Review | Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain

Cici dreams of being a novelist. Her favorite subject: people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?

In a graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I reallly enjoyed this story about Cici, her friends and the mysteries that she discovers and feels compelled to solve. At times she goes to the extreme to do this and learns the consequences of putting these mysteries above all else. She has struggles with friends, her mom and life in general while also navigating the mysteries and writing in her journal. Her journal itself includes pictures, drawings, newspaper clippings and other mixed media elements that will draw in readers and make it feel like an interactive experience. There are also a couple pages that younger readers could customize to feel like they are part of the story. The artwork (as well as what is included on the journal pages) is beautiful and full of whimsy, with a softer color palette that perfectly suits the story and Cici’s style.

Happy reading!

Review | Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody & Yoshi Yoshitani

Welcome to the magical, mystical, topsy-turvy world of the House of Secrets, where Zatanna embarks on a journey of self-discovery and adventure…all with her pet rabbit, Pocus, at her side.

Zatanna and her stage magician father live in a special house, the House of Secrets, which is full of magic, puzzles, mysterious doors, and storybook creatures-it’s the house everyone in the neighborhood talks about but avoids. Not that Zatanna cares, though, because she is perfectly content.

But at school one day, Zatanna stands up to a bully and everything changes- including her friends. Suddenly, Zatanna isn’t so sure about her place in the world, and when she returns home to tell her father, he’s gone missing, lost within their own home.

With thrilling twists from writer Matthew Cody and dazzling artwork by Yoshi Yoshitani, Zatanna and the House of Secrets will delight readers at the turn of every page-and the opening of every door!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this graphic novel to be very cute and while the bulk of it is more fantastical, there are definitely some real world middle school age issues that Zatanna deals with at the same time. The art style was cute and colorful, so it will definitely draw the eye. I would have liked some things to have a little more attention paid to them, such as the sub-plot with her friends and the events that happened with them. If someone is looking for a magical graphic novel with vibrant art and a great story for younger readers, I think this is a solid choice.

Happy reading!

Review | Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

When Moon’s family moves in next door to Christine’s, Moon goes from unlikely friend to best friend―maybe even the perfect friend. The girls share their favorite music videos, paint their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around, and make plans to enter the school talent show together. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she sometimes has visions of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

But when they’re least expecting it, catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon needs?

New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I’ve enjoyed some of Jen Wang’s work before I was sure I would enjoy the art in this one, knowing that it had some personal elements to it made me even more excited to get to it. I was not disappointed at all with this one. Not only does it perfectly depict some of the struggles and emotions that young teens/tweens deal with when navigating friendships and finding their place among their peers – it also touched upon some large issues in the element that was Moon’s sudden health condition. I also really loved some of the cultural aspects that were included, such as different experiences that Asian Americans may have, as well as their family dynamics. There were moments that were joyful or funny but also some that tugged at the heart for both Christine and Moon while they figured out their emotions, friendships and life in general.

Happy reading!

Review | Starfell: Willow Moss & the Lost Day by Dominique Valente

The ordinary becomes extraordinary in this sparkling first book in the Starfell series, a modern classic perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The Land of Stories.

Willow Moss’s small magic has always seemed unremarkable. But when the most feared witch in the land of Starfell appears on the Moss family’s doorstep looking for help, it’s not Willow’s talented sisters she seeks, it’s Willow. Because Willow is a finder of lost things—and Moreg Vaine says that last Tuesday has gone missing.

Willow and Moreg set out on a perilous journey across the wilds of Starfell, looking for what they’ve lost. If they don’t discover what happened to the missing day, the repercussions could be devastating for the entire kingdom.

Can Willow find the day, to save the day?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Oh my heart – I loved this story about Willow who is able to find lost things (and doesn’t think that’s much of a magic power to have) going on a quest to find last Tuesday, which has gone missing. I immediately felt for Willow as you very quickly see how certain members of her family treat her because of how unremarkable they see her power, which reinforces Willow’s feelings. Throughout her adventure she meets a lot of interesting people and creatures and is able to grow and discover that maybe her power isn’t so bad after all. If you’re looking for a fast paced adventure with a young witch (especially if looking for alternatives to something else) this is a great one to pick up. Keep in mind there are trigger warnings for slight bullying and death of a loved one.

Happy reading!

