Monday, August 31, 2020

DNF&Y [32]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! If you would like additional information, please click on the DNF&Y tab at the top. If you want to join, you can link up at the bottom!

The Switch by Beth O'Leary  
Narrated by: Daisy Edgar-Jones & Alison Steadman 

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A grandmother and granddaughter swap lives in The Switch, a charming, romantic novel by Beth O’Leary.

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She'd like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects.

But stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find true love? In Beth O'Leary's The Switch, it's never too late to change everything....or to find yourself.

DNF at 23%

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary was the first audiobook I downloaded through NetGalley's new program, and I had really high hopes for the story and its characters. Unfortunately, I was bored to tears by both Leena and Eileen, and I never wanted to continue listening to the book. Nothing happens for the first quarter of the book, and by then I'd lost interest in the story.

Additionally, the quality of the audio may have been a tad too good, since I could hear the wet smacks and deep breaths Alison Steadman frequently took while reading her part. She definitely sounded like someone's grandmother, and I could easily picture her as Eileen, but the sounds were too realistic in my ears (especially when I was wearing headphones), and I found myself cringing whenever her character spoke for long periods of time. However, while less mouth-noise would've been nice, the story's slow pace and uninteresting content were the bigger issues. (★★☆☆☆)

𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋

Knee Deep by Karol Ann Hoeffner

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Named after a hurricane, Camille is the rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter of a New Orleans bar-owner who grows up in the shadow of Bourbon Street, raised on stories of hauntings, lusty encounters and voodoo magic. And even though her family loses their home in a hurricane, she counts herself among the lucky until she discovers that her eighteen-year-old neighbor whom she secretly loves goes missing in the storm.

In Camille's own words: "This is the story of what happened to me on Fat Tuesday, how I ended up on the steps of St. Mary’s, the hem of my pirate’s petticoat soaked in somebody’s else’s blood. Although I know the story to be true, I don’t totally believe it myself. Like all good tales born out of the bayou, mine involves the dead, the living and the one trapped in the brackish waters between heaven and hell. It is the story of true love and true disaster, and at the end of it, I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the harder to survive."

DNF at 8%

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I had such high expectations for Knee Deep based on the synopsis, but as you can see, I barely made it through 17 pages of the book. Camille wasn't a likable character, and I thought her obsession with Antwone was sudden and not substantiated. Yes, she tells a story about him "coming to her rescue" after school one day, but they've had little-to-no interactions to indicate they have a connection beyond being friendly neighbors. I also didn't like that Camille seemed determined to break up Antwone's current relationship because she didn't think his girlfriend was "good enough" for him. Both of her friends (and apparently the entire student body) thought they were a perfect match. Regardless, it wasn't her business or her decision. 

Additionally, some of the dialogue felt dated and somewhat offensive. I'm not sure if the author has personally experienced some of the things she put her character through (especially since the MC is biracial), but it honestly didn't read like she did. Examples:
  1. "Mary Ellen was all over that like white on rice."
  2. "...tight little braids close to my scalp in rows as straight as planted corn."
  3. "I was not just plain old mad but burning, crazy mad, the kind that can land you in jail."
  4. "I took a moment to revel in the fact that this big bully had been reduced to a sniveling, scared little piece of shit."
  5. "I could have grabbed him and kissed him and done him right there in the middle of the front yard."
The last three quotes were things she said when she was 14, and her reactions simply weren't believable. I'm not saying a girl her age couldn't act that way, it just seems unlikely. It also felt like the author couldn't settle on an age, and the character's thoughts and actions reflected that. 

The author also speaks from a Black woman's perspective, mostly when Camille is getting her hair done, and the narrative felt false. Like the author was trying too hard to seem knowledgeable about something she in reality knows very little about. When I have this many issues with a book early on, I know there's no point in trying to continue reading it. (★★☆☆☆)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Quintessence by Jess Redman

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. Every day she feels less and less like herself.

Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:

Find the Elements.
Grow the Light.
Save the Starling.

That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends from the Astronomy Club, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.

