Posted in Middle Grade

Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest

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Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett, narrated by Michelle Carpenter.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Narrator Rating: 5 stars

 

I was provided a free copy of this book in audio format by the author in exchange for an honest review. I have not been paid for this review.

Zaria Fierce is a story enriched with Norse folklore. It is full of trolls, elves, giants, and the like can all be found in this story. This story was a very short listen, and the narrator was amazing. Carpenter’s voices were spot on, helping bring every character to life, my favorite being Christoffer.

One of the biggest indicators for a potential 5-star rating for me is when a story is captivating from the very beginning. The only downfall to listening to this story being narrated, is that there are illustrations in the book. BUT! No fear, Gillett provided the book trailer links, and there you can see the lovely illustrations!!

Every character in this book has something particularly charming about them, including some pretty interesting secrets, which become helpful throughout the story. This ragtag team find themselves in some pretty hot water in every world they enter into, but yet they are resourceful enough to get themselves out of these situations. For a bunch of 13 year olds, that is not bad. I did peg who Zaria was from the beginning, but it was fun to watch it all unfold.

This story is great for children, or adults! As an audiobook, I can hear it filling up the time spent together in a long car ride. In book form, I can envision parents reading chapters to their kids before bed at night. I am looking forward to enjoying more adventures of these friends in future books!

I know this is a short and sweet review, but it was a heartwarming story, with a great narrator. It is fun for all ages, and mixes Norse folklore into the story in such a fun way. The narrator is fantastic and helps aide in bringing the story to life for the listener. It is worth the time to read or listen to. I also LOVE strong, heroic, female lead characters, and Zaria is a great leading lady!

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Flunked

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Flunked by Jen Calonita, Narrated by Kristin Condon

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Narrator Rating: 5 stars

 

I picked up the audiobook for Flunked at the library. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but as time went on it became a great listen and I finished it pretty quickly.

I like the idea of a fairy tale reform school for the bad guys or villains of fairy tales. I liked how the teachers were all reformed villains from various story platforms. I like that Gilly was smart, inquisitive, and caring. I think for the age range of this book, having a strong female lead is super important. I also liked that the story taught Gilly that though it is okay to be independent, sometimes having a group of friends you can trust is just as okay.

The premise around this book follows Gilly, the Cobbler and Old Woman Who Lives in a Show daughter. Gilly often steals in order to support and feed her family, who often goes without food. Eventually, after getting caught several times by the Dwarf Police Squad, Gilly is ordered to go to FTS to change her villainous ways. While Gilly is at the school, she discovers something evil is afoot and begins to secretly investigate.

Overall, the story was unique and original. It was well executed and the narration helped bring this story to life. In the time of Gilly’s stay you meet various fairy tale characters such as Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, as well as their villains. Characters also include the Big Bad Wolf, fairies, trolls, and mermaids. I definitely recommend this story!

Posted in Middle Grade

The Mystery of Hollow Inn

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The Mystery of Hollow Inn, written and narrated by Tara Ellis

Rating: 3.5 stars

Narrator: 3 stars

 

The Mystery of Hollow Inn is one of the many books on my 2016 Books to read list.  This book also satisfies one of my challenge books for the Mount TBR challenge. I am trying to “clean up” my TBR pile, though it seems to be ever growing.

This book was cute, and I feel for the age it is targeted towards, it will be enjoyed by its readers. At a certain point in this book, I was thinking to myself, this sounds awfully familiar….and then I kept laughing to myself thinking “those meddling kids…” Know where I am going with this? Yes…all they needed was this beloved childhood dog:

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By the end, I was literally waiting for the villain to say this. I was a bit sad he didn’t, but I am sure that is copyrighted. The story line is appropriate, it is a quick read/listen. Sam was a smart cookie, and it sounded like she will have great stories to tell her friends after her little vacation.

I want to point out…who in the world would send 2 12 year olds out on their own on a 10 hour bus ride?! Seriously! That is my big qualm with this book. This book felt a bit Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to me, but I feel like it is supposed to be a more modern take on Nancy Drew. I think it is appropriate with the current times. I also like that both kids talked about the pressure they felt with technology, social media, and texting. Twelve year olds do not really need to be doing all that anyways 😉

Posted in Middle Grade, Uncategorized

The Hidden Oracle

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The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

I am normally a HUGE supporter of anything Rick Riordan. This book rubbed me the wrong way on so many levels that I am having a hard time comprehending what I actually read.

