I’m back again with more mini reviews!
As I’ve said a few times, one of the good parts about quarantine for me has been getting back into reading frequently. I didn’t realize quite how much I’d gotten out of the habit of reading consistently until I recently looked back at some monthly recaps from late 2019 and saw that during the school year I sometimes…didn’t read anything at all the whole month.
Knowing that I’ll probably be in a similar situation like that again (though at this point, I would welcome in-person school stress, knowing my school will probably be online for the foreseeable future), I’m trying to take advantage of all my free time to read as much as possible! That’s resulted in me having read a lot of books that I would very much like to scream about and recommend to you.
To follow up with my first mini reviews from quarantine post, I’m going to be reviewing (in a bullet point fashion) some more books I read so far during quarantine! I’m unfortunately very behind on my reviewing, so these are mostly ones that I read in May but I will be doing more to talk about ones I’ve read in June and July as well.
I’m writing this post while absolutely freaking out about Taylor Swift’s surprise announcement of her new album, Folklore, coming out in (at the time of me typing this) around six hours, so I feel kind of like I’ve just had ten shots of espresso. Hopefully my nervous and excited energy translates into enthusiastic reviews and not rambling, muddled ones??
Title: Harley in the Sky
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
My Rating: ★★★★☆
I thought it was only right to start off with this novel, because it was highly anticipated by me and I’m sure many others, since Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels have been very well-received by the majority of readers I’ve seen. I initially had mixed feelings about this book, but as it went on, I was more and more drawn into the story and characters, and it did end up meeting my expectations!
- The circus setting was truly magical. I haven’t ever read a book with a circus setting, but this one has multiple circuses in it. Harley grew up in the circus (her parents owned it), and she also joins a traveling circus. All the descriptions of the acts, people, and dedication that goes into the circus was so intriguing. One hundred percent Greatest Showman vibes.
- I thought Harley grew a lot as a character throughout the book. I didn’t like Harley at first, which is why I almost put this book down. At first, her ambition was so huge that she was blinded to how her actions affected those around her, and I felt like she could be naive and made impulsive decisions. However, her character development throughout the novel really stood out to me in a positive way! Side note: Harley is the most Slytherin character ever. I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t like her because of that, though, because no- I just see the traits of ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness so much in her character.
- There was a soft, sweet romance on the side. This was not a romance novel, but it still had romance, just as a much smaller subplot. I loved the slowburn, the tension, the slight enemies to lovers, the mysterious boy…*chef’s kiss* Romances that don’t take up the whole plot but are still sweet and true have my heart.
While I was reading this, I definitely thought I was going to give it three stars, but overall, the huge character development and the magical setting made me rate it four stars. If you’ve enjoyed past novels of Akemi Dawn Bowman, I think you’ll like this one as well!
content warnings: depression, references to suicide ideation, mood swings, heart attack
Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Author: Sara Barnard
My Rating: ★★★★★
I buddy read this with Annie back in May, but it still feels so fresh in my head and it’s certainly in the running for being in my top five books of 2020. I’ve learned that I love everything I read by Sara Barnard, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder is no exception.
- It was very informative. The main character, Steffi, is a selective mute, and the other main character, Rhys, is deaf. This book was so informative, mostly about Steffi’s experience (it was from her point of view) with social anxiety and selective mutism, but also about Rhys and how they were able to communicate. One part that stuck out to me was Steffi’s description of the differences between being selectively mute, having social anxiety, being an introvert, and being shy.
- I was so into the romance. I was SO there for Steffi and Rhys’s relationship from the start and thought it was properly adorable. They started off messaging online, then they were close friends, and then became more: the strangers-to friends-to lovers slowburn that I am Here For. Rhys was incredibly sweet and I’m here for this healthy relationship!!
- The family and friend relationships were phenomenal. Steffi had a great relationship with both her parents and both of her step-parents, as well as her younger half-sister, which isn’t something I’ve read a lot of in YA. Her relationship with her best friend also struck me as being so realistic because it was flawed, yet you could tell they loved each other at all times- we love girls supporting girls and non-toxic friendships.
- Fluff! But not too much fluff. I won’t deny it, this book is fluffy. However, despite all this fluff (ahem I do love the fluff though) I still walked away from reading this book feeling like I got something out of it, and that’s what made it so amazing to me.
