Review / The Shattered Castle

20220428ma_0584Book: The Shattered Castle (2021)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Series: The Ascendance Series, The False Prince #5

Opening lines from the book …
Throughout the year, I’d faced death more times than I could count, fought a war, endured the loss of my parents, and survived torture, cruelty, and multiple insults in the form of overcooked meat at the supper table. I thought that I had already faced the worst of anything this world might offer. Then Lady Batilda Lamont came to the castle. Imogen’s mother.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Have I mentioned that King Jaron has such a great voice? Of course, I have. And it’s still true.

2) This book takes place pretty much in the castle at Drylliad. As promised in the preceding book, we get a castle under occupation. We get plenty of scenes in dungeons and lots of people (okay, mostly the king) in disguise.

3) And if you are looking forward to Jaron getting whipped and beaten up, you will not be disappointed. Yes, it happens in EVERY single book. (Not my favorite parts, but I do like his resolve. My favorite part is in this book when he’s in his own dungeon and his guard … well, I’ll leave you to read that part for yourself.)

4) I will say that I really enjoyed the little twist with regards to Imogen’s mother. Really, you will not appreciate it until you read these books.

5) There’s also a really cool cave in this book. And a waterfall. (If you guess that “someone” has to jump over said waterfall then … well, I won’t say what happens. What are you waiting for? Get reading this book now!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Again, I really enjoyed these last two books in the series. (If you haven’t read the first books, you really do need to read the series in order!)

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Captive Kingdom

20220428ma_0586Book: The Captive Kingdom (2020)
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Series: The Ascendance Series, The False Prince #4

Opening lines from the book …
One may ask, how is the great King Jaron described by those who know him? The answer rarely includes the word “great,” unless the word to follow is “fool,” though I have also heard “disappointment,” “frustration,” and “chance that he’ll get us all killed.”

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Jaron has such a great voice in these books! And what’s even more fun is the knowledge that he’s also a bit of an unreliable narrator. So half the fun is trying to figure out what he’s NOT telling us.

2) So fun to be back with everybody… Roden, Tobias, Imogen, Amarinda, Mott, Fink. And of course, the pirates. Who doesn’t come into the story. (Well, there are a few who stay behind in Drylliad). But we also get introduced to some new characters like …

3) A new villain in the form Captain Strick, not a woman you’d want to mess with. And then there’s one of her lackeys, the one Jaron calls Lump is great! Not to mention the poor damsel in distress, Wilta, that’s on board the ship. (Although, she’s got a firey personality behind that red hair of hers.)

4) There’s also a character that may or may not be from Jaron’s past. Not even Jaron knows for sure. (No spoilers from me.)

5) Finally, I will say that I was totally surprised to see this book at my library. I had NO idea that there was a new book in this series! To be honest, I’m kind of glad I didn’t… until now. Because I got to read these book (and the next one – but more on that next week) back-to-back. Yes, each book is technically a stand-alone book, but this one ends with a promise that there are more adventures to come. (Stay tuned for my review of Book 5 in the series.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

High praise for this whole series from me. I was a little worried that this book wouldn’t live up to the previous books, but it did not disappoint!

NOTE: Do NOT read this series out of order. If you haven’t read THE FALSE PRINCE, you need to read that one first.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Over the Top

20220428ma_0587Book: Over the Top (2021)
Author: Alison Hughes
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
There was no getting away from it: the house was pink. It wasn’t a shade of coral or peach. It wasn’t pinkish. It was vivid, candy-floss, lip-gloss pink. Bright pink. Deliberately pink. In-your-face pink.

 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) The opening lines made me cringe just as Diva (the main character) cringes. A pink house? And yet this is the one main feature that grabs her mother’s attention. Not really a spoiler: They buy the house.

2) Oh boy, her mother. What a character! She is definitely over the top. But I do love the character arc here. I mean, just the fact that she names her kids Diva and Hero! Oh, and she has a party planning business. How fun is that!

3) I loved Hero the younger brother. I like how he connects with Diva. They have such a good relationship. And he also inspires Diva with his outgoing personality. (She’s actually rather shy/quiet. The opposite of her name!)

4) The theatre angle was great. The show is The Wizard of Oz and well Diva gets quite the interesting part in the musical. Of course, she’s up against her nemesis: Miranda. Yes, not only is Miranda a bully, but she’s also Diva’s next door neighbor.

5) I totally got Diva’s reaction to her mother’s birthday “surprise.” No spoilers, but … just wow.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I especially related to Diva and loved watching her grow and navigate her new world. And even though it was hard, she made some good choices.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / One Kid’s Trash

20220401ma_0495Book: One Kid’s Trash (2021)
Author: Jamie Sumner
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
The beautiful and terrible thing about having your bedroom in the basement is that you never know what time it is.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Hugo’s the new kid in town. And it’s nice that he has a cousin to help him navigate the new school. I liked their relationship. And I like how it’s treated throughout the book. It’s not all smooth sailing.

