I’ve got four reviews for you today: two Middle Grades, a YA, and a YA series . I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Published by Delacorte Press on February 5, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Nothing of note)
In the spirit of modern-day classics like Fish in a Tree and Counting by 7s comes the story of a deaf girl's connection to a whale whose song can't be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.
From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.
When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?
Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.
This is one of those books that takes you into the heart and mind of a character whose experiences you might not be able to completely relate to—and you come out all the richer for it in the end.
The story focuses on Iris, a Deaf girl who struggles to communicate with many of the people around her and to find her place in a world that doesn’t seem to know how to define her. When she learns of a whale with a similar issue, Blue 55, who can’t communicate with other whales, she makes it her mission in life to let him know there’s someone out there who understands him. I connected to Iris right away, even when I didn’t always love her actions and responses (she treats a well-meaning but overenthusiastic and somewhat boorish hearing classmate pretty poorly–an issue I wish had been resolved a bit better in the book). Her friendship with the (hearing) girl that she meets on her trip to Alaska is wonderful and helps give Iris a bit of perspective well–it was one of my favorite relationships in the book. And I was actually surprised at how much science was woven into this story–I learned quite a bit about whales, sound, and oceanography! One negative: Iris and her grandmother lie to Iris’s parents when they set off on their journey and leave them worrying about what might be happening. I could understand this for child, but the grandmother’s actions seemed wholly irresponsible to me and there aren’t any real consequences for that or even much discussion about it, which felt strange (maybe we’re supposed to assume those conversations took place outside of Iris’s hearing). But this felt like a relatively minor detail compared to all the wonderful aspects of the book, so I didn’t dwell on that issue for long.
While I can’t speak directly to the Deaf representation in the book (I do have a Deaf uncle who taught me aspects of the culture, but I’m by no means an expert), it’s obvious that the author’s connection to the Deaf community is deep and that she has an understanding of what deafness in a hearing world can be like. (Obviously, there are many different Deaf experiences, and this is just an illustration of one possible experience, but it seems authentic, at least to me–own voices reviews would be a great place to look for more guidance on that.)
Overall, I highly recommend this one!!
A Friendly Town That's Almost Always by the Ocean! by Kir Fox, M. Shelley Coats
Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 17, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy
My content rating: MG (Nothing of note)
Welcome to Topsea, the strangest place you'll ever visit. In this town, the coves are bottomless and the pier has no end in sight. There's a high tide and a low tide... and a vanishing tide. Dogs are a myth, but mermaids are totally real. And seaweed is the main ingredient in every meal-watch out, it might just start chewing you back!
New kid Davy definitely thinks Topsea is strange. His mom keeps saying they'll get used to life in their new town-it's just the way things are on the coast! But after his first day at Topsea School, Davy finds himself wondering: Why is his locker all the way at the bottom of the school swimming pool? Why can't anyone remember his name? (It's Davy!) And why does everyone act like all of this is normal?!
Through newspaper articles, stories, surveys, notifications, and more, follow Davy and the rest of Ms. Grimalkin's fifth grade class through the weird world of Topsea. (Whatever you do, don't make eye contact with the rubber ducks.)
This book is extremely quirky. And all sorts of fun! It’s filled with crazy creatures and even crazier adventures. Don’t expect a terribly cohesive plot—the book is more about the setting (and the zany kids who live in Topsea). Even though Davy’s not too sure about his new town right away, kid readers are sure to love it. And they won’t find another story like this anywhere! I honestly don’t even know what else to say about this, except that it’s a fun read that keeps you guessing—you have no idea what sort of crazy shenanigans are right around the corner!
The Color of Lies by C.J. Lyons
Published by Blink on November 6, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Mysteries, Thrillers
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Length: 7 hours and 42 minutes
Source: The Publisher, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.
High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.
Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.
After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.
The Color of Lies is a mystery/thriller with a synesthesia twist! Ella has spent her whole life being able to “read” the people around her. When she talks to people, she doesn’t only hear their words, she sees them. She experiences the world as a rainbow—and the colors tell her much more than mere words ever could: she can sense emotions, suss out lies and understand hidden meaning much better than the average person can. But when she realizes that her whole life might have been built on a lie, she’s shaken to her core. She discovers that her parents’ deaths when she was three may not have been accidental. That revelation alone could be enough to break her, but as the truth unravels, she finds that the reality might be far more painful than she imagined.
This thriller kept me guessing. I had some ideas about what might be happening, but I was never quite sure, and there were quite a few surprises. I did have to suspend disbelief on a few details in the end, but I definitely enjoyed the journey!! I recommend this one if you’re a fan of YA mystery/thrillers or want to read a book through the eyes of someone who experiences the world differently than the average person.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (but then ended up listening to the audiobook from the library). No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Also in this series: Cinder
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 3, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Retellings
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 77 hours and 3 minutes
Source: Purchased, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
(Synopsis of Cinder)
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on.
Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived.
But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
I started reading The Lunar Chronicles years ago, but never finished it. I was waiting for Winter to come out in paperback so I could complete my collection, but then just never managed to pick it up somehow. I finally asked for it for Christmas. But since it had been so long since I read the first books, I decided to do a reread via audiobook—and then I ended up listening to the whole series and not even reading the new book I’d just gotten. Sigh. At least I have a full set for my collection. 🙂
I’ve already reviewed the first three books. You can find my review here: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress. All I will say about those books here is that I ADORED listening to Rebecca Soler’s narration. She is by far my favorite narrator. I just love the emotion she puts into her reading and the personality that shines through in her character voices. (Which is why I couldn’t go back to just reading the books once I started the audiobooks!)
Here are quick reviews of the final book in the series and the novellas:
Fairest – This novella is essential to the story, as far as I’m concerned. It gives us Queen Levana’s backstory and helps us understand her actions, turning her from an evil caricature to a villain we can almost relate to. We see how her family (and especially her sister) twisted her everyday life into something ugly and how that motivated her toward her relentless pursuit of love and adoration. That pursuit took darker and darker turns as she started to feel that the only way to get what she craved was through manipulation. Seeing Levana’s motivations (and excuses) for her actions is both fascinating and frightening!
Winter – This book had a whole lot of loose ends to wrap up, and Meyer manages it in an epically exhilarating manner! I don’t want to spoil anything, of course, but I’ll just say that all of the couples get their due in this final book (even though it technically focuses on Winter and Jacin, who are the least interesting to me as far as the couples go). And Cinder’s eventual showdown with Levana is nothing short of spectacular–I loved seeing them in a true battle of wills. We also get wolf armies, and lots of Iko (who doesn’t love Iko?), and a seriously psychotic Winter who often has visions of blood. Basically, this book was a fantastic finale and sealed the series as an all-time-favorite for me!!
Stars Above – These short stories aren’t at all essential, but it was fun to get little glimpses into the characters’ backstories (how Cinder came to be kept at Scarlet’s, how Wolf ended up as an alpha soldier, how Cress ended up on a lonely ship in space, Thorne’s first forays into petty swindling…). We also get to see a wedding we’ve all been waiting for!