Book Review: The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A powerful and well-written book.

Book CWs: For a list of content/trigger warnings, tropes, and representation found in this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com!

Premise (from Goodreads)

Young Kofi lives and dreams on the banks of the river Offin. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. It is in the river that he feels invincible and where he thinks he can finally prove himself in a race against his schoolyard rival. But the river also holds dark secrets that Kofi will soon discover. Told never to venture there after nightfall but never told why, Kofi seeks his own answers.
 
One night is all it takes to transform a life. As his world turns upside down, Kofi ends up on a harrowing journey that steals him away from everything he loves.
 
In The Door of No Return, master storyteller Kwame Alexander spins an epic and unforgettable tale of adventure, family, betrayal and bravery

Purchase this book (affiliate link): Amazon

Review (No Spoilers)

The Door of No Return is a novel-in-verse that is classified as a middle grade, but I honestly think that it reads as more of an adult novel. It’s extremely well-written, and presents the reader with many things to reflect upon once they flip past that last page. As I was reading this book, I kept thinking about how it felt like a book that should be read in classrooms, particularly to inform students about the history of the slave trade and the lives that it disrupted.

That being said, the book deals with a lot of difficult themes. They don’t go into graphic detail (after all, it is an MG), but there are implications and mentions of things like bullying, murder, kidnapping, slavery, and rape. This is something I think people, especially parents and children, should be aware of before picking up this book. There is, in fact, a very good chance that you’ll get emotional as you follow Kofi through the timeline of his life.

Before I end this review, I do want to explain that I actually think this is a 5-star book. As with most novel-in-verse books that I read, the writing was immersive and flowed beautifully. The only reason I rated it 4 stars is because I like to incorporate my engagement level in my ratings. While I felt the writing was 5-star worthy, I found myself a bit bored at the very beginning and it took me a while before my interest picked back up. This tends to happen to me with most historical fiction novels, though, so it’s definitely a personal problem and likely not something that you’re guaranteed to experience as well.

If you are a parent, teacher, or facilitator of a book club, I think this book would be great for prompting ideas and discussion. The ending is pretty open, so it should provide decent fuel for students and communities to explore different interpretations.


Disclaimer: Most posts made on this blog will include affiliate links, identified by the phrase (affiliate link). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This comes at no additional cost to you.

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Blog Tour Spotlight: The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and Kwame Alexander for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary media kit!

If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the tour, you can find the tour schedule here.

Book Information

Genre: MG Historical Fiction, Novel-In-Verse
Publishing Date: September 27, 2022

Dreams are today’s answers for tomorrow’s questions.

11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets…

Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight. 

You are only fine, until you are not.

The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs…

The river does not care how grown you are. 

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

Content and Trigger Warnings

For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times Bestselling author of 36 books, including SWING, BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI, co-authored with James Patterson, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious UK Carnegie Medal, The Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor-winning picture book, THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. He is the writer and executive producer of THE CROSSOVER TV series on Disney+. The fall of 2022 will see the release of book one of a new trilogy, THE DOOR OF NO RETURN.

Author Links:

Blog Tour Review: The Killing Code by Ellie Marney

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A historical mystery novel taking place during the height of WWII

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and Ellie Marney for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with complimentary ARC and media kit!

Continue reading

Blog Tour Review: Cookies & Milk by Shawn Amos

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A very cute coming-of-age novel about a young boy, his broken family, and a cookie store.

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and Shawn Amos for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary ARC and media kit!

Continue reading

#TheWriteReads #BlogTour: The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge

An adult literary alternative history novel perfect for fans of commedia dell’arte

Thank you so much to The Write Reads, Rebellion Publishing, and Tom Beckerlegge for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary ARC and media kit!

Purchase this book (affiliate link): Amazon

About the Author

Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.

Review (First Impressions)

Book CWs

For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.

Premise

Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.

Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…

Initial Thoughts (No Spoilers)

Welcome back to my blog! Today I’m doing something a bit different and posting some initial thoughts/impressions for a tour book rather than a full review because I’m around 60% through this novel and think that I’ll actually restart it from the beginning now that I have a better idea of how to read it.

Depending on where you look up information about The Carnival of Ash, you’ll get different impressions of what the novel is exactly. Goodreads and several blurbs available online (such as via Amazon and Simon and Schuster) have this tagged as an adult fantasy novel, but in reality it’s more of a literary historical fiction book with some fantasy elements. As many of my fellow reviewers have pointed out, the genre that best encapsulates what The Carnival of Ash is would probably be commedia dell’arte. It reminded me a lot of The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros.

