“A Snake Falls To Earth” Review

The green book cover has a drawing of a young brown-skinned woman with black hair wearing yellow headphones, a yellow tank top and long dark red skirt. She's holding a book in one had and a player of some sort in the other. At her feet is a black snake. The title of the book is in her skirt and the authors name is at the bottom.Written by Darcie Little Badger
Published by Levine Querido, August 2021
352 pages
Completed December 7, 2023

Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He’s found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

This was an interesting read, though the description of the book is a bit misleading, as the meeting of the characters doesn’t take place until a little more than halfway through the book. They also know about the existence of each other’s worlds; they just don’t know who’s in each world. In any case, the characters are great, and I had a good time reading their separate stories and then their eventual meeting. I did end up feeling as though the resolution was a little rushed, but it did make sense and worked for the story as it was.

“Children of Virtue and Vengeance” Review

A young black woman is on the cover looking backwards slightly her white hair is spread out behind her across the cover. She is wearing a red and blue head covering with a blue jewel in the center. The title is shown at the bottom of the cover and the author's name at the top.Full Title: “Children of Virtue and Vengeance: Legacy of Orïsha 2”
Written By Tomi Adeyemi
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2019
404 Pages
Completed September 30, 2023

After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

I enjoyed this one for the most part – same great characters and everything. Still it does have the problem of being the middle story in a trilogy! Things aren’t resolved completely and the ending is a cliffhanger! A really abrupt one at that. I also had to remind myself that Zélie, Amari and other characters are in fact teenagers and are reacting accordingly. Even given their history they’re still reacting like teenagers to the situations. It’s still a good story and I’m looking forward to the final book when it comes out next June.

“Children of Blood and Bone” Review

The face of a young black woman is visible at the bottom of the cover from the nose up she's wearing a read head covering and her white hair is flowing up towards the top of the book cover. The title and authors name are shown in the middle of the cover in red and black Full Title: “Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orïsha 1”
Written by Tomi Adeyemi
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, March 2018
352 pages
Completed September 25, 2023

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This was fun read. I loved the characters and the world building. Everything was great about this book! I really enjoyed reading it as everything unfolded. The point of view characters had their own stories to tell and a lot to figure out about what they wanted and how they were going to get it. I liked that it wasn’t as easy to bring magic back as Zélie wanted and that there were larger concerns beyond just bringing magic back. This is the first book in a trilogy and I’ve already finished the second book. The third will be released next summer and I’m looking forward to seeing how this all goes.

“The Wicked Bargain” Review

A young person is shown taking up most of the cover facing right with their head turned forward. They're wearing a brown shirt and pants and a necklace. They have one hand up with a flame in it. Behind them is the ocean and a pirate ship. The title and author's name are shown over them. Written by Gabe Cole Novoa
Published by Penguin Random House, February 2023
360 pages
Completed September 3, 2023

On Mar León de la Rosa’s sixteenth birthday, el Diablo comes calling. Mar is a transmasculine nonbinary teen pirate hiding a magical ability to manipulate fire and ice. But their magic isn’t enough to reverse a wicked bargain made by their father, and now el Diablo has come to collect his payment: the soul of Mar’s father and the entire crew of their ship.

When Mar is miraculously rescued by the sole remaining pirate crew in the Caribbean, el Diablo returns to give them a choice: give up their soul to save their father by the harvest moon, or never see him again. The task is impossible–Mar refuses to make a bargain, and there’s no way their magic is a match for el Diablo. Then Mar finds the most unlikely allies: Bas, an infuriatingly arrogant and handsome pirate–and the captain’s son; and Dami, a gender-fluid demonio whose motives are never quite clear. For the first time in their life, Mar may have the courage to use their magic. It could be their only redemption–or it could mean certain death.

