Posted in Author Recommendations, Recommendations, Reviews

Unwanteds Isle of Legends Review

Island of Legends 

Summary

After all Artimé has been through they deserve a party. So Alex insitutes the tradition of the first annual masquerade ball! But the party is over before it even begin when Queen Egalea’s ship appear across the sea. Wanting to get back what supposedly is hers.

The fight is on Artimé’s shores and Alex must prove he can handle his newfound leadership. Sky and Crow are terrified and Alex is recieving no help from Aaron his scheming twin brother. Instead of rallying Quill to help against the treat that faces the whole island.

Aaron disappears and happens on a dangerous secret in the jungles of Artimé one that may give him the power he’s been desperately looking for but at what price?

Even with this battle on horizon Alex hasn’t forgotton his promise to rescue Sky’s mother from the volatile Pirate Island, a rocky volcano that randomly spits fire and sinks beneath the surface with little warning.

Once the intial battle is over and a rescue team is on its way, friendships are tested as the stake are higher than ever on this new mission. The group is in for an adventure learning about their island chain. Discovering more people and creatures than they ever imagined unfortunatly for the Artiméans, not all of them are friendly.

Some of the most unusual islands so far appear in this book!

Review

Honestly this is one of my favorites of the series for a number of reasons, lots of threads from earlier in the series are resolved in this book. We also meet some of my favorite characters in this book. Plus there is just a lot of sea-fairing adventure going on which is always fun, dangerous but fun. We also discover larger things about the Unwanteds world in general that will play into the next series.

By itself: 5+

For the series 5

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Reviews

From the Desk of Zoe Washington Review

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Summary

Zoe Washington was having a fun birthday, with cake and presents. She expected surprises for her twelfth birthday but not a letter from a father she’s never heard from one she’s been told has committed a terrible crime.

She isn’t sure what to write back but she knows she’s intrested, she feels a draw to her biological father. As the Zoe and her father Marcus get to know each other they find out they have a lot in common and Zoe finds the courage to ask him about his crime.

A crime he says he never committed.

But only guilty people go to prison right? Ask Zoe continues to write to Marcus she is determined to uncover the truth and along to way she learns about the injustices in America’s criminal justice system. But if Marcus could really be innocent Zoe is determined to find his alibi witness and prove his innocence

While her family thinks she’s worried about doing a good job on her good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge she’s really busy sleuthing along with the help of her friend and her grandmother.

Along the way she learns about The Innocence Project, but even if she can find Marcus’ alibi witness will that be enough to truly change anything? Can one girl make a difference against a rigged system and what will she do when she has to come clean to her family?

Review

This book is very important because it explores the criminal justice system and its flaws in a way that is approachable to the target audience. It may read a little young because of Zoe’s naïve and because she’s been sheltered by her family so much. But I think it’s still an important pick for classrooms or families. It was on the Publishers Weekly, “An Anti-Racist Children’s and YA Reading List” and I can see why.

Personally my favorite part of the book were the letters between Zoe and Marcus and the playlist the Zoe makes from the songs that Marcus suggests.

Definitely another 5 star book.

Image by Jess Bailey from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Recommendations, Reviews, YARC, Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

Skyhunter Review

Skyhunter

Skyhunter by [Marie Lu]

So I’ve never been able to get interested in any of Marie Lu’s other books. Nothing against her the plots just never spoke to me. Skyhunter made up for it.

Summary

The central character is Talin, who is a refugee from another nation, she’s also a Striker. A member of an elite force of fighters. They are the last defense for the only nation that has managed to stay free from the the Federation: Mara.

Talin might not be exactly welcome in Mara but she knows first hand to horrors of the Federation, they are a war machine with technology way beyond anything the other nations have, they leave nation after nation at their feet and are the architects of a terrifying army of mutant beast known only as Ghosts.

But when a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front to Mara’s capital, Talin senses there is more to him than he’s letting on. He may be a spy, but she thinks he’s something else and is willing to go toe to toe with her fellow Strikers about it.

