City of Ghosts & Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle grade horror
Secondary genre: fantasy/paranormal
Format: hard back, audio
Series: Cassidy Blake vol. 1 & 2
CW: child death
Rep: mixed race
Ratings: 5/5 & 4/5

Cassidy stand in between the living and the dead. When she was eleven, she nearly drowned and was saved by a ghost. Now, a year later, the ghost is her best friend and she continually finds herself facing situations and people that shouldn’t exist–at least not in this time, on this plane.

Just to make things better, her parents are paranormal investigators. When they are offered a chance to film an international show about hauntings, they decide to take Cassidy–and by extension, the ghostly Jacob–with them. Now the Blake family is traveling the world in search of it’s most haunted locations.

Book one is set in Edinburgh, where Cassidy meets Laura, a half-Indian girl who is also stuck “in between.” Laura teaches Cassidy more about her powers and how to use them–both the good and the bad. But Laura’s help might not even be enough when Edinburgh’s most dangerous spirit sets her sights of Cassidy.

All I can really tell you about book two is that it deals with the catacombs of Paris, and involves an extremely powerful poltergeist.

I really liked this series. I love Cassidy and her quirky family. Jacob is a sweetheart who tries so hard to keep Cass on the straight and narrow, but it doesn’t usually work. She’s a clever girl who keeps getting herself into dangerous situations, but she’s always trying to help people, and she’s very brave.

I loved these books and really look forward to a third book in the series.

If you love history and a good ghost story, you’ll probably love these books, too.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Genre: YA historical
Rep: Ownvoices, Black
Format: audiobook

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages, but didn’t realize it was about a POC main character until I was looking for books for my reading challenge and it came up on a Goodreads list. Flygirl follows a young, light skinned, female pilot who has to give up flying at the start of WWII, as resources like fuel are redirected to the military. When a program to recruit female transport pilots (to deliver supplies and planes for the military to free up their male pilots for combat), Ida is quick to sign up, even though they don’t take black pilots. Forging her license, she doesn’t tell the recruiter that she’s not white; simply allows the woman to draw her own conclusions. Impressed by Ida’s manner, she offers her a position in training.

If the military finds out about the ruse, however, a court martial could be the least of her worries. Though she loves flying, staying in the military means denying her family and her heritage, but going back home to the Jim Crow south means denying every part of herself as an individual.

I loved this book from beginning to end. Ida is beautifully human in her choices, both good and bad; her mistakes, and her efforts to help others and improve the lot of Blacks who can’t pass the way she does. She risks life and limb every day she wakes up on base.

If you’re a fan of WWII narratives or books about women breaking glass ceilings, this is definitely a good book to pick up.

Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

Genre: YA historical
Rep: Ownvoices, Black

This was the first book I checked out for my Authors of Color Reading Challenge. Yes, I am finally caught up enough on my reviews to start in on the challenge I set for myself in June. -_-

Saving Savannah follows a young black woman from an affluent family in the early 1920s. Savannah is bored and feeling caged in. She knows there is more to the world than the teas and social events her mother arranges, but she doesn’t know how to get involved in them. She reminded me of a lot of ’20s era main characters I’ve seen, including Bright Young Things, Vixen, A Beautiful Poison, Brimstone, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. The difference is that all of those main characters are white. Even the petty, spoiled, cowardly best friend could be pulled from those pages.

After about twenty pages or so, the story takes a sharp left. Savannah begins volunteering at a vocational school for young black women, and is slowly drawn into a world of political upheaval she was previously sheltered from. As 1919’s “Red Summer” consumes her entire Washington D.C. neighborhood and the surrounding area, Savannah has to come to terms with the hypocrisy in her own life. Fueled by guilt, she tries to use her privilege to help the new friends and allies she’s made, hoping to save at least one life. 

While I liked the overall story, this book wasn’t really to my taste. The writing was very choppy, broken up into one or two page sections that made it hard for me to really dive in and consume the story. However, I am glad I read it as it showed several different perspectives I was previously unfamiliar with, including prejudices that exist within the Black community.

It also serves once again as a reminder: Everything is Wilson’s fault.



Secrets of Learning a Foreign Language by Graham Fuller

Genre: nonfiction, language
CW: sexism (all examples in this book are male)
Format: audio
Rating: planchet-3

I started studying French on my own around the time I started working from home due to Covid. I’ve tried teaching myself the language before with pretty much zero success; I can get the vocabulary, but not the grammar. Anyway, I was hoping that this book would help me find a way to study that would actually be successful.

Overall, I found it disappointing. While it did help me come up with a way to arrange my studies and create what I hope is an effective lesson plan, the rest of the book is the sort of information you can find with a five minute Google or Youtube search.

