Blog Tours, Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, Middle Grade

Blog Tour [Review]: Kelsey Murphy and the Academy of the Unbreakable Arts

TITLE: Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts
AUTHOR: Erika Lewis
PUBLISHER: StarScape
RELEASE DATE: March 1st, 2022
GENRES: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Thank you JeanBookNerd and Starscape for a review copy and the opportunity to be on this tour!

Star Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis

Brimming with Celtic mythology, action, and danger, Erika Lewis’s Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts introduces readers to a new kind of magical school and a warrior who must choose with which side of an epic battle her destiny will lie.

The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy—a foster child raised in the human world—is dying to attend.

A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and—most importantly—finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.

When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld’s most infamous traitor.

But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.

Review

Wow, this book was pretty good. I always love to see newer books that involved magic and school and epic battles. Kelcie, the main character, goes to girl in foster care with little memories of her past, to finding out family secrets and unleashing her hidden powers. Add in a case agent who is actually a fairy and a found found in her new school and you get a great magical adventure. Kelcie Murphy is in for an adventure of a lifetime and a battle her team has worked hard towards. The book has a great pace: it wasn’t too fast or too slow. It is definitely a good pace for the targeted demographic. I enjoyed Kelcie’s character evolution. She went from having no agency to not only gaining that through her journey but becoming more confident in her own skin and power. It was great to see Kelcie open up more from the girl we were first introduced with. She no longer stays the outcast in the academy. She instead finds amazing friends and a great leader who become her found family.

Speaking of friends, I really enjoyed how the author took different approach with certain character. Niall is the first friend of Kelcie and is loyal through and through. They connect instantly. While Brona and her relationship with Kelcie takes time to form that strong bond. It shows how real and different each friendship can be and how patience can be a key in developing those friendships. When thinking about the storyline, I particularly enjoyed the many twists and turns the story took. It allowed means a reader to keep the pages turning. The story draws on Celtic mythology and adds such a mystifying magical element to it. Kelcie has magic but the author adds on other magical elements such as Kelcie’s necklace. I am a sucker for seeing magic in different forms so it was a pleasure reading the significance that each magical element had to the overall story.

This is a great read for all ages and a story that will have older readers feel the nostalgia of the magical reads they once read.

About the Author

Erika Lewis grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, spent summers with her grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts, and currently lives in Los Angeles, California. With a passion for storytelling set in magical places, she spends as much time as she can traveling. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found scribbling notes in a blank book while wandering through abandoned buildings, all kinds of museums, and graveyards.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, her list of credits straddles the comics and novel space, including Game of Shadows from Macmillan’s Tor Books, Firebrand and Acursian from Legendary Comics, #Guardian from Awesome Media & Entertainment, and The 49th Key from Heavy Metal Publishing. The Color of Dragons is her debut YA, coming from HarperTeen October 19th, 2021, and Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts is her middle grade debut coming from Starscape/Macmillan March 1st, 2022.

Blog Tours, Book Review, Contemporary, Middle Grade

Blog Tour [Review]: Shelter by Christie Matheson

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TITLE: Shelter
AUTHOR: Christie Matheson
PUBLISHER: Random House Books for Young Readers
RELEASE DATE:
October 12th, 2021
GENRES: Middle Grade Contemporary

Thank you TBR and Beyond Tour and Random House Books for Young Readers for a review copy and the opportunity to be on this tour!

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis

Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and Paper Things, this heart-wrenching middle grade debut considers homelessness from one girl’s perspective and explores deep truths about the resounding impact of empathy.

Fifth grade can be tough for anyone. There are cliques and mean kids and homework and surprise math tests. But after tragedy strikes her family, almost-eleven-year-old Maya has a painful secret that makes many days feel nearly impossible.

And today might be Maya’s toughest yet. Her family is on edge, she needs to travel alone across the city, a bully is out to get her, and Maya has to face this winter’s biggest rainstorm without a coat or an umbrella.

But even on the rainiest days, there’s hope that the sun will come out soon.

Emotional and compassionate, Shelter looks at homelessness through one girl’s eyes and explores the power of empathy, friendship, and love.

Review

Shelter is a middle grade contemporary novels that follows Maya’s story as she navigate homelessness after a life threatening injury her dad experiences and her home being sold by their landlord turns her world upside down. And to top it off, she has to keep her homelessness a secret for fear of being bullied for it. But this doesn’t stop Maya from hoping that things will get better. Shelter was a quick read that adds a different perspective to how most view homelessness and influences people to ponder more about the negative stereotypes society may put upon homeless people.

