Tristan Strong Punches the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia
Excellent middle grade novel touching on mythology from Africa and the African American diaspora with figures such as Brer Rabbit, John Henry, and Gum Baby. The story follows young Tristan, a boy from Chicago who was raised on his Southern grandmother’s folktales. When he visits her Alabama farm for the summer, he accidently tears a whole between his world and the world of folklore, Alke, bringing with him a terrible evil. He’s tasked with traveling Alke to find the Spider God’s story box, meeting people and gods throughout. This series is one from Rick Riordan’s (Percy Jackson) Presents, a series that has writers write the mythology of their own heritage. I enjoyed this book but it took me forever to read, as the pacing just didn’t work for me. I had the same problem when I read another book from Presents. I think Riordan has a story structure that the writers have to follow—a structure that works great for him in his books, but comes out clunky when other writers have to adapt to it. That said, Tristan Strong is a really solid book with a great plot, with plenty of twists, and awesome characters.
Trail of Lightening, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Jumping off from Tristan Strong, I decided to read this one because Roanhorse wrote the other Rick Riordan Presents book that I had trouble with (but still really enjoyed), Race to the Sun. I wanted to see if the pacing issue was the writer or the formula. Definitely not the writer. This is a damn good book. Set in the near future where much of the world is now underwater, the Navajo nation survives and thrives. However, the gods that were once myth, are now physically present in the world, as are the monsters and other evil entities. A new type of monster shows up and monster-slayer Maggie must find who is bringing them into the world and stop them. Really good dystopian fantasy. Action-packed and culturally interesting, I highly recommend this one.
The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez
The best part about this book is the meet-cute. I listened to this one and was so giddy about the long-distance, getting-to-know-each-other part at the beginning. The rest is OK. I was really expecting there to be some playlist making action here, but it turns out the playlist is just a song title at the beginning of each chapter. The story: Sloane can’t get over the death of her fiancé two years before until she meets Jason and everything just seems to click. Except that Jason is actually Jackson Waters, a phenom singer songwriter whose star is rising. They have to figure out how to be together even though Jason will be touring for the next few years. The reason I wasn’t too excited about this story is that it felt like they kept putting obstacles in front of themselves that if they stepped back for half a second to think about it, wouldn’t be an obstacle at all. And I’m all for a HEA, but I like it when the story ends as the lovers realize they are going to be together forever so I can imagine how awesome their lives will be. This one has an epilogue that comes three years later where everything is too fairy tale perfect. It’s kind of beyond fairy-tale perfect, which rubbed me the wrong way.
The Hum & the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe
I’ve had this book on my shelves for years. I got it as a gift and I think my friend chose it for me as the main character’s last name is Hyatt, like me. I suppose this book could go under a magical realism heading, or maybe just fantasy. It’s a story about a musical, superstitious people from a small town in the Great Smoky mountains, who may or may not be magic. There is an element of fantasy that underlies the story, yet that’s not really the story. We follow Bronwyn Hyatt, a wounded veteran, as she returns home after two years. She went away a hellion and most people figure she’ll still be that way, but war has changed her. Her family is also facing a death which she’ll do anything to stop, but she will have to revive her connection to the music before she can help anyone. OK, that is massively cryptic and only part of the story. This is a slow burn, but worth a read. I was never quite sure where the story was going, but in a good way.
Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers
I’m officially a fan of Dorothy Sayers now after finishing my second of her Peter Whimsey books. She writes comfortable mysteries. Even though the stakes are high—Harriet Vane, a woman on the line for poisoning her ex-boyfriend, is in jail with a very solid case against her. Sir Peter Whimsey takes an interest in the case and sets in motion a number of inquiries to find the real murderer using his cadre of “forgotten females” to probe new lines query. Great mystery, more female characters than you often get in any mystery of any age, and a subtle romance. A really good read.
Friend or Fiction, by Abby Cooper
Jade lives in a town where nobody stays for long, which makes it hard to keep friends. Instead, she made up the perfect best friend, Zoe, and spends her time writing about their adventures together. When Zoe magically becomes real, Jade starts having all the adventures she wanted. The problem is that now that Zoe is a real person, other people want to be her friend too and Jade does not want to share. I really like this middle grade novel. Jade has to learn to come out of her shell to be friends with real people—even I can identify with that. A well written story, with 11-year-old characters that felt true.
Chaos Reigning, by Jessie Mihalik
All too soon, the Consortium Rebellion series, comes to an end with the third book in the series. I wrote about the first one several months ago as the “princess in space book I didn’t know I needed.” Just like the other two, the third didn’t disappoint. In Chaos Reigning, we follow House Von Hasenberg’s youngest daughter as she turns spy. Her older sister, worried about Catarina working in the field, sends along a bodyguard who has to pretend to be her boyfriend, but Kat has a deep secret that could be exposed if he gets too close. Political intrigue, traitorous rulers, fun action, and some excellent romance make this a hard book to put down.