Posted in new releases

Trying to Save What’s Important: New Releases

Check out these middle grade new releases coming out on September 21st, about characters trying to save things be it the world or their own worlds, whether they are facing monsters or prejudice these characters stand up and face their fears.

Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds (Amira & Hamza, 1) by [Samira Ahmed]

On the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, can’t stop their bickering while attending a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. While stargazer Amira is wowed by the amazing gadgets, a bored Hamza wanders off, stumbling across the mesmerizing and forbidden Box of the Moon. Amira can only watch in horror as Hamza grabs the defunct box and it springs to life, setting off a series of events that could shatter their world—literally.
 
Suddenly, day turns to night, everyone around Amira and Hamza falls under a sleep spell, and a chunk of the moon breaks off, hurtling toward them at lightning speed, as they come face-to-face with two otherworldly creatures: jinn.
 
The jinn reveal that the siblings have a role to play in an ancient prophecy. Together, they must journey to the mystical land of Qaf, battle a great evil, and end a civil war to prevent the moon—the stopper between realms—from breaking apart and unleashing terrifying jinn, devs, and ghuls onto earth. Or they might have to say goodbye to their parents and life as they know it, forever.…

Amazon: Amira and Hazma: The War to Save the Worlds

Maya and the Return of the Godlings (Maya and the Rising Dark)

Maya and the Return of the Godlings (Maya and the Rising Dark) by [Rena Barron]

The threat from The Dark is far from over. Twelve-year-old Maya knows this. After crossing the veil between the two worlds, saving her father, and narrowly escaping the sinister clutches of the Lord of Shadows, tensions between the human world and The Dark are higher than ever. And even worse, Maya’s orisha powers as a godling are out of control.
 
Now a guardian in training, Maya spends her days patching up veils with her father and cleaning up near-disasters like baby wormholes that her erratic powers create. But when Maya and her friends discover that something went terribly wrong during their journey to bring her father back to the human world, they are forced to return to The Dark and restore what they left behind, the one thing keeping the veil from falling: her father’s soul.
 
The Lord of Shadows is mobilizing his forces for an all-out war against the human world. And this time, Maya and her friends will need all the help they can get. Even if that means teaming up with their greatest enemies, the darkbringers.

Amazon: Maya and the Return of the Godlings

Room to Dream

Room to Dream (Front Desk) by [Kelly Yang]

Mia Tang is going for her dreams!

After years of hard work, Mia Tang finally gets to go on vacation with her family — to China! A total dream come true! Mia can’t wait to see all her cousins and grandparents again, especially her cousin Shen. As she roams around Beijing, witnessing some of the big changes China’s going through, Mia thinks about the changes in her own life, like . . .

1. Lupe’s taking classes at the high school! And Mia’s own plans to be a big writer are . . . stuck.

2. Something happened with Jason and Mia has no idea what to do about it.

3. New buildings are popping up all around the motel, and small businesses are disappearing.

Can the Calivista survive? Buckle up! Mia is more determined than ever to get through the turbulence, now that she finally has . . . room to dream!

Amazon: Room to Dream

Posted in backlog reviews, Reviews

The Brave

The Brave is meant to be a lovely novel about overcoming health issues of the mind and body. It’s also meant to be about Native American ways of doing things. However it relies deeply on caricatures and the idea of Native American spiritualism.

The Brave by [James Bird]

Summary

Collin can’t help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It’s a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.

Review

To quote the The Circle a publication of Native American News and Arts ” How closely did they read? Granted, the story is make believe and brimming with magic and mystery and ghosts, but this magic and mystery depicts wooden caricatures in a fake reservation setting. Insight into why adults do what they do is rarely offered. All we learn is that one drinks too much alcohol, another is always getting into or out of her truck, and a wise, spooky grandmother appears and disappears.” They go on say of The Brave ” He is also welcomed by a next door neighbor – Orenda – who spends most of her time in a treehouse. Orenda, wise beyond her years, teaches Collin to be brave when faced with adversity. Sick with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Orenda predicts that one day she will turn into a butterfly. As Orenda loses strength, Collin gains strength both mentally and physically. With the help of some kind of medicine man and after turning into a wolf and killing a boogeyman, or dreaming that, Collin is mostly free from his OCD.

I personally can’t speak to another spiritual tradition but Collin losing his OCD just seemed too easy as someone with OCD myself. Feel free to argue with me in the comments. While the book was an attempt to be a book about improving oneself. It came off as putting Native American caricatures and the over used idea of Native American spiritualism.

