Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, Middle Grade

Mini Book Reviews: December 2020 – Part 3


*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson, When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, The One and Only Bob (The One and Only Ivan #2) by Katherine Applegate, & Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend


» Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

Jacqueline Woodson does it again!  WhatILiked» What a heartbreaking book about the effects of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, on a family.  CTE is a debilitating brain condition that has been linked to professional athletes in combat & contact sports.  Before the Ever After begs the question, is the risk worth it for these athletes?

» Much like Woodson’s other books, Before the Ever After is a character driven story.  You won’t get an action packed plot, but you will get lots of character development and emotion.  While we slowly watch ZJ’s father deteriorate through ZJ’s eyes, the focus is very much on ZJ and his mother’s struggle with their new reality and feelings of helplessness.  My heart ached for ZJ as he watched his loving father turn into a completely different person.

» I loved ZJ’s friend crew in this story.  Despite how different each of ZJ’s friends all, they have each other’s backs and were there for ZJ.

» Since Before the Ever After is written in verse, it is a very quick read.  I would definitely recommend this book to reluctant readers because of the format.

› Recommended to ⇒ reluctant readers; football fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ traumatic brain injury

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Ghost by Jason Reynolds


» When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» When Stars are Scattered deserves ALL the stars.  This is the autobiographical story of Omar Mohamed, and spans his youth spent growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya.

» When Stars are Scattered highlights the horrific living conditions of refugee camps.  Omar’s life Dadaab – the extreme poverty, the hunger, the lack of opportunity, etc. was hard to read, but important.  I appreciated that Omar chose to center this story more on his day-to-day life experiences within the refugee camp versus focusing on his experience coming to America.

» I love that this story was told in graphic novel form.  The illustrations really enhanced this heartbreaking story, and make it more accessible to the middle grade target audience.

» While the overall tone of this story is very somber, I still felt very hopeful while reading because I was rooting for Omar to succeed.  Watching Omar overcome such adversity over the course of his life was both heartening and inspiring.   I think this is going to be a very eye-opening story to many people that take their privilege for granted.  This novel also ends on an uplifting note.  I highly encourage everyone to read Omar’s author’s note at the end.

» It isn’t often that I cry while reading books, but I UGLY cried on two different occasions.  I know books that evoke that level of emotion are special books that I will remember.

› Recommended to ⇒ EVERYONE

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ hunger; extreme poverty

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman


» The One and Only Bob (The One and Only Ivan #2) by Katherine Applegate



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked

» I really enjoyed this follow up to The Only and Only Ivan!  As the title suggests, Bob is the star of this book.  I really enjoyed learning more about Bob and his backstory.

» I’ve said it many times before, but Katherine Applegate has a special ability to write such endearing and realistic animal characters.  Applegate nails the dog perspective here, which I found to be both authentic and entertaining.

» I couldn’t help but adore Bob and all his sass.  I found myself laughing aloud on a few different occasions.

» Where The Only and Only Ivan was a more emotional read, this second installment was more of an action-packed read.  In recent years, natural disasters seem to be growing in frequency and intensity here in the United States, so the fact this plot centers around a tornado & hurricane is very relevant.  While there are some intense scenes, there are also wonderful moments of hope and heroics.

» This book will leave you with the warm and fuzzy feels.  The One and Only Bob includes themes like identity, forgiveness, bravery, friendship, and family.

› Recommended to ⇒ The One and Only Bob fans; dog lovers

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ weather disaster (hurricane)

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Pax by Sara Pennypacker


» Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked

» This is one of my favorite MG fantasy series EVER!  I’ve said this many times, but this series gives me the most similar feelings I had while reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.  While there are some similar themes and tropes to Harry Potter, the Nevermoor series definitely stands on its own.

» Morrigan is such a wonderful main character.  She’s empathetic, brave, resourceful, and tenacious.  I’ve really enjoyed watching her growth from the first book to this one.

» The characters in this series are everything.  Not only are they all delightfully odd, they are so full of life and personality.  Juniper and Fen are definitely some of my favorites, even though we didn’t get much of them in this installment.

» One thing about this book that took me by surprise was how close it hit to home with the hollowpox pandemic aspect to the plot.  Quarantines, curfews, shutdowns, etc… It was as if Townsend foretold what our life was going to be in 2020.  It was a bit eerie.

» I really enjoyed watching Morrigan begin to come into her power as a Wundersmith.  I appreciated her work ethic and her determination to learn.   I also found the method she has to learn – the ghostly hours – to be absolutely fascinating.

WhatIDidntLike» My only criticism of this book would be that I wanted more scenes in the Hotel Deucalion since it is one of my favorite aspects to this series.

› Recommended to ⇒ Harry Potter fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ pandemic

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger




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: December 2020 – Part 3”

  1. I was wondering if the publication delay for Hollowpox was related in any way to the pandemic. I think the depiction of the fictional pandemic was very sensitively done, though, yes, it did hit a little close to home!


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