Here in the Real World Book Review

GoodReads Summary: Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages and generally being left alone. But then his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called “normal” kids do.

On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon he starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot.

Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer—he doesn’t live in the “real world” like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge.

But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the lot.

But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do? 

Thoughts: Thank you HarperCollins and Balzer + Bray for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review. Since I really enjoy audiobooks and reading middle grade books I decided to listen to this one on audio while following along with the book.

Something that I look for when reading middle grade is that the characters read their age. If I am going to recommend books to middle graders I want them to be able to relate to the characters and the things that they are going through. I have several cousins that are in the middle grade age range and love being able to recommend things to them which is why I read this genre.

I really enjoy the level of imagination and wonder that was included in this book. The book is recommended for grades 3-7 which is ages 8-12, and I think that the level of imagination and wonder that these characters have is great for that age. I like how these two kids are the outcasts of their age group and don’t feel like they fit in anywhere. This lack of belonging strengthens their friendship with each other and makes these two kids understand each other better.

Something else that I enjoy in middle grade is that there are always parents there even if they only play a small role in the book. While there is brief mention of the parents in this book they give you a sense of why the characters act in certain manners. I love how the characters relationships with their parents explain so much of what they do when their parents are not around.

I think that this book is perfect for kids who are new to chapter books as each chapter is about 4-5 pages and they keep your attention. This would be a great book for a parent and their child to take turns reading.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, or look for it at your local library.

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter Book Review

GoodReads Summary: Rex Dexter is itching to have a dog. He was practically born to have one. His name is Rex, for crying out loud. It’s a dog’s name. Any pooch is preferable, but a chocolate Labrador is the pinnacle. The best of the best. The dream of all dreams.

When Rex’s B-Day for Me-Day finally arrives, his parents surprise him with a box. A box with holes. A box with holes and adorable scratchy noises coming from inside. Could it be? Yes! It has to be! A . . . a . . .

Chicken?

Pet poultry?

How clucky.

One hour and fourteen minutes later, the chicken is dead (by a steamroller), Rex is cursed (by the Grim Reaper), and wild animals are haunting Rex’s room (hounding him for answers). Even his best friend Darvish is not going to believe this, and that kid believes everything.

Rex’s uninvited ghostly guests are a chatty, messy bunch. And they need Rex to solve their mysterious deadly departures from the Middling Falls Zoo before it happens again.

But how?

Thoughts: Thank you to Little Brown Young Readers and The Novl for the advanced copy of this book.

I was excited to read this because it looks like a book my cousin would like. Before sending it his way I made sure to read it so that I could properly recommend it and I’m glad I did.

The characters in this book had me laughing on every page. I like how this book is a mystery that the characters are all trying to solve and there’s a reason for them being in Rex’s life. Each of the animals have a distinct personality that makes you love them and enjoy solving this mystery with them. I like that even the characters who don’t speak much have something unique about them.

I really like how short each chapter is because it can hold the attention of younger children. Each chapter brings something new to the story, be it a clue, a character or more background. It is easy to get through the chapters and they all transition well into each other. I like that you can put this book down at the end of a chapter and pick it back up later or the next day and continue reading.

I recommend this to those of you who have children who are being introduced to chapter books or are looking for something to read with their kids. This is the perfect book to read with your kids or a great way to introduce a child to chapter books. It’s a great transition from picture books to books with less images.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, or look for it at your local library.

Tunnel of Bones Book Review

GoodReads Summary: Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.

Thoughts: I decided to listen to this one on audio since I had read the first book of this series in that method. The narrator in this series has a nice soothing voice which makes this book easy to listen to when I want to tune out the world. Something else that is great about listening to this series rather than reading it is how quickly I can get through them, it makes you feel like you are getting through a lot reading in a short amount of time.

I like how events of book one are referenced often throughout the start of this book so you know it is going to be building off of that story. I like that this is true sequel but you probably could also read it as a stand alone. While things from book one are referenced they are still explained clearly enough that you would understand if you haven’t read book one.

Something I enjoy about this book as well as the first book is that the descriptions are elaborate. I can see the scenes that are being described throughout the story and love that you can follow where they are at. I love hearing as Jacob and Cassidy’s friendship develops and changes.

Something else that I enjoyed about this book is that you are getting to know the parents more than in the first book. The first book mentions them and what they do but not much about why or who they are aside from their ghost show. I also enjoy how you get more information about Jacob throughout the book and the connection he has with Cassidy.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy reading paranormal books that are not meant to be scary or books about friendship.

You can find this book at Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, or look for it at your local library.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington Book Review

Summary: Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies. 

Thoughts: Thank you to Harper Collins and Katherine Tegan Books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review. I decided to follow this one along as I listened on audio which was great.

I have not read a book about baking yet so this was a nice change. I really liked how the whole book was more complex than just being about Zoe’s baking. I like how it includes her feelings about her dad being in jail and how this complicates her story. I liked how it turned into a story about family and friendship more than just baking. It’s a story about trust, hope, and more.