The writing of this book is beautiful, and the overall plot is one that could be read as several short stories that intertwine with each other, rather than one singular plot. As you make your way through the novel, you’ll get to meet several characters, all with different (often over-the-top) personalities and dramatized story arcs. Depending on how good you are with keeping up with people’s names, I might suggest that you keep a handy character/plot guide next to you as you read for easy reference. I’m extremely bad at remembering which character is who so it’s always useful for me to have something like that, especially for 600 page novels like this one.

The tour has over a week left! If you’d like to follow along with the rest you can find the tour schedule here.


Disclaimer: Most posts made on this blog will include affiliate links, identified by the phrase (affiliate link). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This comes at no additional cost to you.

Blog Tour Review: Ellen Outside the Lines by A. J. Sass

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An incredible coming-of-age story, perfect for anyone looking to understand identity.

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and A.J. Sass for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary ARC and media kit!

Book Information

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publishing Date: March 22, 2022

Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.  Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.

Content and Trigger Warnings

For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.

About the Author

A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author, editor, and competitive figure skater who is interested in how intersections of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship can impact story narratives. He is the author of Ana on the Edge, a Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 and ALA 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 for Young Readers selection, and Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown, 2022), the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG* with Nicole Melleby (Algonquin, 2023), as well as a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us (Knopf) and Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again (DK US & UK) anthologies. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs.

Author Links:

Review (no spoilers)

If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the tour, you can find the tour schedule here.

Ellen from Outside the Lines was such an amazing story! I’m excited to see how influential this book will be for middle-grade readers who are struggling to understand identity. It also makes for a great and informative read for adults who are looking to learn more about these aspects of life.

The representation in this film was phenomenal. There were several queer characters (from gay to trans to unlabeled) as well as autistic characters, Jewish characters, and characters with ADHD. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the different perspectives and experiences that these characters had to offer.

I would have to say that one of the things I liked most about this novel was how it handled conflict. The characters in Ellen from Outside the Lines are far from perfect. They’re young pre-teens and teenagers who are, understandably, struggling to figure out how they fit into the world. Yet, each time one of them makes a mistake to the detriment of others, they are challenged (in extremely kind ways at that) and quickly begin to make amends.

The story has a bit of an open, but hopeful, ending. Not everything in life is going to go the way that you hope, but as humans, all we can really do is try our best.

Blog Tour Review: Troublemaker by John Cho

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An informative middle grade family story centered around the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and John Cho for allowing me to be part of this experience and also providing me with a complimentary eARC and media kit!

Book Information

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Novel
Publishing Date: March 22, 2022

Troublemaker follows the events of the LA Riots through the eyes of 12-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family. This book will highlight the unique Korean American perspective.

12-year-old Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present. 

As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community. 

Content and Trigger Warnings

For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.

About the Author

John Cho is known as Harold from Harold & Kumar, Hikaru Sulu from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek, or as the star of the highly anticipated live-action Netflix series, Cowboy Bebop, based on the worldwide cult anime phenomenon (news of which “broke the Internet,” to quote Vanity Fair).  John is also a former 7th-grade English teacher who grew up as a Korean immigrant kid in Texas and East L.A. (among many other places). He is also now a proud father, with his Japanese-American wife Kerri, of two beautiful children — a 9-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old boy — who love to read.

Author Links:

Review (no spoilers)

If you’d like to follow along with the rest of the tour, you can find the tour schedule here.

I was so excited to read this middle grade novel once I saw who the author was. Most people know John Cho from Harold & Kumar, but I’ll always know him as the ghost love interest from season 1 of Charmed.

Troublemaker is a story about many things. Centered around the 1992 LA Riots (after the verdict was announced regarding the police beating of Rodney King), the novel follows a kid named Jordan who is desperate to bring a gun to his father who has gone to his store in Koreatown to try and prep it against potential looting/arson. Along the way, we learn more about why these riots have started and how racial dynamics come into play. On top of that, we also learn more about Jordan and his friends/family: how Jordan never seems to be good enough for his father, how his mother attempts to hide any issues she faces from everyone else, how his grandfather lost his fingers in the Vietnam war, how his sister is struggling to keep up her reputation as the “good child”, and how his best friend doesn’t seem to fit in with society.

