Genre: Middle Grade


Sep 23
I’m a 2020 Round One Cybils Awards Judge! Plus, Quick Reviews of Last Year’s MG Speculative Fiction Finalists

I’m a 2020 Round One Cybils Awards Judge! Plus, Quick Reviews of Last Year’s MG Speculative Fiction Finalists

Cybils, Reviews 8

I really enjoyed being a round-two judge for the Cybils Awards. The process for picking a winner was WAY harder than I expected it to be, but it was also great to have in-depth discussions about each of the finalists. I was surprised how many of the books I absolutely loved! This year, I said I’d be willing to be either a round-one or round-two judge, and I was chosen for round one for the MG Speculative Fiction category. That means I’ll be reading TONS of MG Spec Fic this fall, a prospect that is both daunting and exciting! The round-one judges decide the finalists, and I’m eager to see how the whole process works. More on that later. For now, I realized I never actually featured last year’s finalists here on the blog after I read them, and that seemed like a travesty since I adored many of these… Read more »


Sep 08
Bite-Sized Reviews of My Life in the Fish Tank; Girl, Serpent, Thorn; Flamer; and Graceling

Bite-Sized Reviews of My Life in the Fish Tank; Girl, Serpent, Thorn; Flamer; and Graceling

Reviews 11

  I’ve got four reviews for you today: two YA fantasies, a MG contemporary, and a YA historical graphic novel. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction! A compelling story about grief and mental health, My Life in the Fish Tank examines how secrecy and shame can be the root of pain. When Zinnia’s brother is in an accident, her whole life changes, not because he’s hurt but because it reveals an issue her family had been unknowingly dealing with for a very long time—her brother is bipolar. Now, Zin’s parents have asked her to keep her brother’s mental health issues private, while her friends seem to be expecting her to unload her grief on them—it all leads to Zin feeling like she’s under the microscope and like she can’t win, no matter how she responds to the circumstances. This book deals with mental… Read more »


Aug 19
Two Books by Natalie Rompella: Secrets of Storytelling: A Creative Writing Workbook for Kids & Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners – PLUS Rompella’s Top Ten Addictions!

Two Books by Natalie Rompella: Secrets of Storytelling: A Creative Writing Workbook for Kids & Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners – PLUS Rompella’s Top Ten Addictions!

Author Top Ten Lists, Reviews 10 ★★★★★

Today I’m featuring two books by Natalie Rompella: her newly-released kids’ writing book, Secrets of Storytelling: A Creative Writing Workbook for Kids, and her MG contemporary, Cookie Cutters and Sled Runners. Plus, scroll down to see Natalie’s top ten addictions! Natalie is a friend of mine from my SCBWI critique group, so I was excited to get this chance to feature her! Purchase Links: This workbook is perfect for the budding writer! Filled with interesting prompts and writing exercises, the book has a lot of the same insights you’d see in a writing craft book for grown-ups, but everything is written in a way kids can understand and relate to. I love that Rompella includes so many creative and clever examples with each exercise—I find that kids crave solid (and interesting!) examples when they’re learning a new writing concept. The book is more than just prompts, though. It contains valuable guidance… Read more »


Jul 29
Bite-Sized Reviews of Cinderella Is Dead, The Elephant’s Girl & New Kid

Bite-Sized Reviews of Cinderella Is Dead, The Elephant’s Girl & New Kid

Reviews 14

  I’ve got three reviews for you today: a YA fantasy retelling, a MG contemporary fantasy, and a MG contemporary graphic novel. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction! What if the stories that we think of as fairy tales were historical accounts? And what if those accounts had been twisted to serve the purposes of the people in power? This is the case in Cinderella Is Dead. Cinderella’s story has been told for generations as an example—and now every girl is expected to go to the ball to be “chosen” by her husband. She has no say in the matter, or in basically any other matter in her life. Girls are considered property and are meant to serve (and look pretty for) their husbands, nothing more. On the surface, it’s easy to feel like this society is over-the-top. So many of the women… Read more »


Jul 08
Bite-Sized Reviews of Deeplight, More to the Story, The Female of the Species, and Knockout

Bite-Sized Reviews of Deeplight, More to the Story, The Female of the Species, and Knockout

Reviews 16

  I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA fantasy, a MG contemporary retelling, a YA contemporary and a MG contemporary in verse. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction! A fascinating YA fantasy with incredible worldbuilding! Deeplight had me entranced from the very beginning. It reminded me of books by my favorite fantasy author, Robin Hobb, because of its unique worldbuilding and epic-but-not-overly-ponderous fantasy feel. Hardinge’s gorgeous writing accompanies incredible worldbuilding—the way religion and myth and healing magic are woven together is fantastic. Then there’s Hark himself. It’s easy to empathize with him, especially since he’s so obviously being manipulated by his best friend. Hark’s loyalty is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness, and it’s interesting to see how that plays out throughout the book. Hark is one of those characters who always wants to do the right thing, but figuring… Read more »


