Middle Grade Recommendations

Hi. I haven’t posted any recommendations in a while, and I thought middle grade was an easy one to post as I’ve been reading quite a bit of it. I don’t think I need to say it, but in case I do – everyone can read and appreciate middle grade, no matter the age. Oftentimes the books are beautifully written and whimsical and a tonne of fun.

These are in no particular order, by the way!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Starting off strong, with an oldie – Anne of Green Gables. This series was one of my absolute favourites growing up and I identified with Anne as a character. I think it’s a great series to grow up with, as it starts off as middle grade and ages slowly with each and every book. The writing is beautiful and lyrical, and I find it to be a great cosy read for the autumn months. I can’t explain why it suits that season the most, but it does.

If you somehow don’t know what Anne of Green Gables is about – it’s a story of a red headed orphan, Anne, who mistakenly gets adopted by two elderly siblings – Marilla and Matthew. She’s a peculiar little child, with a huge imagination and a penchant for the dramatic. It’s just a story of her life, of finding a place where she belongs, of friendships and heartbreak. It’s honestly beautiful, and definitely my favourite off this list.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morringan Crow by Jessica Townsend

It’s been a while since I read Nevermoor and I’ve to yet continue with the series (and no doubt I will), but it is still quite fresh in my mind. This one follows Morrigan, a girl born on the unluckiest day of the year and cursed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. That is until she’s whisked away by a peculiar gentleman into Nevermoor – a magical and secret city; but to stay there, she has to join a prestigious society and compete with other children to do so.

Nevermoor was one of the books that gave me the idea to post middle grade recommendations. I don’t see it talked about nearly as much as it should be. I think it’s the perfect read for those of us who were raised on and loved Harry Potter, but decided against supporting it any further because of the obvious reasons (but let’s not get into that for now). I think there’s a few similarities plot wise, but mostly Nevermoor gave me THAT feeling I had while reading the aforementioned series. The cosy, whimsical, “warm blanket” feeling. I think for younger readers it could be that series they keep coming back to for nostalgia reasons. It’s really well written and structured, and a great engaging story.

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

This one is definitely one I think younger readers will enjoy a lot more than people my age. I know I said middle grade can be read by anyone, and I stand by it, but there is a reason some books are written and marketed for a younger audience. I find that to be the case with The Land of Roar.

This book follows 2 siblings who, although really close in the past, slowly start to drift apart. When they’re visiting their grandad, they remember a game they used to play when they were younger – a game where they visited Roar – an imaginary world in which they had many adventures. But when their grandad goes missing they realise that Roar might not be so imaginary after all. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was a very quick read. The blurb compares it to Narnia and Neverland and I honestly think that’s spot on. Roar is truly a vivid and magical world. If you have a young reader in your life – this is THE perfect gift. Or it’s a good read if you enjoy middle grade, or need a palate cleanser.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

I needed to include this one on the list even though I think with Schwab’s name attached to it, it’s pretty popular as it is. City of Ghosts is a story of Cassidy Blake – a girl who can see ghosts. Add in the fact her parents are somewhat obsessed with the paranormal and have a TV show where they visit most haunted cities and you have the plot laid out clear as day. Each installment takes place in a different city, where Cassidy gets to solve a ghost related mystery.

These books are really fun, atmospheric and a tad bit spooky at times. I’ve yet to read book 3 – apparently the last book in the series, at least for now, but I’ve enjoyed the fist two installments thoroughly. This definitely reads different from all of the other Schwab books I’ve read (all of them, minus the Everyday Angel series), as the writing is age group appropriate, but it’s still very well done.

The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts

Staying in the paranormal genre is a book I recommended already last Halloween. I haven’t seen it talked about so I’m doing it again. The Witches of Willow Cove follows 2 best friends, Abby and Robby, as on Halloween night they embark on an adventure and discover magic and witches. There is a mystery those two need to solve, and Abby has a great deal to learn about her own identity.

