Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

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Ada had told Corinne that together they could do it, because that’s what she was supposed to say. That was always the way of things between them. Ada made the promises, and Corinne found a way to keep them. But this time Ada wasn’t so sure. 

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that takes place in 1919 Boston. Told in duel perspective by Ada, who is Portuguese and Swahili, and Corinne, who is a privileged heiress. They are both hemopaths, people of afflicted blood that can create illusions through art. The problem with that is that is that is looked down upon and practically illegal. Ada and Corinne work at this pub called Iron Cast which is a safe haven for people like them. But the pub is having problems because of hemopaths practically being illegal, and with prohibition being of the verge of happening.  

With that short summary, I feel like I’m doing this book a disservice. It’s so much more than that, but it’s so complicated to explain. There is friendship, romance, betrayal, and mystery. It’s so much yet I can only give a lackluster summary about the pub so I don’t give away spoilers.

The main thing I can see people disliking about this book, that even I disliked a little bit as I was reading it, was the pacing of the novel. It starts off with a bang. Ada had just been caught during a con gone wrong, and Corrine has to bail her out. It’s fast paced and exciting until they make it to safety. Then the story slows to almost a complete stop. The book builds up the world, the magic, the characters, and all their relationships. And then slowly, slowly the action starts happening again until the ending where it’s nonstop fast paced action again. During the slow bits, I got a little annoyed, but after the book ended I came to appreciate them. It really helped build up the world and characters so everything seemed very fleshed out and real.

Now, I must warn you the rest of this review will be a complete gush fest because I completely fell in love with this book. Let me start with the representation. Like I mentioned before, Ada is biracial. She’s in a relationship with a black man who came from the south.  They aren’t only stated to be black, but they talk about it. It has consequences from the other white people in the novel. It’s not glossed over. They talk about how bad the south is. Corinne is white, but her privilege is mentioned. Not just because she is rich, but because she is white. It’s acknowledged that she can not understand all of Ada’s struggles despite the fact they are both hemopaths. There is also a male/male romance. It’s with two side characters, and mostly hinted at, but it is definitely there and acknowledged. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but usually it is completely white and straight so the diversity in this novel really caught me by surprise.

I’ve seen mention in other reviews that the romance in this book isn’t much. I don’t understand that because I thought there was plenty. That might be because I am not usually a big romance reader, but I thought the romance from this book was balanced perfectly with all the other elements of the book. Ada and Corinne each have a romantic storyline that doesn’t takeaway from their friendship or the action of the story at all. Ada’s relationship in particular is nice because they began their romance before the book started. So it’s a nice change from the usual romance seen in books. They have different struggles, mainly on whether to fully commit to each other. Corinne’s romance is more of the usual type, but I surprised myself by really liking it.

Don’t get me wrong though. The romance is not the focus of this book at all. The main thing is friendship, mainly between Ada and Corinne. They love each other so much. It was refreshing. They are both strong, complex women, and their banter was always fun to read.

It should come to no surprise that I gave this book five stars. I was so disappointed to learn it was a standalone when I finished it. It’s even more disappointing to know this was Soria’s only book. I think this book doesn’t get as much love as it deserves, and everybody should go out and give it a chance. 

 

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Serpentine by Cindy Pon

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There was no use fighting fate, fighting the lot you were given in life. But she refused to be ignorant and helpless, halfling demon or no.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Chinese mythology. It follows sixteen year old Skybright who is the handmaid of Zhen Ni, the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. Skybright deals with becoming a serpent half demon, changing relationships, her mysterious past, and the breach of Hell.

There is a female/female relationship in this story. Not the main pairing, but it’s given significant page time. I feel I must put a warning that if you want a fluffy happy romance, it isn’t in this book. Homosexuality isn’t accepted, and when the romance is found out it is met rather violently. 

While this book has really long chapters which I usually hate in books, the pace of the novel is so fast that I honestly didn’t notice much. The writing was easy to read, and the world was rich and lovely to sink into. I loved the characters and the complex relationships they had with each other. Skybright was a lovely main character to read. Practical, loyal, and smart. I think she’s a new favorite character.

I truly loved my time with this book which was a pleasant surprise. I wanted to check out this novel out for a while now ever since I saw Cindy Pon speak at a festival a couple years ago. However I hesitated because while I love fantasy and magic, a half serpent demon seemed a little out there for me. So I put it off for a long time, but it really wasn’t hard to grasp at all.

I gave this novel five stars. It’s the first in a duology, and I will definitely be picking up the last one.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

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“Why not just have the kids play one of your other games?” a parent suggested. “Why all this fuss?”

