Two New Reviews From Our Local Book Reviewer

By Adventures in Obsessive Reading 

The Iron Trial (Magisterium Series #1)
Authors: Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Page Count: 304
Rating: B
Keywords: Magic, School, Elementals
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Younger Readers: This is a middle grade book so appropriate for younger readers, unless you have a problem with magic.

A lot of people have been apprehensive about starting this series. Many claim that the description is nothing more than a rip-off of Harry Potter. I do not think that this story is anything like that of the beloved Harry Potter series. There are certain similarities, but these can be found in many other series as well. They include magic, the description of Callum does conjure an image of Harry, a group of three friends composed of two boys and a girl, and the students all go to a school to learn how to use their magic. Apart from this, the two series are quite different. There are no wands, flying brooms, or talking hats. There are elementals, trials for admission, and animals with swirling eyes.

I have not read a middle grade novel in quite a while, so I was not sure what to expect. As a whole, I really enjoyed the book. It was fun and fast-paced. The small illustrations at the start of every chapter were a cool touch. Callum is difficult to connect with at first but he is easier to like as the story progresses. His friendship with Tamara and Aaron is fun to watch because he does not necessarily expect it and has never had real friends before. As with most middle grade books this one showed the importance of friendship and trust, focusing on morals important for children to learn. 

   Honestly, the first quarter or so of the book was not my favorite. There was something missing and I felt like I was reading a draft rather than a completed novel. I wanted more from the story, more descriptions, more feelings, more substance. The pacing also felt somewhat stunted and awkward. By the middle of the book though this all faded away and I was engrossed in the story. I could have never guessed the ending in a thousand years. Holy plot twist! It was this ending that saved the whole book for me and make me excited to see where the rest of the series goes.

I recommend this for both younger readers and the young at heart.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns
Author: Mindy Kaling
Page Count: 219
Rating: C
Keywords: Comedy, Autobiography, New York, The Office
Genre: Memoir
Younger Readers: Some language and some sexual scenes. This was written by an adult, not for children. Maybe younger teens.

I read quite a few rave reviews of this memoir and was excited to give it a try. Plus I really liked the cover and spine of this book. First, I did enjoy reading this and believe it has some important lessons within its pages. However, I cannot be ecstatically in love with this book as many others have been. 

Many of her antidotes were entertaining but I did not find myself laughing out loud as promised. And I absolutely do not fault the book for this. It is more I have a different sense of humor than Kaling. Those that are familiar with her other work would most likely be far more entertained and enjoy the memoir more fully.

I did notice a slight generation gap between myself and the author. As a young woman in my early 20s I did not understand all of the pop culture references she made concerning her past. When I asked people several years older than me (late 20s and into their 30s) they were far more familiar with what was being said, some even smirking or laughing at the content. 

I did enjoy much of what she had to say about growing up and being the awkward child. Many of her stories of being odd I could relate to but I also believe that they are important for a younger audience. Mindy Kaling is undeniably successful and a self proclaimed ugly duckling as a child. Just because you are an awkward/strange/unpopular/just plain different child does not mean that you will not one day grow up to be successful. 

I enjoyed the book overall and the parts that I was not overly fond of should not necessarily reflect badly on the memoir itself. Sometimes a reader is not entirely compatible with a book. This was one of those cases. If you are a Mindy Kaling, The Office, or just comedy in general fan then absolutely check this one out. You will not regret it.