I loved how perfectly friendships, mystery, magic and history were blended in this one, with also a lot of attention being focused on the atmosphere and pacing of the story. It’s not often you see a book that can do all of those simultaneously, and keep the reader engaged. It was quite a page turner and definitely a must read for people who like witchy stories. As far as I know, it’s a standalone, but the ending did hint on a possibility of it being a series.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

My last middle grade read (worth mentioning that is), was also a magical/witchy story. A Pinch of Magic follows three sisters, three magical objects and a family curse. It is also a trilogy, although I haven’t read anything past book one.

I am a sucker for familial relationships done right, and the bond these three sisters have was lovely and well done. The book features a story within a story, which was lot of fun and added more depth without feeling info dumpy. A Pinch of Magic is full of adventure and a perfect blend of seriousness and humour. It’s fun and fast paced for most of it, although the beginning is quite slow.

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggit-Phillips

This one was a total surprise for me. The Beast and the Bethany follows two very unlikeable characters – Bethany and Ebenezer. Bethany is an orphan and Ebenezer a 511 year old man with a beast who gives him an anti aging potion every time he feeds it something yummy (be it rare birds or even children). They’re both quite selfish, but when stuck together, they develop and unlikely relationship and learn from each other.

This book was probably one of the funnest, most original middle grades I’ve ever read. It was strange and whimsical and laugh out loud funny. Everything about it was ridiculous in the best way possible. The Beast and the Bethany gave me big Lemony Snickett vibes and I think a reader of any age will enjoy it – I can’t see why they wouldn’t.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

I could gush about this book for a really long time, because it was everything I want from a middle grade. The Ship of Shadows follows Aleja, who always wanted to travel but is told that girls can’t be explorers. But her dream comes true when due to some false accusations she finds refuge on a ship. It’s not any ship either – it’s a pirate ship, and a legendary one, as well called The Ship of Shadows. And it’s crewed by females only!

This is book is brim full of adventure and greatness. It’s rich and addictive and written in such a way that evokes your imagination. Honestly, thinking back on it, I got confused whether things happened in the book or if for some reason I’ve seen something super similar on TV. My overactive imagination plays a movie in my head whenever I read, but it’s rarely ever written in a way when I confuse it with a movie. I am sad I couldn’t have read this book as a child – the crew of the ship stole my heart and I think the women in the book would be super inspirational to young girls to read about.

The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

And lastly we have this absolute gem of a book written by an Irish author and set in Ireland. The Storm Keeper’s Island follows Fionn who goes to visit his old and eccentric grandad on the island of Arranmore. The island is full of magic and Fionn finds out his grandad is the Storm Keeper. As the story progresses, Fionn finds out about magic and discovers a lot about himself and his family’s past.

Everything about this book is magical, from the setting, to the story line and, obviously, the magic itself. The last one is super unique. Once again, there’s some great familial relationships, both between Fionn and his sister, and Fionn and his somewhat estranged grandfather. I’ve yet to continue with the series, but it shapes up to be a great one and one worth growing up with, Too bad I’m almost 28.

And that is it for my recommendations post. Have you read any of these? Do you like middle grade?

Thank you for reading.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar – A Review

Hi! I’m back with yet another exciting review – you KNOW how much I love The Write Reads tours and the whole gang. This week we’re gushing over The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar, and today is my stop. Can you tell I really loved this book?

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar
  • Publication date: June 16th 2020
  • Published: Puffin
  • Genre: Fantasy

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.

First of all – thank you to Dave for organising this tour and Puffin for providing me with a physical copy!

I don’t know where to begin gushing about this book, so I think I’ll start with the cover, because oh my goodness, she’s STUNNING. The little window on the paperback? chef’s kiss I know that is absolutely not up to the author, but whoever did design the book deserves a raise.

I was hooked on this book before I’ve seen the cover, though. A middle grade story full of magic, a literal Ship of Shadows and an all female pirate crew? What could possibly sound more amazing? My expectations were very high and… all of them were met.

Aleja, the protagonist, always wanted to travel the world but she was told girls couldn’t be explorers, so she lived out her dreams through reading. Born and raised in Spain, she taught herself how to read and speak English, as well as French and Arabic. And when she got tangled up in a bad business and accused of stealing, she found her refuge on… a pirate ship.
I loved Aleja as a main character. She was smart, bold and adventurous, a perfect protagonist to follow. But what stole my heart was the crew of the ship. Every single one of those ladies were badass, talented and amazing in their own way. I loved that they were unapologetically themselves and challenged all of the gender stereotypes – it’s nice seeing that in MG books, as I think it’s the influence kids need now more so than ever. If I had to pick a favourite character it would definitely be Frances. We could bond over cake.

