Book Review

Dragon Planet – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (3.75 / 5 stars)

Zero and his family, as well as his new friend Nyx, have just arrived on an alien planet after a voyage that took over 100-years (in stasis). Coming off the high of defeating space pirates, Zero cannot wait to explore this new world! But this new planet, Kaguya, is not quite Earth. With low gravity, strange animals (with a predator reminiscent of a dragon), and huge plants…this is a dangerous new landscape. Yet…that might not stop another heist from occurring…that only Zero and Nyx can stop!

A fun audible original story, Dragon Planet takes us on an adventure filled with a new planet, a bit of science…and well…dragons! It’s fast paced, with memorable and fun characters, and a new mystery that needs to be solved! What’s not to love? Really, I had a fun time listening to this audiobook…and considering I’m not the target audience, that’s all you can really ask!

Granted, as an adult reader, I was left with a few questions that made it hard to suspend disbelief. Wouldn’t they have sent out probes to tell them more about Kaguya before they landed? And for something so important, wouldn’t there be more safe fails to hopefully prevent someone from stealing equipment? What about cameras that might have seen what happened during the windstorm? While some of these are addressed, a lot of answers are simplistic – which is fine for a children’s book! But, it was a little unbelievable to an extent.

Overall, while I enjoyed Zero G much more than this book, Dragon Planet is still a fun adventure for the whole family! I’ll be listening to the next book in the Zero Chronicles, Stargazer, in the near future!

What’s it about?

The much-anticipated sequel to Zero G and the middle grade debut by Dan Wells.

The colonists from the Pathfinder have arrived on Kaguya, a planet with low gravity but a very dense atmosphere. It’s fun to jump around, but the air makes you loopy. Even worse than that, the heavy atmosphere means that wind storms, although rare, are absolutely devastating.

Zero and Nyx help to get everything locked down before the first big storm, but they stumble onto a group of thieves who have stolen some mining equipment. Before the kids have a chance to get away and tell anyone, the storm hits and the massive winds carry them far away. Zero and Nyx are stranded on an unknown planet with no way to communicate, being chased by thieves, and with another storm bearing down on them.

And, oh yeah, this planet has dragons.

It will take more than just good luck to get back to the colony. It’s going to take science.

Book Review

Larimar: Gem of the Sea – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

Years ago, Captain Jorah met a peculiar young woman who lived in the sea. After helping her obtain an artifact stolen from her people, Jorah doesn’t think he’ll see her again. But years later, after he turns up shipwrecked somewhere far away from home, he encounters her again. This time, she needs his help to rid the evil from her home…before it’s too late.

In a quick story about a Captain and a Woman of the Sea, we are taken on a whirlwind of action and adventure making us yearn for more. Even in the short amount of time, it is clear the author has a well constructed world, filled with legends and creatures beyond our imagination. If the goal of this story was to attract more readers to the The Amielian Legends, then Schulze certainly did a phenomenal job.

Yet, the fact that this story is short does work against it a tad. While it painted a wonderful picture, well written in a way where I felt like I was beside Captain Jorah and Larimar, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to hear about Captain Jorah’s adventure, about how he escaped his uncle, helped his mother find safety, and took down the evil regime. I wanted to learn more about Larimar and her people.

But it also made me want to read more of the Amielian Legends. Schulze has found herself a new reader with this short story – and I certainly will pick up more soon!

What’s it about?

A fearless captain and a mysterious girl who walks on water. An underwater city and a destined deadly curse. What could possibly go wrong?

Captain Jorah is notorious for being one of the youngest explorers to ever sail Zephyrian waters. He’s also notorious for landing his crew in situations they hadn’t counted on—situations involving man-eating mermaids and other dangerous misadventures.

When Jorah decides to search for the legendary underwater City of Larimar, he doesn’t account for the quest that follows. Rescued from shipwreck by a mysterious young lady who walks on water and carries a singing seashell around her neck, he soon finds himself reunited with an old friend once thought lost to him. Before he knows it, he’s caught up in a race against time to save her yet again, this time from a looming prophecy about a deadly serpent destined to consume her entire race.

Can Jorah help the girl save her people before the dark prophecy can complete itself?

The Amielian Legends is a collection of stand-alone young adult books, all set in the same fantastic universe, that can be read in any order. Read Larimar: Gem of the Sea and dive into new worlds filled with new adventures today!

