Review of Root Magic, by Eden Royce, read by Imani Parks

Root Magic

by Eden Royce
read by Imani Parks

HarperAudio, 2021. 10 hours on 8 compact discs.
Review written February 18, 2022, from a library audiobook.
2022 Walter Award Honor Book

Root Magic is set on a South Carolina island in 1963 among people with Gullah Geechee heritage. Jez is facing big changes after the death of her Gran. She’s been moved ahead a year in school, so for the first time, she won’t be in a class with her twin brother, Jay. But after school, their uncle, Doc, has decided they’re finally old enough to begin learning Root Magic.

Root Magic has been passed down in their family, and Gran was powerful enough to leave Jez a doll with some amazing powers. Doc tells them that Root work is mainly about protection — but their family needs protection. Their Daddy has been missing for years, there are haints in the marsh, girls at school are mean, and a white police officer is known for harassing root workers.

This book had some big surprises as Jez begins to learn to use her power. She shows compassion and plants seeds that will help her in time of need.

I have to say that I wasn’t crazy about the way the narrator read this book, and I think I might have enjoyed it more in print. But I’m glad I kept listening. I grew up hearing stories about “witch doctors” in Africa, and this presentation of root work as family heritage done with love and compassion shook up some of those ideas. Though many of the things that happened were firmly in the realm of fantasy, I appreciated the honor the book gave to family, friendship, and tradition. And I enjoyed the surprising twists and turns in the plot.

Buy from Amazon.com

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

*Note* To try to catch up on posting reviews, I’m posting the oldest reviews I’ve written on my blog without making a page on my main website. They’re still good books.

Review of A Complicated Love Story Set in Space, by Shaun David Hutchinson

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

by Shaun David Hutchinson
narrated by Kevin R. Free with Gibson Frazier and Candace Thaxton

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021. 11 hours, 2 minutes.
Review written December 24, 2021, from a library eaudio

Well, the title of this book tells the truth. This is a very complicated love story, and it’s set in space.

In fact, the book begins when 16-year-old Noa North wakes up in a spacesuit outside a ship. He remembers going to sleep in his own bed and has no idea how he got in space. He’s not feeling good about it. And when he gets to the airlock ready to go into the safety of the ship, a voice tells him that the ship is about to explode and he needs to patch a hole on the outside of the ship. Which is not an easy thing to do.

And that’s just the beginning of their adventures in space. There are only two other people on the ship – DJ, the owner of the voice that helped him fix the ship, and Jenny, whom they later find locked in a restroom. They are all sixteen years old. But are they the only people on board?

The things that happen to them after that, ranging from finding another person on the ship, fighting an alien monster, and getting stuck in a time loop, all seem oddly episodic. On top of that, their efforts to get back to earth are consistently thwarted. But things really get interesting as they begin to discover why they’re on the ship in the first place and who put them there.

But meanwhile, Noa’s wrestling with a bad experience in his past that makes him afraid to give in to his feelings for DJ. Can they find love in such a complicated setting?

The story, once we know what happened, all seems wild and farfetched, but let’s be honest, it’s still a whole lot of fun. Noa is endearing, and you’ve got to feel for a guy who wakes up in outer space. Don’t read this one for believability, but do read it for a fun romance between two guys caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Buy from Amazon.com

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

*Note* To try to catch up on posting reviews, I’m posting the oldest reviews I’ve written on my blog without making a page on my main website. They’re still good books.

Review of Between Perfect and Real, by Ray Stoeve

Between Perfect and Real

by Ray Stoeve
read by MW Cartozian Wilson

Recorded Books, 2021. 7 hours, 24 minutes.
Review written from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

Between Perfect and Real gives us the coming-out journey of Dean Foster, who has recently figured out he’s a transgender guy, but doesn’t quite know how to tell people. His classmates and even his girlfriend think he’s a lesbian, and coming out as a lesbian to his mother was hard enough.