I didn’t like how modernized the book was. Not that his other books weren’t modern, I just felt weird with multiple Social Media sites, bands, etc were constantly referenced. I understand that Apollo is a bit self centered (okay more than a bit). I just thought it was too much. To the point of annoying. Feeling this way makes me so sad. I can usually overlook such actions, because it is the character, and I try to have that mindset.

I will continue with the story, but for once, I am saddened that I just was not head over heals for this book 😦

I do think that the age range it is meant for will enjoy it. I believe it has a lot of promise, and by the end of the book, I noticed a change in Apollo’s behaviors and thought processes. My only hope is this continues and that self centered, crap, attitude he has falters and he becomes someone you want to be around. I won’t give away the ending, but I was VERY happy to see it. Much like the new Magnus Chase series, I was happy to see old favorites and meet new loves!

Posted in Middle Grade

Loki’s Wolves

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Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Actual Rating: 2.8 stars

Rating Breakdown:

  • Originality: 2.5
  • Writing style: 2.5
  • Character Development: 3
  • Plot: 3

Genre based ratings:

  • Middle Grade: 3

 

I had some trouble with this book. As many may know, I am a HUGE fan of Rick Riordan. I have read the Percy Jackson Series (Greek), The Heroes of Olympus series (Greek/Roman), The Kane Chronicles (Egyptian), and have read the first book of Magnus Chase, Riordan’s new Norse Mythology series. I am anxiously waiting for book 2 and the start of his new series, Trials of Apollo. Having said that, lining up Loki’s Wolves with Magnus Chase, I have to admit, Riordan did it better. I think the concept of the Blackwell Pages series is a good one, however, the delivery is where it truly fell short for me. When reading, I could definitely tell it was a Melissa Marr book, and some of her works are hit and miss with me. She has a very distinct writing style that is different and like coffee, an acquired taste. I am hoping as the series continues, that it will pick up and will fall more into place. Also, the Blackwell Pages join the ranks of with killing of likeable characters (but let’s face it, we all saw that coming, it was Balder). I have been meaning to wipe this off of my TBR list for a while, and with the Mount TBR challenge, I finally dove in.

How does this book compare to likes of Riordan’s? It starts with 3 kids, going off to find other kids to join their little group, all champions of certain gods, in order to prevent Ragnarock from happening. By the end of the story, there are about 6 of them” Frey, Freya, Loki (2), Thor, and Balder (ish) and a witch sent by Odin. Cameo appearances from the Norns, Valkyries, and Odin. There are also trolls, wulfenkind, and maras (nightmares). The setting takes place in South Dakota. Throughout the story, I kept comparing it to Magnus Chase, which to be fair, I shouldn’t have. But I also compared it to Riordan in general and his master storytelling. There were some instances in the story that felt forced. A push to make the characters interact or respond a certain way that just did not make sense. Some instances in which it made the main character, Matt, Thor’s champion, seem too trusting and too innocent. Also, there were many instances in which the lack of confidence was TOO much. The inner dialogue lost it’s touch by the middle of the book. Desperate almost. Matt is supposed to beat the Serpent. As a 13 year old kid facing the challenge of saving the world, it is acceptable to feel overwhelmed and nervous. Totally acceptable. I am 30 and I do not think I could handle that kind of responsibility. At some point, you have to put your big kid pants on and get going, not going back and forth with yourself about if your lack of confidence is showing.

Of all the characters in the book, I believe Fen, Loki’s Champion, had the most character growth, even though he still struggles. Fen was on his own for so long, that he finally accepted his little rag tag group was his pack and he belonged. He was a member of the team. And no one judged him from his upbringing. Fen is wulfenkind. Laurie, also a descendant of Loki, is still learning her powers, but is a homing beacon of other descendants. Ray and Reyna (which I have a problem with Reyna being the name of descendant of Freya…seriously…Heroes of Olympus anyone?), Each character had some sort of growth, but Fen had the most. I am hoping desperately that Matt has some growth in later books. He needs it the most.

