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Book Blitz, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The Supernatural Pet Sitter

 

The Supernatural Pet Sitter
(The Magic Thief, #1)

by Diane Moat
Publication date: March 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Middle-Grade

Every animal can talk to you. You just have to know how to listen.

Pepper Neely is better at this than most, especially because she is in charge of pet sitting all the familiars in her neighborhood. A familiar is a pet magically linked to a witch or warlock. As a gnome, Pepper is no stranger to spells and sorcery. She also knows that, despite their special name, familiars aren’t all that different from regular animals. They get anxious when separated from their people, so Pepper uses her special gnome powers to calm them down. She watches Cranky the high-strung ferret, Frank the laid-back parrot, King Arthur the elderly tortoise, and many others.

Then, something terrible begins happening to the familiars. Someone is stealing their magic! It not only prevents Pepper from communicating with them but breaks their magical connection with their people. When King Arthur’s magic is stolen, his owner’s powers stop working too. Pepper can sense that the tortoise is very scared.

In order to protect the animal’s magic, Pepper decides to track down the culprit. With the help of her best friend, Luna, and her brother, Jax, Pepper fights to protect all of the special pets.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Familiars don’t do well when they are separated from their witches. That was how Pepper got into the business of pet sitting. Gnomes have a low-level connection with all supernatural animals. Gnomes are kind of like the Dog Whisperer, except that they communicate well with Familiars, basilisks (a magical lizard), unicorns and so on, rather than the more usual “pets”.

Pepper’s business of helping witches by taking care of their Familiars had boomed over the past year. Thank goodness she wasn’t sitting for the McCrorys last month when “it” happened.

Mr. McCrory was an accountant and Mrs. McCrory worked part-time at the downtown Dewitt Mall. Their two kids lived away at college. Mrs. M’s Familiar was a huge, bright-green-and-blue parrot named Frank. Pepper had only checked on the parrot once when the McCrorys drove their kids to their out-of-state campus several months earlier. Frank didn’t cause any trouble, so the job was easy money.

Supposedly, Mrs. M was at work one day last month when she had a “bad feeling” that prompted her to go home to check on Frank. The house seemed undisturbed, and everything looked fine at first. But when Mrs. M went to Frank’s cage, she found him looking away from her. He wouldn’t even turn around when she called his name. When she walked around the cage to greet Frank face-to-face, he had only ducked and bobbed his head the way a normal parrot would. But Frank wasn’t normal.

Next, Mrs. M had reached out to the Familiar with her magic, but got no response from him. Not only that, but she said she had trouble focusing, and even her own magic had felt weak. With hands trembling, she had picked up Frank to try again. Nothing. Since that day, Frank’s magic was gone, and Mrs. M’s magic was broken.

 

 

Author Bio:

Diane is a Tennessee transplant, animal rescuer, and nurse. Dog Gone is her debut novel, born from years of hearing animal rescuers say about animal abusers, “If only I could get my hands on that person…” Diane is assisted by her many rescue dogs.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

 

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34

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone: An Adorable, Sassy, Hilarious Read!

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The Charming Life of Izzy Malone

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.

But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously.

When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”

Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.

Middle Grade/Contemporary
Simon & Schuster / Aladdin M!X Publishing
Expected Publication Date:  November 29th, 2016
274 Pages
Preorder a copy here!

4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: oh my penguins, this read is SO adorable; poignant, powerful, poetic prose; the morals and statements this book makes are ground-breaking; this is a book the whole world needs to read; quirky, endearing characters; a wide range of subjects and focuses; Jenny Lundquist just jumped to the top of my “need to read more of” list

So many HUGE thanks to Jenny Lundquist and Simon & Schuster / Aladdin M!X Publishing for sending me a free ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

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You know, penguins… I really ought to read more middle grade. Every time I finish a midgrade novel, I tell myself this. And every time….I somehow wind up forgetting, until the next time I pick up another midgrade. I just honestly…there’s something SO fun, and innocent, and awesome about middle grade novels. They’re ALWAYS more focused on the morals than on romance (because duh, at this age most kids still believe the opposite sex has cooties). This book by Jenny Lundquist? Reminded me once again why I fell in love with midgrade, and CONTINUE to fall in love with it.