This was an interesting book. It has some great parts to it but feels a little immature. Granted the main characters are teenagers reacting like teenagers to everything. I feel like it could have done with a bit more editing and figuring out how the story was meant to go. I got tired of how long it took Mar to realize they could actually control their powers – the sudden realization didn’t feel like it made a whole lot of sense. But again, teenagers. I’m glad it worked out in the end though and it was mostly a fun read.

“The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester” Review

A young person shown on the cover with white/purple hair and wearing a black t-shirt with a logo of something that is covered up by the book they're holding in their right hand against their chest. Their right arm is covered with a tattoo of sky and a bird and tree. The background is purple and white with stars. The title is shown at the top of te cover. Written by Maya MacGregor
Published by Astra Young Readers, May 2022
355 pages
Completed July 20, 2023 (2nd read)

Sam Sylvester’s not overly optimistic about their recent move to the small town of Astoria, Oregon after a traumatic experience in their last home in the rural Midwest.

Yet Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, the pretty neighbor. However, Sam can’t seem to let go of what might have been, and is drawn to investigate the death of a teenage boy in 1980s Astoria. Sam’s convinced he was murdered–especially since Sam’s investigation seems to resurrect some ghosts in the town.

Threatening notes and figures hidden in shadows begin to disrupt Sam’s life. Yet Sam continues to search for the truth. When Sam discovers that they may be closer to a killer than previously known, Sam has a difficult decision to make. Would they risk their new life for a half-lived one?

Originally read this last year soon after it was published – I still love it. It’s a great quick read with awesome characters. The central mystery is a little predictable but it was still fun waiting to see what was going on. I liked it more for the character interactions. Especially Sam realizing there is a place where they can be themselves and have friends and date safely. This is both a story about being non-binary and Autistic and finding people who get you in all the ways that matter. Their father already does but having people beyond their father understand them is something new.

“VenCo” Review

The book cover is black with the title Venco repeated twice in white with Coven repeated in purple after each time the title is written. There are 5 small yellow birds sitting on the some of the letters on the cover. The author's name is at the bottom.Written By Cherie Dimaline
Published by William Morrow, February 2023
386 pages
Completed July 12, 2023

Métis millennial Lucky St. James is barely hanging on when she learns she’ll be evicted from the tiny Toronto apartment she shares with her cantankerous but loving grandmother Stella. But then one night, something strange and irresistible calls out to Lucky. She burrows through a wall to find a tarnished silver spoon, humming with otherworldly energy, etched with a crooked-nosed witch and the word SALEM.

Lucky is familiar with the magic of her indigenous ancestors, but she has no idea that the spoon connects her to a teeming network of witches across North America who have anxiously awaited her discovery.

Enter VenCo, a front company fueled by vast resources of dark money (its name is an anagram of “coven.”) VenCo’s witches hide in plain sight wherever women gather: Tupperware parties, Mommy & Me classes, suburban book clubs. Since colonial times, they have awaited the moment the seven spoons will come together and ignite a new era, returning women to their rightful power.

While I liked this book I did end up preferring another of the author’s books I recently read, “The Marrow Thieves”. The main characters, Lucky and her grandmother, Stella, are the best part of the book and felt the most written. The other characters didn’t feel like they did much beyond tell Lucky things and they weren’t always helpful. Though I’m wondering if that was intentional given the ending resolution? I’m not entirely sure. Also a big deal is made over how the coven coming together is going to save the world but that’s never really explained how. Again could be the point but I think some things could have been explained better.

“Reclaim the Stars” Review

The cover has a black background with red and pink flowers along the left and right boarder with green leaves and stems. At the bottom is a mermaid with brown skin and black hair and a goat. Full Title: “Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space”
Edited by Zoraida Córdova
Published by Wednesday Books, February 2022
417 pages
Completed July 8, 2023

From stories that take you to the stars, to stories that span into other times and realms, to stories set in the magical now, Reclaim the Stars takes the Latin American diaspora to places fantastical and out of this world.

