Cover Image: Gussy


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Member Reviews

This was a story that I struggled to follow in the first half because the computer-generated audio was making it hard for me to relate. But when I read the book myself, I discovered it wasn't just the computer-generated audio that was making it difficult. It was also because this book relies on a person telling the story. And everything is told, including everything she is thinking. So there is a lot more telling and showing and it's hard to keep focus when that's all you're reading. And yet, I am glad I persevered, because this was a pretty decent story with good lessons. I especially liked the ending, and I think that if a middle school student were to persevere, the way I did, the ending would make it worth the journey. It's hard to rate the audiobook because this was not the real audiobook--it was the computer-generated voice. I suspect that with the right narrator, this book could actually be better on audio than in print. The ending was very satisfying and in the end, I'm glad I read this book.
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A girl who only knows that she mysteriously arrived to protect the village, with her dog and violin. A village that wants to be protected but alienates the protectors. And a dark secret that may destroy them all.

Gussy is a middle grade fantasy and naturally, I adjusted my expectations as such. But the truth is, I almost love middle grade fantasies more than young adult fantasies, so it hurts my heart to give this a two star rating, because I really wanted to love everything about Gussy. But I don’t know that I would’ve even finished this book as a middle grader myself, and I had to make myself finish it as a young adult.

The story carries much promise of excitement, but I think the main reason I had to push myself to finish it, is because it moves at a snail’s pace. Because the entire story takes place inside the walls of the village, the scenery bounces back and forth between, like, three scenes: a pub (I think that’s what it’s supposed to be), where Gussy and Grandpa Widow live, and walking around the wall as Gussy performs the rites to protect the village. So, it gets a little repetitive after a while, especially since this lack of scenery is paired with Gussy’s longwinded, storytelling narrative. It just didn’t move very fast and we spent a lot of time listening to Gussy tell the story with a focus on her own feelings, rather than the story. This is the same issue that I had with The Hunger Games when I read those books, where I couldn’t stand being in Katniss’s head, so perhaps this is just a personal preference for me and others may adore this type of storytelling. But, I just couldn’t click with Gussy no matter how hard I tried.

As for the other characters, once again, because of how the story is narrated, the characters are very much just “told” about, rather than allowing the readers to actually meet them. Gussy pretty much just talks about the other characters and gives you her opinion of them based on xyz, exchanges a few words with them as needed to progress the story, and then they really aren’t encountered again until they are needed again. So, even though I listened to the whole book, I don’t remember half of the character’s names and don’t feel as if I was ever properly introduced to them. I just know them through Gussy’s opinions of them, which weren’t always complimentary. I wish I had been given the opportunity to conclude my own opinions about them.

So, in conclusion, I almost DNF’d Gussy, but I stuck it out. And while I love Cricket, Gussy’s dog (I never forget the dog haha) and the idea of this story, upon finishing it, I just don’t think that I would recommend it to the middle graders in my life, unless for a very specific reading request that included a dog and a violin 🙂

Trigger Warnings: Death of parents, nightmares, mild magic spooks, and some use of animal parts for magic.

I received this audiobook from the author/publisher via Netgalley. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.
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This was a fun middle grade fantasy book. I think the beginning started off a bit harder to follow, but towards the middle it picked up, and then at the end it really gained momentum. I do however think that the injury of the animal might be a little hard for younger readers (I know this would have really bothered me as a kid) I also am not too sure what the doom is. But I will say that I thought all in all it was a good book, with interesting characters, and an interesting storyline.
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I received an advanced copy of this audiobook from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  This book is well written and the characters are described well. The narrator did a good job reading this book. The pacing of this book is great. The characters are enjoyable. I would recommend listening to this audiobook it is a good middle grade sci fi fantasy. It will be in stores on November 2, 2021 for $23.95 (USD).
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A small village in the middle of the desert. A village filled with quirky characters who all reside in this lone outpost keeping safe within its wall from the "doom" the resides outside the village walls. Grandpa Widow is the village protector, who performs a vast series of rites daily that keep the town safe. Performing the rights and learning to be a protector alongside him, is our heroine, young Gussy. As we start the story Grandpa Widow is called away and it falls to Gussy to keep the village safe in his absence. Of course during his absence events slowly unfold that bring the doom ever closer and test what Gussy thinks she knows. 

Overall I enjoyed this story. I thought Gussy was a great character, very serious about her role and responsibilities, old beyond her years in many ways, but she was also still a young girl who made mistakes and bad decisions. But she is tough and loyal. With the help of some new and old friends, they are able to unravel the mystery behind the doom and defeat it.  If you enjoy books with found family, a quirky cast of characters, animal companions. you will enjoy this tale.  

What brought this book down the 3 stars instead of 4 was a few issues with the plot, At the beginning, it wasn't quite clear what the "Doom" was, I figured eventually this would be revealed to us, and it was sorta but I am still not quite clear what it was. Initially, the book was a little slow but Cajoleas did a good job creating a bit of mystery around who was messing with the rights and questions around who we can trust and we cannot. Then when events start unfolding and the drama picks up it got a little crazy. I felt the whole witch who did a spell? a rite of her own? and began the greater drama of the book came out of left field, sort of unexplained similar to the doom itself. Then later when the doom is descending on the village and things are falling apart,. it seemed too calm, yes Gussy and her friends were working hard to figure how to defeat it but the rest of the village is just locked away? I just found parts of the plot didn't always make sense.

