"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Book Reviews Featuring World War II King Arthur Legends, A Boy Named Jinx, and a Skilled Dressmaker

Hello, there!

It is that time of the month for me to review books for your enjoyment! It is my goal to do this each month this year, and so far I have done well with reviews in January, FebruaryMarch, and April.

This month is special as May is one of my favorite times of the year, despite the lack of snow. While some of the other months had reviews for books that I wasn’t too fond of, today I’ll be reviewing some of my favorites from last year! Each and every one of these books is a masterpiece, giving me a full range of emotion and suspense with the brilliant characters and dynamic setting. I hope that these reviews encourage you to read this fabulous works!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. I promise you that all three of these reviews are spoiler free! The endings or any surprises won’t be spoiled on my watch.

Review #1:

The Metropolitans - by Carol Goodman:
In 1941 four kids come together when there is an attempted robbery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What was almost stolen was a page from the Kelmsbury Manuscript, a book of the legends of King Arthur. These kids are united in a common quest, each linked to a character from this strange book. But, not the whole book is there and with the help of the curator they need to find the rest of the pages which are hidden in the museum. When Pearl Harbor is bombed, people of the city turn against Kiku and all other Japanese people and things. Will Madge, Walt, and Joe stand with her? Each have their doubts as connection to this book draws them closer to their biggest fears. Can New York be saved with their help?
‘The one thing she did know was that if the great wide world could come busting into HER life, then she could darn well bust into the world.’
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction. Middle Grade Fiction. Young Adult. Is there a genre for the best books ever? If there is, then this would be in it.
Characters: 10!! These characters were the most magnificent thing that I have read in a long time. They are all so distinct, and DIVERSE, and from the moment I met each one of them I knew their hopes and dreams. It was because of them that I could barely stand to put this book down!
My favorites: (in no specific order other than alphabetical because how can I pick favorites from our four heroes?)
Joe: A Native American boy on the run from the law and who can't remember his language. His insecurities are so well drawn. He has seen people hurt in the past so he knows anger, but he also is ashamed of hurting others. How his story rotated around language was amazing.
Kiku: A Japanese girl who has always been made fun of and wishes that people trusted her. She wants to earn the respect of her father, but he is so strict nothing she does is right. She is so happy to have found a home in her passion for art and doesn’t want that to go away because of her heritage.
Madge: A bossy Irish girl who has been stuck with responsibility her whole life. Madge is incredible. If you want a fantastic female character, look no further! I love how she takes charge because no one else is going to! Regret is a big word in her vocabulary based on her temper, and she wishes she could change things.
Walt: A German Jewish boy who wants to stand up to tyrants but is scared that the ones he loves will be hurt. My sweet precious scared boy. His fight with cowardice makes my heart ache for him because I have been there. He just wants to keep his friends and family safe!
You can see from my descriptions how this is such a hard time for all of them. But, what I’ve said is just the tip of the iceberg for each of them. They are phenomenal and you need them all in your life this instant.
‘When people treated you like vermin, you began to feel like vermin.’
Words/Writing style: 10! No bad words and on top of that the writing is jaw-dropping. I feel like I always use that word to describe prose, but I can’t find anything that fits better! With third person past tense you are so seamlessly put into the minds and hearts of each of the characters. I love how we get to see what is happening from each of their point of views. The prologue is a little confusing and disconnected, but it is important and will make sense very soon.
World building/Setting: 10! I’ve never been to New York (or 1941 because I don’t have a time machine readily available), but this book put me in the midst of everything perfectly. I felt like I was breathing the same air as all of them. In the museum, in train stations, in their homes, in the park, all of it was natural. I read this around Peal Harbor day without knowing that was a factor and I FELT all of turmoil happening in New York City. From the mentions of the clothing they wore to the candy and tea they ate and drank. The tea was Barry’s for anyone interested. Good choice as I’ve been drinking that my whole life.
The magic is so beautifully woven in! I could talk about it for ages, but I’m going to make you read the book to discover how it works.
Quotability: 10. The lines in this book are to die for! I wanted to write everything down. This category is a little trippy when it comes to books because the fact of the matter is that I don’t usually quote books. I loved it so much I’m giving it 10 anyway.
‘“Why, you’re children!” he said, ruffing the top of his head as if trying to activate the brain cells inside.’
Content: 9. There are some deep subjects here, but they are handled so well! Early on we have descriptions of someone committing suicide, but it is horrible and not saying it is a good thing by any means. There are racist comments against Kiku and her father, but that is shown to be bad! Mentions of abuse, fighting, injury, and death. There is one suggestive comment, mentions of body parts on statues, and talk about underclothing.
‘He clenched his hands, remembering the impact of knuckles on flesh. It had felt good---and then it had felt bad. And the bad feeling had lasted longer than the good.’
Originality: 10! This might be the most original plot in any book I’ve read! But that might just be me obsessing over it. I love how much Ms. Goodman used the King Arthur legends! It is stunning and keeps you on your toes. I guessed one element, but that wasn’t a bad thing, just good foreshadowing.
Good For: families, friends, anyone who loves historical fantasy, anyone struggling with “fitting in” or having courage or trying not to forget ones past.
Age Range: The characters are all 13, I believe, but you don’t have to be that age to read this. I think this is categorized as Middle Grade Fiction. It might be a little intense for super young readers, but it is so clean. It has no trouble captivating an older audience (like myself) as well!
Overall Score: 10!!!!
Worth reading?: Don’t doubt it! Of course it was. These characters and their struggles have stuck with me months after finishing it.
Will I read again?: Yes! I want to so badly! I have a bunch of required reading that I have to read, but I want to visit again. My younger sister introduced this to me and now I’m trying to get my older sister to give it a go. All of this is making me want to read it again!
Bonus thoughts:
“...How can we vanquish evil if we don’t help each other?”
The Metropolitans is really awesome and gripping from the start. A good book! Nay, a grand book. Nay, a great book! Nay, the best book! It is amazing X a million. I am struggling to convey the excellence of this book in the right words. The characters have amazing backgrounds that are never left out. They all of strengths and weaknesses and we see them used so well. They’re broken little babies trying to save New York!
If you can’t tell, I love it and recommend it 100%!