Follow princesses warring in space, haunting ghost stories in Argentina, mermaids off the coast of the Caribbean, swamps that whisper secrets, and many more realms explored and unexplored; this stunning collection of seventeen short stories breaks borders and realms to prove that stories are truly universal.

Reclaim the Stars features both bestselling and acclaimed authors as well as two new voices in the genres: Vita Ayala, David Bowles, J.C. Cervantes, Zoraida Córdova, Sara Faring, Romina Garber, Isabel Ibañez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Circe Moskowitz, Maya Motayne, Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, Daniel José Older, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro and Lilliam Rivera.

Another great collection of short stories to read! The stories were great and I enjoyed all of them. There’s a bit of science fiction, and then more fantasy and magical realism – all good stuff. I did feel like a couple of the stories ended to abruptly and would have been better as longer stories but the rest felt complete as they were. Going to spend some time looking into the various authors and seeing what else they’ve written.

“How Long ’til Black Future Month?” Review

On the cover a young black woman is facing towards the right in profile with her long hair styled with decorations that are white geometric shapes. The shirt or dress she is wearing has a thick collar that looks like two rows of white balls. The title of the book and authors name are on the top and bottom of the cover. Written by N.K. Jemisin
Published by Orbit, November 2018
416 pages
Completed June 14, 2023

“Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption that sharply examine modern society in her first collection of short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories.”

“Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.”

This is a great collection of short stories all written by N. K. Jemisin. Some of them are early ideas that would become her larger works. Others are stories she had written for other publications. All are great. I also highly recommend reading the introduction to the book for more background and to know where the title of the book comes from. I really enjoyed each story and will likely read more by this author at some point.

“Land of Big Numbers” Review

Four images in the shape of China are shown on the cover in various colors one half covering the other downwards. The title of the book is over the images.Land of Big Numbers
Written By Te-Ping Chen
Published by Houghton Mifflin, February 2021
256 pages
Completed: May 20, 2023

“Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present.”

“Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.”

“With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.”

I enjoyed all of the stories in this book one way or another. Some were a little confusing – but I’m pretty sure that was a the point in at least one case. Things were happening for basically no reason at all besides government regulations. Each story was interesting with good characters to learn about. That said to some degree I did feel like there could have been more variety in the stories told or at least more depths to the “why” of things if there was a specific cultural element to everything. Not that things have to be explained to outsiders but I felt like something was missing from some of the stories.

“Lakelore” Review

The book cover has two teens who appear to be standing chest deep in a lake one looking away and one facing the viewer. There are mountains and the sun visible behind them. The lake has a variety of colors - blue, green, red, orange, purple in swirls. The teens have brown skin and brown hair and thee are green butterflies on their heads. One is wearing a white shirt and the other a yellow hoodie. Written by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published by Feiwel & Friends, March 2022
304 pages
Completed: May 6, 2023

“Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.”

“Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it, and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.”

This is a great story with great characters. Bastián and Lore are trans nonbinary, neurodivergent Mexican American teens who find themselves in a very weird situation while figuring themselves out. The world under the lake isn’t explained in much detail but that’s mostly because no one really knows much about it anymore. Bastián was just able to access it as a child and then Lore ended up being able to access it as well. They don’t know any more about it than we do really. And the land under the lake isn’t really the main point – it’s Bastián and Lore dealing with who they are as they work through some issues. Bastián has ADHD and Lore is dyslexic and the book goes into a lot of detail about how their brains work and what their lives are like because of it. I really enjoyed reading all of that information and the way the characters interact with each other as they learn about each other. This isn’t a story where Bastián and Lore are the only ones who understand and love them for who they are – Their family and friends see them for who they are and love them deeply. Which is good because “two people against the world” stories are a little frustrating – even when it’s realistic because of the way some families. This was a good read because of the difference. The land under the lake is what brings Bastián and Lore together and helps them figure some additional things out that they needed to deal with.