Amazon: The Brave

Additional Reading

“The Brave” is compelling, but could do without the stereotypes

Posted in new releases

Culture-Finding your way

Whether it’s in your own home at or at school these books deal with finding your own way when dealing with a majority culture or trying to understand a minority culture. These books are about mixing of cultures.

Eleven-year-old Danny’s life is turned upside down when his Chinese grandmother comes to live with his family in England. Things get worse when Danny finds out he’ll have to share his room with her, and she took the top bunk! At first, Danny is frustrated that he can’t communicate with her because she doesn’t speak English—and because he’s on the verge of failing math and Nai Nai was actually a math champion back in the day. It just feels like he and his grandmother have nothing in common. His parents insist that Danny help out, so when he’s left to look after Nai Nai, he leaves her at the bingo hall for the day to get her off his back. But he soon discovers that not everyone there is as welcoming as he expected . . . Through the universal languages of math and art, Danny realizes he has more in common with his Nai Nai than he first thought. Filled with heart and humor, Danny Chung Sums It Up shows that traversing two cultures is possible and worth the effort, even if it’s not always easy.

Amazon: Danny Chung Sums It Up

Partly Cloudy by [Tanita S. Davis]

Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? After a terrible year, Madalyn needs clear skies desperately. Moving in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, and switching to a new school is just the first step.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Madalyn discovers she’s the only Black girl in her class, and while most of her classmates are friendly, assumptions lead to some serious storms.

Papa Lobo’s long-running feud with neighbor Mrs. Baylor brings wild weather of its own, and Madalyn wonders just how far things will go. But when fire threatens the community, Madalyn discovers that truly being neighborly means more than just staying on your side of the street— it means weathering tough conversations—and finding that together a family can pull through anything.

Award-winning author Tanita S. Davis shows us that life isn’t always clear, and that partly cloudy days still contain a bit of blue worth celebrating.

Amazon: Partly Cloudy

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero by [Saadia Faruqi]

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas—and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more difficult than he thought. Because this year is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an anniversary that has everyone in his Muslim community on edge.

With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice from the culture around him ?

Amazon: Yusef Azeem is not a Hero

Posted in backlog reviews, Recommendations, Reviews

Baseball and Salty Snacks: A Summer Adventure

Summary

Much Ado About Baseball by [Rajani LaRocca]

If you loved Midsummer Mayhem you’ll love this companion novel about the salty side and sports-based side to Lady Titania and Lord Oberon’s summer wager where baseball plays an important part.

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom’s new job, she’s now facing a summer trying to make friends all over again in a new town. That isn’t an easy thing to do, and her mom is too busy to notice how miserable she is.

But at her first baseball practice, Trish realizes one of her teammates is Ben, the sixth-grade math prodigy she beat in the spring Math Puzzler Championships. Everyone around them seems to think that with their math talent and love of baseball, it’s only logical that Trish and Ben become friends, but Ben makes it clear he still hasn’t gotten over that loss and can’t stand her. To make matters worse, their team can’t win a single game. But then they meet Rob, an older kid who smacks home runs without breaking a sweat. Rob tells them about his family’s store, which sells unusual snacks that will make them better ballplayers. Trish is dubious, but she’s willing to try almost anything to help the team.

When a mysterious booklet of math puzzles claiming to reveal the “ultimate answer” arrives in her mailbox, Trish and Ben start to get closer and solve the puzzles together. Ben starts getting hits, and their team becomes unstoppable. Trish is happy to keep riding the wave of good luck . . . until they get to a puzzle they can’t solve, with tragic consequences. Can they find the answer to this ultimate puzzle, or will they strike out when it counts the most?

Review

I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished Midsummer Mayhem came out. I LOVED Midsummer Mayhem and I loved this book as well, I thought I couldn’t find a protagonist as interesting after Mimi since I’m a baker myself. But Trish and Ben stole my heart along with their teammates and the entry of the faries and Lord Oberon was especially well done. I especially loved how the faries responded to the ‘mistakes’ in Midsummer Nights Dream. Oh, and Ben’s dog was a sweetheart. Overall, I wasn’t sure that Midsummer Mayhem could be followed up but I’m glad I was wrong. This book is charming and the character development is on point and the story leaves the characters better than it found them. 5/5

I love most anything Rajani LaRocca touches, so more of this, please.