Review #2:

Moon Over Manifest - by Clare Vanderpool:
Abilene is sent to live in her father’s hometown for the summer. A rundown old place, it is murmuring with memories of the past. Ever since Abilene hurt herself, her father has been distant from her. Feeling like she is losing him, she is determined to find out what his childhood was like. While staying in the same place her father lived in she finds a box of letters, from someone named Ned to someone named Jinx. Through them and the stories the diviner, Miss Sadie, tells her, she begins to see what the town was like in its former glory. It is disappointing though, because no one will talk about her father no matter how she prompts them. She wants to spend more time in the past, but maybe some secrets are carried into the present. Most importantly, is there still a spy lurking in the shadows?
‘Memories were like sunshine. They warmed you up and left a pleasant glow, but you couldn’t hold them.’
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, Mystery.
Characters: 10. More amazing characters! We have a big cast here, but they all of quirks that make them unique and recognizable. This town is full of a colorful crowd if I've ever read one.
My favorites:
Abilene: This girl. I love her so much. She’s always lived on the road and been ready to move on, so she doesn’t trust people easily. She’s figured out the world and the people in it: all except her father. She’s so sure that she knows what a person will be like based on her types that she’s established. Also, her name, Abilene Tucker, is gorgeous. Probably one of my new favorite fictional names.
‘Mind you, I don’t really say y’all, but it’s usually best to try to sound a bit like the folks whose town you’re moving into.’
Jinx: His conflict was spot on. He was afraid of being not needed or wanted and just being nothing but trouble. The hijinks that he and Ned get into are so great!
Ned: Ned was just an utter sweetheart! He made me smile anytime he was mentioned. He was brave, kind, and gracious. He doesn’t know his past in a town chockfull of everyone who has a distinct tradition to follow.
Lettie and Ruthanne: These cousins were great. They were so gracious and easygoing, down for anything that Abilene was up to. Their spooky stories heightened the mystery as they had an inside scoop on the town already.
The Preacher: I can’t for the life of me remember his name and it’s driving me crazy. I am very ashamed. If anyone can help me with this, please do! Anyway. His quiet presence is so mysterious and comforting and the same time. I love how the town looks to him for answers and he usually has a good one.
Words/Writing style: 10. The first person tense from Abilene was so great. In addition to that, the way things were told from Jinx and Ned’s perspectives through letters and Miss Sadie added touches that set everything off so nicely. Sometimes in stories with dual timelines I want to read more about one than the other. 1917 on the verge of war was just as fascinating as a dusty and boring (according to Abilene) 1936.
‘But as anyone worth his salt knows, it’s best to get a look at a place before it gets a look at you.’
Setting: 10. The setting of a sleepy little town in Kansas fits the story to a bill. The descriptions unfold so well that you can just see the town! It was vivid in my mind. The town itself is almost a character and you can distinctly feel the differences through the years. It is so rich in culture, too! Manifest is home to people from all over the world and it is striking to read about.
Quotability: 10. Why do I even have this when it is impossible to rate?? I don’t have anyone to understand the quotes! I’m giving it a 10 all the same. The lines were so carefree yet had a hidden wisdom to them. I adored the writing so much!
‘A typewriter sat on a cluttered desk, its keys splayed open with some scattered on the desk like it tried to spell explosion and the explosion happened.’
Awards: 4: Newbery Medal (2011), Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction (2011), Society of Midland Authors Award Nominee for Children's Fiction (2011), Premio El Templo de las Mil Puertas for Mejor novela extranjera independiente (2011).
Content: 9. The Ku Klux Klan is in some parts but it is shown as being a terrible organization and nothing about it is justified. Nothing really happens with them, but I still appreciated that we didn’t shy away from it being a real thing. With World War I creeping up we have some descriptions of the fighting and losses it held, but it isn’t gory. There was quite a bit about the making and selling of alcohol illegally. Usually that would’ve bothered me, but since I am not interested in it at all and it fit what was happening in the story, I didn’t mind so much.
Originality: 10! Like the rest of the book, it was stellar in the creativity. I was getting a slight To Kill a Mockingbird vibe, but that was maybe just because Abilene calls her dad by his first name, Gideon, like Scout does for Atticus. Talk about respect and dignity for nations might also be a contributing factor for why my brain is making that correlation. (Wow, my vocabulary is going crazy on me today, haha!)
Good For: historical fiction fans, families, anyone who has moved to a new place, people interested in the time periods.
Age Range: Abilene is in some kind of middle school, I think, so she is relatable to that age. Don’t be fooled into thinking it can only be read for kids! This is an excellent book for all ages.
Overall Score: 10!
Worth reading?: Without a doubt the answer is yes. The mysteries in the town of Manifest are bewitching and capture your attention. I grew to love all of the characters more than I can say in a short period of time.
Will I read again?: Again, without a doubt! I had to read this really quickly for a challenge which wasn’t a problem because it was so fascinating, but I am looking forward to reading it again slowly and absorbing all of the details thoroughly.
Bonus thoughts:
This is an absolutely gorgeous book. It is about discovering the past and through that oneself. The foreshadowing was some of the best I’ve read, because you could see where something were going yet still utterly destroyed when they actually happened. I sat in my room sobbing for this book. Which I’m not sorry to admit, I just was surprised because I wasn’t expecting it at all.
Do you get the gist yet? (Shout out to Sam for convincing me to read it!)