 

 

These characters are vibrant. They are loud. They are all quirky in their ways, and self-conscious, and confused, and conflicted. There are so many emotions, there is SO MUCH human nature, playing throughout this entire journey…and yet every word, every smear of ink, is there for a purpose. Every sentence sets the tone, makes a statement, and left me breathless–which is why, when it came time for me to choose my quotes for this review, I struggled. I had NINE quotes bookmarked. I couldn’t help but add every single one of them to goodreads after finishing–Jenny Lundquist’s words are just too powerful, too poignant, to remain unread.

 

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I absolutely adored the “pen pal” aspect of this novel. In an age where writing physical letters has devolved into emails and monosyllabic text messages… Well, I can imagine the letters featured in this book–and the relationship built around the sending and receiving of them–was something truly special. The fact that someone went out of their way to listen to, and validate, Izzy in ways she’s never really gotten before… that just made it better, in my mind. And the prose is so gorgeously poetic, it called for letters–for an outlet where the abstract, instead of the realistic, could come out to play more. Because Izzy is, in the end, in middle school–and still bursting with creative potential.

 

 

And the morals–the morals and the statements this read makes are SO super important. I feel this, in particular, is a book that the whole world needs to read–ESPECIALLY right now, with all the hatred that’s flying around. Ideas include: bullying; remaining true to yourself; being kind to others; familial love; standing tall under pressure… I mean, I could keep going, but there are a LOT of morals floating in these pages…and each one is important. Each one is poignant, and powerful, and NEEDING to be read.

 

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This was a super entertaining, humorous, fantastic read! The cover is also super adorable, though you won’t necessarily understand all of the artwork until you turn the last page. The characters are charming and vibrantly unique; the focus on relationships and morals is engaging and heart-wrenching; and I have, I fear (though “fear” isn’t quite the right word!) discovered a new author to devour. I recommend this to literally everyone, but especially: lovers of midgrade; those who sometimes forget how unique and special they are; and those who enjoy snarky, sassy characters. I cannot wait to pick up my next Jenny Lundquist book; I only regret not having done so sooner!

1

The Bone Sparrow: Poetic Prose, Heart-Breaking Plot

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The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

Middle Grade/Diverse Reads/Contemporary
240 Pages
Disney-Hyperion Publishing
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Get a copy here!

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: GOODNESS, this book is so important; diverse characters/settings; this is a mid-grade novel with HUGE bite; super important moral/societal statements are made throughout this read; I just… I can’t find the right words; this is a MUST read; gorgeous, poetic, lyrical prose

Huge thanks to Zana Fraillon, Disney-Hyperion Publishing, and Netgalley for granting me free access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

I want to start this review off… with the dedication, because it’s gorgeous, and says so much in so little about what readers will find between these pages (or, at least, a small part of what they’ll find):

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Penguins… If you haven’t picked up a Disney-Hyperion book in the last year, you need to drop whatever you’re doing and GO DO IT. Right now. Go on. I’ll wait right here. Seriously, I have read a good number of books from them this year so far, and every. single. one. has pushed me, challenged me, and shown me the world from unexpected and diverse perspectives. Disney-Hyperion strives not just to bring a beautiful story to readers…but to shove readers off the cliff of comfort and make them see the world differently.

This book is no different in this regard, though it might be my favorite one so far this year. This is a middle grade read with a HUGE amount of bite, guys–this book sucks you in with the lyrical, gorgeous prose…and holds you hostage throughout. Subhi immediately endeared himself to me–his voice is unique, often hilarious, and (for a large portion of this read, at least) filled with that which so many of us go seeking in our later years: hope. This book takes a challenging, important societal flaw and puts it under a microscope–and forces readers to step outside their comfort zone in the process.

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Zana Fraillon broke me into a thousand tiny penguin pieces with this book, guys–and I am honestly just SO awed and glad to have been given the chance to experience this. The characters and setting are diverse and hard-hitting; the plot, while filled with the naive humor of children and told from a young perspective, takes on a dark and hopeless tone throughout. But above all else, this book makes you ask WHY.