Amazon: Much Ado About Baseball

Posted in Recommendations, Reviews

Finding Junie Kim Review: A Complex Book

This was a very impactful book it was written about the Trump era and it was written about communist history in the 1950’s in Korea. The Ellen Oh noted how personal it was for her to write this book. While I can never fully understand I can see how the issues thread through history and how things to come back around. While it is historical fiction it has elements of biography in it too. Just labelling Finding Junie Kim historical fiction would be oversimplifying this wonderful piece of fiction completely.

Finding Junie Kim by [Ellen Oh]

Summary

Junie Kim just wants to fit in and stay out of the way of her bullies who make fun of her for being Asian. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school and her friends want to do something about it, they just can’t understand why Junie wants to stay out of it.

Then Junie’s history teacher assigns a project and Junie decides to interview her grandparents she learns about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime.

As the racism becomes more prevalent at school Junie learns through learning about her ancestors to stand up for herself and the rest of the kids being bullied at her school. She finds the courage to do what is right to help make real change and stand up to her own personal bully.

Finding Junie Kim is a reminder that within us all lies the power to overcome hardship and emerge triumphant.

Review

This is a fantastic book. I thought that before I learned how well it was researched at the end. I can promise you this book taught me more about the Korean War than I learned in school. I live in a state that is pretty far down the education list but still, it is informative on such a deep personal and interesting level that you want to know more every time she talks to her grandfather.

Her grandparents both help her with standing up to bullies and facing racism and are great role models for her throughout the book. Her grandfather also helps her understand that others have more issues in America with race than they do. Her grandmothers story is also a magnificent one and her grandmother shows her other forms of being powerful.

Also the amount of research that went into this book is mind boggling as well as the amount of putting oneself into it personally. I know Ellen Oh is already getting awards for Finding Junie Kim, but she truly deserves them.

5 stars.

Amazon: Finding Junie Kim

Posted in Reviews

Allergic: A Graphic Novel Review

Allergic: A Graphic Novel

Allergic: A Graphic Novel by [Megan Wagner Lloyd, Michelle Mee Nutter]

Summary

A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl who is allergic to most pets, but still wants to find her perfect friend.

At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet?

Allergic Author/Illustrator

With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.

Review

The idea of being allergic-like Maggie would be so hard, but the allergies are just masking her larger problem which is the loneliness she feels in her family. But as she tries and fails at having different pets and her mom progresses in her pregnancy, she realizes she maybe has a place after all and that her role as a big sister is important, and that she doesn’t need a pet to fill the void, that her family is already there.

Amazon: Allergic

Posted in Challenges

Path or Pantheon TBR Books

I promised you the Path or Pantheon TBR, I had a tough time choosing these books, some were easier than others, I thought I’d remind everyone of the path I chose:

Path of Home

Hestia-Fire on the cover/in the title.

I’d been meaning to read this when I got it as arc. Time however got away from me and, it still looks like a great book though and I happy to have a specific reason to read it. Maybe I’ll finally learn not to request too many books for on Netgalley lol.

The Firebird Song

The Firebird Song by [Arnée Flores]

The Kingdom of Lyrica was once warm and thriving, kept safe by the Firebird, whose feather and song was a blessing of peace and prosperity. But the Firebird disappeared, and Lyrica is now terrorized by the evil Spectress who wields her powers from within a volcano. All that remains is a mysterious message scrawled on the castle wall in the Queen’s own hand: Wind. Woman. Thief.

Young Prewitt has only known time without the Firebird, a life of constant cold, as his village is afraid to tempt the volcano monsters with even the feeblest fire. But he has heard whispers that the kingdom’s princess survived the attack . . . and he is certain that if he can find her, together they can save Lyrica.

Princess Calliope has no memories beyond living on her barge on the underground lake. But as she nears her twelfth birthday, she is certain there is more to life than the walls of a cave. When Prewitt finds her, he realizes that she is the missing princess: the only hope for Lyrica. Determined to decipher the meaning of her mother’s strange message and find the Firebird, Calliope and Prewitt set off on a quest that puts them in more danger than either of them ever anticipated.

Amazon: The Firebird Song

Friggfeaturing family

I’ve been a fan of this series since book one and it has strong family ties so it’s perfect for this prompt. These books have been full of mystery, family and super fun riddles, and though I’m sorry to see the series end I can’t wait to read the conclusion.