Review | The Medusa Quest by Alane Adams

Phoebe Katz is back on a new mission to save Olympus and undo the fallout from her first visit. Damian has troubling news—the epic mythology stories in the books are changing. Instead of Perseus slaying Medusa and becoming a hero, the books now say he’s turned to stone. Worse, thanks to Phoebe slaying the Nemean lion and the Lernean hydra to complete the Eye of Zeus, Hercules failed his first two trials—which means he’s not the immortal hero he’s supposed to be. After speaking with the oracle who brought her to New York, Phoebe learns that without great heroes, the entire fabric of Greek mythology is in peril. She must go back to Olympus and right the history she wrecked. To do that, she must embark on a quest to collect the items she will need to help Perseus defeat Medusa, including the curved blade the Argus Slayer, the winged shoes of Hermes, and Hades’s Helmet of Invisibility, and convince Hercules to complete his new trials without giving up—despite the efforts of a powerful force that will stop at nothing to see the demi-god children of Zeus destroyed. Can Phoebe collect the items she needs and save Olympus once again?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After finishing The Eye of Zeus I almost immediately picked up the Medusa Quest as I was eager to see what Phoebe and her friends got themselves into this time. I liked the element of Phoebe having to face repercussions of her actions and it was great again to see her and her friends learning and growing as they went on their quest to correct things. I again really loved Adams’ writing style and the way the story flowed naturally. Yes there were immature moments, but that’s suitable for the age range this series is intended for. All in all I’ve really enjoyed both books in the series so far and will definitely read more from Adams.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody | Review

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this whimsical and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

The last thing Barclay Thorne ever wanted was an adventure.

Thankfully, as an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer, Barclay need only work hard and follow the rules to one day become the head mushroom farmer himself. No danger required. But then Barclay accidentally breaks his town’s most sacred rule: never ever EVER stray into the Woods, for within the Woods lurk vicious magical Beasts.

To Barclay’s horror, he faces a fate far worse than being eaten: he unwittingly bonds with a Beast and is run out of town by an angry mob. Determined to break this bond and return home, Barclay journeys to find the mysterious town of Lore Keepers, people who have also bonded with Beasts and share their powers.

But after making new friends, entering a dangerous apprenticeship exam, and even facing the legendary Beast of the Woods, Barclay must make a difficult choice: return to the home and rules he’s always known, or embrace the adventure awaiting him. 

Buy Links | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I am always into middle grade adventure stories, especially when they are fantasy based so I was super excited to get my hands on this one. I really enjoyed the aspect of Barclay not wanting to be a hero or have an adventurous life, it was a nice twist to the typically adventure story. I also really loved the world that Amanda Foody created and in many ways felt like a lot of the settings, based on the way she described them, could be imagined easily. That being said though, I think it was the perfect amount of world building and imagery for the target audience of younger readers and I think a lot of readers would be able to identify with at least one of the characters in the story. I couldn’t put this one down and am eagerly hoping I get to pick up any future books written in this world.

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After a double life as an accountant preparing taxes for multinational corporations, she now spends her free time brewing and fermenting foods much more easily obtained at her local grocery store. She lives in Boston, MA with a hoard of books guarded by the most vicious of feline companions, Jelly Bean.

Her books include The Shadow Game series and more. Her middle grade debut, Wilderlore: The Accidental Apprentice, hits shelves March 30, 2021, and her next YA novel, All of Us Villains, co-authored with Christine Lynn Herman, releases on November 9, 2021.

Author Links | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Want to check out other posts on the blog tour? You can check them out here!

Happy reading!

Review | The Eye of Zeus by Alane Adams

Meet Phoebe Katz, a twelve-year-old foster kid from New York City who’s been bounced around the system her entire life. Things happen around Phoebe, but it’s not like they’re her fault! But when a statue of Athena comes to life, Phoebe gets the stunning news she’s the daughter of Zeus, has a twin brother named Perseus―and was sent away from ancient Greece as a baby to stop a terrible prophecy that predicted she would one day destroy Olympus. Athena warns Phoebe to stay in hiding, but when the vengeful god Ares kidnaps her beloved social worker, Phoebe has no choice―she has to travel back to ancient Greece and rescue him! There, Phoebe and her friends Angie and Damian discover a new prophecy, one that may fix everything. The catch: Phoebe has to collect talismans from six Greek monsters, including the fang from a nine-headed hydra, a talon from the Nemean lion, and a feather from the sphinx. No problem for a girl with the power to call up lightning bolts and change the weather! But can Phoebe collect them all and stop the prophecy before she destroys Olympus? 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I won’t lie, I enjoy pretty much any stories featuring mythology and while there are some notable series featuring Greek mythology, that doesn’t mean other stories featuring the same mythology can’t be enjoyed. I did enjoy Phoebe’s back story as it did set it apart and we do see some of the typical childhood behavior from others and herself that come from being in her situation. I did really enjoy the friendships she had and how she and her friends interacted, not always agreeing, but working together.