After the accident that has left her dad in a coma [medically induced], Maya’s mom now struggles to navigate being a single mom of two. Gabby, Maya’s younger sisters has many allergies and illnesses which makes it harder for Maya’s mom to keep a steady job and care for her daughter. Keeping the secret that you are homeless can be hard for a 5th grader but we view in Maya’s journey her ability to create a façade for her peers.  I overall enjoyed the support of Maya’s teachers throughout the story. I also appreciated Maya’s story also having a strong friendship component; it allowed me as a reader to not focus too much on the theme and see Maya for more than just a young girl going through many situations.  I also enjoyed Maya’s character. She felt very mature for her young age and it was mostly given her circumstances. But what I enjoyed most about Maya was her hopefulness – she was able to find some good among a very unpredictable journey. She is also generous – she is willing to give her last bit of food to a homeless boy. It rings true to her altruistic spirit.

It was a pretty good read. It was under 200 pages and told the story in the way that it could. I wasn’t fully invested and I tihnk it was mostly because I was not the target reader for this. Nonetheless, I do recommend this book to anyone who has a middle grade reader in their life. It is a sweet story about perseverance, hope and navigating a tough struggle with optimism. You don’t often read about homelessness through the eyes of a child which is just as important. It makes you think a bit differently and for good reason.

About the Author

Christie Matheson is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including Tap the Magic Tree, Touch the Brightest Star, and Bird Watch. Shelter is her first novel. She lives in San Francisco with her family. Find her on Instagram at @christiematheson.

Author Links: Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tours, Book Review, Middle Grade, Mystery

Blog Tour [Review]: Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil

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Title: Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil
Author: Danette Vigilante
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery

Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours and Jolly Fish Press for the early review copy and opportunity to be on this tour!

Where to buy: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis

Tia Lugo has a deadly secret.

Tia Lugo considers herself an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl. She just wants to enjoy the end of summer, which means hanging out with her best friend and neighbor, Julius, and ignoring her Puerto Rican grandmother’s embarrassing reliance on creepy candles, weird-smelling herb bundles, and eerie statues—all available for sale at the nearby botánica. But when Tia witnesses a murder late one night from her bedroom window, everything changes in an instant.

Now, Tia is terrified to tell anyone what she’s seen. What if the killer comes after her too? He knows where she lives. Even worse, Tia believes he’s sending her secret messages, reminding her to stay quiet. Desperate to keep herself and her family safe, Tia turns to the last place she ever thought she’d go: her grandmother’s favorite shopping spot, the botanica.

Review

Tis Lugo tells no evil is a thrilling middle grade novel about a murder mystery and the one witness to afraid to say what she saw. Danette masterfully captures Tia’s ever-changing emotions as she tries to do the most right thing to her without telling everyone what she has seen. The story takes you on twists and turns that will keep you turning the page wondering if your prediction was right. It led to an even bigger twist that will make you question your detective skills – it’s okay, it’s a twist that is gasp worthy.

The story succeeds in showing Tia’s growing fear and the actions she takes to protect her own identity, her secret and the people she loves. Speaking of Tia, she is such a well written character!  Tia is from a Puerto Rican family with a grandma dedicated to believing in the powers of a good botanica. Tia also has asthma and although it is a key point to the story, her asthma does not define who she is. Seeing this as a Latina who is asthmatic, it was refreshing to read a story where the illness did not take away from the character. Tia in good faith believes her actions are the right thing to do even as a reader we just wanted her to say something. I had to step into the shoes of Tia to understand how hard it would be to say the thing you want to say when the murderer is amongst the people in her community.

Along with Tia, we are introduced to Julius, Tia’s best friend and her grandmother. Both characters were equally loveable in their own ways. Julius is sincere, caring and can never get mad at Tia even when he finds out that Tia was keeping a big secret from him. Julius is the great example of a friend who will ride or die for you and I absolutely loved seeing their friendship grow through the story. Tia’s grandmother is wise beyond her years, dedicated to protection and will not stand for anyone discrediting her beliefs, even her own son; Tia’s father. That dedication and warmth Tia’s grandmother receives from her local visits from botanica become vital in Tia’s own search to feel more safe. While she was bullied because of her grandmother’s belief, as the story moves along you see Tia’s perspective change and appreciate her grandmother for who and what she believes in.