Something I really enjoyed in this book is how supportive all of her family is. Its really sweet to hear about how all of them pitch in to try and help her meet her goals. I love how it started with them all being supportive of her baking and wanting to help her get what she wanted out of baking and then it shifts to it being about them supporting her regarding her dad.

I love the relationship that Zoe has with her grandmother and how the grandma is understanding of Zoe wanting to communicate with her dad. I like that the grandma explains things to Zoe regarding her dad and tries to help her stay connected with him. I really enjoyed how the grandma stepped in to explain herself regarding Zoe’s dad and to defend her actions to her daughter.

Its really heartbreaking to watch as Zoe learns about injustice and racism through her grandma’s words. It was interesting as Zoe learns about her father and how the justice system worked against him. Its such a moving story to see how she grows up quickly because she is black. It was great to see Zoe never give up on her dad even when obstacles got in her way, and how she always believed the best of him even if she had never met him.

I recommend this to those of you looking for a book with a black main character and black author. I also think that children ages 11 and up would enjoy this book. Its a great book to introduce racism, injustice and the prison system to middle aged children.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, or look for it at your local library.

The List of Things that will not Change Book Review

Summary: After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.

Thoughts: Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoy when middle grade books feature a character that acts their age and in which you can see their growth as they mature and encounter different obstacles. This was something that I felt was captured well in this book, I think it was great to see how Bea changed over time and how she recalled a lot of the big events in her life.

Something else that I enjoyed in this book was the way that emotions were captured and handled. I enjoyed the moments that Bea has with her therapist, Miriam, as it gives a great way to handle certain emotions and I think it begins to normalize therapy for those who are reading this. I like that this book addresses mental health and in a way it addresses anxiety and normalizes worrying to a certain extent.

Something else that I really enjoyed was the way Mission not accepting his brother due to his sexuality was handled. I think the homophobia in this book was handled well and it was appropriate for the ages it is written for. It was written in a way that is realistic but also in a way that shows compassion and how you will have people who support you and those are the ones who matter.

I think this is a great book for grades 3-7 in which children may be facing difficult feelings and challenges in their life. It’s nice to see that nothing in this book seems trivial and the therapist never dismisses Bea’s feelings.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, or look for it at your local library.

City of Ghosts Book Review

Summary: Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself. 

Thoughts: I’ve been listening to a lot of young adult books on audio since they are easy to get through and I can go through them faster this way. I thought that since young adult on audio was good I might as well also listen to middle grade since I enjoy reading those as well. I’m glad that I listened to this one on audio as it was nice to hear.

I really enjoy getting a chance to read stories with ghosts that are friendly and have a human like personality. I liked hearing about the adventures that Jacob and Cass are going on and the trouble that they get themselves into. I really enjoy the friendship that they have with each other and how that friendship continues even if Jacob is a ghost.

Something else that I enjoy in this book is how the adults support Cass in her friendship with Jacob and in her pursuit of ghosts. I think it was nice to see how her parent’s were so fascinated by the supernatural while Cass was the only one who could communicate with ghosts and they had no idea. I enjoyed all of the adults that Cass comes into contact with both in the veil and in the real world.

I also really enjoy the way that the truth unravels and how as the reader you are also learning along with Cass. I liked hearing about Cass being in the veil and her feelings while she’s in there. I think you get a good glimpse into what a teenager would feel like being in this world and how it changes her perspective on life.

I recommend this to those of you who like paranormal books and those who are ages 10+. You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or IndieBound or look for it at your local library.

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs Book Review

Thank you to Harper Collins Kids for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Summary: Lydia knows more about death than most thirteen-year-olds. Her mother was already sick when her father left them six years ago. When her mother dies, it is Lydia who sits by her side.

Fully orphaned now, Lydia follows the plan her mother made with her. She uproots to rural Connecticut to live with her “last of kin.” Aunt Brat, her jovial wife Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord Elloroy welcome Lydia. Only days after her arrival the women adopt a big yellow dog.

Lydia is not a dog person—and this one is trouble! He pees in the house, escapes into the woods, and barks at things unseen. His new owners begin to guess about his unknown past.

Lydia doesn’t want to cause trouble for her new family—and she does not mean to keep secrets—but there are things she’s not telling . . .

….like why the box of “paper stuff” she keeps under her bed is so important…

….and why that hole in the wall behind a poster in her room is getting bigger…

…..and why something she took from the big yellow dog just might be the key to unraveling his mysterious past—but at what cost? 

Thoughts: Last year I was able to read a lot of middle grade books that really enjoyed them so I was hoping the enjoy a lot this year as well. Unfortunately I just haven’t been reading as much physical books as I would like to and I don’t really enjoy middle grade as audiobooks. I’m glad that I picked this one up though since it seems to have taken me out of the reading slump that I had been in.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, both the animals and the humans that were included. I really enjoy having dogs in books because I think that they bring something out of the people that I really like. I like when there is a similarity between the dog and the humans which in this case was how they were both brought in around the same time. I think that fact adds to how Lydia relates to this dog and how she views herself in this home.