Book Review

Tam Lin – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)

Tom is convinced he found the love of his life, the wonderful and talented, almost “God-like” Ariel. Yet after a lover’s quarrel leaves Tom traveling to Ireland on his own to discover his history, Tom is left wondering what his future holds. Little does he expect that his past is entwined with the Legendary Ballad of Tam Lin…and there is more to Ariel and the two tours guides who help him than meet the eye.

In a short, queer story, we go on a new twist for the classic story of Tam Lin. I’ll be frank though…I wasn’t familiar with Tam Lin until I read this story! Thankfully with the help of Wikipedia and the expose inside the story, I quickly learned what this was about. I think this was a wonderful twist, paying homage to the original tale while transporting us to modern day.

I’ve been reading a lot of books like this lately – where a legend is expanded upon in today’s world – and sometimes they are left feeling unsatisfactory. I’d say that this telling of Tam Lin falls in between. On one hand, it is well written with valid representation of a bisexual young man. On the other hand though, it was missing something. For about 50% of the book, nothing is all that “magical” or “fae-like”. We get a moment where Tom is in court, but that is rushed so much…instead focusing on the sex scenes. If you are all for the spice, then you’ll love these scenes though! For me, too much spice leaves a negative impact on a story.

But that’s just a personal take.

What intrigued me was the ending though; it ended on a bittersweet moment, and I am curious how the author will elaborate upon this in their other stories. Out of curiosity more than anything, I’ve added book 2 to my TBR!

Overall, while Tam Lin is a well written story, I think it needed just a little bit more to make it shine. But, if you’re here for the spice with a touch of retelling, then Tam Lin will be for you!

What’s it about?

Over five hundred years ago, Tam Lin betrayed the Queen of the Fae, leaving her to be with his human lover Janet. Tom, a literature professor, knew the story. Adopted, he spent his life studying the stories of others and their families, never knowing his own.

When his boyfriend, Ariel, gifted Tom an all expense paid trip to Ireland to seek out his Ulster-Scots roots, he never expected to find out how his story tied into the legendary Ballad of Tam Lin.

Book Review

We Come Undone – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆  (3.75 / 5 stars)

Despite how the world might darken, there is always a way to find light. There is always a way to face adversaries, even when everyone turns against you. Caleb knows that more than anyone as he fights to keep his farm, and he will stand his ground to protect his land, his hens, and his friends.

In a poetic story, Koontz takes us into a post-apocalyptic southern home, with a deep message: you can fight no matter how many people turn against you. While the story is short, Koontz does a fantastic job painting a picture of this world, taking us into the struggles of Caleb’s farm against adversaries, and what he must do to keep it. It’s a very vivid reminder to all of us, no matter how good or bad things get, you need to keep fighting. But if you must fight, fight with those you care about…fight with your friends and family.

Yet, while much of the prose is written in a way reminiscent of poetry – and poetry, as a whole, can avoid some grammatical conventions – I do think the story would have benefited from being proofread once more to catch any mistakes. In addition, as I find with many short stories, some need to be longer to really paint the picture. There is so much that could have been delved into…but time was of the essence.

Overall, We Come Undone is a poetic and wonderful read. If you want something to read one gloomy afternoon to remind you to keep fighting, check it out!

What’s it about?

The thing about life is that even on the darkest of days, there’s still a glint of hope. It’s the stars, peeking through the smoggy sky. It’s the moon burnt red in fire. It’s strings of lights run by glints of copper, twining through the trees and the old rafters. The hen that pecks at a dying land. The gears that keep turning. And the thing about life is that even when we come undone, there’s always going to be someone or something to pick you back up, help get your feet moving again, help you find another light to cling too, another ember to fan into your own burning flames. Ian’s been moving through the ashes for far too long, and Caleb might not have realized his flames were burning so low. But the way that the world works, is that it tends to put you in exactly the right spot, at exactly the same time. Or maybe that’s just luck. Some could even argue it’s bad luck. No matter what it is, though, it’s there. And you have to deal with it.

OTHER INFORMATION – When an old friend shows up at Caleb’s farm, he finds the full wrath of the Capitol Council brought down upon him. When given a choice between keeping Ian safe, or keeping ownership of the last farm in the country, Caleb knows that there’s only one choice he can make. Keep them both, of course.*a genre mash-up with flavors from fantasy, post-apoc fiction, and western hints. *We Come Undone is, at heart, a story about healing, farming, and finding your own family. 