QUINTESSENCE is a stunning story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

𑁋𑁋𑁋

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Quintessence was a very science-heavy story that I enjoyed; however, the characters consistently put themselves in dangerous situations, and I really didn't like how unsafe most of their activities were. The author makes it seem like their "quest" was perfectly normal and necessary, but I would freak the F out if my child tried to attempt something similar. 
  1. They lied repeatedly to their parents.
  2. They snuck out of their homes most nights and didn't come back for HOURS.
  3. Got on a suuuper sketchy bus (also in the middle of the night) with a stranger.
  4. Played with fire (what happens when you play with fire?). 
  5. Went into a cavern (also at night) without a map, guide, or any knowledge of what they were doing.
  6. Disregarded the need for sleep, but still seemed functional during the day.
  7. Name-calling (lots of it) that's never really addressed (alluded to, but not addressed).
  8. Played with lightning (what happens when you play with lightning?).
  9. Nearly died SEVERAL times.
  10. NEARLY. DIED.
Like, I totally understand that this book is fictional, but it rarely felt realistic (and it definitely doesn't set a good example). The characters are in middle school, yet taking risks most adults wouldn't even consider. I know they were trying to save the Starling, and they felt like they were on an adventure, but I disliked how few consequences there actually were. "Alma! You're grounded!" Alma sneaks out again.

I also felt like Alma's parents allowed certain behaviors because of her panic attacks. Additionally, I hated how they constantly told her she wasn't trying hard enough, or that she needed to work on acclimating. Just be there for your kid, you know? At the beginning of the book they were encouraging Alma to make friends, do this, say that... but by the end they were checking her bed every 15 minutes. It was bananas. I also have no idea how they let Alma see a psychiatrist on her own without verifying/vetting the person themselves. It seemed irresponsible for parents that supposedly "cared" so much (especially since the psychiatrist contacted them out of the blue).

I know this sounds super negative, and I didn't start this review thinking it would go this way, but here we are. Clearly, I had more issues with this story than even I originally realized. When describing this book to my husband (he heard us talking about sciency stuff), I recollected the bits about elements and stars, supernovas and quintessence. Those aspects of the story were wonderfully written and really fascinating. However, how the characters applied their knowledge left a lot to be desired. EVERYTHING WAS EXTREMELY UNSAFE.

Furthermore, I couldn't get behind Hugo's random explanations, like "Zonks!" We didn't see enough of his background for his quirks to make sense. I also wanted to know why he looked and sounded like a robot, and what happened between him and Dustin to create such a divide. The author's explanation was very shallow and seemed to be glossed over for the sake of convivence. Additionally, I didn't understand Shirin's reluctance to hang out with/not hang out with her friends. She alludes to not being able to be herself - - or do what makes her happy - - but there's not really an explanation for that either. Dustin is one giant enigma. Trying to find yourself? Really? By being the world's biggest jerkface?

I really liked the concept for this story, but hated how easily everything clicked into place. The ShopKeeper's random appearances, how quintessence actually worked, and how their collection of the elements was supposed to help the Starling. There's a very quick (sort of ) explanation at the end, but after everything the characters went through, I wanted to know more. We (my son and I) deserved better answers.

Example of a confusing explanation: "In each point, there was a symbol— an upside-down triangle with a line through it at the top, a right-side-up triangle with a line through it on the right, a right-side-up triangle at the bottom, and an upside-down triangle on the left. And in the center of the star there was a circle with lines extending from it, like light rays."

Points for having a main character with panic attacks (touching on what those felt like for her, showing how they impacted her life, and how she viewed herself because of them). Points for having a somewhat diverse group of friends. Points for the scientific elements. ZERO POINTS for me having to repeatedly tell my son why he shouldn't try this at home. (★★★☆☆)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

My Weekly Pull [130] & Can't-Wait Wednesday [105]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Family Tree #8 by Jeff Lemire, Phil Hester
Daredevil Annual #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Manuel Garcia, Chris Mooneyham
Spider-Man Noir #3 by Margaret Stohl, Juan Ferreyra, Dave Rapoza

Wynd #3 by James Tynion IV, Michael Dialynas
Wicked Things #4 by John Allison, Max Sarin
Sleeping Beauties #3 by Rio Youers, Alison Sampson, Jenn Woodall

Jacob's comics for the week!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108 by Sophie Campbell, Ronda Pattison, Nelson Daniel, Kevin Eastman
Spawn #309 by Todd McFarlane, Jen Lashley, Francesco Mattina
Amazing Spider-Man #47 by Nick Spencer, Marcelo Ferreira, Josemaria Casanovas

Free Comic Book Day 

FCBD 2020 Owly: The Way Home by Andy Runton 
FCBD 2020 Mean Girls: Senior Year by Arianna Irwin, Alba Cardona
FCBD 2020 Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai, Julie Fujii
FCBD 2020 Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez, Marcia Chen

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly feature that's hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. It highlights the upcoming releases we're really excited about reading! CWW is a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday (WoW), that was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

The Hunter and the Mage (The Raven and the Dove, #2) by Kaitlyn Davis
Expected publication: September 21st 2020

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Return to the world of The Raven and the Dove, where winged people rule the skies, a lost kingdom lives at sea, and two star-crossed lovers hold the fate of each in their palms. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo!

