Review: Scariest. Book. Ever. (Goosebumps House of Shivers #1) by R.L. Stine

Scariest. Book. Ever. (Goosebumps House of Shivers, #1)Scariest. Book. Ever. by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holding true to the overall feel of the franchise, this first book in the Goosebumps House of Shivers series is the perfect way to dip your toe into Spooky Season.

I was so excited when I heard the news that Stine was releasing another branch in the Goosebumps tree. This entire franchise holds a special place in my heart and based on this cover alone, I was stoked to check this one out.

This cover gives me total original series vibes!

In this story, we follow twins, Betty and Billy, whose parents need to travel to Europe for two weeks for work. They can’t take the kids with them, so end up dumping them off at the home of their mysterious Uncle, who they don’t even know.

This is total Goosebumps adult logic. They barely slowed the car down, just booted them right out the door.

The kids are left to meet their Uncle on their own. Frankly, they’re freaked out. Not only is this man practically a stranger, but his house is creepy as heck, set on the edge of a very ominous seeming forest.

You can imagine what happens from there. It did have a similar formula to earlier works, but I’m fine with that. It was exciting, fast-paced, included some fun adventure, a bit of mystery and spooky creatures as well.

One of the elements of this that stood out to me was that it had a good antagonist. It gave the story some gripping tension and some believably scary moments for this Children’s age group too.

I would absolutely recommend checking this one out if you are a Goosebumps fan, or if you have a Young Reader in your life who you would like to introduce to the franchise. I think this is a great place to start.

In other good news, the second book in this series, Goblin Monday is set to release in March 2024. I’m already looking forward to it and you should too!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Scholastic, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I read this in an evening and had a fabulous time with it!

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Review: It Found Us by Lindsay Currie

It Found UsIt Found Us by Lindsay Currie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It Found Us is the latest release from my personal Queen of Spooky Middle Grade, Lindsay Currie.

Upon seeing this cover, I knew I would need to get my hands on this ASAP. I mean, look how creepy it is. It’s stunning!

In this story we meet 12-year old, Hazel Woods, an aspiring detective, who puts her skills to the test while trying to solve the case of a missing teenager.

Hazel has always wanted to be a detective, but her biggest dream currently is to start her own podcast focusing on cases she’ll solve. So far, her cases have been small. That’s really all her neighborhood has to offer.

That is until the night her brother’s best friend, Everett, mysteriously disappears.

On the night Everett disappeared, he’d been at the local cemetery, playing an epic game of hide-and-seek with Hazel’s older brother, Den, and some other kids.

Hazel, who had overheard the boys plans, had sneaked after her brother, unbeknownst to him to observe what would happen in the purportedly-haunted cemetery. She saw it as the perfect opportunity to do some sleuthing on whether or not it is actually haunted.

At the conclusion of the game, all the other hiders were found by the seeker, but Everett seemed to have just vanished. As scared as they were, the kids knew they had to let some adults know and an investigation begins.

Hazel and Den believe the police aren’t looking in the right places though, so they decide to undergo their own investigation, along with Hazel’s best friend, Maggie.

The kids dive into the history of the cemetery and the lives of some the souls that may be buried there. Will their chilling search for evidence reveal what happened to Everett? And will they be able to get him back before it’s too late?

This was so cute and fun. It reminded me a lot of Scritch Scratch as far as the mystery elements went, so if you enjoyed that one, you should definitely check this one out.

Hazel was a fabulous MC. She’s so determined to start her podcast and even though she hasn’t been able to convince her parents to allow her to do it yet, she’s not giving up.

I love watching characters work hard toward a goal and Hazel was overflowing with grit and optimism. I also loved her sleuthing skills. The way she tackled the mystery and her clue journal were impressive.

Her clue journal was also a great device for helping to track the progression of the story. Hazel would go through the list of clues they had discovered so far in relation to the mystery. I thought this was a really fun aspect, particularly for the younger readers.

I also appreciated how Currie connected the history of this town and cemetery into the story. She always brings some interesting historical aspects to her stories that are so fun and compelling.

There’s also great atmosphere and healthy relationships amongst the characters. I loved the kids working together, particularly Hazel and Den. It’s always refreshing to see siblings get along and support one another.

Overall, I found this to be well-written, engaging and lot of fun. I would definitely recommend this to all readers of Spooky Middle Grade, regardless of age.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will pick up anything Lindsay Currie writes and this book is a perfect example of why.

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Review: Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black BoyhoodBlack Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored every moment I spent with this collection. I highly recommend the audiobook format, as the narration is so fun. Each story was unique and well-written.