May 21
Bite-Sized Reviews of Lucky Caller, Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, The Princess and the Fangirl, and Insignificant & Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus

Bite-Sized Reviews of Lucky Caller, Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, The Princess and the Fangirl, and Insignificant & Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus

Reviews 28

  I’ve got five reviews for you today: two YA contemporaries, a MG fantasy and a MG contemporary duology. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction! Everyone raves about Emma Mills, and I just needed to see what all the fuss is about. She seems to be the new big name in contemporary YA. So when I saw that Hoopla had a few of her audiobooks available, I decided to give one a listen! This book is a wonderful representation of the many facets of family. I loved that it showed a complicated family relationship without getting overly dramatic or angsty. Nina’s mom’s remarriage is mostly okay with Nina and her sisters—but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any reservations. Their relationship with their dad is even more confusing: they don’t see him much since he moved away, and they don’t seem to be… Read more »


May 05
The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds: Review & Reynolds’s Top Ten Addictions

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds: Review & Reynolds’s Top Ten Addictions

Author Top Ten Lists, Reviews 20 ★★★★★

Today I’m featuring the hilarious tale of a sixth-grader who’s forced into sleuthing by the spirits of zoo animals who need him to solve the mystery of their deaths. This book is written by Aaron Reynolds, who I knew in (what feels like) a past life—he wrote a full-scale musical that we performed for the kids’ ministry at my previous church, way back before I had kids. (His wife wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics—and they were both in the musical too!) I have so many amazing memories from that time, and to this day, I still find myself singing my main song in the musical at random times—it obviously had an impact on me.  🙂  I’ve been following Aaron’s writing career ever since I happened upon Creepy Carrots in my local library, and I was thrilled to see that he had a middle grade book coming out,… Read more »


Apr 28
Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: Review and Giveaway (Plus, a Quick Review of Aru Shah and the Song of Death)

Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: Review and Giveaway (Plus, a Quick Review of Aru Shah and the Song of Death)

Giveaways (Ended), Reviews 12 ★★★★½

Today I’m reviewing books two and three of the Pandava Quartet! Since this is technically a blog tour for the third book, I’m posting that review first, but you can scroll down to see my quick thoughts on Aru Shah and the Song of Death as well. Also, check out my review of book one, Aru Shah and the End of Time! You can purchase Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes at the following Retailers: Amazon, Kindle, Audible, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org These books are such a fabulous foray into Hindu mythology! I adore how many tales Chokshi manages to weave seamlessly into her story—Aru and her sisters (and friends) meet so many characters from these stories on their journey, and each time the original story is reflected somehow in Aru’s tale. This makes Aru’s journeys through the Otherworld that much more exciting and interesting—a point that held true in this book as she went on… Read more »


Apr 15
Bite-Sized Reviews of The Darkest Star, Efrén Divided, Awesome Dog 5000 vs. Mayor Bossypants, & Pretty in Punxsutawney

Bite-Sized Reviews of The Darkest Star, Efrén Divided, Awesome Dog 5000 vs. Mayor Bossypants, & Pretty in Punxsutawney

Reviews 31

  I’ve got four reviews for you today: two YA paranormals, a YA contemporary, and a MG humorous sci-fi. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction! This was my favorite JLA book that I’ve read in a while. I really love JLA, but I was starting to worry that I might have been getting the teensiest bit bored with her formula—a girl starts to fall for a somewhat gruff, pompous alien (or Origin, or demon, or gargoyle or… ) and chaos ensues. The latest books have the added benefit of a secret that the girl doesn’t know about herself but the guy does. Well, I don’t know if something (besides the formula) was different in this book or if this was just the exact sort of distraction I needed right now, but this book definitely worked for me. I started listening on an extra-long trip… Read more »


Mar 30
In the Red by Christopher Swiedler: A Stunning Survival Story Set on Mars!

In the Red by Christopher Swiedler: A Stunning Survival Story Set on Mars!

Reviews 8 ★★★★★

Get a SIGNED (can be personalized) copy of the book from Florey’s Books. You know those awesome survival books where someone gets stuck on a mountain somewhere and barely makes it out alive? Well, this is that, but on MARS! If that doesn’t sound cool to you, you’re obviously not reading it right. Go back and try again. (I was going to write a bite-sized review for this, but I just had too many things to say!) Seriously, though, this book was fantastic! I loved every heart-stopping moment of action. Lately, I’ve been struggling to read, but I absolutely flew through this book. Not only does the adventure aspect of the book keep you on your toes, but Michael’s personal story is also incredibly compelling and makes you want to keep reading. Michael suffers from panic attacks, which have kept him from his dream of following in his father’s and brother’s… Read more »