Review | Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good. 

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real. 

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” 

With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As soon as I heard about this book I wanted to pick it up, so I was thrilled when I received a copy. I was so excited about the premise of this one as soon as I read it and was not disappointed at all. Amari is a character who has faced a lot of prejudice in her life, whether it be for her race or where she lives, and is excited for the possibility of being somewhere where that doesn’t matter. She’s also desperate to find out about her brother’s disappearance. Right off the bat we can tell what type of person Amari is and as the story goes on we learn about some of her insecurities and strengths. She doesn’t always make the smartest of decisions and she finds that she’s traded one set of prejudices for another as she switches environments, but she perseveres.

I so loved this story and all the important conversations and topics that were woven into it. I loved watching Amari come into her own and truly believe in herself and really enjoyed the twists and the turns of the story itself. I had a suspicion who was going to be villians and who wasn’t but I didn’t know for sure until the very end. The writing was easy to follow and flowed wonderfully and I felt there was a great balance between building the world and actual plot.

B.B. Alston started writing in middle school, entertaining his classmates with horror stories starring the whole class where not everyone survived! After several years of trying to break into publishing, he had just been accepted into a biomedical graduate program when a chance entry into a twitter pitch contest led to his signing with TBA, 20+ book deals worldwide, and even a film deal. When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweets and exploring country roads to see where they lead.

B.B. was inspired to write AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS because he couldn’t find any fantasy stories featuring Black kids when he was growing up. He hopes to show kids that though you might look different, or feel different, whatever the reason, your uniqueness needn’t only be a source of fear and insecurity. There is great strength and joy to be found in simply accepting yourself for who you are. Because once you do so, you’ll be unstoppable.

Thank you again to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book! I’m thrilled I got to experience Amari’s journey and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for not just a fun adventure but an empowering read that tackles a number of complex and important issues.

Happy reading!

Review | The Midwinter Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag

Magic has a dark side . . .

Aster always looks forward to the Midwinter Festival, a reunion of the entire Vanissen family that includes competitions in witchery and shapeshifting. This year, he’s especially excited to compete in the annual Jolrun tournament-as a witch. He’s determined to show everyone that he’s proud of who he is and what he’s learned, but he knows it won’t be easy to defy tradition.

Ariel has darker things on her mind than the Festival-like the mysterious witch who’s been visiting her dreams, claiming to know the truth about Ariel’s past. She appreciates everything the Vanissens have done for her. But Ariel still craves a place where she truly belongs.

The Festival is a whirlwind of excitement and activity, but for Aster and Ariel, nothing goes according to plan. When a powerful and sinister force invades the reunion, threatening to destroy everything the young witches have fought for, can they find the courage to fight it together? Or will dark magic tear them apart?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve been putting off reading this one for far too long, probably because I didn’t want it too end. Safe to say I loved it. It had continuing things found family, diversity and discrimination – especially when it can happen within families. I have loved seeing how all of the characters have grown, but even more so how Aster has come into their own. They’re still young and can still get hurt, but there’s maturity that is coming with growing up. I really enjoyed the very real portrayal of conflicts that other members within a family may have, and how their actions can be misunderstood. Seeing the very real conflicts, and then resolutions when they happen I think is very important. I loved this series and highly recommend picking it up.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | A Wolf For a Spell by Karah Sutton | Review

The Girl Who Drank the Moon meets Pax in this fantastical tale of a wolf who forms an unlikely alliance with Baba Yaga to save the forest from a wicked tsar.

Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body!

Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

While I knew a little about Baba Yaga and some of her attributes, I have never really read a story involving her and I’m so glad this was my first. We follow a few different perspectives in this story with Baba Yaga being one of them, the others being Zima (a wolf) and Nadya (a young girl). At the surface this could certainly be framed as a fairy tale, but I felt it went much deeper than that. The three characters we follow as well as other characters go through transformations. There’s a lot of narrative about not taking things at face value and forming their own opinions/decisions. There’s also a lot about learning to face your fears or rise above fear when you feel it.

