Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of GhostsCity of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

There is no doubt that I flew through this.

I loved the premise and am planning to continue on with this series. However, while it was good, there was just something about it that kept me from truly being immersed in the story.

I actually read quite a bit of Middle Grade and for me, this was lacking the level of humor and fun that I am used to seeing in MG stories. I know this is supposed to be on the darker side, as far as content, but there still could have been humorous banter or something of that nature to keep me engaged.

Confession:
While Victoria Schwab is a beloved author, this is actually the first book I have ever read from her.

Her writing is great. Very fluid and experienced but for Middle Grade…I don’t know, something about it just never clicked for me.

Again, the premise is great. I love the idea of Cassidy’s, the main character’s, parents being paranormal investigators. The whole concept of their new television series and having to travel to different locations for filming.

I also enjoyed that Cass can actually see ghosts, and interact with them, even though no one else in her family can. I think maybe as the series continues on the plots will become more involved and perhaps we will have more of a chance to connect with the characters.

Overall, I feel this is definitely a good book and a solid start to a series. Obviously, I am not the intended audience for this so a room full of Middle Graders may have a different opinion than me.

I think if the concept of this sounds good to you, pick it up and give it a shot!

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Review: Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Hurricane SeasonHurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fig may look like any other 6th grader but she is struggling to stay afloat. She lives alone with her father, a once renowned pianist, who is living with bipolar disorder. As a consequence of this, Fig’s role is often more one of parent than child.

Regardless of daily struggles, Fig loves her father with her whole heart and she knows that he loves her too. He is trying his hardest, he really is, but without any sort of outside assistance or treatment, they are barely getting by.

After an embarrassing incident at school, one of Fig’s concerned teachers ends up contacting Child Protective Services. Now being watched by a social worker, Fig feels even more pressure to maintain their household, projecting as much normalcy as she can.

During an art class, she learns a bit about Vincent Van Gogh and his mental health issues. She can see similarities between Van Gogh’s personality and her father’s so she decides to find out all she can about him in an effort to better understand how her father’s mind works.

Through all of this, Fig is also going through things any 6th grader would go through. Feeling out of place at school, tension with some friends and discovering her own sexuality.

This book is so beautiful and pure. I adore Fig with my whole heart. She was such a precious little bean who is wise beyond her years. Her relationship with her best friend, Danny, was just so precious, as was her crush on Hannah, the girl who works at her local library.

I was very impressed with the writing and feel that Melleby does a seamless job of inserting important topics into the narrative without them seeming forced. The story felt very organic and real.

I was a legit emotional mess upon finishing this. It was just gorgeous. The strength of the bond between Fig and her father. His will to overcome and work through his illness any way he could, it was…ugh…no words. My heart is full.

I would recommend this to anyone. Even though this is a Middle Grade story, I think this can absolutely be enjoyed by readers of all ages!

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Review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Break the UniverseSal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sal Vidon is a magician. A young magician who has just lost his Mami, moved to a new school and is having a hard time fitting in.

Recently relocated to Miami, Sal quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the school bully, Yasmany.

To escape this run-in, Sal performs his trickiest of tricks yet. He makes a raw chicken appear in the bully’s locker! Take that!

Unfortunately, such antics have the opposite effect he is looking for when accused of being a brujo, the other kids at school become afraid of him. Of him! Sal Vidon, one of the kindest, most gentlest human beings in the world.

While pleading his case in the Principal’s office (again), Sal meets Gabi Real for the first time. Gabi swoops in like a hurricane. Smart, determined and funny, Sal thinks, this is somebody I could work with.

Over the course of the rest of the story, we get to watch Sal and Gabi’s relationship grow as they reveal more and more about themselves to each other and come to rely on one another for support. Sal is still struggling with the grief of losing his Mami and Gabi has an infant brother fighting for his life at a local NICU.

I was so impressed with this book. The writing style is fantastic, very fluid and easy to read. I LOVED the characters. Sal is one of the sweetest characters in any book EVER and Gabi is a true force to be reckoned with!

As a middle grade novel, I feel that this is an excellent introduction to the science-fiction genre. This explores the idea of multiple dimensions and travel between them. I loved that aspect of the story and thought it was really well done. There was just enough of that scifi feel without being overwhelming for readers who may be new to the genre.

My favorite aspect of this story: the humor!!
I was laughing out loud from the very beginning and never let up. The characters are so witty and fun. Very well done by Hernandez.

Another piece of this I really appreciated was the presence of such strong adult characters. I feel like often in YA or Middle Grade stories, the adults are either absent or not very nice people. All of the adults in this were really great, supportive influences in the kid’s lives and that was nice to see for a change. I think it sets a good example, not just for young readers, but for adults reading this as well.

This being said, even though this is a Middle Grade book and I am far from that, this has been one of my most enjoyable reads of the year. Keep in mind people,
there is no age limit on fun!
Everyone needs to read this. Go ahead, now…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and was truly impressed with this one!