The character development and growth in the book are good but the plot is lacking a bit in this story. I would definitely recommend this book to some readers but to those who need everything to make sense and be clear, it may be a more frustrating read.
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I am not an expert on middle grade by any means, but I thought that this book was very well constructed. I thought Gussy was super mature for her age and I attributed that to her upbringing and being the apprentice protector. I didn't see the twist coming. I thought for sure the girl she let in was the doom. I am still unclear as to what the doom actually was so I would have appreciated a little more context when it came to that. Overall, I think my younger self would have enjoyed this immensely; it is action packed with a bit of a mystery and the character work was really good.
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I enjoyed this middle-grade read. It was cute, suspenseful, and overall I enjoyed Gussy and her struggle. The story itself also had an interesting take on protective magic and while I found some of the magic to be familiar; I loved the far-off taste they had. 
This novel dove into the idea of expectations, friendships, unlikely friends, the consequences of actions (even those that are pure in intent), and identity as it pertains both to the individual self, as well as what it means to know where you come from and how you got to the place you stand in today. It also dealt in the idea of family, different types of families; and that occasionally the family we are born into are not the family we choose later on. 
A lot of messages wrapped up in this small town, big-world, novel -- with a snarky, responsible, and struggling Gussy at its heart.
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Though this wasn't my cup of tea, this book would probably have enchanted me when I was young. Interesting characters and interesting world. My first computerized voice ARC but I didn't find it distracted from the real text!
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the narrator does a great job and I really enjoyed a different sort of galley. I enjoyed the story itself and am glad I was able to listen to it.
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The worldbuilding in this book is spectacular. An isolated town in the middle of a huge desert where a sentient storm called The Great Doom roams, always trying to enter the town. They have developed rituals for keeping The Great Doom out. One of the most important is not to open the gates after dark when the Great Doom could sneak in. Gussy is learning those rituals to be a Protector, when a letter arrives calling away her Grandpa Widow--the current Protector. That night, Gussy can't stop herself from letting in an injured girl from the desert, and soon everything goes to pieces. But it's not just Gussy keeping secrets. As more and more of the village falls to the Great Doom's infection Gussy will have to find her voice, learn to trust, and be willing to speak the truth. Not easy when everyone is looking for someone to blame. 

This was a pretty action packed story. Loved the setting. Appreciated the character arcs. A good read!
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Very original. I found the world building interesting, but not so interesting that I could sit through entire chapters of info dumping. The writing was good, the set up promising, but in the end it moved too slowly  for me (and felt too slice-of-lifey with lots of mundane details like what kind of marmalade she ate and where it came from).  I got as far as 24%, all the while hoping and waiting for the big problem to hit. I think it was just starting to creeeep in when I decided I’d rather read a different book. I think kids who love middle grade fantasy (and who don’t mind a lot of affected old-west speak) will enjoy this. Thanks, NetGalley for the review copy.  (This was shared on Goodreads)
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This was provided by NetGalley for review purposes. Thank you Harper Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book!

Unfortunately, this one may have been a little too young for me. I probably would have enjoyed this as a kid, but I was also (and still am), like the main character, a bit of an abrasive know-it-all, control freak. I don't think this would have helped me get better at that or be more empathetic. Instead, it probably would have fed the behavior as I attempted to imitate Gussy. 😅

Characters 3/5
The characters in this story were pretty descriptive, but they definitely have their share of flaws. The flaws were a little hard to get past, but it also made it a little interesting.

Plot 2/5
The plot of this was a little all over the place for me. A more cohesive storyline could have really helped this book for me.

Storytelling/Writing 3/5
This book is full of phrases that Gussy repeats over and over again. I understand that kids do that, but it was a little too catch-phrasey for me at times. For a child reading this, it could work really well though.

Enjoyment 2.5/5
The VoiceGalley experience may have been the cause for my lacking enjoyment. This was my second attempt at a VoiceGalley book from NetGalley. It is not a format I recommend, but I was curious if my experience with the format would change. This one was slightly better, but not much.

Atmosphere 3.5/5
This is a fairly cute idea, and I loved the pieces of magic and the glimpses at the community that we got in the book. This was my favorite part of the book.
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Gussy’s grandfather is a village protector. Using magic, he keeps The Great Doom at bay. But one day Gussy’s grandpa is called away and Gussy finds herself having to protect the village without him. Without him, yes. Alone, no! 

Five things about Gussy by Jimmy Cajoleas

1. This is a tremendously uplifting middle grade science fiction book. 
2. It’s about good vs evil
3. It’s about finding your strength in community
4.  This would make an excellent classroom or family read aloud leading to many deep conversations. 
5. It’s scheduled for a November release.
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This is a Fantasy Middle Grade. I have to say the beginning was a little hard to follow. The middle was a little slow moving for me. The ending was fast pace and kept me on my toes. Overall, I found this book just ok. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Quill Tree Books) or author (Jimmy Cajoleas) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that. This book is schedule to be release on November 2-2021.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Quill Tree Books for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 stars

I loved Gussy--the book and the girl.  Her name should be Gutsy for she is honorable, brave, kind and a bit lonely. She goes through life always giving her "best and fullest intentions."  

Gussy is a teenage girl who along with her adoptive father, Grandpa Widow, keep their community safe from the Great Doom by following the proper rites and rituals.  Cricket, her dog, is her buddy and helper.  When Grandpa Widow is called away, it is up to young Gussy to do all the rituals herself and protect the village, and most importantly, don't open the gate after dark.  

I got very engrossed in the book and there were so many of Gussy's thoughts that I highlighted while reading.  My favorite: "Her handwriting was this strange loopy swirl, like while she was writing a hurricane blew up on the page and sent the ink a-whirling, like she wrote in windblown raindrops. I loved it a little bit, even if it was kind of hard to read."    

I have a new favorite word "widdershins" and need to add it to my vocabulary immediately.  

Narration was computer generated and I didn't love listening to it (the final audio book will NOT be computer generated). Luckily I was able to get the digital copy to read.
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