January 2022 To Be Read

I had planned on finishing some of these during the last few days of December but just didn’t get around to it. I am about 80% into The Bone Spindle so I’m hoping to finish that before the end of this weekend. I also started Beasts of Prey a while ago but my library rental ran out so I had to put a hold on it again and it just came in. My reading goals for this year are a little different since I know school will pick up this year. I just hope to get through 1 e-book, 1 physical book, 1 audiobook, and 1 recommended from a friend off the 12 Challenge.

The Bone Spindle

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

The Last Chance Hotel

Seth is a kitchen boy at the remote Last Chance Hotel. His father has long ago left, leaving him imprisoned until he is old enough to set out on his own. If there’s any hope he has, it’s to be the greatest chef that ever lived… just like his father.

One night, a band of magicians begin to arrive to participate in a secret meeting — a Prospect Selection Procedure to determine the most talented magicians in the world, judged by their leader Dr. Thallonius. Seth has one task: to make Dr. Thallonius the greatest dessert he’s ever tasted. Then, maybe he will help Seth find a way to freedom.

But when the doors to the private meeting open, and Dr. Thallonius lay dead on the floor, the group blames the dessert, which means that it’s Seth who will pay the price. But Seth knows he’s innocent, and only has so much time to eliminate each suspect and prove his innocence.

Beasts of Prey

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home–and discover much more than they bargained for.

The Wicker King

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga Book Review

Book Description

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Review

CW: Islamophobia, War, Hate Crime Depiction, Racism

Thoughts and Themes: I had seen this book around but just hadn’t had the time to pick it up yet. I was glad to find it in the library when I was looking for quick reads to get through over the holiday break.

This book covers several different themes, it covers coming of age, family, friendship, belonging, as well as discrimination of immigrants from specific cultures and countries.

I really liked the way that this book covered coming of age for Jude and showed her trying to hold on to her old home, country, and culture but also fit in with her new culture. I thought that it was great that we got to see directly how she felt about both cultures and the way she reacts to others’ reactions to her holding onto her culture and home country.

Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Jude. You get to meet her uncle, his wife, her cousin Sarah, her friend Layla, her mom, her dad, her brother Issa, and more. I really liked each of the characters that you get to meet in this story and the role that they play in Jude’s life.

I liked getting to see the differences with Jude and her cousin. I thought it was nice for the reader to be able to see the same culture represented in two different ways through both of these characters. I think this also showed the forced assimilation of Jude’s uncle and how much he had to let go of in order to fit into his new culture. We don’t get to see or hear much about why he let go of his culture but you can see when he interacts with his sister that he still holds to his home.

I also really enjoyed getting to see Jude interacting with her new friend Layla as well as the other children in her ESL classroom. I liked how Layla’s family embraced Jude and how Layla pointed out how Jude didn’t really understand what it was like to be Muslim in America. It was sad to see the moment that Jude realized what Layla had been trying to tell her the whole time.

Writing Style: This story is told in verse through the first person point of view of Jude, who had to flee Syria with her mother due to the situation that was stirring in her country. In leaving Syria, Jude had to leave her father, brother, and several friends behind.

Author Information

Jasmine Warga is a writer from Cincinnati, Ohio who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. She is the internationally bestselling author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now. Her books have been published in over twenty-five countries and optioned for film. Her debut middle grade novel, Other Words For Home, will be published in Spring 2019. Jasmine lives in an apartment filled with books with her husband, two tiny daughters, large dog, and mischievous cat.

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar Book Review

Book Description

 coming-of-age story about transgender tween Obie, who didn’t think being himself would cause such a splash. For fans of Alex Gino’s George and Lisa Bunker’s Felix Yz.

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water–to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am always happy to see Trans books that are written by Trans people and especially when those books are meant for a younger group. I love that this book is written for middle grade and gives the experience of being Trans in middle school.

