Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: January 2020 – Part 2

*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeto, Sadie by Courtney Summers, Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo, and The Wild Robot by Peter Brown


» When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton



5-Star Rating System

After reading Next Year in Havana and really enjoying it, I knew I’d read this spin off since Beatriz caught my attention in NYiH.  This book was just as good as Next Year in Havana! While it is not necessary to read Next Year in Havana prior to reading this book, it is highly encouraged to get backstory and context.WhatILiked» Beatriz is a very compelling and complex main character.  I admired her tenacity, independence, passion, bravery, and her zeal for life.  Beatriz is the perfect example of a strong female lead.

» Since Beatriz is a strong female lead, there were wonderful feminist tones throughout the story.  I appreciated Cleeton addressing traditional gender norms of the times, like how a woman’s worth was only measured by her marriage.

» I loved all the political intrigue & espionage included in this story.  Where Next Year in Havana focused on the Cuban Revolution & the rise of Castro, When we left Cuba focuses on the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution & the exiled Cubans living in the U.S. during this period.WhatIDidntLike» While I did enjoy the romance for the most part, too much time was dedicated to the intimate scenes.  The excess of sex scenes really took away from the overall plot in my opinion.

» There were some points in the plot where the pacing was a bit slow.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of historical fiction; fans of espionage stories

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Next Year in Havana  by Chantel Cleeton

» Sadie by Courtney Summers


5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» I highly recommend listening to this book via audiobook!  Since parts of this book are in the form of a podcast, the audiobook format really enhanced the reading experience.

»  Speaking of the podcast format, I think the alternating between podcast episodes & Sadie’s perspective worked very well here.  Seeing the mystery surrounding Sadie’s disappearance from the outside while also seeing it unfold in real time added to the suspense.

» Sadie’s characterization was well done.  Summer wrote a realistic portrayal of a character that has suffered from multiple traumas.  I also appreciated that Summer wrote a character with a speech impairment.

» Summer tackles many heavy topics in Sadie: addiction, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, grief, etc.

» I think Sadie is one of those books that will span the YA and adult audiences.

» I think the way Summers chose to end this story suited the story well.  I love when authors leave things up to reader interpretation.  I still think aboutWhatIDidntLike» There wasn’t anything specific I didn’t like about this book that sticks out in my mind, but I am just not a big thriller/crime fiction reader.  For not being a fan of this genre, I did really enjoy this book.

› Recommended to ⇒ YA & adult thriller/crime fiction readers

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ child abuse & neglect, sexual abuse, addiction, etc.

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

» Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo



5-Star Rating System

*3.5 Stars*WhatILiked» I think the overall concept for this story was absolutely brilliant.  I loved the idea of secret societies of an ivy league college participating in dark occult magic.  Bardugo is the queen of spinning a complex plot, and this book was no exception.

» I loved the complexity of Alex’s character.  I think Bardugo did a wonderful job writing a character that wasn’t exactly likable and  morally grey.  While you may not particularly like Alex, you at least get a good understanding of her decisions & what drives her.

» I think the paranormal elements were very well done.  Kudos for Bardugo for reviving paranormal fantasy.

» HEAVY themes are addressed throughout this story.  I appreciated that Bardugo was not scared to go “there.”  I would strongly caution people that are triggered by certain content to look into the trigger warnings for this book.WhatIDidntLike» I felt like I was thrown into the story without enough backstory or build up.  Don’t get me wrong, I typically enjoy being thrown into a story where the author slowly reveals the backstory, HOWEVER this just felt disorienting.

» The flow & pacing was off for me throughout the book.  Ninth House starts off painfully slow, and overall continues on a sluggish pace.  The glacial pace paired with the length (458 pages) of the book made for slow reading.   I think this book could have been a good 100 pages shorter.OverallWhile the concept for Ninth House was very intriguing, I had some issues with the way Leigh Bardugo executed the story.  I will read the next installment as I am intrigued enough with the story to continue on… basically I’m reading the second installment for to see Darlington.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of dark fantasy; fans of paranormal fantasy

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ sexual assault, drug abuse/addiction/overdose, and graphic scenes

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Vicious by V.E Schwab

» The Wild Robot by Peter Brown



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» The Wild Robot is a heartwarming read that will punch you in the feels.  I mean, how can you not fall in love with Roz?  Roz was a one-of-a-kind main character.

» The aspect about this book that I loved the most was the unconventional family dynamic between Roz & Brightbill.  Their relationship really tugged at my mother heart strings.  I also really adored the evolving relationship between Roz & the animals of the island.  I appreciated the growth the animals underwent from the beginning of the story to the end.

» I listened to this via audiobook, which was well done.  The narrator did a great job narrating all the different animals and Roz’s voice in particular.  After listening to this book, I flipped through the physical copy.  The illustrations were delightful & really added to the story.

» There are some heavier topics in The Wild Robot like death and prejudice, but Brown tackles these topics in a such a matter of fact way that it doesn’t weigh down the story too much.  I feel like there was enough uplifting moments to balance out the heavier moments.

» Themes included in The Wild Robot are survival, mistrust of those that are “different”, technology, death, unconventional family, friendship, resilience, kindness etc.WhatIDidntLike» I can’t really put my finger on why this was not a 5-star read for me.  There was something missing, but I’m not sure what.

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

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Pax by Sara Pennypacker; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell



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

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: January 2020 – Part 2”

  1. Fab reviews! I just finished When We Left Cuba the other day and while I enjoyed it a tiny bit more I do agree about the pace in points. And I can imagine Sadie working well as an audiobook! It’s one of the few books that has me tempted to try audibooks again… xx


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