A major positive with Loki’s Wolves is that it hits the ground running. There was never really a lull in the story. It just started and kept going. I like that there was not a cliffhanger. This is a trilogy, of which all books have been completed. I like not having to wait for books. The overall premise is that this group of 13 years olds are tasked to save the world. Each one a champion of the god they are descendant from. Matt, Fen, and Laurie are tasked to go find the others in order to band together in order to save the world. There were attacks by trolls, attacks by Raiders (group of Viking like wulfenkind), and even maras causing confusion and fear. And of course, there was betrayal and death. Couldn’t have a Norse mythology book that did not involve betrayal and death. I have to admit, I enjoyed the book more towards the end, and my heart was broken for Baldwin (Balder) and Fen. 

 

 

Posted in Middle Grade

The Shrunken Head

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The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver, a Curiosity House Novel

  • Overall Rating:  3.91 Stars
  • Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

 

Rating Breakdown:

  • Originality: 5
  • Character Development: 4
  • Plot: 4

Genre based ratings:

  • Middle Grade: 3
  • Fantasy: 3.5
  • Mystery: 4

 

The Curiosity House is a new series created by Lauren Oliver. It is set as a middle grade adventure, however, with the amount of death in the book, I am not sure middle grade is appropriate. It was still a good book.

The first installment of this series is surrounding a Shrunken Head, in which on the first night of the Curiosity’s show the Head was shown to the public, someone in the audience died later that evening. The Curse of The Shrunken Head spread in the news like wildfire shortly after. Suddenly, there are a multitude of mysterious deaths, which all get linked to the Head.

The police catch wind of the deaths rather quickly and are convinced it is murder, and attempt to figure out who the murderer is. The police are quick to accuse of Mr. Dumfrey of murder since he was the original owner of the Head and it went missing.

I believe, that though the 4 main characters were interesting, I felt that more could have been explained on who they are. You find out towards the end how they each ended up at the Curiosity House as a “sideshow” (pretty much). The story is told from each of the kids’ perspectives, however, you don’t always know who’s perspective you are reading right away

During the story, some of the characters had growth: Sam and Thomas mainly. Phillipa seemed more sure of herself at the beginning, but regressed through the book. Max remained the same “hardened” child through the whole story. I am hoping she starts to “break” in the next installment.

For originality, I gave this book a 5. I have not read many books that are based in Curiosity Houses (freak shows so to speak), so this was a good start. The story keeps you captivated, and can easily be read in 1 day. The fluidity of the story is so smooth, as a reader, it is easy to get through the story fast.
As previously mentioned, as a middle grade, there is a lot of death, but nothing too scary or inappropriate. The book had more mystery than fantasy as there was only 1 or 2 scenes for the Side Show, and the story as a whole is mainly surrounded by the children trying to solve the murders and save their Mr. Dumfrey. The children have a lot of adversaries, but tend to excel in whatever is thrown their way.

Posted in Middle Grade

It’s a Pandy thing.

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My rating: 4 stars

 

I received this book for my honest review

My overall impressions of this book was that it is cute for the target age group.

Tony Pandy, the main character, is a bit selfish, self absorbed, sarcastic, mean and a bit on the jerk side. As the story develops, Tony also develops. At first, Tony’s behavior frustrated me. But as the story unfolds and you see how sad of a life Tony truly has, it makes sense. Tony is really sick, wheel chair bound, and not many years of life left.

Tony’s “father” died and Tony did not want to go to the funeral. In fact, Tony never went outside. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t get down the stairs in his wheelchair because there was no wheel chair ramp in the house. Further, it had been years since Tony even saw his own mother. They communicated via intercom in the house.

My favorite character was Hawes. I was so sad when Hawes was fired. I am curious about his background though…but Hawes showed Tony that not everyone is in his life for the money. Hawes genuinely wants to help Tony. How did Tony repay Hawes? Tony tricked Hawes into believing Tony’s mother approved of an outing. The end result? Tony’s oxygen tank depleted and he ended up in the hospital.

This story really is an underdog story. There isn’t ever really a slow moment. There is a lot of growth, a lot of “mysteries” to be solved and gaining a life worth staying alive for.

My one issue is that I felt it just kind of ended. I believe this is a series book? If not, the ending left me wanting. I am okay with happy endings, or bad endings that I didn’t want to happen, I just need an ending! I am curious about what Assignment Two is and am looking forward to reading when it is released! Aside from being asked for my honest review of the book, even though Mr. Lundqvist’s grass needs mowed, he really needs to finishGang of Sleuths. The grass can be mowed later!

If you have middle grade kids, this is definitely a fun little read.