First off, I did find this book challenging to read at times as a Trans person as it does include instances of bullying and Transphobia both by Obie’s peers and adults in his life. While these parts are difficult to read, I did think that they are important topics that this book addresses. I think that the book portrays this in realistic ways and shows how difficult it could be for a Trans person to just exist much less thrive.

There was so much that I really enjoyed in this story and I am so glad that it exists for the younger generation. I loved that the author points out that there is no one way to be transgender and how this is only one story about a Transgender youth. I also like how the author constantly tells the reader through the story and in the author’s note to make sure we aren’t using other people’s words against ourselves.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to several characters through their interactions with Obie. You get to meet some people who are supportive in Obie’s life as well as others who are not as supportive.

I really liked the relationship that we get to see between Obie and each member of his family. I liked how each member of his family supports him and each of them are able to help him in different aspects of his life. I loved seeing how Obie would rely on his brother for relationship advice and loved how Jae-sung supports him through his first relationship.

I also loved the relationship between Obie and Charlie, and how Charlie was just so willing to learn. While I hated that Obie was outed to Charlie, I do like Charlie’s response in that moment and how she is able to walk Obie through that moment while allowing him to also have mixed feelings about it.

Writing Style: This story is written in first person and is told through Obie’s perspective. I really liked that we get to see everything through his point of view and follow along as he experiences different things.

Author Information

Schuyler is the first trans athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA D1 men’s team, and the only to have competed for all four years. He is an internationally-celebrated inspirational speaker and a respected advocate for inclusion, body acceptance, and mental health awareness.

Schuyler graduated from Harvard College in May 2019 with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology. His studies focused on social emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and education. He is a tireless advocate for inclusion through speaking engagements and social media. Schuyler also holds on-going advisory roles with Monte Nido & Affiliates (the leading eating disorder treatment provider), USA Swimming, the Harvard Medical School Primary Care Review – among others – and is a research assistant at Harvard University.

Spooky Reads for October 2021

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass 

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale 

A darkly funny and literary debut novel about a dead boy named Crow who has a chance at friendship – and a chance at getting his life back

Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life.

Crow Darlingson isn’t like other kids. He stinks. He’s got maggots. His body parts fall off at inopportune moments. (His mom always sews them back on, though.) And he hasn’t been able to sleep in years. Not since waking up from death.

But worse than the maggots is how lonely Crow feels. When Melody Plympton moves in next door, Crow can’t resist the chance to finally make a friend. With Melody around he may even have a shot at getting his life back from the mysterious wish-granting creature living in the park. But first there are tests to pass. And it will mean risking the only friend he’s had in years. 

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky 

New York Times –bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland 

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas 

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Squirrel Do Bad by Stephan Pastis Blog Tour Post

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the SQUIRREL DO BAD by Stephan Pastis Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Book Description

Title: SQUIRREL DO BAD (Trubble Town #1)

Author: Stephan Pastis

Pub. Date: August 31, 2021

Publisher: Aladdin

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 288

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Kindle, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

From the author of the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip and New York Times bestselling Timmy Failure series comes a laugh-out-loud, heartwarming, full-color graphic novel series about a quirky town—just right for young readers starting to read longer books! Wendy the Wanderer has lived in Trubble Town her whole life but never had the chance to go exploring. For this reason, she thinks she was definitely misnamed. Her dad likes to know where she is to make sure she’s safe, so she’s never been anywhere on her own. Then, her dad leaves on a trip and the babysitter doesn’t reinforce all the usual rules. Or any of the usual rules! Suddenly, Wendy is free to do what she wants, and what she wants is to live up to her name…and find Trubble. Turns out, there’s lots going on in Trubble Town. As she encounters endearingly goofy animals and hilariously hapless townsfolk, Wendy’s very first adventure takes more twists and turns than she could have ever expected. She learns some really valuable life lessons and even teaches a few of her own.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I tend to enjoy reading middle grade graphic novels since they tend to be funny and cute in their own way and this was no different. I think that grades 2-5 would really enjoy this type of book and the randomness of each of the stories. I think the ending of each of the chapters would intrigue them as well rather than my reaction of ummmm why did that just happen?