2) This is a story that talks about garbology. Who knew there was such a thing. Anyhow, it turns out that Hugo, the MC, can look at people’s garbage and make some pretty good educated guesses about that person. It turns Hugo from a nobody into one of the more popular kids in school!

3) I liked the newsletter (i.e. student newspaper) angle. Hugo and Vij join a bunch of other kids to create the school news. Em, the student leading the charge, is pretty dedicated. And she gets frustrated with her team of not-quite-as-enthusiastic student contributors, including Hugo! Of course, you know this’ll play into the plot.

4) Then there’s the bully, Chance. He gives Hugo a hard time. I like how Hugo decides to retaliate, but that it turns out not to be the smartest move on his part. There are consequences to becoming a bully, yourself.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this book about a new kid finding his strength in garbology. It’s certainly not something I’ve ever read before!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Operation Do-Over

20220401ma_0499Book: Operation Do-Over (2022)
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: MG, Time-Travel

Opening lines from the book …
I’m standing next to the bumper cars when the first bolt of lightning splits the sky and strikes the main transformer. The explosion is like a bomb blast. I almost jump out of my skin.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I usually enjoy a Gordon Korman book, but I’ve found that a lot of his more recent books blend together. It’s always multiple POV and the main character tends to be a loveable rake. THIS book is a little different! Yay! It’s just one POV and the main character, Mason, is a science nerd.

2) Really, this is a story of a lost friendship. All because of a new girl that shows up. It’s interesting when we leave 12-year-old Mason for 17-year-old Mason. And things are NOT going well for the future Mason. (This part made me really hate zero-tolerance policies because there is no nuance. You always need to allow for nuance!) And that’s where the time-travel comes in.

3) I enjoyed the friendship between Mason and Ty. I really did think this book worked really well … all from Mason’s POV.

4) The time-travel bit is never explained, but it certainly makes for a good story! There are some fun bits before Mason realizes what exactly has happened to him. And then we get into the parts where he actively tries to change what is going to happen in the future.

5) The opening with the fair is pretty exciting. And this being a time-travel book, this is where we start and kind of where we end.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) I didn’t connect as much with Ava as I would have liked. I didn’t feel she was REAL. In fact, Clarisse was more real to me. But this might have just been me!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think this is the best Gordon Korman book I’ve read since Restart. I’m glad he switched some things up. It still definitely has his general stamp on it! Highly recommend.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

20220306ma_0416Book: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (2016)
Author: Laura Shovan
Genre: MG, Novel in Verse

Opening lines from the book …
Yo, Notebook.
I am your poet.
I will fill you with words.
I don’t mind writing
a poem to our teacher,
some rhymes
Ms. Hill will feature
in our fifth-grade book.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) This book is written poems. One poem for each day of the year. I found it very interesting that this book goes from the beginning of the school year to the end of the year, only skipping holidays and weekends.

2) I love how the students get to know their (old?) hippie teacher, Ms. Hill. How they draw inspiration from her days when she protested. Their protest is about the closing of their school.

3) The student that probably is the most memorable is George Washington Furst. And that’s not a surprise as he goes on to be a natural class leader. Maybe it’s also his name!

4) The illustrations at the beginning of the book is really helpful for keeping track of the 18 kids in the class. Most books about classrooms really feature only six or seven students in a classroom. (More on this later.)

5) I did like how there are different styles of poetry used throughout the book. AND the author has a key to the different types of poems used at the back. This would be great for a teacher who wanted to use this book in a poetry unit!

WHAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Back to the list of kids in the class. I think there’s a reason why authors usually only feature six or seven students. Many of the kids in this book were on the forgettable-side, and I had to keep reminding myself WHO they were. That said, I thought it was a worthy experiment!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book overall. I liked getting to know this class of gutsy kids and teacher. I highly recommend!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / Kid Spy: Mac Saves the World

20220205ma_0222Book: Kid Spy: Mac Saves the World (2021)
Author: Mac Barnett
Genre: Lower MG, Espionage/Historical
Series: Kid Spy #6

Opening lines from the book …
This is my dad’s house. It is on the top of a hill in a town called Oakland, California. That a real place. You can look it up. When I was a kid, every other weekend I went to my dad’s house. This was one of those weekends.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) We finally get to meet Mac’s dad in this one. I love how he dealt with the comparison between the different homes (Mom’s house vs. Dad’s house) and then connected it to the split-city of Berlin. The story takes place in 1989, by the way! Which brings me to…

2) I always love the historical tidbits in these books. This one deals with the Berlin Wall and how it came to be. And also the story behind the mistake that led to its fall! (I hope that’s not a spoiler!)

3) There are some funny nods to mistakes in language, and how Mac thinks he knows the meaning of a word, only to find out that it means something completely different! (While I’m not fluent in German, I do know enough to pick up on the mixup before it happens! However, it isn’t necessary to speak German as the book nicely explains it all.)