But only one thing is clear the Federation is coming for a fight, and Talin is ready to fight to the death alongside her fellow Strikers. But will this new prisoner be the key in saving them all? Or destroying them?

Review

So I’ve found that a lot of authors in general have a hard time writing male leads I actually give a damn about. I give a damn about what happens to the male lead here. She also does a great job with the men in Talin’s Striker group. Really Lu makes sure I care about everyone. And when it’s time to hate people, and believe me there is plenty to go around she make it so I hate who I’m supposed to, but I have complex emotions about everyone and that’s just really good writing.

I really like a lot of the characters in the book especially Talin’s mother. How the issue of PTSD is dealt with is masterful as well.

To give the book anything less than 5 stars would be a crime, sequel now please.

Posted in Author Recommendations, Blogtober, Uncategorized, YARC

The Three Keys: (A Front Desk Novel)

Three Keys

So it would be fair to say that I loved Front Desk by Kelly Yang. This book would get 6 stars if I could give them out, it has the heart, importance, and love of Front Desk like times a million and its issues are timely with the world today. It’s going to be one of my favorite books of the year I can already tell, another feat of brilliance by Kelly Yang.

Summary

Mia thinks she’s going to have the best year ever. She and her parents are finally out from under the thumb of the controlling Mr. Yao and get to run the Calivista Motel the way they see fit, which includes helping out immigrants.

She also gets to run the front desk with her best friend Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing. But sixth grade it turns out isn’t exactly what she expected. It’s an election year and her teacher openly supports the anti-immigrant candidate who is running to the point she asks them to write about things like why immigration is bad.

Plus the teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great, and unlike her teacher last year she finds herself receiving Cs instead of the As she thinks she rightly deserves.

But school isn’t Mia’s only problem, she’s a businesswoman too and the motel is struggling, in part because they are helping immigrants. The investors are threatening to pull back and sell their shares if Mia doesn’t do something, but Mia doesn’t want to give up on her values.

Especially with a new immigration law that is looming that if it passes will threaten the everything and everyone in Mia’s life.

Review

As I said at the outset, I really enjoyed this book, but another thing I especially apricated was the historical and qualitative/quantitative research Yang did about Proposition 187 as well as the current state of immigration in America. Yang went into some of I’m going to call them what they are concentration camps, to interview immigrants being held there.

I also enjoyed the way Lupe and Jason both grew as characters.

Again if I could give this more than 5 stars I would, amazing work!

Image by mastersenaiper from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Blogtober, Reviews

Babysitter’s Club: Boy Crazy Stacy

Now I’m going to go back and review the series from the beginning but I thought I’d review the two I read recently while they were still fresh in my mind.

Summary

While the rest of the club have other commitments for the summer, Stacey and Mary Anne are baby sitting for the large Pike family, with the help of their junior officer Mallory who is the oldest sibling in the family.

The family will be spending two weeks on the New Jersey shore, in Sea City. Things seem like they are going to be wonderful, the Pikes are renting a gorgeous house right by the beach, there is a boardwalk to explore and plenty of sun and sand. Along with something Stacey didn’t expect, the cutest boy she’s ever seen

But he’s older and a lifeguard, and Mary Anne thinks Stacey should just let her crush go and focus on the job at hand. But Stacey’s in love. While Stacey is busy pining for her crush Mary Anne has to do the job of two babysitters! How can she get Stacey to figure out Scott isn’t interested without ruining their friendship and breaking Stacey’s heart?

Review

A pretty typical first crush on someone older story. Mary Anne see’s all the ways this could go wrong, and Stacey doesn’t right until her heart is crushed. But there are some other character that make things better, and start to show Mary Anne’s more outgoing side which comes out more in the next book.

After Stacey breaks her heart she helps one of the Pike kids deal with his fears and its one of the best moments in the book. I also enjoy the postcards interspersed throughout the book which are a mark of these graphic novels.

I’d say it’s a 4, cute but not my favorite of the series.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, Blogtober, Recommendations

Best Creepy MG Reads

So it’s basically Halloween in my mind. I mean I love Pumpkins, fall and everything October, so I’m so happy the spooky season is here. I’m fairly hard to creep out but I love books that go for mystery not gore, that’s why I tend towards more MG here are some of my favorite picks.