Summary

As book three of the Greystone Secrets series opens, the Greystone kids have their mother back from the evil alternate world, and so does their friend Natalie. But no one believes the danger is past.

Then mysterious coins begin falling from unexpected places. They are inscribed with codes that look just like what the Greystones’ father was working on before he died. And with the right touch, those symbols transform into words: PLEASE LISTEN. And FIND US, SEE US, HELP US. . . .

The coins are messengers, telling the Greystones and their allies that their friends in the alternate world are under attack—and that the cruel, mind-controlling forces are now invading the better world, too.

After another spinning, sliding journey across worlds, the Greystone kids must solve mysteries that have haunted them since the beginning: what happened when the Gustanos were kidnapped, what created the alternate world, and how a group of mismatched kids can triumph once and for all against an evil force that seems to have total control.

Amazon: The Greystone: The Messengers

Basetyoung female MC

I hadn’t heard of the author of the book, but was going out for a rare visit to a doctor to pick up some books and spotted it and it sounded interesting. Now I’m glad I have a specific opportunity to read it.

The Beast Player by [Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano]

Summary

Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So when some of the creatures mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath, she manages to send her daughter to safety.

Alone and far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can communicate with both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great power, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no escaping the terrible battles to come?

Amazon: Beast Player

Kojinfeaturing food/cooking

The sister book to Midsummer’s Mayhem. This series of books are Shakespeare-inspired retellings with food, fun, and mystery.

Much Ado About Baseball

Twelve-year-old Trish can solve tough math problems and throw a mean fastball. But because of her mom’s new job, she’s now facing a summer trying to make friends all over again in a new town. That isn’t an easy thing to do, and her mom is too busy to notice how miserable she is.

But at her first baseball practice, Trish realizes one of her teammates is Ben, the sixth-grade math prodigy she beat in the spring Math Puzzler Championships. Everyone around them seems to think that with their math talent and love of baseball, it’s only logical that Trish and Ben become friends, but Ben makes it clear he still hasn’t gotten over that loss and can’t stand her. To make matters worse, their team can’t win a single game. But then they meet Rob, an older kid who smacks home runs without breaking a sweat. Rob tells them about his family’s store, which sells unusual snacks that will make them better ballplayers. Trish is dubious, but she’s willing to try almost anything to help the team.

When a mysterious booklet of math puzzles claiming to reveal the “ultimate answer” arrives in her mailbox, Trish and Ben start to get closer and solve the puzzles together. Ben starts getting hits, and their team becomes unstoppable. Trish is happy to keep riding the wave of good luck . . . until they get to a puzzle they can’t solve, with tragic consequences. Can they find the answer to this ultimate puzzle, or will they strike out when it counts the most?

Amazon: Much Ado About Baseball

Obafeaturing water

I love any of the books Molly Knox Ostertag puts out so it was no surprise this one was on my list. It looks beautiful so I’m ready for beauty as well as great content.

The Girl From the Sea

Fifteen-year-old Morgan has a secret: She can’t wait to escape the perfect little island where she lives. She’s desperate to finish high school and escape her sad divorced mom, her volatile little brother, and worst of all, her great group of friends…who don’t understand Morgan at all. Because really, Morgan’s biggest secret is that she has a lot of secrets, including the one about wanting to kiss another girl. Then one night, Morgan is saved from drowning by a mysterious girl named Keltie. The two become friends and suddenly life on the island doesn’t seem so stifling anymore. But Keltie has some secrets of her own. And as the girls start to fall in love, everything they’re each trying to hide will find its way to the surface…whether Morgan is ready or not.

Amazon: The Girl From the Sea

So that’s my list for the Path or Pantheon Challenge. Wish me luck with the challenge and if you are taking part share what Path or Pantheon you are joining .

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly Wrap-ups

Cats, New RPGs, Pride Month

Sorry I didn’t post this weekend cats were the reason I was busy or should I say one cat specifically. My Sweet albeit very feral cat Cinnamon is sick. I thought I could catch her yesterday, and I didn’t and felt like a real failure afterward, now I’m realizing this is going to have to be a long game. I guess I just thought I had a good enough bond with her I could do it easily, but now I know I was being unrealistic. But never fear it’s not all bad news, the cat is getting to the vet one way or the other we are just going to have to be tricky, and stubborn just like cats are.