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Review: The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken

The Last Life of Prince Alastor (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #2)The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A beautiful conclusion to a delightful and deliciously wicked tale!

Picking up right where The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding left off, this stunning sequel takes us deep into Alastor’s world, the Downstairs. What on earth is the Downstairs, you may ask? Just think a goblin market meets The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Prosper is on a mission to save his sister, Prue, from the clutches of the Queen of the Fiends, who also happens to be Alastor’s sister, Pyra. Siblings versus siblings but whose side is Alastor really on?

This is an epic adventure through a dark and dangerous world. We learn so much more in this book about Alastor, his original deal with Prosper’s ancestor, Honor, and the world of the Fiends. We also meet new characters and get introduced to new and complex forms of magic.

Bracken’s signature descriptive style is on full display throughout this story. I was absolutely transported to this world. It was DARK and I loved every moment of it! There were a few areas in the beginning that I felt the pace dragged a little bit but by the mid-point, all traces of that were gone.

As with the first book, there is a light humor to this dark tale, and I did laugh out loud numerous times at Alastor and his musings. There are also some important lessons woven throughout this story that were nicely incorporated into this Middle Grade storyline.

*Please note, although this is technically Middle Grade, this book most definitely can be enjoyed by readers of all ages!

I loved the overall feeling of this book touching on topics such as: striving to do the ‘right thing’ regardless of obstacles or an easier way out; the value of strong friendships and familial connections; the idea that it is okay to fail at something as long as you learn and grow from it, and that traditions should not stand if the roots of them are not worth upholding.

I won’t lie. The end of this brought tears to my eyes. I have grown so attached to Prosper and Alastor over the course of these two books. Watching them both grow and evolve has been such a great thing to take part in. Although that isn’t a very eloquent way to describe it, I am at a loss for words to describe how much feeling I got out of this story. What seems like such a fun and uncomplicated story of a demon inhabiting a boy is really so much more than that.

If you haven’t yet picked up this story, I highly recommend it. They are short and quick to get through and an absolutely delightful reading experience. Two thumbs way up!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and had a wonderful time finishing this up.

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Review: The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding #1)The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prosper Redding has always felt out of place within his family.
They are all exceptional and he is just, not.
He feels like a disappointment, overlooked and misunderstood.

One night however, he discovers something very interesting about himself. He has a demon living inside him.

Apparently, Prosper’s great- great- great- great- whoever, made a pact with this demon to ensure success for his family for generations to come. Somehow, he ended up tricking the demon to get out of the contract and now the demon, Prince Alastor, is set on revenge on the Reddings, with Prosper as his vessel.

I know. It seems like a strange premise but this wacky Middle Grade novel is such a fun ride. Granted, there were moments, I didn’t know what the hell was going on and honestly, I am still not sure that I am explaining it properly.

The majority of the novel takes place in Salem, Massachusetts which is a town I know very well and love with my whole heart. The atmosphere of this is Halloween all the way. Thus, it would be the perfect read for October. Replete with all sorts of monsters, creatures, haunted houses, cemeteries and malevolent spirits going bump in the night.

There is mystery to this as Prosper struggles to understand the truth behind his family’s secrets and the demon living inside him.

Speaking of the demon, let’s talk about Alastor for a moment. I love him. His is fiendish and delightful and speaks in such a snarky, old-fashioned way. Ahhhh, what a treat. I laughed out loud on multiple occasions reading his banter back and forth with Prosper.

I thought at times there was possibly too much description. That would be my one, albeit minor, issue with the book and perhaps why I think I may have missed some of the finer plot details. I was so caught up with the descriptive goodness of Halloween that plot points apparently went in one ear and out the other.

But seriously, there was a cat-bat! A cat-bat, people. I WANT one!!!

Overall, this was a super fun, atmospheric tale perfect for Middle Grade readers who like a little bit of darkness in their stories. I am currently reading the second book and it is fantastic!!! The dread and despair continues…

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Review: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon PearlDragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Middle Grade Adventure at its BEST!!!

This rollicking space opera follows 13-y.o., Min, on her quest to find out what happened to her older brother, Jun.

When an investigator shows up at her house, accusing her older brother, Jun, of deserting the Space Forces, Min knows something must be wrong. Jun and Min have dreamed of joining the Forces their whole lives and going on great adventures together. Now that he is in, Min knows that Jun would never disgrace his family by deserting.

Forced to flee her home, Min sets out in search of the truth with the hopes of clearing her brother’s name and bringing him home. Very quickly, Min is forced to rely on her intelligence and quick wit, as she eludes security, works in a gambling den, stows away on a ship, impersonates a Space Forces Cadet and so much more. She discovers her own strength and makes some great new friends along the way.

Min is a really well-rounded, enjoyable character to follow along with. I grew attached to her and loved watching her development over the course of the book. The side-characters, as well, were great. Humorous and likable, they truly added to the story, particularly Sujin and Haneul. It was also great to see a non-binary side character play such an important role in a Middle Grade story.