But then the drama teacher casts Dean as Romeo in their school production of Romeo and Juliet, thinking to play it as a lesbian romance. But Dean quickly discovers he wants to play Romeo as a guy — which means coming out.

The journey isn’t easy. Some people are supportive, some are hostile, and some are “trying.” This audiobook takes us with Dean on that journey, with all the ups and downs.

I had recently read another young adult book where a senior in high school had their heart set on getting into Tish, the drama program at NYU, so that sounded almost too familiar. However, once the book got going, it was a very different story, and a story I wanted to hear, a story told with compassion, helping the listener understand a little better how it feels to be transgender.

Buy from Amazon.com

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

*Note* To try to catch up on posting reviews, I’m posting the oldest reviews I’ve written on my blog without making a page on my main website. They’re still good books.

Review of The Hedgewitch of Foxhall, by Anna Bright

The Hedgewitch of Foxhall

by Anna Bright
read by Fiona Hardingham, Alister Austin, and James Meunier

HarperTeen, 2024. 12 hours.
Review written May 29, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

This is another eaudiobook I chose because it is wildly popular with our library customers. And this time, I struck pure gold! I loved this book with all my heart.

Now, as any time where the narrators have gorgeous British accents, listening to these readers made me love it all the more. But the tale itself has everything I love in a fantasy novel — characters who defy expectations and live by their own rules, magic that is easy to understand and makes sense, a plot that gets you wondering how they’ll make it through but ties up brilliantly, and of course some romance. [In this case, plenty of romance but no sex between the characters. Nowadays, I like to let people know.]

This book is set in medieval Wales, and the Author’s note reveals that she took pains to be true to what we know of that history. Our title character is Ffion. She’s a hedgewitch, not affiliated with the giant coven in Foxhall her mother and sisters are part of — a coven that charges for people even to wait in line to request help. Ffion does small magic for people who can’t afford their prices. But much worse is that the coven doesn’t care what price they take from the land to work their magic — and Ffion’s fox familiar is caught up and killed in a fire of their making. Ffion is determined to do a summoning spell to bring him back — but she will have to do it before the new moon, when his spirit will depart for good.

There are two more viewpoint characters in this book. They are the princes Dafydd and Taliesin. They are being set against each other by their father the king. The court magician — before losing his magic altogether — prophesied the death of the king at the New Moon. Everyone’s sure it has to do with fighting the encroaching Mercians and their king, King Offa. So the king sets the princes on a task of destroying the dyke King Offa has built at the border of Wales. They believe this dyke is what has leached the magic from Wales and caused sightings of magical creatures to stop.

Taliesin goes to the coven at Foxhall to get help to destroy the dyke with magic, and gets no help from them — but does recruit Ffion to his cause. Instead of using the land to give her power, Ffion gains power from her work, and she plans to walk the entire length of the dyke to gain the power to bring it down — and gain the power to summon her fox while she is doing that. But also in their travels, they realize they will need to gain the use of three magical objects important to Wales — but it will take some work to convince the current possessors of those objects to relinquish them.

Tal’s competition is his older brother Dafydd, who has long said he doesn’t want to be king. Instead of spending time in court, he works as a blacksmith, where he feels he can do unambiguous good. But their father wants Dafydd to follow after him, and as it happens, he’s been having visions of Ffion for years – to be his court magician when he is king.

Something I love about this book is that I loved all the characters and honestly wasn’t sure who I wanted to win the kingdom or who I wanted to end up with Ffion. Both princes have their own strengths and weaknesses, and since both were viewpoint characters, they each had my sympathy as the reader.

And so most of the book is traveling through Wales, ultimately trying to bring back Welsh magic. With plenty of obstacles and interactions, adding up to a marvelous tale.

And I’m super excited to find another stellar author! I found another of her books already available as an eaudiobook, so expect to hear more.

annabrightbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/hedgewitch_of_foxhall.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Assassin’s Blade, by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin’s Blade

by Sarah J. Maas
read by Elizabeth Evans

Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. 12 hours, 52 minutes.
Review written April 25, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.

I select youth and children’s materials for a large public library system, and by far the most popular author of all the books I purchase is Sarah J. Maas. All of her books consistently have long waiting lists. Since I love fantasy novels, I decided to see what the fuss was about. Now, it’s not clear that I picked the correct order. It turns out that this book I picked up was written as a prequel – so the events happen before the first book written. Anyway, Overdrive had it listed as number one in the series, so this is the one I’ve started with.

It turns out that The Assassin’s Blade is a collection of five novellas, all of them about Celaena Sardothien, at sixteen years old her kingdom’s most notorious assassin. I enjoyed the fact that each part was a contained story. Each novella had a sort of heist scene. Each novella has a complete storyline and a satisfying resolution (or, well, at least a resolution). Each novella happened directly after the one before, but I liked the way the action moved into each story as its own entity.

And the stories were compelling. Each one had a big challenge for Celaena. I definitely did not like the way it all ended, though I’m sure if I had read the books in publication order, I would have known where Celaena would end up. She’s a character worth following – forced to train as an assassin, she became the best. But when the king of the assassins wants her to facilitate a deal with pirates to get into the slave trade, she decides to free the slaves.

I got the flavor of a brutal world, with a ruthless king who has banished magic from the kingdom, but assassins and pirates and crime lords all doing their own thing. Celaena finds love in these stories and dreams of leaving the assassin’s guild and the continent altogether. The fantasy world where she lives is dark and sinister – but I enjoyed Celaena’s character, learning to shine in a difficult world.

I wasn’t completely hooked on this world, but I was hooked enough to put the next (first?) book on hold.

sarahjmaas.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/assassins_blade.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn, by Sally J. Pla, read by Gail Shalan

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

by Sally J. Pla
read by Gail Shalan

Quill Tree Books, 2023. 6 hours, 36 minutes.
Review written May 20, 2024, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2024 Schneider Family Book Award Winner, Middle Grades

Oh, I love this one! I’m so glad I finally got around to listening to this award winner — the Schneider Family Award is given annually to books with the best portrayal of a disability. Awards are given for three age levels, along with Honor books, and this one won the award for Middle Grades.

The featured character in this book is Maudie McGinn, a 13-year-old girl with autism. She’s supposed to spend the summer with her Dad in his cabin in northern California. But while they are out to dinner, a wildfire sweeps in, and they have to evacuate. They find a place to stay in the coastal town near San Diego where her Dad grew up, so they’re staying in a trailer in a campground on the beach.

But Maudie’s Dad has friends there, and Maudie begins to make friends there — something she didn’t do in Texas, where she lives during the school year with her mother and stepfather. Maudie has two terrible secrets, but everything with Dad and the ocean helps her relax and begin to understand her own value. Her father has many neurodivergent traits, like Maudie, and he never puts her down for them or scolds her for them. The fact that Maudie thinks this is of note makes us wonder about her life with her mother, and plenty of flashbacks round out the picture of how much better and safer she feels with her father.

But the ocean helps Maudie put all that out of her mind. She even starts learning to surf! And she decides to surprise her father by entering the beginners’ surf competition at the town’s big end-of-summer Surf Bash. Yes, I know that might sound unrealistic in a book summary, but it builds gradually, and yes, we’re with Maudie all the way. (Though as the reader, I did have reservations about her idea of surprising her Dad.)

Maudie’s neurodivergence is sensitively and beautifully portrayed from the inside. And the flashbacks about how her mother responds to her are viscerally painful. The narrator does a wonderful job with the audiobook, giving each person a voice that fits how they’re described in words.