The overall plot and delivery of Troublemaker is not a complex one, so don’t go into this expecting to experience any major twists or complicated intertwining plot arcs. This book is one that sets out to tell its story in a very straightforward manner, but that doesn’t take away from the morals and historical knowledge that the novel delivers. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to inform their kids a little bit more about the history of racial tensions in the United States, particularly in regard to the 1992 LA riots.

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Other Side of the Whale Road by K.A. Hayton

Today I’m bringing attention to the book The Other Side of the Whale Road by K.A. Hayton. I’ll take you through the blurb, about the author, and a few tour excerpts!

Premise

‘The Vikings are better armed than we are. They have long, heavy axes that can take a man’s head from his shoulder. I know this because I see it happen’

When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village.

The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time?

And will he ever get home?

Book CWs: For a list of warnings, tropes, and representation for this book, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com.

About the Author

K.A. HAYTON was born in Lincolnshire and read English at Sheffield University. She lives in Suffolk with
her husband and has two daughters. The idea for The Other Side of the Whale Road came from her study of old
English poetry at university, and from living in a place where Anglo-Saxon history feels very close.

What readers have to say

I have found Joss to be a remarkable young boy, and a very intriguing character. He is honest, strong, kind, humble, and caring, and the way he deals with the things that should be impossible is one of a kind. The adventures he faces, as well as all the hardships he fights are incredibly moving and definitely worth a read.

The Artsy Reader

I found this book surprisingly difficult to put down – I really enjoyed it and couldn’t figure out how it would end!

Sue’s Musings

The Other Side of the Whale Road is such a remarkable and powerful book that I couldn’t help but love. The characters are so incredibly interesting and likeable, especially our main character, sixteen-year-old Joss. The whole aspect of time travelling back to the Anglo-Saxon era was so fascinating to read about, gripping me until the very last page.

Ellie Mai Blogs

Very well done, super well written, a main character you really root for and it’s even a great educational read. Absolutely recommended for any teenager, young adult or in fact older reader like myself.

TheBookDude

I award The Other Side of the Whale Road a full 5 out of 5 stars. Readers get the downtrodden foster kid theme alongside a feel-good journey to the past. I’ve never seen this done before, and K.A. Hayton did it so well. If you get the chance to read this book, I encourage you to pick it up. It was a fast read at only 230 pages, but there is a lot of content spread through its pages so, it felt much longer.

My Bookish Bliss

Disclaimer: Most posts made on this blog will include affiliate links, identified by the phrase (affiliate link). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This comes at no additional cost to you.

Book Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

I’m not sure how to describe this book.

Book CWs: For a list of content/trigger warnings for this book, along with tropes and representation, check out its page on BookTriggerWarnings.com!

Premise (from Goodreads)

The Doll Factory, the debut novel by Elizabeth Macneal, is an intoxicating story of art, obsession and possession.

London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening…

Review (No Spoilers)

Hello everyone! This is my first non-requested/non-blog tour review in a while (long story short, I moved and spent the past two months panicking instead of writing) so I’m happy to be back to my old blogging ways, even if it’s temporary.

The Doll Factory was the first chosen book for a new book club I’m in, and I couldn’t be more happy about that fact because I honestly think I would have DNFed it otherwise. I wouldn’t say that this book is bad or anything like that, I just couldn’t get into it at any real point. It was only in the last 50 pages that I started to feel the pull to not put it down.

My main issue with The Doll Factory was that I basically never understood what story I was reading. I have a theory that that was kind of the whole point of the book, but for me, it just made it harder for me to enjoy. Every time I told my partner what was happening in the book, he would respond, “Um, what kind of book is this??”

We chose this book as our pick for Historical Fiction, which is how it started off, but it seemed to constantly be changing between historical fiction, thriller, and romance. There are several “narrators” (each chapter is written in 3rd person but the POV changes) and I ultimately feel like the book suffered from having too many interconnected strands. There were times when my fellow members and I would wonder why certain characters and plot points were introduced. In many cases, these people and arcs disappeared almost completely from the story.

In the end, I feel like this book had a lot of potential as a thriller, or even a romance. The author has a real talent for writing suspense, drama, and humor. I just ultimately felt like I was reading three different novels taking place in the same town at the same time. I found it more fun to discuss the book than to actually read it.