Violet by Renée Lichtenhan

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Violet by Renée Lichtenhan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Thirteen-year-old Violet is sure her busy and prominent senator-and-senator’s-wife parents will never approve if they find out Violet regularly sneaks off to ride her skateboard at a park in Harlem. So Violet lies to keep her skate park life a secret. But when her nonverbal artist brother mysteriously begins to reveal Violet’s secrets through artwork, it may be time for the truth to spill out in Violet by author Renée Lichtenhan.

This middle grade novel is quite an involved story with a diverse cast of characters and a touch of the supernatural. I found the read to be slow for a while, so it took me somewhat longer to get into it than I would have liked, but I eventually became engrossed as the plot uncovered its various moving parts.

I appreciate that the story addresses serious issues in the characters’ lives, including socioeconomic factors and the effects of violence, drugs, and family dysfunction. However, as the characters have a range of tough problems, the story goes about fixing too many of them in a way that feels pretty convenient. While I’m a fan of hopeful and satisfying endings, the several resolutions for the characters’ challenges seem quick in this case, making the story’s ending a little too perfect.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting how this contemporary novel mixes the down-to-earth and the unearthly, and plenty of ChristFic middle grade readers and fans should enjoy it.

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I Am Girl Series

 

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Shirli doesn’t land the role she wants in her junior high school’s upcoming play, Fiddler on the Roof, but she does get to partner in the production with cute, popular Ben. While looking for props to use in the play, Shirli finds an old violin in her grandfather’s attic, not knowing the instrument’s connection to a tragic family secret in Broken Strings by authors Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer.

I had quite the experience with this middle grade read. It addresses a dark subject (evidenced by the barbed wire and Star of David on the cover) without having the depressing overall texture/mood of dry gloom that I find in other novels that go to such painful places. Yet, I wasn’t sure for a while if I’d finish this book. The style and phrasing had an unoriginal feel to me, and I wasn’t finding the heroine or her young peers to be particularly interesting.

But the unfolding of Shirli’s grandfather’s part in the story had me intrigued. His poignant role began to bring the story together and, effectively, to strengthen the other characters. The read became richer as I went along, taking history and the need to recognize the value of all humanity, weaving it with Shirli’s personal journey and heritage, and culminating in a beautiful, redemptive finish that tugged on my soul.

The plot held no big surprises for me, but it eventually pulled me in so well that I finished this novel in one sitting—something this reader doesn’t do every day.

 

Zia by Scott O’Dell

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Zia by Scott O’Dell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fourteen-year-old Zia has known for years about her aunt Karana, who was once left behind and has been living alone out on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia is determined to go out and find her aunt and bring her back to live with other Indians in Zia by author Scott O’Dell.

Because I just revisited Island of the Blue Dolphins and only learned a few days ago of this novel following it, I was curious to find out what the story of Karana’s niece is all about. However, I think it was only the glimpse into an unjust part of history that kept me interested in this second book: the depiction of people being forced to live and work at Christian missions as if for the sake of their souls.

I can appreciate an understated writing style, but I’m finding that a plot itself really has to engross me (like in Sing Down the Moon) in order for this particular author’s style not to be dull to me. Some parts of this story that got my attention came to anticlimactic ends, and it often felt like the plot didn’t really have anywhere it needed to go. Although the children’s classic that precedes this book isn’t a personal favorite of mine, I do have respect for the heroine Karana, and though her appearance in this book is relatively brief, I suspect that a lot of people who love her story in the earlier book will find her role in this one to be a regretful, unsatisfying, and likely unnecessary addendum.

I don’t know if I’ll try this author again in the future, but I’m not sorry I indulged my curiosity about this sequel.

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Here’s my review of Island of the Blue Dolphins.

 

Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide by Rashad Jennings

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide by Rashad Jennings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

The Triple T Token is taking Arcade, his sister, his cousins, and his friends on international adventures through time for reasons that are gradually revealed. But Arcade’s possession of the token may spell increasing danger in Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide by author Rashad Jennings.

Okay! Now that I’m two books into The Coin Slot Chronicles, I’m getting a better feel for this middle grade ChristFic fantasy series: an ongoing adventure and an unfolding mystery with lessons along the way.

As with the first book, different parts of this one were a bit slow for me, the punctuation coming out of the dialogue is incorrect in a few places, and the italics and ALL CAPS go overboard sometimes. But I love how these young characters use their brains and talents for good, learning to listen to their hearts. The read is funny and ultimately energizing, with messages about generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and more.

And yeah, after a resolution, there’s another cliffhanger ending, but I wasn’t unprepared for it this time. I’m looking forward to Book Three!

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Here’s my review of Book One in The Coin Slot Chronicles, Arcade and the Triple T Token.