I love how all the important people in this town are all animals and how few of the characters involved are people. It just makes for an interesting story as you wonder if this is an imaginary town that the girl made up because she is trapped inside due to the protective father.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to Wendy who is one of the main characters of the story but there are portions in which you think that Squirrely is our main character. I really enjoyed the chapters that focused on the Squirrel and the way the people in Trubble Town thought of him as a nuisance.

While the whole thing seems very random, there are pieces in the chapters that connect the characters together. That was something that I really enjoyed about this book, I liked how there was something that connected the whole book together rather than it seeming like random snippets of a story.

Writing and Art Style: I really liked how this story goes from one box to another and it makes it easy to follow. I also like the way each of the characters are drawn and how easy it is to tell each of them apart from one another.

Something else that I liked about this book was the chapter names since I thought they were each unique and funny. I liked that they aren’t clear about what is going to happen in each chapter as it adds to the randomness of this book.

Author Information

STEPHAN PASTIS is an attorney turned cartoonist. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the UCLA School of Law, he worked as a lawyer before trying his hand at cartooning. Pastis lives in the Bay Area, with his wife and two children.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

Giveaway Details

3 winners will receive a finished copy of SQUIRREL DO BAD, US ONLY.

Enter Here

Tour Schedule

Week One:

8/2/2021Don’t Judge, ReadReview
8/2/2021BookHounds YAExcerpt
8/3/2021@curlygrannylovestoreadReview
8/3/2021Little Red ReadzReview
8/4/2021Rajiv’s ReviewsReview
8/4/2021Unconventional Quirky BibliophileReview
8/5/2021PickagoodbookReview
8/5/2021onemusedReview
8/6/2021A Gingerly ReviewExcerpt
8/6/2021Jazzy Book ReviewsReview

Week Two:

8/9/2021@fictitious.foxReview
8/9/2021Fyrekatz BlogReview
8/10/2021Adrianna.readsReview
8/10/2021Feed Your Fiction AddictionReview
8/11/2021booksaremagictooReview
8/11/2021Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
8/12/2021#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee BlogExcerpt
8/12/2021The Momma SpotReview
8/13/2021Locks, Hooks and BooksReview
8/13/2021Two Points of InterestReview
8/13/2021Two Chicks on BooksExcerpt

The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith Book Review

Book Description

After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I am so glad that I picked this book up randomly at the library when I saw it. I really enjoyed so much about this book and am glad I took the chance with it. I really didn’t expect a middle-grade novel to be this emotional and hard-hitting.

I really enjoyed the way this book covers Grayce’s exploration of her gender. I thought that this was done in a good manner and I liked how supportive everyone was of her exploration.

I liked the magic elements that are include din this story but I wanted more of the world-building. I wanted more of why the Communion of Blue exists and the different types of girls that are in there. This is a short book so I understand that it couldn’t cover everything, so I hope that we get to see more of these characters and this world.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to a few different characters through their interactions with the main characters, Grayce and Hawke. I liked each of the characters that you meet in the Communion of Blue and how they worked with Grayce and Hawke to avenge their family.

Writing and Art Style: I really enjoyed the colors that were included in this story and how distinct it was when they were in the Communion of Blue vs being in other settings. I loved how vibrant the different shades of Blue were and how using only a few shades of colors, really catches your eye.

Author Information

Artist, writer, lover of fine comics (and some pretty trashy ones too). Niki Smith grew up in Kansas and now calls Germany home, and is dedicated to filling the world with queer and diverse stories.

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale Book Review

Author Information

Laurel Gale writes books for children. Her middle grade novels include Dead Boy and Story Magic. She lives with her husband and their ferrets in Washington. In addition to writing, she enjoys hiking, playing board games, and reading. She loves animals and is easily distracted by squirrels. You can visit Laurel online at laurelgale.com or on Twitter at @laurel_gale.

Book Description

A darkly funny and literary debut novel about a dead boy named Crow who has a chance at friendship – and a chance at getting his life back

Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a life.

Crow Darlingson isn’t like other kids. He stinks. He’s got maggots. His body parts fall off at inopportune moments. (His mom always sews them back on, though.) And he hasn’t been able to sleep in years. Not since waking up from death.

But worse than the maggots is how lonely Crow feels. When Melody Plympton moves in next door, Crow can’t resist the chance to finally make a friend. With Melody around he may even have a shot at getting his life back from the mysterious wish-granting creature living in the park. But first there are tests to pass. And it will mean risking the only friend he’s had in years.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I found this book in the pile of books my cousins have and since it was the closest to me I started reading it. I was invested in the poor lonely main character from the first few pages so I rented the audiobook from the library.

This is a cute middle grade read that I think children ages 10+ would enjoy but its also a great story for adults to read. I really like how this book feels a lot like frankenweenie or monster house. I found that this book read like a middle grade horror story which isn’t too scary for children but includes a bit of the mystery that is fun to read.

Characters: Right from the start we feel bad for our main character because he’s dead but some how is still alive. I felt bad for him because his parents only want to protect him from everyone but he wants to get to live the life he has now been given. All Crow wants is the chance to make friends with other kids his age, and he gets that chance when he meets Melody.

Writing Style: This book is written in third person through the perspective of Crow. I really liked that the story was told through Crow’s perspective because it read like a middle schooler and you can feel his pain throughout the story. I also really liked how you could feel how lonely he felt through each scene and how he felt about his particular situation.

I listened to this one on audio and really enjoyed the narrator to the story. I liked how easy it was to listen to and follow along with. I liked that you could tell which character was the one speaking and how they each had a distinct tone.

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong Blog Tour Post

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER by BonHyung Jeong Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Author Information

BonHyung Jeong (Bon) studied Cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and Kyle’s Little Sister is her debut graphic novel, made possible with the help of numerous people. She hopes to make connections with others through relatable stories. Currently living in Korea, she’s always busy playing console games – exactly like someone in the book!

Instagram | Goodreads

Book Description

Title: KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER

Author: BonHyung Jeong

Pub. Date: June 22, 2021

Publisher: JY

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 240

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!” Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

Giveaway Information

3 winners will receive a finished copy of KYLE’S LITTLE SISTER, US Only.

You can enter HERE!

Review

Themes and Thoughts: I really enjoy reading middle grade books and graphic novels are the best because they are quick to read and easy to get through. I really enjoyed how short each of these chapters are and how this book focuses on friendship and family relationships. I liked getting a chance to see the main character’s feelings about being Kyle’s little sister and loved how the characters read as their age.

While this book focuses on relationships with people and how those shift during middle school. I liked that both of our characters are in middle school so we get to see how siblings feel towards each other, both one being a younger sibling and the other as an older sibling. I also really liked how we got to see both sides of their sibling relationship, so we see them fighting but we also see the love that they have for each other.

Characters: I loved getting the chance to meet Grace and Kyle through this book and liked the interactions that we get of them with their set of friends. I liked how we see how Kyle’s friends see Grace as his little sister and even some of her new friends view her this way. I liked getting to see how Grace’s friends don’t view her this way even if she worries that everyone only liked her because of her relationship to Kyle.

Writing Style/Art: I decided that in order to keep my review style the same, I would use this area to comment on both the writing as well as the art style when talking about graphic novels. I thought that the art was really cute and I liked how child like the characters look. There was never a time in which I confused the age for the characters and I also liked how diverse the characters were. I liked how each of the side characters looked different from each other.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold Book Review

Author Information

Hannah Gold worked in the film and magazine industries before taking time out to pursue her dream of writing. She lives in Lincolnshire with her tortoise, her cat and her husband. This is her middle grade debut.

Book Description

In this instant literary classic about friendship, forging your own path, and doing what’s right, debut author Hannah Gold inspires fans of Pax and A Wolf Called Wander to make a difference in any way they can.

