Book Reviews, Classics, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: November 2019 – Part 1


*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #5) by C.S. Lewis, The Queen of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief #2) by Megan Whalen Turner, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley, and Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga


» The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #5) by C.S. Lewis



5-Star Rating System

***3.5 Stars***

The Horse and His Boy is about a young boy named Shasta that escapes eminent enslavement by fleeing with a Narnian horse named Bree.  Along the way Shasta & Bree make a few new friends, and uncover a scheme that puts the citizens of Narnia in great danger.  In a race against time, Shasta must alert the Kings & Queens of Narnia. WhatILiked» I really enjoyed expanding upon this world created by Lewis’ and learning more about the different nations other than Narnia.

» I adored the characters, Shasta & Aravis.  I think they were well-developed and were given sufficient backstory.  I was invested in their journey and was rooting for them to succeed.

» As far as the plot line goes, the story was filled with plenty of adventure that has been commonplace in the Narnia series. WhatIDidntLike» The climax of the story, the battle, felt anti-climactic and rushed.

» This installment felt disconnected from the series as a whole.  The Horse and His Boy does not following any of the main characters from the previous books, nor are they featured in any significant way.  Instead of feeling like the 5th installment in the series, it felt more like a companion novel set within the same world.OverallThe Horse and His Boy has been my least favorite book in the Narnia series thus far, but still an enjoyable read.  If I had to rank the Chronicles of Narnia series thus far, it would be 1) Chronicles of Narnia, 2) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 3) The Silver Chair, 4) Prince Caspian, and 5) The Horse and His Boy.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of animal stories; fans of adventure stories

› If you like this series, try ⇒ The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

» The Queen of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief #2) by Megan Whalen Turner



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» Much like the first book, Whalen proves to be a very unreliable author.  Turner loves to throw her readers for a loop.  I fell for it in The Thief, and I fell for it here as well.

» I really enjoy Whalen’s characterization.  Eugenides is still a favorite character.  He is clever, funny, brave, and also flawed.  I feel like we got to know Gen a lot better in this book.  I also really enjoyed the complexity of the Queen of Attolia’s character.  I love when an author can make me feel a strong feeling for a charter in the beginning, and make me change my mind by the end.

» If I could describe Whalen’s plotting in one word it would be clever.  This story was filled with inventive maneuvering by key players.WhatIDidntLike» The pacing of this series is on the slow side.  Almost too slow.

» I feel like this book was missing a lot of the humor that I fell in love with in the first book.

» There wasn’t enough of The Magus in this book.  I missed the witty banter between Gen and The Magus.OverallThe Queen’s Thief series has so much going for it: complex characters, political intrigue, and an abundance of twists and turns.   If you are looking for a fast-paced and action-packed series, this is not it.  If you are looking for a clever story that will surprise you time after time, give this series a go!

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of political intrigue

› If you like this series, try ⇒  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

» The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

The Smartest Kids in the World was a very interesting look at the ways different countries  (U.S, Finland, South Korea, and Poland) approach education. WhatILiked» You could tell this book was written by someone with a background in journalism.  I really liked how Ripley not only included all her research, but she also gives us a humanized story by including the experiences of exchange students.

» I learned so much about some of the different approaches to education that exist.  Some of my takeaways…

  • The U.S. focuses too much on technology, which is not linked to higher academic achievement.
  • Instead of glorifying sports & athletes, we should be encouraging competition within the classroom.  Peers that prioritize education will drive other students to do better.
  • We do not hold our teachers to the high standards that we should be holding them to.  Also, we do not value our teachers as we should.
  • We make far too many excuses as to why education here in the U.S. has fallen behind so many other developed countries.

»  I appreciated that Ripley was not afraid to call out the U.S. for our shortcomings when it comes to education.WhatIDidntLike» I would have liked to see Ripley include more from the teachers perspectives in each of these countries.  I wish Ripley would have conducted surveys of teachers to see more about what they think works or doesn’t work.OverallI learned a lot about the different approaches to education while reading this book.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about.

› Recommended to ⇒ those interested in education; parents

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

» Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga



5-Star Rating System

This was an absolutely beautiful middle grade book about a girl and her mother who come to the U.S. as Syrian refugees.WhatILiked»  Other Words for Home is told in verse, and the writing was absolutely stunning.  If you are a fan of Jacqueline Woodson and/or Thanhha Lai, you will appreciate this book.

» This is such an important middle grade book because it deals with a refugee experience with mild tones of Islamophobia.  Warga handles these topics with care & authenticity.

» Jude was such a lovely main character.  I appreciated her quiet strength & determination.  She is an excellent role model for the MG audience.OverallOther Words for Home will be making an appearance on my “best of 2019 reading” list.  Highly recommend!

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of books told in verse; fans of Jacqueline Woodson & Thanhha Lai

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒  Islamophobia

› If you liked this book, try ⇒  Amina’s Voice by Hena Kahn; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson




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

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: November 2019 – Part 1”

  1. Again, you knocked it out of the park with this post. Well done!

    Will you keep reading The Queen’s Thief? I don’t know how long the series is (and I’m far too lazy to look it up right now #SorryNotSorry), but it sounds inconsistent. Is this the sort of book you have to be in the right mood to read? What inspires you to keep going when a book has pacing problems?

    Why have I never heard of Other Words for Home? I just requested it from the library. You are so persuasive!


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