book review YA fiction

Cinderella is Dead

How many times can I say how amazing this story is? At least once more in writing, I guess.

If only this had been a September release, we would have read it in The Bookish Society YA round table.
I adore a good fairy tale retelling, and this is the story of Cinderella 200 years after she attended the Ball dressed by her Fairy Godmother. Every home in the Kingdom must keep a copy of the Cinderella story in their home. Then, there is still a Ball each year. This requires families to go into debt for their daughter to look good enough to be chosen by an eligible man. If they don’t get married by the third year, they disappear into servitude.

All that sounds awful enough and the MC soon finds out that there are more sinister goings on and a growing resistance to their dictator like king.
The world-building is sublime. The main character isn’t waiting around for the remarkably absent fairy godmother. She tries to change things- and she wants to be with a princess, not a prince.

Diversity: Black, lesbian main character, lesbian/bi side characters, and gay side character.

This is precisely the kind of book that we read and discuss at our YA Bookish Society Round Table. Teen Round table offers kids the chance to hang out with like-minded readers and have grown up style delving and debate.

book review MG fiction

The UnAdoptables

There are a lot of people that are refusing to read, promote, and review this title. They find the orphan trope tiring, the message to children that they could be “unadoptable” horrifying, and have concerns about the physical appearance of said fictional orphans.

I’m reviewing this fantasy- fiction title after I bought it and read it in nearly one day. It’s a fast paced adventure story set in the late 1800’s. It does indeed have a Dickens/ Lemony Snicket type schtick. This is the description from the publisher:

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances; one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem, and Milou. And although their cruel matron might think they’re “unadoptable,” they know their individuality is what makes them special–and so determined to stay together.

When a most sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. But is their real home–and their real family–already closer than they realize?

UnAdoptables by Hana Tooke Viking Press

Obviously any kid can have a sensitive issue with any life event, and I am in no way minimizing the real life horror of foster children today. However this book is fully fictional, set so long ago that children were indeed mistreated for how thy looked and acted. Also, orphanages were especially awful in other ways too during those years.

But, I wouldn’t even stretch and call this historical fiction. It’s a silly, light, creative tale set in the picturesque setting of Amsterdam (some of it in a windmill!)

Bonus trope: found family (which is my fave)

In fact, after reading it I feel like it is getting more publicity from the one star ratings then it would if it had a normal type of release?

Long story short- if you choose to skip it you aren’t missing a five star read and if you do choose to read it it’ll make an entertaining 3-4 night bedtime story read aloud. I liked it and gave it four stars on Goodreads.

book review YA fiction


The world-building in this young adult fantasy novel is just intense and all-encompassing that I genuinely felt like I could see it in my mind’s eye. Tarisai is the only daughter of someone called The Lady. Her sole purpose is unclear at the beginning and it turns out to boil down to complete obedience.

This is a fast read, and the whole time I was flipping pages, I wondered what would happen next. It’s one of those books where you want to know how it all wraps up without it being over.
If you are missing a magical universe, this may be your new favorite series. I’m suffering from a bit of a book hangover. The writing is just excellent, and the world is so vast. Don’t even get me started on the back story. chef’s kiss

I’ve never read anything inspired by West African folklore, and apparently, I need to read more about these types of fantasies because—I AM OBSESSED; from everything to the tutsu sprites, the Ray magic, the animals, the vibrant settings. Just. . . ALL OF THE THINGS. They were so beautifully written, and I felt like I was there; as if I could feel the warm breeze, and the aroma of the villages, and the spirit of the people.
This is one you won’t want to miss. I read this as an ARC, and my only small complaint is that there was no map to help me decipher the geography of this vast world.

book review YA fiction

The Extraordinaries

I read another of TJ Klune’s books: Middle Grade The House in the Cerulean Sea a couple of months ago, and I found myself just smitten with his writing style.

This is his YA debut, and it not only features superheroes in an urban setting. It contains some pretty “extra” teens. This friend group is precisely the one you’d want to go through high school today. This queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes that he loves captured my heart. Nick is a dork, his Dad is great, this book is both #ownvoices and #neurodiverse. Most of all you will laugh so much.

