Book Review: The Chaos Curse by Sayatani DasGupta

Book Review: The Chaos Curse by Sayatani DasGupta

Published March 2020 by Scholastic Press|368 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Creating order out of chaos has frightening consequences in this New York Times bestselling series!

Kiranmala must leave the Kingdom Beyond and travel to her hometown of Parsippany to save Prince Lal, who has been spirited to the unlikeliest of places — a tree in the yard of her best-enemy-for-life. She also faces evil serpents (of course!), plus a frightening prophecy about her role in the coming conflict between good and evil. Most troubling of all, though, is the way reality all around her seems to waver and flicker at odd moments. Could it be that the Anti-Chaos Committee’s efforts are causing a dangerous disruption in the multiverse?

Kiran must grapple with the increasingly tangled threads that threaten to ensnare her…and everyone in the world and the Kingdom Beyond.

I liked The Chaos Curse!  I wish I liked it as much as the first two books in the series but I still liked it.  Even if it wasn’t as much as I wanted to like it.

The characters felt really young in this book.  I know it’s middle grade, and the characters are supposed to be young.  It’s weird, because I didn’t feel that way with the other books in the series.  We are living in pretty weird times, and maybe I just wasn’t reading this book at the right time.  I’m not in the biggest mood to read right now, so I’m pretty sure that’s why I had a hard time with this book.

The thought that the characters seemed young was something I thought pretty much the whole time I read the book.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like Kiran and seeing what adventures she has.  Overall, this book was just as fun as the other books, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I really liked the story.  Everything is definitely mixed up and very alternate universe.  Things do go back to normal, of course, but things definitely go haywire for a while.  I’m glad Kiran and her friends were able to get things back to normal.

Well, as normal as they’ll ever be for this world.  Things always go wrong, and there’s always an adventure to be had.  I really like the world, and I really feel like we learn more about it with every book in this series.  It’s a really big world, and I liked that there were all of these different dimensions and alternate worlds/timelines.  We definitely saw one of them in this book, and it makes me wonder how many other versions of Kiran’s world are out there.

We also see how connected everything is in this book.  It’s not surprising in a world like Kiran’s, but I liked seeing how complicated things get, and how changing one thing changes so many other things.  I think DasGupta did a great job with that, and I really liked seeing how Kiran dealt with that.  I enjoyed seeing the characters try to save the stories they know and love.

It’s a fun book, and a really good addition to the series.  I also love the different characters we meet, and even though I will probably never read the original stories DasGupta drew from, I also love that she included stories from a variety of mythologies.  In my opinion, these are great books for Percy Jackson fans.  Or if you really want a series drawing from mythology that’s not Greek mythology.

3 stars.  I liked The Chaos Curse and I am excited about reading the next book.

Book Review: Race To The Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Book: Race To The Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Published January 2020 by Rick Riordan Presents|306 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Re-telling

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.

When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .

Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.

I really liked Race To The Sun!  I am definitely glad I read it.

I liked Nizhoni, Mac and Davery, and they worked really well as a team.  I loved Davery’s knowledge and Nizhoni’s ability to detect and defeat monsters.  I loved that Nizhoni was brave but also scared and unsure of herself.  It made her easy to relate to, and I feel like I would have acted the same way if I were in her position.

Sadly, I don’t have anything to add about Mac, which makes me sad because I really do wish I had more to say about him.  I felt like he wasn’t super-important to the story, even though he goes along for the ride.  It really felt more like Nizhoni’s story, and I kind of wanted Mac to have more of a role.

It is a great adventure story, especially if you like the Percy Jackson books.  This is partly because this book is a part of Riordan’s imprint, but also I think that if you love mythology and stories, you really like this book.  I knew nothing about the stories and characters we see in this book, and I really want to know more.  I really liked seeing a story focusing on the Southwest and seeing mythology that’s not Greek or Roman.  Not only that, but I loved seeing Navajo stories brought to life.

The stories were woven in so well, and it felt contemporary and timeless at the same time.  I really want more books set in this world, and it seems like this book is a stand-alone.  I feel like that’s something I don’t say often, but I really want at least one more book set in this world.

The ending did feel a little rushed and I think it could have been a little bit longer, but overall, it was a fun and great read.

4 stars.  I really liked Race To The Sun, and I wish it were a little longer!  It’s a great read if you like stories and adventure.

Book Review: The Battle by Karuna Riazi

Book: The Battle by Karuna Riazi

Published August 2019 by Salaam Reads|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Gauntlet #2

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

The game begins again in this gripping follow-up to The Gauntlet that’s a futuristic middle eastern Zathura meets Ready Player One!

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.

With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

I was really excited about The Battle after I read The Gauntlet a couple of years ago.  The Battle was just okay for me, and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

This book focuses on Ahmad, Farah’s brother.  I don’t know why but I just wasn’t as interested in his story as I was in Farah’s.  It did have a video game sort of feel to it, which seems right up Ahmad’s alley.  I’m not really a video game person, so I wonder if that’s part of it.