“Because, my dear friends, these twelve children have lived their entire lives without a public library. As a library, they have no idea how extraordinarily useful, helpful, and funful- a word I recently invented- a library can be. This is their chance to discover that a library is more than a collection of dusty old books. It is a place to learn, explore, and grow!

Kyle Keeley loves board games. Mostly the ones from Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory. So when there is a contest that is happening in Mr. Lemoncello’s name to win a chance to spend the night at the new library, he does everything in his power to be one of the winners. Even if he thinks the library is going to be lame.

The sleepover at the library turns into a lot of mini games. The biggest of all revealed the morning after. The doors are all locked, and they have to find the secret alternative exit. There’s clues and riddles hidden around the library, and the first one to find the exit wins a lot of prizes.

I found this book to have a slow start. My mom had read this book in two days and sang its praises so I expected to fly through it. But in the first 100 or so pages, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book at all. But after those 100 pages is when the actual game started, and I really enjoyed that part of the book.

This book needs a lot of suspension of disbelief to get through it. All of the add ons to the library, holographic librarians, basically a hover board ladder, a tiger, are a lot to take in. But if you can push past that and take the story for what it is, it is very entertaining. 

The riddles and clues in this book are a lot of fun. It’s nice to see Kyle and his friends solve them while learning to love the library. I really loved how at the end Kyle has a list of books he wants to check out when in the beginning of the book he doesn’t think that highly of them.

There isn’t much diversity in this. Mr. Lemoncello himself is a first generation immigrant from Italy, and Kyle’s best friend, Akimi Hughes, is half Asian, half white. If there are others it isn’t explicitly stated. 

I ended up giving this Middle Grade mystery four stars. It’s a fun, light read. There are two other books in this series that I think I will definitely pick up eventually.

 

Saxby Smart, Private Detective #3 by Simon Cheshire and R.W. Alley

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“By the way, speaking if things that aren’t there, when you get back you’ll find that the handprint has vanished.”

“It’s gone? How?”

“Er, okay, see you tomorrow!”

“It’s the ghost! The ghost! It’s real! Oh my–

“Umm, byeeeee!”

This is the third book in the Saxby Smart series so it’s much of the same as the first two. Saxby an elementary school detective who makes case files of his cases, and asks the readers questions along the way. In each book there are three separate cases.

The first story in this book is called The Pirate’s Blood. This one involves a mysterious handprint that may or may not involve the ghost of a pirate. This one is a little different in that Saxby isn’t right all the time. I really enjoyed that because I feel it makes it more realistic. The mystery itself was fun, and I guess it right which is cool.

The second case is called The Mystery of Mary Rogers. It’s a mystery that involves arson and being two places at once. This one has a more serious vibe to it. Saxby describes it as the most cruelest case he has worked on. While my first guess, before any clues were revealed, was the right one, I still enjoyed reading it.

The third and final case is called The Lunchbox of Notre Dame. This one takes place on a school trip to Paris. It begins with a stolen memory card. This one was slower in the start, and, for me, was harder to follow along. As a result, I didn’t have as much fun while reading it, but the ending was really satisfying.  

Overall, I enjoyed reading this a lot. It’s a five star book. It might be my favorite so far of the series that I have read. I’m not sure if I will continue the rest of this series. While I have fun with these, I feel like at book four, five, six, it’ll get boring and repetitive, and I don’t want my opinion of these books to go down.

Saxby Smart in the Treasure of Dead Man’s Lane and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire and R.W. Alley

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“I’ve got some homemade spy gear with me.”

“Why do you have to keep bringing spies into everything?”

“Spies are cool.”

“So are fridges, so what? We are not spies. This is detective work.”

This is the second book in the Saxby Smart, Private Detective series. Like the first one, it follows Saxby Smart as he solves three cases.

The first case in this one is called The Tomb of Death. It’s about a missing comic. This was my least favorite for reasons that isn’t the book’s fault. Simply put, the person who had the book before me wrote in the early pages who did the crime. So it was hard to be into the mystery when I already knew what happened. 

The second case is called The Treasure of Dead Man’s Lane. It’s about finding a treasure in an old house. I thought this was a fun mystery. It’s different from the others, but I had a hard time with it. In it, it has an old letter where they find clues. It’s in a different font and everything. I had a really hard time reading it, so a lot of time I had no idea what Saxby was talking about. I couldn’t guess any of the answers so that takes some of the fun out of it.

The Fangs of the Dragon is the third and final case of this book. It’s a weird case that involves robbery’s that are not really robbery’s. This was my favorite case of this book. It was a little too lucky guesswork on Saxby’s part, but I really liked how the mystery unraveled. 

All in all I think this still a five star book. It’s such a fast and addicting read that I can’t wait to jump into the third one.