I was also just kind of depressed about Cinnamon and what happens if we don’t catch her in time to treat her condition. We are going to get a feral trap today, so hopefully we are headed in the right direction still I worry about my sweet little feral baby.

In happier news, I’m just starting Horizon Zero Dawn so I can play the new one when it comes out. The puzzles are a little tougher than what I’m used to so I’m using guides. Also, I’m just not a very talented gamer, I’m more there for the story. But I ended up loving the combat system in Dragon Age 3, so I could love the combat system once I get into it a bit more. The puzzles so far have just been tough and I’m only at the beginning lol. However, it is the newest RPG I’ve played so SO pretty.

Also if you are listening universe Dragon Age 4 release date like before I turn 35.

Last but not least I’m trying to read as many books as I can for Pride Month, and I’m also doing the Read Your Gays readathon. I’m trying to read about a little bit of everyone and stories I’m not familiar with. For example, I haven’t read a lot of books on non-binary folx, so I’m trying to make that one of my goals this month.

Posted in Reviews

The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel Review

The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel

There is a purple background with silver colored glitter coming down on a tween girl, she has her hair done in a pony tail with a ice blue ribbon that matches her fancy blue ice skating outfit. The outfit itself looks like it has crystals on it, the girl has one leg up in the air with white ice skates on and her head bent back. Between her head and leg is the title "The Comeback"

Summary

Twelve-year-old Maxine Chen is trying to keep her life in balance. She wants everything to be perfect when it comes to skating, she wants the perfect landing on the ice, in middle school, and at home where her parents worry competitive skating it too much for their tween daughter.

But that’s not all Maxine has to deal with she’s sure about her life on the ice, what she’s not so sure about is when a bully at school starts teasing her for her Chinese heritage, leaving her with no idea how to respond. And when she thinks the rink is her place to be confident, a new very talented skater named Hollie up-ends that belief and threaten to edge Maxine out of the competition.

With everything she knows on uneven ice will she crack under the pressure of find a way to make a comeback.

Set in Lake Placid, New York, this is a spunky yet stirring middle-grade story that examines racism, female rivalry and friendship, and the enduring and universal necessity of love and support.

E. L. Shen is a writer, editor, and former figure skater. Her childhood skating career was not nearly as prolific as Maxine’s, but her personality is just as fiery. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College of Columbia University.

Review

Shen’s emotional writing was easy to relate to, you could really feel Maxine’s emotions as she went through all the experinces in the book finally becoming the more confident young woman in the end. I also appricate how the side characters are written Hollie is a great rival then friend for Maxine and shows the the stress of having all the skating talent but not wanting it to be your whole life.

I think she’s a good model for the pressures of sports competition, also the fact that Maxine envied her earlier in the book while all the while she was looking up to Maxine makes a great contrast of how you can think someone is perfect but they really aren’t.

Also the way Maxine handles the bullying about her Chinese heritage seems very realistic for someone her age. I love the way her parents respond to the bullying and it makes for a very sweet monent in the book.

Overall this is going to be a favorite and I’d give the book 5/5 stars I hope to read more of Shen’s writing in the future.

Amazon: The Comeback

Posted in new releases, Reviews

Red, White, and Whole Review

Red, White, and Whole by [Rajani LaRocca]

Summary

Reha feels caught between two worlds in her private school where she’s the only Indian American, and at home with her families traditions and holidays. She wants to be like all the other girls not to disrecpect her traditions but try something new too. But she feels like she doesn’t meet her family’s strict expectations she feels especially disconnected from her mother.

Though their names are similar her mother’s, or Amma’s name Punam means “moon” and Reha’s means “star” but she feels like they are worlds apart.

Then Reha finds out the Amma is sick, really sick, and everything else falls by the wayside, Reha doesn’t care about being a new cool girl. She’ll be virtuous and learn everything her parents want her to, she’ll do everything she can to make her mother well.

Reha, who wants to be a doctor even though she can’t stand the sight of blood will be perfect daughter if it means saving her mothers life, the question is will it be enough?

Review

This was a beautiful book in verse. Every chapter felt like a poem. I also love the way it incorporated the time period, it felt like you were in the the 1980’s especially due to the music. I love the the way Reha works in the ancient Indian story to deal with her own situation. I also especially love the aerogramme at the end I literally almost cried it was so sweet. The ending to the book wasn’t what I was imagining but it was actually perfect.