I absolutely flew through this story and was engrossed the entire time I was reading it. I did not want to put it down since I was so absorbed. The style of writing was easy to read and just kept me hooked the whole time.

Karah Sutton has loved Baba Yaga, ballet, and blini ever since she had to do a research project on her Russian heritage in the third grade. Her hunger for adventure inspired her to move from Kentucky to New Zealand, where it was rumored she would find talking trees and the occasional wood elf. Karah spent four years as a bookseller before she turned to writing her own fiction. A Wolf For a A Spell is her first novel.

Author Links | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Make sure you check out the rest of the exciting posts on the blog tour! You can locate the tour scheduled on the TBR and Beyond Tours page.

Happy reading!

Review | Dead Voices by Katherine Arden

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since it came out, but then was kicking myself because I hadn’t managed to get to it yet – so I’m super excited I was able to add it to this month’s reading. Returning to the adventures of Ollie, Coco and Brian makes me even more excited for the third book when it comes out.

I really enjoyed this one and loved the wintery setting. Right away there are clues and some predictable elements, but the mystery was set up really well. I also really loved that we got so much of Coco in this book, I feel like she really came into her own and was able to grow throughout the book. I look forward to seeing more growth in all the kids as additional books come out and seeing who is able to take charge next time!

This book had the perfect amount of creep elements and the writing flowed super well. I loved just losing myself in it and could have easily read it in one sitting if I had been able to (oh adulting) but I loved the experience.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars by Shivaun Plozza | Review + Mood Board

A boy and his pet fox go on a quest to find a wolf who has eaten all the stars in the sky before the Shadow Witch destroys the stars and removes good magic from the world forever.

Long ago, the land of Ulv was filled with magic. But that was before a wolf ate all the Stars in the night sky, ridding the world of magic and allowing Shadow Creatures, beasts made of shadow and evil, to flourish. Twelve-year-old Bo knows the stories but thinks the Stars and the wolf who ate them are nothing more than myths—until the day Bo’s guardian, Mads, is attacked by a giant wolf straight from the legends. With his dying breath, Mads tells Bo that Ulv is in danger and the only way to prevent the Shadow Creatures from taking over is to return the Stars to the sky.

And so Bo—accompanied by his best friend, a fox called Nix, a girl named Selene who’s magic is tied to the return of the Stars, and Tam, a bird-woman who has vowed to protect Bo at all costs—sets off on a quest to find the three magical keys that will release the Stars. But Bo isn’t the only one who wants the Stars, and the friends soon find themselves fleeing angry villagers, greedy merchants, and a vengeful wolf. And all the while, an evil witch lurks in the shadows and time is running out.

BUY LINKS | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | Indiebound

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading the synopsis of this one, I knew I wanted to pick it up. It looked like just the middle grade fantasy I was craving and promised to be a fun adventure. It was all that and more. I did not expect to fall in love with some of the characters as much as I did or sympathize with some of their plights as much as I did. Bo really has his own internal struggles that he battles with more of the book, which also tie into a lot of the core theme of the story.

The story flowed so well and turned this book into such a quick, enjoyable read. I was seriously bummed when I finished it because I wanted to read more about the characters and their lives – not because the story was lacking, but because the characters and world were woven so well. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure, I definitely recommend picking this one up.

As part of my experience I decided to do a mood board, enjoy!

Shivaun Plozza is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. Her debut novel, Frankie, was a CBCA Notable Book and won a number of awards, including the Davitt Awards and a commendation from the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Her second novel, Tin Heart, sold in three foreign territories, received two starred reviews, and was nominated to ALA’S Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars, is forthcoming in 2020 from HMH Books for Young Readers and Penguin Random House Australia. She is a frequent contributor to anthologies, and when she is not writing she works as an editor and manuscript assessor. 

AUTHOR LINKS | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour – here! Thanks again to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Happy reading!

