Category Archives: Book Reviews

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.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is a young adult, fantasy graphic novel. It follows Nimona, a shapeshifter, and Lord Ballister Blackheart, a hero turned villain,  as they team up to take down the corrupt Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and their “front man” Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin who Blackheart has a lot of past with. The art style is bright and colorful, and characters are well developed and  funny. Here’s an example of the art and tone here:

I was very surprised when I read this. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Blackheart, while still a villain, never wanted to kill anyone. In a lot of ways this felt like more his story than Nimona’s even with her name being the title. But I loved their friendship. It was my favorite part of the comic. I also loved how scientific Blackheart was, and his motivations for being against the Institution. 

Blackheart doesn’t have an arm, and he was made that way by Goldenloin, his former lover at the hero academy. Though in the comic it is only heavily applied that they were lovers. I didn’t like that much though I have found out the author regrets not making it explicit. Their relationship was complex, and really added another layer to the story that it needed.

The ending surprised me a lot. I did not expect it at all, but after thinking about it for a couple hours, I think I like it. It’s not the typical happy ending, but it fits these characters and their story perfectly. 

I rate this comic five stars, and would recommend it to others. I enjoyed myself the whole time reading, and was disappointed and surprised when it ended.

Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt) by Heidi Cullinan – Book Review

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“The problem is, a lot happens when people don’t regard you as a real person. They think they can ignore you, and worse, they think they can use you.”

When I read Carry the Ocean two years ago, I loved it from the bottom of my heart. The book and its characters lingered with me for a long time. It felt incredible seeing someone with anxiety facing daily challenges and coming out stronger. Every time I dealt with anxiety in my own life, I remembered Jeremey, and I felt comforted, knowing I was not alone. This is the kind of impact books can have on people. For that reason, and many others, I adore this series.

Shelter the Sea is the sequel following Emmet and Jeremey from the first book. It follows the events right after the ending, and it explores a more political struggle overall. Emmet has a great job and Jeremey is still David’s aide, and the two of them are still in a very loving, healthy relationship. But problems arise when the building they live in, The Roosevelt, faces financial difficulties. This is the story about how Emmet, Jeremey, David, and now Darren–their lovely new friend–work together to help the Roosevelt, and fight to stop a bill that would only harm people with special needs and mental health problems.

Getting back into this world after two years was a breeze. I instantly remembered every character and their unique personalities, along with most of the major events from the first book. This is unusual for me because I usually forget what I read, even if I love it more than anything. Reliving Emmet and Jeremey’s love was the sweetest thing ever. Even though I had already loved them before, I grew to love them even more in this book. Emmet became the face of their public fight, and he was a hero to many other people with autism. Regardless of the level of difficulties he faced, Emmet shone through until the very end. I was so proud of him. And of course, Jeremey was not left behind. His depression got really bad, and it was a fight that seemed impossible, until it wasn’t. I was relieved to know he was getting better.

There’s a lot of diversity in this book, which I really appreciated. I love the issues Cullinan discussed so bluntly, things that shouldn’t just be brushed over. The political issues resonated with me the most, especially because in our current political climate, people with mental health issues and disabilities rank lower than most people. The message spread in this book is one of inclusivity and hope for equality.

“To be honest the fact that we had to lip sync and dance and I had to keep giving speeches and put Darren’s and my autism and David’s quadriplegia and Jeremey’s social anxiety on display to get people’s attention made me realize how much people had been ignoring us all this time.”

The addition of Darren to the group made me so happy. I loved that Darren was given a voice even though he struggled with verbal speech. Rather than simply pushing him aside, he was given the spotlight a few times, and his intelligence was put to good use. I’m looking forward to rest of the books in the series, which will follow David and Darren closely. I really want a happy ending for all of my Roosevelt Blues Brothers. They’re some of my favorite characters of all time.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier is a middle grade graphic novel that follows two sisters, Catrina and Maya, as they move to a new town. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and her parents think if they move close to the ocean it will help here. The town they move to is obsessed with ghosts, and Maya becomes determined to meet one so she will know what dying is like. They are half-Mexican, and they don’t really know much about Mexican traditions. Día De Los Muertos is a big deal in this new town, and most of the storyline involves them learning and then taking part of that celebration.

Only a little over two hundred pages, I read this easily in one sitting. The art was beautiful, detailed and richly colored. The sister’s relationship was a high point to me as well. I found the storyline logically told from a writing standpoint, but a bit boring. Overall, I thought it was nice read, but nothing special.

I do feel the need to note that after I finished reading I looked around for reviews commenting on the representation, and I found a couple concerning articles. I would recommend reading this article talking about how Día De Los Muertos is represented, and this article on the missions that the book mentions. I couldn’t find a specific article on the cystic fibrosis aspect, but I did find a couple comments talking about how the book shows the disease as a death sentence when it really isn’t.

So I wouldn’t recommend this book after all that. I think there are other books out there that get it right, and would be more entertaining as well. But if you do decide to read it anyway, at least read the articles I’ve linked and keep their comments in mind.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Book Review

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“Why is life so complicated? Why can’t we just kiss who we like when we like? Why are there so many rules?”