The book does cover a wide variety of languages, but the particular download I got from my library had very poor audio quality and a lot of outdated references; it appeared to be copied directly from a cassette tape, and poorly at that. It’s only a three hour book and I listed on 1.5x speed so it was even less than that, but still. Don’t waste your time. Just go to Youtube. You can get the same info in about 15 minutes.

Shadow’s Bane by Karen Chance

Genre: fantasy
Secondary Genre: romance
CW: violence
Rep: PTSD, mental health
Series: Dorina Basarab vol 4
Format: audiobook
Rating: planchet-4

I’m not positive, but I think this is the last Dorina book. Either way, it’s the 4th book in a series, so I can’t go too in depth with the plot without spoiling the other books. 

I think what Karen Chance does best are beginnings and endings. She’s very good at dropping you straight into the action, and then tying up all the loose ends. That middle part though…there are frequently so many plates in the air that it’s hard to follow the plot. I’m always amazed when she manages to wrap everything up at the end.

The first third of this book was just Dory running from one fight to another, which is how most of Karen Chance’s books go. Honestly, I’m just about done with that formula. So while I did really enjoy this book, I am glad that it appears to wrap up the series (It does leave an opening for a sequel series, but I’m kind of hoping she leaves it as is).


The Diary of Mary Berg by Mary Berg

Genre: Nonfiction, diary
Secondary Genre: History
CW: Holocaust, violence, illness, starvation
Rep: Jewish, Polish

This book is extremely hard to read. It is the account of a young woman living in the Warsaw Ghetto over a 2 year period, and doesn’t shy away from the horrors residents faced. My 4 star rating isn’t a measure of how “good” this book is, or how “well written” it is; I reserve my 5 star ratings for books I know I will read over and over again, but this book was hard enough to get through once because of the subject matter; it’s not something I can see myself re-reading, though it impacted me greatly.

I was reading this book when George Floyd was killed. That night, I read the account of a starving Jewish man beaten to death by Nazis.

The world has not changed.

Mary and her family managed to escape the Ghetto and get to America just in time. While they were on their long journey out of Poland, the Ghetto was emptied and most of the residents murdered. The Berg’s were saved by the fact that Mary’s mother was an American citizen; through a combination of red tape and extensive bribes, she managed to get passports for her two daughters and her husband, and the four of them managed to get to the US, where Mary published her diary in the hopes that it would draw attention to what the Jews were facing in Nazi territory. Prior to Germany’s surrender, the extent of their torture was unknown to the outside world. Mary hoped her diary would save lives, but it’s publication went largely unnoticed.

This is not a book to be picked up lightly. But I highly recommend that you do. It’s not a book to reread. But it is one that should be read at least once.

Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

Genre: Nonfiction
Secondary Genre: history, world history
CW: health, death

This poorly titled book1 covers the history of the Spanish Flu (I’ve been reading about it a lot. For many reasons). I wasn’t super keen about it at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t DNF.

The first chapters start off slow, and the author seems confused about what age group he’s talking about. On the one hand, he discusses higher concepts, but on the other he stops mid-text to define words like “archaeology” and “pus.” This introduction is followed up by a chapter on pre-history and how diseases impacted ancient nomadic populations. I don’t think we got to pertinent information until about the 20% mark, at which point I would normally DNF a book if it doesn’t hold my attention. Life is too short for bad books.

I’m glad I didn’t, however. The best part about this book is the way it doesn’t merely focus on American/British/Allied nations during WWI and the Spanish Flu, but takes an equal look at South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, particularly India, which was the hardest hit of any country. The author even discussed the effect on Axis nations, and despite all the research I’ve done, very few English language books spare a thought for countries other than America, England, France, and occasionally Australia, let alone the countries they were fighting.

Finally, the last chapter of the book looks to the future of disease control and evolution, and was absolutely fascinating. If you are looking for an international overview of the 1918 epidemic, this would be a really good book to pick up; it’s not super long, and you can probably skip first two chapters without actually missing anything.

1 The title actually comes from a statement quoted in the book, but personally I would have picked something a bit more…punchy.

Knitlandia and The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parks

Genre: “knitlit”, nonfiction
Secondary Genre: Crafts, memoir

If you follow my regular blog or my social media accounts, then you’ll know that I’m pretty involved in the knitting and yarn craft community (That is maybe an understatement. I design patterns). So I was aware of Clara Parks for a while, but had never read her work. She was just a name I’d heard on the convention circuit, someone who regularly taught at events or was interviewed on podcasts.

My new library, however, happened to have two of her books on audio available for checkout, so on a whim I grabbed both and listened to them in record time.

Quick and funny, these memoirs–stylistically like The Yarn Harlot’s books (aka Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee)–were honestly some of the most enjoyable pieces of “knitlit” I’ve ever read. Normally I find prose books written for the knitting community to be trite and full of pointless wool-gathering (no pun intended) (Okay, maybe it was a little intended), but these were a breath of fresh air. Knitlandia is a yarn-based road trip around the world as Clara describes some of her various speaking engagements and the mishaps that have ensued. It made me so eager to go to some of the conventions and events I’ve seen online but have never had the chance to attend. In the days of shelter in place, it will either provide 4-5 hours of relief for those itching to get out and travel, or make that itch completely unbearable once you are done. I blew through this book so fast I didn’t even take notes, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

In her book The Yarn Whisperer, Clara continues to discuss various events in the community, her adventures in attempting to write fiction, and how she learned about fiber and some of her extensive knowledge. I absolutely loved her writing style, which is filled with fantastic metaphors and off-beat humor.

It wasn’t until I started listening to this book that I discovered she’s queer. She doesn’t make a big deal of it in her books; when she speaks of her partner, they are simply a couple existing, which I love.

Both of these books are narrated by the author, which just makes them even better as she has perfect comedic timing. Even if you aren’t a big knitter, I think these are worth a listen. They’re amusing and relaxing at the same time, and that’s not a frequent combination.

(P.S. Clara, if you’re reading this: Want to be CPs? I would 100% read a mystery novel by you).

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

Genre: YA Steampunk
Secondary genre: Alternate history, romance
Series: The Inventor’s Secret vol. 1

I was so excited when I picked this book up. A steampunk novel with a female main character, set in an alternate America in which we lost the Revolution. Alas, I can tell you now that it did not live up to my expectations.

I found Charlotte, the main character, to be spoiled and bland. She lives with a group of other youngsters in a series of caves; their parents sent them away to protect them from “The Empire,” which has forced the descendants of the Patriots into slavery. By sending their children away, they hope they can grow up free and fight for the rebellion.

Okay, I thought. It’s a flimsy excuse, but I won’t poke at it too hard. I kept reading.

The oldest members of their little enclave decide to leave when a strange boy, Grim shows up in their midst. They must get to the bottom of his mysterious appearance, and since he doesn’t remember anything, they have to do it for him.

My suspension of disbelief started to fray a bit here, since they were leaving an 11 or 12 year old in charge of an unknown number of children, but okay.

I finally lost my sense of disbelief wholly when they arrive at the floating city of New York…which is kept aloft by (presumably) steam power, and is made of…metal and stone? Um…

Charlotte is meant to be a “strong female character.” We know this because she is rude, carries a gun, and can’t keep her mouth shut. But there are at least three points in the book where she stands around, bored, waiting for someone to give her orders. She has no agency of her own and makes no decisions for herself, even at the end of the book when she is left in charge of the catacombs while the other teens go off on their first missions.

Adding to the let down, the author tried to shoehorn in diversity by mentioning in the last quarter of the book that a character (who has been there effectively since page one) is possibly black? It’s not stated in so many words, but is heavily implied.

By the end of the book I was so frustrated and just done that I have already decided not to continue with the series, despite a cliffhanger ending. The romance subplot is minor at best, and I really hated Charlotte’s love interest because of how hot and cold he ran; and when he was showing interest, he acted extremely entitled about it, as though Charlotte owed him her love. I spent the bulk of the book thinking about how I would re-write it to make it better.

If you’re looking for steampunk romance with diverse characters and floating cities, Gail Carriger does it better.

Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait by Tina Cassidy

Genre: Nonfiction, history
Secondary Genre: biography, feminism/women’s history
CW: Abuse (prison)
Rep: Quaker

This dual biography of Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson had me hooked from the first. I was so into it, in fact, that I completely forgot to take notes.

The author frames the two of them as being on an unavoidable collision course throughout their lives, propelled by ambition and their distinctly different views of life and people.

While Alice Paul is a flawed human being (I disagree with her choice not to support more intersectional feminism; she refused to support black women because she thought it would take away from her goals of equality for all women), she is still one of my favorite historical figures. I admire he drive and dedication, and I really wish I could hang out with Lucy Burns because she seems like a hoot. But this book also solidified my dislike of President Wilson (actually, combined with another book I’m reading right now he’s now ranked number 2 on my “Worst American Presidents of All Time” list. I’m sure you can guess who is number one). For example, before reading it I didn’t know he was the reason we had Jim Crow. What a great legacy, she said sarcastically.

It traces both of them from young adulthood through the passage of the 19th amendment. The key point in Wilson’s opposition was that he didn’t believe women were capable of rational thought, despite repeated proof to the contrary. Good thing he was wrong, since he wife wound up running the country after his stroke.

This book covered so much more of the fight for women’s suffrage than I thought it would, and it was an excellent read from beginning to end. My one suggestion is not to get the audiobook; I found the narrator extremely annoying and listed to it even faster than usual just so I wouldn’t have to listen to her. Pick it up in ebook or paperback instead.