There is a lot of abstract imagery and oral-narrative feel to the prose, so I suppose this isn’t the book for everyone. Personally, I adore stories that are poetic and haunting and abstract–they allow me to see the world in my own way, while still seeing it from another’s eyes. And when handed a topic as important–as heart breaking–as this one, sometimes the more abstract the better. This doesn’t mean the book shies away from the hard truths, or sugarcoats–it doesn’t. Not once. These characters are handed some terrible situations; they fight for their lives, for their memories, and for their rights to be seen, to be heard, to EXIST.

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Just… trust me, penguins. Disney-Hyperion is doing beautiful things with their books lately, and I’m loving every single journey. If you’ll let them, books like this will open your eyes…and put a fire in your soul. If you’ll let them, books like this will change you for the better. I recommend this to lovers of lyrical prose, hard-hitting middle grade novels, and beautifully diverse reads with important things to say. I cannot wait to see what Disney-Hyperion–and Zana Fraillon!–do next. For now, I’m off to sweep my pieces off the floor and attempt to put myself back together.

2

Wildwood: Coyotes, Bandits, and Bloodthirsty Ivy

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Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #1)

The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Wildwood is the first in a planned trilogy.

Wildwood Chronicles #1
540 Pages
Fantasy/Middle Grade
Balzer + Bray Publications
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: lyrical, melodic, atmospheric prose; beautifully vivid descriptions and scenes; a few parts of this seemed to drag; quirky, unique cast of characters; vibrant, well-rounded emotions and situations; action-packed and decently paced plot

The illustrations that accompany this story are WONDERFUL, guys–seriously! They are so filled with intricate, delicate details and movement, you’ll feel as if you’ve crash-landed into the middle of the scenes being depicted each time you stumble across a new one. Carson Ellis did a masterful job combining elements of the narrative with his own personal artistic flair, and helped to bring this story more fully to life for me, so huge hats off to the artist!

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First off: this book was not quite what I was expecting, going in. I mean… I’m not rightly sure what I WAS expecting, but a battle between bandits, coyotes, and bloodthirsty ivy was definitely not it. This book has a smattering of dark and realistic undertones that both enthralled me and pushed me away in turn…and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!

The characters are vibrant and unique, a motley cast of personalities that was both a blur of chaos and a mixed bag of entertainment. I don’t feel as if we really got a SENSE for many of the characters, however–most of them, in the long run, fell a bit flat overall, instead relying heavily on the cliches of their roles to carry them through and/or “round” them out. The only characters I feel we really got an HONEST sense for were Prue, Curtis, and Alexandra–and even they, at times, felt a bit stiff and formal to me.

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The language was also pretty heavy-handed; while I enjoy the lyrical or melodic prose, this book felt a bit TOO overdone in places, and instead became a hindrance instead of an enjoyment. Certain scenes, therefore, felt a bit like I was slogging my way through a bog–a bit heavily weighted, a bit slow to the point. These moments were ones where I found the book to be a bit dragging–a lacking of, I suppose, the type of adventure and action I had fully expected to come across when opening this book.

However, the plot IS full of action, and there are plenty of battle scenes and snarky moments to go around. I especially loved watching how the inhabitants of Wildwood reacted to and interacted with Prue and Curtis; it was in these moments I found the most character growth, the most pertinent pieces of information. And there is, of course, a sort of Narnia-esque feel to this read in general.

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Overall, I enjoyed this read, though it wasn’t quite as full of adventure as I’d been expecting. The illustrations and artwork are beautiful and delicately done, matching well with the vibrant and clashing personalities of the characters we meet throughout the journey. I definitely recommend this to lovers of mid-grade novels; Narnia; and snarky, headstrong female protagonists. There’s an understated magic to this book; perhaps you should give it a try!

4

Blog Tour (Review): The Voyage to Magical North

The Voyage to Magical North
by Claire Fayers
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: July 5th 2016
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Childrens, Pirates, Fiction
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Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.
When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship theOnion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.
I live in South Wales, birthplace of the famous pirate, Henry Morgan. I used to work at Cardiff University, first in health and safety (you will notice that my pirates fight VERY safely) and then in the university science library. Now I write full-time at home with my husband and my two cats, usually stopped every chapter or two to let them in or out of the door. (My cats, not my husband: he can already open doors.)
In my free time, I like skiing, flying kites, and music – I can play the cello a bit and I’m learning the piano. I enjoy gardening and grow a lot of fruit and veg so if I come to visit you don’t be surprised if I bring a jar of jam.