A mage written in prophecy…

When Lyana wakes in the Sea of Mist, adventure is the first thing on her mind. But between her unruly new magic and an unyielding young king, the world below comes with more responsibility than she ever dreamed. An entire civilization exists within the fog, and its survival depends entirely on her.

A hunter forged in blood…

Adrift at sea on a ship full of strangers, Rafe fights to cope with his new reality. He'll do anything to return to the sky and the people he left behind. When a surprising offer comes his way, he instantly accepts, sparing no time to consider the consequences.

Loyalties are tested and an ancient war begins anew…

With rebellion in her heart, Cassi defies her king and befriends the prince she's been ordered to kill. Oblivious to the threat, Xander welcomes her into his inner circle, determined to rescue his mate. As one works to help and the other to hinder, an ancient enemy stirs, forcing Cassi to choose between trusting the man who broke her heart and turning her back on everything she's ever known.

𑁋𑁋𑁋

The Raven and the Dove left me with SO MANY FEELINGS, and I cannot wait to dive back into this series! Click here if you want to read my review of the first book. 🕊

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1)
by Janella Angeles

Synopsis (via Goodreads): In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

𑁋𑁋𑁋

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I cannot stop thinking about this book! Where Dreams Descend was maddening, the characters were infuriatingly secretive, and the author was downright diabolical. Normally, an excess of secrets and unshared information really ruins a book for me, but Where Dreams Descend thrived on the unknown. This book made me think of Moulin Rouge, Now You See Me, and Caraval, so naturally I'm obsessed.

I can forgive most of the secrecy in this book, because everything is shrouded in mystery. Glorian is a town that no one knows much about. It's history has been lost to time, and the residents don't like discussing the past. The rest of the world has spun stories and invented tales to explain the town's quiet existence, but no one really knows anything about it. I really enjoyed learning more about Glorian and its inhabitants, and only wish the author had told us more about its origins. We sort of learn why no one talks about the past, but there's still so much we don't know.

Jack has an unimaginable number of secrets and his entire existence is a hidden agenda. I'm still not sure who he is, or how he came into Kallia's life, but he was fascinating. He was also controlling, possessive, and jealous, but I think his heart was in the right place when it really mattered. He obviously knows things that no one else does. Do I wish he'd been more forthcoming with Kallia? Yes. Do I think it would have solved a lot of his problems? Definitely. Would the story have unfolded differently? Possibly. Everyone keeping secrets kept me on my toes, but it also prevented me from really knowing what was going on. The characters don't just keep information from each other, but we're also left in the dark as readers. It was like they couldn't even think about the things they were trying to hide.

Kallia was a fierce character that I loved! She knows what she wants, and she's willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She has trust issues (understandably), but still refuses to share pieces of herself with those who have proven their friendship and loyalty. I wish she'd confided in Aaros more, since he was Team Kallia from the start. They get along smashingly, and he's super supportive of her, but she still keeps him at arm's length. Slowly, so slowly, she depended on him more, but still kept her innermost thoughts and feelings to herself.

Daron was wow. I'm still not sure how I feel about him, even though he's supposed to be the main love interest. He's in Glorian for reasons he doesn't want anyone else to know about, he's super flaky when it comes to his feelings about Kallia, and he's very determined to keep his years-long secret intact. A secret that I doubt many people would've really cared about. Additionally, I'm not sure how his magic related to Kallia's and the competition, despite Jack and Kallia seeming to know something at the end. Like, I think I know what the author was trying to say, but I don't actually know. Does that make sense? It doesn't help that the book ends without answering any of my questions. 

How can you do that? How can you write a magnificent story - - one that I cannot stop thinking about - - yet give almost nothing away before its conclusion? I actually have more questions now than I did at the start, but the story simply stops AFTER SOMETHING MASSIVE HAPPENS. Cliffhanger of the century, friends. I honestly don't know how I'm supposed to wait for the next book in the series, because I needed answers YESTERDAY. 

The magical elements of Where Dreams Descend were lovely and unimaginable. Angeles has one hell of an imagination, and her spin on magicians and their magic (born and acquired) was very creative and unique. I only wish we'd gotten to learn more about how it works, where it comes from, and how the two types differentiate. I also wanted to know more about the Patrons and what issues they were trying to control elsewhere. There's just so much I still don't know, despite feeling like I've lived in this fictional world my entire life.