I haven’t had *too* many five star reads this year (look at me, getting critical about books?!), so the fact that I rated this five stars definitely means something. This book made me feel all the emotions and for that reason, I will be singing its praises from the rooftops starting now.
content warnings: anxious thoughts, panic attacks
Title: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig
My Rating: ★★★★★
Oh, look! It’s another five star novel I read that is definitely going to be making my top reads of 2020 list. (Late May/early June was apparently a really good reading time for me.) This is absolutely a new favorite and I haven’t been so pleasantly surprised by a book in such a long time!
- The vibes are immaculate. A retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses? (@ the Barbie movie) A seaside setting? Fog constantly rolling in? Brine and eerie cliffs and lighthouses and people of salt and all the haunting, magical, atmospheric energy? I…this book has such an amazing aesthetic.
- The sister relationships were stellar. I know a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses invites sister relationships, but they went above and beyond my expectations. I was prepared to like them, but was not prepared to get attached. The main character, Annaleigh, has such a deep love and sense of protection towards all her sisters and it was so beautiful to read about.
- The plot lives up to everything else. Me being the contemporary reader I am, I’m not always ready for fantasy plots to take me on such a rollercoaster. This one certainly was a whirlwind of a ride! There wasn’t a dull moment, and I literally couldn’t put down the book through all 400+ pages. Plot twists abounded and I’m pretty sure my jaw is still on the floor where the end of this book left it.
I don’t know what else to say except that this is the kind of book that creeps into your subconscious and stays there. I’ll be going about my daily life, and suddenly my mind has turned to Annaleigh and her sisters. This gave me a thirst for more fantasy and rejuvenated my love for retellings and for stories set by the ocean. I adore it.
content warnings: death (sometimes gruesome/violent), assumed suicide, loss of a loved one
Title: Amina’s Voice
Author: Hena Khan
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of middle grade recommendations, and I love it because middle grade fiction was my absolute world for so long. Now that I don’t keep up with new MG series or look at that section in the library anymore, it makes me very happy to still hear positive reviews of MG novels and then inevitably end up reading them myself. This was the case with Amina’s Voice!
- Everything felt so true. In this novel, Amina is in sixth-grade, so a lot of focuses on her daily life as a sixth grader: her friendship troubles, school assignments, and relationships with her parents and brother. Everything felt so accurate and very much “sixth-grade.” I was taken back, in a way, to a lot of the thoughts and feelings I had as a sixth grader, and I think that’s a sign of a great book.
- It was genuinely so heartwarming. Another thing I love about MG is that they’re nearly always heartwarming, and this one certainly was. I felt for Amina during all her trials at school and at home, and I was rooting for her and wanted to support her through everything. This book really gets you to love Amina, and feeling emotions towards fictional characters clearly brings me serotonin.
- There were amazing discussions of culture! Amina is a Pakistani-American Muslim and she’s really involved in her mosque and her community. Throughout the book, she has moments of struggle with her religious and cultural identity, but at the end of the day, you can truly see how important her culture is to her, and that is so admirable.
While I wish I had been able to read this book as a sixth-grader, as I know that’s more of the target audience, I’m so glad I read it now. I do wish there had been more of so much- more at the end, more of Amina’s relationship with her brother, etc.- which is why I ended up giving it three stars, but overall, I would recommend this! It was so cute and warmed my heart greatly. :,)
trigger warnings: Islamophobia, hate crime, racism
I hope this post could give you some recommendations! I would have done more than four reviews, but it was already getting a bit long and I would rather have more installments of my mini reviews in quarantine than rush through a review for the sake of making this post longer. I really do love writing these, so I hope you enjoyed it!
As always, thank you very much for reading my rambles about books. (And my slight tangent about Taylor Swift at the beginning of this post. To continue with that, part of me is scared this is all just a joke because HOW can we actually be getting so many new songs less than a year after Lover? I’m not okay at all. I totally did not write this post as a way to distract myself from my excitement. And the fact that the songs might be out when most of you are reading this is crazy.)
Have you read any of these, or do you want to? What did you think of them? Please scream about Taylor Swift with me too!! I would love to talk to you in the comments.