4) The Queen! Okay, she is my favorite recurring character in the book. I love her. And I hope the real Queen reads these books. I think she might appreciate the humor 🙂 And of course, you gotta love Freddie the corgi.

5) I liked the ending with … wait, I won’t spoil it. But it has to do the the gift given by the Queen to Mac. And yes, the ending makes the most sense if you’ve read the other books!

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this latest installment of Kid Spy! In fact, I might venture to say it’s the best (or one of the best) of the books. Although, I do think it’s a good idea to read the series as a whole, you can read it as a stand-alone. Looking forward to the next one. (While this one does wrap up the series nicely, the door is left open a crack for a new one…)

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / When Stars are Scattered

20220219ma_0327Book: When Stars are Scattered (2020)
Author: Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel

Opening lines from the book …
Now, in a place as crowded as this, I’m afraid we’ll never be found.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I loved how Omar looks after his younger brother, Hassan. The connection and loyalty they have for each other is wonderful to see in a book.

2) It was nice to see Omar finally get to go to school. I liked how they portrayed his struggles with leaving his brother behind, and that things are not suddenly all easy either.

3) I also liked how we got to see various refugee kids dealing with various scenarios. Like Jeri who limps. Or Maryam whose parents have an arranged marriage for her. 

4) The story begins in the refugee camp, so we don’t get to see what led to the boys’ escape. At least, not until later in the book. And when we get to that part (about what happened in Somalia), it was very powerful, but was also treated in a way that is suitable for young readers.

5) I really liked the authors’ notes at the back. They give some closure to some of the questions raised in the story. I found this story (mostly true, although I understand that some of the secondary characters are composites of different people the real Omar knew) very an eye-opening and compelling read.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What a wonderful look into what a refugee camp was all about. My grandparents were both refugees (from different countries). I’ve heard their stories. And while it was a little different (World War II was in full swing), this book did give me a little incite into their experiences. Highly recommend this book!

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / The Graveyard Riddle

20220220ma_0335Book: The Graveyard Riddle (2021)
Author: Lisa Thompson
Genre: MG, Contempory
Companion Novel to: Goldfish Boy

Opening lines from the book …
Frankie is a conker-brown dachshund and a very wise little dog. For example, I take him for a walk every day after school and at weekends and he always turns left out of the driveway. He knows exactly which way to go: the graveyard.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Riddles and spies! This book has it all. In the story, Melody Bird (what a great name!) meets Hal, a spy with the super secret organization: MI8. Lots of intrigue involved with Hal’s mission and his recruitment of Melody.

2) Graveyard setting is both a little spooky and a lot interesting. Melody first comes across the mysterious Plague House, hidden away behind vines, thanks to Frankie her dog. It’s where she meets Hal. And then there’s the mysterious guy that keeps putting the riddles as clues on one particular tombstone.

3) Melody Bird is such a likeable main character. She has a complicated friendship with Matthew and Jake, which is going to add some good tension to the story!

4) And then there’s the mystery of what happened with Melody’s dad. We get bits and pieces of it. About the disappearing act and the circus.

5) I really was kept guessing about how the story was going to play out. At one point, I wondered if this was going to have a magical element to it, but it didn’t. And I’m glad. I really enjoyed the story!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Really liked this one. It’s actually a sequel (or companion novel) to Goldfish Boy. I haven’t read that book yet, but I found this book works well as a stand-alone. (Although, it does seem to give away some of the plot of the first book.)

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review / A Soft Place to Land

20220206ma_0227Book: A Soft Place to Land (2021)
Author: Janae Marks
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Opening lines from the book …
I may only be twelve, but I’ve already fallen in love once—with music. With film scores, to be exact.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) I really enjoyed the main character, Joy. I loved her enthusiasm and her protective nature when it comes to her younger sister. And it was a fun touch to put in her love of music and her desire to be a film composer.

2) The most awesome thing about this book is that it has a building with a secret room! I mean, a real secret-nobody-knows-about-it room! How cool is that? I want to live in a building with a secret room!!! And I love the camaraderie between the kids (all joint “owners” of said room) in the apartment building.

3) You gotta love the dog Ziggy and her owner, Mae. I like how the dog walking fits into the plot and Joy’s goal of trying to make money for her piano lessons. And of course, it also fits in nicely with Joy’s friendship with Nora.

4) This book deals with the topic of when parents fight. (Spoiler: I felt for Joy over the news that her dad is moving out to get some space. 😦 But, even bigger Spoiler Alert: I like how the parents are working things out by the end of the book. End Spoiler.)

5) I like the mystery of the poem and notes on the wall. I like how Joy wants to help this person. (On a side note: I wasn’t too surprised to find out the identity of the person, but I know Joy wasn’t expecting it!)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this book! I’d recommend it for anybody who wants a secret room. And that’s just about everybody, right?

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday