Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Today Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child, a novel by Kacen Callender published in 2018.

Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This means that she is a hurricane child. But hurricane children are supposed to be unlucky and Caroline has many reasons to feel unlucky. Her mother has disappeared, the children in her school all dislike her, and a woman in black whom no one else is able to see has been following her, ever since she almost drowned on her father’s boat. This woman is everywhere, watching her in school and at home.

Caroline’s life takes an unexpected turn when a new student starts attending her Catholic school. The new student, Kalinda, immediately becomes someone who everyone wants to be friends with. Another popular girl in the school, named Anise who bullies Caroline, asks Kalinda to sit with her group at lunch. Eventually, it seems that Kalinda is now Anise’s friend. However, when Caroline asks Kalinda to sit with her at lunch, Kalinda agrees and they become good friends. In fact, Caroline starts to develop deeper feelings for Kalinda. Unfortunately, Kalinda believes that two women cannot be in love and Caroline hides her feelings. 

Eventually Caroline figures out that Kalinda can see the woman in black, too. Caroline believes that the woman in black is related to her mother’s disappearance. When Caroline confides her suspicions with her friend, Kalinda explains that the woman is black is likely a spirit from the spirit world. Caroline begins to worry that the woman in black has stolen her mother and taken her to the spirit world forever. 

Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Hurricane Child is a beautiful book that was written very well. The author’s writing style is detailed and poetic. The author presented Caroline’s feelings, her hate, her love, and her sadness, very well. The characters are well written, are realistic, and are relatable. 

On the other hand, the plot had so many elements that I found it slightly hard to keep up. I had trouble occasionally following all the plotlines and I did not understand everything during my first reading. However, all loose threads of the plot were eventually tied up with satisfying endings. 

Trying to think about genre while writing my review, I came upon the description of magical realism from Wikipedia:

As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. Magical realism, perhaps the most common term, often refers to literature in particular, with magical or supernatural phenomena presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting, commonly found in novels and dramatic performances. Despite including certain magic elements, it is generally considered to be a different genre from fantasy because magical realism uses a substantial amount of realistic detail and employs magical elements to make a point about reality, while fantasy stories are often separated from reality. Magical realism is often seen as an amalgamation of real and magical elements that produces a more inclusive writing form than either literary realism or fantasy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_realism

Reading this, I think Hurricane Child is definitely magic realism, as the woman in black somehow blends into the realist plotlines of the story. (Ikenga, the book I reviewed last week, is probably also in this genre.) Maybe this aspect of the book was a reason why I had some difficulty first understanding what was real and what was actually going on.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 90%

Marshmallow rates Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender 90%.

Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This week Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon, the 2016 novel by Kelly Barnhill. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

Sprinkles: This looks like an interesting book Marshmallow. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Marshmallow: This book is about a girl named Luna and a witch named Xan. Luna comes from a village that sacrifices one baby per year. The baby is left in the woods, supposedly to be taken by an evil witch who lives in the woods. But it turns out that the witch is actually Xan, and she is very kind-hearted. She travels every year to pick up the sacrificed baby, and takes it to a loving family in a different village. The children brought by Xan are called Star Children in that village because Xan feeds them starlight before their journey through the forest.

However, one year, Xan accidentally feeds one of the children moonlight. Moonlight is more powerful than starlight and it enmagicks her. In other words, she ends up with extraordinary magical powers. Xan decides to name her Luna and raise her as her own.

S: That is a very interesting premise. And I can see why the book is titled The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I’m guessing that is Luna. So does Luna know any of this?

M: Not really. Not for a long time. And she cannot hear the word “magic”.

S: That is weird. So the book is about Luna and Xan and their adventures?

M: No. Not quite. There are multiple stories that are going on at the same time. There is a guy who is determined to kill Xan for example, but he is a good person, he just wants to protect his own child. And eventually we see Luna’s real mom show up. Lots of things are happening at the same time, and Luna is trying to figure out how to use her magic.

S: Hmm, that sounds intriguing. I might want to read it too some day.

M: Yes, I think you should. It is about family, love, and who becomes your family. Luna’s family is made up of a dragon and a bog monster besides the witch Xan, and eventually she is reunited with her birth mom too. And there is a surprising twist towards the end, but I am not going to spoil things.

S: Hmm, I guess I will just have to read the book to find out for myself.

Marshmallow is reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Marshmallow is reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

S: So apparently there was a prequel published right around the time the book came out. What did you think of that?

M: I thought it was interesting to get some backstory on one of the characters. We should probably put links to them in our review.

S: Okay, here is the link to the first part of the prequel, and here is the second part. We should warn our readers that there are lots of popups and ads on the linked pages but the story seems to be worth it.

M: I’d say so.

S: Did this book remind you of any other books you have read or reviewed before?

M: No, I think it was quite unique. I’d say it is really a beautiful story.

S: What you did tell me so far reminded me of a couple of the stories in Soman Chaimani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales. Or even the beginning of the School for Good and Evil stories. There, too, children are taken to save their villages.

M: Yes, I can see what you mean. And I do love the School for Good and Evil books. But I view this book as something quite different.

S: Okay, it is a book of its own, deserves its own place among your favorites?

M: I’d say so. I will definitely reread it at least once more.

S: So then would you be rating it 100%?

M: Yes!

S: And that is a good place to wrap up this review then. I might just grab the book and start reading it right away.

M: You do that! And our readers, they should stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Today Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow reviews The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like young adult novels with mystery, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): High-schooler Avery Kylie Grambs has recently discovered that she has been included in the will of Tobias Hawthorne, a rich philanthropist who recently died. However, Avery has no idea why she is in the will. She is not related to him, as far as she knows, and has, in fact, never seen him in her life.  She didn’t even know who he was until recently.

Eventually, she attends the reading of the will, which has been delayed until she can attend. Hawthorne’s two daughters and four grandsons are dismayed to learn that out of his forty-six point two billion dollars, they only receive a couple hundred thousand dollars each. Avery, on the other hand, receives the rest of his money, along with all of his possessions, including his house. The only term for this is that she must live in his house for a year. This clearly does not sit well with Hawthorne’s relatives, especially one of his daughters. Skye Hawthorne had hoped that her four sons would receive a majority of the money.

Now that everything is owned by Avery, the Hawthornes have different reactions. Nash Hawthorne, the eldest grandson of Tobias, doesn’t really show up too much. Grayson Hawthorne, the grandson that everyone thought would receive most of the inheritance, believes that Avery somehow conned Tobias into writing her into his will. Jameson, the second youngest, is intrigued by Avery. Xander, the youngest, doesn’t really have any grudges against Avery, as he never thought he was going to receive a large chunk of the money anyways. Skye, Tobias Hawthorne’s daughter and the mother of Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander, is furious, and together with her sister Zara, she starts to try and figure out a way to “reclaim” the inheritance. 

With all this money at stake, the Hawthornes may resort to violence to sort out “the Avery issue”. But Jameson and Avery believe that she was selected for a reason. Tobias Hawthorne was very into puzzles, and Avery and Jameson believe that she is part of the last puzzle of Tobias Hawthorne. But even so, who are the players, and who will win?

Marshmallow is reading the beginning of Chapter 57 in The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow is reading the beginning of Chapter 57 in The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that The Inheritance Games is a good book, but it is part of a series, which I did not know when I started reading. It was a surprise when I realized that the story would continue into a second book, which I have not read yet. So the mystery is not yet fully solved (even though we do figure out eventually why Avery was in the will).

The plot is very well thought out and thought-provoking. Also, the author and Tobias Hawthorne are very fond of word games, especially with names. (Cough, Avery, cough.)

The Inheritance Games has 370 pages, spilt into 91 short chapters. Avery is the narrator, and we meet each character through her eyes. Events unfold through her perspective as well, meaning that puzzles are only resolved when she figures things out. I was able to figure out some things ahead of time, but mostly the mystery kept me guessing.

In short, I found The Inheritance Games intriguing and very interesting. However, I believe that it is intended for older children, certainly a young adult novel. The plot is pretty complicated. And as the first book in a series, The Inheritance Games sets the scene really well for the second one to come. I’m looking forward to reading that,ys too.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 

Today Marshmallow reviews the 2019 novel The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.
Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoy reading books about school, friendship, and family, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Quijana is one-half Guatemalan and one-half American. However, when her Guatemalan cousins move in to the town she lives in, she feels like she is not living up to her Guatemalan part. A main reason for this is because she can’t speak Spanish very well, whereas her cousins speak Spanish as a first language, and they speak English perfectly. But she has other issues too. Her parents have been “Spanish-izing” their house, and trying to introduce Guatemalans culture to their children. Quijana thinks that she is too abnormal as it is and doesn’t want to be “Spanish-ized”. 

In the meantime, Quijana’s grandmother is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo treatment. Quijana loves her grandmother very much and is very worried about what will happen to her. Quijana is also having issues at school. Spanish-speaking children are very dismissive of Quijana. They seem disappointed by her lack of fluency in Spanish, and tease her for it. Another issue that Quijana has to deal with is the fact that her little brother is becoming remote and harder to reach. (Quijana has other issues too, involving a boy, who is a good friend, but she wants him to be more than that.)

On top of all this, Quijana’s parents want to go to Guatemala on vacation, but Quijana desperately doesn’t want to. She comes up with an escape plan, selling a huipil sent to her by her other grandmother. She plans to board a bus to Florida to avoid having to go to Guatemala. 

Marshmallow is reading The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.
Marshmallow is reading The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Marshmallow’s Review: The Other Half of Happy is a beautiful book that really shows its main character’s internal conflicts and concerns. The author, Rebecca Balcárcel, invites the reader into Quijana’s world. The book is narrated by Quijana and she is very open about her thoughts and feelings. Quijana feels like she has disappointed her father and her Guatemalan family, because she doesn’t know how to speak Spanish well.

I think that Rebecca Balcárcel writes in a very poetic way. Here is an excerpt, from page 1, to show you what I mean:

“I live in a tilted house. A bowling ball on our living room floor would roll past the couch, past the dining table, all the way to the kitchen sink. And if the sink wasn’t there and the wall wasn’t there and the bathroom behind that wasn’t there, the ball would roll all the way to my room at the end of the house. That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything rolling toward you.” 

Rebecca Balcárcel, The Other Half of Happy, page 1.

I think that Balcárcel does a good job of creating unique characters. The characters have unique characteristics or quirks, which make them a lot more realistic. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Quijana very well.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 95%.