Review: The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

This is the way the world ends… for the last time.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.


This is a really hard review to write, because I can’t assume you’ve read The Fifth Season, but I really WANT you to, so I don’t want to give anything away. But this sequel is pretty impossible to talk about without giving anything away… I’ll summarize by saying OH MY GOD IT WAS SO GOOD.

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6 Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Some books improve every time you re-read them. You notice more and more details with every re-read, catch things you didn’t catch the first time, get to know the characters even better. But for some books, nothing is quite like the experience of reading it for the first time. For me, those books feel like literal magic when I read them. I can get lost in them for hours at a time.

And sometimes I wish I could forget the book entirely so I can go back and read it for the first time again.

The Night Circus

The experience of reading The Night Circus was a lot like the experience of falling in love. Discovering the Circus was so enchanting, watching Marcus and Celia fall in love so heart-wrenching, discovering the terms of the bet so devastating. Though I loved re-reading this book (and I think I’ve re-read it twice), I would love to be able to read it for the first time and experience that feeling of falling in love with a book.


Life of Pi

Life of Pi is a book that is wonderful to analyze on a re-read, and things make more sense and you see where Martel was going and why he wrote what he wrote in each spot. But the ending is such a shock the first time. Some people hate that, but I love it. I hate to reference Twilight, but it’s like the way Meyer describes the whole world re-orienting when the wolf boys imprint, that’s what the end of Life of Pi was about. The whole book flips upside down, and it forces you to question EVERYTHING.


And Then There Were None

I haven’t re-read And Then There Were None, mostly because I don’t think it would re-read very well. Christie wrote it as an unsolvable mystery, very successfully, I might add. But then she hated to do that to her readers (thank God), so the epilogue explains the whole thing. But I can’t imagine that the reading experience would be quite as exciting now that I know.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I remember my fifth grade teacher reading Harry Potter to us as a class, and just begging her to keep reading each day. I think it must be partly that we experienced it together, partly the charming writing that I’m still enchanted by when I read the first book, and partly that I’d never read anything like it before. I’m still a Harry Potter fan, but I would love to recapture the feeling I had reading it for the first time when I was ten years old, still young enough to imagine that my Hogwarts letter might come, without knowing what all would happen next, and of course without all the baggage that comes with HP in 2021.


The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a book I’ve read maybe a half dozen times, and loved it every time. But I just remember the first time I read it, HOW exciting it was, HOW MUCH I was desperate to know who the Scarlet Pimpernel was. I remember reading so quickly that the words started to blur, so desperate was I to know what happened next. And like Life of Pi or And Then There Were None, there’s nothing quite like finally finding out who the Scarlet Pimpernel really is. And I just can’t experience that again.


Ender’s Game

Like with Life of Pi, the shocking ending of Ender’s Game is something that can’t be experienced again. This is yet another book that I’ve re-read again and again and enjoyed it every time, but it lacks that emotional and exciting impact at the end of the first time you read it. Similarly, the companion novel Ender’s Shadow is one that I would love to be able to read for the first time again. Its another of those that makes you re-frame everything you read in the first book.


Is there a book you wish you could read for the first time again? Why? Let me know in the comments!

Middle Grade Review: Maya and the Rising Dark

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Series: Maya and the Rising Dark
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.


Maya and the Rising Dark is a Middle Grade fantasy novel based on West African mythology in the same vein as the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. It’s fun, upbeat, and easy to read.

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Review: Cemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.


Holy Smokes! What a cool book! In 2021 that doesn’t seem like quite the right word, but that’s really the best descriptor for this book. The plot, the characters, the aesthetic, the magic, they were all so cool.

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Is Literacy and Reading Inherently Valuable?

When we talk about books, we often talk about them through a lens of Books Are Good. And I don’t just mean as book bloggers. As an educator and librarian this is obviously something that is always going around. But society in general seems to hold reading in high esteem.

This is especially true in comparison to other media. Books good, TV bad. Video games even worse. Candy Crush make you a less good human being, books make you a better human being!

My friends, family, and co-workers speak to me with admiration (and often envy) about my good reading habits. My husband is starting a New Year’s Resolution to read a book every month, in part so we have something to do together, but mostly because he thinks it is a Good thing to do.

But is reading inherently valuable? Does reading make us better? Are books superior to other media?

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Middle Grade Review: Class Act

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Series: New Kid
Genres: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Maturity Level: 3 (for mature themes like police violence)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?


Wow. I will literally pick up anything by Jerry Craft at this point. This book was just SO OUTSTANDING, I devoured it in an hour. While you don’t have to have read New Kid first, this book (especially the beginning) will make a lot more sense if you do, plus New Kid is amazing, so there’s that.

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Review: Oona Out of Order

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Genre: Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.


This was a concept I was very excited to read about, and the writing was excellent and readable. Unfortunately, one-dimensional characters and pacing problems kept this from being as good it could have been.

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Review: Red Rising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Series: Red Rising
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 5-
Content Warning: Rape (off-the-page)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. [redacted by reviewer because I feel like this is spoilery]

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.


This is going to be a short review, because I didn’t really connect with this book, but I’m not sure that I fully understand why.

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Review: The Henna Wars

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigird

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.


In trying to decide upon a rating for The Henna Wars, I think I finally understand why people give half-star ratings. Four stars means “I loved this book!”, and while I did enjoy The Henna Wars quite a lot, it didn’t really stand out enough from other YA romances enough for me to say I “loved” it. But three stars (“I liked it”) doesn’t seem adequate to describe quite how much I enjoyed it either. So, three and a half stars, I guess.

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Middle Grade Review: Meri Suárez Changes Gears

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Genres: Middle Grade, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
Content Warnings: Alzheimer’s and Dementia
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family. 


Do you know how sometimes reading about something you have experienced, especially pain, can be cathartic? How reading a character going through something you’ve already been through can make you feel so seen, especially when the writing is good? But you might also be familiar with the experience of something being so authentic that it drags you back to that time and might dredge up old feelings you don’t want. This book was definitely the second for me.

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