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to a faraway Arctic outpost.

But one night, April catches a glimpse of something distinctly bear shaped loping across the horizon. A polar bear who shouldn’t be there—who is hungry, lonely and a long way from home.

Fusing environmental awareness with a touching story of kindness, The Last Bear will include full-page black-and-white illustrations as well as a note from the author with facts about the real Bear Island and the plight of the polar bears.

Review

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

Thoughts and Themes: This book tackles several themes throughout the story but the main one is of climate change. I think that this book also focuses on family and friendship throughout the story and have found these to be prominent themes in middle grade books.

I really like how this book focuses on climate change and shows this through the polar bear in this story. I like how you see not just the polar bear but also hear the conversations that April has with her dad about the weather. I like that we get to have the dad explain what his job is at this place and how the changes in the weather affect the rest of the world.

I would recommend this to those of you looking for something to read with your children, or something that your kids could read. This book is a great introduction to environmental issues for children ages 7+.

Characters: Throughout this story you are introduced to three main characters and a few side characters. The side characters add a little bit to the story and assist in moving the story forward but they are there as filler. The important characters are April, an eleven year old girl, her dad, and Bear.

I liked the relationship that was depicted between April and Bear throughout this story and how it slowly developed over time. I thought the story between April and Bear felt like something completely out of this world which made it such a good story. I liked that it felt like we were in a different world whenever these two interacted with each other and liked how much love was put into their relationship.

Writing Style: This story is told through third person through April’s perspective. I really liked how we were seeing things through her perspective and how small she was in comparison to the space she was in. I liked that we got to feel small along with her through her interactions with Bear and also with her dad. I thought that having the story told in her perspective really added another layer to the whole thing and made it feel imaginary at some times.

Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman

Thank you to the author for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author Information

Laura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based arts publicist and author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., was released in September 2020 by INtense Publications and will be followed by a sequel in 2021. Having grown up in Southern California with parents who valued reading, she remains spellbound by kidlit. Some of her favorite middle grade novels, then and now, are The Diamond in the Window, Ellen Tebbits,
All of A Kind Family, Wonder, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Miraculous. Laura’s non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York, and her feature stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways Magazine and Christian Science Monitor, among others. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC, which has represented a wide-ranging client list of businesses, arts organizations and
non-profit events over the years. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama. Laura and her husband live in Los Angeles and part-time in New York City. She loves reading, L.A. Dodgers baseball, classical music and theater.

Book Description

Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices. As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.

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Review

Thoughts and Themes: I think that this book is great for middle grade readers ages 10+. The fantasy elements to this story were really great and I loved the message that it taught in the end. I think this is a great book for young readers to read on their own or for a parent to read with their child. I also liked that this is a story that adults could enjoy and find things to take away as well.

I really enjoyed that this story teaches kids to embrace themselves and their differences. I like that it also shows the positive effect that friendship can have on someone and how your friends are there to support you when things are hard. I liked that the three children each had something different that they had to overcome yet these things brought them together.

Characters: There are three main characters, Darby, Justin, and Naz. You are also introduced to Mr. Usher and his children throughout the story. I really liked how Mr. Usher was introduced to the story and how these children build a relationship with him. I liked how the friendship between the children and Mr. Usher is developed and how he is used as a way to support them.

I also really liked the interactions that the children have with others at their camp. I thought it was great to see them overcome their challenges not just with each other but with other children. I liked that we got to see two settings in this story and not just the portion with Mr. Usher.

Writing Style: This story is told in third person and gives you three different main view points along with side viewpoints as well. It also goes back and forth from the present times and showing you some of the past with Mr. Usher’s children. I thought that it was great to see each of the children’s perspectives and see how different they were from each other yet how similar they were. I did find the pieces with the adults to be a little distracting from the rest of the story and could see children not being intrigued by those portions. I think that there isn’t too much of it though which was a plus for me and the parts that the adults interact with the children make the story come together.