In this month’s between the bookends, Sophie and Rebecca share four books they read in the month of March including middle-grade fantasy, self-help, and YA.
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The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori
Sophie’s first book this month was The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori. This middle-grade magical realism book follows twelve-year-old Stella who is spending the school summer holidays staying on a remote Scottish island with her grandpa. It’s been years since the pair last spent time together and with her gran no longer around, grandpa is much angrier and more miserable than Stella remembered.
After an accident that leads to a blazing row, Stella storms outside and bumps into Tamar, a mysterious old neighbor who teaches Stella how to tame her very own cloud. Stella quickly discovers that she has magical powers – much like her grandmother did – and that she is a weather weaver, capable of taming and controlling all types of weather from sunshine and rainbows to blizzards and tornadoes. However, the peaceful island is under threat from a malevolent sea witch so Stella and her impetuous cloud Nimbus must learn to control their powers if they are going to help prevent the storm to end all storms.
The Weather Weaver was a fun, quirky story that will make sure you never think of phrases like “brain fog” or “every cloud has a silver lining” in quite the same way again. While none of the characters were quite as fleshed out as Sophie would have liked, the interesting plot carried her along for an exciting ride and saw her finish this book within a day. This might not be the type of gripping story that sticks with you for years after you read it, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure nonetheless and the descriptions made Sophie want to revisit the Scottish countryside again once it is safe to do so.
Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones
Next up for Sophie was Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. Sophie isn’t usually one for self-help books, but this one promised to help with overcoming the fear of failure, of hearing no, and of speaking out for what we want – which made her pick it up.
What she found was a book full of inspiration, several laugh-out-loud moments, and some true wisdom from the author’s “professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother.” There are also some hard truths in there to swallow, especially when it comes to the countless extra difficulties faced by Black women trying to achieve the same goals. Jones shares dozens of anecdotes from throughout her life, from her childhood through to her successful career today as an entrepreneur and CEO of her own company.
The book is divided into three sections: “Be,” “Say,” and “Do.” The “Be” section encourages readers to know themselves: who they are, what they stand for, and who they belong to (the people we love and want to fight for) because before we can ask for what we want and deserve, we have to know ourselves. The “Say” section explores how to ask for more, draw our lines, and get what we deserve – it also encourages us to not be afraid to fail because that means we dared. Finally, the “Do” section pushes us to form supportive squads, grow as people, and not accept BS from our detractors.
Even before the book was finished, Professional Troublemaker had helped Sophie recognize that some advice she had taken on board in the past had come from a source that didn’t have her best interests at heart, and she was already making plans to finally chase down some opportunities she had held back for too long. This book will help you reach for more and Sophie hopes to take much of its advice on board.
Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone
Finally, Sophie read Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone, a dark and twisted thriller set in modern-day Edinburgh. Trigger warnings apply for suicide and multiple forms of abuse.
When she hears that her twin sister El has gone missing, Cat returns to her childhood home after 12 years living abroad. The home has barely changed and Cat is instantly transported back to the elaborate make-believe world she and El created as youngsters. Bedrooms became a Princess Tower or a Clown Cafe, and the hidden world of Mirrorland waited through a concealed door in the kitchen. In Mirrorland, the girls went on daring adventures aboard their pirate ship with their neighbor Ross (now El’s husband) and a collection of imaginary friends. Mirrorland was their place of safety, because upstairs in the house they shared with their mother and grandpa lurked monsters such as The Witch, The Tooth Fairy, and Bluebeard the pirate.
As more details are revealed about El’s disappearance, Cat begins to find herself doubting everything. The old house feels as if it is closing in on her, she begins to receive mysterious emails supposedly from El, and anonymous cards arrive warning Cat to beware of Ross. She also begins to doubt her memories of Mirrorland. How much was childish make-believe, how much was real, and how much is simply her own mind repressing the terrible truth?
This was a gripping story that kept Sophie up late into the night to finish it. The boundaries between truth and fiction are kept blurred right until the end and it was deliberately hard to define just how many of the events that took place in Mirrorland during Cat’s youth really happened. It’s obvious from the very beginning that Cat is repressing much of her childhood, but the way these truths are gradually revealed had Sophie on edge right through the second half of the book and doubting every detail.
It’s hard to compare this one to others without giving away spoilers but fans of Room, Gone Girl, and Girl A will no doubt enjoy Mirrorland.
The Cost of Knowing By Brittney Morris
Rebecca’s only book this month was The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris – an immersive tale into the heart and mind of an anxious teen named Alex. Alex has the ability to see the future of any object he touches. While the idea of seeing into the future may seem a blessing, Alex only experiences it as a curse. Every touch of his keys, his coat, the ice-cream scoop from work, causes a flash of the immediate future. He’s constantly distracted. Worse is when he touches a person, especially someone he cares about. He doesn’t want to know his girlfriend is going to break up with him soon, and he certainly doesn’t want to see his little brother’s death.
The story is told in exquisite detail of Alex’s thoughts, worries, and deep weight on his shoulders as he “fails” to live up to the expectations of his recently dead parents. He doubts and double-guesses everything he does and feels trapped by the curse of his power to see into the future. There is no changing the future no matter how hard he tries so how can he live with the anxiety of knowing the worst?
Alex is living his life half-way because of his fear, but much of his fear is well-grounded in the fact that he is a Black teen living in a world that sees him negatively everywhere he goes. This is a novel of magical realism in an all-too-real world of compassionate Black boys trying to navigate difficult situations.
44% Female Speaking Characters. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
GeekMom received copies of these titles for review purposes.