“When Life Gives You Mangos” by Kereen Getten

I had to request an ARC of this novel when I saw the title and cover and learned that it’s set in Jamaica. And I was so excited when I was granted access to it through NetGalley. 😀

My thoughts on it below are my own and are about my experience reading the novel.

Genre

MG Contemporary

Series

n/a

Pub

October 20, 2020

Goodreads summary

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there’s nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah–even though lately she’s not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn’t been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks…only she knows those aren’t her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island–and give Clara a summer she won’t forget. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

When Life Gives You Mangos was a good read and a quick one, too. It’s about a 12-year-old girl named Clara, who is struggling to come to terms with a tragic incident that left her unable to remember what happened last summer.

The story is fast-paced, but it gives us insight into Clara’s everyday life living in a small village in Jamaica where everyone knows each other. There’s a strong sense of community throughout, which is emphasized when a hurricane hits and the community turns out to help each other and rebuild.

The story is told from Clara’s perspective, so we get caught up in the drama and disagreement between Clara and her best friend, Gaynah. Since we are stuck with Clara, who’s upset with her friend for much of the story and focuses on only the negatives of Gaynah’s personality, I kept wondering why and how Clara and Gaynah became best friends. Clara focuses too much on the negatives between them for me to believe that they are best friends. It also turned me off Clara a little.

As the story progresses, we realize that Clara is struggling with something and it’s not until later, almost at end, that we realize what it is. There’s a big plot twist that I certainly did not see coming and made me reconsider almost all I’d read up until that point. It made the story a little more interesting and a little sad as well since it touches on grief.

In addition to all that, I enjoyed the story because it’s set in Jamaica and is authentic to the setting. From the small-town feel of Clara’s village to the children’s fear of entering Ms. Gee’s yard because she will find some chore for them to do. I also like that Clara loves to surf and that her parents are understanding, or at least try to be understanding and patient, regarding her fears and what’s troubling her. I love the little dugout area where Clara and Gaynah go to eat mangoes and the children’s visit to Eldorath’s house, where they dress up in costumes. I even like the mention of Koffee’s big tune, Toast, although it was brief, lol! It was a good read, it was quick, and I liked it.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

A contemporary middle grade novel set in Jamaica about a girl who’s unable to remember what happened the previous summer as she tries to avoid her grief. It was a good read and very fast-paced.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

“Ocean Meets Sky” by the Fan Brothers (illus.) — Terry & Eric Fan

I had no idea what this story was about before reading it. I bought it solely because of the cover, which is amazing. I love the illustrations.

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

2018

Goodreads summary:

Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.

Continue reading ““Ocean Meets Sky” by the Fan Brothers (illus.) — Terry & Eric Fan”

“Rocket Says Look Up!” by Nathan Bryon, illus. by Dapo Adeola

I bought this shortly after doing my post on picture books by Black authors. Actually, I bought a couple books after that post — I couldn’t help it. But I’m glad I got this one. It was a good read.

Genre:

Children’s Contemporary

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

2019

Goodreads summary:

Meet Rocket — a plucky aspiring astronaut intent on getting her community to LOOK UP! from what they’re doing and reach for the stars in this auspicious debut picture book.

A comet will be visible tonight, and Rocket wants everyone to see it with her — even her big brother, Jamal, whose attention is usually trained on his phone or video games. Rocket’s enthusiasm brings neighbors and family together to witness a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. Perfect for fans of Ada Twist, Scientist and young science lovers excited about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Look Up! will inspire readers of all ages to dream big as it models Rocket’s passion for science and infectious curiosity. (Goodreads)

Continue reading ““Rocket Says Look Up!” by Nathan Bryon, illus. by Dapo Adeola”

“Julia’s House Moves On” by Ben Hatke (illus.)

I’ve been curious about Ben Hatke’s work for some time now and have wanted to read his Nobody Likes a Goblin, but I keep forgetting to get myself a copy. So, when I saw the cover of Julia’s House Moves On on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it and was glad that I was granted access to it. So shout out to the publisher — First Second. (Thanks!)

(So yea, I got an ARC from the publisher, but my review below is my honest opinion of the book.)

Genre:

Children’s Fantasy

Series:

n/a (but there’s a book before this one with the same protagonist called Julia’s House for Lost Creatures)

Continue reading ““Julia’s House Moves On” by Ben Hatke (illus.)”

“Shaman’s Crossing” by Robin Hobb

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I consider it a favorite. Emily at Embuhleeliest, my buddy-reader in all things Hobb, and I completed the Realm of the Elderlings books last year and really wrapped it up by reading a novella and a short story set in its world earlier this year. We then took a break before jumping into Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy, which is fantasy but set in a different world than the Elderlings books and which begins with this novel — Shaman’s Crossing.