The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire and R.W. Alley

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My name is Saxby Smart, and I’m a private detective. I go to St. Egbert’s School, my office is in the toolshed, and these are my case files. Unlike some detectives, I don’t have a sidekick, so that part I’m leaving up to you-pay attention, I’ll ask questions.

Saxby Smart is the best detective in his elementary school. He has his own office set up in his shed where he has his thinking chair and his desk. He makes case files for each of the mysteries he solves. Three of which are in this book. 

The first one is call The Curse of the Ancient Mask. This was my favorite case out of this book. A classmate’s father thinks the mask he picked up in Japan is curse, and Saxby helps them out. I like the whole storyline of this one.

The second case is called The Mark of the Purple Homework. Student’s essays are getting destroyed, including Saxbys. I liked the mystery of this one, and how Saxby’s questions to the readers were set up. It’s different than the others, and it’s a lot of fun.

The third case is called The Clasp of Doom, and it’s my least favorite. While I still enjoyed myself, it was mainly because I like the writing style. The mystery was a little boring to me.

This is a children’s book aimed at grades 3-6 I would say. But I still had a blast reading it. It’s slightly unique I would say because the book invites the reader to participate. Saxby regularly pauses his story to ask the reader if they have figured out what he did. He also lists all the facts he has gained periodically through the stories. 

The stories themselves are fun, but not too complicated. That doesn’t mean they are that easy to figure out. While I did figure out two of the mysteries myself, and plenty of the clues, there was one case I couldn’t and other clues I had no idea what he was going on about. It was all completely logical though, and very easily to follow along.

I was surprised by the summary of this book on goodreads. It mentions this series was created to get boys interested in reading. I don’t understand the distinction. While reading, I was slightly impressed how Saxby’s best friend Izzy was super girly and super scientific and smart and helped so much with Saxboy’s case. And it was just a fact. There was no she wasn’t like other girls or anything like that. It was simply her room was pink and glittery and she had all the research Saxby needed, and that was that. I think this book could get a lot of kids reading, not simply boys since it’s a boy narrator. I know this is a minor thing, but it’s something I felt like pointing out.

This is a series of ten books. I currently have the first three checked out, and I look forward to reading the other two soon. It’s a fast, easy, fun read. I also really think that kids would enjoy this, and parents and guardians will love how this book encourages them to think.

Favorite Childhood Reads

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Isis:

I never read much as a child. I do remember reading Clifford obsessively and these Maisy books because they had little pop ups. They were my favorites as a kid.

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Nicole:

I read a lot more than Isis. Not like now, but I’ve read a lot of different books. I remember rereading a lot of the same book over and over again. Unlike now when I rarely ever reread books.

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I’m pretty sure that I read all the Dr. Seuss books, and a lot of The Berenstain Bears seriesI would finish one book in one sitting and start on the next one right away.

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I was obsessed with Winnie-the-Pooh when I was little. I vaguely remember the book, but I watched the movies over and over again. My room for years only had Winnie-the-Pooh decorations.

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I had a lot of these Little Golden Books. I read a lot of them but Aladdin and 101 Dalmatians were a couple of my favorites. I would read these and then watch the movie and then read these again.

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My kindergarten teacher used to read to us everyday. I don’t remember any of the books she read except with the Junie B. Jones series. I loved these. I loved Junie, and all of her mishaps. I found this through my teacher, but I loved it so much that I would go to the library to get the ones she didn’t read.

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I remember always picking this series up though I don’t remember what actually happened during it. I do want to find these in thrift shops or the library and reread them when I can. 

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I’m so glad I decided to do this post, because I’ve been trying to figure out the name of this book for ages and I could never find it. I tried one more time so I could add it to this list, and I finally figured it out. In elementary school sometimes if you got there early they would take you to the library and the librarian would read to everyone until it was time to go to class. This was one of the books she read though I never got the full story since sometimes I would miss school or come later so then I missed out on parts of the story. But I always wondered what happened at the end. Now that I remember the title, I’m going to look it up and read it again.

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We had to read these books in fifth grade, but I never minded the work involved because I loved these stories. With Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry especially. I went to the library and got all the other books in the series. When I finished them all, I was so upset that it ended that I wrote my own fanfiction of it. Not that I knew the term then.

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These aren’t so much children’s books, but I felt the need to add them here. I didn’t read as much as I got to middle school, but these books were my everything. I would get in trouble all the time for reading the Maximum Ride series in class. I never liked getting in trouble, but I just had to know what was going to happen. Though by the time I think the third or the fourth book came out I was over them. I think I read all the books that Lois Duncan had out. I would read them in one or two sittings because I was so captivated, and then I would immediately go to the library to get another one. This was also the time I picked up Harry Potter, and became obsessed with that. Then, for years Harry Potter books or fanfiction was the only thing I read.