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4Penguins
Quick Reasons: well first and most importantly, there are magical zombie flesh-eating penguins in this book!; awesome action/adventure story mixed with oral narratives and sea folklore; terrifying, creatively unique world-building; spine-chilling villains; great coming-of-age narrative with some heart-bending, wise moments; this was such a fun read!

HUGE thanks to Claire Fayers, Henry Holt and Co Publishing, Netgalley and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for setting me up with an advanced copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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First things first: THAT COVER! Penguins, is that cover gorgeous! I mean seriously, just LOOK at it–you get the gist of this story without even having to crack open the cover, and I just adore when book designers manage to do that so beautifully. I knew, before I even read the synopsis, that I needed to read this book–and I am so so pleased to say I wasn’t wrong.

This mid-grade novel is at turns darkly humorous and incredibly terrifying. There’s so much snark being flung between the pages, I feared I might drown in it if I weren’t careful–and yet each character, in turn, is brought into a darker, scarier light…before finding that middle ground I so love in character development. That moment where the lightbulb blinks on, and I realize I know them exactly as I should. Basically, these characters are hilarious, and witty, and SO full of vibrant life I found myself wanting to be them throughout the read–or, at the very least, to know them.

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This book is also filled with realistic relationships and wholly natural, completely HUMAN doubts/fears. Each character is 3D–crafted and molded with the story, instead of feeling like paper dolls shoved in for entertainment purposes. No character is “just” anything–each is individualized, equally important, and entertaining or terrifying in their own rights. Each character is COMPLEX…and I appreciated that so, so much. In a book such as this, sometimes character development falls to the wayside to give emphasis to the adventure. Claire Fayers, instead, made each equally weighted and important, giving readers a well-rounded, awesomely enthralling book!

The plot is not lacking on the action/adventure front. This book begins with a bang, and doesn’t let up until the very end. Claire Fayers took well-known sea folklore and molded it with (and around!) the magic of this world. Her narrative is both convincingly real and utterly fantastic, leaving little room for readers to question the story or become lost in the details. The world is both very similar to our own…and yet, somehow, still vastly different. Well-known animals (I mentioned the flesh-eating penguins above!) are both very easy to “see” as their realistic counterparts…and terrifyingly, drastically changed to suit the story.

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This was, overall, a fantastically magical and entertaining read, and I cannot WAIT for you guys to pick it up! Not only is the cover beautiful–the story, the characters, the snark and the wisdom all come together to make a cohesive, enthralling journey. I definitely recommend this book to lovers of magical realism, sea voyages, and coming-of-age narratives. If those things appeal to you, or if this review sounds like your type of book, PICK IT UP!

2

Book Tour (Review), Excerpt, and Giveaway: Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stones

Sticks & Stones

A feel-good middle grade debut with just a hint of magic about a girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body.

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.


Excerpt:

WORDS

Some people don’t think that one word can make a difference.

They’re wrong.

Sure, some words need to be around other words to make sense. They need to hang out together in a book or a song or a text message, or else you’re stuck wrinkling your nose like HUH? That doesn’t make any sense.

But some words don’t need others. They have big-time serious meaning all by themselves.

I knew that better than anyone.

Like when it came to talking about me going to middle school this year. Mom said it would be different. Dr. Patel said it would be challenging. Dad said it would be fine.

They just needed one word each to sum up what they thought a whole year would be like … and, so far, they were right.

One word nobody used, though? Mysterious.

And right now, that was the most important word of all.

I reached into my pocket and dug around until I found the folded blue paper again. Maybe it was a letter from a secret admirer or a gift certificate to Soup Palace, otherwise known as the Best Place on Earth.

Maybe it was nothing at all.

But it had to be something. It had my name on the front, after all, and was taped to my locker. I was dying to open it, but even if I found a way to read it sneakily, Ms. Sigafiss would probably see me and read it to everyone or rip it up or something. And that was if she was in a good mood.

I looked around the room, thinking about words.

Different.

Challenging.

Fine.

Mysterious.

They were just words, but they could change my whole life.

In fact, they already had.

 

Text copyright © 2016 by Abby Cooper

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Prize: Win (1) of (10) finished copies of STICKS & STONES by Abby Cooper (US Only)–Click the Image!

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: oh. my. penguins!; topics covered in this book: chronic illness, different family dynamics, bullying, friendship, growth and changes, self-acceptance, self-love, depression (in a more subtle way); this is mid-grade, but something I feel EVERYONE should read; snarky, sassy, stubbornly awesome character; reading from Elyse’s POV was like finding my way into myself

Huge thanks, first off, to Abby Cooper; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Publishing; and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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And let me just say, guys, in the words of Elyse herself–HOLY HIGH HEELS, this book is so freaking great! First off, our MC: Elyse is so snarky, and darkly-humorous, and just in general a fantastic character. I had a TON of fun reading from her point of view, mostly because it was a bit like stepping into myself–from the outside. I was granted a glimpse into who I imagine a lot of people see when looking at ME…and it was hilarious, endearing, and sort of enlightening all at the same time. I stepped outside of myself for almost 300 pages…and had several things I learned the hard way, years ago, reaffirmed.

 

This book is SO super important, especially in regards to chronic illness. There were SO many moments I stopped and thought, “Yes. YES, exactly that!” Elyse does not just find a way to manage her disease at the end of this book–she takes it by the stubborn horns and takes charge of it. There are just so many wonderful, powerful messages in this book that I feel a large audience can empathize with and relate to–and most especially those who, like me, have had to reconfigure and rediscover themselves in the face of a chronic illness. But also, people who perhaps are not as close to this as we are every day–they, too, will be reshaped from this read, and will (hopefully!) think of the world in a much different way. Elyse’s chronic illness is not, perhaps, as “life-threatening” as others out there…but it’s just as stressful, just as disheartening, just as much a factor in her day-to-day.

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Of course, a book is not a successful book without some pretty awesome side characters tagging along–and Abby Cooper wrote some EPIC personalities to match, keep up with, and challenge Elyse throughout her journey. Every character is written to come off one way…and then rediscovered in the flash of inspiration, rewritten in an instant (or, at least, poised in an entirely different way). This might be mid-grade, but there is so much more going on than whining and complaining (though that does happen, too).

 

I think, though, it’s the morals that really made this book for me. There are some pretty tough subjects brought up: bullying; self-acceptance; friendship; self-love. Depression, though not as strongly done, also makes an appearance. Readers are reminded, through a series of complex events, that in some way, we’re all wearing masks while in public. Readers are reminded that sometimes, the surface is ONLY that–the surface. Readers are asked to remember to always, ALWAYS look deeper–the truth isn’t always as easily revealed as the pulling up of a sleeve.

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This book is, in my opinion, so super important–both for younger and older readers alike. The humor is sharp, poignant, and at times surprisingly dark. Elyse is a character both enlightening and entertaining, who brings a ton of morals and growth to herself AND her readers. I definitely recommend this read to lovers of mid-grade, contemporary, and self-discovery. This is a one-sitting read, guys–why don’t you pick it up and dive in? You’re bound to find something to love.

3

Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket: Just don’t Take the Sass and Snark

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Are you ready for Ivy Pocket? The wickedly funny, completely unreliable maid of no importance returns—this time as a coffin maker’s daughter—in this action-packed sequel to Anyone but Ivy Pocket. School Library Journal says, “Fans of . . . Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will love Ivy Pocket’s zany adventures.” Featuring extensive black-and-white interior art by Barbara Cantini throughout.

Everyone seems to want a piece of Ivy Pocket. Her adoptive parents keep trying to get her to clean the funeral home, even though Ivy’s certain she’s already the picture of a perfect daughter. A beautiful heiress named Estelle wants Ivy to uncover the dark truth behind her brother’s death. Her new friend, Miss Carnage, keeps asking Ivy the most curious questions (the poor, clueless dear). To top it all off, Ivy must protect the Clock Diamond from the evil Miss Always, who seems to be lurking around every corner!

A fast-paced and hilarious follow-up to Anyone but Ivy Pocket, which Booklist praised as “a droll chapter book with a Victorian setting and a one-of-a-kind protagonist.” This is the second of three books about Ivy Pocket!

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: more snark from Ivy Pocket, with just a hint of emotional growth/maturity; there seemed a bit less action/adventure in this installment; the twists weren’t quite such a mystery this round; cute prose, adorably dark characters, beautiful illustrations; I still love Ivy’s “medical remedies”

Huge thanks to Caleb Krisp and HarperCollins Publishers for sending me an early ARC of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this title.

Due to this, however, I will not be including quotes from this novel in this review. This is to keep myself, the author, and the publishers from getting into any sort of legal trouble that may arise from including said quotes without proper checking in the finished publication. I hope you guys don’t mind!

 

Once again, Ivy Pocket took me on a wildly humorous and strangely dark journey. Once again…I adored every moment of it, though I think I’m going to have to buy the finished product in order to see all the awesome illustrations I missed out on! Seriously, the artist for these novels does a beautiful job; the illustrations always highlight specific small moments of the story, and also make me chuckle. I can’t wait to see the rest of them in the final publication; I’m sure I won’t be disappointed!

As always, there were several unexpected twists and turns to the prose, though I felt like the action/adventure portion was a bit less in this installment than in the first read. It wasn’t stilted in any way—the read was still quick, lively, and entertaining—but I didn’t feel as if AS MUCH were happening to Ivy. This is possibly due to several things: 1. She knows better how to use and control the Clock Diamond; 2. She has grown and matured a bit with the loss of her dear friend, Rebecca; and 3. She isn’t trying nearly as hard to impress everybody, as she’s found herself a family to stay with.

 

Of course…in Ivy Pocket’s world, nothing is as simple as it seems, and there are dangers and dastardly consequences lurking around every corner. I still adore Ivy’s personality; the snark and sass were just as prominent here. She still always does the unexpected, especially when delivering “medical remedies” to other characters. She still made me giggle like a maniac several times during the read.

Overall, this installment was adorable. The journey was wild, dark in all the right ways, and still humorous—I don’t know how Caleb Krisp manages this, but he does it wonderfully. I really enjoyed this ARC, and can’t wait to get my hands on the finished product—and on book 3! I definitely recommend to lovers of sassy characters, dark humor, and gorgeous illustrations. Pick this series up, guys—and somebody, stop Ivy Pocket!

13

Ivy Pocket: Heroine of Snark

Penguin2.3

Anyone but Ivy Pocket

Goodreads Rating: 3.74 Stars
387 Pages
HarperCollins Publishing
Get a copy here!

Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy’s companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to … until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity.

For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess’s most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It’s not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.

Illustrated in humorous gothic detail by Barbara Cantini,Anyone But Ivy Pocket is just the beginning of one girl’s deadly comic journey to discover who she really is …

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: quirky, snarky, awesome characters; this story kept me on my toes; Ivy Pocket ALWAYS does the unexpected!; I laughed out loud way too many times; the illustrations are both gorgeous and entertaining; the prose is witty, full of attitude, and ever surprising

Huge thanks to Caleb Krisp and HarperCollins Publishers for sending me a hardcover copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

IP Quote1

THIS BOOK! This book is absolutely adorable and dark and quirky and filled with attitude and…if I don’t stop listing off the things I like about it, I’ll never actually write my review, so let’s jump into this! First and foremost: the illustrations. The illustrations are absolutely GORGEOUS, yet also filled with personality. I really enjoyed that the illustration at the beginning of this book (“I have all the natural instincts of…” followed by a word or phrase) plays into each and every chapter in some way—because Ivy Pocket is nothing but confident in herself and her “abilities!” I really enjoyed that the chapter header images, also, played a huge role in the read—namely, they gave me a small glimpse into whatever chaos or shenanigans were about to befall our MC.

Ivy Pocket is a character I never knew I needed SO BADLY to read about. She’s a confident, snarky, imaginative 12 year old orphan, working as a maid. I mean, let’s just start there, okay? She’s 12! But her attitude? Her attitude is bigger than MINE, and I absolutely loved every single moment. I basked in her self assurance. I bathed in her snark. I need to take a lesson from Miss Pocket; she could teach me a thing or fifty about loving myself. I just think she is exactly the type of wonderful character little girls need to be reading—for her confidence. For her love in herself.

IP Quote3

Of course, the other characters are just as brilliantly written, though as this is from Ivy’s perspective, I think readers get rather a…caricature image of most of them. While the snark is on point, I feel like perhaps Ivy is a bit jaded where other people are concerned—and very quick to jump to judgments, at least at the beginning of this read. BUT—she’s 12! I remember being just as cynical and presumptous at that age, so it’s realistic.

This story overall is playful, dark, sometimes disturbing (think Neil Gaiman’s Coraline), full of witty snark, and positively entertaining—I laughed out loud for a good majority of the read, which doesn’t happen often! The characters (especially Miss Pocket) never do exactly what you think they’re going to; the prose keeps you on your toes (HAH, rhyme-win!). I was engrossed from beginning to end, and cannot wait to dive into the second book in this series!

IP Quote2

The only downside? This is meant to be a four-novel set. Which means a bit of waiting is in my future, I’m afraid. I’m more than willing to take this journey, though—Ivy Pocket is a fascinating, awesome character, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for her! I recommend this book to lovers of mid-grade, Neil Gaiman, and Lemony Snicket. You’ll SOB from laughing so hard during this read! This is definitely a book you don’t want to miss!

23

A Review of A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

Penguin2.3

A Monster Calls

Goodreads Rating: 4.29 Stars
240 Pages
Walker Children’s Hardbacks Publishing
Get a copy here!

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

– – – – –

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: oh PENGUINS, this book hurt!; I understand why so many people cry while reading, I almost did myself; beautiful prose; lots of nods to oral narratives/origin stories; the voices are clear and haunting; the “reveal” at the end wasn’t quite what I was expecting; this book broke me so hard

Who am I? the monster repeated, still roaring. I am the spine that the mountains hang upon! I am the tears that the rivers cry! I am the lungs that breathe the wind! I am the wolf that kills the stag, the hawk that kills the mouse, the spider that kills the fly! I am the stag, the mouse, and the fly that are eaten! I am the snake of the world devouring its tail! I am everything untamed and untameable! It brought Conor up close to its eye. I am this wild earth, come for you, Conor O’Malley.

“You look like a tree,” Conor said.

I just… I can’t even wrap my brain around how much this book HURT to read. I have never in my life read a mid-grade novel that broke me into so many tiny pieces. I completely understand now why so many people claim to have cried during this read; several times, I found my own eyes watering! Quite the feat, if I’m being honest–I don’t often cry during books.

The characters throughout are human, believable, and heart-wrenching. Conor, in particular, touched me deeply–his iron-will, his strength in the face of looming tragedy, the stubbornness to “keep it together” even when his world starts falling apart. There are SO many morals layered throughout this read, that teach readers what it means to be human in the face of grief, that let readers know–through the characters, through Conor, through the Monster–just how okay it is to NOT be okay all the time. I just… I can’t even explain the many ways this read touched me; I have a feeling this book will haunt me for years.

You were merely wishing for the end of pain, the monster said. Your own pain. An end to how it isolated you. It is the most human wish of all.

“I didn’t mean it,” Conor said.

You did, the monster said, but you also did not.

Conor sniffed and looked up to its face, which was as big as a wall in front of him. “How can both be true?”

Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?

I do warn potential future readers: this mid-grade book is DARK. There is no real “happy ending” here. This book mimics real life, and the way the world can sometimes go off-kilter; the way life can sometimes let us down. This book will make you stop, eyes filled with tears, and really THINK about the ways you, yourself, cope–and how maybe, just maybe, those things you did in trying times were what was needed all along. This book will make you THINK…but I don’t recommend reading it if that’s not something you’re open to.

This book swept into my life like a hurricane this week…and I adored, and yet somehow despised…every moment of it. I definitely recommend to lovers of oral narratives, abstract stories with killer morals, and life-ruining reads. This is one mid-grade I think everybody should read–there’s just too much to learn from it to pass it by!

