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!

Review | Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

After watching her circle of friends seemingly fade away, Lora is determined to still have fun on her own, so when a tea party leads Lora to discovering Alexa, the ghost that haunts her house, they soon become best friends.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I saw the cover of this one and just had to pick it up based on that alone. In this we follow Lora, who is on the cusp between being a kid and starting to grow up – and she doesn’t want to grow up. She watches all of her friends move into more grown up things and doesn’t know what to do. While playing pretend by herself she holds a séance tea party and meets the ghost haunting her house.

This is a wonderful representation of what can happen when a child is in that transitional age and it was so fun to read. Lora’s journey to figuring out who she wants to be while still clinging to the magic of childhood was so touching and relatable. The art style had that wonderful sense of whimsy that I enjoy and the coloring perfectly fit the mood of the scenes.

Happy reading!

Review | Camp by Kayla Miller

Olive and Willow are happy campers!

Or are they?
 
Olive is sure she’ll have the best time at summer camp with her friend Willow – but while Olive makes quick friends with the other campers, Willow struggles to form connections and latches on to the only person she knows – Olive. It’s s’more than Olive can handle! The stress of being Willow’s living security blanket begins to wear on Olive and before long…the girls aren’t just fighting, they may not even be friends by the time camp is over. Will the two be able to patch things up before the final lights out?

After reading Click I was excited to pick up the next installment and follow more of Olive’s adventures. Kayla Miller perfectly captures real life situations that kids go through. This story ticks a lot of boxes as we follow Olive and Willow to summer camp, and Olive – being an extrovert, starts making friends immediately and dives into summer camp, while also spending a lot of time with Willow. Willow, who is homesick and feels like she only has Olive, sees things from a different perspective. It’s a great look at young friendships, making new friends and learning that you don’t have to be the only person in someone’s life. I really enjoyed the story, though sometimes Willow’s reactions to things seemed a little over the top. The message that it would give young readers would help them navigate friendships of their own as well as enjoy a great story about two friends going to summer camp.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 7/15

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

Today’s pick is one I hadn’t heard of until I was browsing through upcoming releases, and immediately upon reading the blurb had to add it to my list!

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.

Happy reading!

Review | The Hidden Witch

Aster and his family are adjusting to his unconventional talent for witchery; unlike the other boys in his family, he isn’t a shapeshifter. He’s taking classes with his grandmother and helping to keep an eye on his great-uncle whose corrupted magic wreaked havoc on the family.

Meanwhile, Aster’s friend from the non-magical part of town, Charlie, is having problems of her own — a curse has tried to attach itself to her. She runs to Aster and escapes it, but now the friends must find the source of the curse before more people — normal and magical alike — get hurt.

I was a little worried that this volume would be like a bridge between the first volume and the third, and while it did have some bridge elements it still stood really well on its own. There was a lot of character growth and transformation in this one and anyone who doesn’t love Aster and Charlie even more after reading this obviously will have read something different than I did.

I really loved the progression of some of the other characters that we met in the first volume, as well as introduction of new characters. Sedge’s sub plot in this one really hit me in the feels, and seeing him and Aster interacting and communicating more was great.

I’m kinda mad I slept on reading this one for so long, but so glad I did finally get to it. I can’t wait to pick up the next one!

Happy reading!

Review | Rewritten by Tara Gilboy

After learning the truth about her own fairy tale, twelve-year-old Gracie wants nothing more than to move past the terrible things author Gertrude Winters wrote about her and begin a new chapter in the real world. If only things were going as planned. On the run from the evil Queen Cassandra, the characters from Gracie’s story have all been forced to start over, but some of them cannot forget Gracie’s checkered past.

Even worse, Gracie discovers that as long as Cassandra has her magical book, the Vademecum, Gracie’s story is still being written and none of the characters are safe, including her mom and dad. In a desperate attempt to set things right, Gracie finds herself transported into another one of Gertrude’s stories—but this one is a horror story. Can Gracie face her destiny and the wild beast roaming the night, to rewrite her own story?

After thoroughly enjoying the first book, Unwritten, I definitely wanted to pick this one up when it was available. This one pulls you right back into Gracie’s story not too long after the ending of the first book, and you quickly realize the different difficulties that the group is facing and the repercussions of the events of the first book. This book really becomes a discovery and acceptance of self for Gracie as they once again come up against Cassandra.