Review #3:

Prairie Lotus - by Linda Sue Park:
While Hanna is sad about leaving her home in California, she is bravely ready for live in the frontier. Her father is opening a dress shop and Hanna’s dream is to make clothing for the store, but her father doesn’t think she is responsible enough. It is her passion as her mother taught her to sew and she loves it. Things could be good here. That is except for a problem that shouldn’t be one: Hanna is half-Asian. People out here are just as judgmental on how she looks as they were at home. Will that be a problem when she wants to go to school? How will she convince her father that she is ready?
‘A brand-new town, equal measures of promise and uncertainty, like the thin April sunshine in which it stood.’
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction.
Characters: 9. There aren't that many, but all the more time for our star to shine!
My favorites:
Hanna: While some were understandably one-dimensional, Hanna was far from that! I related to her in so many ways. Our personalities are quite similar. I have never dealt with how people treat her, but Hanna faces it with so much courage! All in all, I want to be Hanna when I grow up. I’ve never been fond of sewing, but her enthusiasm for it made me want to make something!
‘You stop thinking about yourself. That’s where the sadness is, inside you. You look outside instead. At other people. You do things for other people, it fills you with good feelings, less room for the bad ones.'
I can’t for the life of me remember anyone else’s name, but there were a plethora of interesting characters. Fear for the unknown rules a lot of their lives which is scary, but realistic. My additional favorites were a man who was helping Hanna and her father, as well as a boy Hanna’s age and his little sister. They were precious!
Words/Writing style: 10. If I were to describe this writing in one word it would be graceful. You are pulled so gently through the story it is very relaxing.
Setting: 10. Life on the prairie with Asian elements intricately mixed in as well as respect for Native Americans? *chef’s kiss*
Quotability: 9. Hanna has some great lines of encouragement and motivation for when she gets down. They should be my motto, too!
‘It seemed to Hanna that there were always a hundred reasons for disliking people and not nearly as many for liking them.’
Awards: So far nominated for: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Children's Literature (2021)
Content: 10. There is a lot of bias against Hanna but that is shown in a negative light. Someone bumps into and grabs someone harshly causing some harm, but again it is shown as undesirable behavior.
‘Cruelty was painful. Thoughtlessness was merely exhausting.’
Originality: 10. This book is not fast paced. It is slow and steady which, to me, is one of its endearing qualities. It took a setting that so many of us are familiar with in books and movies, and somehow made it REAL. Everything that happens feels like it could’ve actually happened. Not too much happens, but what does is so realistic. I totally dug something so relaxing yet thought provoking.
Good For: Families, fans of the setting and historical fiction, anyone who has had to move, EVERYONE.
Age Range: If my memory serves me correctly, Hanna is about 14. I think it would be excellent for younger kids with the way it handles everything so well. And, it is something that adults need right now, too. Maybe even for a whole family!
Overall Score: 10!
Worth reading?: It is a new favorite, so the answer is yes.
Will I read again?: Of all these reviews today, this was the one that I read the longest time ago so I definitely want to read it again. Maybe someday with a friend to discuss the simple wonder of this artwork.
Bonus thoughts:
This is an ideal book for anytime, but especially now when hate is flying. The message of this book is KINDNESS. Hanna has such a pure heart and soul doing the best for people even though they are prejudiced against her. This is a message that needs to live forever and Linda Sue Park beautifully did that.
“For the person who is sour, do something sweet.”