I liked how we saw Lydia develop through the course of the book and how her relationship with the yellow dog and her new humans change. I like how you watch her grow up and how the people around her change. I thought it was important to hear her thoughts around coming to a new place and feeling like she didn’t belong, I liked seeing her struggle with the idea of making this new place her home and how that scene near the end solidifies for her what this new place means.

I really enjoyed the themes and topics that were discussed throughout the book such as friendship, death, and family. I really enjoyed how the book discusses a different type of family structure and how Lydia comes to terms with her new family.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy middle grade or have children ages 10+. I think it’s a great book for kids ages 10-14.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Aster and the Accidental Magic Book Review

Goodreads Summary

Quiet . . . birds . . . nature. . . .

That’s what Aster expects when her parents move their whole family to the middle of nowhere. It’s just her (status: super-bored), her mom and dad (status: busy with science), her brother (status: has other plans), and . . .

. . . magic?

In her new home, Aster meets a mysterious old woman with a herd of dogs who gives her a canine companion of her own. But when she and her dog Buzz are adventuring in the forest, they run into a trickster spirit who gives Aster three wishes. After wishing for the ability to understand and talk to her dog, she becomes only able to talk in dog language . . . and the trouble she gets into is just starting.

Maybe the middle of nowhere will be more interesting than Aster thought.

Thoughts: This is one that I’m glad to be able to share with my teenage cousins because its such a cute story. I love finding a book that I can share because once the other person reads it we can talk about it. I much more love finding books to share with my family to ensure that they enjoy reading as much as I do.

I love the many characters that Aster meets and the stories that happen as she meets them. I think that each teach her a lesson and each of them make me want to read more. I think that each story blends well with each other and continues the story but I also like how each story can also be read on its own.

I think this is a great middle grade read because of all the action and how quick paced it was. I also like how the story mixes the magic into a very current world and how Aster is your typical teenager. I also like that the ending kept you wanting to know what happens next. 

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy graphic novels or who are looking for a quick magical read.

I received an ARC from Harper Collins in exchange for my honest review. You can preorder this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library starting March 3rd.

Bug Boys ARC Book Review

Goodreads Summary: Rhino-B is a brash, but sweet guy. Stag-B is a calm and scholarly adventurer. Together these two young beetles make up the Bug Boys, best friends who spend their time exploring the world of Bug Village and beyond, as well as their own – sometimes confusing and complicated – thoughts and feelings.

In their first adventure, the Bug Boys travel through spooky caves, work with a spider to found a library, save their town’s popular honey supply from extinction, and even make friends with ferocious termites!

What challenges will these two earnest beetles face? Whatever it is, you can be sure that Rhino-B and Stag-B will face it together — with the power of friendship behind them.

Thoughts: This is a book that I’m going to share with my 7 year old cousin because I think he would enjoy it. I’m always on the look out for books that my younger cousins could enjoy so I was pleased to get a chance to read this. Sometimes when reading a book meant for younger children I wind up not enjoying it for myself because it isn’t meant for me but still find the beauty in the story for the age it was intended for; this book was a different story though because I liked it for myself as well.

This book is a graphic novel with different stories about friendship. I really enjoyed the length of each story because I think each of them is the perfect length to hold the attention of younger children. I like how this is a book that new readers can read and can start with a chapter a day to ease into reading.

I thought that the drawings in this book were rather cute and the characters really drew me in. The relationships that these bugs had with each other were cute and endearing.

I recommend this to those of you looking for something that new readers will enjoy or those of you looking for something to read with children ages 6 and up. You can pre-order this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library. This book is coming February 11,2020.

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Shelf Awareness Pro for the advanced reader copies.

The Best At It Book Review

Thank you to HarperCollins for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Summary: Rahul is struggling because he wants to find something that he is great at but he falls short in everything that he tries. But in trying all of these things so many more issues are showing up that he doesn’t know how to deal with, such as his OCD, his sexuality, bullying, and racism. Much of the bullying that Rahul is facing at school is due to his perceived sexuality by one student, and because Rahul is Indian. Throughout the story, Rahul learns to embrace who he is despite what others may say and come to terms with all of the differences. Will Rahul be able to find something that he is great at? Will he overcome the bullying he faces at school? What will Rahul learn about himself through this whole process?

Thoughts: I loved the way that this story dealt with so many topics without it being overwhelming for the age group that it was intended for. I loved how each of the topics was addressed by Rahul’s friends and family and how intertwined his race was with these discussions. I really liked the characters that were included and how they each made Rahul’s differences stand out more than he liked. I thought that was a great way to show the reality of situations like Rahul’s for people his age.

I thought it was so great to read about how Rahul’s Indian background informed his thinking and the things that he did. This is the first book that I’ve read in which the main character is Indian and it was great that this was an #ownvoices book because it read really authentically. I enjoyed the relationship that Rahul had with his family, especially his grandfather, Bhai, and really appreciated that the relationships he had with his family’s friends were included.

While the book was written for ages 8-12 I think that up to ages 14 would enjoy this book as well as educators who would read with their classes. I think it is also a book that adults who read middle grade would enjoy because of the topics that it covers, it really opens up those discussions with younger audiences.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.