Overall, Tia Lugo speak no evil is a thrilling and strange read. It gives you goosebumps without the need for the gore. The author manages to make a spooky read be more than just the spookiness we get in most murder mystery novels. You have the main theme of the fear of the unknown and that driving theme wraps up nicely into an ending you didn’t expect but still love anyways.

About the Author

Danette Vigilante grew up in the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, New York. She continues to live in NYC with her family and sweet pup, Luna. One day she hopes to move to a place where the sun is always shining, and the air is warm. Danette is the author of TIA LUGO SPEAKS NO EVIL, THE TROUBLE WITH HALF A MOON, a 2012-2013 Sunshine State Young Readers award nominee, and SAVING BABY DOE, a 2014 pick for the New York Public Library 100 titles for Reading and Sharing list. Danette encourages literacy in her community via a Little Free Library installed on her front lawn.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook

Blog Tours, Book Review, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Blog Tour [Review]: Halfway to Harmony

Author: Barbara O’Connor
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG)
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Where to Buy: Barnes & Noble| Amazon

Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis

A heartfelt middle-grade novel from New York Times bestselling author Barbara O’Connor about a boy whose life is upended after the loss of his older brother–timeless, classic, and whimsical.

Walter Tipple is looking for adventure. He keeps having a dream that his big brother, Tank, appears before him and says, “Let’s you and me go see my world, little man.” But Tank went to the army and never came home, and Walter doesn’t know how to see the world without him.

Then he meets Posey, the brash new girl from next door, and an eccentric man named Banjo, who’s off on a bodacious adventure of his own. What follows is a summer of taking chances, becoming braver, and making friends–and maybe Walter can learn who he wants to be without the brother he always wanted to be like.

Halfway to Harmony is an utterly charming story about change and growing up.

Review

I have to say, Middle Grade fiction is really doing it’s stuff lately. Halfway to Harmony is another Middle Grade Fiction that did not disappoint. This book will pull at your heartstrings while also giving you a light feel great read. After losing his older brother Tank, Walter is grieving for the loss of not only his brother but the void it left because Tank was also his best friend. Walter in his dreams often hears his brother Tank inviting him to be with him, but Walter awakes right before he can blow his birthday candles. Walter is such a loving character whose journey becomes finding that love lost and feeling some form of normalcy in his life.  

We then meet Posey, spunky young girl with a 3-legged dog companion. She is also Walter’s new neighborhood and the person Walter beings a friendship with. After all, he is no longer all by himself. Posey and Walter then meet Banjo, a man whose dream is to be a part of a hot air balloon race. Both Posey and Banjo are also characters you find yourself cherishing. Posey has an impeccable photographic memory and a liveliness that can brighten up a room. Oh, let’s not forget that her pup is name Porkchop, which is the absolute cutest. Banjo’s very positive and adventurous take on life adds a certain hopefulness into the story. Both Posey’s and Banjo’s personalities adds a positive nature that helps Walter get through the grief and anger he feels in relation to his brother’s death. The grief process doesn’t feel pushed aside or rushed; it feels erased organically.

Overall, this story is filled with moments of growth, laughter, joy and adventure. Banjo’s dream becomes Walter’s and Posey unforgettable summer. If you are looking for a heart-warming summer adventure full of many journeys and magical dreams, this is the book for you.

About the Author

Barbara O’Connor’s awards include the Parents Choice Gold and Silver Award, American Library Association Notable Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, School Library Journal Best Books, and Kirkus Best Books. Her books have been nominated for children’s choice awards in 38 states and voted as a state favorite by children in South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota.

Barbara was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She draws on her Southern roots to write award-winning books for children in grades 3 to 6.

She currently lives in Asheville, NC. Her latest book is Wish, a middle grade novel published by FSG.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway!

Enter to win one (1) finished copy of Halfway to Harmony Baraba O’Connor! Open USA only. There will be 1 winner.

Giveaway starts January 11th and ends January 18th 12:00am CST

Click the pic to enter!

Follow the Tour
January 11
Turn the Page Tours – Welcome Post
January 12
Woven From Words – Book Review, Favorite Things About Halfway to Harmony
January 13
The Bookwyrm’s Den – Book Review
January 14
Belle’s Archive – Spotlight
January 15
Nat Reviews Books – Book Review
January 16
A Bronx Latina Reads – Book Review
January 17
Turn the Page Tours – Book Review