It wasn’t until I finished it just now that I realized that all of these books are historical fiction. I guess you guys know what I read a lot of in 2020! These books were, respectively, my 2nd, 4th, and 5th favorites that I read in 2020. I’m thrilled that I got to review them for you today!

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these? If not, you are missing out and need to fix this immediately! What are some of your favorite historical fiction books? Any with a magical twist? Tell me one that incorporates a legend of some kind. What about some books that promote kindness above everything? Or a book that takes place in two different time periods? I truly hope that you all enjoy these books as much as I did!



  1. Long time, no comment. School's finally over so I hope to get back to blogging soon. This is the second time in the last week that I've been recommended to read Moon Over Manifest. *adds another book to TBR list* XD

    1. Hey, Miss K! Congrats on finishing school for the year! That slowed me down with my blogging and commenting, too. Maybe getting this second recommendation is a sign that it is the perfect book for you right now! XD My sister and I just swapped book recommendations so she's reading it right now.

  2. Ooo all of these sound fantastic!

    1. Fantastic is the perfect word for each and every one of them!

  3. Ahhh I related to Madge SO MUCH when I read The Metropolitans! Taking charge because no one else is going to is what I do best. XD

    Oh, was I the one who recommended Moon Over Manifest? Hmm. That's funny, I don't remember that. XD I need to reread that one--it was excellent, and I remember many parts very, very vividly, but I'm afraid I've forgotten several important things...

    Ooh, Prairie Lotus sounds really good! I've seen it around, but never actually picked it up...

    1. I completely see it. XD I feel like that's almost a requirement of older sisters/siblings, you know? ;) I related most to Walter so we're already halfway to forming our own squad like them!

      Well, you mentioned that you had read it in a monthly wrap up (I think it was last July? *spends time looking through your blog archives* Ah, it was September) and I asked what you thought about it and that gave me the final push to check it out from our library! If you want to do a reread let me know and maybe we can do it together! (Because my sister currently has it checked out and I could easily steal it...)

      Sam, you should read that! It's the one book on this list that you haven't so you need to complete all of them! I would love to hear your thoughts.

  4. I haven't read any of these, but they look great. I'll have to add them to my TBR.

    1. The magic in The Metropolitans is so neat, I think you would love it! Both others are SUPER awesome too, so I highly, highly, HIGHLY, recommend trying them!

  5. To Kill A Mockingbird vibes are always great

  6. AGH MC YOUR REVIEW OF MOON OVER MANIFEST MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I just finished my reread of that beautiful book and it's so, so good! It's one of those books I have a hard time talking about cuz it's just difficult to ARTICULATE that kind of masterful writing, but you killed it here. You pointed out so much I hadn't thought about, like Ned not knowing his past in a town where everyone else has a deeply-rooted cultural heritage. *mind blown* Ack. I am happy.

    1. MEGAN, YOU'RE MAKING ME BLUSH. It speaks so well for itself that it's hard to find the right words to say how fantastic it is! I am happy to have you to talk about it with! And remind me about Sister Redempta because How Could I Have Forgotten Her?? Ned's character really hit me deeply because he is curious about his past where Jinx is on the run from it.


To comment, or not to comment? That is the question. Whatever you decide, I would love to hear from you!! I am always open to suggestions, advice, and any other comments! Even if you don't agree with me, I would love to hear from you as long as you keep the comment respectful and on subject. And, please, no swearing. I love comments on old posts!!
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"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles