Review | Morning Sun in Wuhan by Ying Chang Compestine

What was the pandemic of the century like at the start? This swift, gripping novel captures not only the uncertainty and panic when COVID first emerged in Wuhan, but also how a community banded together.

Weaving in the tastes and sounds of the historic city, Wuhan’s comforting and distinctive cuisine comes to life as the reader follows 13-year-old Mei who, through her love for cooking, makes a difference in her community. Written by an award-winning author originally from Wuhan.

Grieving the death of her mother and an outcast at school, thirteen-year-old Mei finds solace in cooking and computer games. When her friend’s grandmother falls ill, Mei seeks out her father, a doctor, for help, and discovers the hospital is overcrowded. As the virus spreads, Mei finds herself alone in a locked-down city trying to find a way to help.

Author Ying Chang Compestine draws on her own experiences growing up in Wuhan to illustrate that the darkest times can bring out the best in people, friendship can give one courage in frightening times, and most importantly, young people can make an impact on the world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m going to start my review off with a content warning, if you are at all triggered by talk of the currently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you may find parts of this book hard to read. This book talks about the beginning days of the pandemic where it began in Wuhan and there are definitely some portions that are raw.

That being said, books like this are important because they highlight the humanity of a crisis like this. Not politics but sides of humanity, both good and bad. It shows that fear is a powerful motivator in both good and bad ways causing people to either band together and take care of each other, or to turn to the side of fear that result in anger (such as hoarding food or treating others badly).

I really enjoyed Mei as the main character, someone who has hard hardships in her life and is still processing through grief at a very formative age. There are understandable moments of panic and anxiety on her part, but she processes everything and makes decisions in a real way. She’s truly the heart of the story and a great example about how one person can make very positive actions in hard situations, even if they are young.

Happy reading!

Review | Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow . . . and other things too scary to mention.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

First and foremost, this book took me by surprise because I had it in my mind that it was more of an anthology and not an ongoing story, so that set me a little off kilter. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to a litter of fox kits who desperately want to hear a scary story, so they go to see someone known as the storyteller. Over the course of one night the storyteller tells them stories about a pair of foxes and their adventures.

I did really enjoy the writing style in this, especially because between each story we get an interlude between the kits and the storyteller and I did like how all the stories came together at the end. I think a younger reader looking for something a little scary and adventurous would really enjoy this book and find it to be a fast and enjoyable read.

Happy reading!

Review | Children of Ragnorok by Cinda Williams Chima

Ever since Ragnarok—the great war between the gods and the forces of chaos–the human realm of the Midlands has become a dangerous place, bereft of magic, where most lead lives of desperation.


Sixteen-year-old Eiric Halvorsen is among the luckier ones. Between fishing, going vikingr, and working his modir’s farm, the family has remained prosperous. But Eiric stands to lose everything when he’s convicted by a rigged jury of murdering his modir and stepfadir. Also at risk is his half-systir, Liv, whose interest in seidr, or magic, has made her a figure of suspicion. Then a powerful jarl steps in: he will pay the blood price if Eiric will lead a mission to the fabled Temple at the Grove—the rich stronghold of the wyrdspinners, the last practitioners of sorcery.


Spellsinger, musician, and runecaster Reggin Eiklund has spent her life traveling from town to town, performing at alehouses all for the benefit of her master, Asger, the fire demon she is desperate to escape. Then after one performance that amazes even Reggin herself, two wyrdspinners in the audience make her an irresistible offer: return with them to the temple to be trained in seidr, forever free of Asger.


Eiric, Liv, and Reggin’s journeys converge in New Jotunheim, the site of the Temple at the Grove, a paradise fueled by magic. They soon realize that a great evil lurks beneath the dazzling surface, and that old betrayals and long-held grudges may fuel another cataclysmic war. It will require every gift and weapon at their command to prevent it.


Sweeping adventure, breathtaking twists of fate, and immersive worlds based in Norse mythology are woven into this first volume of the Runestone Saga, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Realms and Shattered Realms series. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I think I’ve said it enough times that anything mythology/lore related will pique my interest and Norse/Nordic is one of the ones that I really enjoy so I was eager to pick this one up.

I have heard great things about Cinda Williams Chima in the past, but hadn’t gotten around to her earlier books, so this was my first experience with her writing and I’m so glad I finally read something from her! The writing style was easy to read but definitely something that could be enjoyed by all ages and I was engaged pretty much from the get go. The characters are well fleshed out in my opinion and I just loved the mystery and adventure that played out in this story.

The world building was wonderfully done and I always like when I feel like I can see things being described, it’s just another way to suck in the reader. I also really liked that this isn’t your typical spin on Norse mythology, but looking at what life might be like for people after the supposed end of Norse mythology (Ragnorok). I’ll definitely picking up further books when they come out!

Happy reading!

Review | The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz

A Young Teen Falls in with the Mob, and Learns a Lesson About What Kind of Person He Wants to Be

In The Prince of Steel Pier, Joey Goodman is spending the summer at his grandparents’ struggling hotel in Atlantic City, a tourist destination on the decline. Nobody in Joey’s big Jewish family takes him seriously, so when Joey’s Skee-Ball skills land him an unusual job offer from a local mobster, he’s thrilled to be treated like “one of the guys,” and develops a major crush on an older girl in the process. Eventually disillusioned by the mob’s bravado, and ashamed of his own dishonesty, he recalls words of wisdom from his grandfather that finally resonate. Joey realizes where he really belongs: with his family, who drive him crazy, but where no one fights a battle alone. All it takes to get by is one’s wits…and a little help from one’s brothers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I found the concept of this book interesting, featuring a young teen in a transition period of his life, in a transition time period in Atlantic City. As a character Joey is very compelling and I could see how kids in the same age range would really identify with him. Joey is the third of four sons and really struggling to find his place in his family and in life itself, he feels like no one gets him and like he’s sometime invisible or an afterthought – which is a feeling I think a lot of young readers may struggle with at some point. Throughout the story is the theme of Joey not only figuring out things about himself, but also determining what is right and wrong when he’s exposed to some individuals associated with the mob.

He goes through a lot of growth in a small amount of time while also solidifying his place in a lot of ways. He learns a lot about life in general as well as his family and how society treats people they see as different than them. This book does touch on discrimination and while I don’t know a lot personally about the Jewish faith, I appreciated the snippets of information throughout the book and really appreciated Joey’s questions and contemplation on his own faith.

While some of the little twists were a tad predictable for me, I think they were perfect for the targeted age range for this story. I really enjoyed reading Joey’s story and seeing how he grew along the way.

Happy reading!

Review | A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.  

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Just from the description I knew this was going to be a cute read, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised at how deep it went into subjects such as family relationships. Leo is the youngest of five and is struggling with the fact that all of her older sisters seem to be included in family activities that she’s excluded from. She immediately picks up that there are secrets not being shared with her and thanks to the little voice of insecurity and anxiety inside of her, she’s worried that the reason she’s being excluded is that there’s something wrong with her or that she’s not good enough. The book is full of life lessons for someone her age, about following the rules, friendships and more. It was an adorable read and I definitely look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Happy reading!

Review | So You Want to be a Viking? by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw

Kate, Eddie, and Angus are dazzled by pictures of Viking warriors’ deadly axes and blingy swords in their library books. But when they’re transported back in time to Scandinavia in 991 CE, they must figure out if they have what it takes to become Vikings themselves.

A big, burly Viking called Bjorn initiates the kids in the ways of wielding a battle ax, plundering and looting, and soon they learn all sorts of other tricks as well, including how to get shipshape and navigate the seven seas with just a stone, how to recite rude poems, and how to scare enemies into submission before a battle even begins. Hervor, the haunted shield-maiden, is also on hand to share her tips on how to take off with a handsome ransom and how to make it into Valhalla in the afterlife.

So You Want to Be a Viking? features the field’s latest scholarship and is illustrated throughout with zany illustrations by Japanese cartoonist Takayo Akiyama. Any kid who’s ever daydreamed about being a fierce Norse warrior will love this interactive guide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got this book in an Owlcrate box and have wanted to at least give it a read through since it looked like a fun book for a middle grade audience. The art style is quirky and fun as you go through the book, learning little tidbits about Viking life and beliefs. It’s got a lot of good information that is written in a way that is easily digestible and was a fun read overall. I would definitely recommend it for its intended age group and then they would find the illustrations engaging and the text intriguing.

Happy reading!

Review | Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand by Donna Galanti

In Book 2 of the series, Sam and Tuck are on their way to becoming unicorn protectors when they discover new secrets about the island that threaten unicorns’ existence! From Epic! Originals, Unicorn Island  is a middle-grade illustrated novel series about a young girl who discovers a mysterious island full of mythical beasts.

Sam can’t believe how much her life and luck have changed since she came to Foggy Harbor: First, she discovered that unicorns are real, and now she’s on her way to becoming an actual unicorn protector! With her new friend, Tuck, by her side during Uncle Mitch’s lessons, Sam finally feels like she’s home.

But as the long-buried dangers of Unicorn Island begin to surface and a mysterious scourge spreads throughout the herd, Sam learns the truth behind Aunt Sylvie’s disappearance and her own connection to the island. With determination, courage, and fierce loyalty to one another—and to their code as unicorn protectors—the kids set out to protect the island’s secrecy and the unicorns’ very existence.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After reading the first book in this series I was excited to see where the series may go and was not disappointed with this continuation. I really enjoyed how this story not only picked up some loose ends/questions from the first book, but introduced new elements as well. The illustrations are whimsical and fun, like they were in the first book and the writing style I think this is a perfect story for young readers, especially those who love animals or unicorns.

Happy reading!

Review | Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall

A sleepy town with a dark secret–and the three kids brave enough to uncover it.

Twelve-year-old Eleanor has just moved to Eden Eld to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother was killed in a fire. Her birthday, which falls on Halloween, is just around the corner, and she hopes that this year will be a fresh start at a new life. But then one morning, an ancient grandfather clock counting down thirteen hours appears outside of her bedroom. And then she spots a large black dog with glowing red eyes prowling the grounds of her school. A book of fairytales she’s never heard of almost willingly drops in front of her, as if asking to be read. Something is wrong in the town of Eden Eld.

Eleanor and her new classmates, Pip and Otto, are the only ones who see these “wrong things,” and they also all happen to share a Halloween birthday. Bonded by these odd similarities, the trio uncovers a centuries-old pact the town has with a mysterious figure known as Mr. January: every thirteen years, three thirteen-year-olds disappear, sacrificed in exchange for the town’s unending good fortune. This Halloween, Mr. January is back to collect his payment and Eleanor, Pip, and Otto are to be his next offering…unless they can break the curse before the clock strikes thirteen.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Having enjoyed Rules of Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall, I’ve been wanting to pick this one up for a while. Now I’m kind of mad at myself for not picking it up sooner because I loved it. While the setting and story took some time to come together, I felt it was a good pacing for the intended audience. This story contained just the right amount of spooky and wrongness to set up the curse upon the town and was a strong beginning to a series. Marshall’s writing style had a great flow to it and I felt had just as much atmosphere as her writing for slightly older audiences. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series since I have to know what happens with Eleanor, Pip and Otto!

Happy reading!

Review | Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu

A young girl must stop a threat to her magical world in this epic graphic novel from New York Times bestselling author Marjorie Liu and remarkable debut illustrator Teny Issakhanian.

Zuli is extraordinary–she just doesn’t realize it yet. Raised by mystical bird spirits in the branches of the Great Tree, she’s never ventured beyond this safe haven. She’s never had to. Until now.

When a sinister force threatens the life-giving magic of the tree, Zuli, along with her guardian owl, Frowly, must get to the root of it. So begins an adventure bigger than anything Zuli could’ve ever imagined–one that will bring her, along with some newfound friends, face-to-face with an ancient dragon, the so-called Witch-Queen, and most surprisingly of all: her true identity.

This captivating middle grade graphic novel, the first of a series, is perfect for fans of the Amulet books and the Wings of Fire series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading some of Liu’s Monstress, I was excited to pick up her middle grade debut, especially when I read the synopsis. I really enjoyed the world being built as the story went along and the lyrical storytelling style that it began with. Zuli is a compelling character whose personality is endearing. She’s courageous even when she’s afraid and full of curiosity. Along the way she meets a number of different characters, both friends and foes – and has to find out the hard way sometimes which side they are on. This was a fantastic introduction to a lush fantasy world and hopefully there will be more to come!

Happy reading!

Review | Dark Waters by Katherine Arden

Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he’ll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they’ve steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom plan a “fun” boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven’t had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn’t just any island though. It’s hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won’t survive long.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After loving the first two books in this series I was really excited to get to this one and unfortunately didn’t love it as much as the previous two books. I still really enjoyed the continuing story and the way things unfolded but did feel like the ending was rushed and didn’t love all the actions different characters took throughout the story. This story definitely felt like it’s a bridge between Dead Voices and the last book, so to me it felt a little rushed and incomplete. I did really enjoy the unfolding story and lore that went along with this story, as I have liked the storytelling in the last two books and that’s part of what keeps me reading. Keep in mind there are trigger warnings in this one for potential loss of a parent and if you have an issue with snakes you should probably know going in that this book features one. I definitely can’t wait until the last book comes out and can’t wait to see what happens to our favorite group of friends and the Smiling Man.

Happy reading!