5

A Review of The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries #1), by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, #1)

Goodreads Rating: 3.75 Stars
283 pages
Turtleback Books
Get it here!

Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there’s nothing worse than being a five-foor-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she’s dating Mia’s Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn’t have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

– – – – –

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: sometimes witty, mostly annoying main character (sorry, Mia, I just didn’t like you!); diary entry format that felt a bit stiff and disjointed; lots of differences from the movie that I wasn’t expecting; I just don’t think this book did it for me

So…you might all be shocked to learn that I never once picked up this series when I was younger. Not once! Part of this, I think, is because I didn’t know these books even existed until recently. It shouldn’t surprise you, therefore, to learn that I (sin of all sins, gasp of all gasps!) saw the movies before reading this. Which, I’ll admit, might have skewed my expectations just a little out of whack.

I’m not going to tell anybody, not even Lilly. Lilly would NOT understand. NOBODY would understand. Because nobody I know has ever been in this situation before. Nobody ever went to bed one night as one person and then woke up the next morning to find out that she was somebody completely different.

Let’s start with first things first here (just to, y’know, break the mold a little bit). I understand that Mia is only fourteen in this novel, and therefore should not live up to the expectations I set for her when going into this read given that, in the movie, she is older than this. However. I found her to be a bit… annoying. And infuriatingly whiny. And just all-around flat. Like, I get it—this is sort of a coming-of-age story…but I don’t feel like Mia at the end of this book was really that “grown” from Mia at the beginning, aside from the fact that she tells a certain jerkhead off in an instant of anger. I know, I know, there are like, 11 books in this series total, and therefore shouldn’t have expected much growth from a character who is, all-told, supposed to be rather immature. But…I dunno, I expected some? at least a little?

Also, can we just talk about how much nothingness happens in this book? Like…I was expected all sorts of wild, adventurous scenes, and instead was given vanilla ice cream. Where are the mint chocolate chips? The pecans? The banana slices? This read exactly as it was written: as diary entries. Except the person writing those entries is boring, complains way too much about silly things, and doesn’t leave her house often enough. Which in a way does fit with fourteen year olds…but also made this sort of a dull read. Quick, yes, but dull nonetheless.

Maybe nobody has a right to tell anybody to shut up. Maybe this is how wars get started, because someone tells someone else to shut up, and then no one will apologize.

There were some differences in the read that I found interesting…and a bit concerning, in some instances. For example—Mia’s grandmother. I fell absolutely in love with Julie Andrews’ portrayal of Clarice in the movie versions. Book version Clarice, though? Sort of mean, to be honest—and much more prone to “paparazzi baiting” than I expected. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Having loved the grandmother so much in the movies…I don’t know quite how to react to this weird and stilted facimile of a grandma now. Like…sure, she is much more LIKE royalty than I felt movie-Clarice is. But…I don’t like her. Then again, we aren’t given many honest glimpses of her, and given this is Mia’s diary… Well, I suppose you might say I feel as if the narrator has a bit of a biased opinion. Perhaps an untrustworthy one, at this point.

And that ending! Can we just talk about the ending for a second? Because…in less than 10% of the read, everything somehow miraculously closes itself up and ties itself off and works itself out. The ending felt VERY rushed to me, and contrived in a cliché and boring way. You expect me to believe that things suddenly went back to relative normalcy all because Mia stood up to the boy she thought she liked? It wasn’t very realistic, and felt a bit like the author just wanted to get it done and over with.

I whirled around. “It wasn’t just a kiss,” I said. I was getting really mad. “Maybe that’s how you wanted it to look, like it was just a kiss. But you and I both know what it really was: A media event. And one that you’ve been planning since you saw me in the Post. Well, thank you, Josh, but I can get my own publicity. I don’t need you.”

Overall…I’m disappointed. While I get this is meant to be on that cusp between “childrens” literature and “young adult” literature, I feel as if certain aspects were poorly done. I still recommend to lovers of “unexpected fairy tales,” diary entry formatting, and fluffy childrens literature…but I’m not sure I’ll be continuing on with this series. Can anyone tell me if it gets better? Because at this point, I don’t even want to pick up book two.