This book follows Gabi Hernandez on her senior year of high school. I found Gabi to be completely relatable coming from a Mexican family myself. Gabi is Mexican American, and she’s dealing with a stubborn aspect of Mexican culture as she discovers poetry, love, sex, and every aspect of her body.

I loved the characters so much, starting off with Gabi. She’s a quirky girl who writes beautiful poetry, thinks a lot about food and boys, and is always there for her friends. Her best friends, Sebastian and Cindy, each have their own problems to deal with. There’s a closer insight to the obnoxious Mexican machismo and homophobia that’s very present when Sebastian comes out to his parents. However, I appreciated that the story focused on Sebastian having a happy life in spite of this. Same thing with Cindy and her pregnancy. (These aren’t really spoilers since they happen right at the beginning).

What I enjoyed the most about this novel was all the strong themes Quintero integrated so organically into the story. Gabi spends a lot of time dealing with her feelings about boys, wanting to have sex despite her mom being totally against sex before marriage, binge eating even though her mom frowns upon it, and coming to terms with her own body in ways she hadn’t imagined before.

“Sometimes I don’t want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy. I mean, I would never dare ask it who the fairest of them all is because I know the response would make me weep. But sometimes I feel okay about how I look and even think, I’d tap that, why not?”

Along with these themes, Quintero tackles very difficult topics, such as rape, abortion, and drug addictions. I think this book was very self-aware and conscious of the message it was sending, which was one of acceptance. I loved the way it interwove so many different themes without it feeling overwhelming, and the message didn’t come through like an after school special in any way.

I didn’t like the diary entry format of this book. Although I loved Gabi’s intimate narration in her journal, I wanted more scenes. There was so much more I wanted to know about all the side characters, especially Sebastian and Cindy. Many times Gabi just mentioned brief interactions with them without elaborating and I just wanted more from them. I also didn’t feel any connection to the love interest, Martin. He sounded great, but I saw him as a two-dimensional character. That’s why I think the format didn’t work too well for this book.

Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m so glad I got to meet Gabi and her amazing love of food, poetry, and boys. She was such a strong character with a powerful voice. I hope many others get to meet her.

Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat – Book Review

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“To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.”

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this trilogy. Before I begin, I would like to state the trigger warnings pertaining to these books. There is rape, pedophilia, violence, abuse, and slavery. I was highly disturbed in the first book, and although these aspects did ease up as the series progressed, they were never completely gone.

This is all to say that I did, as a matter of fact, enjoy this series very much. Despite all of my initial issues with it, I couldn’t put down any of the books. I read through this trilogy in three or four days, and I didn’t regret the sleepless nights caused by it.

I debated for days whether I even wanted to review these books or not. When I finished the third book, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I wanted to get away from this world and return to reality so I could feel like myself again. However, it’s been two weeks since I finished this trilogy, and I still have not fully escaped it. This is to say, I feel like I haven’t had enough of it. I miss the complex world, the characters, the intrigue, the twists and turns. I miss everything about them, so I decided it was time to review them.

I’ll keep it short and simple. Captive Prince follows Damen, a prince of a kingdom called Akielos, betrayed by his half-brother and forced to become a slave for the enemy kingdom, Vere. Damen is gifted to Laurent, prince of Vere, where Damen’s identity is hidden due to his having killed Laurent’s older brother during battle. Laurent commands physical abuse to befall on Damen plenty of times, so they pretty much hate each other from the start.

In order not to spoil the rest of the series, I’ll just say that there is a lot of character development in the second and third books. Eventually, Damen stops being a shackled slave enduring abuse, and Laurent stops being an entirely vile human being. Granted, character development doesn’t erase the past, which is why I still haven’t made up my mind about these books.

Aside from Damen and Laurent, there are an incredible set of characters. Mostly devious, but also fascinating and absolutely clever. I was attached to mostly everyone since they all had amazing characterization. The plot was also engaging. I never thought that I would be so interested in the politics of a fantasy world, but I couldn’t get enough of it. There are many devious plans in the works regarding the kingdoms, and there’s a lot of tension between all the leaders. It comes to the point that Laurent and Damen are forced to work together in order to restore and regain power of both of their kingdoms.

The romance was slow burning, which is the best type, if you ask me. I was skeptical at first because I couldn’t see how the author could ever pull off any sort of romance between these two very difficult characters, but let me tell you, she pulled it off, and it was organic and believable as hell. So I’ll give her props for that. Pacat really had a handle of these characters, and she showed the worst and best sides of both of them. I adored Damen from the start, but Laurent took a while to grow on me. I fought it a lot, but I can now say that I love Laurent as well. I don’t actually think either Damen or Laurent are good people, but I love them for what they stand for and for who they want to be. I think that’s what matters.

I don’t think these books would appeal to everyone. It’s important to go into them expecting heavy elements and not-so-perfect characters. Before I read them, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, and it was still difficult to let myself like them for what they are. I’ve learned to cherish these books, and I plan on re-reading them in the future. They’ve definitely stuck with me.