Review

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Best friends Abby and Riya have spent their junior year miles apart. Wanting to fix things between them, Riya invites Abby on a trip to Europe over the summer. Abby doesn’t really know what to expect from the trip, but heads to Europe to meet Riya. Unexpectedly, Riya’s cousin Neel is also tagging along on this adventure. While Riya is annoyed by his presence, Abby doesn’t seem to mind him too much. The girls moving from country to country with Neel in tow makes for an interesting itinerary—Neel always has a tour arranged, or something else to rush off to, while the girls prefer a laid-back approach. The dynamic of the trio changes as secrets are revealed or kept secret, making for an emotionally rocky trip.


The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is an entertaining tour of Europe, perfect for the armchair traveler. Even though their friendship isn’t always perfect, Abby and Riya are a great duo. They both look out for each other and are actively working to become the friends they once were. They also balance each other well, which creates a nice dynamic between the two. I also appreciated that this story is really based on friendship and while there is a romance that develops, it doesn’t consume the story (after all, friendship was the basis behind the whole trip). In addition, Culbertson includes many wisdoms in the story among humor and history tidbits, that all work together to make the book especially interesting. The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson is the story of two friends, set in the rich culture of Europe.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

It was an ordinary day for April May, until her subway card didn’t work and she had to walk home. On her way, she stumbles across a new art installation. At the time she doesn’t think much of it, as many artists come to New York to show their sculptures. But, something about this statue catches her eye, and she decides to call her friend Andy to come see it, too. He agrees that it is impressive and they decide to make a video about it. They also name it Carl. The two don’t think much about it until the next morning when they find out that other Carls have popped up around the world, and that their video has gone viral. They become instantly famous. From that point, April and Andy’s lives are changed as they navigate fame and the mysteries surrounding Carl.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green is a fun and interesting read. It is easy to relate to April because she is such a human character. When she first encounters Carl, she reacts as anyone would and makes light of the situation. As  she gets caught up in the adventure and excitement of being famous, she also discovers that there are possible dangers ahead. Green’s humor really comes through the pages and you can’t help but laugh out loud. But the story also keeps you on your toes. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense until the very last page.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

First Kiss by Kasie West

Maggie S Review Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West! Pre-order your copy today! Due out February 2019

Kasie West has done it again with her new novel Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss. She has created an intriguing and heartwarming world staring Lacey Barnes, an aspiring actress who has finally landed her first real job alongside the famous Grant James in Dancing Graves. And although this is her lifelong dream it is muddled by the addition of a tutor who fit's the exact definition of a choir boy. But as time goes on Donavon Lake, the detested "choir boy," slowly starts to grow on Lacey as he comforts her through the hardships of an overprotective father, someone trying to sabotage her, and her chemistry funk with her co-stars. And while this may seem like your everyday love story, you will soon learn that that is far from the truth when you take into account the zombie makeup and script additions throughout this artful story.

-Maggie S

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