The book was so incredibly addictive! I read most of it in one sitting. I’m a sucker for adventure stories that involve quests, especially MG ones as they’re usually the most magical. Reading The Ship of Shadows gave me a feeling of nostalgia and I wish it was a book I read as a kid, because I think it’s one of those books (like The Storm Keeper’s Island) it would be great growing up with. The writing was fantastic, the right amount of descriptive without slowing down the plot. I think the indication of great writing is the fact that I can clearly see what happened in the book as if I watched it as a movie, when I think back on it.

Goodreads does not indicate whether this will be a series although the way the story ended leaves lots of room for expanding. I do hope it becomes a series as I’d love to follow Aleja and the crew on more adventures, visit more places, fight more monsters and learn more about the shadows (which are THE COOLEST and so intriguing).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you so much for reading! As always, follow the hashtags to read more reviews from so many awesome bloggers taking part in this tour.

I’ll speak to you soon!

Most Anticipated Releases of the Third Quarter of 2020

Hi! This time I didn’t like when I said I’ll speak to you soon. July means we’re entering the third quarter of the year, which in turn means it’s time for my quarterly new releases post. These are my most anticipated releases for the months of July, August and September (for UK paperbacks mostly, which are my preferred editions).

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Release date: July 7th

Burn Our Bodies Down is another queer mystery/thriller/horror from Rory Power. I really loved Wilder Girls, so I’m looking forward to picking this one up. It follows Margot, a girl who was raised by her mother alone, who decides to look for her family and ends up in her mother’s hometown, where she realises her mother left for a reason. What reason? No clue, but it sounds mysterious and a bit spooky and I’m all here for it.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Release date: July 16th

This beauty is a Middle Grade story about pirates, if you couldn’t tell by the cover. As a sidenote, can anyone explain to me how MG books are consistently so stunning? I don’t know exactly what the book is about other than it has female pirates, but honestly that alone is good enough for me. I will be reading it and reviewing it for you very soon, because I’m on a tour for it!

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reeds

Release date: August 4th

Guess who got approved for an e-arc of this? I couldn’t be happier. It’s a coming of age story set during the Rodney King Riots in 1992 Los Angeles. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about that part of Black American history, but I’m looking forward to reading a book set during it and educating myself on the subject, too, and most importantly support a debut author.

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Release date: August 5th

So… I included this in my last most anticipated releases post, but I think it got pushed back? All I know I can’t get it until August and it sucks because I really want to read it now. It’s a YA thriller, it has a podcast element (which I loved in Sadie, so I’m intrigued) and murder mystery element and honestly just sounds fantastic.

Fable by Adrienne Young

Release date: September 1st

I read Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young and ever since, I know I want to read everything by her (don’t ask why I haven’t picked up her second book yet and don’t shame me further, please). Fable is a story about a girl trying to escape a dangerous island on which her father left her and taking her rightful place on her father’s crew. It sounds like a great YA fantasy, and the cover is to die for.

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

Release date: September 3rd

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know much about it other than it’s a paranormal fantasy where all of the characters are ghosts with different powers? Doesn’t that sound fanfuckingtastic? It has (supposedly) the found family trope, which is one of my FAVOURITES! I’m pumped.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Release date: September 15th

Another YA fantasy that sounds amazing! From what I know of it it’s a modern King Arthur retelling of sorts with heaps and heaps of representation, and… demons. The synopsis says it’s in the vein of City of Bones (and though I recognise it might not be a compliment for many and TMI is not a masterpiece of any sorts, I kind of understand what they mean, by marketing it as such), which lets me believe it’ll be addictive af. Also, the cover… what a stunning book!

That is all for this post. I’m sure there are many more terrific books being released in the next 3 months, so if you feel like sharing some of your most anticipated releases in the comments below, please do – my TBR might not need more books, but I certainly do.

Thanks for reading!