Her journey did harken to ‘hero’s journey’ stories (which most adventure stories follow) and was full of adventure, growth, colorful characters and obstacles to overcome. The illustrations peppered throughout the story were a nice surprise and a great addition. Phoebe was a well fledged out character, as were Damien and Angie. No one was always right and there was plenty of learning from mistakes or missteps. I think this is a great story for anyone looking for an adventure including mythology and look forward to reading further books in the series.

Happy reading!

Review | Dragon Racer by Joey Weiser

On your mark, get set, GO! Dive into the graphic novel sequel to GHOST HOG from the Eisner Award-nominated creator of MERMIN full of action, adventure, and speed!

Following the events of GHOST HOG,Truff, Claude, and Stanley are joined by a new friend, Vern,as hegears up for the big race back home in DRAGON RACER! He’s never won the race before…but this could be his year! Vern’s been practicing and practicing, both on and off the road. But when the other racers start to tease the fast driving dragon about his abilities on the track, he’ll have to put the pedal to the metal and prove he’s got the speed and finesse to compete in this year’s race.

After the big race, a young racing fan falls ill and needs a doctor urgently. The only racer with skills off the road is Vern, and he’ll need Truff’s help if they’re going to make it to the doctor in time. Will Vern be able to face his greatest challenge yet and prove that he’s got what it takes behind the wheel to save the day?

Zoom into this fast-paced graphic novel full of friendship, teamwork, and believing in yourself. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This graphic novel was adorable, funny and heartwarming all at the same time. The colors are vibrant and dynamic and the art style is fun so it will definitely be a great read for younger audiences. I felt like the characters all have distinct personalities and there were so many different little touches that made then really individual. While the plot touched on some heavier topics such as everyone having different strengths and struggles, bullying and prejudice, these topics were lightly done which I also think will suit the younger audiences that this is meant for. Overall it’s a really fun story with some fantastic and adorable characters.

Happy reading!

Review | Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono

Nostalgic fans of the Miyazaki film and newcomers alike–soar into the modern classic about a young witch and her clever cat that started it all!

Half-witch Kiki never runsfrom a challenge. So when her thirteenth birthday arrives, she’s eager to follow a witch’s tradition: choose a new town to call home for one year.

Brimming with confidence, Kiki flies to the seaside village of Koriko and expects that her powers will easily bring happiness to the townspeople. But gaining the trust of the locals is trickier than she expected. With her faithful, wise-cracking black cat, Jiji, by her side, Kiki forges new friendships and builds her inner strength, ultimately realizing that magic can be found in even the most ordinary places.

Blending fantasy with the charm of everyday life, this enchanting new translation will inspire both new readers and dedicated fans.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Since the movie is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies, I definitely wanted a copy of the source material so I could read it and I was not disappointed. There are definitely some differences between the book and movie, with the book being more a slice of life coming of age story. Some of the subplots that we see in the movie are not part of the book because the book really centers on finding your place and being content. I loved Kiki’s escapades and the relationships she built. Overall it was a really adorable story.

Happy reading!

Review | The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Witty black-and-white drawings by Todd Harris add to the fun. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a tongue in cheek adventure full of quirky characters that try their best but don’t always succeed the way they think they will, then this will be a fun read for you. We follow four princes who have each been dubbed “Prince Charming” in their respective kingdoms, and some of them don’t necessarily enjoy the way their stories unfolded. This story is a mashup of multiple fairy tale couples who aren’t really having a happy ever after, more like they don’t really know their partners and have some real relationship hiccups along the way. They aren’t traditional heroes by any means, but they find ways to work together…sometimes. It was a funny story that constantly had ups and downs and I think for a middle grade reader who understands the tongue in cheek nature it would be great. For any age it would be an entertaining read featuring price’s as we’ve never seen them before. I also loved the artwork that was included throughout the book, looking like pencil sketches on the page.

Happy reading!