Moreover, I wanted to see the magic the other contestants wielded during the competition. We only get detailed descriptions of Kallia's performances, and I would have liked to see how hers compared to the other acts. What were they doing with their magic? How do they manipulate their tricks?  There are actually very few instances where we see anyone other than Kallia or Jack using their powers to do something extravagant. It seems effortless for Jack, while Kallia shows obvious signs of strain and depletion, so it would've been nice to see their differences compared to those of the others.

Basically, I wanted more. That would be my main complaint about this book. Where Dreams Descend was utterly captivating, but also not enough. I really hope we get more answers in book two, because I don't think I can emotionally handle not knowing anything for a second time. ALSO, THAT ENDING WAS INSANE. Please, Janella. I beg you. Please give us more answers in the next book. I desperately want to know WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. Sincerely, Me (and probably everyone else that reads this book). (★★★★☆)

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
[Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Hello friends! Welcome to the next stop on blog tour for The Inheritance Games, hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written a FANTASTIC story, so be sure to check out the giveaway below! Thank you for stopping by! For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About the Book:
Title: THE INHERITANCE GAMES (The Inheritance Games #1)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pub. Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 384
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N Exclusive Edition, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why--or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch--and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
𑁋𑁋𑁋

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! Jennifer Lynn Barnes has really outdone herself with The Inheritance Games, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around its contents! There were riddles, puzzles, hidden compartments, secret passageways, clues AND SO MUCH MORE. I was constantly surprised by the story as it developed, and instantly fell in love with the characters. I devoured this book in a single day, so be sure to clear your calendars! The Inheritance Games is going to consume your every waking thought (and possibly some unconscious ones) and be impossible to put down.

My one teeny tiny quibble: the romance. There's a love triangle, which I'm firmly against in all genres unless there are EXTREME and EXTENUATING circumstances. Neither of those applied to this book, so that aspect was disappointing. Avery also developed feelings for two of the Hawthorne brothers relatively quickly, and it wasn't entirely believable. Her world was just flipped upside down, someone might be trying to kill her, and she's swoony for one person's shirtless body and another's piercing eyes. I can see how she might potentially fall into a relationship with one of them, but the insinuation that she has feelings for both really soured my mood regarding the romance. Regardless, I know which Hawthorne I would pick. ;)

Enough of that! The rest of the book was marvelous! Granddaddy Hawthorne passed away and left one last game in his wake. He made sure all of his grandsons would be there to participate, and he threw Avery into the mix to make things interesting. I loved learning about Hawthorne House and its inhabitants, and I cannot wait to revisit its secrets and hidden mysteries. Unlike Avery, the Hawthorne brothers are used to playing their grandfather's games, but she's smart and a quick learner. Avery starts finding clues on her own and sharing the information when it benefits her, but she also depends on the brothers to be generous with their knowledge as well.

There is so much going on in this book, and I have no idea how the author turned all of the threads into one coherent story. I can't imagine thinking up and creating all of the riddles, hidden latches and buttons, and everything else this book contained. Wonderfully written and incredibly imaginative - - I would give Barnes a standing ovation if I could. 

If you like books that make you think, The Inheritance Games will challenge even the most accomplished readers. I had absolutely no idea how this story would play out, and I loved it! I should be a ballerina for how often the author kept me on my toes. 🩰 Seriously, put this one on your TBRs! Oh, and don't trust anyone! ;) (★★★★⋆)

𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋𑁋


About Jennifer:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed young adult novels. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science, including graduate degrees from Cambridge University, where she was a Fulbright Scholar, and Yale University, where she received her Ph.D. in 2012. Jen wrote her first published novel when she was nineteen-years-old and sold her first five books while still in college.

In additional to writing YA novels, Jen has also written original pilot scripts for television networks like USA and MTV, and she is one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of fandom and the cognitive science of fiction and the imagination more broadly. Jen is an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she holds a dual appointment in Psychology and Professional Writing. 


Giveaway Details: 
3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE INHERITANCE GAMES, US Only.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Sunday Post [56]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.

News:

School starts in less than two weeks, and I am sooo not ready! This summer has both lasted an eternity and flown by too quickly (although I am READY for fall). The world is still batshit bananas right now, and our children are having to deal with that on top of starting school and learning in new and unconventional ways. We've tried to make a little nook for our son to use as a school space, so we'll see how that works out! My biggest concern is keeping the girls occupied while he's "in class" during the day. Last year, he would have two 30 minute sessions every week, and now they're going to have actual school hours with breaks in between lessons. I feel like it's going to be SO MUCH WORK, but hopefully it's effective and manageable. Wish me luck!

It's also still raining, haha. We went for a bike ride in the rain just to get out of the house and do something. We ended up at a playground where we continued playing in the rain. 😁

Previous week on the blog:

What I'm currently reading:

Quintessence by Jess Redman
Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) by Janella Angeles
Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2) by Libba Bray 🎧

What I plan on reading next: 

Fable (Fable, #1) by Adrienne Young
Recommended for You by Laura Silverman
A Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2) by Evie Dunmore

What I'm watching:

We watched The One and Only Ivan when it popped up on Disney+. The kids really liked it! I didn't realize it had such an amazing cast of characters until I started recognizing certain voices. I also had no idea it was based on a true story, or that there was a book out there that the movie was based on.

Challenge updates:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman
Narrated by Simon Vance

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Kate and her younger brother Tom lead desperately uninteresting lives. And judging by their desperately uninteresting parents, the future isn’t much more promising. If only life was like it is in books, where you have adventures, and save the world! Even Kate’s 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane — that is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating birthday present of all time: a real-life steam locomotive called The Silver Arrow.

Kate and Tom’s parents quite sensibly tell him to take it back, but Kate and Tom have other ideas — and so does The Silver Arrow — and very soon they’re off on a mysterious journey along magical rails. On their way, they pick up a pack of talking animals: a fishing cat, a porcupine, a green mamba, a polar bear, and the sweetest baby pangolin in the world. With only curiosity, fear, adrenaline, and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime — and they just might save the world after all.

"No. We're not worried because there is nothing more terrifyingly effective and resourceful than a human being. In all the four billion years that there has been life on Earth, you are the most successful animal there ever was."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

My monsters and I really enjoyed listening to the audio version of The Silver Arrow. We've been house hunting, so it gave us something to listen to while we were in the car (or waiting for our Realtor to show up). Simon Vance did an amazing job with the narrations, and I initially confused his voice for Jim Dale's (he narrated The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I listened to somewhat recently). A quick Google search set me straight! 😉 Both narrators are incredibly talented, and I look forward to listening to other books read by them in the future.

I've enjoyed Lev Grossman's The Magicians in the past, although I never got around to watching the television show. I've heard it's pretty good! Have you seen it? When I stumbled across The Silver Arrow, I was instantly curious about how his writing style would translate to a MG book. I was not disappointed! I loved the characters - - human and animal alike - - and thought he delivered the magic and whimsy I've come to expect from his work. What I wasn't expecting was the author's subtle inclusion of important topics, like climate change, deforestation, and invasive species. Additionally, he talks about how animals are going extinct, but through the perspectives of the animals themselves.

There were a lot of sad aspects to this book, but that's only because they're true. Climate change is affecting polar bears, deforestation is limiting where certain animals can live, killing animals for sport and food have severely decreased their numbers - - it's awful to think about. Kate and Tom are spirited away on a magical train, and they have to learn how to be conductors in addition to the unexpected Life Lessons taught to them by the train, animals, and nature itself. They spent some time as trees, which was very trippy but also incredibly thought-provoking. 

I also liked that the author didn't paint their parents in a negative light, but showed how time can desensitize and alter how people perceive the world. They get busy with their day-to-day lives and forget to look at what's happening on a larger scale. Additionally, adults will talk to children like they're too young to understand this or that, but they comprehend more than we think they do. It's a disservice to them to assume that conversations about the world would go completely over their heads. They might need some concepts explained, but they're very inquisitive and eager to learn.

"When you're a child the adult world looks so exciting, and it is, but it's also so much sadder and more complicated that you expect. And you can't just take the good parts, you have to take it all, even if it's not what you wanted."

I'm not going to lie, this book had me sniffling in the car. There were some really powerful moments there at the end, and Tom and Kate's experiences will likely stay with me for a very long time. There were so many teachable moments in this book, and it encouraged important discussions between me and my children. They're a little too young to fully grasp the scope of what they author was trying to convey, but they did get the gist and were open to learning more.

I thought The Silver Arrow was wonderfully written, and I think the author expertly conveyed important issues in way children will be able to relate to. Kate and Tom learn the value of hard work and determination, develop friendships with unlikely creatures, and achieve goals that exceed their own expectations. I loved watching them grow and cultivate their understanding of the world, and seeing their joy after overcoming seemingly impossible tasks. Lev Grossman has made magic with this story, and really highlights the importance of never giving up.  (★★★★⋆)