Mbalia pulled together an incredible group of authors to contribute to this important and heart-warming Middle Grade anthology. I could feel the intention, integrity and passion each and every one of these author’s poured into these works.

This should be in every public school and local library in the United States. There’s so much here to celebrate. 10-out-of-10 recommend to Middle Grade Readers!!


I respect Kwame Mbalia and his work so much. I’ve been meaning to get to this collection since it was released, and honestly, I feel like now is the perfect time for it.

I need something uplifting and joyful!!

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Review: Abeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark

Abeni's SongAbeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark

Abeni’s Song is the Middle Grade Fantasy debut of beloved and award-winning SFF-author, P. Djèlí Clark. I love reading Middle Grade and have found a lot of joy over the years within the genre.

As soon as I heard about this, I knew I had to read it. I’ve really enjoyed Clark’s writing in the past and was super interested to see what he would do in the MG-space.

In this story we follow Abeni, a young girl, who on Harvest Festival day, loses everyone in her village to raiders and a man playing a cursed flute. The villagers are marched away, lured by the song, to ghost ships set for distant lands.

Abeni isn’t sucked in by the spell though. Instead she is whisked away by the old woman who lives in the forest abutting her village, reputed to be a witch.

Although Abeni feels like the witch’s prisoner, she has in a way been saved and her unwanted magical apprenticeship begins. Still, even though she isn’t being harmed, Abeni is distraught and heartbroken over what happened to her village and her loved ones.

Over the course of the story, Abeni learns about magic, history and herself, all while focusing on her mission to rescue her people and bring them home.

Abeni’s Song is a solid story, with plenty of room to grow as the series continues.

I love and respect P. Djèlí Clark tremendously as a Fantasy writer. He’s incredibly imaginative and I love some of the dark imagery he conjures up through his stories. There’s definitely some of that beautiful, darker imagery here.

I am also excited he’s branching out into the Middle Grade space for the first time. It’s important to have this type of representation and culturally-influenced stories for young people to discover, but overall, this one was just okay for me.

IMO, this didn’t feel like a Middle Grade Fantasy. It read more like an Adult Fantasy with a young protagonist. The chapters were quite long and more heavy-handed in the settings, descriptions and inner thoughts of our MC, than with action, witty dialogue or fantastical elements.

Because of this, I didn’t find myself enjoying this as much as I have some other Middle Grade Fantasies. It’s still a great, well-developed story, with strong character work, but just in comparison with other stories in the space, it was a little more challenging to work through.

With this being said, there is so much to love about this book. Abeni is a memorable character, who really matured over the course of the story. I know so many Readers are going to love and connect with this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Starscape and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. Clark is such a phenomenal writer and I look forward to picking up more of his work in the future!

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Review: Are You Afraid of the Dark: The Tale of the Gravemother by Rin Chupeco

Are You Afraid of the Dark?Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Rin Chupeco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many of you probably remember, hopefully fondly, the 1990s-Horror Anthology television series for young people called Are You Afraid of the Dark? I loved that show and all things related to it.

Recently, I binge-watched The Midnight Society on Netflix and it made me hugely nostalgic for this series. As I was searching the web for more content, I stumbled across this book about a week before its release date.

Seeing Rin Chupeco’s name on the cover sealed the deal, I ordered it immediately. Having read YA Horror from Chupeco before, I knew this would be good. I just knew it!

Spoiler alert: I was right.

In this story we meet Levi, who is the new boy in town. He gets the opportunity to try out to be a member of the Midnight Society. This book is the story he tells around the campfire that night.

First, let me just say, Levi is definitely getting in and deservedly if this is the story he is telling. I became so immersed in this and loved how it all played out.

The story follows Zane, who is also a new boy in town, after his family inherits a haunted mansion. He moves to town with his Dad and his little sister, Emma.

Local legend says the property is haunted by the Gravemother, a woman who was apparently suspected of kidnapping and harming local children.

It doesn’t take long before Zane comes to believe the legends are true. Even though they aren’t living at the property, it needs some heavy renovating, they do spend time there and Zane starts to see and experience things he can’t explain.

Along with his new friend, Garrett, who started out as a bit of an enemy, Zane digs into investigating the legend for himself. Are the stories about the Gravemother true? And even if they are, how can they help her to rest?

I really enjoyed this story. It had so many fun elements and was written really well. Zane’s friend Garrett has his own ghost-hunting team. How could you not love that?!

I think Chupeco did a great job transitioning into the Spooky Middle Grade genre. There is quite a difference between YA Horror and Middle Grade Horror and I feel like they navigated that so well.