The ending was fantastic, but really it was fantastic the whole way through. Nice, fast pace, smooth transitions from different scenes and a strong build-up to the end. I think it left off in an excellent spot to continue on with the story. I am definitely hoping for more books in this world and with these characters. It is my understanding that we will be getting more. (fingers crossed)

The bottom line is, I really had a blast (pun intended) reading this book which, to me, is what Middle Grade is all about. It should be a joy to read a Middle Grade adventure book and I was not disappointed with this one. The writing was very, very strong. I was swept up in the world and I thought the sci-fi elements were top-notch; no surprise considering the expertise and experience that Yoon Ha Lee brings to the table.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity. I think RRP Imprint is providing a great service to our book community by offering a platform for diverse voices from around the world to share their myth, legends and folklore. I cannot wait to read more of Min in the future!

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Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

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Review: The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner #1)The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prepare for a gush fest people because I LOVED this book!

The Storm Runner is a new middle grade fantasy novel that is being published through the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. If you aren’t aware, sort of the purpose of this imprint is to provide a stage for diverse voices to tell stories based upon myths and folklore from various cultures around the world. This book is based upon Mayan Mythology and is full of angry gods, magic, mythological creatures and a ton of action and adventure.

Our main character, Zane Obispo, is a kid who has struggled a bit in his social life due to a limp caused by the fact that one of his legs is a little bit shorter than the other. Throughout school, Zane has had to deal with bullies and the feelings of inadequacy that can come when you feel like people are only seeing your faults, as opposed to the rest of you. Despite this, Zane is a sweet baby cinnamon roll who is full of good humor, love for his family and respect for his elders.

I truly fell in love with Zane’s character. I think he is an incredible role model for young readers and, heck, even adult readers. Not only is Zane a great character but he is surrounded by a whole flock of amazing side characters who bring humor, love, depth and drama to this adventurous tale. After witnessing a demon crash a plane into a volcano near his house, Zane ends up heading out on a quest to save the world with his new friend, Brooks (who also happens to be a shape-shifter) and his lovable Uncle, Hondo. Together these three battle scary enemies and plot incredible schemes to save all of humanity. Through his travels with his Uncle and friends, Zane discovers who he truly is and how powerful he can be.

There was so much action in this book. Literally, scene after scene of edge of your seat moments that keep you glued to the pages long after ‘lights out’ time has come! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves middle grade stories and/or books based upon mythology. Additionally, I think this would be a great book for parents or guardians to read with the kids in their life. I think there are a lot of great discussions to be drawn from this book and a lot of fun that can be shared as well. Overall, this is a fantastic story that will leave you feeling like magic is not only possible, but real.

Thank you so much to Rick Riordan Presents and Disney Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was such a wonderful experience, one I will be thinking about and dreaming about for some time to come. I really appreciate the opportunity and hope that this series is a big success and continues on!

Initial Review: YEEESSSSSS! ARC received – this story sounds amazing – I cannot wait to dive in!

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs    |    Publication Date: June 7, 2011    |    Rating: 4-stars!

What a wonderful time this was! I decided to read this book as part of my Unread Shelf Project 2018 – basically I am working backwards through my virtual GR ‘to be read’ list and picking one book per month to read off the backlist. I added this book to my tbr in November of 2015. I have no excuse really for not getting to it before now. Sometimes I do end up avoiding hyped books subconsciously; it’s a problem. I did attempt to watch the movie adaptation of this book but didn’t make it through.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! I listened to the audio in conjuncture with also reading a hard copy so I moved through it really, really fast. I loved the unique storyline and the characters. Jacob, our MC, is so funny – I laughed out loud several times in regards to his dialogue or observations. Another aspect of this I really enjoyed was the use of so many antique (ahem, creepy) photographs that tie right in to the storyline. I have never seen that done in quite this way before and it was really refreshing. I am sure I am probably one of the very few middle grade readers left on the planet to not have read this one, so I am beyond the moon to be crossing it off my list. There are two other books in this trilogy and initially I was thinking I would stop with this one, but after completing it, I do think I will move on with the series. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, middle grade read – it was quite an adventure!

So, I mentioned a while back a bit about my Unread Shelf Project – just a quick update, the first book I selected for that official project was ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote, which I had added to my tbr in October of 2015. I am currently reading that and absolutely loving it. I had read this book in high school, or shortly after high school, but really didn’t remember anything about it besides that it is a classic true crime narrative. I am so glad that I am rereading it because Capote’s writing is just so brilliant and I don’t think I was really able to appreciate that the first time around since I was so young. Now, as an old goat, I can really take my time and enjoy the dramatic way he constructs this horrific American crime.

Next up for this project is a book I added to my tbr in December of 2015: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This is a fairly well loved post-apocalyptic novel that I am actually buddy reading with some friends from Bookstagram; so really looking forward to that! As luck with have it, my copy arrived in the mail today, so I should be starting it this week!

What are some books you are looking forward to checking off your tbr? I want to know! Leave a comment below or reach out to me through my contact links.

Cheers~