Book Reviews, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: May 2019 (Part 1)


Today I’m back with another batch of mini book reviews for books I’ve recently read…

*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The Read-Aloud Family:  Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie, Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor,  Aru Shah and the End of Time by Rochani Chokshi, and Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Divider2» The Read-Aloud Family:  Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie



5-Star Rating System

*4.5 Stars*

As a avid reader & mother, The Read-Aloud Family was an absolute delight to read.   I loved learning about the benefits of reading together as a family.  Mackenzie includes studies, other books on this topic, personal narratives, and even experiences of her podcast listeners.  Don’t know what to read-aloud with your kids?  No fear!  Mackenzie includes an extensive recommendation list of books broken down by age range.  I also appreciated Mackenzie listing discussion questions to allow for critical thinking & opening up dialogue.

One thing I did not realize going into this book is that it is classified as Christian Fiction.  Mackenzie is a devout Christian, so she does talk about her faith throughout this book.  It did feel a little “preachy” early on, but it didn’t last long.  After a small section towards the beginning, she only mentions Bible recommendations throughout the remainder of the book.  If you are against books with religious tones and are wondering if Mackenzie’s discussion of her faith is going to put you off – I’d say if you can make it through a small section, I think you’ll be fine.  If you are expecting a book with lots of religious tones, I really wouldn’t peg this as hitting that mark either.

I admired Mackenzie’s realness throughout this book.  Mackenzie doesn’t try to sugarcoat her life, she fully admits that family life is crazy & finding the time to read-aloud to her kids is not always easy.  Throughout the book she shares what has and hasn’t worked for her family and encourages you to find what works best for you & your family.

After reading this book I was very inspired to implement family reading in my own life.  Let me just say that it is much harder than I anticipated.  Between school, homework, sports, and activities, it is really hard to implement reading together as a family.  I feel like it will be more freezable for my family in the summer months when our schedules are not so hectic.   Regardless, I am going to keep trying.  Any reading is better than no reading at all.

I highly recommend listening to this book via audiobook as it is narrated by the author herself.  Her passion really shines through her narration.  I will also be purchasing a paper copy of this book to use as a reference for the book recommendations, discussion questions, etc.

I had never head of Sarah Mackenzie or her podcast, The Read-Aloud Revival, going into this book but being familiar with her podcast is NOT a prerequisite to reading The Read-Aloud Family I will be picking up Jim Trelease’s book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, next since this book is what inspired Mackenzie in her read-aloud journey.

» Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor



5-Star Rating System

*4.5 Stars*

***No spoilers for this book or for the first book***

I was very excited to dive back into this world again!  After reading Akata Witch and loving the magic system & characters, I couldn’t wait to follow up with the second book.   This YA series includes wonderful themes that I love to read about: friendship, identity, courage, family, sacrifice, education, etc. 

I really enjoyed watching Sunny’s growth from the first book to the end of this book.  She really came into her own in Akata Warrior, and is starting to realize just how strong she is.

Much like the first book, I highly enjoy the group of friends in this series: Sunny, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha.  Sure they bicker & have disagreements, but they truly are there for each other.  I really adore Chichi in particular, and appreciate the positive female friendship between her and Sunny.  I think this stems from the fact that Chichi is a head strong female that does not apologize for who she is, which I both relate to and appreciate.  I also really enjoyed that Sunny’s brother, Chukwu, was a much bigger part of this book.  When Chukwu winds up in a bad situation, Sunny risks everything to save him.   A depiction of a strong sibling relationship was such a heartwarming addition to this story.

The thing I appreciate the most about Nnedi Okorafor’s books are that they are unlike anything I’ve read before.  She’s built such a interesting magic system here, and I absolutely adored it.   I said it after reading Akata Witch and I’ll say it again after Akata Warrior, I’d recommend these books to Harry Potter fans.  They do not have a similar plot, but they gave me similar feelings. 

I would like to add a disclaimer that if you are not a fan of spiders, you may struggle at times in this book.  Really Nnedi?  Did you have to pack this book FULL of spiders?!?!  Don’t you know I HATE spiders?  This is like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets all over again (I know I said these books were not similar to Harry Potter, but they are similar in the fact that both have too many spiders) Yuck!  Despite my strong aversion to spiders, I still loved reading this book, so that has to tell you something.

My only issue with this, much like the conclusion to her Binti series, is that it didn’t really feel like a conclusion.  The way Okorafor ends both of these series almost feels like she is leaving them open for more books in the future…  It is very possible that this is NOT going to be the conclusion, which I hope is the case.

Overall, if you are looking for a unique YA fantasy to pick up, I encourage you to pick this series up. 

» Aru Shah and the End of Time by Rochani Chokshi



5-Star Rating System


This was my first time experiencing Roshani Chokshi’s writing and I was not disappointed!

What Roshani did so well here in her MG debut was write an age appropriate & realistic main character.  I cannot tell you how much it annoys me reading a book that that has a middle grade aged main character, but they feel much older than they are.

Not only was Aru age appropriate, but she was a wonderfully complex & flawed character.  Aru struggles to fit in with her peers in her new school.  In order to fit in, Aru has a tendency to tell tall tales.   The middle grade years are tough.  I would venture to say that most kids feel like they don’t completely fit in at one time or another.  Aru is a very relatable character for this reason.   I loved Aru’s character development from the beginning of the book, towards the end where she discovers that she does not need to stretch the truth in order to get kids to like her, she simply needs to be herself.

Aru Shah and the End of Time is fast paced and full of action & adventure.  It definitely held my interest from start to end.  I really appreciated the Hindu mythology – Hindu gods, the traditional Hindu beliefs of karma & reincarnation, Mahabharata & the Pandava brothers – included in Aru Shah and the End of Time.  This was a big reason why I picked it up in the first place: I love learning about different mythologies from around the world.  

I was pleasantly surprised at how funny Aru Shah and the End of Time was!  The dialogue was clever and amusing, even for an adult reader.  This book can definitely appeal to a wide audience from children up to adults.  This would be a wonderful book to read in a classroom setting, or at home with your middle grade readers.

» Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser



5-Star Rating System

*3.5 Stars*

Not That I Could Tell was a bit of a nostalgic read for me.  This story is set in the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, which is about 20 – 25 minutes away from where I live.  I’ve been there many times, so I can say that Strawser’s portrayal is fairly accurate.  Basically Yellow Springs is a small town and the biggest hipster town in Ohio.

Not That I Could Tell is labeled a domestic thriller, which it is and it isn’t.  I would consider this one to be more of a small-town or neighborhood drama more than a thriller.  There is an underlying mystery of what happened to Kristin, but the majority of the book centers around the neighbors & the aftermath of Kristin’s disappearance.  The thriller elements do not come about until the final chapters when everything comes together.

One thing I really appreciated about this book was how plausible it was.  I could totally see this really happening in real life.  While I appreciate the realistic plot line, I like to be surprised when I read a thriller, and I didn’t really get that “shock factor” here. 

Overall, Not That I Could Tell was a quick and easy read that served to entertain me while I was reading it.  I think Strawser’s writing was well done, and the story was well crafted.  I didn’t get the “shock factor” that makes a thriller memorable for me, but I think this is a solid book nonetheless.




Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂




7 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: May 2019 (Part 1)”

  1. My brother said his two oldest girls, ages nine and ten, are supposed to read something like twenty minutes per day for homework. However, by the time they get off the bus, eat dinner, take showers, and do regular homework, it’s already bedtime. There is so much crammed into a day. I’ve heard arguments that kids get too much homework and aren’t learning better anyway.


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