The story was interesting, and I’m glad we got to see Ahmad years after the events of The Gauntlet.  The game has definitely changed, which we see throughout the book.  It’s less Jumanji and more Ready Player One.  At least, from what I know about Ready Player One.  I still haven’t read it, so I can’t say for sure.  But this book does have more of a video game feel than a board game feel to it.

I was intrigued that the game managed to rebuild itself into a more modern version of the one we saw in The Gauntlet.  It was harder to picture, and I felt like we didn’t the descriptions we saw in the first book.  It was a lot harder to picture in this book, and I felt like the rules weren’t as clear in this book as they were in the first one.

Ahmad’s drawings sounded pretty cool- I found myself wondering if he was drawing the places in the Gauntlet, and if he didn’t remember what had happened there.  This version seemed somewhat familiar to him, but since it was really different, I wonder if he knew it was familiar but couldn’t place it.  That’s what made me wonder if he had remembered what happened years earlier and if maybe the drawings were a way to figure out or remember what had happened.  I could be completely off with this, of course, but I did think about that quite a bit at the beginning.

2 stars.  The Battle was just okay for me.  It was nice to see what happened to Ahmad and Farah after the Gauntlet was destroyed but I just wasn’t as interested in this story as I wanted to be.

Book Review: Aru Shah And The Song Of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Book: Aru Shah And The Song Of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Published April 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents|381 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Pandava Quartet #2

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Re-Telling

Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good.

But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone.

Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.

I really liked Aru Shah And The Song Of Death!  I really liked the first one, and I was pretty excited about this one.  It didn’t disappoint!

Aru’s story continues in this book, and she’s definitely in for more adventures with Mini.  We also see another Pandava sister in this book, and it makes me wonder if we’ll see the other ones.  There’s two more books planned in this series, so it’s possible we’ll see the other sisters.

Back to this book, though.  Mini and Aru team up with Brynne, who was a pretty cool character.  She’s rough around the edges, but I really liked that about her.  Aru and Mini could use someone with her strength and sense of direction, and I like how all three girls balance each other out.  They all have their strengths, and I think they work pretty well together.  I can’t wait to see what other adventures they have.

On their quest to prove their innocence, they go deeper into this world.  While we were introduced to the world in the first book, we are definitely past learning how this world works, and we’re thrown right into things.  I liked that we were able to explore Aru’s world a little more, and I’m hoping it stays that way for the rest of the series.

I liked the humor and pop culture references and they felt pretty natural.  I’m always nervous when I see pop culture references because I always worry the book is going to feel dated in a few years but I don’t feel like that’s the case with this book.

I also really liked that we don’t always know the whole story, and that heroes aren’t always who they’re cracked up to be.  I did like it because it’s really easy to elevate heroes, but there’s also the message that even heroes make mistakes.

We don’t see Mini or Boo for a good chunk of the book which was a little disappointing, because I really like Mini and Boo.  But Aru did have to learn to work with Brynne and while I love the relationship Aru has with Mini, I also think it’s good for her to learn how to work with other people too.  Aru is more confident with her abilities, and I’m sure she’ll get more confident as the series goes on.

4 stars.  I really liked this one, and it’s a great addition to the series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Book Review: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2019 by Scholastic Press|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #2

Genre: Middle Grade Re-Telling/Fantasy

When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been four months since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a reality show is taking over, and her friends are in danger.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again battle witches, solve riddles, and avoid her evil Serpent King father – all while figuring out who are her true friends, and what it really means to be a demon.

Games Of Stars is a really cool book!  I really liked the first one, and knew I had to pick up this one.

It didn’t feel like a middle book at all, and I loved seeing Kiran save her friends and deal with her Serpent King father and a reality t.v. show.  There’s a lot of fun adventures in this book, and I’m glad that continued from the first book.  She really wants to do the right thing, and she’s really determined.  Kiran is a great character, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for her in the next book.

I really liked the world and what we see in this book really adds to the world we were introduced to in the first book.  We see more creatures and myths, and I loved the author’s note at the end where DasGupta talks about her inspiration for the book.

Things are not black and white, and we definitely see Kiran learn that in this book.  While she trusts a few rakkosh, she’s not trusting of all them, but we see that change over the course of the book.  I don’t blame Kiran at all for how she reacts to some of the things in the book, but we see a lot of growth and change in her.  She really does give everyone a chance by the end of the book, and that was nice to see, because sometimes, it seems like books don’t always do that.

It’s action-packed and a fast read, and it went by so fast.  But I didn’t mind at all, because I had such a great time reading it.

4 stars.  I really liked the world and the characters, and it really added to the series.  It’s fun and full of adventure.

Book Review: Beanstalker And Other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White

Book Review: Beanstalker And Other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White

Published July 2017 by Scholastic|224 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Once upon a time, a girl skipped into the forest and became a zombie.

Wait, no, that’s not how this story is supposed to go. Let’s try again.

Once upon a time, a boy did a horrible job as a sheep-sitter and burned his tongue on stolen pie.