The imagery was great, the story fluid, fun and engaging and there was also great messages about family, friendships and personal growth. I felt like it was so thoughtfully written for the target audience.

The highlight of this for me was the friendship between Zane and Garrett. I feel like Chupeco nailed the natural progression of new friendships.

In the beginning, I thought Zane and Garrett were going to have real issues; like a bully situation. Happily though, they were able to advance past that and become supportive friends. They also acknowledged it and communicated their feelings to one another.

It was nice to see and I think in a MG story, it sets a great example for Younger Readers. This is more than a spooky story, there’s substance here.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this. While I don’t think it will stick in my mind for years to come, I had a great time with it in the moment and that’s what I was looking for.

I’m hoping this is a start of an all-new revamp of this series. I would love to see future installments from other talented writers like Chupeco.

I would definitely recommend this to any fan of the original series, new fans, or any Young Readers who enjoy a spooky story. This was a lot of fun!

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Review: Danger at Dead Man’s Pass (Adventures on Trains #4) by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Danger at Dead Man's Pass (Adventures on Trains, #4)Danger at Dead Man’s Pass by M.G. Leonard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**


Danger at Dead Man’s Pass is the 4th-installment of my favorite Middle Grade series, Adventures on Trains.

This series follows Hal, a talented young artist with a talent for solving mysteries. Hal’s Uncle Nat is a travel writer, who specializes in trains and he takes Hal along with him on some of his journeys. Hence the name of the series.

In the first three books, Hal and Uncle Nat had adventures in their native-UK, in the United States and South Africa. This book takes them to Germany at the request of an old friend, Baron Essenbach.

The Kratzensteins are wealthy and powerful railway tycoons with a rich history and spooky mansion in the mountains. Essenbach’s wife is a Kratzenstein.

After the mysterious death of a family member, Uncle Nat and Hal are asked to travel to the funeral to investigate the death and an ominous witch’s curse.

Assuming fake identities in order to infiltrate the family’s funeral events, Hal and Uncle Nat immerse themselves in the world of the Kratzensteins.

With danger and warring motives at every junction, will Hal and Uncle Nat be able to crack the case before their time in Germany is up?

As always, I had an absolute blast with this story. I’ve grown quite attached to Hal and his Uncle Nat over the course of this series. I want our adventures to go on forever.

This was another successful mystery. There was a large cast of quirky characters, some believed Alexander died of natural causes, and others believed it was the curse rearing its ugly head. But could there be another answer?

This one is a bit different than the previous three in that, we aren’t on a train the whole time.

Uncle Nat and Hal do travel by train to get to Germany, and then the Kratzenstein’s do have a private funeral train that is used for Alexander’s services, but besides that, you are at the Kratzenstein’s gothic-feeling home.

I did miss being on the train the whole time, I feel like that always adds a nice closed circle, or even locked room element, to the mystery. However, I’m never one to turn down time at a creepy, gothic mansion, so this setting worked as well.

I also liked the exploration of the family curse, its history and whether or not it was real. It brought a nice is it supernatural, is it not supernatural twist to it.

Hal did make some new friends in this one as well, which is often the case for him. Everyone loves Hal. They helped him a bit in his investigation. I particularly enjoyed Hilda, who had a penchant for mystery stories.

The conclusion of this one was quite exciting. A bit of a nail-biter for young Hal. I’m seriously so excited to continue on with this series.

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a solid, heart-warming, engaging Children’s Mystery.

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Review: Murder on the Safari Star (Adventures on Trains #3) by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Murder on the Safari Star (Adventures on Trains #3)Murder on the Safari Star by M.G. Leonard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Murder on the Safari Star is the 3rd-installment of my new favorite Middle Grade series. I adored the first two books and this one was more of the same.

After train journeys in his native-UK and in the USA, it’s now February holiday and this time Hal is joining his Uncle Nat in South Africa for a trip on the classic Safari Star.

Arriving in South Africa, Hal is itching for a new mystery. Having successfully solved mysteries aboard the Highland Falcon and the California Comet, Hal has earned himself a bit of a reputation; a young-Sherlock, if you will.

I love how quickly these books kick-off. The authors definitely know how to grab the Reader’s attention. Within 10%, we’re already in South Africa, boarding the train and meeting the players of our soon-to-be mystery.

As with the earlier stories, there is a character Hal’s age on the train, Winston, who he quickly befriends and works with to solve the case. Bonus, Winston’s pet mongoose, Chipo, who brings a heavy dose of cuteness to the story.

Cute animals aside though, you should be warned, this mystery is the most sinister and dangerous yet!