1) City of Ghosts

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41xU0no0bYL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This first book in Schwab’s Cassidy Blake Series all of the books are creepy I just found this book more creepy than the second one, the third and final book of the series comes out in April 2021 and I literally cannot wait that long.

Plot

Cassidy is just looking forward to a vacation at the beach. She needs a break from the ghosts that demand her attention both around her city and at school. Her break with her family is blissfully free of ghosts, except for her best friend, Jacob, who happens to be corporally challenged.

See Cassie almost died (did die but she doesn’t like to think about) about a year ago. Since then she’s been able to see ghosts. Another side effect of her almost dying, she and Jacob seem to be tangled up. She’s the only one who can see him, and he can read her mind. It works better than one would expect, they’ve set up a series of rules that govern their friendship. After all, being friends with a ghost needs some ground rules.

Yet another side effect of her almost dying Cassidy has been able to pass through something she calls The Veil, which separates the world of the living from the dead. She goes to the world of the dead to take pictures and find out if ghosts stories are true.

But her connection with The Veil and with Jacob are about to get a lot more complicated. Instead of her vacation to the beach, her parents let her know they going to be traveling to Edinburgh, Scottland to film their new TV show called The Inspecters. Cassidy’s parents are ghost hunters who can’t actually see ghosts but have written books on some of the world’s most haunted places.

Cassidy is apprehensive about going to Scotland, after all, which its rich and often violent history, she knows the city will be full of ghosts like she’s never seen before. But Cassidy doesn’t know how much of a surprise she’s in for when they arrive in Edinburgh and Cassidy meets a girl who like herself can cross through The Veil.

However Cassidy doesn’t just attract the attention of this new girl, now that she’s in Edinburgh, she’s caught the attention of one of the cities’ most powerful ghosts. Cassidy must face this ghost and win because she doesn’t realize until it is too late what the ghost really wants from her: her life.

Amazon: City of Ghosts

2) Small Spaces

Truly terrifying and delightful, I’m looking forward to re-reading it again soon. Probably some of the best mystery and scares I’ve seen done in middle grade that I’ve read.

Plot:

Ollie is reeling over losing someone in her family the year before, she wants to shut everyone out. She doesn’t even want to take part in things she used to love. They remind her too much of the person she lost. But soon she’ll find herself becoming part of a mystery after she finds a woman about to throw away a book by a river.

Ollie saves the book and starts reading it, forgetting her grief for a moment as she gets caught up in the story of a woman named Beth, two missing brothers and the mysterious ‘smiling man’.

Things get even weirder as Ollie goes on a class trip and discovers that the story in her book might be real. She finds the graves of the people she’s been reading about in the book. When the school bus she and her class are riding on breaks down, she wonders if the ‘smiling man’ might be real as well. Especially when her watch that has previously been broken starts a countdown to nightfall and flashes the word RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates Coco and Brian decide to take the warning seriously, getting off the bus and heading into the woods, with a field of scarecrows watch them from the farm. The scarecrows aren’t what they seem, and neither is the farm, leaving Ollie, Coco, and Brian in for a night of terror as they try and solve the mystery of ‘the smiling man’ and Ollie’s book while making it out alive.

Amazon: Small Spaces

3) Stritch Scratch

So I really haven’t been scared by a book since Katherine Arden’s work last year, Scritch Scratch was scary, and then extra scary and sad once you found out the twist. Lindsay Currie did a great job with her historical research mixing that with middle school drama, and all the while making a believable yet tough to solve ghost story so props to her.

Plot:

Claire’s father does ghost tours of Chicago, and she wants absolutly nothing to do with them. She’s a scientist and the stuff her dad talks about is just paranormal foolishness, right?

But one night she gets stuck helping her dad with a tour and some of the stuff he’s talking about starts to seem a little too real, she’s ready for the tour to be over and she thinks she’s made it through especially when she see a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the busy, there is something off about him, especially since at the end of the tour, he’s just gone.