I had such a good time reading this novel with Emily that I slowly fell into a little reading and blogging slump. It took a while to move on from this story, especially since the books I picked up after it were lackluster. I also had a hard time drumming up energy to create new posts for my blog because I was procrastinating on reviewing this. I needed to get out my thoughts on it, but there were so many that I didn’t know where to start.

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

Soldier Son trilogy, book 1

Pubbed:

2005

Quick summary:

Like the Farseer trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing begins with the protagonist, Nevare, as a young boy learning about his station and duty in life and the world beyond his father’s lands. Through him, we learn that he lives in a very patriarchal society that is also very religious. Sons are treasured, of course, and the religion dictates that the first son becomes his father’s heir while the second son serves as a soldier; the third son should be a priest, the fourth son an artist, and the fifth son a scholar. Nevare is the second son and strongly believes his destiny is to become a soldier, like his father.

Continue reading ““Shaman’s Crossing” by Robin Hobb”

“Drowned Country” by Emily Tesh

Here’s to show how very trivial it is for me to rate things. I enjoyed Drowned Country much more than I did Silver in the Wood, but I gave Silver in the Wood a half star higher rating than Drowned Country. Why? Because Drowned Country felt like a 3 star and Silver in the Wood felt like a 3.5 star…? Basically, not much reason at all. Anyway…

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

Greenhollow, book 2

Pub:

August 18, 2020

Goodreads summary:

Drowned Country is the the stunning sequel to Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh’s lush, folkloric debut. This second volume of the Greenhollow duology once again invites readers to lose themselves in the story of Henry and Tobias, and the magic of a myth they’ve always known.

Continue reading ““Drowned Country” by Emily Tesh”

“The Belles” by Dhonielle Clayton

I don’t read much YA fantasy anymore, and that’s on purpose. I felt duped by the ones I read in recent years because although they are categorized as fantasy, the romance is almost always the focus. Now, that’s not a problem, if that’s what you like and why you picked up the book, but it’s a disappointment for me. So because of that (and other reasons), I’ve been cautious about the YA fantasy books I choose to read.

But recently I read The Belles for a buddy-read with Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile. I’ve been curious about it, love the cover, and bought it after briefly meeting the author about a year or two ago. It was a quick read and certainly interesting, but… meh. I didn’t care much for it.

Genre

YA Fantasy

Series

The Belles, book 1

Pubbed

2018

Goodreads summary

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

Continue reading ““The Belles” by Dhonielle Clayton”

“Boy Snow Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi

This novel had been sitting on my shelf unread for a while, so when a bookclub I’m in chose it for one of our reads, I was enthusiastic to do so. I’d heard great things about it and that it’s inspired by the Snow White fairytale, so I thought the book sounded promising. But unfortunately, the story wasn’t as outstanding as I thought it would be.

Genre

Historical Fiction; Magical Realism; Literary

Series

n/a

Pubbed

2013

Goodreads summary

The widely acclaimed novel that brilliantly recasts the Snow White fairy tale as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.

In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.

Continue reading ““Boy Snow Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi”

“Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky” by Kwame Mbalia

I finally got around to trying one of the Rick Riordan Presents books! 😊 I enjoyed reading Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus novels, so I was glad and eager for novels published under his imprint since they would also be fun middle-grade fantasy novels but would instead tap into other world mythologies and folklores.

Apart from that, I was also interested in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky because there are few middle-grade fantasy novels that center on a Black character and is grounded in Black culture and myths. So I was beyond excited to read this, and I enjoyed it!

Genre:

MG Fantasy

Series:

Tristan Strong, book 1

Pubbed:

2019

Goodreads summary:

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in.

Continue reading ““Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky” by Kwame Mbalia”

“Greyborn Rising” by Derry Sandy

Here’s a paranormal novel set in the Caribbean that includes creatures from Caribbean folklore. There are jumbies, soucouyants, lagahoos, and a nefarious obeah man intent on letting in more monsters from the Grey.

(Btw, I know the author and received a free copy of the book to read and review; but my thoughts below are my honest reaction to the story.)

Genre:

Paranormal; Fantasy

Series:

n/a

Pubbed:

2019

Goodreads summary:

The Greyborn are Rising and only the Order can save humankind.

The world consists of three parallel realms; the Grey where Greyborn—preternatural creatures of legend live; the Ether which is the realm of Heaven and Hell; and the Absolute where humans make their home, blissfully unaware of the tripartite nature of their world.

Continue reading ““Greyborn Rising” by Derry Sandy”