Review | Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I enjoyed this cute representation of how someone can feel like they’ve finally found the place where they are going to fit in, only to find out that they don’t really and that making friends is about more than being similar to people. This is the first title I’ve read by Vera Brosgol and I really enjoyed not only her art style but her story telling in general. She perfectly captures so many facets of what girls (and children in general) experience in their pre-teen ages – especially when they feel like they can’t fit in with anyone. I did really enjoy the experiences shown at camp and all the emotions Vera went through.

Happy reading!

Review | Ozy and Millie: Perfectly Normal by Dana Simpson

Millie is one unusual fox, and she knows it. She comes up with highly unusual thoughts, invents ingenious excuses to get out of her homework, and her classmates are not always sure quite what to make of her. But thankfully she has Ozy, one of the most loyal friends anyone could ask for. Together the two of them, their friends, and Ozy’s dad, Llewellyn (who happens to be a red dragon) enjoy various misadventures, whimsical conversations, elaborate schemes, and delightful bouts of mischief. Whether they’re navigating cliques, inventing new games, or just trying to make sense of life, Ozy and Millie are the perfect companions for upper middle grade readers as well as fans of Dana Simpson’s bestselling Phoebe and Her Unicorn series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I didn’t know this web comic existed, but now I’m glad I do. The adventures that Ozy and Millie have are adorable and the two of them seem to balance each other well. Plus other characters, such as their parents, were great voices in the comics as well. I loved the art style and how vibrant the colors were. These comics are great for all ages and I do really enjoy that they included a glossary in the back for younger readers to learn about words they may not know and people mentioned.

Happy reading!

Review | Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable and Stephanie Yue

Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp–something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was initially sucked in just from the description because it mentioned lots of cats, but I loved this! The surface layer of the story is a superhero/supervillain story, but beyond that it is a story about things that happen when a friendship starts to become distant and fade away. All of us have gone through it at some point, but an often time it does happen is in those transition years between middle school and high school.

It isn’t just a story about Katie catsitting and finding out things about the superheroes and villians in her city, it’s also somewhat about her figuring out what trajectory her life is going to take and who she’s going to spend time with.

I loved so many things about it and have to point out the details and personalities that went into all of the cats. I’m not going to say much more because spoilers, but I adored it! The art also was a shining part of this book, with a muted palette that perfectly suited the mood.

Happy reading!

Review | The Weirn Books Vol 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods by Svetlana Chmakova

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets… but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na’ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na’ya’s little brother D’esh disappears-It’s time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have read some of Svetlana’s previous works and absolutely loved them, so I was excited to have the chance to read her newest one. This is set in the same supernatural world as her Nightschool series and features some young Weirn teens who are not only living in their night world, but also dealing with some of the insecurities and difficulties that young teens face. The adventure that the two cousins go one while trying to solve the mystery before them is fun and has the perfect amount of spooky elements.

Chmakova’s art style is beautiful and the color palette perfectly suited the story and characters. I really enjoy how she depicts astrals especially and how each one of them had a different personality and look.

I think people of all ages would enjoy this story and it’s great if your looking for a light spooky read for younger readers. Svetlana Chmakova writes amazing stories for the middle grade age range and I recommend checking out any of her works if you think you might like her artwork or style.

Thank you again to the publisher for reaching out and sending a copy of this book to me!

Happy reading!

Review | Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega

Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy. For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I cannot adequately emphasize how much I loved this book. If you enjoy middle grade and want a great adventure including Dominican folklore, tons of Goonies references (and that’s a sweet spot for me), an amazing grandmother and spooky ghosts with nefarious motives. There are so many characters I loved that I can’t tell you specific favorites, but the fireflies are definitely special.

Ortega’s writing flows wonderfully and I really love the voices that she gave her characters. Lucely herself has a lot of baggage that she’s dealing with and trying to figure out, but it’s not always at the forefront of her thoughts. There’s a strong found family element, but also knowing and loving where you come from. I just loved Lucely and Syd’s adventures and will definitely be checking out what comes from Ortega in the future.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, but I’m going to resist so that you all can experience it too! I’m lowkey upset with myself that it took me so long to read, since I preordered it – still I’m so happy I was able to include it in my October reads.

Happy reading!