Middle Grade Review: The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Series: The Wild Robot
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 1
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.


What a delightful book! Everything about it was just so CHARMING and NICE and SWEET. Literally, I am dying from the adorableness and the feels and the lovely illustrations.

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Review: The Guest List

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Genre: Thriller
Maturity Level: 5
Content Warnings: self-harm, suicide, abortion
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?


I guess it is just time for me to finally admit that I don’t like thrillers and just give up on the genre. If I didn’t like this one, I’m not going to like any of them.

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Favorites February 2021

Okay so, I realize it isn’t February today, but when I was planning my book list I genuinely thought that it would be February today, and I’ve already started my reading for this. So, here we are. WHATEVER! It’s February tomorrow!

Every year here on Never Not Reading I read a favorite series (or suuuuper long novel) in the month of February. As I am reading I write a series of posts in which I write about the books in detail and host a small discussion. In the past I’ve read Percy Jackson, Emma, and His Dark Materials.

In 2021 I am SO EXCITED to announce that I will be reading The Hunger Games trilogy!

I’m really looking forward to this re-read for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest of those is that with the release of A Ballad of Songbird and Snakes last year, The Hunger Games was everywhere and made me feel super nostalgic. I even considered tagging ABOS&S to the end of this re-read since I haven’t read it yet, but decided against it. After giving it months of thought (seriously, I’ve known this was going to be my Favorites Februrary since like, April) I decided that I don’t really care about the prequel.

The other reason I’m super excited about this re-read is that it’s been a hot minute since I read The Hunger Games. I can’t remember for sure when I last read it, but it’s been at least five years, probably more.

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Classic Remarks: Shakespeare’s Collaborators

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Why do you think people tend to ignore Shakespeare’s collaborators and speak as if Shakespeare always wrote alone?

I should start by saying that, once again, this is a topic that I know almost nothing about. But therein lies my hypothesis to this question. People don’t talk about Shakespeare’s collaborators because, like me, they don’t know enough about the topic.

Like most English speakers, I studied Shakespeare in school. Freshman year we studied Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and the sonnets. Senior year we studied Macbeth and Hamlet. These literature studies came with some perfunctory background study on Shakespeare’s life and the time, but nothing more in-depth than learning the words “Stratford upon Avon” and “Globe Theater.” We talked very briefly about the notion that Shakespeare may not have written his works, but our teacher didn’t seem to know enough about it to help us draw any definitive conclusions. Shakespeare’s collaborators? I would only know about that from reading historical fiction!

And y’all, I went to a good school. I took advanced classes. If this was my educational experience, I have to assume that the average American didn’t fare much better. Maybe Brits get a more details learning experience about Shakespeare.

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How to Write YA Fantasy

Main Character

Your main character absolutely MUST be a teenage girl. Ideally she should have a traditionally masculine identity, such as a warrior or hunter, and she must be proficient with weapons. A bow would be best, but knifes are okay too. She should have a tragic backstory that probably includes the death of one or both of her parents.

World Building

If you can come up with a unique magic system that would be best, but the most important thing is that there is some impediment to magic use. Possibly magic users are persecuted, maybe magic is something only a very few understand, but more likely magic has mysteriously or sinisterly disappeared. This should be an especial problem for the main character and her family who have depended on magic in the past.

This should be high fantasy, but it should probably be based on a culture that isn’t white so that you don’t get compared to Sarah J. Maas or J.R.R. Tolkien. Urban fantasy isn’t particularly popular right now, probably because the market was so over-saturated with it in the early 2010s. So find a way to make high fantasy unique.

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Review: The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
View on Goodreads
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!

Classic Remarks: Classic Book You’re Afraid to Pick Up

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is a classic novel you are afraid to pick up? Why?

I should preface by saying that in 2020 I finally read the Classic on my tbr that I was most intimidated by, which was Lonesome Dove. I was intimidated partly because of its size (it was 800 pages long!) and the fact that it was a Western, which is easily my least familiar genre. I had no idea what I was going to get, and 800 pages of I don’t know what I’m going to get was pretty scary! I ended up liking it well enough, I think I gave it 4-stars, but it’s not one I would purchase or re-read. You can read my sort-of-review here if you want.

Right now there actually aren’t very many classics on my tbr, and most of them are books that I would call “modern classics”. Meaning, written after 1950. They are books that have made it into the literary canon, but maybe aren’t old enough yet to really refer to as classics. And there is one in particular that I’m nervous about.

I am, of course, referring to Kindred by Octavia Butler.

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Discussion: Can you read in the car?

When I was a kid I constantly had my nose buried in a book. Sometimes I would read even when I was walking down the hall at school. So, of course, any time my dad hauled me off to one of his baseball games or on a road trip, the car was a valuable place for me to get some good reading done. I would stuff my backpack full of however many books would fit. And something I remember hearing all the time was “I’m so jealous, I wish I could read in the car.”

This isn’t something I still hear as an adult, and not because I stopped reading in the car. I wonder if I don’t hear it because I have fewer interactions with people who are just acquaintances, or if this is just not as much a thing anymore? But I certainly understand this sentiment much better now. I do get carsick, and these days I only read in the car if we’re going to be on the highway for an extended period of time.

Which, of course, got me wondering if YOU ALL read in the car. So, can you read in the car? Why or why not? 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
View on Goodreads
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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