Book Review

Crooked Kingdom – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★  (5 / 5 stars)

There’s one thing you should know: don’t cross Kaz Brekker.

After Van Eck fails to uphold his end of the bargain and steals the Wraith, Kaz is on a mission to seek revenge…and he’ll burn Ketterdam down in the process, if necessary. With his band of misfits ready to fight to the death, Kaz constructs a plan to bring Van Eck’s empire down…and hopefully make a quick profit in the process.

While it took me awhile to read Crooked Kingdom (only due to my own life and not the story itself), this story kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. The market manipulation, the popping characters, and the scheming all come to a head right back in Ketterdam. Unlike Six of Crows, we already know Kaz and his crew, so it gives us a chance to really immerse ourselves in the story rather than be taken back in time throughout the heist.

Ultimately, the Six of Crows Duology is a character study though, and while the plot itself is relatively predictable as far as the ultimate outcome (and thanks to a few spoilers I saw online, unfortunately), it’s the characters and their development, and their actions, that make this story shine. There is no one quite like Kaz Brekker and his crew. Each character adds their own perspective to the plot, making Kaz’s plans all the more allusive, as they navigate Ketterdam in the dark.

What’s impressive overall is how each pair in the crew seems to foil each other, but in all the right ways. Jesper is impulsive and cocky, Wylan quiet and more calculating. Nina is a Grisha with a penchant for crude humor, while Matthias is a soldier raised to hate Grisha and keep things in line. Finally, you have Kaz and Inej, with Kaz as the “ruthless” leader of the Dregs, and Inej as his moral compass.

I would like to take a moment to talk about Inej. She is by far my favorite character – I love leading women who are both kind and tough in one foul swoop. She doesn’t kill without reason, and her end goal is hunt slavers and bring them to their knees. It’s noble, and not quite what you would expect for someone so close to Kaz Brekker. But, while Kaz is hailed as the “hero” of the story – the mastermind of the plot if you will – it is Inej’s story. The first time we meet the crows is through Inej’s perspective. We learn about how she is indebted to Kaz. The book ends on her freedom. While yes, the Six of Crows Duology is about all six of the characters, I really do think the story is about Inej (and Kaz, of course). But it’s subtle, not up front, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

One reason though that I really loved Crooked Kingdom is because of the way Kaz manipulates the markets in his illegal ways. The fact that the outcome of this is all due to market play is fascinating to me – especially since I work in the financial service industry. It’s rare to see something like that in a fantasy story. Instead, you often see thinks more like the Shadow & Bone Trilogy, with wild displays of magic and fighting.

Ultimately, Crooked Kingdom is a fantastic way to end the Six of Crows Duology. I have full intentions to pick up the King of Scars Duology soon…and hopefully I’ll see Kaz, Inej, and the rest of the Crows again in the near future.

And remember…if you can’t beat the odds…change the game.

What’s it about?

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Book Review

City of Gold – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

After Eleanor’s adventure to Nightshade Forest, she is keen to learn more about the magic book her father gave her. Upon opening up a story about a city of gold, Eleanor is transported back into the book, where an evil imp is turning the city to gold before her very eyes. With the help of a jittery rabbit, Eleanor embarks on a quest to save the day…or find herself turned into gold!

After reading Nightshade Forest last year, I was eager to jump back into Eleanor Mason’s Literary Adventures…and it did not disappoint! Eleanor’s curiosity and excitement for adventure will resonate with readers, young and old alike. Who doesn’t want to take an adventure into a story? Isn’t that why we pick up books in the first place?

Mitchell does a fantastic job capturing that childhood desire for adventure. Eleanor is a precocious young girl, and her intelligence is truly put to the test in a world filled with riddles. But, I think most of all, it is most valuable at the end, where she identifies the twist on a classic tale and the secret of her local librarian!

Out of curiosity, I actually went back and reread my review for Nightshade Forest. A year ago, I said that I didn’t usually read middle grade fiction. Oh how times have changed! I’ve kind of come to adore it; the simpler plot lines, the happier endings, the childish jokes…they all warm the piece of my heart that still yearns for simpler times. So, I’d like to give credit to Nikki Mitchell when it comes to my love for middle grade stories. Without Eleanor’s adventures, I don’t think I ever would have realized how much I enjoy these types of tales.

