I’m a huge fan of Okorafor and this is her first foray into middle grade fiction—although I think her YA novel Akata Witch could be for younger readers. In this one, Nnamdi is mourning the murder of his father, the town’s police chief, and vows to avenge him. When he is given a totem, the Ikenga, it gives him Hulk-like powers which he uses to track down the murderer. Nnamdi soon learns that might doesn’t make right and has to navigate some delicate situations that require a lot more than strength. Great story and interesting setting (Nigeria) that would serve as a good introduction for kids looking to read books beyond the U.S.
The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher
Another middle grade read. I loved several of Fisher’s young adult series, so I had to pick up this one. Fisher’s work often combines fantasy with sci fi in really imaginative ways. The Clockwork Crow combines fantasy with steam punk and is just as much fun. Orphan Seren, on her way to her new home, becomes guardian to a package that turns out to be clockwork parts. When she puts them together, she creates a sentient clockwork crow. Together they work to uncover the mystery surrounding her new home. Lots of fun and set at Christmas time.
The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal
I’m a huge fan of Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series, and this third book was fantastic. Maybe even better than the first two and I loved those books. This one takes place on Earth and on the Moon base, following Elma’s good friend and fellow astronaut Nicole Wargin as she navigates the vagaries of politics, misogyny, aging, and a mole trying to sabotage the space program by destroying the Moon base. This book is so damn good!
Mañanaland, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Ryan’s last book, Echo, is one of my very favorites (and should have won the Newbery) and while not as great as that one, Mañanaland is a delight. It has a fairytale quality to it that makes it seem both magical and ordinary. The story is about Max who feels like he’s old enough to be told why his mother left him as a baby, but his father doesn’t want to talk about it. When his father has to go away for a few weeks, Max finds out more of the secrets his father and grandfather keep from him and he has to choose what to do with that knowledge and figure out what kind of person he wants to be.
Beach Read, by Emily Henry
A fun romance about two writers—of very different genres—who decide to write in the other’s genre to see who gets published first. Since her father’s death, January, a successful romance writer, has had writer’s block. Enter her college foe and fellow writer, Augustus. He writes serious literary fiction. To show him that romance is not easy to write, January dares him to write a romance. They agree to do “research” for each of their new books together—he takes her to research a cult and she takes him on cliché romance dates. You can guess the rest. It’s a very sweet book.
Leonard & Hungry Paul, by Ronan Hession
This is Irish author Hession’s first book and it is lovely. It’s a nice story about nice people going through some life changes and doing it nicely. You’d think a book that I use three “nice”s to describe would be boring. It was not. I was eager to read about introvert Leonard’s hesitant romance and the slightly odd Hungry Paul’s small efforts to make the world a better place. This is a hard book to describe because the biggest villain is Hungry Paul’s sister who is cranky with pre-wedding jitters. I kept thinking something bad would happen, but it didn’t. I feel like I need to recommend this book to everybody who wants to escape into a story where nothing much happens, and that is a very good thing.
(Side note: I ‘reread’ Martha Wells’ Network Effect by listening to it. As I’ve already reviewed it twice before, I thought I better not do another. However, I do recommend the audio. The reader does a great job of bringing Murderbot to life.)