I really enjoyed Gracie’s journey in this installment, and while I didn’t really like some other character’s behavior, Gracie did come to internally work through the pain caused by a number of things and definitely grew up a bit in the process.

Happy reading!

Review | The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill

Join Greta and Minette once more for the heartwarming conclusion of the award-winning Tea Dragon series!

Over a year since being entrusted with Ginseng’s care, Greta still can’t chase away the cloud of mourning that hangs over the timid Tea Dragon. As she struggles to create something spectacular enough to impress a master blacksmith in search of an apprentice, she questions the true meaning of crafting, and the true meaning of caring for someone in grief. Meanwhile, Minette receives a surprise package from the monastery where she was once training to be a prophetess. Thrown into confusion about her path in life, the shy and reserved Minette finds that the more she opens her heart to others, the more clearly she can see what was always inside.

Told with the same care and charm as the previous installments of the Tea Dragon series, The Tea Dragon Tapestry welcomes old friends and new into a heartfelt story of purpose, love, and growth.

I won’t lie, I will probably read anything Katie O’Neill writes, her stories are filled with so much heart and her art style is beautiful. I really enjoyed how this installment brought all of the tea dragon stories together, but I did want more when I reached the end. I wish there was going to be more in the series/world simply because I feel like there was so much potential for more to be added to the story. Still, it was wonderful to see all of the characters again and see where they are in life and where life is taking them. While I did want more, I still loved the story overall and fell even more in love with tea dragons.

Happy reading!

Review | Ghosts

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

I’ve been enjoying all the hard hitting middle grade graphic novels I’ve been finding that address real issues/worries that people may face. This story really tackles the fears that go along with the possibility of losing a family member, especially if that loss may be untimely. It looks at the point of view of both someone looking at losing someone in the future as well as the perspective of the person struggling for their life.

I really loved how this was explored by the family’s move to a town where ghosts are the norm, not only that, but it was a place where Dia de los Muertos was openly celebrated and loved. It ended up being the perfect place for the two sisters to learn about and accept mortality in different ways. Both of them grow and face their fears, while also making new friends and learning about their culture.

Happy reading!

Review | Click

For fans of Smile and Real Friends comes a debut graphic novel about friendship and finding where you “click” in middle school.

Olive wants to get in on the act . . .
. . . Any act!

Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up?

Author-illustrator Kayla Miller has woven together a heartfelt and insightful story about navigating friendships, leaning on family, and learning to take the stage in the most important role of all.

In Click we follow Olive who considers herself friends with everyone in her class, but they’ve entered that age where people start breaking off into cliques or little groups with specific interests, which becomes apparent when the topic of the variety show comes up. Olive worries that she doesn’t fit in with any of the groups and worries that she doesn’t have a place.

I really enjoyed this story and it hit me in so many feels. It doesn’t matter where you were when going through adolescence, there were always moments you felt you didn’t fit in. It’s a heartfelt journey where Olive finds out that you don’t necessarily need to be part of a specific group or clique, and it’s ok if you aren’t a perfect fit. This would be a great read for anyone going through those middle grade growing stages or having a hard time finding their place and figuring out where they stand with other kids their age.

Happy reading!

Review | Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle

When twelve-year-old Dalya is dragged to Istanbul to help sell her family’s ancestral home, the visit begins unpromisingly. Most of the aged mansion is off-limits because it’s falling apart, her father is ignoring her, and her great aunt keeps prattling on about a family curse. Despite warnings against it, Dalya tiptoes upstairs, where she finds an old bottle of magic ink hidden under a floorboard. She asks the bottle’s jinn (aka genie) to grant her a simple wish…to send her home. Except the jinn interprets go home to mean send me back in time and turn me into a cat. Then Dalya must set off on a wild adventure through Istanbul’s animal underworld to find the jinn with the power to set things right. 

I picked this one up purely based on the description and am so glad I did! I loved this story and the ragtag group of characters that came together as Dalya journeyed to find her way back home, and learned what home really was.

The writing style was easy and flowed wonderfully and the descriptions of Istanbul were just enough to paint a picture of the place. It’s a great adventure and though Dalya sometimes acts impulsive or rashly, it suits her age and the audience it is aimed at. All in all it was a fun story with lots of heart.

Happy reading!