Reviews

Hit or Miss a Moth

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The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

by Catherine Burns

From storytelling phenomenon The Moth, 45 unforgettable true stories about risk, courage, and facing the unknown, drawn from the best ever told on their stages.

If you can’t guess by the title I have some mixed feelings about this read. I was really pumped about this read, too. I hadn’t heard of the podcast, but I really needed a collection of short stories and I felt like this was a great choice. I mean, Neil Gaiman wrote the forward. And some of the stories are worth his name. Some are wonderful and even left me crying. Which, honestly, doesn’t happen often expect things that are done well. And those stories were done well. I have a bunch of dog ears in my copy of those stories whenever I need to draw inspiration (I was out of sticky notes). But there were stories that bombed really hard. I was so tempted to skip them too.

It’s important to remember that these stories were performed on stage or in the podcast and my guess is, they did better in that. Without a face, without seeing those emotions, I honestly watched a lot fall dead to me that I wanted nothing to do with. There were even stories that I gritted my teeth at and wanted to skim simply because the person who told it didn’t realize how ignorant they sounded in certain situations. I couldn’t find sympathy when they couldn’t bother to learn names or a language or how lucky they really were in comparison of others. It was so frustrating. Enough so that I had to put the book down for a while.

But the stories that were good, that were able to capture emotion in the book, I can imagine doing the same on stage. They truly blew me away and I just sat there in tears having to give myself a few moments to recover before heading on. And maybe, that’s why the other stories didn’t do it for me, because they just simply couldn’t compare with these stories.

It’s hard to say writing style or quality when it’s simply a transcription, so I can’t get into that exactly. Do I recommend it? Yes and no. I think that maybe checking out the podcast would be a good start. If you enjoy that and want to have a collection in words, then give it a go. I wish I could just give you guys the small collection of those good stories instead, but again, it depends on the person and how they feel about such things.

Rating: 3 stars

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Journey into the Gauntlet

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The Gauntlet

by Karuna Riazi

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

I grew up in the generation of Jumanji. Admittedly, I never really got into it. But I loved the idea. So this book, described as a steampunk Middle Eastern twist, it caught my interest. It wasn’t near the top of my list of ARCs I still needed to get through, but when it got closer to the release date, I saw people talking about it everywhere. So I knew I had to change the order for my ARCs and moved it up to my top. And I’m so happy that I did.

This book does what Harry Potter did with friendship without anything silly like romance getting in the way (after all, they’re only 12. I’d probably have put it down if it had). And like Harry Potter, it was utter magic. Though Farah is the focus, you see each characters strength that defies normal stereotypes and see them using it. Honestly, I loved their friendship and loved the dynamic and loved them all equally. It also made family the most important thing, which isn’t something you see as often in books anymore. And it did it well.

All of this was isn’t new concepts for books, but it did it in a way that kept it fresh and new in its own way.

The writing was great, the plot was magic. I spent a lot of nights falling asleep with this book (yes, again). I was so determined to read one more page, to find out one more thing that I often fell asleep in the middle of a blink for a few moments before waking up and trying again. I admit, I spent mornings having to go back a bit and rereading because of this. But I didn’t mind because you can so easily miss a small detail that’s so important if you don’t read carefully.

My only issue was there were a few spots that either weren’t completely clear or seemed rushed closer to the end of the book. There was a spot that Farah meets a woman that traded her brother’s voice saying her name for food. But it wasn’t overly clear or even needed. It only lasted a paragraph and she somehow got back to her friends, which wasn’t fully clear how. A lot of details weren’t fully clear by the end, but it happened to be smaller things, so it didn’t make me less in love with this book. It just left me a little confused – admittedly, I’m a sucker for details so it was a bit of a disappointment after how great this book was up to that point. I’m hoping it was fixed in the final copies of this book. But at the same, I think for a middle grade book, I think it is something that can get a pass.

I do recommend this book despite that. I think the story itself is original and is really wonderful. It’s a beautifully written book that leaves you able to see the things written in the book clear as day. And the diversity in this book is beautiful. It gives you a wonderful taste of culture mixed with the magic.

Rating – 4 stars

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I Heart Tash

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy

by Kathryn Ormsbee and K.E. Ormsbee

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

This book was the perfect read for my spring break from school. I needed it. It was a fun read. The characters were vibrant, the plot and idea of how someone can become internet famous overnight is something that’s real and insane in this day and age. We’ve all watched some sort of web series on youtube from Camilla to Frankenstein MD. We all know how they can become a thing and take flight overnight due to social media and fan followings.

But the best part of this read was this: Tash is Asexual. And her portrayal of Asexual was actually dead on. I would know, I fall on the Ace Spectrum myself. Admittedly, I was both terrified and horribly excited when I was approved to read this ARC. And admittedly, I’m so happy it happened. Because I can come out and tell other people who are Ace that this book did good. Her thoughts and worries are the same as many of us face and fear facing. Her relationships with different characters are complicated and she isn’t even overly sure how to share the truth with them, which we learn was understandable due to a rather horrible experience with someone when she does tell them.

All and all, this book was well written and simply fun. It follows an amazing and beautiful friendship, a summer of fun, but also deals with hard truths that comes with growing up. The flow of this book is beautiful and there never seems to be a dull moment in it. I honestly ate this book up and couldn’t bring myself to put it down, even falling asleep while reading it more than once because I simply needed to know more but my mind simply couldn’t stay on any longer and had to flip back to where I could clearly remember reading before the dozing started.

I highly recommend it if you need a light read or a summer read. Yes, there are some tough things that pop up, but I think it was handled well, surprisingly. That and the fact fame sadly comes with a price when the internet has so many trolls and haters out there. The friendship in this book was pure magic and it does make you look back at your own time in high school and wonder why you haven’t accomplished half as much as these kids. But hey, some of us spent our summers being lazy.

Rating: 5 stars