We have a death on the train. The person involved was in a locked room. Most people suspect it was an accident, unfortunate, but nothing to be too alarmed over.

Hal, who was outside the room at the time, doesn’t believe it was an accident, but he’ll have to prove it, if anyone is going to believe him. The investigation begins.

I was so intrigued by this one. The person involved was absolutely vile and had insulted, or angered, pretty much every other passenger on the train, including his own family. This left Hal with a lot of suspects.

I loved how it was a classic and true locked-room mystery. How could the killer have pulled it off?

It was fun watching Hal try to work through it all. There was even a scene where his Uncle Nat helped him to reconstruct the crime to try to find answers. It was adorable.

I became quite invested in certain characters and felt my heart-rate rising as they fell under suspicion. It was gripping until the very end.

Overall, this was an absolutely fantastic installment to the series. It was an incredibly fun mystery to try to solve. The quality of the locked-room set-up would make Dame Christie proud!

I would absolutely recommend this series to Readers of all ages. The books are always engaging and fast-paced, with a great group of characters and wonderful illustrations.

10-out-of-10 recommend!

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Review: Kidnap on the California Comet (Adventures on Trains #2) by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Kidnap on the California Comet (Adventures on Trains, #2)Kidnap on the California Comet by M.G. Leonard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another train mystery solved!!

The 2nd-book of my new favorite Middle Grade series didn’t disappoint. It was everything I wanted and more!

After his memorable trip on The Highland Falcon with his Uncle Nat, Hal Beck, is ready embark on another adventure. His Uncle, a travel journalist, is set to travel on the famous California Comet from Chicago to California and it just so happens, the trip coincides with a school break for Hal.

More than happy to have his nephew along for another trip, the two pack their bags and set off for the U.S. together; it will be Hal’s first time.

At first, Hal is anxious about being homesick and out of place in a foreign country, but soon enough he has made new friends and finds himself embroiled in another mystery.

In the first book, we had a thief aboard the train. Someone stealing objects of value from various passengers. In this installment, as the title would suggest, we have a kidnapping of a very wealthy young passenger, but how?

The kidnapped girl resided in her father’s own private car and she had her own security guard. How did the kidnapper get past security?

Hal and his new friends, Mason and Hadley, are intrigued, but they also want to help. The girl could be in very serious danger. Together the trio work around the clock to try to solve the mystery.

This was such a fun read. As with the first book, I became completely invested in this story quite early on. In fact, the first night I picked it up, I had to force myself to put it down so I could get some sleep.

Who knew a Middle Grade Mystery Adventure series set on trains would be my new favorite thing in the world!?

The writing is great, the set-up and mystery are intriguing as heck and I love the characters. I also love the inclusion of Hal’s drawings; seeing the world through his eyes and how they help him to puzzle out the mysteries. It’s fantastic.

Also, I love Hal as a main character. He’s always kind, brave, creative and has a genuine curiosity about everything that is so fun to read.

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Middle Grade Mystery stories. It’s such a joy, pure entertainment.

I am super excited to continue on with the third book, which I will be starting very soon!

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Review: The Highland Falcon Thief (Adventures on Trains #1) by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

The Highland Falcon Thief (Adventures on Trains, #1)The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Highland Falcon Thief is the first book in the Middle Grade Mystery series, Adventures on Trains, by writing duo, M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman.

I first heard of this series when Gavin, from How to Train Your Gavin on YouTube, mentioned it in a Book Haul video. I was instantly intrigued.

I’ve never traveled via Sleeper Train, but I’ve always wanted to do so. A bucket list item for me, for sure. Imagine how fun it would be traveling that way and having an actual mystery to solve while aboard!?

With these books, you get to experience that.

This story follows 11-year old, Hal Beck, whose Mom is getting ready to enter hospital to have a baby. His parents decide it would be best for Hal to have a getaway, while they are otherwise engaged with the birth of his little sister.

As luck would have it, Hal’s Uncle Nat, a travel writer specializing in trains, is about to board a four-day journey on the Highland Falcon, a royal train taking her last journey through the U.K. It’s perfect timing and the perfect opportunity for Hal to join him.

Hal begins the journey with some trepidation. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with his Uncle and is nervous about traveling just the two of them.

Also, he’s a little concerned about leaving his Mom as she enters the hospital. What if she needs him? He’s honestly the sweetest boy. In spite of his fears, he holds his head high and joins his Uncle for the memorable final journey of the Highland Falcon.

On board, it quickly becomes apparent that Hal is the youngest passenger. No other kids, no video games, no distractions. He’ll have plenty of time to focus on his art.