Parental Note: I’d say it is a story for older teens. Like, if you let them read Tumblr it’s fine for them. And this story is unabashedly pro- police. The police get in the way of the superheroes and are excused for bad behavior again and again. You can get some pretty good discussion fodder out of this, and I wouldn’t let it go without a discussion of Police in the real world.

And more good news, it’s the start of a series!!

book review homeschool nonfiction

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion

Can I give all of the stars to this Little House books companion guide? Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder made me the reader/writer that I am today. I’ve homeschooled my kids using these books and various guides that didn’t work for us in any cohesive way because they were either religious or too babyish. This companion book is just right. The history and background of the events opened up for discussion in a natural, non forced way are rare in homeschool materials. The activities are fun and work. I wish I had this available back in the day. At least its here now, and I’m giddy with mixing it into our American History studies this year! Now that just about everyone is homeschooling, this book should be a big hit. You can even get it in time for the new school year- August 4, 2020

book review YA fiction

The Princess Will Save You

A YA retelling twist up inspired by the Princess Bride is exactly what you need to be reading during these crazy pandemic days. Let yourself be whisked into the Kingdom of Sand and Sky. When King Sendoa mysteriously dies his daughter Princess Armarande of Ardenia (love that alliteration) is compelled by law to get married or lose the crown. She is only sixteen so this proves to be difficult to both accept as her father trained her to fight, not a figurehead.

The plot soon picks up speed and becomes exactly what fans of The Princess Bride enjoy: a journey to save her true love Luca filled with adventure and sword play!

This was a fun one for the YA reader in your world. It seems like the kind of book you either love or hate. I loved it. There isn’t much more to say after that.

book review fiction

Magic Lessons

Most of the books I read these days are Advanced Reading Copies. I try not to post reviews too far ahead of time, but lately, everything great that I’ve got in my stack is a Fall release. This prequel falls into that category with an October 6 release date.

Although this is part of a series, you do not need to have read either Practical Magic or The Rules of Magic to have a satisfying reading experience with this story. If you have read and loved either of these books, you’ll also want to read it. Practical Magic published first in the 1990’s has endured in its popularity in part due to the 1998 movie version. The Rules of Magic is the prequel to that story with the Aunts’ childhood explored through the 1960s-1970s. Adding this prequel and going back to the 1600s leaves plenty of books/time to cover many years and Owens women to catch up until now. I’m hoping for more Owens stories!

Maria Owens is a name known as the witch who cursed all men who would love an Owens woman to an early death. It isn’t too much else said about her in Practical Magic, and we know that she lived during the Salem Witch Trials and that she was so broken-hearted that she wished to save future Owens women from similar heartache. In this novel, we read Maria’s story when she is an infant left behind by her biological mother for kind Hannah Owens to find and raise.

In many ways, this book reads more like historical fiction than the first two installments.

Maria becomes involved with John Hathorne, who was a judge during the Salem Witch trials, a rather evil one who never apologized for his actions, and who was also the great-great-grandfather of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author, who may have added the w to his name to distance himself from his family.

Alice Hoffman in an interview with Library Journal

Once you add real people into a fictional story, it becomes undeniably more plausible that the story may be more accurate than not. I adored those details in this story. Maria travels from the old world to the new and then within the colonies, and the story turns and twists through real events, all while staying true to these fictional character arcs. ( And yes, I know the definition of magical realism)

The origin of Maria Owens wasn’t a happy story, yet it is compelling in its realism. I felt like this is the perfect book to read in 2020, when so many of us are awash in terrible circumstances.

The traditional rules of magic ring true:

“Do as you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned threefold.” 

book review children fiction

The Mermaid Atlas: Merfolk of the World

Got this gem over the long weekend and delightfully skipped it to the very top of my book stack. I tried to think of a new catchphrase but, alas, I don’t have one. Mermaids before ______? Anything not mythical for sure. Here is a shot of the contents:

If you require an elementary primer on the Merfolk, this is the book for you. You can also give it to kids, as the school system is woefully inadequate in teaching the nonhuman species to our children. This may even be meant for kids. Maybe.

