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!

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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.