Then Hal spots her. A girl that shouldn’t be there; a stowaway. Who is she and what is she doing here?

The two become secret friends and when jewelry begins being stolen from passengers on the train, they make an adorable detective duo, as they investigate the crimes.

However, after the Prince and Princesses board the train and her famous necklace is stolen, around the same time the stowaway, Lenny’s, presence is discovered, all suspicion falls on the little girl.

Will they be able to find the real thief in time to save Lenny from serious repercussions?

Y’all, I loved this so much. We’re talking, all new favorite Middle Grade series for me.

Hal is a fantastic character. He has all of the characteristics one would look for in a young hero. He’s smart, loyal, kind, inquisitive, honest and super smart.

Hal is an artist. He does amazing drawings of his surroundings and his drawings actually help him to notice clues pertaining to the mystery. The book contains his drawings and I found the illustrations added a lot to the overall presentation of the story.

I looked forward to getting to the illustrations, so I could see exactly what Hal was seeing. It was especially fun when he was drawing the other passengers. I felt like you could glean a better impression of their character through that.

Additionally, I loved how Hal and his Uncle Nat’s relationship grew over the course of the story. While Hal was always respectful and a bit in awe of his Uncle, you could see as the story progressed how they learned to really trust and love one another.

I liked how his Uncle gave Hal the freedom to explore and enjoy the train on his own without hovering over him. That freedom gave Hal the confidence to interact with a lot of different people.

I also loved the mystery itself. Once the thefts began, I really started to notice how many suspicious characters were on this train. There were a lot of possibilities for whodunit.

Overall, this book was an absolute joy to read. The setting of the train was perfection and I loved the varied cast of interesting characters.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of Middle Grade stories, and Middle Grade Mysteries in particular. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

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Review: Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm (SEA #2) by Julie Kagawa

Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm (Fiction - Middle Grade)Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm is the second book in Disney’s Middle Grade Adventure series, Society of Explorers and Adventurers. I read the first book, Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl, just before its release last year, at the start of 2022. I absolutely adored it.

Unsurprisingly, Kagawa was able to capture my attention right away, as well as my heart, with her fun characters and pulse-pounding action. The vivid imagery can’t be beat.

As a side note, if you are unaware, Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers, known as S.E.A., is a fictional organization sprinkled about various attractions at Disney Theme Parks. Google it!

The organization is said to be comprised of scientists, travelers and researchers, who traverse the globe continuing to explore the world’s oceans and exotic lands.

In this novel, Shinji is officially a member of S.E.A., along with his friend, Lucy Hightower and her mechanical mouse, Tinker. They are residing at S.E.A. headquarters, where Shinji is working to understand his new powers and struggling a bit to grow into them.

Before he is able to do that though, S.E.A. has another potential adventure on their hands and Shinji and Lucy are included as part of the team. Let’s go!

A sunken ship, thought to belong to the long-extinct Natia people, has been discovered in the South Pacific. It’s a race against the clock as the members of S.E.A. try to get there before their rival, the evil Hightower Corporation, can find it and plunder the artifacts.

Even though the kids are traveling along with veteran S.E.A. members, like Oliver Ocean and Phoebe Mystic, nothing goes as planned. It’s obstacle after obstacle as the team struggles to reach their final oceanic destination.

After Shinji accidentally awakens another guardian, a giant mythological storm boar, wild weather released by this boar threatens to ravage the coast of California.

Shinji needs to learn to control his powers and figure out how to appease the storm boar before its too late, but the odds seem to be stacked against him. Stress!!!

Kagawa knows how to deliver an entertaining sequel. Almost everything that could happen on this adventure does. There’s an erupting volcano, a nearly sinking ship, breaking into Hightower Headquarters, fighting off robot guards and flying into a storm, to name a few.

The humor Kagawa brings to the story too makes it charming and fun. I love these characters and it was interesting learning more about them, as well as more about the organization. We also meet some new characters and learn more about Hightower.

I thought the conclusion to this was heart-warming and it left off in a great spot to continue on with the series. I am really hoping for a third book.

I definitely recommend this series to Readers who enjoy an engaging Middle Grade Adventure. You cannot go wrong with Kagawa’s writing. Top shelf, beginning to end.

Additionally, the audiobook is fabulously narrated, so I do recommend that as a format. It was how I read it and I felt like I was there with these characters. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time!

Thank you to the publisher, Disney Hyperion and Disney Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. This was a ton of fun.

I love Shinji so much. He has all the qualities one would want in a hero. It fills my heart!

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