No, children in these stories are always good and virtuous. From the top.

Once upon a time, a king and queen tried to find a princess for their son to marry, and he wound up fleeing from a group of very hairy vampires.

Hmmm…

What about, once upon a time, a bunch of fairy tales got twisted around to be completely hilarious, a tiny bit icky, and delightfully spooky scarytales… in other words, exactly what fairy tales were meant to be. Grab some flaming torches, maybe don’t accept that bowl of pease porridge, and get ready for a wickedly fun ride with acclaimed author Kiersten White and fairy tales like you’ve never heard them before.

I really liked Beanstalker, but that’s no surprise, considering I love Kiersten White.  What is surprising is that I still haven’t started Slayer, but I’ll have to read it soon.

Beanstalker is a really cute middle grade.  The versions that White did of the different fairy tales are really funny, and really original.  It’s still the fairy tales we all know and love but with vampires and zombies and lots of other cool stuff.

It’s quirky and she did a great job at turning every single story on its head.  I wouldn’t expect anything else from her.  Even if I didn’t know she wrote Beanstalker, I’d know it was written by her, because it has the humor and writing style I’ve gotten to know with all of her books.

I loved how the stories worked really well on their own, but they also came together as a larger story really well.  I enjoyed the stories at the beginning a lot more than the ones later on, but overall, I really liked the stories.  I loved that all of the stories took place in the same kingdom, and how connected all of the characters were.  The Stepmother was pretty interesting.  In that sense, it makes me think of Once Upon A Time, and how connected those characters and worlds were.

The illustrations were really cool, and I liked the rhymes that separated each story.  It would be interesting to see her write these same stories for a slightly older audience, because there are a lot of interesting directions she could go.  Still, I can see a lot of kids really liking it.

4 stars.  Beanstalker is a cute middle grade book, full of really funny re-tellings.  It’s not my favorite Kiersten White book, but I still really liked it!

Book Review: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Zahrah The Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

Published September 2005 by HMH Books For Young Readers|308 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl — she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening — something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened. Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.

In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem — monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.

I’ve read a couple of Okorafor’s books, and thought I’d read this one.  It’s not my favorite book of hers, but I still liked it a lot.  Zahrah The Windseeker is this really cool middle grade that’s about learning how to accept yourself and overcoming your fears and overcoming fear of the unknown.  I really liked that about the book.

I also really liked how there’s this interesting blend of past and present- there’s something about Zahrah that feels really old, and yet there’s something very modern, especially where technology is concerned.  I think that’s something she does really well.  If you liked Akata Witch, this is a really good book to pick up.  Even if you haven’t, it’s still a really good read.

I loved the setting, especially the market and the jungle.  I thought the jungle was very vivid, and I could picture everything very clearly.  I really felt like I was with Zahrah in the jungle.  I really liked the market as well, but it didn’t have the life and vividness that the jungle had.

I also really liked that she came across another windseeker, and I wish we saw more of their relationship.  Even though Zahrah needs to take her own journey, and the other windseeker isn’t supposed to have a huge role in the book, I still wonder what sort of relationship they have once the book ends.  I thought her friendship with Dari was great, and how she kept going, even though she was scared, because she wanted to help him.  She really was willing to help him, no matter what.

I am curious about the ending.  I liked it, and it wrapped things up really well, but at the same time, I thought it left things open for a potential sequel.  As far as I can tell, it’s a stand-alone, which is fine, because it works really well on its own.  But there is part of me that wants to know how things turn out with Zahrah.

3 stars.  I liked it, and there are some things that I really liked (and even loved) about the book, but I didn’t love it the way I’ve loved her other books.

Book Review: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Book: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Published November 2015 by Clarion|384 Pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Sophie loves the hidden shop below her parents’ bookstore, where dreams are secretly bought and sold. When the dream shop is robbed and her parents go missing, Sophie must unravel the truth to save them. Together with her best friend—a wisecracking and fanatically loyal monster named Monster—she must decide whom to trust with her family’s carefully guarded secrets. Who will help them, and who will betray them?

I liked it!  This book is a really cute middle grade book about a girl who has to find her parents after they go missing.

I loved her friend Monster, and I really liked how her parents bottled and sold dreams.  And how she didn’t really have friends because she felt different, but ended up making new friends by trying to find her parents.

I thought the Night Guards, who were supposed to be really scary, weren’t all that scary.  In general, I have a lot of questions.  Most importantly, why doesn’t Sophie dream, and why are non-dreamers so bad?  We did get an explanation for the second part of my question, in the sense that we find out what would happen if they got their hands on the bottled dreams.  But not why they can’t, and that’s what I’m curious about.  Also, why does Sophie have the ability to make dreams come to life?

It is a stand-alone, which was a little surprising, because it seems like the sort of book that would be the first book in a series.  But things are wrapped up really well, even though there is the possibility for more books.

3 stars.  I wanted to like it more, but I don’t think I’m the right audience for this book.  I liked how cute it is and I think a lot of other people will like it, but it’s not for me.