Claire tries to think nothing of it at first, she must be imagining things, letting ghost stories she heard on the tour get the best of her, but then the scratching starts, then the whispers in the dark, the number 396 appearing everywhere she turns, and the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire realizes she’s being haunted and she’s got to find out what the boy from the bus wants before it’s too late.

Amazon: Stritch Scratch

4) Frozen: Forest of Shadows

I love Frozen everything and when COVID is over I want to get a Frozen tattoo, so when I heard this book was coming out I was happy I didn’t expect it to be creepy though however it takes some mysteries left unsolved by the movies and brings them forward in very intriguing and spooky ways.

Plot:

Elsa has established herself as queen and is about to go on her first royal journey to several neighboring kingdoms. But as Elsa seems to be feeling like the perfect queen Anna feels like Elsa doesn’t need her.

Anna has been trying to find a way to convince Elsa to take her on the royal journey. But every time she tries to ask something comes up, and just when she seems to find the perfect time to ask, a mysterious illness strikes the kingdom, forcing all of Elsa attention to the sick animals and worried villagers.

When Anna finds a mysterious hidden room filled with magic spell books that she and Elsa’s mother collected and translated along with other mysterious old artifacts, Anna thinks she may have found the answer to the illness in a magic spell. A magic spell that is supposed to make your dreams come true.

The spell, however, ends up turning a nightmare into reality and causes more trouble than Anna could have ever imagined.

Filled with myth and all sorts of cool new creatures and people, this book is a great link between Frozen and Frozen 2. I also especially love how much it focuses on emotion and how our emotions can change our perception of reality.

Amazon: Frozen II: Forest of Shadows

5)Dead Voices

I’d almost say this novel is creepier than the first because of the villains, they both are scary however I find this one more personally terrifying.

Plot:

Having survived possessed scarecrows in October, along with beating the evil ‘Smiling Man’ Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready for a quiet winter break with Ollie and Coco’s parents at a newly opened ski resort Mount Hemlock Lodge.

But things start off weird, Coco sees what she thinks is a ghost on the road during their drive up the mountain and this shakes her up. But she’s not the only one, on their first night there Ollie starts having dreams of a strange frostbitten girl who is looking for her bones.

But when a snowstorm traps them in the lodge, they try to make the best of it, setting up board games and roasting smores, only to be interrupted by a ghost hunter, Mr. Voland, who claims the lodge has a sinister history.

Despite the owner’s denial of the possible ghosts, Ollie is intrigued, especially when the ghost hunter claims he can help Ollie connect with her mother. Brian and Coco, aren’t so sure but they want to support their friend. When Mr. Voland helps them escape from a malevolent ghost, he starts to earn their trust.

However, the little girl in Ollie’s dream warns her not to ‘listen to the dead voices’ and her mother’s old watch, which helped the group escape from the ‘Smiling Man’ warns her to BEWARE. There are even more questions about who or what they should help and trust.

And when the propane and generators start acting up, and the kids realize things might not be as they seem and they are in for a long night of ghostly adventures. They are about to find out that while they didn’t give a second thought to the world behind the mist after they escaped the ‘Smiling Man’. The shadow world may not have forgotten about them.

Amazon: Dead Voices

Image by Mircea Ploscar from Pixabay

Posted in Author Recommendations, new releases, Recommendations, YARC, Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

August New Releases

Sorry this a little late, life had been interesting which I should hopefully get back to telling you about in my Saturday reports. So I’m mostly back to my roots of adorable middle grade with these new releases. So looking forward to some of these.

A Place at the Table 

There is a cute sub-genre of middle grade fiction that I like to call cute food fiction. Think of Summer of 1000 Pies, Midsummer Mayhem, books where food is the focus and the plot happens around it. I always find them to be especially cute, and I think this one will fall onto the list.

Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth couldn’t be more different. Sara is Pakistani American and used to her small Islamic school, only this year she’s attending a newer bigger school. Elizabeth has her own problems, who is white and Jewish, has her own problems, like her mom struggling with depression.