As with a lot of middle grade fiction, and me being an adult, sometimes I feel like something is missing. I can’t pinpoint it though…and that being the case, it means that since I enjoyed this story anyway…children will LOVE it!

So if you’re looking for a quick, short novel that will bring you back to your childhood adventures…definitely check on Nightshade Forest and City of Gold! You’ll have a blast!

What’s it about?

Sometimes a magic portal can be found in ordinary things. That’s exactly what Eleanor Mason discovers when she receives a tattered book of stories from her father.

After her first adventure in the Nightshade Forest, Eleanor quickly jumps through the portal again, only to find herself standing in a field of golden wheat. When a nervous rabbit asks her to save the city from an evil imp with a magic spinning wheel, Eleanor knows she must join him on an epic adventure to solve a riddle, destroy the wheel, and save the townspeople—all before the sun rises on the city.

Can Eleanor rely on the prophecy of an ancient fairy statue to save the day, or will she run out of time and watch as her friends slowly turn to gold?

Book Review

Cinderella is Evil – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)

What if the story we all know and love is wrong? What if the Step Sisters weren’t evil? What if the Step Mother was just heart broken? And what if Cinderella was never mistreated? Anna, one of the “Ugly Step Sisters” finally tells her side of the story in this fast paced short-story that gives a new take on the classic tale.

I read Cinderella is Evil fairly quickly. It paints a picture of a family struggling with the death of their patriarch. In their sadness, their stories became misconstrued. Cinderella was never abused, only being dramatic. The step sisters weren’t evil, only trying to make their mother happy. If anything, the only one close to their original role was the Step Mother, who berated her daughters due to their looks. Yet, the narrative is painted to feel sympathy for the entire family. They are merely in mourning, not filled with hate.

While I enjoyed the way the narrative was written, and I understood Anna’s own frustrations with her life, the ending fell short . The story felt like it was building up to something bigger: a darker take on the tale that left us with a distaste for Cinderella. While Cinderella was whiny and stuck up, I wouldn’t go as far as to call her evil. In fact, I would say that the three sisters acted like teenagers. If the title wasn’t Cinderella is Evil, I might have been more satisfied with the ending. Really, it felt as though the story was missing something.

Overall though, I had fun reading this story! If you have a moment, check it out…you’ll read it in 30 minutes and have a new perspective on this classic tale!

What’s it about?

History is told from one person’s perspective. Sometimes they don’t get it right.

Ugly Stepsister Anna has wrongly been accused of being mean and evil. Now it is time she got the opportunity to tell her side of the story.

With Cinderella so perfect and wonderful, it is no wonder Anna feels ugly in comparison. Dealing with bullies, a grumpy mother and the death of her step-father, Anna is at her wits end.

When the Prince’s ball approaches, Anna is told she must find a husband to save the family fortune. Attending with her sisters, the sulky Prince Charming only has eyes for Cinderella.

With the burden of being the only one to unite her step-sister with the Prince, will Anna act as cupid? Or will she protect Cinderella from the arrogant Charming?

A charming twist to the story of Cinderella, told completely from the point of view of the Ugly Step-Sister. 

Book Review

Treasure Darkly – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3 / 5 stars)

Clark grew up as the son of a prostitute, working in a mine to survive. But one day, when he steals a drink from the captain, which he presumes is absinthe, his entire life changes. Suddenly, he is granted a power not only to bring people back from the dead, but trade their life for another, while also seeing the dead. While this power on its own might have been a blessing, with the army looking to use him as a weapon, Clark is forced to flee and seek refuge under his supposed father, Garth Treasure. But are more secrets afoot that Clark realizes? And can he live up to the Treasure Family name?

The premise of Treasure Darkly is certainly interesting. A steampunk western with ghosts and resurrection? It sounded like something right up my alley! Jordan Elizabeth is a fantastic writer, able to paint the picture of the society in a fast paced adventure. I was easily able to visualize everything taking place, wrapped in Clark’s desire to find safety, while also getting a clear picture of the rest of the Treasure Family.

Yet, ultimately I felt the plot was more “episodic” in nature. Every few chapters, the plot seemed to detour into another issue, something that would work remarkably well for a TV show, but left the novel feeling somewhat disjointed.

The prologue was fantastic – giving us a glimpse into Clark’s world. And I hoped we would have explored his earlier life with his new powers in more depth. This alone could have been a novel, in my opinion!

Instead, we skip two years, where we see Clark adapting to life at the Treasure Ranch. It quickly jumps from that, to Clark visiting his old home with his “step mother”, to his “half-sister” Amethyst being taken hostage, etc. Even once Clark begins finding out about his true past, that plot takes the backseat to the romance that builds (more on that below). Truthfully, I went into this story expecting a tale about Clark adapting to his new powers, while on the run from the army. But this was such a small point of the story, I had to wonder if it was really all that relevant beyond the few times his powers were put to work. They were more a plot device for convenience than something that actually has impact.

Then there was Clark’s romance with Amethyst. Now, I would like to warn you that there are spoilers ahead.

Right off the bat, Clark is drawn to Amethyst, despite how she is supposedly his “half-sister”. She flirts with him as well. While I had a feeling this would lead to something else about Clark’s past, it was uncomfortable to watch for the first half of the book. While we do learn that Clark isn’t really her brother, making the romance a bit better, it still felt unnecessary. This is especially due to how Clark finds out he’s not Garth Treasure’s illegimate child.

Clark, who has the ability to talk to the dead at times, doesn’t learn the truth about his father until he wants to flirt with Amethyst. His father, Eric Grisham, appears to him as a ghost right as Clark develops feelings to tell him it’s okay. While Clark asks Eric why he didn’t appear sooner, Eric’s answer is a bit empty at best: “It wasn’t the right time.” Apparently, a boy falling in love with his supposed sister IS the right time? A lot of Clark’s headaches could have been solved if he understood his destiny sooner…but instead it’s hidden from him more for plot convenience than anything else.

The story, ultimately, revolves more around Clark and Amethyst’s “forbidden” romance. But it isn’t forbidden; they’re not actually related, but no one wants to admit it. Once Clark discovers he has money, he could have easily told the Treasures that he knew the truth, at least in my opinion.

This romance, as well, didn’t quite strike a chord with me. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the “experienced man” with the “naive girl”. Clark read older than 17 – more like he was in his early 20s – while Amethyst read as a teenager. This created an odd dynamic that made me uncomfortable…at least from a personal perspective.

Ultimately, the premise saves this book for me. It’s well written, with a fun nature that I could see playing out in a TV show, which is a compliment in itself. As I mentioned earlier, Jordan Elizabeth is an excellent writer, able to paint a picture in my head. These saving pieces of this story is why I decided to give it 3 stars, because overall, it was still compelling.

While I don’t really plan on reading the rest in this series, I do encourage you to check it out if you like steampunk tales with romance and a fast paced storyline. It might just be for you!

What’s it about?

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead. A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army-or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he. Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart. When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan-whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses? Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark. 

Book Review

Autumn – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (3.75 / 5 stars)

Sara has always lived a quiet life with her mother in Merrywater. But when the Carnival of Games arrives, and her mother is temporarily held hostage, they’re forced to flee and seek refuge with Sara’s uncle, Seaglen. Yet Seaglen and his daughter Shumuti, as well as her friend Aurielle, have their own secrets: Magic is real. With this discovery, Sara is thrown into an adventure to find other sources of Magic before an unknown enemy claims it for themselves.

Autumn by Melissa Nash is a fast paced, fantasy adventure with an endearing focus on female friendship. With Sara, we are taken into a world reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, focusing on elemental magic and to defeat a faceless leader. Just like Aang, in Avatar, they’re on a quest to find someone. For Aang, it was a teacher in each element. For Sara, Shumuti, and Aurielle, it is an additional Guardian of Magic. These similarities will resonate with people who enjoy Avatar…in all the right ways! I know it did with me too!

The plot is fast paced and adventurous, exploring a world where Magic is more prominent than it lets on. I particularly enjoyed Shumuti’s POVs; she’s a leader, determined, and it shows. She proved to be a nice contrast to Sara, who is a bit less sure of herself. I think having these strong female leads is a great message and is rare to see in YA Fantasy.

Now, while the characters as a whole were strong, I struggled once Aurielle’s POVs were added. Her POV were very similar to Sara’s, at least in my opinion, and if it wasn’t for the heading indicating whose POV the chapter was in, I might have gotten confused.

In addition, some of the structuring and pacing were a little off for me. The story started off at a slower pace, one that I personally like, but by the halfway point, it was jumping a bit more in order to skim over the travel time. While some readers will enjoy this, some of this travel could have been used to build the comradery or focus more on the magic. This is just a personal take though, and by no mean does the pacing ruin the story.

Overall, I am excited to pick up the second book, Winter, soon. This is a fantastic YA fantasy about friendship and magic…and I think a lot of people will enjoy this!

What’s it about?

After an unexplainable incident at the Carnival of Games, Sara is forced to flee to the neighbouring region of Merrywater with her mother and seek shelter with an uncle and cousin she has never met before. Here, Sara learns of a secret kept hidden from her all her life, that her newfound family are amongst a select few people in the whole country who can use Magic. Sara learns from her cousin, Shumuti, that Magic is an energy found in the natural environment, allowing nature to bloom and flourish. But take too much from the landscape, and the land begins to wilt and die, meaning that with the ability to use Magic there also comes the responsibility to protect this energy, to prevent exploitation of the natural world. Following several attacks from an unknown enemy, Sara’s uncle, Seaglen, establishes that Magic is being misused to the north. Wanting to help, but unable to wield Magic herself, Sara accompanies Shumuti and her friend, Aurielle, to investigate the situation. Warning them that there are people there who may wish to take advantage of their power, Seaglen advises them to undertake their task discretely. 

Book Review

The Golden Orchard – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 Stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 Stars)

Maya’s life has changed. When her grandmother, her Halmunee, shows up one day – disoriented with Alzheimer’s Disease – it begins to redefine Maya’s small family life. Her mother grows distant. Her friendships become strained. But soon, Maya’s Halmunee introduces her to the world of Korea cooking, and the literal memories that come with it. In a journey fit for the imagination, Maya discovers that she has the ability to witness the past – though not change it. What does her mother know about this? And can Maya balance this new secret with her day-to-day life?

In a story that takes you on a journey through family, Korean culture, and time, this heartwarming tale will delight all ages. As someone who has always enjoyed stories about my own family, I enjoyed watching Maya explore the different elements of her family’s past, uncovering pieces about herself by watching others. The connection that she and her Halmunee have, especially with food, is one that both adults and children will feel deep in their core.

In a way, I saw this book as a combination of Quantum Leap with Amy Tan’s writing (different ethnicity, of course, but some of the same messages about family and culture decorated in the pages). Written for a middle grade audience, Flora Ahn describes the time traveling process as one that children can understand: think of it as a movie theatre, viewing different shows, that can’t be altered. This simple explanation surpassed any complex description that time travel shows typically use, and it created a visual no doubt any person can interpret.

While all the hints were there along the way, I DID NOT expect that twist at the end. I honestly thought it was something else entirely (regarding Maya’s friend Jeff). But this twist definitely answered some of my questions: why was her mom so secretive? Where did Halmunee come from?

What it didn’t answer was where did Maya’s father go, but this might open up a realm of possibilities for an second book if the author desires.

My one hang up was the handling of the character Jeff. I really thought he was related to Maya in a more in depth way. While I was happy to have a twist thrown at me, it left this strange confusion about Jeff’s character. Why were he and Maya so connected? Was it just because their trees were close? While this is a possibility, it felt like there was so much more! Perhaps if a second book is written, Ahn will elaborate on this more.

Overall, The Golden Orchard is a fantastic tale of family history, relationships, and time travel…all dosed with a bit of Korean Flavor. It’s definitely worth the listen if you have a couple hours.

What’s it about?

Maya loves to cook with her grandmother – her Halmunee – to connect with the rich family history associated with each dish, a history Maya’s mom would prefer stayed in the past. While cooking with Halmunee, something remarkable happens – the food creates such a strong memory that Maya and Halmunee are transported back in time through the memory itself. Halmunee explains that the women in her family have the gift of time travel through food and Maya can do it too, if she practices. While eating her way through the past, Maya meets Jeff: another young time traveler who brings her to the Golden Orchard, a garden of memories filled with the trees of so many people’s lives. Maya learns that time moves in ways she couldn’t imagine and sometimes family keep their memories secret to protect the ones they love.