Continent organizes this book, and you’ll learn the differences between Merfolk around the world. I found out that European Mermaids often play fiddle while in human form. Who knew?

All in all, a solid edition to our mythical section of our home library. Five Stars.

book review chick lit fiction YA fiction

A Few More June Book Reviews

Was I looking for a YA mythological tale set in an alternate version of Portland, Oregon? No, but I found one I read this on my couch in June 2020 when every day brought new protests and revelations in the Black Lives Matter movement. I didn’t choose this book specifically for these times, but as fate would have it, I was reading it at the perfect time. I love the world-building and the mix of all the mythical creatures. Humans live alongside different creatures with varying degrees of acceptance. Most humans hate sirens (Black women with the ability to use magical calls on people with their voices), so our MC hides the fact that she is a Siren from almost everyone. The Audible version is fantastic. The two main characters voiced by different actresses are outstanding.

As another reviewer stated, this is ” Black Girl Magic,” not just another mermaid YA fantasy novel ( I would have read that too- btw) You can try and pigeonhole it into whatever corner you’d like. Still, I think teen fantasy readers will love it. June 2, 2020


This story turned out to be a timely read for me as I picked it up the week that all the George Floyd protests began. While this is historical fiction, the author brought her real-life experiences growing up in Chicago in the 1960s to the story. In nearly every way, it reads as nonfiction and is entirely believable. I don’t want to give away the story, but at the start, there are a lot of characters, and it can be confusing- stick with it, and it will more than pay off. (Adult or older teen readers-June 16, 2020)

I picked this up late and couldn’t even find the email of whatever publicist sent it to me. I did just buy a new calendar, so hopefully, I’ll get into the swing of 2020 soon… Anyhow, do not miss this book. It’s an adult fictional thriller that is so twisty, and un-put-downable (is that a new phrase?) that I used my 2 am insomnia time to finish reading it!!

This story is dark and gripping as the main character Jane is a psychopath. (That’s not a spoiler btw) it’s not too far in when she breaks the fourth wall to tell the reader:

“Stop it. Don’t look at me like that. Stop being so judgmental and listen to the story.”

I was left wanting and equally, not wanting to know what she would feel justified in doing next to keep close to her best friend, Marnie.

June 16,2020

book review homeschool MG Non fiction YA Non fiction

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes The World

Ah, parents in this realm in the year 2020, let me lead you to the book you need in these dark days.

I jumped at the chance to get this actual Advance Reading Copy in my hands. The USPS was frighteningly slow though and I didn’t actually have it until a few weeks ago. So, good news, you can order it now. Bad news, well, there is no bad news.

The book begins by asking what we think of when we think of the big moments of the 20th century. He then points out that half of the events on that list are wars. And if you focus your history teaching on battles, you are communicating to the kids you teach that historical events revolve around conflicts. If you believe that, then you think that our History is mostly violent and that the only way to change things is to be “a politician or a general or someone willing to take someone else’s life.” What We Are Power does is challenge that entire notion. There is another way—more than one. I learned that there are 198 practices within nonviolent struggles. That should mean fewer wars, and yet here we are in 2020. Within the pages of this book, kids will read the stories of heroes. Real men and women who took a stand without violence exist in world history. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a substantial personal cost to these people, but they did not begin a war to get the change they wanted. 

This book covers Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, and Vaclav Havel, and Greta Thunberg and tells how they’ve all used nonviolent methods of protest. 

We’re studying American History this year, and even though this doesn’t exactly fit with that, I added it to our reading list. I have my kids give me an oral report on current events each week, and so we’ve talked a lot about the ongoing protests, and I think this book will help to further our understanding of protest to enact social change.

The back of the book includes an extensive note and bibliography section and photo credits for the many excellent historical images contained.