The girls meet in an after school South Asian cooking class Elizabeth picked up the class because her mother stopped cooking. Sara is only there because she has to be, after all her mom is the teacher, but Sara hates to cook.

The two girls slowly become friends and come up with a plan to make an amazing cross cultural dish together, that will win them a spot on a local food show. The question is, they make good cooking partners, but can they be true friends?

This will be out August 11th.

Amazon: A Place at the Table

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out since the beginning of the year. For one thing it looks cute as heck, and for two the young witch reminds me of myself.

Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of novice witch before her thirteenth birthday. If she doesn’t she’ll loose her magic forever. For most witches and wizards it’s a simple enough test. It has three steps.

One: Help your town, do good all around.
Two: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
Three: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.

Eva has a problem though, she’s not exactly as magical as she would like and when her magic does work, it’s not always in the way she plans. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers, and gets sunburn instead of calling down rain. The worst of it, when she uses too much magic she falls asleep.

When she lands in the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, she’s not what the residents are expecting. But she’s determined to prove herself. So she sets up a magical repair shop to aid the citizens of the town, she may only be semi-magical but her fixes help the townspeople in ways they could have never imagined

The only problem is Eva’s bit of magic might not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. She must use all her magic, bravery and cleverness, if she wants to have any chance at saving Auteri or becoming a witch.

This will be out August 4th.

Amazon: Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch

Kind of a Big Deal

I really like Shannon Hale as an author so I thought I’d give this a try plus the concept seemed interesting.

There is nothing peaking in high school, and Josie Pie learned that lesson the hard way.

She dropped out of high school to be a star only have her Broadway dreams dashed. The bigger you are the harder you fall after all.

The rest of her life isn’t much better her best friend is distant. Boyfriend-busy, and her mom, she clearly has other things on her mind.

Josie escapes into books to get away from her slowly imploding life

Only thing is she really escapes, she reads a book and suddenly she’s inside it. She a different character: a post-apocalyptic heroine, the lead in a YA rom-com, and so on for every book she reads

At first she’s worried but then she’s amazed. It’s the perfect way to for the failed Broadway star to finally find new ways to shine. The thing is the longer she stays in a story the harder it is to escape.

Will Josie find a story so good that she just stays forever.

This will be out August 25th.

Amazon: Kind of a Big Deal

What new releases are you looking forward to this month?

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Posted in Author Recommendations, Recommendations

International Women’s Day

I realize I’m a few days late on this one,  I have no excuse. However, I’m going to blame the time change here in the US. I’ve had a headache since Sunday, it’s been annoying.

I’m going to write about my four favorite authors, and while I do feature some white writers I feature some writers of color as well.

Of course, few writers of color are never enough and I’m going to be doing a series featuring more women of color authors and minority authors, over the next month or so. 

Shannon Messenger

Image result for shannon messenger author

If you haven’t noticed by the fifteen thousand reviews I’ve done of her books. Shannon Messenger is one of my favorite writers. Definitely my favorite middle-grade writer. She’s the author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which is on its eighth book with more to come in the next two years. She is by far the author I’ve re-read the most.

Saadia Faruqi

Saadia Faruqi

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. Her book Meet Yasmin!, the first book in an early reader series about a Pakistani-American girl. Meet Yasmin! is also my favorite picture book series because Yasmin is so genuine. I’ve only read the first book because that’s all my library has, but it was enough to make the series and the author a favorite.

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine, Sept 2010

Gail Carson Levine is one of the big names in children’s literature. She’s inspired generations of writers with her feminist classics like Ella Enchanted and Fairest. She’s also still writing today with her upcoming book A Ceiling Made of Eggshells. One of my favorite classic writers. I love her stories, my favorite probably being Fairest or Ella Enchanted.

Hena Khan

Hena Khan

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle-grade novels Amina’s Voice and More to the Story and picture books Golden Domes and Silver LanternsUnder My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George. I love her middle-grade books and love how she brings her culture into her books.

I’m going to be featuring more Women of Color and Minority authors because even though there are some on this list one can never talk about underrepresented authors enough.

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels