape and swim to the island.” page 116

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The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste.
Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade fantasy, 234 pages.
Lexile:  680L  .
AR Level:  4.6 (worth 6.0 points)  .

Corinne La Mer and her father have always lived near the forest, and she’s never questioned that… but she’s never entered it either.  Until one day two boys tie her mother’s necklace to a forest creature and she can’t help but follow.

Jumbies resized

When this was first published, I had just started reading diversely.  Most diverse books still flew right past me, but this book was published by Scholastic!  And it’s a retold tale – one of my favorite genres!  How did I ever miss this one?  It might have been marked as horror.  Recently I saw the second book in the series in this blog post by Shenwei.  Seeing the cover of the second book made me realize that it was fantasy, not horror.

In an odd twist of fate, later that day I stopped by a library book sale, and snagged a used copy of the Jumbies for 25 cents just before closing!

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Review: Highly Unusual Magic

“In the United States, people thought of Leila as Pakistani. But here, people thought of her as American.” page 45

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou.
Harper, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2015.
Modern fantasy, 297 pages.
Highly Commended by the South Asia Book Award.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .

Two girls, each living with extended family for the summer, find a book entitled The Exquisite Corpse, surprisingly blank until one writes in it.  Then the book itself starts filling in a story, a story which has interesting ties to the real world, a story which both girls are anxious to read the ending to.

Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

I generally dislike books with two narrators.  Often one is stronger than the other, and the author struggles to give them equal screen time while keeping our interest in the story.  However, when this method works, it can be very strong.

Highly Unusual Magic starts with Kai, who is staying with a quirky older woman, a distant cousin whom she calls Aunt.  Leila is visiting relatives in Pakistan alone and realizing that she doesn’t speak the language, and knows little about Islam although her family is nominally Muslim.

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Graphic Novel Review: Malice in Ovenland

An original, #ownvoices can’t-miss middle grade graphic novel.

Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.
Rosarium Publishing, Greenbelt, MD, 2016.
MG speculative fiction, 126 pages including extras.
Not yet leveled.

Lily Brown is not going to camp this summer, or on a fancy vacation.  She’ll be staying home, eating her mom’s new ‘healthy’ organic cooking, caring for their plot in a community garden, and doing extra studying.  Her mom goes away for a weekend and Lily’s almost done with her chore list when she loses an earring inside the oven and discovers a magical world where they aren’t too happy about the sudden lack of grease in her family’s kitchen.

Malice in Ovenland cover resized
Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.

There’s no way that my summary has done this book justice.  There are so many things going on here, and everything is wonderful. This is a book that kids love to read, and that parents can feel good about their kids reading.

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Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

“What kept Minli from becoming dull and brown like the rest of the village were the stories her father told her every night at dinner.” page 3

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
Little Brown and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009.  My edition 2011.
Middle grade fantasy, 279 pages plus Author’s Note and Reader’s Guide.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 7.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

Minli’s life in the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain is mostly drudgery, made easier by her father’s stories and more difficult to bear with her mother’s complaining.  So she decides to listen to both and sets out on a quest for the Old Man of the Moon – a quest that will take her to unexpected places.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Although I didn’t know much about this one, I picked up a used copy because I’m familiar with some of Grace Lin’s picture books and recalled some reviews recommending it.  I was absolutely blown away and need to read the rest of this series!  I think the kids will like it too if they ever get around to reading it (we are so behind on reading).

This fantasy novel incorporates elements of Chinese culture and mythology but blends them into a new story.  It utilizes stories-within-a-story plot devices very successfully.

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Review: The Refugees

“It was a trivial secret, but one I would remember as vividly as my feeling that while some people are haunted by the dead, others are haunted by the living.” page 71

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, New York, 2017.
Adult short story collection, 207 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This collection of eight short stories is tied together not so much by the characters as by a common theme – they all deal with Vietnamese immigrants, albeit in very different and sometimes surprising ways.

The Refugees cover resized

I first heard of this book when reading an interview with the author prior to the release.  Instantly knew I wanted to read it and put in a library request.  Received it at the end of April and was about to send it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it, but then Shenwei posted about the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge … so I read one story at a time during lunch breaks.  Because of the tight time frame for this challenge and needing to return the book, I only read it once.

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Review: Fledgling

“I found that I almost envied his pain. He hurt because he remembered.” page 74

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2005, my edition 2007.
Modern vampire fantasy, 310 pages.
Lexile:  730L .
AR Level:  Not leveled.
NOTE: This book is recommended for adults only.

Shori wakes up in the woods with a ravenous hunger and a taste for blood.  She doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or even what she is, but after she bites Wright, he’s willing to help her find out.  The only clues they have to start with are a burnt property and Shori’s own instincts and half-remembering.

Fledgling
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

I came across this novel because Butler was recommended to me as a major speculative fiction author of color.  Science fiction and fantasy are two of my favorites, although I’ll read any genre but horror.  It was continually bothering me that I hadn’t read any speculative fiction by PoCs, so I wanted to try one of her books.

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Review: A Wizard Alone

“Everybody laughs. Especially the ones who don’t do it out loud; they do it the loudest.” p. 186

A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane.
Magic Carpet Books, Harcourt, my edition 2003, first published in 2002.
Middle grade fantasy, 320 pages + excerpt.
Lexile:  820L
AR Level:  5.8 (worth 13.0 points)
NOTE: This is the 6th book in the Young Wizards series.

“Becoming a wizard isn’t easy.  In fact, it can kill you.
All first-time wizards must go through an initiation in magic called an Ordeal.  Most last only a few days.  So why has Darryl McAllister been on Ordeal for three months?
Or has he?  Darryl hadn’t actually gone anywhere.  His body is still here; it’s his mind that seems to have departed.  And that’s where Kit and Nita come in.  Only together can they unravel the mysteries around Darryl – who he is, what he is, and why the  source of all death in the universe, the Lone Power, is desperately trying to destroy him.” -back cover blurb

Even that is a little spoilery, but better than the synopsis you will find on most popular websites (including the two linked above), which give major spoilers.  Unfortunately, this review will also be somewhat spoilery since this is the sixth book in a series.  Discussing this book will give away some plot elements from the first five books.

I last read these these books many years ago and had forgotten that one of the two main characters is Latino.  The other might be Latina (her given name is Juanita, her father is Irish-American but I don’t think her mother’s background is specified).  When younger, I only cared about female characters.  Although the two have very equal parts, I inaccurately recalled Kit Rodriguez as a sidekick to Nita Callahan and her younger sister Dairine.

a-wizard-alone
A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane.

Most of this review will be have spoilers for either the book or the series, but be sure to scroll down to the non-spoiler end…

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