The ending feels almost a little too tidy — but goodness, I would have been so angry if Maudie didn’t have happy times ahead to look forward to. And it wasn’t *every* single thing that worked out for them. I fell in love with this kid while I listened to her story, and I love how she learned that keeping secrets isn’t the road to happiness.

sallyjpla.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/fire_the_water_and_maudie_mcginn.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Indivisible, by Daniel Aleman

Indivisible

by Daniel Aleman
narrated by Adan Rocha

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2021. 8 hours, 35 minutes.
Review written November 2, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

This audiobook tells the story of Mateo Garcia, who’s a junior in high school in Brooklyn and wants to get involved in theater like his friend Adam. His parents came to America from Mexico before he was born. Then his whole life gets turned upside down when his parents get detained by ICE. Suddenly the things he used to be concerned about fade into insignificance.

Mateo doesn’t want to tell his friends at first, but big secrets like that take a toll. And meanwhile, he needs to take care of his 7-year-old sister Sophie and help at the store his parents spent years establishing. Mateo and Sophie hope against hope that things will work out, but have to figure out several new setbacks. They just want their family to be together again.

This novel has lots of heart, mixing regular high school concerns like romance and friends with fundamental concerns about housing and family.

Listening to the audiobook did pull me into this story, rooting for Mateo and his family, and frustrated about the situation so many have been thrust into, when they just want to make a home for their family.

Buy from Amazon.com

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

*Note* To try to catch up on posting reviews, I’m posting the oldest reviews I’ve written on my blog without making a page on my main website. They’re still good books.

Review of Sheine Lende, by Darcie Little Badger

Sheine Lende

by Darcie Little Badger
read by Kinsale Drake
illustrations (in the print book) by Rovina Cai

Recorded Books, 2024. 13 hours, 47 minutes.
Review written May 20, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

I was so excited when I heard there was a prequel to Elatsoe coming out! Obviously, you don’t have to read them in any order. The events in this book happen first, but Elatsoe was written first. Reading Sheine Lende definitely made me want to reread Elatsoe, which was a Sonderbooks Stand-out and CYBILS Award Winner in 2020.

Like Elatsoe, Sheine Lende is set in a world just like ours – except that magic is a normal part of life. Different people have different kinds of magic available to them, and humans have contact with people from other realms, such as fairies.

Sheine Lende features Elatsoe’s grandmother Shane when she was a teen. Like Ellie, Shane has a ghost dog companion — well, it’s really her mother’s companion. Shane’s mother Lorenza has a pack of three hounds who are trained to track down missing persons. One of those hounds, Nellie, happens to be dead.

But when Lorenza goes missing herself when searching for two missing children, Nellie comes back to Shane, distraught. When Shane tries to take up the search again, she gets transported hundreds of miles away — and finds one of the children. But obviously, magical transport is involved and who knows where Lorenza and the little boy were sent? This was when humans were beginning to use transport by fairy rings. Going on the rescue ends up taking Shane on an epic journey. Also like Elatsoe, Shane gets an opportunity to use her powers to right an injustice against her people, the Lipan Apache.

Again like Elatsoe, this is a beautiful and uplifting book with characters it’s a delight to spend time with. I like the way Shane sees and cares for animals (Even insects! And mammoths!) and her little brother and people who are lost — basically anyone who needs help.

darcielittlebadger.com
levinequerido.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/sheine_lende.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry

by Joya Goffney
read by Jordan Cobb

HarperAudio, 2021. 9 hours, 39 minutes.
Review written October 25, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry is a teen romance with a lot of depth. Quinn is a senior in high school and one of the few Black girls at her private school. She pours out her private thoughts in her list journal. But one day, she accidentally picks up the journal of that cute guy in her study group instead of her own.

She works to fix the switch, but he’s lost her journal. Or so he says. Then someone anonymously starts blackmailing Quinn. If she doesn’t complete the items in her list to do before the end of high school, the blackmailer will start posting embarrassing pages from her journal on the internet – beginning with the revelation that she didn’t actually get into Columbia.

Quinn’s parents met at Columbia, and they’ve been planning on her going there since she was born, so Quinn didn’t manage to tell them she didn’t get accepted. She even forged an acceptance letter – and then they made the news known far and wide. Part of her list was to tell them the truth, but Quinn isn’t sure she can ever do that. Another item is to tell the guy she’s had a crush on for years how she feels – though that may be changing. Yet another is going to visit her grandmother, who’s in a nursing home with dementia. Quinn’s afraid she won’t even recognize her.

So she begins by tackling an easier item – visiting the two colleges where she did get accepted. And Carter, the cute guy who lost her journal, is willing to come along and help. Maybe he isn’t the blackmailer after all – though Quinn still isn’t sure she can trust him.

As Quinn works through all of this, she makes some new friends and gains some new experiences. And she does some things she was afraid of doing.

It all adds up to a fun read about a teen who made some mistakes, but is trying to pull herself out of them.

The only thing I didn’t like is that Quinn’s use of the list journal is seen as a bad habit. She wrote in the journal so she wouldn’t have to open up to actual people. I don’t think that’s the way it works. Journaling is good for you! And I think that opening up to a journal makes it easier to open up to actual people rather than harder. I think you’d be a lot less apt to stuff your emotions. So I hope she won’t give it up forever.

Buy from Amazon.com

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

*Note* To try to catch up on posting reviews, I’m posting the oldest reviews I’ve written on my blog without making a page on my main website. They’re still good books.

Review of A Tempest of Tea, by Hafsah Faizal, read by Maya Saroya

A Tempest of Tea

by Hafsah Faizal
read by Maya Saroya

Macmillan Young Listeners, 2024. 11 hours, 2 minutes.
Review written May 8, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.

I put this audiobook on hold because it’s wildly popular with our own public library customers. A Tempest of Tea is a heist novel with vampires.

By day, Arthie Casimir runs an upscale teahouse in the bad part of the capital city. By night, secret panels come open, and it transforms into a bloodhouse serving vampires, so they can sate their thirst with folks willing to be paid for the privilege, or with special coconut-mixed blood drinks. The bloodhouse is illegal, but Arthie has paid informants to warn her before raids so she can put the bloodhouse gear back into hiding.

Arthie’s an immigrant to the kingdom. When she was a child, colonizers killed her parents and took their land. Later on, she teamed up with another young orphan named Jin, and she figured out how to pull a magical pistol from stone and win the respect of the city. (Between her name and pulling the weapon from stone, I expected Arthurian overtones, but didn’t really find any more than that.) Together, she and Jin built up their teahouse and peddle tea and secrets.

But as the story opens, Arthie learns that the future of her teahouse is threatened. A mysterious figure comes and tells her she can save it if she will help him steal some compromising material about the king of the empire — housed in a citadel kept by elite vampires that is opened once a year for an exclusive charity auction.

So that’s the heist novel part. Arthie and Jin assemble a team and lay plans to pull off the heist. Of course things don’t go completely according to plan….

I wasn’t the best audience for this book, because although I do enjoy heist novels, I’m not a big vampire novel fan, and am also not a big fan of blackmailers and others consistently slipping under the law. They gave Arthie strong reasons for her contempt of people in authority, and I was won over to be on her side. My other problem, though, was that the plot was fairly complex and there was a pretty big cast of characters with the perspective switching frequently. I listen to audiobooks while I’m doing other things (makes housework so much more pleasant!), but I think maybe I missed some crucial details and wasn’t following along all that well in the middle. All the same, I wasn’t going to stop listening. And there is an annoying cliffhanger ending, and I think I will be compelled to find out how things turn out. (It’s said to be a duology, so yay, this is the only suspense required.) One of the most delightful things about this audiobook was at the end, they give us a conversation between the author and her husband about the book, which is truly delightful.

If you do like vampire novels or heist novels, and don’t mind a little not-quite-legal dealings from characters who have good reason to be upset with the authorities – then give this book a try!

hafsahfaizal.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/tempest_of_tea.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?